Why I worry when people say they want a “unique” wedding (let’s talk about authenticity vs. attention)

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“I think I want a UNIQUE WEDDING,” she says. By: PRECIOSA ORNELACC BY 2.0

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 UNIQUE AND AMAZING 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.”

Comments on Why I worry when people say they want a “unique” wedding (let’s talk about authenticity vs. attention)

  1. I totally agree with you. I get a little upset with the pursuit of attention, I believe a wedding is about you and your spouse, and not about anyone else. My girlfriend who’s getting married is obsessed with attention, not about what she and her fiance want, but what is expected of them, what would be better than her friend’s wedding (whose date is 2 weeks before hers), ensuring her centrepieces are bigger, her bombonierres are better – and really, for what?

    No one is truly going to say, your wedding was so much better than hers! And that’s all she’s focusing on…

    “I’m still living out my vows in this commitment… every single day.”

    That’s beautiful. That’s important. People remember if you’re happy ten years from now, not what your centrepieces looked like.

  2. love this!
    when I first started planning our wedding, I was all about the attention-pursuing details but later realized that they don’t really matter and they just aren’t US. when my focus changed to authenticity, everything fell into place and I wasn’t stressing out so much. and ya know what? people saw that authenticity at the wedding and we got a lot of “this is the best wedding EVAR!” anyways! so I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re true to yourselves, people WILL notice 🙂

    • that’s almost exactly my experience. People sense and appreciate authenticity a lot more than some realise.

  3. This is such a great post to read 5 days before the wedding – we haven’t been sweating details AT ALL and it has scared people, from vendors to parents. But we will spend hours today not making favor baskets but sweating over the perfect ketuba wording and readings. I’m so relaxed, too, and want to take steps to feel present and warm and open on that day.

  4. I’m a total introvert and so’s my guy, so even having a large wedding at all is about as inauthentic as it can be. And because our families are important to us (we’re both only children and I’m an only grandchild to boot) we’re doing it anyway… but from the moment I called my folks to announce the engagement, the whole wedding felt like it wasn’t authentic to me. Authentic to me is NOT being the center of attention.

    Still… it’ll all work out. I do kinda like wearing my dress… 😉

    • Hi Kate,
      My fiance & I are only children too, and I'm also an only grandchild. Yet, my hubby-to-be has a large family so we too are planning a larger wedding than I'd prefer. I think it'll all work out 🙂

    • I can relate to this. I would have been happy with no event, just a trip to the JP’s office. Friends and family were aghast at this sentiment when I mentioned it well before my fiance proposed. I realized, by the time he let slip the Big Question, that a Wedding (capital W) is something my fiance kind of yearns for, even if he wouldn’t admit to it as a romantic yearning–not just a formality for him but meaningful! (Aww…)
      As my search for authenticity begins, I am grappling with the fact that what NEEDS to happen is this attention focused on us. Well, as the bride, on ME. I have to figure out how I’m comfortable PRESENTING myself and our relationship to the COMMUNITY. So of course what they think is important–if it wasn’t, why a public declaration of our love and commitment at all?

  5. Great post, and a much-needed reminder as I close in on the 2-months-to-go point. We want an easygoing, fun wedding — and yet I still can find myself worrying whether or not something “fits” with what we’re doing — when, in reality, if it’s something we want, it should “fit” just fine!

  6. Amen. What else is there to say, really?

    And you know, when your looking for validation in wedding planning it always leaves you sad, because it is never as important to other people as it is to you. With authenticity though, you already have complete satisfaction, even if no one ever even looks/stops/thinks/cares.

    Yesss.

  7. does it have to be Doritos or steamed broccoli? can we have a bit of both? what I mean is, I enjoying putting events together and sharing what I think is wonderful and beautiful, which seems very Martha-Stewart-wanna-be and attention mongering, and it does make a difference that people pay attention, that they “get it”, because if it doesn’t sink in, it’s wasted. but if people could come only for the wedding or the reception, it should be the wedding – to witness and support those being wed. that’s what the party is to celebrate, right?
    my impression of many OBBS is that they want to be substantive AND have their guests genuinely appreciate – not just be entertained by – their weddings. hmmm, maybe I can make Doritos into some kind of topping for the steamed broccoli…..

    • I’m pretty sure I have a similar state of mind. For me, the wedding is about our community and family coming together to celebrate and support our union… But I still want pretty and colorful. Making authentically pretty is in the fiber of my being, and I want people to get that I put work into the surroundings.

    • What about:

      Melt butter. Crush (nacho cheese) Doritos. Mix the two, and pack into a pie dish. Then, add broccoli, whole grain macaroni, cheddar bechamel sauce, cover w/ fried onions, and bake at 350* until done? 😉

      ^That’s why I’m here: I never wanted to get married until it proved to be important to my Other Half; so now, I’m trying to experiment together something meaningful to US and THEM (them being his family and our friends). It’s gonna be weird, but if you squint and take a leap of faith, it could turn out to be pretty tasty. 🙂

  8. I’m printing this up and posting it everywhere to remind me to stop worrying over what my conservative family may think, to stop caring what my insanely snobby co-workers will gossip about the Monday after around the water cooler, and to just be the real and uniquely, odd wonderful us!

    Thank you Ariel!

  9. I understand and completely agree with this post. I have to reiterate that it can be REALLY hard to be true to yourself and considerate of your guests. Of course your wedding is about you, but when you invite other people into your world it’s natural (and right, I think) to consider their comfort and enjoyment. But it’s easy to take this too far. And sometimes it’s not always so much about wanting to impress as it is not wanting to disappoint. I struggle with fear of rejection and failure (who doesn’t?) and when I get an eyebrow raise or silent, pursed lips from mom or bff upon suggesting some slightly “wacky” wedding idea, it’s very hard not be deflated by that. BUT, when that happens, Offbeat Bride is right here to lift my spirits and remind me that it’s ok- great even- to be different and to keep the focus on what’s real and genuine.

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