I have a pretty good idea what Marie Kondo would say about my wedding mementos … she’d say it’s definitely time to declutter that. You see … it’s almost 29 years since my wedding and I’ve been divorced for almost 12 years. That box, the size of a box of photocopying paper, has most recently been sitting in my basement, tucked out of sight, out of mind. It weighed some 15 and a half pounds. It’s done one intercontinental move, one interstate move, and has resided in five different homes. It has essentially been untouched all these years.
I realized some time last year why I had been keeping it. It had absolutely nothing to do with the loss of my marriage – working in this field I’m confident I stopped grieving that long ago. Rather, it has everything to do with my mother. She did all the heavy lifting for our wedding since my husband-to-be and I lived in the U.S. and our wedding was to be in England, were I grew up. She died almost six months after my wedding from an aortic aneurysm. There were no warnings. The last time I saw her was when my husband and I returned from our honeymoon.
For the longest time, I was irrationally angry with her for leaving me without saying goodbye. My hurt was compounded by my mother-in-law whose struggles with depression and bi-polar stopped her from ever interacting with our kids in a meaningful way and there were many times when I felt my husband paid more attention to her needs than to mine. Taking the lid off the box, meant taking the lid off all that. Wow.
Lesson #1: If you’re avoiding dealing with something, confront it. Sit with it. Figure out why you’re pushing it away. You’re not wrong for feeling what you do and acknowledging that will help create a path forward.
I’m not going to lie. Going through that box was painful but therapeutic. Here are some of the gems I found…
Marie Kondo would approve of the box itself. One of our wedding presents, a handmade throw came in it and while it had been a boring cardboard box, it had been carefully covered with pretty wrapping paper making it a perfect storage container. I still have the throw. It was made by the wife of former work colleague who passed away not long after the wedding.
On top of all the stuff, was my veil and headcap – no problem letting that go. Same goes for the garter, a tradition I followed but never really cared for. I found a lavender sachet which still, amazingly after all this time, smelled of lavender. I moved that to my lingerie drawer.
And then there was the ring pillow … I couldn’t bring myself to part with that. I have this vague notion that perhaps my son or daughter might use it … someday. I know that one reason for holding onto the lavender sachet and the ring pillow was that my sister made these together with my dress. Even though we’re not close or perhaps because we’re not close, these are connections to her and perhaps my heart is telling me that parting with them would further distance us???
Lesson #2: It’s OK to be nostalgic and keep items that still bring you pleasure. That you have those feelings means those items and their connections were important to you and mattered and still do.
The Engagement Cards – tons of cards congratulating us on our engagement, stirring fond memories from past friendships. After almost 30 years, many of the friendships are gone, some of the friends have passed and some friendships have endured. With one exception, I was ready to say “thank you for bringing me joy” to all these and to let them go.
The one that I couldn’t part with was a card from a dear aunt who is now in the advanced stages of dementia. She had the most beautiful italic handwriting. She wrote like that all the time, not just for special cards. Each communication was like a work of art. One of the earliest signs I had of her illness was getting a Christmas card and noticing that her handwriting had changed. Seeing her writing still brings me joy so I have to keep this card.
Lesson #3: Marie Kondo is absolutely right – if it brings you joy keep it but don’t hide it away. Put it on display so you appreciate the beauty every day.
Honeymoon Stuff – oh my! The days of travel before email … brochures, receipts, guides, reservation confirmations … it was all there together with some journal notes most notable … July 14 – “argued with XXX.” I still remember that argument, not what it was about but the behavior. My husband storming out of a restaurant in a tantrum leaving me to close out the tab and then find my way back to our hotel. It wasn’t first time in our relationship that had happened, and it certainly wasn’t the last. It was a red flag that I had discounted. All that stuff was easy to part with.
Lesson #4: I ignored the warning signals because I wanted to be in a relationship, wanted to be married, wanted to have children. My two children are the center of my world so I can never regret my marriage, but the lesson here is that who you are in relationship with and how you treat each other is always more important than simply being in a relationship.
A rolling pin still with the tag “to be applied liberally if he doesn’t toe the line.” Apparently, I didn’t use that enough 😉. This made me smile together with other various gag gifts from the hen party my friends threw for me. The rolling pin went to goodwill.
Wedding Invitations and RSVPs – What struck me most about these was the etiquette. Mine was not a big fancy, high society wedding and yet the acceptances where all in the form of
“Mr. and Mrs. John Doe thank Mr. and Mrs. Geoff Walker for the kind invitation to the wedding of their daughter, Mandy and are delighted to accept.”
“Mr. and Mrs. John Doe thank Mr. and Mrs. Geoff Walker for the kind invitation to the wedding of their daughter, Mandy and regret that they are unable to attend.”
It wasn’t just one or two that were like this. They all were. Some were hand written, some were store -bought. I think it was more formal in England back then than in the U.S. and it left me wondering if that etiquette still applied. Going through these made me profoundly sad for lost friendships and people who were mentors and role models in my early life and who are gone too soon. As nostalgic as these cards made me feel though, it was time to say goodbye to these.
Lesson #5: Again, those feelings for friends lost and far away mean they are important in my life and mattered. Emotions like that are signals of authenticity, vulnerability, compassion, and as painful as they are, they are emotions to embrace because without them, we live life within a narrow band. You can’t experience great joy, if you don’t also experience great sadness.
The Marriage Service – this wasn’t just the printed form of service for guests to follow but everything from the vicar who officiated the wedding. It includes the prayers and vows and also formalities like the Certificate of Marriage Without a License – that was a hoop we had to jump through to be able to get married in England without being residents.
We were married in a small village stone church with beautiful stained-glass windows and an organ that played our hymns and processional. I love hymn music – the harmonics resonate deep within my bones. My mum’s ashes are in the graveyard there. There were just way too many memories tied to this for me to say goodbye.
The wedding mementos that weren’t in the box were my wedding rings. I lost my wedding ring – I’m convinced it was stolen by a contractor I had working on my house which I had moved into shortly after my divorce. It certainly bothered me at the time as it was a diamond band – I wouldn’t have worn it but I would like have sold the diamonds. I did have my my engagement ring reset and still wear it today. I actually had it reset before the divorce which I think is a telltale sign that I knew where the marriage was headed.
What about your wedding mementos? Do you still have them? Are you ready to go through them? Is keeping wedding memorabilia something that just us women do? What wedding mementos do men keep?
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