A Google search composed of the words “what kind bride you” yields around 52 million results. This comforts me because I’ve been engaged for around 4 months now and I still don’t know “what kind bride am.” Clearly, I am not alone. I have 14 months before my wedding and people say the time flies, so I need to know.
First, I turn to Glamour, which sincerely wants to help me. It aggressively offers bridentity options before I take its quiz. “Traditional? Fairy tale-esque? Outdoorsy? Ultra-mod?” Are these my only choices?
Inexplicably, the quiz has only two questions—You have the money to splurge on the dress of your dreams! What kind do you choose? and Music can set the tone of a wedding. What kind do you want to hear at yours?—followed by a rather pushy “SUBMIT” button. It’s pretty obvious what sort of result you’ll get. I answer them anyway, as truthfully as I can, and click submit. The answer: A banner ad with the May issue cover featuring Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kerry Washington, and a page load error message.
Results prove I am not a women’s magazine kind of bride.
The Pinterest page I’m browsing is tiled with photos of signs placed around wedding venues. In mostly looping script, they each offer different iterations of popular phrases: “Today two families become one.” “Pick a seat, not a side.” When I read these hostage-style demands, invariably featured on a chalkboard or burned into a piece of salvaged wood tied with a ribbon to the back of a chair, I imagine a bride. She is standing cross-armed, her head tilted, as the groom dismembers the guests one by one and sews their body parts onto other guests, stitching two families into one.
I am likely not a Pinterest kind of bride, but I will probably end up with a DIY flower garland.
I start a new job six days after I become engaged. No one knows anything about me; to them I may have been engaged for months, even years. I have a young face for my age. I feel like a cartoon in this new place, with my new ring, my impending wifedom, no friends and my 18-year-old face—I’m like a toddler wearing her mother’s pumps. They must think I’m a child bride, the kind of bride that gets married young so she can finally have sex, a Duggar fangirl, a tight little oven for buns. “I’m 26,” I want to tell them, “I’m 26, that’s old enough.”
I am not the kind of bride that always feels mature enough to be a bride.
For the first time in my life, I buy my very own scale—for $7 at Target. I immediately distrust it. I am apparently becoming that kind of bride.
“We’re going to trash the dress,” explains a bride on Say Yes to the Dress, which I unblinkingly watch most Sunday mornings, nursing egg and cheese sandwiches and hangovers unfit for any self-respecting bride.
“Trash the dress.”
She says it like it’s a really common thing. Like it’s something that you hear all the time: We’re going to have a Jewish ceremony. We’re not allowing children. My table settings have ranunculus. We’re going to trash the dress.
This “tradition” is new to me; I learn that it involves brides paying their photographers—who are likely making quite a bit of money photographing the ceremony as is—even more money to be photographed on the day after their wedding. Specifically, these women want to be captured doing something wild in their feather-white gown, like running into oceans or rolling around in farm dirt with their large-shouldered husbands. I prefer to imagine these brides trashing their dresses in the woods with a hunting motif, wearing billowy scarves made of RealTree™ camouflage fabric while mud and grizzly feces soak into their once-pristine skirts. Riding snowmobiles with cathedral veils flapping out from under Arctic Cat™ helmets.
I will not be the kind of bride who trashes the dress.
I want to get married on a specific lavender farm in Maine. The barn there is whitewashed with elegant beams like bony ribs under the arched ceiling. From these beams hang dozens of dried lavender sprigs; they gently rustle in the breeze, like a purple corps de ballet. Outside there is a grassy lawn that uncurls alongside a soft-flowing river.
Like the couples pictured on the farm’s website, our wedding here would be delicate and warm. First, the ceremony with the river as the backdrop, my mom and grandmother crying quietly. Then the reception, my husband spinning me under the lavender ceiling, my shoes clopping across the century-old barn-board floor.
I call to inquire about rates. It will be the first quote I receive from any vendor for my wedding.
The venue is $10,000—this includes use of the barn and the lawn outside, and nothing else. We will have to bring in our own tables, chairs, lights, caterers…everything. Ten thousand dollars for a barn and a lawn.
Fuck that, are you kidding me?
Instead we will marry at a venue that sounds as underwhelming as possible, something with “wedding farm” and “function hall” in its name.
I recoil. I wince. I think of a dark future where my daughter asks where her father and I got married and I, being a good mother, cannot lie. “Well, we celebrated the best day of our lives at…a wedding farm and function hall.”
But it’s only $6,000, inclusive of tables, chairs, and twinkle lights. Steeling myself, my lavender-scented fantasies snuffed out by the harsh realities of budget, we forge ahead and sign the contract.
This is kind of bride I must be.
Looking at wedding blogs and magazines gives me gnawing anxiety. I try to downplay it with my fiancé; how could he possibly understand what my feelings mean if I can barely understand them myself?
Like, how do these brides know? How do they know to write their guests’ names on little flags and then tie them to peonies and then jam the stems of the peonies into a chunk of Styrofoam inside a vintage window box coated with artfully peeling paint? How do they know when it is time to throw the bouquet, or how to stand that way that they do in all of the photos? (Eyes closed, but looking peaceful rather than dead.) Where do they find their live peacocks, and how do they train them to be charming and interactive at the reception without being a distraction.
How do these women become these kinds of brides?
A lovely earnestness spreads across my fiancé’s face as he tells me, “I want to help in any way I can.” He has no idea that this could land him smack in the middle of a crafting circle with my French-speaking aunts, grandmothers, and mother.
Or when he says, after I ask him what kind of dress he might like to see me in, that I’d look beautiful in a “mermaid-top dress.” He has no clue that such a thing doesn’t exist, and to me his ignorance reads like bliss.
Or when he stands sweetly before the snack cabinet, as he often does, doors wide open and arms splayed, silently dancing—hips rocking, head tipping left and right, lost in the joy of possibilities: a packet of Gushers, a spoonful of peanut butter, an Oreo before dinner for no reason. Perhaps all three. How nice to be doing that, instead of sitting over on the couch, browsing the Instagram hashtag #fitbride and having tachycardiac visions of my giant hips bursting through the seams of my dress right as I reach the wedding arch at the end of the aisle.
Maybe I can be the kind of bride that, like him, takes joy in not knowing. It sounds a lot less stressful. Like Gushers instead of a wedding cake.
Image via Shutterstock.
Lauren Rodrigue works in advertising in New York City, and is marrying a total babe on July 16, 2016. Tweet her at @laurenzalita.