This is very painful for me to write about, so I'm going to keep it brief while trying not to skip over anything important.
I was married in late April of this year. Here we are, one month later, and it has come out in a very ugly and sad way that my mother was and still is powerfully hurt by my behavior at my (nontraditional, if that matters) wedding.
I did not make any speeches or acknowledge her and my father specifically. Though my ceremony had sweeping words of love and gratitude for all in attendance, there were no specific acknowledgments. This was not by design, it was not a pointed snub. I have no excuse, just the assertion, which she believes, that it was in no way intentional.
The photography was a disaster -- again, my fault, as I provided no list or guidance -- and as a result there are so many "must-have" shots that didn't happen. There were no formal shots taken of just her and me, and just a handful of candids.
I wasn't focused at the event -- it seemed as if the whole thing was swirling around me, by me, through me, above me -- yet somehow outside of and without me. It was pretty much the reverse of what you normally hear -- things are usually chaotic and hectic and stressful leading up to the day, but then the actual event nearly always turns out well. This was the opposite -- there was no stress at all leading up to the wedding, but the event was a failure, at least as far as mother-daughter relations are concerned.
The terrible irony of all this is that no one -- not my husband or father or brothers, love them as I do -- no one trumps my mother. She is my hero and means more than the world to me. She knows this, and yet, the facts are the facts. When she looks at the few shots we have, it is of me looking glowing and happy with other people, not her, not my father, not my brothers. She's telling me she has next to no happy memories of us together on that day. I don't have the words to adequately express how much this guts me. The whole day went by in such a flash that to this day I still don't remember how or what happened.
For whatever it is worth, my now-husband and I got into a car accident the night before on our way to the hotel, and that shook me tremendously -- definitely affecting my outlook and behavior the night before and day of. I was extremely agitated the morning of and took some anti-anxiety pills and drank a few glasses of champagne to calm my nerves -- not a big deal except for the fact that I rarely drink and have a low tolerance. I did nothing to embarrass myself, but my normally sharp wits weren't about me, and what can I say? I fumbled the ball. I had one chance to give my mother the feeling of being queen for a day. I am her only daughter, her last child to be married. It should have been the happiest of occasions. It wasn't. I am faced with how to live with this.
My mother and I have talked through it all, and reached a place where everything that needed to be said has been said. We are no longer not speaking (for the past month it has been pretty much radio silence between us, which is quite a shock to go from speaking with her at minimum three times a day to nothing).
On a very deep and profound level I know I am lucky to have my mother around at all, and lucky that my mother and I are so close that this could actually be an issue, as opposed to none of this being a problem because we don't really love or care for each other anyway. I know I can use this experience to try and make the present and future better, and there is no point in dwelling in the past or what I could, should, would have done differently, because it is over and done with and there's nothing to be done but move on.
And yet, it still hurts so much. I can't think about my wedding day with any kind of fondness, because all I think of is my mother feeling neglected, sad, unloved, un-special, and it kills me.
I'm not expecting, or even asking, for advice because there really is nothing to be done except move forward. But if you have any thoughts or wisdom or anything to share, lay it on me. Your column is very special to my mother and me, we read it to each other and email our favorites to each other, and I bought your book and gave it to her as a present. Perhaps if this letter gets published, it will go a little ways toward healing our relationship. I know she will read it, and she will know immediately it is from me.
Bride's Dread, Revisited
Dear Bride's Dread,
A modern wedding is an elaborate photo shoot during which two people who love each other very much attempt to escape the photographers long enough to get married.
Sometimes they succeed. Sometimes the ceremony interferes with the photo shoot. Then that motley gaggle of amateur critics known as "family and friends" throw hissy fits in the screening room.
Look at this. Maybe it will provide a little laugh or two. Your wedding wasn't that bad, was it?
You didn't have stuff like this happen, did you?
So come on. You could use a laugh. And you could use a do-over.
Seriously. It wasn't the wedding that was botched, it was the photo shoot.
I suggest you go back to that photographer and explain that the photo shoot would have been fine if the wedding hadn't gotten in the way. Why wedding photographers think they can do good photos under such adverse conditions is puzzling. Maybe they think of themselves as war photographers, braving flying cake and hostile children to bring the truth to the American people.
Schedule a do-over.
Your mom has people to answer to. Her daughter got married. She's got to have photos when her constituents come over. So help her out. Give her some gorgeous photos with you and her in them. Put the husband in there somewhere too. Hell, put a dog in, and some trees and a house that looks like people with a salary live there. That way she can send them out and she can show them when people come over.
And listen, I know that you are on my side and you know that I am on your side and if you were sitting across from me on that mythical park bench of advice prose I'd say the same thing I'm saying now and I think you'd take it in the right spirit:
You survived a car wreck the night before the wedding. You could have been killed. People die in car wrecks. Terrible things happen out of the blue just like that all the time. No kidding. So you think possibly you were a teensy bit rattled? You think?
So just take a do-over. The wedding photos got botched. It's nothing to ruin a good mother-daughter relationship over.
How's your mother doing, by the way? Go see your mom. Check out her place. See if her floor is covered with garments rent asunder.
Maybe she's being a bit of a drama queen. Drama queens rend their garments. Drama queens put the back of the hand to the forehead and say, "It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity gone irretrievably wrong, and now, how shall I go on?"
My Twitter post in response: You're married now. That's what counts.
What's important is living well and eating well and not murdering too many children at once. Keep the hideous torturing of innocents to a minimum and buy good jeans. Read the labels on your food. Say a prayer for all those people living on 1,000 calories or less per day. Drop change into buckets where proffered.
And look at more pictures of other people who are really tacky. It makes you feel better. Really it does!
What? You want more advice?
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