Lfting the Veil
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Lfting the Veil

Grandmothers, Loss, and Getting Married in your 30s

In September, my grandmother died and launched me into a funk in which I didn’t feel like writing about the wedding anymore. I’m feeling ready to get back into it.

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When I visualized my wedding, I always saw my grandparents sitting in the front row. When my mom’s mom died in 2015 , I’m ashamed to admit that the patriarchal voice inside my head taunted that my grandma could have been at my wedding if I had settled down rather than moving around the country trying to figure out what to do with my life. My parents got married when they were 22 and had me a year later. I was the oldest grandchild on both sides, and I’d been lucky to have all four grandparents until I was 31. That should have been plenty of time to find a spouse! Looking back now, 31 seems so young! But I felt old at the time. Now my Grandma Tubis** wouldn’t be there.

**Yes, I called her “Grandma Tubis.” My parents and grandparents tried to get me to give my grandparents cutesy names as a kid. I apparently refused to make up an alternate name when perfectly fine words for “parents’ parents” already exist.

My grandmother once offered to pay for me to subscribe to J-Date. She once told my mom that I wouldn’t be happy until I was married. Eyerolls aside, I at least wanted her to experience the ultimate Jewish grandmother payoff of attending my wedding.

In September, Grandma Brown (Nanny to every other grandchild) died, and my wedding became grandmotherless. And now Anne Brown, who gave me my middle name and my favorite potato recipe and a deep well of empathy for other people, wouldn’t be there to see me get married.

We’d already talked about what she might wear. She was the second person I called after we got engaged. I loved telling her good news, because she was my ultimate hype-woman. When I went through a rough patch with jobs or my love life, she would send me handwritten letters to remind me how amazing I was. She sent us a card for every single holiday without fail — from Halloween to Rosh Hashannah

A picture of Anne and James Brown on their wedding day.

My sister and I loved playing dress up with all of my grandmother’s dresses as kids. The first time I tried on a wedding dress, it was hers. I really wanted her to be able to see me wearing mine.

It’s common to deal with feelings of loss around milestones and celebrations. Losing both of my grandmothers’ presences at the wedding is both about the grief over the loss of loved ones, but also about complicated feelings I’m working through as a bride in her 30s.

I sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy toward the brides on the wedding boards who are in their early 20s who don’t have the baggage of those of us who are getting married in our late 30s or older. I wouldn’t trade getting married younger for Brandon, the experiences I’ve had living all around the country, or the person I’ve become being independent for so long — but sometimes the label “bride” feels like something I’m too old for. I don’t feel too old to get married, but I do sometimes feel like “bride-to-be” sashes, wedding showers, bridesmaid dresses and bachelorette parties are experiences meant for a younger version of me unencumbered by the last 10–15 years. Thinking about how all of my grandparents could have been at a wedding I had in my twenties is an outgrowth of these complicated thoughts about time, age, and life experiences.

But, I’m sure Nanny would have told me to stop overthinking and just enjoy it.

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A journey through wedding planning the only way a feminist media scholar knows how —with auto-ethnographic reflection, scholarly reading, interviews with brides, and explorations of the intersection of gender, popular culture, and media. And TikToks.

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Stephanie Brown

Stephanie Brown

Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication and Media at Washington College. I study digital media, comedy, gender, media industries, and fandom.

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