Letting Go of ‘Perfect’

I was talking recently with a good friend when the conversation turned (as it often does when I’m involved) to weddings. My friend said something that struck me as terribly wise. She told me that when she and her ex-husband were getting married, the first thing they did was entirely remove the word ‘perfect’ from their vocabularies. No, the marriage didn’t work out in the long run, but the wedding was apparently a blast that she remembers fondly and in great detail.

While Mr. Twistie and I didn’t excise the word from our lives, it struck me that we’d also hit on the excellent plan of not expecting perfection in an imperfect world. The result? I remember my wedding day with joy and clarity.

By contrast, the most stressed-out brides I’ve seen have been the ones who fussed and fretted over every detail in a futile quest for ‘perfection.’

Again, I saw an excellent illustration of the value of letting go of perfect on an episode of Whose Wedding Is It, Anyway? when the contrasted couples couldn’t have made the point more obviously had they been a deliberate public service announcement.

Couple A were faily typical. They’d known one another for several years, dated for quite a while, and were now getting married. The groom was mostly absent from the proceedings, and the bride was absolutely manic about having a ‘perfect’ day. She was obsessed with purple. Everything had to be purple, and it had to be the right purple.

When she was shown an idea for the reception centerpieces, she flipped out that there was greenery in them and a few of the roses were pinker than she wanted them to be. It all had to be purple, and contrast was not allowed. Taken to a mixologist to get a signature cocktail for the day, she made him do it over and over and over again until her martini was just the right purple. Flavor? Well, she did say she wanted it to taste good, but she cared a lot more about what it looked like.

Couple B was very different. They’d known one another for a few months. A year before the wedding, the groom was in two near-fatal car accidents. Somehow he walked away from both of them. The bride had been diagnosed with cancer a few years before and nearly died. She’d been through the chemotherapy, the hair loss, the drugs and the despair. In the end, though, she’d recovered and gone into full remission. When these two met, they understood how fragile life is and didn’t want to waste any time.

These two wanted a nice day. They cared about what it looked like and whether their guests’ needs were taken care of. But that was all they expected: a nice day, a good party, and an expression of their committment. They had ideas, but were open to other suggestions. They were happy to consider options and to delegate.

The two wedding days couldn’t have been more different. When Couple A got to their big day, the groom was a passive participant. He showed up wearing what he’d been told to wear, and said the words he was told to say. He seemed happy, but really, we never got to know that much about him. The bride, on the other hand, was a complete wreck. She kept bursting into nervous tears, and then worrying about what it would do to her make up. She was so worried that something wouldn’t be precisely perfect that she couldn’t enjoy her own wedding.

As for Couple B, well, they were both very much in the moment. Whatever their planner did seemed to make them delighted, but they were more focused on being with friends, family, and each other. They were relaxed, gracious, and having a hell of a good time.

The main difference, though, was that while one bride focused on getting niggly details ‘perfect’ the other focused on throwing a good party without striving for perfection.

There are dozens of sources of stress in planning a wedding. Warring familial expectations, trying to make a tight budget stretch a little further so you can include something important to you, those impossible-to-plan-for moments when the MOH comes down with a horrible stomach flu, or foul weather keeps one of your vendors away, or (as happened to my brother and sister-in-law) your officient dies and nobody tells you until a week before the wedding…all of these are real problems that add real stress to an already life-changing event. Why add more stress? Why add it over trying to achieve the impossible?

So forget perfect. Shoot for elegant or fun or meaningful. Not only are all three of those things possible, they’re the sort of words people are going to use anyway.

Besides, you’re the only one who will ever notice whether or not the martinis perfectly match the bridesmaid’s dresses.

9 Responses to “Letting Go of ‘Perfect’”

  1. I agree 100% I hate the use of the word perfect. I don’t think it does anything for stressed out brides and grooms and I certainly don’t think it’s what a wedding should be about anyway!

  2. Amen! A perfect day has not existed since Eden. As soon as a bride uses that word, I shy away from wanting to work with her. It WILL NOT be perfect, but it can be fabulous, elegant, fun, memorable, joyous, and all sorts of other goodness.

  3. Melissa B. says:

    Agreed. Can we also ban the word “princess” and the phrase “your special day”? (For some reason, any time someone describes a wedding as the bride’s “special day” I feel nauseous.)

  4. Twistie says:

    Melissa B, I think that may be because so many people use the phrase ‘your special day’ to give the bride permission to treat everyone around her (including the groom) as dirt beneath her Jimmy Choos or else to bankrupt her parents.

    I’ll allow ‘your special day’ to anyone who is willing to apply it to both parties equally AND promises not to use it as a stick against the rest of the world. It’s current common usage, though, entirely blows.

  5. If I had been expecting perfection, I would have been sorely disappointed, and I expect I’m not the only one out there! Like all brides, I was dealing with the vagaries of the weather and the whims of people and the simple facts of life like traffic, frayed hems, and hair that won’t stay in place. Is it even possible to have a perfect wedding?

    It seems to me that the only truly perfect wedding would be the wedding where everyone has a good time despite all the little annoyances that plague us every day. If you enjoy your wedding and are married at the end of it, that sounds pretty perfect to me!

  6. Dianasaur says:

    Amen sister! I never strove for my wedding to be perfect. I planned it so meticulously that it would be hard for the big things to go wrong, but didn’t really care about the little details and let relatives take care of those.

    Looking back, even though things went wrong, I feel like it was perfect and have nothing but wonderful memories. I think most important thing was planning it carefully ahead of time, having people to get things done, and then not worrying about any of it the day of. On our wedding day all I thought about was that I was about to marry the man of my dreams!

  7. Colleen says:

    I heartily agree. In fact I pretty much planned on something going wrong and ya know what? One or two things did. But because I had planned pretty well, they were mostly minor and my husbands tux made it back from it’s unscheduled trip to Kansas City (pick up location was NYC) in plenty of time and everyone seemed to have a fabulous time. Which is what I was doing all the planning for anyway.

  8. Dent says:

    Complete agreement! Striving for perfection almost guarantees that you will end up frustrated and, in my opinion, that perfect day will almost certainly elude you. Instead, just hoping for a good day means you will enjoy yourself and make the experience all the more memorable.

  9. Glinda says:

    Twistie, this was a fabulous post!

    My wedding was pretty much perfect in my eyes. I didn’t really know of anything that went wrong for anyone, but it was mostly just luck and some good planning!

    But, even if the cake had sucked or there had been a problem with the food, it still would have been perfect because I married the man I love!