Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Vow renewal

The reason we booked Seyon Lodge this past weekend was to host a vow renewal for our twentieth anniversary.  The actual anniversary date, September 29th, was a Wednesday, so we decided to push it out to the following weekend to get the heart of Vermont foliage season, in hopes that we'd lure some of our out-of-town friends out and they'd get to see some lovely scenery while here.

We booked the entire lodge so we could provide rooms and breakfasts, as well as dinner on the night of the ceremony itself, and sent out invites to everyone far and near.  On the one hand, we got "yes" answers from people far from Vermont, even someone coming from overseas, which we found surprising and gratifying.  On the other hand, during the last couple of weeks we got a lot of cancellations.  By the time the weekend arrived, in fact, everyone that had been on my side of the guest list from out of town had cancelled, which only helped make me more nervous.  Meeting people is always stressful for me, particularly when I don't have a lot of other things to be doing to occupy me while it happens; but this is mitigated somewhat by having people around that I know well.  Plus it would have been nice to see some of the folks from out of town that I haven't seen in a long time, or even one or two I've never met face to face.  But it wasn't to be.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and stayed over to Sunday morning, as did several of our guests, since we'd booked the entire lodge.  (In fact, several rooms and meals we paid for went to waste, since we had all those cancellations, and only a few of our local friends took us up on the offer for a free weekend getaway, as others had other plans that conflicted.  Always a shame to see such a lovely thing go unused.)  Most of the time was spent in that paradoxically impossible juxtaposition (for me) of "relaxing" and "socializing" -- though the people who were there the whole weekend became comfortable to me very, very quickly, so the social anxiety part faded fast.

Instead, I was nervous only about the vow renewal itself.  A little of that was feeling like I didn't know what it was going to be until just before we left on Friday -- Siobhan had been quite vague about what exactly we were going to be doing, and we didn't actually write vows until the last minute (and thus had no time to memorize them), so all I knew was, I'm going to be doing something for which I am not prepared, in front of a lot of people, many of whom I don't even know yet.  Having met them and gotten very quickly comfortable with them did ease that somewhat, but not enough to make me able to really relax.  (I was also slightly nervous about the song -- a friend of ours is an accomplished, talented singer, and she'd expressed interest in singing for us, but we didn't have an "our song" and we struggled a bit to choose a song that would have the right feel and still be something she'd be comfortable singing.  We ended up with a Norah Jones song, "Come Away With Me," despite that it's not especially relevant to us, just because it's a pretty song with some nice romantic bits in it, but it was never "just right".  However, Jen's performance made all that seem unimportant, as it's a beautiful song and her singing was wonderful.)

The other part, and it was much bigger, was the costume.  Siobhan had decided on an Indian theme, though the theme itself was pretty low-key: we weren't demanding our guests dress in costumes from India and we didn't even make the music (DJed very graciously and very well by our friend Joe) be heavily Indian (though he did slip a few numbers in there).  Our plans to have a Bollywood-style production number spontaneously erupt amongst the guests also strangely never quite happened.  Nor were the vows or ceremony particularly Indian in theme.  Really, all the theme led to was bindis for the guests, some food choices on the after-ceremony dinner and the wedding cake, and Siobhan's and my outfits, which you can see in the picture above.

Siobhan looks wonderful in a sari.  Sometimes I have a tiny twinge of feeling that people who are actually from India, or at least have a heritage from there, might be irked by seeing a completely non-Indian, pale-skinned woman from the Midwest wearing "their" clothes.  Then I dismiss that as silly.  Certainly none of the Indian people I've talked to ever had anything but good things to say about the idea of the rest of us wearing the clothes from their culture.  But then, would they say it, if they felt like we were infringing?  I'm not sure.

But while everyone there said I looked great in my kurta, pyjamas, sherwani, turban, and glittery sandals, when I looked at myself it just didn't seem to me that it suited me.  It felt like a costume, not an outfit, and an absurd one at that.  I might have felt a little self-conscious in a kilt, but only a tiny bit -- I wouldn't've wondered if I had no right to wear one, and I wouldn't feel like a kilt didn't suit my body shape and size.  But the sherwani made me feel like I might just as well have been wearing one of those over-the-top feathered headdresses from a 1960s cowboy movie, or something similarly inappropriate.  On the up side, the outfit was infinitely less uncomfortable than a tuxedo.  The turban was a little stiff, the pyjamas way too baggy, the sherwani a little tight around the neck, and the heels on the shoes a little awkward, but that's nothing compared to a tuxedo, no hat, and those awful shoes.

We did have a bit of fun with everyone else trying on the sherwani and turban, and most of them carrying it off far better than I did.  But as I said, everyone insisted I looked fine in it, even the two women from India, and most importantly, Siobhan.  So it was only me who felt nervous and self-conscious because of it.

When the vow renewal itself finally happened, I was quite nervous, reading my hastily-penned lines off a Kindle since we hadn't made two printouts (Siobhan didn't think of making one, so she commandeered mine), and fumbling a bit over a few of the lines, including some of the jokes.  But as with any performance, the performer hears only the flaws, everyone else hears the whole thing, and everyone said our vows were lovely.  The only way to avoid sounding like you're saying something from a Hallmark card in this form is to focus not on the aspects of your relationship that are universal, as important as those are, but to focus on the aspects that are unique -- or at least specific to you, since nothing in a relationship is going to be truly unique.

And once it was done, almost all of the social anxiety melted away just from the sheer relief of having gotten through it.  The rest of the evening was quite relaxed and enjoyable.  I am not sure how many of the guests had fun -- everyone said they did, but I think I was too caught up in things to be a proper host.

We'd specified no gifts (and provided a list of charities for those who insisted on giving something), and that managed to get us down to only getting about ten gifts.  People can't follow directions!  Hmph.

1 comment:

Siobhan said...

So I just found out that I didn't include the link to the vow renewal site for everyone, so some people didn't KNOW about the gifts thing!

So some people just didn't get the instructions. :) My bad. :)