Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wedding Wednesdays: Family

with my sister-in-law and my sister just after I'd put on my dress and was admiring myself in the mirror
Tarah Coonan Photography

Oh man - thank you a million times to everyone who shared the links to their own wedding recaps in the comments of my post last week!  It was so much fun to read some new stories and I have to admit that I got a little choked up when I revisited the posts I'd already seen back when the bloggers posted them after their weddings.  Somehow, looking through those photos felt like reliving the happiest memories.  Isn't that silly?  I wasn't even there and yet I feel like I experienced the joy of those weddings.  I guess it's because we bloggers eventually become a sort of family, in a way, because we share so much.

And there's my segue, dear readers, to the topic of family.  I wanted to write about family anyway in the context of our wedding day, but I've changed direction in large part because I wanted Jon to be comfortable with what I published here and he wasn't keen on specific details being shared.  (To be totally honest, he's not crazy about this being posted, either, but he knows how much this blog and you, my readers, mean to me, so he's graciously said okay.)  Therefore, instead but no less meaningfully, I'm going to be guided by the questions that LC left on my I'm Married post a few days after our wedding:


I've been pretty insistent all along that I didn't feel like getting married would change our relationship.  We lived together on and off for two years when I was in London; we'd navigated different attitudes towards money, discussed conflicting priorities in regards to lifestyle, and managed not to kill each other when we couldn't agree on TV shows or movies to watch.  (I hear these are the major points of tension in marriages.  Is that true?  I hope so, because then we have a head start on compromising!)  Getting married was the next natural step for us, but, for the most part, it didn't feel momentous when I only thought about it meaning something to the two of us.

However, when I considered what it meant for us in the larger context of our families - and furthermore what it meant for our families - the scale of what we were doing became breathtaking.

Jon and I wanted to get married not because we felt that it would validate our relationship but because we wanted to celebrate our love for each other before and with our family and friends.  Although we had a civil ceremony, there was absolutely a spiritual element to the day, and I think everyone present would agree that there was something sacred about the commitment we made over clasped hands.

That's where our wedding day transcended our marriage and became about the broader relationships that were being formed.  In many ways, I'm not any more family to Jon's aunts and uncles and cousins, many of whom I'd only met for the first time at the wedding, than I was before we said "I do."  But I don't think that becoming a family is about signing a piece of paper.  It's about sharing the experience of a wedding as an active part of the union that is being formed.

Of course it takes time to truly feel like family.  Even a wedding can't make that happen instantaneously.  But, at least for us, August 24 was a crucible moment; it was a day wherein we were all bound together by all the love that we shared as Jon and I stood before our assembled guests.  No, Jon doesn't know my extended family much better now than he did before our wedding, but we were brought together by the passion of the ceremony and the exhilaration of the reception.  Yes, we are simply stuck with each other now and so we might as well make an effort to start being one united family.  But I do think that experiencing our vows and the celebration that followed with each person having an emotional stake in the day certainly invigorated the process.  I don't think you can share in that sort of love, so powerful on a wedding day of all days, without beginning to feel like family.

candids of both our families from the weekend - thanks especially to Lucy and Sarah for the photos!

Edited to add: Jess wrote about something relevant on her wonderful new blog yesterday; as declaratory as I am here, I do wonder if there's a right answer when you're asked if you feel different now that you're married.  And what kind of woman does your answer make you?

33 comments:

  1. A & I aren't married but have been together for 8 years and I call his family my family and vice versa. A's parents always refer to me as family which is really nice. Personally (even though we want to marry at some point) I think it takes time, and is not something indicated by a piece of paper. Although saying this, it will be interesting to see how the dynamic changes when we do get married haha, as of course that does sort of solidify our commitment. Love all the photos!

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  2. I still remember when S and I had only been together 6 months and S's SiL told me she and her husband (S's brother) were already saving for a trip to Australia. I was all, 'um, that's nice?' and she was like 'for the wedding, silly! When you and S get married! We've all talked about it and we've decided you're already one of us'. And of course, I was floored.


    I think when you're considering a multi-national relationship you need to have both families on side, because whichever country you settle in, you both need to be comfortable enough for that to be your only family support. Does that make sense? It's made the idea of marrying S wonderful, because not only do I get him for life, but my children are going to have a wonderful paternal Aunt and Uncle and Grandparents and I will have amazing support through my life when I'm so far from my own birth family.


    You looked so, so gorgeous on your wedding day! I love your thoughts on your families combining, also :)

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  3. Fredrik and I have been together for five years, married for three come January and honestly there are only certain members of his family like feel like mine as well because it is a two way street. The attempts I have made at getting to know them have not been met in kind so they still feel like acquaintances. He does have one sister whom I feel like family with and genuinely care for but sadly beyond that it is very limited to the point that I do not even want to share Christmas with them. On the other hand my grandparents call Fredrik grandson and my brothers care for him so deeply that it brings tears to my eyes how wonderful their bond is.
    Since though we live so far from both families we have worked so that the two of us are a family not just a marriage and often call us jointly by our last name as in "us Hemborgs sure do love being lazy" and it works wonderfully for us.

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  4. yeah, I definitely think that time works its magic too! Jon's parents mocked me and I sassed them before the wedding - I don't think that will change now that we're married :) but we hadn't met some of the further extended family before, so that's there the shift was for us!

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  5. oh WOW that is the sweetest thing! and I totally agree. a few years ago, when I was having a tough time in London, Jon's mum told me I could come up to Suffolk to stay with them whenever I wanted to get away, even if Jon wasn't free to come with me. That's when I knew I'd been accepted - and it made SUCH a difference in England feeling like home :)


    thank you!

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  6. oh boo, I am sorry. You're absolutely right - it is a two way street. sometimes I take for granted how lucky I am that everyone in both our families are on board, and I really shouldn't. thank you for the reminder. but your circumstances make it even more admirable that you two have made your own family between you out of it all!

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  7. So beautiful and this is exactly how Nick and I felt about our wedding. We had been together for 5 years, living together for 3 and we just wanted to shard a magical evening of love with our families.... and like you said, even though ours was a civil ceremony as well, the magic in the air was palpable!

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  8. that's it! sometimes I got so frustrated with wedding planning that I just wanted to elope, but so much of the reason Jon and I wanted to get married was to involve our families. worth it in the end :)

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  9. Totally. It really is worth it in the end!

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  10. Jess Gerrow / The Stroke BlogSeptember 11, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    Thanks for the mention Betsy! I love the conversations these posts generate. Good food for the brain :)

    You look so, so lovely and content in your wedding photo. I love it.

    This part of your post particularly resonated with me,

    "Jon and I wanted to get married not because we felt that it would validate our relationship but because we wanted to celebrate our love for each other before and with our family and friends."

    We also had a civil ceremony and, as much as I married for love, Mike and I also both really wanted to get married for the legal rights it brings (as I'm sure you, navigating the immigration system, can understand). But that always gets me thinking, what about people who aren't married? Why shouldn't they get the same rights? Maybe that's a topic for another post ;)

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  11. It's funny, I hadn't thought about this all that much until I read your post just now. When my fiancee and I told her sister we were engaged, I mentioned how much I was looking forward to her being MY sister, too. But to some extent, I already think about her family as my own. Partially because they've welcomed me so warmly (despite the fact they're southern and I'm a Yank!) and partially because I feel like I already know them so well through the stories I've heard about them. It'll be interesting to see how that changes (if it does) when we're married!

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  12. such a sweet essay, betsy. and i love your photo round-up - it really brings through the sweet bonding from the day. cheers to your new family!

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  13. You look gorgeous! I'm so glad you had a great wedding day!

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  14. You look absolutely gorgeous, Betsy! And what a perfect way of looking at the larger family impact of your wedding!


    I always thought about our wedding in the context that we'd already made our commitment to each other, but we just wanted to celebrate it by throwing a really big party for our family and friends. But as I've watched my husband fend public relations questions from his uncle to my PR professor sister and my dad and father-in-law sit back with a Chivas to talk about whatever they talk about and many of my friends and his friends meld into our friends...it really IS so much bigger than just two people.

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  15. Love this post Betsy... it's so nice to hear your perspective now that you're officially on the other side. I have a hunch that my experience will be similar .... when we FINALLY set a date. Also, loved Jess' post... so eloquently put. And just once more, you looked stunning!

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  16. This is such an interesting point: "each person having an emotional stake in the day". It's just like you describe, reading blog posts about weddings by people you may not know. Good writing can make you feel emotionally invested and thrilled about their day even if you weren't present! Weddings do create such a feeling of connection whether it's through beautiful storytelling or sharing the experience. Your ceremony looks so, so lovely, and I've really enjoyed reading about the process here!

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  17. Hm. I love your last question. That's so big- you know? It most definitely is different on a case by case basis. I'd say things were the same with us. Our families will, for many reasons never to be explored in public, never be blended together. And we prefer it that way. And our friends, they were already blended. Our wedding day was a union between us. And our friends and family were there to witness, celebrate, and support. Those friends and family who were there are now a part of "us", but not necessarily a part of one another the way some families get. You know those signs on Pinterest that are all about not choosing a side or an assigned seat because "we're all family now!" well, that was not our wedding and that's okay. Everyone has a different story. Ours is really that the wedding was "us" and not two families coming together. (Though this is slightly a lie for my family and Alex- he's always been a part of our family & my parents made that clear on the wedding day) But, anyway, I think the right answer is whatever is right for your marriage. Seeing as Alex and I had lived together for 3 years, bought a house together for 2 years, and raised 2 cats for 3 years together, not much changed for us. Just more silver and family heirlooms, I guess. ;)

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  18. Lol I felt like a hundred things changed the day we got engaged so I'm curious to see how it feel post wedding. Rob and I will have our 8 year anniversary this year but every new milestone we pass, changes things, even if its just a little.

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  19. I totally agree with you - I think weddings have this amazing way of making our hearts open up (and I'm talking from the viewpoint of guests and extended family members here). I've left so many weddings of cousins or friends and though "Oh I hope we meet them again at some point." I think everyone is just so happy to be part of something that, (in my opinion) no matter what religion/denomination you come from, is a sacred event.
    Congrats again you looked so beautiful!!!!

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  20. I always got so frustrated when people asked me if I felt different after I got married. It wasn't so much the question itself as it was the fact that I got asked it like 10 times a day! It gets old after a while. That being said, it did feel a little different. In a good way of course :)

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  21. UGH EVERYONE SHOULD GET THE RIGHTS. that is all I have to say on that until your post on it :P

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  22. yeah, it was the same with me and Jon's immediate family - I don't feel like tons has changed between us because of the wedding as we were already really close. But for the extended family - it was quite a day to come together!

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  23. http://instagram.com/p/dZWoJ8ws_O/



    I can't tell you how happy this photo of the sisters-in-law makes me :)

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  24. part of the reason my dad was so happy about our marriage was because he really likes Jon's parents - haha!

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  25. oh man, TAKE YOUR TIME! I feel like our engagement would have been much more enjoyable if we hadn't spent it planning our wedding...




    and THANK YOU! and sorry for the unsolicited advice :)

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  26. Hehe. I am the one who asked this question, and since you have shared your thoughts I thought I would share mine as well! I think we have a few things in common, in that I married an English man (but I'm not English) for example. I agree with lots of things you have said. Overall, what I felt about at our wedding was overwhelming love that I was NOT expecting. As you say, it's not the papers that do the deal, it's the experience! We actually had 3 weddings - because my family does not speak English, I felt uncomfortable having a ceremony where they would not understand anything (and having it interpreted or else did not feel like a viable option). I also realised along the way that this actually was a great excuse, because we both felt our ceremony should be private, even though we did want to celebrate our commitment. So we kinda eloped, and then celebrated in my country 2 days later (with his parents + grandma + sister part of the trip), and then in England 4 months later (that part was almost 3 weeks ago, and 15 members of my family came). Even with no wedding ceremony at all or any form of public commitment, we felt like such a big bond created. Even with the HUGE language barrier (in that my family doesn't speak English, he and his family does not speak French, although some people can kinda sort themselves out a bit), people created bonds, and enjoyed being with each other. MAGICAL! After our party in April, our families were sending each other notes by the post, having me translate some bits and translating some bits with internet help. And sending each other gifts. And they did it again after the second party. It really felt like they all felt like part of a big family, and it did create something that would not have happened without a wedding. Simply because - what reason would his family have to fly to my parents' home? And why would 15 members of my family visit us allllll at once if it wasn't for a wedding? (Especially - why would our over-80 grandparents drag themselves in a plane if it wasn't to see their grandkid be happy ;-)). My family had actually never came to England before the wedding (I have been here for 2 years) and now they want to come here again as soon as possible. Anyways, that's my little testimonial on the matter, thanks a lot for sharing even if your husband wasn't crazy about the idea.

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  27. exactly! which reminds me that I need to respond to your email - sorry for the delay!

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  28. WITNESS. That's a word I should have used - it's so ACTIVE. At a wedding, you can't really watch passively, you have to be a part of the commitment the couple is making. YES. Thank you for making me think of it like that :)

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  29. I bet I'll be eating my words because things will be different when he finally gets here... we'll see!

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  30. YES! And honestly that's partly why I was so glad to have the whole family at our wedding, especially those members I hadn't met before. I'm so looking forward to being part of their life events to come too!

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  31. haha true - like right after your birthday, "does 27 feel different?" um...

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  32. oh YAY I'm so glad you came back! It was such a great question and I was so glad for the encouragement to share my thoughts, so thank you :) Jon's okay with it - he just doesn't understand why I need/want to put all of this out in the interwebs.


    also, F√ČLICIATIONS!

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