Thrilled to be engaged to the love of her life but definitely missing the bride gene, Vicki Notaro has had to overcome the ick factor to plan the wedding that she never dreamed about.

How many times have you heard a woman say she’s fantasised about her wedding her entire life? Most likely often. In describing her dream nuptials, the dress she envisioned wearing, even the cake she’d cut in to with her new husband, the bride-to-be would swoon a little and say, misty-eyed, that she’s been thinking about this day since she was only a girl. Thus, it had to be perfect. PERFECT, you hear?

Growing up, whenever I heard other women talking like this (usually as an excuse for Bridezilla-style behaviour), I would feel perplexed. And yes, it was always women — I’ve never witnessed a man wax lyrical about the table-top arrangement he’s been wishing for since he was 10. But I’m a woman, I would think, so what was wrong with me? Why haven’t I been planning my dream day since I was knee-high to a grasshopper? Why didn’t I work out every element of a ceremony to a faceless groom before I hit puberty?

The answer is simple — I’m missing the bride gene, and weddings give me the heebie-jeebies. Not marriage, mind; if you’re with the right person, it’s a beautiful expression of love and commitment. It’s just weddings that give me the willies, and always have done. I have a very sensitive gag-reflex when it comes to such things; I’m allergic to white shoes (the horror!), cringey bands, garter belts, the politics of table plans and even the cake. What kind of person can’t bring themselves to get excited over a gigantic celebratory confection?! A freak, that’s who. And that’s how I’ve always felt, like a freak witnessing other people wetting themselves with excitement over the minutiae of the big day — a total weirdo, unable to get something everyone else holds so dear.

This bride had to plan the wedding that she never dreamed about

So imagine my feelings when I got engaged late last year. I couldn’t have been more elated when my boyfriend Joe proposed in our home, with our little dogs present. There’s something very special about the man you adore down on one knee asking you to be his wife. It was the best moment of my life, and I can’t wait to be married to him. However when it dawned on me I’d have to arrange and partake in — gasp — an actual wedding, the stress rash began to appear.

My distaste for all things nuptial means you couldn’t pay me to go to a wedding fair — I’d most likely suffer a stroke from the eye-rolling. I can’t imagine anything worse than hordes of women squealing over this invitation design or that chair cover. And did you know that many bridal fashion shows actually involve models dancing down the runway? So cringey, it’s enough to bring on some kind of fit in someone like me.

Before you say it, yes, we could just elope — run away somewhere together, say “I do”, no fuss required. But this is not an option; I’m an only child, and my family would disown me if I were to get married without them present so there must be a wedding.

I didn’t expect the intensity of other people’s excitement though. From the moment we got engaged, we were inundated with questions — when’s the big day, what kind of bride would you like to be, where’s the venue, how many bridesmaids, when’s the hen? Considering the fact I could barely bring myself to even leaf through a bridal magazine, I had no answers. The pressure was immediate, forceful, and incredibly intimidating. I’m not surprised so many couples get caught up in what everybody else wants and ends up having a wedding that will please their loved ones — in many ways, it’s easier to just go with the flow.

Thus followed months of agonising. How could I force myself to be a bride when I was inherently reluctant? I wasn’t trying to be difficult or to upset anyone, I was just so worried about staying true to ourselves without being stubborn or defiant. Were we going to have to compromise, or do things we didn’t want to do for arguments sake? What was it going to take for me to find my inner bride, or did she event exist?

Was this all going to end up as a charade, something I attended floating above it all in an out-of-body experience?

Joe could sense my anxiety about the whole thing, so we decided on the key issues early. Our wedding would be tiny, as few people as possible, and abroad. We would not give in to other people’s politics, and there would be no religion, no morning suits, and no white tablecloths. We decided that if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it our way — essential really, unless I wanted to spend the entire day visibly cringing and/or vomiting. But one thing held me back from imagining that this relaxed, laid back and unweddingy-wedding vision could actually come to life — the dress. I don’t believe in perfection, and think the endless quest for the “perfect” day, Christmas, little black dress, whatever, is a fool’s errand, so my fear had nothing to do with the pressure to find The One, the white gown to beat all others. It’s just that I hate shopping as it is, even by myself, so imagine the pressure of trying on a host of unflattering white gowns in front of your nearest and dearest and attempting to elicit an emotional response? I had nightmares about it that very first week we were engaged.

This bride had to plan the wedding that she never dreamed about

My friends and family thought I’d be so anti-wedding dress shopping that I wouldn’t even get a typical gown, but the thoughts of purchasing an alternative style gúna made me even more uncomfortable — with so much choice, how could I ever decide? Would I go for mint, pink, red, black, a string bikini à la Pamela Anderson? More choice meant more anxiety. A shopping mission was planned, and I was absolutely dreading it.

But then something magical happened. In the very act of facing my worst wedding-related fears came clarity. The day I went shopping with my mother and two bridesmaids, I was so sick with apprehension I couldn’t eat a thing, but it took putting a poofy, ballgown-esque dress on to make me realise that in sticking to our non-traditional guns, we were doing the right thing. I felt like such a fraud in that first dress, it became clear that Joe and I could only do this in a way that suited us, or else spend the next year in a state of suspended nausea.

After that, it became easy. Joe and I went to New York on holiday for my 30th birthday, and while we were there we selected our venue (the only one we looked at) and I bought my dress. No muss, no fuss. I facetimed my mother from the bridal boutique, put down a 60% deposit, and that was that.

Now I’m sure there will be ups and downs over the next 12 months because planning a wedding is never easy, no matter how small. But with every blip, we’re going to follow our guts. The main thing is, I’m no longer a reluctant wife-to-be ( I still don’t like the word bride). I’m actually starting to get a bit… excited. Don’t tell anyone, ok? It would ruin my street cred.

This bride had to plan the wedding that she never dreamed about


Yvonne Young, group assistant director of nursing, University of Limerick Hospitals Group and National Sepsis TeamWorking Life: Yvonne Young, group assistant director of nursing

More From The Irish Examiner