Friday, August 10, 2007

Swiss Mrs.


I've never felt like a princess, but somehow I wound up with a fairy tale wedding and a prince to boot. Of course as a little girl I fantasized about my wedding day. 'We should have it right here in the backyard,' my mother used to say as we gazed over the lawn and our spectacular view of Pomona, CA. 'We could rent tables, chairs, linens and it would be really nice.' Logistical problems such as where one hundred guests would use the toilet and park their cars in our two bathroom house at the end of a cul de sac never bothered us, but I suppose that's what fantasies are good for. Anyway, my big day always felt too far into the future to justify prematurely choosing china patterns and wedding gown styles the way some gals do. Even after I figured out that Mickey was 'the one'derful guy for me, I felt like I might jinx something by dreaming about our future wedding.

After we got engaged, the bridal magazines never thrilled me the way they did when I was just a bridesmaid. In fact, they completely overwhelmed me and I avoided them whenever possible. The brides in the photos didn't look like they had to deal with appeasing conservative, religious in-laws, a tight budget and a groom who would have rather eloped. He tried to compromise with me suggesting that we invite just our immediate families to a small ceremony, but I (or was it my ego?) felt that our union deserved a bit more pomp and circumstance.

Two months and many tears later, Mickey and I started to fall in love with Switzerland and latched onto the idea of having our wedding here. He was pleased with the size of the affair (25 people) and I was pleased that he was agreeable to having a wedding at all. Truthfully, though, Mickey has been very generous and has consented to celebrating with a bigger reception when we return home to California. The idea of the Swiss wedding was born in February, after my mom and some friends had already booked their tickets to Zurich during their summer vacations. If we wanted our nuptuals to coincide with these visits, it would have to take place in the month of July and that left only four months to plan.

In the states it would have been impossible. All the popular spots to tie the knot would have been booked at least a year in advance. And even if some locations were still available, we would have spent a month of weekends scouting them, taking pictures of each and comparing prices. On top of all this, planning a wedding in Switzerland would involve the additional challenges of not knowing how to find what I wanted and not speaking the local tongue. Considering what I was up against, it seemed as though I wouldn't be able to pull off a beautiful wedding in four months and maintain my sanity. But I did, and my big day exceeded my expectations. Even I was stunned by this success and now reflecting on the experience, I think I know why...

It is my firm belief that the length of time a bride has to plan a wedding directly correlates to the amount she will worry about it and thus enjoy it less. For instance, if you have a year and a half to plan a wedding, you can spend two months poring over stationery catalogs before choosing the perfect invitations. You also have enough time to match the color of the ribbons on your invitations exactly to the hue of the jordan almonds you will painstakingly wrap in tulle with a tiny note that says 'Amy and Jack - March 4, 2008.' But then you find out another month later, that the vendor no longer makes jordan almonds in sea foam green and you feel frustrated, frustrated because you actually let this minuscule detail get to you and irritated that you spent hours choosing the invitations that your guests will eventually throw away. With four months and 25 guests there is no time for invitations and you skip this step and the worry that accompanies it.

I guess I lied when I said that I didn't read any bridal magazines because I read every word of the People magazine special wedding issue that my friend Jessica brought from the states. It was filled with all kinds of fun facts about weddings in the US and pictures of the most hideous bridesmaids dresses you could dream up (or have nightmares about). I learned that more than a million weddings take place in the US each year and realized that this enormous number played into why my Swiss wedding planning experience didn't leave me pulling my hair out. It's pretty simple; in a booming bridal industry, marketers and vendors offer brides thousands of options. And usually, options are a good thing, but I get overwhelmed by that volume of variety and thus found it refreshing to have to pick from only three gown shops in town. I know David's Bridal would have eaten me alive; I would have left that place begging Mickey to reconsider the court house wedding plan. In Zurich, I visited three small bridal shops and chose a gorgeous gown in just a couple of hours. Likewise when it came to choosing a venue we knew we wanted a Swiss castle (down to 30 choices or so) and we didn't want our guests to have to travel far from Zurich to get to it (1 choice). Now that's not so bad.

Part of my satisfaction with our wedding day stems from the fact that we tailored it to suit our personalities, not the demands of parents or anyone else. While traveling in Austria this week, my mom met a newlywed couple from New Delhi on their honeymoon. 'Was it a three day affair?' my stepdad asked. 'Five days,' they said with a sigh. 'Was it fun?' The groom shook his head and replied, 'Indian weddings aren't about the bride and groom.' I find this kind of sad, but it makes me feel grateful that Mickey and I decided to have what we called our 'personal ceremony.' Because we aren't religious, we decided to have a Swiss government official marry us. They have strict rules about what the civil ceremony entails and where it can take place. Ours refused to give us the content of her speech because she wanted it to be a surprise to us. I like surprises, but I wanted to be sure that I could still walk down an 'aisle' and exchange vows we had written together. So, we decided to conduct this personal ceremony involving Korean wedding ducks, a beautiful passage from my mom and some of the first emails Mickey and I had ever exchanged. The beauty of meeting your partner online is that the beginning of your relationship, that sweet, unsure, high drama getting to know you bit is documented. We embarrassed ourselves by reading these initial messages to our guests, but it was worth it because the result was a sincere yet light hearted moment. It felt like us and I'll cherish it always.

Of course, I was a little sad that many friends and family members were not there that day. But the fact that Mickey and I could spend quality time with the people who were there made up for it. If there are any brides out there reading this, remember that giving yourself a lot of time and options with which to plan your wedding is sensible, but it can stress you out too. Besides, a wedding is only the first day of a hopefully happily ever after.

5 comments:

Pamela said...

Congratulations to you and Mickey! Mickey and I used to work together at Inktomi. I have been lurking on your blog since you got to Z├╝rich and really enjoying your stories.

I'm glad you were able to have a simple wedding that focused on the important thing - your love and commitment and union. All those ribbons and almonds are just part of an industry gone mad. What counts is that you found true love.

Wishing a long life of happiness to both of you.

Melissa said...

Congrats, Alane. Your personal ceremony sounds perfect. My personal ceremony is gonna involve an In N Out truck--that's all I know! Sounds like things are going well for you in Switzerland. Glad to hear it.

Silky said...

You look so beautiful in your pics. The wedding looks amazing and..simply perfect... congratulations!

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