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Laura Hunt

Relationship Guide
December 2002: How is Christmas like a Wedding? (It has to be perfect!)

by Claire Hatch

Claire Hatch, MSW is a Licensed Social Worker and Certified Mediator who specializes in counseling couples. At The Bride’s Oasis in Kirkland, Washington, she helps engaged and newlywed couples learn to make love last and enjoy this special time. She is also responsible for the reflections part of our Calendar.
Claire will be happy to answer your relationship questions in this column. Please send them to or call her at 425.823.2273.

As a bride, one of the things that puzzled me the most was how the word perfect started cropping up everywhere. If you told people you wanted to have the perfect marriage or the perfect kids, they would laugh. But the idea of a perfect wedding does not seem funny at all. On the contrary, we take it very seriously and we will move heaven and earth to get it.

The other time that perfection is serious business is Christmas. Christmas brings out that same desire to create an idyllic fantasy right down to every detail. Too often, it also brings the same tension, exhaustion, and disappointment, as we drive ourselves (and our loved ones) in pursuit of something that doesn’t exist. If you’re a bride, Christmas can be double trouble.

Perfectionism usually raises its head when we have deep emotional longings that we can’t quite define and don’t know how to satisfy. Things are always easier to control than feelings, so when we’re not sure what to do with our feelings, we often turn our attention to things.

We start to assume that if all the details are perfect, we will feel perfectly happy, even though when we stop to think about it, we know better.

So let’s stop to think about it now. Before the season starts in earnest, do yourself a favor and give some thought to what really makes weddings and Christmas meaningful. Here are some ideas for letting go of the pressure to be perfect and creating events you will enjoy and memories you will treasure.

1. Find a different vision for your event than perfection. Maybe you want an elegant wedding or an intimate wedding. How about a homey Christmas or a spiritual Christmas? These are all more attainable and at the same time more inspiring visions than perfection.

2. Look at your event from the point of view of a guest. This has a way of clarifying what is important. What do you enjoy when you attend a wedding? Most guests want to feel connected with the two of you and with each other. They want to remember their own experience of saying, "I do," or dream about it. They enjoy a beautiful atmosphere, good food, and great music, but they will not be using "perfect" as a measuring stick.

I once attended a wedding where the bride would not talk about anything except how this or that had not lived up to her expectations. She seemed completely unable to experience the joy of her wedding day. I can tell you that as a guest, I didn’t experience it either! I have also been a guest at a Christmas dinner where the hostess was so stressed about turning out a perfect meal that she almost ignored her guests. When the hosts are perfectionists, the guests feel stiff and uncomfortable. Are you doing anything to make your guests feel this way?

3. Some of the most memorable moments in life are the unexpected ones, and Christmas and weddings are no exceptions. Afterward, the stories you tell over and over again will not be about how the turkey was perfectly browned or how the music stopped at the exact moment you arrived at the altar.

At my own wedding, my husband got mixed up while saying his vows. Instead of: "I’ll be with you through the joys," he said: "I’ll be with you through the pains." Everyone laughed together, and now it’s a beloved family joke.

At Christmas and at your wedding, your most treasured memories will be those precious, unplanned moments. Don’t be so busy making everything perfect that you don’t even notice them.

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