This is some powerful shit: the wedding planning process as a rite of passage

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Tina
Christy & Glendon08
Keep this post in mind when you're pounding the pavement with your partner, looking for a venue, or slogging through the painful wedding planning process. (Photo by Wild About You Photography)

When my love and I decided to start wedding planning back in January, we had NO IDEA what we were getting into. I honestly thought that as a new bride, the "collective community" would gently take my hand, congratulate me on this sacred time in my life, and ask me questions that would invoke my heart space to create my wedding day. After all, this is a uniquely sacred time in our lives where we cross unknown thresholds within our heart and soul and with one powerful action of sacred union say, "I believe in love. I believe in myself enough to take a leap of faith to join with someone else in heart and soul. And I believe so deeply in another human that I am willing to say yes to support their heart and soul as well."

My deeply sensitive and intentional self was utterly shocked in my first four months of venue-searching and wedding planning. It turns out that the reality of the wedding industry, coupled with some of the social chatter about what is and isn't "supposed to happen," has a tendency to be based in illusion and commercialism more than evoking and honoring the sacred.

For a moment my heart closed. I felt like I couldn't dream because my budget was too small. I felt alone in holding my tender vulnerable heart. And I desperately wanted my heart to be "held" not just by my friends and family, but also by the businesses and community members that are part of the wedding service industry. I wasn't looking for over-the-top, "make me the center of your universe" service. I was looking to simply be met in my heart space, and if I answered, "I don't know" to the onslaught of bombarding detailed questions that always get asked, I wanted it to be okay to not know. I wanted affirmation that this planning is a process filled with unknowns, and that the process of planning, in and of itself, creates the feel and the soul of the wedding day.

I want to acknowledge the sacred and the mystery of wedding planning. I wonder why the process of getting engaged and wedding planning are not themselves rites of passage? They certainly feel like it.

The past four months that I have been looking for a venue I have made the most intimate, internal leaps inside of myself. The times that I have been on Offbeat Bride, and read all of your posts and heard your voices, I hear themes. We are learning how to draw healthy boundaries (both in saying yes and no). We struggle with how to build family and community differently as we stand in the "center" of that connection. We confront what is terrifying and transformative about being the center of attention (which I am now realizing is not at all about being the center of attention but learning how to hold ourselves in the most powerful authentic center of our heart). We learn how to open our hearts with our loved ones amidst tensions. We are transforming ourselves and consistently unfolding in preparation for that moment of union with our love. That is some powerful shit, too powerful to NOT be in the forefront of the wedding dialogue.

Why isn't the social and collective dialogue more about this? Why isn't intimacy at the center of all things wedding planning? Why am I considered "offbeat" when I say to my family, "I may not want this or that because it is not coming from my heart"? Or when I say, "I need help exploring how I feel in my heart and belief system about this or that tradition before I commit to its detail."

It has been a tough go at finding the wedding venue, but I finally found it! I just found the place, the very container, with which I can drop into my dreams. I feel a little safer about getting carried away in my heart after going through the first cycle of tension and making it out the other end. I endured saying no to family, and learning that it is okay to do that. I learned how to protect my heart and simultaneously keep it open when I encounter something or someone who may not meet me in a heart space. I have also learned to decipher my real dreams from my illusions (either a false belief inside of me, or an external image created from a social stigma that encourages fantasy over intimacy).

From now until our wedding date, I honor and acknowledge that all parts of this wedding planning process are transforming me to step into my most powerful deep-hearted self. I acknowledge this rite of passage, for myself, is the corner stone to the soul and mystery of the union that is being created by my Love and myself.

I call out to all you offbeat couples with whom this post resonated with. Join me in this rite of passage, celebrate yourself, honor whatever it is inside of you that needs to be healed, changed, and owned in order to deepen in love and intimacy. Let all your unknowns create more soul. Let all sources of tensions or dramas be mirrors into what is not yet internally resolved. Let let this be a sacred and joyful process… and bring intimacy to the forefront of our weddings!

  1. I love this! Such a thought evoking post, and it describes this whole idea of planning to a T. I'm going to take a few excerpts and show them to some family. I'm a "shut up and move on, you are not getting your way " type of mind but it's hard to communicate this with authority when you feel so belittled by other peoples opinions of "should".

    OBB and all your contributors thanks again! You are ever continuing to save my arse in the darkest corners of wedding planning!

  2. Wonderful post! I remember planning our wedding back in 1994-1995 and it was so competitive and we dealt with so much during that time I didn't have the chance to purely enjoy it!! We are having a vow renewal celebration next April for our 20th anniversary and this time I am doing things my way…simple…small….but beautiful and meaningful. That is how it should be! Whether it's 300 guests or 10…it should always be about the love that brought them to that moment.

  3. I love reading this. I love your perspective, and I love knowing that I'm not alone in this viewpoint. This resonates strongly with the work Sheryl Paul has written (she wrote "The Conscious Bride", as well as multiple e-courses on relationships and anxiety) and the idea that this is a transition. This is going to be difficult in its own right.

    And in a society today that can be very materialistic, it's hard to get the idea across of "it's not about what's supposed to happen, or how it should be, but what it IS." Love is different for every person (on some level, whether that be how we express or how we receive it), and so why shouldn't this public acknowledgement be personal as well?

    Kudos, Tina. Thank you for your words. OBE, fantastic pick for a post today. <3

  4. This – SO much. I felt (feel) let down by everyone's expectations, my own expectations, the industry, the process…. and have been trying so hard to focus on the things that bring me joy in this process: My FH and our beautiful, wonderful life together. Thank you for this bit of perspective.

  5. Bravo! BRAVO! Your wedding day is a day of transformation…before you are one person, after…well, you are still one…but part of 2. No matter how long you have lived together, it's still different.

    Years ago, couples took a year after engagement to prepare to be married. Much of that was inner work, and the outer work was often about building a home together. That year was, surprisingly not about party planning..:) Today, we want to race thru that process, and often not even acknowledge it.

    Good for you for asking these questions. Courageous, you.

  6. This found me right when I needed it. I was having a rough day facing hitches in wedding planning, facing the strong and intimidating opinions of family, and feeling very lost and confused, and this provided some beautiful perspective. Thank you so much!

  7. Beautiful. This is something I truly needed to read. I've been feeling extremely downtrodden as of late, for multiple reasons, and this hit me square in the heart. Thanks for the different perspective! I feel a little more confident now.

  8. This is truly beautiful and expresses exactly how me and my FH feel. What I find most difficult in the planning process is dealing with my family's expectation vs. the dreams of me and my love. I'm not afraid to say no but its treading the line between staying firm on our desires and hurting people's feelings. Right now, we are in the process of searching for our home. We both decided to wait till next year to have a wedding because weddings themselves are a life changing moment.

    I truly enjoyed this article 🙂

  9. I go back and forth between feeling like this, and feeling like the wedding itself is basically a big party for us to be as gooshy as we want in front of all our friends and family and not get sh!t for it for one day—the real work is being done every time we negotiate who is doing the dishes and who is changing the baby, or compromise between sex now and sleep now. But either the wedding is just a big party, in which case we shouldn't have to stress and we should get to do whatever is most fun, or the wedding is a deeply meaningful personal rite of passage, in which case we shouldn't have to stress and should get to do whatever is most personally meaningful (and hopefully, fun).

    …I say, as I sit here crocheting my veil. (I'm a groom.)

  10. Oh my gosh, I NEEDED this post. I have been engaged for three weeks and I broke down crying yesterday because my mom just said "no" when I told her what I wanted to serve for dinner. It has been so stressful trying to make the wedding of my dreams fit into a small budget — especially when my family wants a large budget wedding. Thank you for writing this post, which resonated with me so deeply at this moment.

  11. Aye! What a poignant time for you to post this. I have been pondering greatly this rite of passage and how greatly it has affected us and rocked us to our core more than we expected it would. We've had huge fights since getting engaged (not about the wedding itself) that have forced us to really dig deep, and we lost our wedding location (that we had nailed down for 9 months) only 6 weeks before our wedding, and just the entire process has been a huge coming together with every twist and turn of a rollercoaster!

    We are getting married THIS SATURDAY and I am actually so excited that we are having the wedding we committed to having, that honors us and our community and my children. We get to be ourselves, and dang it's been quite a rite of passage indeed!

    Thank you!

  12. This is so powerful! I come to OBB to enjoy the wedding porn (as I'm not even engaged yet, ha) but this spoke to me and I'm so glad I read it. Thank you for sharing your truth. I will definitely be rereading this when it becomes immediately relevant. <3

  13. Thanks so much for this post. I naturally gravitate toward minimalism, and my mom naturally gravitates toward tradition, and those two things are frequently in indirect conflict with each other. Your words of "rite of passage" and "learning to be the center of attention" are magical to legitimize so many things I would normally evade. Thank you!

    • This sounds very similar to my mom and I, and although I know a bit of what you might be dealing with (and have sympathy because of that…) it feels good to know that I'm not the only one! A lot of discussions with my mom have been about what "should" happen and it is draining! My fiancé and I haven't even been that unconventional and so many things have been a battle.

      Anyway sorry to hijack your comment… just having some solidarity feels so validating!

  14. I highly highly suggest reading "The Conscious Bride" by Sheryl Paul. She embraces ideas similar to this post and includes stories from other brides with their own experience of the engagement and planning process. It made me more comfortable with all the crazy feelings that come along with this whole transition!

    • Yes, her writing and work is amazing.
      As well, I would suggest working with a Celebrant for your officiant. They truly understand how to craft a wedding ceremony as a rite of passage. They listen to your story, your values and work towards bringing your whole community on board with your intentions.

      Congratulations on your insights and wisdom.

      Lisa Hartley,
      Wedding Celebrant

  15. Thank you my friend for speaking the words of my heart from your heart! This is beautiful!

    "I wanted affirmation that this planning is a process filled with unknowns, and that the process of planning, in and of itself, creates the feel and the soul of the wedding day.
    I want to acknowledge the sacred and the mystery of wedding planning. I wonder why the process of getting engaged and wedding planning are not themselves rites of passage? They certainly feel like it."

    Amen! So Be It! and Hellz Yes!

  16. I. Love. This. It hit home with me in so many ways. I always thought that wedding planning was this fun fairy tale time filled with pretty things and smiles, but it isn't. Not that it's bad, it's just full of so many deeper, more intense times too, and it was such a relief to see that other women are valuing this roller coaster like I am!

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