Over the past few weeks I’ve felt a bit off balance, mainly in my reactions to what people around me expect for our wedding. When people ask how wedding planning is going, I can easily reply that it’s going smoothly, is a ton of fun, and not stressful at all. However, when it comes to sentiments about the wedding, it’s a different story. And it’s a story that I let engulf me for several weeks, so it’s time to speak my peace and let it go. I also realized that the more I discuss this issue, the more I find couples who are going through a similar story and can relate. In the end, I realize, we are all humans who want the same thing – happiness and peace. We are not alone in this world because we carry a united intent. I hope that as I share my voice, people around me come to realize this because I find that I often need a reminder that I’m not the only one.
Right before the holidays, Andy and I came to learn that it had become a large issue that we were choosing not to get married in the church. Andy was raised a Catholic. I am a spiritualist. We both have very strong values that align us spiritually as a couple, and from the start, we shared a common vision of our wedding ceremony. It closely aligns with our wedding mantras – have fun, keep it simple, and be open-minded. When we first got engaged, we communicated this shared vision with both of our parents as well as our intent to get married in Austin. At the time, we had offered the compromise of having a reception in Houston for elderly relatives and our parents’ friends that wouldn’t be able to make the trip to Austin. We also affirmed that we did not wish to marry in the church. We expressed what we both wanted and thought that everyone was on board. Months later, we found out that they weren’t.
Some people view marriage as a legal bind between two people. Others view marriage as a sacrament or a sacred rite of the church. I view marriage as a commitment between two people who love one another. All of these viewpoints are correct for the person who chooses which path to take. To me, this isn’t a question of right and wrong, it’s a choice and a reflection of the two people involved.
Andy and I realized that our decision to not marry in the church was causing controversy with family members. We thought that having a reception in Houston was a viable compromise, but it came with a stipulation – we must also have a church ceremony. At this point, we were having to entertain the idea of not one but two entire weddings – the one we wanted, and the one imposed on us. Numerous conversations sparked between family members, some included us, some didn’t. Words and ideas got twisted, emotions rose, and tears were shed. My heart never felt so heavy, and I couldn’t understand how an event revolving around love could evoke this type of sadness and anger.
At 3am one night, after a fitful attempt at sleep, I came downstairs to talk to Andy. He had just started a new job and was working late hours, but I couldn’t get this off my mind and decided to interrupt. The conversation was untimely and strained. He told me that I was letting the issue affect our relationship and recounted the times I had brought this up to him with resentment, expecting him to deal with his family and “fix it”. I realized that he was right. As my teacher Baron Baptiste says, “There is nothing to do, no need to fix.” Andy asked me to step away from the emotion and to repeat our wedding mantras to him – fun, simple, and open-minded. This situation was obviously not fun. It was also one of the most complicated things I had ever experienced. There was no compromise that would win everyone over, and no one was really willing to compromise. This also meant that it wasn’t open-minded.
So we decided to pause and gain perspective. When we got engaged, we asked each other what would make us both happy. We discussed a church ceremony, a traditional Vietnamese ceremony, a destination wedding, and many other options. We both decided that we wanted an outdoor ceremony, surrounded by our family and closest friends, and a really fun party here in our beautiful city of Austin. This is what we’re planning, and that’s why it’s been so fun and not stressful at all. We came to the conclusion that if this was all we wanted, then we had opened the door to things that did not align with our vision or us.
That night when I went back to bed, I randomly picked up Lovingkindness from my night stand and turned to this quote:
“Metta sees truly that our integrity is inviolate, no matter what our life situation may be. We do not need to fear anything. We are whole: our deepest happiness is intrinsic to the nature of our minds, and it is not damaged through uncertainty and change.” – Sharon Salzberg
I knew in that instant that Andy and I were sacrificing what we truly wanted in order to make others happy, at the cost of our own happiness. When I realized this, it was like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. The next day, we decided to cancel all the plans in Houston and stick with our original plan. We told our parents that we love them and can’t wait to celebrate the big day in Austin.
I’ll admit, this doesn’t “fix” anything. There will be people who are still upset at us for one reason or another. We may still be hearing about this until our wedding day. This situation will probably manifest in some other way at some other time in our lives. But in the end, it is our wedding and our marriage. It is for us, between us, and a pivotal moment in both of our lives. And we have to be true to ourselves because no one else can do that for us. We stand by our values, and we do this with overwhelming love and gratitude in our hearts. We aren’t perfect, and we don’t claim to be right. But we are happy. And that’s truly all that matters.