Here’s the thing about weddings further than a car ride from where people live. You find out what you really mean to people.
When I planned my wedding in England, I had a lot of reasons, mostly boiling down to I could have an amazing wedding for half the cost of something in New York. This turned out to be true. There are no fifteenth century Guild Halls in all of America. And in New York an open bar is de rigeur, but an open bar is something the fiance is dead set against. But really, it’s about the fact that there’s nowhere in the NYC metropolitan area that Shakespeare performed in, or the ruins of a medieval cathedral to take pictures in.
Obviously I dreamed of my wedding. What girl doesn’t? I envisioned my dress, and the food, but that picture changed a bunch of times. What I always thought was that it’s the one chance in life to gather all your loved ones around you and have them celebrate with you. This was the one thing I fantasized about most of all. I thought of elopements with horror–who could do that, and why, when you could have such a lovely celebration?
I knew when I planned to get married in England that would be sacrificing some guests. Flying across an ocean is a huge ask, and I know that. But I thought, I know some people who like to travel. Maybe they’ll show. (They didn’t). Then I thought, surely some of my family will show up. I have an Uncle who’s a world traveller. He’ll definitely come. (He just cancelled.) A friend of mine is going to be in Paris up through the wedding weekend. England is a very short hop from there, one I’ve made several times. (The timings didn’t work out). And so it was with virtually every guest. There’s work, or babies, or something, so that now if we split the church into sides I will have my parents sitting in the pews and, if I’m very lucky, four other guests. I’m not feeling very lucky though. When I told people I was getting married in England, quite a few people responded with enthusiasm. Several said maybe, which is a fair statement to make, but lots said yes, made plans. A friend who said “I wouldn’t miss it” posted his reply as “declines with regret” and added only “Sorry!”
I’m not bridezilla enough to think that everyone should come. I was just hoping for a representative or two from the States. But as it happens, nearly everyone I know has things that are more important, insurmountably so. Perhaps you readers out there think me incredibly selfish and myopic. Really, you might say, can’t you see that other people have lives? But…these are all people who I would have been there for. And one or two representatives would have made up for all the other nos. But when virtually nobody can come, that’s harsh. When people miss your goodbye parties without so much as an explanation, I start to feel like I never grew out of my sixth grade self after all, that people are still turning away from me when I walk towards them. Because this is a wedding, one of the five most important days of my whole life, and nobody can be bothered.
The saddest thing about The Great Gatsby is the end, when Gatsby dies and at the funeral for the most popular man on Long Island, no one shows up, not even the girl he once loved and who once loved him. That is when you see that his greatness is all smoke and mirrors. I thought that if I were willing to do such extravagant things for people, they would feel the same, or at least one or two of them would.
Turns out this is not so. Or rather, on a much smaller scale than I thought. It is true that the majority of my bridesmaids are coming from across the Atlantic. It is also true that I’m lucky enough to have eight bridesmaids, eight women who I can say are that close to me. They’ve all found a way, despite money woes and new jobs and babies and boyfriends who didn’t want to revisit England when they were just there a year ago. A friend from high school surprised me by saying she was going to come.
Maybe it’s impossible to gather so many people who would do that much for you. Maybe not everyone has a super close family. My friend had a very small wedding in New York, as she was from Texas and he was from Germany. She said to me the beauty of it was that only the people who really wanted to be there came. On the one hand, that stings a bit because I thought more people would really want to be there. On the other, I am grateful for those that are coming, that found a way to make this happen even though for them it’s a monumental ask.
My British maid of honor was musing today that she didn’t know if she could collect even five people to cross the Atlantic for her. I am supremely lucky in that regard. And I think I have to remember–not everyone is an adventurous spirit. Presented with such an invitation, I would say it was an excuse to travel, and make a trip out of it. While one of my bridesmaids is doing this, I have to understand that rare is the person who would. And maybe what I need to understand is the difference between acquaintances, friends, good friends.
My college roommate and I talked about that a lot, how relationships spiral outwards like the rings of water from a stone thrown into a pond. The closest rings are most sharply defined, and small–only a few people are near this intense epicenter. They fade as they spread out. Because I was a lonely child, I made the mistake of thinking that everyone who befriended me crowded into that little, closest circle. I seemed to think it was–the nearest two or three circles, then a huge gap, then vague acquaintances. But there are stages in between that I’m missing. People can be good friends, respect and esteem me, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to spend thousands to cross the world to go to my wedding–particularly if they’re not the adventurous type.
And I should be fair–there are a number of “We would come, but you happened to pick a really inconvenient weekend!” People are going off to college, or can’t take vacation from work in the summer. I don’t necessarily like such circumstances, but it would also be unjust to read in them a message of how people feel about me. Most of the time.
So the fact that I have ten or so people who would is pretty impressive. And I have to remember–it’s not about who’s not there on the wedding day, but who is. Which is what the fiance reminds me–there’s only one person he really cares about being there, and the rest is just so much icing. And that person has promised not to mash cake into my face.
Really, that’s the point of marriage, isn’t it? To know that you’ll always have someone by your side, someone you’ll go through everything with. Someone you’ll cross the Atlantic for a dozen times over. That person isn’t in a ring, they’re a stone bound to your stone. And if you’re lucky, you’ll make an even bigger splash than you did alone.
Therefore, I feel like Gatsby, but I’m not like him. It’s easy to paint myself as this tragic, lonely figure, who sees no return for everything (s)he puts out there. But people are showing up for me, and the person I love is promising forever, not flaking out and running off with a d**k like Tom Buchanan. I would call that a happy ending.
**As a post script, I should say that some of this was written just after someone I thought was coming for sure canceled. Some of it was written just now, a week later. I thought I’d keep the extreme stuff for contrast.