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Becky here, straight from the altar to share firsthand my thoughts and newly acquired wisdom regarding the wedding planning process – and how not to go crazy, homicidal and/or suicidal as you prepare to tie the knot.
1. Get Over Yourself. Someone wants to marry you! That’s awesome. You deserve love, congratulations, well wishes, and maybe even a crock pot on this momentous occasion. However, you have not been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. You have not been elected President of the United States. You have not published The Great American Novel. You have not Cured Cancer. Furthermore, your wedding day will (hopefully) NOT be the best day of your life. There are (hopefully) many, many, MANY more days of joy, transcendence, emotionality, and pride on the horizon. You have so much to look forward to, like family, babies, travel, career success and more. You’ll be sharing it all with the person you love, to whom you will be married.
So be grateful, above all else. Don’t act like you’re the sh*t. Don’t make unreasonable demands of your friends. Don’t indulge in psycho-drama with your mom, wedding planner and assorted relatives. Conduct yourself with humility, sanity and perspective, and you will find that the wedding planning process and all the loved ones around you will morph into more sane versions of themselves as well.
2. Be a Bridezilla. That said, over the course of your wedding planning process, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) will bust into your business, telling you how things should be done, advising you on how not to make the mistakes they did, explaining why it is essential that you do things a certain way, and hyperventilating with shame, disappointment and terror when they hear of one or several of your particular wedding plans. DO NOT LET THESE BUSY-BODIES GET TO YOU. These people (aka, everyone you know) may mean well, but they do not understand your feelings, your dreams, your relationship, or, therefore, your wedding.
Practical advice: Identify the facets of your wedding that are most important to you and stand firm in your decisions about them. For example, I had to fight off what felt like Hannibal and his invading hoards of nay-sayers when I declared I wanted to wear orange tiger lilies in my hair (and not cream-colored lilies – *collective gasp now*). The orange lilies symbolize my family’s home in the Adirondacks; they have always been my favorite flower. The choice may not have been traditional, and the tiger lilies may even have “clashed” with the rest of the decor, but the beauty and meaning they brought to me during the wedding surpassed any discontent others may have felt. I will always be grateful to my rock star florist for making the orange happen.
Therefore, on matters large and small, do not let bossy friends, pushy wedding planners or nosy relatives order you around. Don’t doubt your own instincts. Your quirks should shine out at your wedding. Feel free to ditch any and all of the white and shiny (read: boring) gauze of “traditional” wedding hoopla.
By the way, for wedding matters that you do NOT feel strongly about, let your wedding planner and mom do whatever the hell they want. Disengaging from decisions you don’t really care about will save you lots of time and strife.
3. Have as Short an Engagement as Possible. However long you plan to be engaged is as long as it will take to plan your wedding. The longer you spend planning your wedding, the more time and opportunity there will be for stress, strife, drama, obsession, doubt, second-guessing, third-guessing, conflagrations between you and your friends and between you and your family (over what will seem like nonsense in the long run), and – most and deadliest of all – excessive worrying about every detail. Spare yourself the emotional strain. Even if you follow all my tips here, you will still experience a high degree of stress and upset during your wedding planning process. If you actually want to marry and be married to the person to whom you are engaged, then GET IT DONE. ASAP.
4. Limit the Size and Scope of Your Wedding. Do you really need an engagement party? A bachelor/bachelorette? A wedding shower? A destination wedding? And if so, do you really need gifts at all of them? Do you need people to travel for them? Will you be bitterly disappointed if some folks can’t come to one or all of the above events due to financial or time constraints?
If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, and you really mean it, then be true to yourself and go for it. But if the answer is “no”, “not really”, or “yes, but mainly because I really, really want to one-up my other friend’s bachelorette/shower/destination wedding” then please be sensitive to the money, time and priorities of your friends and family and limit your festivities to a respectful and appropriate scope.
Keep the focus on the (hopeful) truth that YOUR top priority is getting married to the love of your life. Celebrate with your friends and family only in the most honorable and sincere fashion; you will feel great about your festivities, and you will feel the love.
5. Hear Your Mother Out and Then Say NO as Needed. Your mom will likely be a key player in your wedding planning process. Your wedding planning process is also the long-awaited bonding mechanism she has been hoping and praying for. Therefore, your mom will have opinions, thoughts, ideas and priorities and will want to discuss them with you incessantly. You should listen calmly and respectfully to her and all her ideas. She is probably right about a lot, so you should incorporate her advice. But, you must proceed as YOU want to. Tell her “No” firmly and with finality. Offer a logical explanation for your decision, but do not over-justify yourself. Shut down further discussion once a decision has been made. Your mom may be upset at first, but as long as you remain respectful of her and thankful for her help, then setting clear and unalterable boundaries is essential and will serve you both well. Remember: Mom Works for You.
A note on this tip: I am writing mainly on the basis of secondhand accounts of brides dealing with their mothers. I want to state for the record that my own mother (Thank God) was overall a paragon of sanity and virtue while we were planning my wedding. However, I do believe this was in part because I set very firm, clear boundaries early on, thereby taking my own advice in advance (wink face).
A note on money: Do not let Mom leverage money against you. If your parents are paying for your wedding, then you should be respectful of their budget and discuss in advance any expectations they have. You may have to invite Uncle Larry and his sisters and his cousins and his aunts if that’s what your parents want. But do not let guilt over money derail your decision-making process on smaller matters. If your mother is really going to pull funding because you picked the blue invites over the gray, then let her have that crazy over-reaction and ditch the invitations all together and send a Paperless Post invite instead. Chances are, she will not call your bluff.
6. Actually, DO Send Paperless Post Invitations. Per above, you may save yourself much drama (and money!) by sending an e-vite to your wedding. When I was in high school, I made scrapbooks to commemorate each year of my life. But now, thanks to social media, I have no real use for “hard copies” of most photographs and memorabilia. Consequently, I’ve felt really bad chucking friends’ wedding invitations in a drawer, never to see the light of day again. Most people will already know your wedding plans via your Save-the-Date and wedding website. Paper invites are expensive relics that serve no real, practical purpose anymore.
Useful Note: One thing I learned in my wedding planning process (in which we called our guests with the wedding details, posted the details on our website and then sent an official invitation via email) is that Paperless Post will print elegant card stock versions of your invitation that you can send via snail mail if you want. My dad got a few invitations printed to send to relatives who would (apparently) freak out absent a proper paper invite. More perks: in addition to allowing your guests to RSVP online, Paperless Post also enables you to export your Guest List to PDF and Excel documents, which is incredibly useful if you need, as we did, to provide your venues with a full Guest List.
7. Involve Your Fiance(e). You, designated wedding planner of the couple, do not have to go through this alone. Delegate, delegate, delegate to your betrothed! Leverage his or her strengths. Learn from the fact that maybe your spouse-of-the-future doesn’t care as much about the wedding per se as you do. Appreciate the perspective and calming presence he or she may bring. Even though I was the day-to-day driving force of the planning, my husband and I ultimately made every major decision together. So our wedding truly represented US. Furthermore, I felt spared the scrutinizing eye of judgment that falls on every bride who becomes convinced that somehow this wedding is “HER special day.” Keeping your affianced in the loop, even if it just means copying him or her on every email, will make you feel saner and part of a team (which, by the way, you are and which, by the way, is the point of getting married).
8. Do Not Over-Think Your Wedding Dress. You know how ridiculous so many of our parents and aunts and uncles’ wedding photos from the 70′s and 80′s look? With the frizzy hair and poofy sleeves on the women and the flared pants and excessive facial hair on the men? Even Princess Diana’s iconic wedding ensemble looks voluminously obscene these days. Chances are, our kids are going to look at our fashion choices – especially on these most special of days – and shake their heads in astonishment and pity.
Therefore, just wear the dress – any dress! – you love the most. Don’t try to follow a trend, don’t obsess over what statement you are or are not making, and don’t expect the dress (a dress!) to be magical. Find it, wear it, love it. Accessorize it with pieces of jewelry that are meaningful, rather than expensive. Get hair and makeup that is comfortable and fun. On your wedding day, you will want to look and feel like yourself, not like someone playing a Hollywood role or – worse – someone standing in for “2013 Bride Version #473.” Your wedding is a chance to “Do You” – so don’t let bridal magazines, “experts” or prying friends and family talk you out of it.
9. Don’t Worry; Be Happy. If your wedding could possibly be ruined by bad weather. Or loopy Aunt Sally dressing like a maniac. Or Uncle Willie drinking too much and hitting on all the women (again). Or the food coming out lackluster. Or not a lot of people dancing. Or whatever. If there is any possibility that your wedding could be ruined by forces outside your control, then you need to re-think your plans and perspective.
If, at the end of The Wedding Day, you and your betrothed have said your vows, stared into each other’s eyes, exchanged rings (and filled out the paperwork) then you should and will feel overjoyed. If there is anything else (literally, anything else) that could ruin or seriously damage the day for you, then you need to make plans to mitigate those circumstances. E.g. – Don’t invite Uncle Willie; don’t have an outdoor wedding; etc. OR, you need to decide that you will not care about those externalities and then hold yourself to it. If you make your one, true priority the “getting married” part of getting married, then nothing else will be able to bring you down.
10. Don’t Strive for Perfection. Celebrate! You will not handle your wedding planning perfectly, and your wedding will not be perfect. Sorry. It’s true. At the very least: You will have to deal with loads of competing expectations and priorities and will have to make painful compromises and sacrifices as a result. You will make decisions that perplex and offend people. You will deal with drama and strife. Some aspects of your ceremony and reception won’t come off as planned. Something(s) will go terribly wrong. You will have regrets, large and small. Imperfection is inevitable.
So, don’t approach your wedding like an event. Consider it the celebration that it is. Set up your day so that at each point happiness and joy prevails because that is how you want to feel. The raison d’être of your wedding is love and profound commitment. Let that love and commitment sit forefront and let the trappings be trappings. Your kids are going to find them ridiculous one day, anyway.
Despite the travails of the wedding planning process, I found that I could embrace my wedding – and have a beautiful wedding – while still ignoring (and occasionally saying “f%^& off” to) the Wedding Industrial Complex. I did not go (completely) crazy or kill anyone.
It may seem like a miracle, but you can do it, too!
thanks Of Corgis & Cocktails for the photo!
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Rebecca Coale - aka Becky - is a writer, musician and producer. She and childhood best friend Jessica Donalds created Dating & Hookup and founded J&R Creative Media. Becky blogs about love poetry and modern life & womanhood. She lives with her husband, Howard Coale, and their family in Manhattan and Philadelphia.
datingandhookup.com is a website that explores modern romance in the Millennial era – which, let’s be honest, looks nothing like we were taught to expect. We feature essays, advice and social commentary with humor, compassion and brains, and we vow never, ever to publish a piece called “The 10 Best Ways to Satisfy Your Man in Bed”. Do click to submit your work to us. We love you.
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