Years ago when I was just starting out as an advertising copywriter, I was given an assignment I couldn't get right. I wrote and rewrote the copy over and over again, but no matter how I tried to finesse the language, something about it just didn't connect. Finally I brought it to my boss, fully expecting a lecture on not giving up. But to my amazement, he crumpled up the paper and told me to start from scratch.
"Hard work is one thing," he said, "but when you find yourself struggling, there's something inherently wrong with your premise."
That turned out to be the best piece of advice anyone has ever given me. Sometimes you benefit from embracing your limitations and working inside the box. Wise people make the most of what they have to work with.
Of course, wise people don't plan weddings. Emotional people plan weddings. Emotional people with a list of desires that have nothing to do with reality.
About seven years ago I went to a wedding that brought new meaning to the word "denial." The bride was determined to have a tropical beach wedding despite the fact that it was the dead of winter in New Jersey. So she sprayed all her bridesmaids with Mystic Tan then trudged barefoot in the sand against gale-force winds. We huddled for warmth as we watched the shivering couple scream their vows over the roaring ocean, and all any of us could think was, "What the hell is happening to my hair?"
The moment the ceremony ended, we all ran to the bathroom to try to reassemble our frizzy, wind-whipped dos. Fortunately, hair is graded on volume in Jersey, so the humidity wound up being a bonus.
And, it doesn't always turn out even that well. Another bride I knew was hell-bent on marrying in the countryside despite the fact that she lived in one of the most heavily populated areas of Los Angeles. She overcame that hurdle by having her wedding at an equestrian center, in a courtyard located conveniently downwind of the stables. Conscious of the videographer documenting every moment, we tried to be inconspicuous while fanning away the stench and flicking giant horseflies with our programs. After the ceremony we rushed indoors while the bride remained outside with her attendants, carefully stepping over piles of manure to get those precious memories on film.
But this is what we brides do: We look at what we want, and we look at what we have to work with, and then we ignore that second part and just go back to looking at what we want again. We refuse to acknowledge any of our limitations—the time of year, the budget, the location, even our own size and shape. Nothing matters but that vision, and bringing it to life for a few hours.
Now, I happen to love the idea of a winter wedding. My fiancé and I have had some of our happiest moments in the snow, celebrating Christmas all over the world. But we don't actually have winter in Los Angeles. We have pretend winter, where girls wear tank tops and mittens and we run the air conditioner so we can use the fireplace.
But so what? Do I care about the moderating effect of the Pacific Ocean? Hell no, I'm the bride! The Pacific Ocean can kiss my ass! If I want winter in LA, I'm sure I can find a wedding planner to truck snow in to my house and put penguins in the pool.
Or, on the other hand, I could buck the trend and just go where the snow is.
That's what our friends Woody and Samantha did two years ago, two days after Christmas. They didn't have unlimited funds or a wealth of resources, but they took advantage of everything available to them. Woody's hometown in Connecticut was already snowy and beautiful and looked like a postcard. Friends and family were home for the holidays, so everyone they loved was there, and in a celebratory mood. And the town was already lit and decorated, making everything that much more festive.
The little church they chose was candlelit, and fragrant with pine garlands. Wooden benches faced a small staging area where the ceremony took place. Behind this area was a velvet curtain accented by tiny twinkling lights.
After a short ceremony, guests were asked to step behind this curtain, where hand-passed hors d'oeuvres and cocktails were served. The mood was lively and joyful, and we listened to music and drank hot mulled cider while the wedding party had their photos taken.
Suddenly the curtain came down, and the benches we'd been sitting on were gone. In their place were dining tables covered with flowers and beautiful linens. We never had to step out into the cold for a moment—the reception had been brought to us. Everything was effortless and perfect. Even the music, played on a laptop and overseen by a friend, was unexpectedly touching and sweet.
Woody and Sam didn't struggle. They didn't bankrupt themselves turning Los Angeles into the snowy woods, or Connecticut into Hawaii. They made magic by capitalizing on everything the world had given them.
And when you think about it, that's really the key to every success in life. There's so much emphasis placed on having everything you want. But there's a lot to be said for wanting everything you have.
- April Winchell has been a talk radio host, a sitcom writer, an advertising executive and the voice of hundreds of animated Disney characters. In October of 2009, she created the hit website Regretsy.com, which led to the publication of "Regretsy: Where DIY meets WTF" in April of 2010. Even though she has been writing professionally since 1989, she still finds talking about herself in the third person really uncomfortable.*