For months before the wedding, there was a lot of speculation about who would attend. I’m from New Jersey and Mike’s from Western Pennsylvania, and most of our family is spread all over the place including Ohio, Florida, New York and Maryland. With an upcoming wedding in Delaware, we were skeptical about who would make the trip.
Mike and I opted to have the response cards sent to my mother’s address because it seemed like the right thing to do. Little did we know that this would also save us from from an organizational nightmare.
My Mom had a very well crafted spreadsheet with all the guest information and a running tally of who would attend. She even added a column to keep track of everyone’s food choices. Before I mailed the invitations, I numbered the back of the response cards just in case a name was missing or the writing was illegible. Mom not only filed the cards away in alphabetical order, but she cross referenced each one with the list of names and corresponding numbers I gave her. Come June, Mike and I were no place to do any of this on our own. In fact, my filing system would probably have been limited to throwing all the responses in a drawer.
On the day that the first response card arrived, Mom called us the moment she got home from work to give us an update. That day, every card was a yes, and I was surprised at how validating this was for me. I did not realize how nervous I was about attendance at our wedding until Mom called with to report on responses. Even though I knew for a fact that there were family members who would be attending our wedding, it wasn’t until we had the card in hand with the check next to “accepts” that I felt relief.
When I was a young girl, back during those dreaded puberty years, I planned a birthday party for myself. We had just moved to a different neighborhood after years of living side by side with many of the girls from my grade school. It was perfect timing, really. Start Middle School, move away, go through puberty, get a short haircut and perm, and then try to throw oneself a birthday party. For some reason, instead of inviting friends from my class, I decided to ask some of those grade school girls, the cooler girls, to attend. I don’t remember why I did this, but I imagine it had something to do with my longing to be as cool as they were. After all, they didn’t sport frizzy perms and unflattering stretch pants. It turned out that none of these girls wanted to come to my party, and I don’t blame them. They weren’t my friends anymore, and they lived miles away. I shouldn’t have invited them. But the experience was so painful and shameful to me that the effects would last all the way into adulthood. Even though I can look back and see all the reasons why that party was such a failure, when it came time for my wedding, I was still afraid that I would meet the same fate.
If a girl gets all dressed up in an ivory gown and no one’s there to see it, is she really a bride?
So, when it would reach the time each day when my Mom would call with a rundown of the day’s responses, I would get terribly anxious. I knew there would have to be some nos, but this did not stop me from overanalyzing them. At first, I wished that Mom would wait until the end of the week to give me the results, just so I wouldn’t worry so much about all of it. But after a few days, I began to get concerned if she didn’t call us for a debriefing by four thirty pm.
The first no came from a friend on Mike’s side of the family, a friend that he’d not seen in quite some time. Mike was really taken aback by the response because he assumed his friend would attend.
“Am I unpopular?”
“Of course not,” I assured him.
I thought I was the only one stressing out over the nos, but now I could see that they were just as concerning for Mike. His friend lived in Michigan and was trying to making it as a musician. I knew there was a good chance that he would not be able to make the trip and that it had nothing to do with Mike being unpopular, but Mike was looking so forward to seeing him that it felt even worse to know his friend couldn’t be there.
I began to think back to all the weddings that I couldn’t attend or didn’t want to attend for whatever reason. It never occurred to me that the bride or groom could take my “regretfully declines” personally. After all, in most cases, my inability to attend had nothing to do with my feelings about the newly betrothed. So why was I taking it so personally? Maybe it was due in part to those childhood insecurities, but there were some adulthood insecurities in there, too.
“The people who said yes are the ones you want there with you,” Mom said one day as I cried about a couple of surprise nos.
“I know,” I sniffled, “but why do you think they don’t they want to be there?”
“Who cares? I can tell you that they are going to miss out on one hell of a party.”
There were much more people who said yes, but instead of focusing on the people who wanted to be there with us, we worried about the people who declined. Part of this was “glass half empty” syndrome, but most of it was pre-wedding anxiety manifesting itself as irrationality. Because we were struggling to contact the organist and fretting about finding a priest and buying our bridal party gifts and finishing the programs, a “no” response from a distant cousin suddenly seemed like a rather cruel slap in the face.
The more times Mom told me not to worry about it, the less I listened. Mom has always used the tough “get over it” approach to shake me out of my self-pity, but this has had varying results. If I’m feeling lousy about myself, an “Oh well!” does little to comfort me, and though I appreciate the fact that she doesn’t want me to feel sorry for myself, sometimes I wish she would just commiserate. In the case of the responses, there was no such pity-party.
“It’s going to be a wonderful, perfect day, and anyone who isn’t there is just missing out.”
When the last response was in, Mom said she felt sorry that the process was over. She loved getting the cards in the mail and tallying the results. It was exciting for her to visualize the wedding now that she knew who would be there. I wish I savored it too instead of freaking out about who said yes and who didn’t.
But there was no time to wallow in my missed opportunity! I had to prep myself to worry about the next item on my list!
I couldn’t have listened to my Mom’s advice not to worry about the responses because I wasn’t ready to hear it. It was something I had to feel. As it happened, being surrounded by the friends and family who love us most was a tremendous shot of joy on the day of our wedding. On that day, the people who “regretfully declined” ended up being the furthest thing from our minds.
We were too busy fully enjoying the people who were there to celebrate with us.