On the night I set aside for brainstorming for this month’s column, I was mired in wedding misery: a DIY guestbook project that fantastically failed … a list of appointments to squeeze in between the holidays, baby showers and other weddings … rumblings about bridal-party disagreements … a fruitless
search for chair décor … all while surrounded by a sea of crumpled origami paper that, once-intended to serve as the basis for paper flowers, now was at risk of being hurled out the window. So, I figured, why not write about how easy it is to lose your mind amid wedding planning?
Weddings are stressful, there’s just no getting around that. Large or small, weddings typically involve a lot of planning, a lot of money and a lot of cooperation with people you may not be used to dealing with — all on top of work commitments, family and friend obligations and whatever else is going on in your life. But wading through the sea of stress is possible.
Devil in the details
My fiancé and I did a two-year engagement to give ourselves plenty of time to plan. We got the biggest decisions out of the way early on — date, venue, size, budget — and were looking forward to pulling the details together. We’ve found, however, that the detail stage comes with its own headaches.
The number of small decisions that need to be made for a larger-scale wedding is mind-blowing: guestbook, cardbox, place cards, invites (and invites for a rehearsal dinner if you have one), programs, centerpieces, ceremony wording, hairstyles for the ladies, photo list for the photographer, song list for the DJ, cake flavor, ringbox, gifts for the bridal party … the details could literally be never-ending.
While both my fiancé and I are pretty laidback, we’ve found ourselves getting wrapped up in these details. Never did I think I would care if we had mason jars filled with baby’s breath or burlap-and-lace bows for our ceremony-chair décor, but we recently found ourselves in a debate about the matter. It’s easy to get lost in the decisions; everyone wants their wedding day to be perfect, and the more details that pile up, the more it seems like perfection is contingent upon making good decisions about the small things.
We’ve been trying to put things into perspective as often as we can. When we walk down the aisle, we’re not going to even notice what hangs off the chairs; we’ll be focused on our loved ones in the seats and each other, and that’s what we have to keep reminding ourselves when we inevitably get carried away again.
We also recently made a timeline to keep from getting too far ahead of ourselves. Exploring one detail can lead you to five more decisions you didn’t realize you need to make. For instance, in preparing to order ceremony programs, we realized we first needed to decide upon the readings for the ceremony, who would be doing the readings, how we would list our family members, how we plan to walk down the aisle … and 65 other details. So we sat down and made an exhaustive list of the teeniest details we could think of and listed what we’ll take care of each month; so far, it’s helped us keep some semblance of sanity.
Counting the coin
One of the biggest stresses of a wedding may involve its funding.
This column previously outlined some of the budgetary lessons we learned early on, but we’ve recently run into another issue: how to balance other financial obligations while saving for a wedding.
We’ve been working to squirrel away savings each week but are finding life getting in the way. In our case, we have three expectant bridesmaids, as well as one family member and another friend who are also pregnant — so that’s five baby showers (and five baby shower gifts) before the wedding, as well as a smattering of christenings. Mix in the holidays, birthdays and increased cable bills and insurance premiums, and you’ve got a recipe for stress.
We’re trying to approach this as sensibly, and honestly, as possible. We’re putting some of the DIY and cost-cutting lessons we’ve learned through the wedding-planning process to good use when gifting to others. And, we’re not underestimating the value of the gift of time; being on a wedding budget may prevent you from giving extravagant Christmas gifts to one another or family, but instead you can offer “experience”-themed gifts: a home-cooked meal by you and movie night for your beloved, a daytrip to local museums (tapping into the wonders of sites like Groupon) for the culturally inclined on your holiday list or time spent volunteering together at a local nonprofit for your philanthropically minded giftees.
And be frank with your loved ones: If you can’t afford to attend a wedding or a gift-giving occasion, explain that you’re in the throes of wedding-saving; those who’ve been there will understand, and those who haven’t will one day.
Opinions of others
Perhaps the most challenging stress involved with planning a wedding is figuring out how to keep peace.
While a wedding is essentially about the couple, it’s also a time for the joining of family and friends, many of whom may be closely involved in the planning process — which has its ups and downs. For the up, having the support, both tangible and intangible, of loved ones can be a great help. But, involving family and friends also means learning how to work harmoniously with a bunch of very different people who often have very different visions — no easy feat.
Wedding-planning with others hearkens back to the group projects of grade school; not only do you have to come together to actually accomplish things — making up guest lists, deciding on bridal party attire, etc. — you have to do so while not compromising your own goals or visions in deference to those of others. Some people may have very strong opinions and be comfortable expressing them to you, but we’ve learned we have to be equally comfortable politely declining; 10 different people are going to have 10 different views on one subject — trying to incorporate them all is simply enough to drive anyone off the deep end.
We’ve tried to bear in mind that offers of advice and assistance are usually rooted in a good place, and many people offering opinions may not realize how many other viewpoints are being directed at the couple from other people as well. But, at the end of the day, this is the wedding of just two people — and that’s an empowering thought that all couples should remind themselves of from time to time.
Perspective is a powerful tool in overcoming the stresses of wedding-planning — as are steady supplies of patience and understanding. And wine.