The month of May marked six months since our wedding day. Last weekend as we spent a wonderful time touring sunny Copenhagen, the 21st of the month ebbed past us with thoughts of that date last November rushing back.
And in truth, that was the first time I’d allowed my mind to go back there in quite some time. It was the first time I’d talked about the wedding since without feeling on the brink of tears. It was the first time I’d had the courage to share one of our official photos on Facebook. It was the first time I’d remembered the day without immediately remembering the flaws.
It was the first time I was able to say;
‘We didn’t have the ‘perfect’ wedding… and that’s ok’.
Because as much as I’d love to tell you that so far our first year of marriage has been non stop sunshine, rainbows and glitter, we all know that real life isn’t like that. In actual fact, the emotional road I’ve walked (with my husband supportively by my side I’ll add) since the day I said I-do has been a rocky one, and I’ve had to work through a whole host of confusing emotions that frankly I just never expected to feel.
Because the one eventuality (and perhaps the most important one) that no wedding magazine, blog or forum ever prepares you for amongst the sea of planning tips, is how you might feel after the day is over. How you might cope when you find that life, as it always does, rolls on as if nothing ever happened. How you can begin to get some of yourself back after you poured your entire being into an event that disappeared like a balloon in the sky before you even had a chance to grab the end of the string and just look at it for a minute. No one prepares you for that.
For those of you who followed my wedding journey on the blog, and read my Wedding Week posts, some of what I’m about to tell you may come as a surprise. Up until now I haven’t spoken much about the aftermath of our wedding or about the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on since that part of my life drew to a close.
It’s not that I’ve lied in any way, I want to make that abundantly clear. I guess some things are just harder to talk about than others, and it’s taken me this long to be brave enough to share the full story. Every word I wrote on each of my Wedding Week posts chronicling our day was 100% true. I did feel all of those wonderful emotions – happiness, joy, relief – and I have felt them since too. But in the six months since that day happened, I’ve also felt a lot of other emotions in relation to the wedding. Ones which are rarely ever spoken about in the wedding world and ones which I truly believe I cannot be alone in feeling.
Sadness. Remorse. Anger. Guilt. Regret. Confusion…. Shame.
Sad that the wedding is over and that I’ll never get to do it again.
Remorseful that it didn’t go entirely to plan and that there are so many things I desperately want to change.
Angry that despite all of my hard work I failed to create the wedding we had dreamed of.
Guilty that we asked so much of friends and family and even more guilty that I’ve since blamed them for circumstances that couldn’t have been helped.
Regretful over everything I didn’t do, didn’t say and didn’t plan for.
Confusion as to why I can’t be like every other bride on the planet and love my day for what it was.
Shame that I feel this way when I have so much to be thankful for.
Shame that I can’t see the good and only see the bad.
Shame that even six months down the line I can’t let it all go.
Shame that I love my husband and yet have negative emotions towards what should be the happiest day of my life.
Because I do.
And in the spirit of honesty I’ll share the secret that’s been haunting me ever since; I didn’t love my wedding day.
Before I go any further I want to make it as clear as I possibly can do, that none of these emotions are at all directed towards my marriage, or the decision to enter into it. Amongst all of the confusing things that have entered my head over the last six months, regretting marrying GB was NEVER one of them. I would say those vows again and again every single day until I die in every scenario imaginable and I’d never change them, never regret them. The one thing that actually has not changed at all since getting married is our relationship – it remains as solid and forgiving as ever – and that in itself has made things even more difficult and allowed me to beat myself up even more about the fact that so many negative emotions about our wedding have swamped my mind, when I have such a caring and loving husband supporting me through them all.
One of the reasons I decided now, six months on, to share some of what I’ve felt post wedding is because I truly thought I was alone in thinking these things. For months I bottled up my feelings and admitted them to no-one. I felt like I had no-one to talk to and couldn’t express the things I was working through in a way that anyone would understand. I felt ashamed.
Ashamed of the feelings that consumed me day in and out, ashamed of myself for even letting them enter my being and ashamed of what I thought they might mean to everyone around me should I admit them. As soon as you even mention the fact that your wedding wasn’t quite what you’d imagined it to be, people look at you in horror, as if there must be some ‘underlying factor’ which causes you to think this way. People draw their own conclusions and write you off in their head as a failed marriage before you even have time to explain that it’s the wedding, not the marriage that keeps you awake at night. That just because you long to go back and change every little detail of that all important day doesn’t mean you want to change the one detail that matters – marrying your husband.
And I get it. I struggled to get my head around it all too. For months I hated myself. I was convinced there was something terribly wrong with me because I couldn’t seem to see past the cloud of negativity to the positive and happy things that the day brought. I cursed myself for spending so much time lamenting over what most people might see as trivial details. I beat myself up for being so self conscious about my looks that I couldn’t just accept that there was someone who loved me enough to marry me. And I felt constantly guilty every time I saw the sadness on my husbands face when I tried to vocalise some of the disappointment I felt towards our wedding day.
Because all we ever hear following a wedding are the phrases ‘it was the best day of my life’ and ‘I wouldn’t change a thing’ we wrongly assume that unless all we feel is unadulterated happiness since that moment, there is something wrong with us. To admit that, actually, we might be feeling a bit down, that the wedding day wasn’t all we dreamed it to be, that we don’t like the way we looked, or that we wish we had better photos, that we feel guilty constantly for not spending enough time with certain people, and that the fact that a years worth of hard work amounted to one day that we can barely remember has felt like a giant colossal disappointment, seems incomprehensible because we are led to believe that feeling those things make us monsters.
And so I didn’t share. Like everyone else, when asked about my wedding day I repeated those time honoured phrases that kept people smiling, like; ‘it was the best day of my life’ and ‘I wouldn’t change a thing’. I didn’t want to bring anyone else down with me. I didn’t want to ruin the experience for other bride-to-be’s, I didn’t want to rain all over their (absolutely deserved) excitement and make them worry unnecessarily in the run up to their own special occasions. I wanted to portray my wedding in a positive and happy way, because I knew in my heart that it was, despite the fact I couldn’t see it.
I can’t tell you exactly when these negative feelings began but what I do know is that they weren’t instant. When I do now talk about the things that went wrong on our wedding day to other brides, I follow it with the reassurance that none of it mattered to me on the day. Which it honestly truly didn’t. I didn’t notice that things weren’t laid out quite right, it didn’t bother me that the band were two hours late or that my dress didn’t fit me properly. All of those things, on the day, were inconsequential to the real event that was getting to the top of the aisle and saying my vows. I would have done it in a bin bag if I had to, and that’s the truth.
And in those first initial weeks following the wedding, nothing could get to me. It was as if I was still confined inside the happy bubble and nothing anyone said, did or reminded us of could penetrate that. During our mini moon in the Lake District, GB and I spent every waking moment excitedly reliving the wedding with each other. Going over details, and conversations, laughing about silly moments and telling each other how proud we were to have pulled it off. As the mini moon drew to a close and we dropped in on GB’s Mum on route back to London, I can remember very clearly saying the words ‘It was absolutely all worth it – all the stress, all the worry, all the hard work – 100% worth it’ to her.
I think about that often now, as well as the euphoria I felt during the mini moon and I long to get back to that. I long to find that positive attitude within myself again and erase everything I’ve thought since then. Because somewhere between returning to London and going on honeymoon, the bubble burst. And suddenly I was vulnerable. Vulnerable to all of the ‘in jest’ comments that people made about the day, vulnerable to my own self hatred about how I looked, and vulnerable once again to that Pinterest Dream that I realised I hadn’t been able to make a reality.
It only takes one person to tell you they don’t like your wedding photos for you to admit your own disappointment. It only takes one (probably well meaning but ill fated) comment about how you looked a little thin in your dress to bring up every insecurity you were holding back. It only takes one bad photo to appear on Facebook for you to realise how truly self conscious you really felt on the day. It only takes one mislaid remark about timings or food or the cold to make you question every decision you made and want to take them all back. It only takes one friend to tell you they felt overworked for a never ending well of guilt over taking advantage of those around you to appear. It only takes one guest to say the words ‘we hardly got a chance to talk to you’ for you to feel eternally sorry for your actions on the day.
It only takes one thing to burst that bubble. And once it’s burst, there’s no going back.
By the time we were on honeymoon, thoughts like ‘I wish we’d done this’ or ‘why did we do that’ were beginning to fill my brain and as the time for us to come home and face reality drew ever nearer, I admitted my feelings to GB and asked whether he too felt that perhaps, shock horror, it hadn’t all been worth it. But seeing the obvious hurt on his face at my words made me instantly sorry I’d mentioned anything. I backtracked, told him I was just sad that the honeymoon was almost over and told him to forget I’d ever mentioned anything.
From then on I tried desperately to push my feelings aside. But as the reality of being back home, with post wedding money troubles and the miserable January/ February slog, wore on, they started to get the better of me.
When I plucked up the courage to share our day on this blog back in February, after trying to block out the beginnings of these feelings for two months, I truly wanted to focus all of my words and energy on the positive. I wanted to write down every last happy memory I had about the wedding, as if in fear that the negative thoughts that had begun to consume me might overtake and make me forget them (which they eventually did). But doing so wasn’t easy. I had to fight against phrases like ‘X was a total disaster’ or ‘I’m still crying over Y’. But I knew that those were not the memories I wanted, despite them filling my head. I knew that I wanted to be able to look back at those posts in years to come and remember the truly important aspects of our wedding day, the things I had to be thankful for.
I thought about not sharing our day at all, knowing that perhaps in doing so I might be opening up a well of feelings that until that point I’d been managing to hold back. That letting the world in on something that for now was just ours, might bring with it a flood of reality that I wasn’t yet ready for. But I felt a certain responsibility. A responsibility to my readers to share the final result of everything I’d talked about at length for the last year, a responsibility to the suppliers we’d worked with who I wanted to support, and a responsibility to myself to, in some way, conclude our story and hopefully put those feelings behind me.
But as I suspected, doing so didn’t bring the remedy I so desired, and instead just fuelled the fire of guilt, sadness and pain that was building up inside me. I wished I hadn’t shared the photos, I cringed at the thought of people seeing me in my dress, I over analysed every comment (or lack there of) and I worried my readers would secretly be thinking I was a total fraud as my wedding clearly didn’t look nearly as good as my year of Wedding Wednesday posts had alluded it would.
I began to resent the wedding and everything it had caused. I resented the fact that I’d had to put my freelance career on hold slightly to get through it all, and was now starting again with new clients and projects and having to accept things I wouldn’t normally have accepted. I resented the fact that we’d spent all of our savings and were having to work ourselves to the bone to get them back. I resented the fact that I’d dedicated a year of my life to something that now had me feeling so rubbish. I resented what I’d put myself through with stress and worry and how I’d at times made myself ill because of the pressure of it all. I resented my family for allowing that to happen, my friends for not doing more to help, and GB for not telling me to stop.
I resented everything and everyone. And then I felt unbelievably guilty for having ever thought those thoughts in the first place. GB and I were seeing so little of each other as he was travelling for work and as I was working most evenings and weekends, I couldn’t see much of my friends. I found myself crying all of the time and I didn’t know how to deal with the emotions in my head. Whenever I did begin to even scratch the surface of it all with someone, they would just urge me not to be so negative and to focus on the good parts, which was infuriating as that was ALL I was trying to do. It was as if there was a thick fog in front of me that just wouldn’t shift.
Jealousy is an ugly trait and I’m ashamed to say I began to feel it. I tortured myself by still reading wedding blogs daily and wondering how those brides, who described their picture perfect day and shared photos of bright sunlit photos and perfectly styled tables, had achieved what I could not. I felt jealous of their days, of their photos and of their clear planning ability that I assumed I didn’t have. Every time a friend got their phone out to show off photos of themselves in their wedding dress, I hated them. I wondered why I didn’t feel like that, why I had no photos on my phone and was scared to share a single professional shot with anyone. I constantly asked why I wasn’t lucky enough to be one of those brides who felt beautiful on their wedding day? Why I was the one out of all of the brides I’d followed who hadn’t got the day they wanted? Why we had been unlucky with photographs when it meant so very much to us? I continued to look at blogs and Pinterest and browse wedding dress sites as if I was still planning, pleading and wishing to do it all again and lying awake at night cursing every wrong decision I made.
The guilt of it all was the worst. I felt guilty about so many aspects of the wedding which was then doubled by the guilt I felt for feeling so negative following the wedding. Your supposed to love your wedding day, your supposed to think it was the best day of your life and you’re not supposed to think badly of it in any way. I felt like a bad wife, a bad daughter, a bad daughter in law and sister. I felt like a bad friend, and worst of all a bad person.
I was a mess.
Buy you know what the turning point for me was? It was reading an article very similar to this one on Love My Dress, written by a reader who poured her heart out about the emotions she felt after the wedding day. Reading it, I sympathised and nodded along with almost everything she described and just knowing that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t a monster and that I wasn’t the only bride in the world who had dealt with negative feelings in the aftermath of their wedding was amazing. I joined the Love My Dress brides group on Facebook (a place where pre and post brides can talk and share openly without any judgement) in a bid to thank her, and found that the group itself provided me with the therapy I’d been seeking. No one judged me or made out I was a leper when I admitted I hadn’t loved our photos, felt disappointed with our decor and didn’t feel great about how my body looked in my dress. Instead comments of agreement flooded in and members went out of their way to exclaim that they felt the same way giving me tips for how to get through it. I realised that so many brides went through issues in the run up to the wedding and on the day itself, and hearing other people’s stories (which in many cases were much sadder than any of mine) made me realise that I had so much to be grateful for with my wedding day. My excitement for the wedding came back when I was able to weigh in and help others in need – giving advice on choosing underwear and telling them why the weather wouldn’t affect their day.
I realised that I did love my wedding day, and that there were so many parts of it that were truly wonderful. The ceremony forever lives on in my mind as the beautiful and emotional experience that it was for example. But I accepted that in many other ways I didn’t love it (the nerves, the stress, the exhaustion), and there were many parts of the whole process which got the better of me and turned me into someone I didn’t recognise. And most importantly, I realised that having mixed emotions about the whole thing were completely normal, and that most brides go through at least some degree of this (however small or fleeting) following the adrenaline and long build up of the day.
Last weekend we spent a wonderful few days in Copenhagen, and reminded ourselves how much we love spending time with each other, away from work, and weddings and daily stresses. We talked about the wedding and we laughed. We remembered the good bits and not the bad. I shared a photo on Facebook and finally submitted our wedding story to Love My Dress for feature.
And that’s why I knew I needed to share my post wedding journey on here too, because it’s part of my story and despite being beyond scared to click publish, I know that it might help someone else going through these emotions. It’s why the portrayal of a ‘perfect day’ in the wedding industry really must stop and why we all must be more willing to share all the things that went wrong, and that problems that we faced, as well as the things that went right. Because everyone has them, and yet no-one talks about them. The perfect wedding doesn’t exist – I know that now – and those who seek perfection so dearly (as I did) will only be left feeling disappointed, inadequate and sad when they don’t get it. But you can make your own version of perfect, and even if it doesn’t include a matching colour scheme and you don’t look as drop dead gorgeous as the images on your Pinterest board, it can still be yours and it can still be treasured.
I can’t tell you I’m completely cured and have come out the other side unscathed (I still cried like a baby when a friend mentioned my dress the other day) but I can say I’m back on the right track.
I still have very mixed emotions towards our wedding day, but I’m learning that that’s ok. It’s ok to feel both sadness and happiness for such a monumental occasion in your life. It’s ok to feel some loss at the fact that such a big event is behind you, and it’s ok to both want to forget it all, and want to relive it over and over like ground hog day simultaneously. I spent a really long time feeling like I’d messed up my one chance, and I found it so difficult to get over that, even when I began to accept the smaller things that had gone wrong. I kept going over the fact that I’d never to do it again. Never get to be the bride again, never get to wear the dress again, never get to walk down the aisle again, never get to say those words again, never get to live out the day again, never get to have those photos taken again, and I’d messed them all up.
But when I began to think about it, I wondered what one chance I’d really messed up? My one chance to marry my best friend? Nope, I did that. My one chance to find someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with? No, I found him and I married him. My one chance to become husband and wife and have all of our family fit and well enough to watch us do it? No that definitely happened. And my one chance to live out my life with someone I love? No, we have our whole lives and everything that they might bring ahead of us.
So what if I messed up my one chance to have a Pinterest worthy wedding. So what if we only have one photo from the day that we both like. So what if my dress didn’t really fit me, our flowers were dead and we were so knackered on the day that we could barely even enjoy it.
The wedding was just one day in our story, and I think the pressure for it to be THE day, made it difficult to leave behind.
We didn’t get the perfect wedding, but we got each other. And I’m slowly realising that that’s more than enough.
I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who took the time to read, comment and share their own stories (and those who emailed, tweeted or Facebook messaged because it felt too private) following this post. I absolutely loved hearing from all of you, and even though I regretted putting the post up almost immediately, I think it has done me the world of good. Having said that I know that I did worry a few people, and perhaps (without meaning to) came across as a bit sad and negative. It’s left me feeling truly torn over whether I should be sharing posts this personal in nature anymore, now that so many people who know me in real life read my blog (tales of a once anonymous blogger!). But I just want to reassure everyone that I’m totally fine – I just very much enjoy writing from the heart. Pouring my thoughts out onto the page has always been therapeutic for me and in doing so I probably get a little carried away and write in an overly emotive manner (that’s why I’m determined to write a novel at one point in my life – and a real tear jerker of one at that – as I have a sneaking suspicion it might be my calling in life). I wouldn’t have been able to write those things if I was still feeling them, and I’m definitely looking back at my wedding in a much happier way now and seeing it for what it was – a wonderful occasion where I got to tell the world how much I love a ginger boy. Now looking back at it all, I can see that I truly just missed it all so much after it ended. I think I enjoyed the planning and anticipation of ‘what will be‘ so much that now that I only have ‘what was‘ it’s been hard. But please be assured that I do have happy memories from my wedding – the ceremony lives on as one of my favourite ever things – but I also just wanted to be honest and tell people that I was exhausted for a big chunk of it, could barely string a sentence together at the meal and found a great deal of it quite stressful.
Anyway to recap: Me = happy. Wedding = wonderful. Life = there for the taking. Thanks all!