Moments after you get engaged, you’re whisked away to a foreign, barren planet, left to survive and build a wedding with nothing but your bare hands, the Internet, and occasional drop-in visits from your fiancé, who bloop-bloops in on a little flying saucer and is like, “I suggest we have cakkkkeeeeee!!!” and then bloops away, disappearing into the cosmos, cute as ever.

On this planet, you are visited there by three sets of ghosts: The Ghosts of Weddings Past (the traditionalists—your mom, your aunts, your grandmother, your classier friends), The Ghosts of Weddings Future (your hip friends, your cosmopolitan uncle who is like, “I never pegged you as a bride-bride!,” the feminist community of which you’re dying to be a part), and The Ghosts of Weddings Whatever (your close friends who don’t give a shit about any of this so long as you “don’t make them wear pale yellow”). The ghosts will appear without warning, across all communication channels, brandishing you with artifacts from their strange lands.

A text message from one, wordless except for “Pretty!” and a photo of a queenly whipped-white gown with long lace sleeves, a lace torso that knots into a billowing skirt that swells into a cathedral train.

A Gchat from another, with a link to pictures of a celebrity who got married on a random stretch of grass whilst wearing a high-low mullet skirt. “THIS + LEATHER JACKET!!!” reads the text.

A suggestion hurled across a dinner table, over Pacificos that have been inexplicably doused with tequila on a Monday: “I personally would never ever ever get married.”

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Ghosts or not, actually planning The Wedding Present offers a bride ample opportunities for confusion and indecision. Thanks to the Internet and the ghosts (gah stop calling I’m at workkkkkkkk), there are now approximately 100 billion ways to do your wedding, including, of course, not doing a wedding at all.

You can take the Classic route: hosting all the pre-wedding events, the gown, the church, the vows, the reception, the embarrassing tossing of bouquets and sliding of garters. But people might talk—“I thought she was more original than that!” Or you can stalk Stone Fox Bride religiously, Pinterest-ing your brains out, and wind up with a ceremony so untraditional, it actually turns out to be a funeral. For me, a happy medium of old-meets-new would be the ideal, like a not-too-long-not-too-short first dance song—but what is that medium for me?

To find it, I try to play it cool with my ghosts. I start to think about it as a barter system: for every tradition subverted, a different one (that I can stomach) preserved. Priest, you’re out—sorry, Father—but that raises me one whitewashed archway. Those heinous entrance dances imposed upon the bridesmaids and groomsmen at the reception? Literally my least favorite thing about weddings. Gone. But that probably means I should do some kind of bouquet-tossing thing, lest I appear completely humorless.

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And the list goes on, tit for tat, trading trends and traditions, just me and my ghosts at a poker table, pushing chips back and forth. A crop top dress for a father-daughter dance. No maid of honor but a big plushy white cake. Deciding engagement photos are pointless but allowing a silly announcement in the local newspaper. Forgoing a bridal shower but having a sickly sweet reception exit strategy that involves sparklers.

Meanwhile, the Ghost of Weddings Whatever is sighing like, “This is sooo boring when can we drink?”

And every now and then—in the middle of the storm, when the Pins are flying back and forth and the ghosts are shouting over one another, and I’m incredibly certain that my wedding will be neither timeless nor cool but rather a literal fucking zoo of tulle and sugar, there appears one thing that makes everyone shut up and smile and nod. A picture of Joe and I together in the snow, or a pair of satin shoes with a heel just-so, perfect for dancing.

A text from a ghost: “EVEN DAD LIKES IT.”

These are the totems of weddings that transcend trends and traditions. The precious gems to cling to when nothing else seems “you” enough or “bride” enough. I am discovering elements such as these slowly and tenuously, one by painstaking one, like an archaeologist unearthing something unknown from the crust of the earth with just a toothbrush, a metal file, and sharp exhalations of air from her lips.

Image via Getty.


Lauren Rodrigue works in advertising in New York City and is marrying a total babe on July 16, 2016. Tweet her at @laurenzalita.