Monday, April 23, 2007

How I Survived the Happiest Day of My Life... the subtitle of a well-timed book I just finished, A More Perfect Union by Hana Schank.

I identify with Hana, a first-time bride in her thirties who initially scoffs at the crazy customs of WeddingWorld. Part-memoir, part social commentary, it's all good. Hana's yearlong engagement affirmed our decision to plan our nuptials in four months. From my own observations of and the addicting bridal magazines, it seems to me that the longer one has to plan a wedding, the more likely it is that indecision leads to many more decisions. With a four month deadline, you deal with one task at a time, and when it's done, it's done because there's no time to change it!

Hana and I have a few other differences. She and her fiance lived together. Niels and I are a couple of virgins shuttling back and forth each day as we start to blend our lives and homes. Hana is Jewish, trying to keep her ceremony from being overly religion and I am a Christian, with a desire to infuse our ceremony with important spiritual symbolism.

One of the deepest connections Hana and I share, however, is planning a wedding with divorced parents. No matter when our folks divorced, their parting casts a shadow on the joy of day. It's the big pink elephant in the middle of our planner. Is it really possible to plan a wedding without thinking about the fact that if my parents weren't once married, I wouldn't be around to plan a wedding? And how does one plan a wedding with all the naive, optimistic hope that makes two people giddy enough to take the plunge when some of the most important guests have shown us that sometimes the water's not so great for swimming?

When Niels and I were planning our wedding date, we had a pretty small window. One of my bridesmaids lives overseas, and will only be in the States for the month of July. One of my other bridesmaids is due to celebrate the arrival of her new daughter at the beginning of July. The last weekend it is! We opted away from Saturday to give ourselves some flexibility with locations, which left us 7/27/07 on Friday and 7/29/07 on Sunday, which, incidentally, would have been my mom and dad's 40th anniversary. My matron of honor helped me make the decision. She said, "You know, Jen, your whole life has been about redeeming the stuff you didn't choose, about taking the broken parts of your past and using them to create a beautiful mosaic in your future. How fitting it would be to redeem that day for your family." I have such wise friends.

Two weekends ago, I spoke to a group of divorced parents. It was one of my favorite speaking engagements so far, and my first since getting engaged. I typically talk about romance/wedding triggers in my talks, but on this occasion I still had my newly-engaged glow. As a result, I was able to share my message with a more light-hearted tone. My audience was great, and I appreciated the way they took to heart my take on some of the very real, very hard, very challenging aspects of gracefully planning a wedding with divorced parents. As one man shared with me afterwards, "Divorce is hard stuff, but when you can make a convicting point and make us laugh at the same time, it'll stick with us."

Hana does a great job in this respect. While the focus on her book isn't necessarily her parents' divorce, it is a theme woven throughout. And her lighthearted commentary makes several convicting points for readers. I highly recommend it!

As for my own parents, they have really surprised me in many ways. I think having written my book a few years back gave us all a head start on thinking through some of these things. And Niels and I have come up with some creative alternatives to make the wedding more about us and less about some traditions that could be awkward given my family dynamics.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for getting to do after Mom and Dad said I don't).

1 comment:

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