Weddings are about beginnings and hellos, and endings and goodbyes

January 4 2020


It is January 6, 2020 and I am sitting in front of my Christmas Tree. I’ve spent the last hour or so scrolling through my social media feeds, now heavily populated with advertisements for upcoming wedding shows and fairs. Yes, with holiday proposals just barely in the rear view mirror a fresh new season for wedding planning is now upon us. Newly engaged folks have started exploring options for venues and vendors alike, and we are starting to see the cyclical upswing in requests for services.

As these activities get underway, I wanted to share with you what I’ve come to learn about the ways weddings are about beginnings and hellos, and endings and goodbyes. Something here might shape decisions you make for who and how people are invited (or not) to surround you during your wedding day.

It's widely recognized that weddings are about celebrating hellos and beginnings – new identity, new expectations and hopes, new family members, perhaps a new name, new legal status, and new possibilities. In the presence of others, individuals make declarations, whether in front of 3 people or 300, to forge their separate paths into one. Regardless of destination, they will greet life’s terrain, the beginnings and hellos to come, together.

Less well honoured, are the endings and good-byes – the relinquishing of what once was or could have been, the letting go of, the gentle (or not) closing of doors, the at times necessary severing of familial ties, and the farewells to the familiar. They are about who should have been there, but can't be.

Weddings can have elements of celebration and mourning walking together.

Wedding days can be the first real occasion partners enact new boundaries, shrug off the expectations of others, and establish new familial norms.

Weddings are threshold moments - an entrance and beginning of something (a)new, stepping away from and into.

As such, weddings are accompanied by wide ranges of emotions that also coalesce around other transitional events (i.e. births, illness, moving etc.). Culturally we’ve constructed caricatures of how this might ‘look’, taken to be normalized stress that wedding planning manifests, think ‘bridezilla’ and the overbearing mother-in-law to be.

What if what we were to think a little more deeply about what’s going on here, to explore what’s underneath the superficial assumptions that someone is just making too big of a deal about x, y, and z. Instead, what if we were more curious about what was really bubbling to the surface for individuals as they plan their wedding day.

What if we created opportunities to talk not only about hope and possibilities in the planning, but also the hard to hold – the endings and good-byes.

I don’t take any decision my clients make as merely pragmatic (finances aside), from location, music, number of guests, who sits where, to food. Therein will always be a story, an expression of hopes, sometimes of missed opportunities and wants for a redo, of compromise and resistance, of tradition and re-envisioning the very meaning of family.

Through choices clients make, they reveal their priorities, and what they are greeting and what they are letting go of … I witness clients dream-weave in the presence of what they see as possible together, and sometimes this means their beginning will be also bring about endings.

Their hello of what’s to come can mean good-byes to what and who has been. So ya, no wonder there's some stress. There's a lot going on here. A lot is at stake. Lives are being reconfigured.

Good-byes and endings can come up in planning the roles people come to play during my clients' ceremony, for example who walks who down the aisle, who they will expect to show up for them, who they worry, won’t.

From the seemingly superficial to the profoundly meaningful, decisions have stories that matter.

A City Hall ceremony, lunch elopement, to lengthy guest lists in century estates, table seating plans, first dance arrangement and song choices … the list is really endless for when moments of hellos and good-byes, beginnings and endings are threaded into wedding day planning.

So as you plan for your day, I want you to know it’s to be expected that lots of big feelings may come up for you in the planning process. Be patient in the planning, gentle with each other, negotiate priorities, and perhaps intentional in recognizing there can be endings that are part of beginnings, and good-byes that proceed hellos.

"All beginnings are delightful; the threshold is the place to pause" - Goethe