Why I worry when people say they want a "unique" wedding: the pursuit of authenticity vs. the pursuit of attention

By on May. 13th

I've been thinking a lot lately about the pursuit of authenticity versus the pursuit of attention. The first feels very internal, like you really have to look with-in yourself with a lot of introspection and thought to determine what's important … while the other feels very external, like you're hunting for other people's eyeballs. And why does one seem like so much fun, while the other seems like so much work?

When you're striving for authenticity, you're working to be as true and honest to yourself as you possibly can … and in order to do that, first have to figure out what your values even are, and get a grasp on what really matters to you. In the case of wedding planning, it can be about setting your priorities. Is it all about family? Is it all about your vows and the ceremony? Is it all about food? Authenticity is all about truly knowing yourself and your partner. It takes effort and guts to figure yourself and your partner out, and it's usually kind of private, introspective process. No meetings with vendors or collages here: just looking inside and considering yourself.

Pursuing attention, on the other hand, feels super externalized … all about other people's expectations and reactions and responses. On a certain level, when you're attention-seeking, you're handing over your happiness to other people — because that thing that you're doing? It only really matters if someone else is looking and (hopefully) approving.

It can make you feel manic and anxious, always thinking, Will they like this? Will this amaze them? What will people do when we hit them with THIS?! It can lead to a ton of validation-seeking, where you're constantly testing out ideas on people and watching for their responses.

"We're thinking of having all our parents walk us down the aisle together," you say to a friend, and then watch for a smile or a twitch of the eyelid. Did that smile mean they like it? Or did it mean they're just being nice? Shit, I can't tell! Now I think I'm going to have an anxiety vomit all over the floor!

So, if seeking attention is the more stressful way of doing things, full of freaking out and anxiety vomit … why does it feel so much more fun? Why would many of us rather spend our time obsessing over the perfect guest gift basket ("Ooh, I'm going to put themed breath mints in, and then we'll pull out a box before our first kiss — ZOMG IT'S PERFECT!") over spending a few solid hours into consideration over our vows? Why do we get all giddy over the delicious details, but find ourselves repeatedly changing themes or venues because we're just not sure what's really even important when it comes to the big picture?

I'm a hundred and fifty percent guilty of this, and not just in wedding planning. Why is it so much more fun to impress other people than to truly know yourself?! What if you're an extrovert and seeking attention IS authentic? Gah! My brain! It's pretzeling!

I guess it comes down to this: Attention gives you the cheap high of other people's energy focused at you … but authenticity gives you that deep, long-lasting satisfaction of knowing that you're on the right path and you're doing the right thing. While the quick high is more fun in the short run, the deep satisfaction is ultimately more filling.

The pursuit of attention is thinking the day after the wedding, "OMG PEOPLE SAID OUR WEDDING WAS THE MOST AWESOME WEDDING EVAR!!!" and then realizing you can barely remember the day because you were so worked up.

The pursuit of authenticity is thinking to yourself five years after the wedding, "I'm still living out my vows in this commitment … every single day."