The wedding industry is lying to you. And it’s making a ton of money doing it. I learned this harsh reality as soon as my newly engaged feet got cold just months after my fiancè proposed. It was an extremely isolating time and one that generated Google responses that I found to be total BS. Why wasn’t anyone getting real about how terrifying committing to someone for the rest of your life can be?
After Brendan and I got engaged, we were showered with congratulations from across the world. It was awesome and surreal. I had no clue what I was doing. I barely knew that the ring is worn on the left hand. But yea, exciting nonetheless because my love and I chose to commit to commitment—forever.
Enter my brain after returning home from being proposed to on a mountaintop in the Himalayas:
“Forever?! Wait, what does that mean exactly? With him? But he’s not perfect! I’m committing to ONE man for the rest of my life and can no longer identify with being a free-spirited diehard romantic date-aholic that’s seeking prince charming? Okay, so I met my version of prince charming—so what do I do now that my mission is complete? And we’re far from perfect. Is this right?”
I was having doubts. I couldn’t tell which way was up. I was so deeply confused. And who was I to turn to for advice? I didn’t want to be judged by friends and family. After all, many of them had already booked flights to attend our forest campout wedding. Additionally, I self-reflected (attempting to not judge myself) on how insanely lucky I am to have the freedom to choose who I spend the rest of my life with! Thousands of women don’t have a choice in whom they marry. In countries with backwards LGBTQ laws, marriage isn’t even an option. Freedom and all—the doubts were realer than ever. Thanks to my mighty tribe of sisters, I knew that I had a few dear ones that would be there for me as I shared my foggy doom. And so I shared and they listened. But the words that tenderized my heart the most were from none other than my fiancé. In response to my emotional rollercoaster of doubts, he said, “Keep feeling your feelings, Alicia.”
Flashback to a month before the “conscious cold feet” hit me. My truth-seeking best friend mailed me a handmade card along with a book titled, The Conscious Bride: Women Unveil Their True Feelings about Getting Hitched, penned by Sheryl Paul. Written on the postcard, Molly went on about the death and rebirth that comes in tandem with getting engaged—and of the challenges that imminently lay ahead. At the time it blew right over me. I felt zero death and zero confusion about marrying Brendan. What was Molly talking about? Not long after receiving the snail mail did I learn the meaning of her forewarning.
When the cold feet hit me like a rogue wave, I wanted to quit right then and there. But if I’ve learned anything in my 31 years of existence, it’s that quitting out of fear reaps no rewards. And so my partner and I went to couples therapy. I also went to solo therapy for some one-on-one guidance. I even got on Google (multiple times) in the wee hours of the night in an attempt to find someone else out there who shared my same confused feelings. Did I find that person?
Eh, not so much.
What I found was a barrage articles on wedding sites and forums that wrote of, “wedding planning jitters.” The sugar coated reads advised brides to hit the spa or go grab a cocktail with girlfriends to take a pause from their wedding planning marathon. Um, this was not helpful information. After all, I was experiencing something more along the lines of a death! My tribulation had very little to do with which flower motif will match best with the table toppers.
The superficial articles were laden with illusory fairytale images of princess-styled brides brimming with unwavering joy. The underlying message being one that assumes the bride will become whole and attain eternal bliss from their wedding day onwards—that the big day is the bride’s peak life moment and emotional cure-all. Fortunately, I saw straight through the bull. Thus, leaving me feeling more isolated than ever.
Alas, the answers weren’t outside of me. They were sitting right within the depths of my being.
During a difficult, lonely, and seriously dark few weeks, I felt parts of me die. I said goodbye to what was only an illusion of my past identity—an identity that felt so very real to me—and one that I’ve decided is no longer serving my highest self. The self-proclaimed romantic that was constantly searching (outside of herself) for love—it was painful to bid her adieu. Another piece of the death puzzle was that of my former family nest. Saying goodbye to my birth family being my one and only go-to unit, and transitioning into a phase where my partner and I create our own family—there’s a new nest that I need to find comfort in—adios to the old. There I was, shedding it all through a rather painful internal tug-o-war.
Our Western culture gives death a bad rap. We fear death and loss and do everything we can to repress any thoughts having to do with the matter. The notion of letting go creates an anxious feeling as if someone is ripping something out of our clenched fists—only to leave us with empty, tired hands. Of course, this isn’t reality. Because we’re never actually empty. With each inhale and exhale of the breath we have the opportunity for renewal. Letting go gives us space to let in what is best for us. Shedding parts of our ego, letting go of our past, letting what isn’t serving us die in order to renew—these are all good things!
My relationship with my fiancè has been the most rewarding challenge of my life to date. That’s why I consciously chose to say ‘yes’ to marrying him. Bottom line, I’m a better person with him as my mirror. And even when it triggers his ego and I’m staring into his eyes while doubting everything, he tells me to keep on feeling my feelings (win!).The shadow work is intense but I’d rather not punt it until the next lifetime—catch my drift? So we’re sorting through our garbage—together. And we’re each taking 100 percent responsibility for our own self-growth.
So if you’re ever in a similar position and find yourself googling around for the answers and theknot.com tells you to go to the spa or get wasted—please give it the big middle finger and instead look deep inside of yourself. Lean into that scared part of you and explore the true root cause of your emotions. What needs to be healed? What needs to die? Does your relationship challenge you to be your best self every single day? Is your partner growing too? These questions are just a few that will help support the journey of figuring out the difference between ‘its really not a right fit’ or ‘this is a conscious transition and I’m experiencing a spiritual death.’
As I asked myself those questions, my inner answers revealed that my confusion was a result of clenching onto old pieces of myself—pieces from the past. That book I mentioned earlier gets into the nitty-gritty of this. Ultimately, conscious transitions are no walk in the park but they reap considerable soul growth rewards.
My partner and I both know that the wedding isn’t going to be a panacea for our life’s troubles. I’ve accepted that the actual wedding day will not be perfect—in the sense of rainbow butterflies and happily ever after. What it will be is an honest representation of our future together. An imperfect future filled with continued growth through a myriad of emotional weather. A future rooted in unconditional love and commitment to ourselves and one another.
And finally, I get it. That’s what true romance is made out of.
Alicia Henry hails from the idyllic landscape of New England. The dramatic setting is one that drives her creativity and love for nature. She is the Founder and Herbal Alchemist of Naked Sage Tea, an organic tea company based in Portland, OR where she currently resides.
A serial optimist, she is aptly part of the team that achieved The International Day of Happiness which became a resolution of the United Nations. Thereafter, Alicia has advocated internationally for gender equality and childhood nutrition. A true adventurer and romantic, Alicia believes through self-love and truth, this world can become even sweeter.