“Will you marry me?”
Three times on our family trip overseas he asked me, once by the side of the road looking at a herd of Norwegian spælsau sheep, again when we found some stainless-steel rings at the Skagen gift shop, and then finally on one knee in front of most of my extended family. And three times I said yes, even though I threatened to say no if he asked me at the family reunion. But what I didn’t realize was that saying yes was the easy part.
No one really understands the stress and effort that goes into planning a wedding until they do it themselves. Saying yes begat a whole series of questions.
What province should we get married in? What city? Where in the city? How many people? What kind of food? What do we wear?
The decisions to be made are endless, and it’s hard to even know which thread to start pulling to untangle the Gordian knot that makes up what should be a celebration of love and commitment.
I started with a shawl. I spun yarn from some fibre I’d purchased on one of our first trips as a couple, chose a beautiful crescent lace shawl pattern, and began knitting. I said that once I reached the final section, I’d set a date, but when I got there, I realized how difficult even that would be.
Venue availability determines date; guest list determines possible venues, or vice versa. I tried extracting those threads off and on – starting a spreadsheet of names, exploring possible locations, considering upcoming weekends – but I found the whole thing so overwhelming that often the breaker in my brain would trip as my anxiety rose, and I would put the work aside.
Then, in early February, my sister Sheila and my mother said, “We’re flying you here at the end of the month to go dress shopping,” and that’s when things got real.
I kicked things into gear, going with my friend to look at bulbs and plants, and we made some decisions about what to grow this year for wedding flowers. Randy and I had some serious conversations about which dates would work best (there was lots of math involved). We also decided to get married in Lund, since we always go there when we take ourselves on a date. The day before I left, we met with Scott Wilshaw, the general manager of the Lund Resort, and booked our wedding for this September. Then I packed up my shawl and flew to Alberta.
Like many women, I have body image issues and a fraught relationship with shopping for clothing. I spent a lot of time in the month between booking the plane ticket and flying out getting myself into a good headspace.
“It will be fun,” I told myself. “I’ll only get a dress that looks amazing.”
But despite that brain work, I still approached the first bridal shop with butterflies in my stomach. I was convinced that the experience would mirror how I usually shopped for clothes, taking armfuls into a changeroom and coming out with one thing that only looked half-decent.
In the end (and much to my surprise), I had the opposite problem. Not a single dress I tried on looked bad, though some certainly looked better than others. The consultants were positive and welcoming, and each shop had a different approach: the first steered us toward dresses in a particular size range; the second looked at the relationship between the dress and the shawl; and the third put me into a variety of different dress shapes.
By the time I stumbled out of the last shop, bleary and exhausted from a whole day of lifting pounds of fabric and trying not to step on trains and crinolines, Sheila and Mom had narrowed the options down to nine, which were further reduced to three after extended family members weighed in at dinner that night.
Our last appointment was the next morning, so we trekked back into town after a good night’s sleep. We met with Cecilia, who was about my height, asked intelligent questions, hung my shawl on a hanger, looked at pictures of the three finalists from the day before, and proceeded to bring me a series of dresses that combined all their best features, each one better than the last.
“This one is deceiving,” she said toward the end of our allotted hour. “It looks fantastic once it’s on, but it’s kind of flat on the hanger.”
I agreed with that assessment, but she hadn’t been wrong about a dress yet. As she worked on the laces, I watched in the mirror as the dress transformed me. It was comfortable, stylish, flattering, easy to move in, and looked wonderful with or without my shawl. I tried on one more after that, but it was moot. When you find the right dress, or really the right anything, you just know.
Early in this journey, Sheila gave me a sage piece of advice. “Your wedding day is about the two of you,” she said, “so make it what you want, not what you think other people want.”
I think in some ways I had been stuck in what society has told me a wedding should be, which had forced me down a road that only increased my anxiety and stress. But going forward, I am going to try to take lessons from these experiences. When I need to make a decision, I will use my comfort and Randy’s as a guide. I will ask for advice and help when I need it, and accept the same when it is offered.
We still have a lot of things to do before September – invitations; menu; photographer; rings; what Randy’s going to wear (though my weaver friends at Powell River Fine Arts Association have taken on part of that challenge with no end of glee) – but by keeping these two tenets in mind, I know our wedding will be a perfect reflection of us and our love and commitment. And that, in the end, is what a wedding is all about.
Vanessa Bjerreskov is a Powell River-based freelance writer and regular contributor to the Peak.