Why I Got Married Without a Wedding

I once begged my long-term boyfriend to promise he’d never ever propose. I told him I never wanted to get married, never wanted to be a wife, and he was happy to go along with that. We prepped our parents, told them we loved each other, were committed, would one day have kids, but that he wouldn’t be putting a ring on it, like, ever.

Time passed, we got older. I started to feel a bit long in the tooth referring to “my boyfriend” (and referring to him as “my partner” became unwittingly misleading as I am neither in a same-sex relationship nor run any kind of business in which I’d need a partner). Still I believed I didn’t want to get married.

And then we were on a boat—the ferry back from Ward’s Island—and there were fireworks and we were drunk and we joked, “Wouldn’t it be hilarious to just get married, like…tomorrow?” We woke up hungover and excited. It would be an adventure. We’d rock up to City Hall: “One marriage, please!”

But it doesn’t work like that. You have to fill in forms and get a license and book a celebrant and pay a fee. We learned that it would take a few weeks and I had time to examine my motives. I was surprised to learn that I did want to get married, that I did want to be wife, that maybe I’d always wanted to get married: I just didn’t want a wedding.

It seems weird looking back but in my entire life I never once thought to uncouple the two. Sacrosanct in my mind was the notion that to get married, you have a wedding. We’ve been married three years now—still novices, I suppose—but I’ve had time to think on why I was so averse to a wedding. The list is long but here are my top reasons:

I could not be bothered to organize a wedding

Most days I don’t even bother to organize a coherent outfit. I normally just pick up whatever clothes are at the top of the laundry pile (I’m not going to tell you if I mean the clean or dirty pile) and put those on. Word to the wise: if you buy a lot of black clothes, they all match, all the time. Time saver! Don’t get me wrong, I too drool over Pinterest boards of the perfect day: mason jars of tea lights, floral bunting strewn through the trees, twinkling Christmas lights on every surface imaginable; the perfect, flowing Midsummer Night’s Dream gown… To have a beautiful, whimsical party like that would be so amazing. I just cannot be bothered to pull it together.

Also money, because who has a spare thirty grand lying around?

Yesterday I had to use nickels from the change jar to buy tampons. That’s where I’m at in my life and I’m okay with it. I live just about as cheaply as a human in downtown Toronto could and still I have two maxed out credit cards, no savings and my checking account balance is a number as slim as Giuliana Rancic. I don’t mind too much; I have a game plan for my “career” that I’m hoping will pay off, but this kind of financial precariousness does not leave a lot of room in the budget for venue-booking and band-hiring and mason jar-purchasing.

I am afraid to inconvenience anyone anywhere at any time ever

I’m the kind of idiot who apologizes when the waiter brings the wrong order, or when Uber sends my driver to the wrong address: “I’m sorry, sir. I’m sorry my house isn’t located at this random spot that Uber’s shitty GPS arbitrarily chose and that you had to wait for forty-five seconds.”

The idea of asking people to spend their time and money on booking flights, accommodation, new outfits, wedding gifts, bachelorette parties and everything in between makes my palms clammy. This fear is probably heightened because I’m an immigrant and a large chunk of my family and friends would have to come from overseas, but I don’t even like asking friends to cat-sit in case having to take thirty minutes out of their day to pop into my house is in any way inconvenient.

I know this isn’t right. I know it’s not rational. When other people invite me to their weddings, I get excited, I feel honoured. Most weddings are beautiful; the perfect excuse to gather the people most tender to your heart to celebrate love in all its extraordinary beauty. Plus, even a dirty laundry-wearing broad like me welcomes an excuse to throw on a party dress. I would never feel put out if someone asked me to come to their wedding (or to cat-sit!), but it would still give me heart palpitations to be the one asking.

I know my fear of “inconveniencing” people is dysfunctional and I should be more comfortable taking up space in the world. It’s a conversation I’ll save for therapy but, for the moment, no wedding, no cat-sitting.

I am selfish

Here’s the number one reason I skipped the wedding: I didn’t want anybody else there. I didn’t want to spend the day I got married thinking about anyone else except for myself (and, at a push, my husband). I know that sounds selfish, and it probably is. Lord knows that my mother—after the years of service she put into raising me— deserved one day to watch me fly the coop and pat herself on the back for doing a good job rearing me. And yet…our marriage isn’t anybody else’s business but our own and I didn’t understand why I should share it with anyone else.

I didn’t want to have to worry about how I looked or what people thought of our relationship, I didn’t want to have worry about people’s dietary needs. I didn’t want to think which of my friends should be bridesmaids and worry about which of my friends would think they should be bridesmaids. I didn’t want to have to consider who had slept with whom and if things were awkward between them and how far apart I should seat them. Honestly, I just didn’t want to have to worry about anybody else’s needs but my own.

Obviously I’m no saint but, like most adults, I spend time worrying about others, hoping they’re safe and happy, making sure their feelings aren’t hurt. I just didn’t want to do any of that on this one special day.

In the end, the “ceremony,” if you can even call it that, was between twelve and thirteen minutes long. The celebrant read a very sweet poem by a First Nations poet of which I can’t recall a line. She asked if we’d also like to hear a Brontë or Dickinson poem and we both agreed, without communion, that she could skip right to the “I do” part. She’d seen it all before: young religious couples with an unborn child in need of “legitimizing,” strangers getting married on their way to the immigration office, and she just smiled knowingly. For us, those twelve and a half minutes were perfect.

3 Comments

  1. Meher Zaidi
    October 17, 2016

    Did you write this Sahar Z Zaidi?

  2. October 24, 2016

    It seems that there are more and more people prefer this way. Married without a wedding and certification.

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