Inside Famed Ghostwriter Natalie Beach’s Chaotic Wedding

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Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to talk about my absolute train wreck of a wedding. The warm Costco champagne was undrinkable, but the vibes were immaculate.

I was never someone who dreamed of her wedding day, if that’s even a thing. After three years of dating, my partner Chris and I mostly thought of our wedding as a far-off concept, like Mars colonization or the Los Angeles to San Francisco light rail. But suddenly, another far-off concept became all too real: Chris’s mom received a dire medical prognosis. The doctors told us that if we were lucky, she had three months to live. I felt desperate and reckless and also like I had to do something. I proposed to Chris without a ring or a plan and six frantic weeks later, we got married off Route 46 in Clifton, New Jersey, at a working urban farm. We had no registry, florist, or catering. No bachelorette party or bridal shower, no Head Bitch in Charge, or months of “Hey Ladies” emails. There was no regal white gown and no special pre-wedding diet to fit into said gown, or even any Spanx. It didn’t matter in the end because there were no staged photographs of any kind, just as there was no tiered cake, no father-daughter dance, no time, no budget, and it goes without saying, not one clue as to what we were doing.

natalie beach and her husband stand among sunflower stalks on their wedding day


And in this way, we also avoided the most loathsome and clichéd wedding dramas, the ones dissected endlessly on AITA boards: a wedding planner versus mother of the bride turf war. A budget that exceeded the salaries of a public school English department. Friend fights. Tantrums. A horrific scene in the women’s restroom where my sister mopped the mascara dribbling down my face while I sobbed, “But this is supposed to be my special day!

There was no tiered cake, no father-daughter dance, no time, no budget, and it goes without saying, not one clue as to what we were doing.

Which isn’t to say that it all went off without a hitch. As my friend did my makeup in her room at the Marriott on the morning of the wedding, our phones chimed in unison, alerting us to the breaking news that Jeffrey Epstein had just been found dead in his jail cell. From there, my beauty routine continued apace. I had to use my earrings to re-pierce my lobes, which had closed up due to months of neglect, and realized I had forgotten any hair product whatsoever for my late summer nuptials. After that, I hustled down to the business center in the lobby to print my vows, which, along with the rings, I also promptly forgot in my parents’ room. By the time I arrived at the farm (late as usual), my friends and extended family were already battling the August humidity as they unfolded chairs and tied empty cans of White Claw to the back of my buddy’s ’89 Camry.

Before I walked down the aisle (gravel path) to “Nothing Can Change This Love” by Sam Cooke, I was stupidly nervous and dashed into the farmhouse bathroom to take an anxiety poop unbefitting a bride. It wasn’t the marriage itself that was stressing me out but the party planning, even of such a haphazard affair. Would the tent protect my elderly aunts and uncles from the midday sun? Did I buy enough alcohol? Now that Epstein couldn’t testify against his coconspirators, would justice ever be served? On top of all that, I had spent the last six months working on an essay about an Instagram influencer I once knew and my editors had told me that, depending on the fact-checking timeline, it might come out the day of my wedding. Disaster, in one form or another, felt imminent.

natalie beach and her husband at the reception of their haphazard wedding


The moment I turned the corner and saw our guests though, all my worry evaporated. Our dress code was “wear something sartorially courageous” and our friends and family understood the assignment. They came dressed in mesh, cowboy boots, polka dots, overalls, and sequins. The ceremony was slapdash and beautiful, and afterward, we posed for pictures with chickens and goats and only got a little sunburned. At the reception, we ate pizza and Chinese takeout, picked up by our “wedding interns,” aka Bard classmates of a friend’s sister, a handful of broke artsy kids who in exchange for plate-clearing and tidying up, got 100 bucks and all the food and alcohol they wanted, although their performance lagged the more they drank. We gave freewheeling, heartfelt speeches, ate from a tower of doughnuts, and danced barefoot on a sticky tavern floor. Sure, we forgot to affix pins to the DIY boutonnieres, the doughnuts were stale, and the blisters on my heels burst and oozed. And yes, immediately after the ceremony my mother-in-law had to be brought back to hospice, the wedding having failed to cure pancreatic cancer. But if you had been there, you would have stumbled out of the bar with us, straight into an impromptu cocktail hour at the Montclair Jazz Fest and from there to the Marriott indoor pool, where we drank Spaghetts and swam in our underwear deep into the night.

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In retrospect, it’s easy to convince myself that I was and always would have been the epitome of the “chill” bride. The truth is, if I had the time and budget to overplan and melt down, I absolutely would have overplanned and melted down. Even as a person with few specific ideas about what a wedding should be, I still felt my internal Charlotte York itching to hijack the plane. Until it happened, I never knew how easy it was to get seduced by visions of flower garlands and bespoke letter-press invitations. Likewise, when I realized the Dream Wedding™ was out of reach, I was surprised at how disappointed I initially was. Just because I couldn’t hire a pizza truck or have the ceremony on the Connecticut beach, I somehow felt scorned, like my marriage had failed me before it began.

natalie beach and her husband at their reception


Behind every great fortune lies a great crime, and the $70 billion wedding industrial complex (more than the military budget of all but three countries) runs on the idea that a woman’s value plummets the moment she’s driven off the lot. This is the last and only party you will ever be allowed to throw for yourself. It had better be perfect, we’re told, because it’s all downhill from here. But it’s not just about the money, not entirely. (We all know that a cheap, DIY wedding can be just as regimented and high-strung as the ones featured in Vogue.) What I’m really getting at is the emotional toll, what all that pressure and expectation can do to a person. It’s no wonder people snap. We call women “Bridezillas,” without considering where the namesake came from. Godzilla, after all, was the product of nuclear fallout and fascistic disregard for human life.

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There are strategies, of course, to avoid this trap. You could elope. Freeze your credit card in a block of ice. Or just not get married at all, what a concept! If you’re going through with it and I may offer some matronly advice, it’s this: Create the conditions for a fun time and then surrender to the pandemonium.

Godzilla, after all, was the product of nuclear fallout and fascistic disregard for human life.

There’s a reason they say that the more tumultuous the wedding, the better the marriage. For me, chaos weddings run in the family. In the ’80s, my parents had an all-timer (beach wedding, hurricane), and this September, they will celebrate 39 years.

the carmy with a just married sign in the back window spelling out on paper plates and cans of beer and white claw attached


Our wedding also made our relationship stronger. It takes communication to pull off any party worth having, even one that’s basically coming apart at the seams. Given the extreme circumstances I proposed under, my husband and I had no choice but to let go—together. In many ways, that was a terrible time in our lives, but our wedding was a burst of unbridled joy and if given the chance at a do-over, I’d keep it almost exactly as it was. The truth is, whether you like it or not, all weddings resist order. What could be more chaotic than the one-in-a-trillion randomness that brings two people together for a shot at happiness? Couple that with extended families, spiked blood alcohol content, and promises for the future that can’t reasonably be made, and all the taffeta and fondant on earth wouldn’t be able to cover up the instability of the occasion. And really, why in the world would you want it to?

Headshot of Natalie Beach

Natalie Beach is an essayist and screenwriter, as well as an independent producer for film and television. She was raised in New Haven and lives with her husband in the shadow of Dodger Stadium. Her first book, Adult Drama, was published in 2023 by Hanover Square Press. 

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