There's something very “happily ever after” about a wedding. The preparation process reads a lot like a basic story outline — the proposal kicks things off, each major decision mirrors a plot point with its minor conflicts and resolutions, and the few weeks just before the wedding are so jam-packed with bumps in the road and heightened anticipation that it can be easy to view the day itself as the obvious climax and denouement.
And yet clearly life goes on the next day, and the next day, and (one hopes) for years and years of happy married life down the line. But aside from the requisite reminders to write your thank you cards, share your photos, and review your vendors, what's a new spousal pair to think after a wedding?
How does one go from the harried existence of a party planner to the husband or wife on the other side? I've been married for a little over three weeks now, and so far I have experienced four stages of post-wedding existence…
Stage One: Relief
Even though we had months to get everything together, I still managed to wait until the morning of our wedding to write my vows. Pulling that off was such an emotion-laden experience that this stage began as soon as we walked away from the officiant and shared champagne with the rest of our wedding party. It's tough to express the range of emotions I felt in the 20 minutes between starting the ceremony and watching our sisters sign our marriage license, although the whole experience is burned into my brain in a way that very few memories are. That shaking, somersaulting-stomach feeling of completing the most important task of the day was definitely a mixed bag.
Stage Two: Euphoria
As soon as the adrenaline began to fade and I was ready to go interact with all of the guests who had come to see us, everything was god-damn pixie dust and Christmas morning! From the beginning of the reception until the end of the night I have to insist that colors were brighter, people were more beautiful, music was sweeter, and food was more fucking delicious than it has ever been in my life. After all the worries and all the effort to calibrate my expectations appropriately, I'm so thankful to have been able to forget everything that had led up to that point and just feel blissful in the moment!
We got a pretty solid ten hours of sleep on our wedding night, but the next 72 hours were basically lived in a daze. Aside from packing the car, driving home, eating our leftovers, and sleeping, we had barely enough energy to unpack the car, pack for our honeymoon, and go out just once to go shopping before we flew to Barcelona. Writing a lot of final checks and looking at the damage on our bank and credit card statements did little to help us feel energized. Fortunately we had planned on an additional three weeks off of work after the wedding and I highly recommend taking some time to live through this stage, even if you aren't planning to take a honeymoon right away (or at all). While being exhausted wasn't productive, and I have a pretty huge pile of wedding stuff staring at me from the dining room even now, it gave me a chance to process the huge thing that had just happened without feeling rushed into something new.
Stage Four: Acceptance
So I may have cheated and stolen this one from the end of the Five Stages of Grief, but it makes sense! After the exhaustion wore off, we would get into these “holy-shit-we're-married” giggle fits. We'd been living together for two years and dating (at least off and on) for almost four years before we got married, but we definitely felt like we had entered a strange new stage of adulthood that was still kind of hard to wrap our heads around. I'm in this stage now as I write this, an hour or so after I got the courage to look at some Offbeat Bride articles (which would have been unthinkable during Stage Three). From this vantage I can look at the things we managed to pull off that we can be proud of, as well as take a glance at some of the things that didn't go perfectly and that we can improve upon in our lives more generally (such as my propensity for procrastination).
Which reminds me, I have some Thank You cards to write…