By the time I hit high school, I had my entire wedding planned out in my head, minus one important factor: the groom.
This is not a terrible thing, though it has been portrayed with condescending overtones. In fact, as long as the person planning the wedding remains flexible about their ideas, it can be downright smart.
The spark that led to the first dream ceremony I crafted in my head came from a wedding I saw while on vacation at a North Carolina beach when I was in middle school. The bride’s dress was elaborate, gorgeous, and well outside of any price range I could ever hope for. The wheels in my head began to turn. I fantasized about white chairs in rows on the beach that would lead to a white arch with tulle and flowers woven through its latticework. The ocean would be behind the white arch, providing a photogenic backdrop. I would be in an off-white dress (because white just isn’t my color), with light-blue bridesmaids dresses and linen pants for the groomsmen. It was lovely.
Of course, after meeting my boyfriend, the perfect wedding I had planned in my head began to morph. Hunter’s not a beach bum like I am. He has a Scottish heritage that is as deeply rooted in him as my Irish heritage is in me. He and I first bonded over a shared love of Guinness on draught.
The wedding that makes the most sense for us now features kilted men and a keg or two of Ireland’s most well-known beer. I dream these days of a dark blue dress with a waist sash made from his family’s tartan and a small ceremony in the backyard of my aunt and uncle’s house near the Chesapeake Bay. To clarify, Hunter and I are nowhere near tying the knot. But this ceremony reflects who we are and where we come from, two important elements to consider as a couple approaches marriage (or, I suppose, doesn’t).
The thing is, planning your wedding far, far in advance is actually brilliant. It means you will be more knowledgeable about the industry, lessening the pressure when you do find a groom—or bride. And it gives you the chance to look at yourself honestly and ask what you want, both for that day and all the days after it. That honesty about what you want during a wedding and, more importantly, during a marriage will save you from many bad choices, including the one you could make if you say I do to the wrong person.
Unfortunately, the benefits of dreaming about and planning a wedding have been lost and the idea of Happily Ever After banished to the fairy-tale princess realm, a world where girls go to lose any sense of individuality and leadership they may be developing (or so I’m told). In Peggy Orenstein’s book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, this now-forbidden female world is portrayed as a terrifying step backward for women: “One of her classmates, the one with Two Mommies, showed up to school every single day dressed in a Cinderella gown. With a bridal veil. … As my little girl made her daily beeline for the dress-up corner of her preschool classroom, I fretted over what playing Little Mermaid, a character who actually gives up her voice to get a man, was teaching her.”
But Orenstein herself admits in the next line that she may be overthinking the negative effects of princessland, bridal veil and all: “On the other hand, I thought, maybe I should see princess mania as a sign of progress, an indication that girls could celebrate their predilection for pink without compromising strength or ambition; that at long last they could “have it all”: be feminist and feminine, pretty and powerful; earn independence and male approval. Then again, maybe I should just lighten up and not read so much into it— to mangle Freud, maybe sometimes a princess is just a princess.”
All of which is to say: If you save that clever, aesthetically pleasing DIY idea on Pinterest now, you’ll remember it when you do finally find a life partner. Nor is there shame in watching David’s Bridal commercials and critiquing the dresses. You are simply sharpening your critical faculties. Seriously, look at all the bridal magazines you want, even if you don’t have a ring on your finger, and don’t worry if the right person hasn’t yet presented himself/herself. You’ll factor in his or her personality eventually. You’re just getting a head start.