Wedding Planning 101: Lessons from Kim and Kanye

I don’t usually follow celebrity gossip, but whenever I visit my hairstylist or the doctor’s office, I enjoy flipping through a cheesy magazine or two. After all, it would be un-American of me not to maintain at least a basic knowledge of the intimate details of vast numbers of people I’ll never meet and rarely respect. While getting my hair done not long ago, I was perusing my stylist’s back-stash of celebrity rags and saw a magazine headline from fall 2013, something along the lines of “Kim leaves wedding planning to Kanye.” Along with most of the rest of the internet, I’ve seen a bit more of Kim Kardashian lately than I ever really needed or wanted to, though truth be told, I only know who she or any of the Kardashians is because their antics get so much press coverage (if coverage is the right word…). Sans cable or satellite, I don’t get E! and have never seen the family’s reality show. In fact, I’m proud to report I had to look up which network even carries it; as further proof of our compatibility, Steve didn’t know either!

The part of the headline that caught my eye was not “Kim” nor “Kanye” (the musician who railed at Taylor Swift for winning a Grammy he thought someone else deserved, yes?). The words I latched onto were, no surprise, “wedding planning.” Steve and I are, relatively speaking, still in the early stages of corralling the vast compendium of activities that innocent-sounding phrase describes, but I continue to feel amazed and overwhelmed at the seemingly infinite reach of this thing called the “wedding industry.”

So, when I read the headline, I had three thoughts, in this order: (1) Wow, there are times when I wish I could hand it all off to Steve. (2) I could never hand it all off to Steve—I’ve waited years to plan my wedding! And finally, (3): Bullshit. Kanye’s idea of wedding planning probably means making a list of extravagant ideas, picking up a phone to hire a wedding planner, and then telling his staff to get busy. Methinks–as I have texted back and forth with my mom about fabric choices, spent hours perusing photographers’ websites, and sent yet another email to our chosen venue, asking, again, when can we, please, sign a contract?—Mr. West’s dreaming up ever more grandiose ideas with nary a worry of how to finance any of them does not count as “planning.”

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A Mother’s Dream, in honor of the wedding that wasn’t

As a child and young woman, I attended a Presbyterian church in Georgia where my parents are still members. The current church was built in 1976, when I was six, and I recall the blend of curiosity and awe I felt upon seeing it for the first time: its massive stone walls, soaring wooden beams, the rich red upholstery in the sanctuary. The stained glass windows, an artist’s and writer’s dream, appeared at first glance to be abstract collages of color, but a closer look revealed images, stories, a narrative that traveled from pane to pane. And I was fascinated with the bride’s room, a small, quiet space adjacent to the ladies room off the narthex. Its lime green, high-pile carpet and counter-long mirror framed by marquee-style bulbs made it glamorous and exotic, and I liked to sit on the swirly brass vanity chair and imagine.

One of the most beautiful features of the new church (now 38 years old) was a central courtyard. It is best viewed from the narthex, adjacent to the sanctuary, as the wall between the narthex and the courtyard is made mostly of glass. My mother Margaret has always loved the courtyard, and for as long as I can remember, she has voiced her dream that I would get married there someday. We would stand in the narthex, side by side, imagining the scene together. Guests would enter from the narthex and take seats in white chairs lined up in the central grassy area, shaded by several trees. The groom and minister would enter from the door off the church library, to the left. The bride would enter from the choir room door on the far right, behind the guests, then walk the along the curved, pebbled walkway in front of them to meet her groom. Flowers would bloom all around, the sun light the ceremony. It would be intimate and beautiful.

For years that was the plan, that I would get married in the courtyard. We talked about it enough that I can still picture the walk clearly in my mind. But the years passed, and I remained single. I moved away, first to Ohio, later to Virginia, and I still remained single. The church was expanded and renovated, a fountain placed in the courtyard, and it began to look like I’d always be single. And the years flowed on: I was no longer a member of the church, the minister I’d grown up with retired. When my mother and I had stood at the window dreaming, it had never occurred to either of us that a wedding wasn’t a sure thing. Continue reading