Your Wedding Day Won’t Be The Best Day Of Your Life

Planning my wedding with Joe wasn’t exactly typical by popular culture’s standards. I tried on one dress by myself and said “maybe” before plunking down my credit card. We let the florist do whatever she wanted with the color scheme. We picked a venue we trusted with food we loved. We relaxed and went out to eat in the days leading up to the event, spending long hours talking about the things that scared us about the rest of our lives. We held hands and collectively thought about how fast it all had happened. We had done everything in six short weeks and were wondering what was next.

I was cool as a cucumber until the first few guests showed up for our intimate ceremony. For the past six weeks, we didn’t spend much time thinking about what others would think of our casual nuptials. Panic set in as I saw people hesitate to mingle and wonder where the seated dinner would be served. (There wasn’t one.) I saw Joe start to pace a bit. Then the memories start moving fast. We said “I do” and cried– a lot. We spent the rest of the night dancing our faces off and when we mingled separately, touching fingers, we stole glances at each other as we crossed the room. At midnight we collapsed into bed, kicked the shoes off our aching feet, and stuffed ourselves with pepperoni pizza.

The night was beautiful, easy and very much us.

The next day was cool and gray. We packed up our things and said goodbye to our family, thanked them a million times over for their support and love. Then we jumped in the car and headed north. About ten minutes outside the city our hands found one another.

“I didn’t have anything to eat last night– how was the food?” Joe asked. We pieced together our stories and memories like two kids searching for puzzle pieces. For as lovely as it was, and as hard as we tried to stay coupled up to enjoy the night together, it was impossible to completely be “us” when we were there to celebrate with all the people who made “us” possible.

Weddings are one of the only times in our lives when we put our relationships on display for the people we love to celebrate, honor, support, and sometimes, judge. Imagine all the people in your life in one room looking at you and your partner. How do you feel? Happy? Secure? A little sick to your stomach? Or are you totally in your element? If you’re like most, the thought of that many people looking at you and your relationship makes you feel many feelings at once– a mixture of excitement, adrenaline, and pukiness.

I write this post from the unique(ish) and slightly embarrassing position of having two weddings under my belt. Two “I dos.” Two white dresses, two bouquets, two grooms. The only thing that remains of this piece of my past is a piece of legal paper and many lessons learned, and while I consider myself twice-wed but married once, the wedding planning process taught me a lot about how difficult a wedding can be for a relationship. So when it came time to plan a wedding, I vowed to do things differently.

Now that wedding planning season is in full swing, it’s a good time to pass on my wisdom in the form of five tips and succession for keeping your relationship healthy while planning your future.

Tip One: Lower the expectations for the wedding and raise them for the marriage.
Never the couple who likes to leave a good party, Joe and I both worried about feeling blue once the wedding was all said and done. Many of my friends reported feeling the same, even changing careers because they felt a little empty once the job of planning a wedding was no longer taking up all their time.

Try it: Take a mini-moon before your honeymoon. Most couples like to get out of town after they’re married, but it can add to the let down once you return. Minimoons are great because they are affordable and give you the R&R you need after running a physical and emotional marathon. All you want to do is sleep and eat, and if you’re anything like me, you can’t do that for a week straight anyway. Minimoons can take place across the country, a few hours from home, or even in the same city. Think about what you need, not what you want when it comes to planning the days, weeks, and months after your wedding.

Tip Two: Don’t spend more than you can afford.
Marriage is hard enough without the burden of debt. As hard as it may be to pass up once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to celebrate your relationship, you’ll live with the interest rate as long as the memory itself, if you spend too much.

Try it: Sit down with your partner and write down three things you value the most. Where do you cross over and where do you differ? For Joe and I, it was food, music, drink. That made it easy for us to avoid extra costs where we didn’t need them and use the money towards areas we both valued.

Tip Three: Quit looking at Pinterest and IG wedding inspiration. 
This was a big problem for me. 2010 was the hay day of wedding blogs and you couldn’t look away. Having a blog myself, I felt quite a bit of pressure to “live up to” the bar set by bloggers I didn’t know and didn’t really relate to. I felt that it was what others expected of me.

Try it:  Ask yourself if you enjoy the work you’re putting into the wedding. I know many people who LOVED the DIY project for their weddings. Others did it because they could use the money saved for something else they value, like a kickass honeymoon.

Tip Four: Embrace your uniqueness as a couple.
The wedding industry has come a long way from cookie cutter formulas, but for every choice you make, someone will judge you for being “that” bride and groom.

Try it: You can’t make everyone happy, and I like to think that your wedding is the first time your new family will have to say, thank you for sharing your opinion, but we are who we are.

Tip Five: Focus on the marriage while you’re planning for the wedding. 
DUH, I know. I wouldn’t state the obvious if it didn’t have merit. It’s easy to slip into this habit when you’ve been together for a while and you are, after all, planning your life together. What often gets put on the back burner are the important check-in moments that keep you connected as a couple. Weddings are planned so far in advance, you both should acknowledge that you’ll be a more evolved version of yourself 18 months after you set the date.

Try it: Make date night about connecting and communicating. Figure out where and how it’s easiest to connect and converse. Maybe it’s while you train for a marathon together. Maybe it’s over beers at a brewery. Ask, “how are you, really?” Don’t be afraid of the hard questions and make sure you resolve areas of conflict, especially around the decisions you’re making for the wedding regardless of contracts signed or down payments made. When both people feel like they’re being heard, weddings become less of a burden.

This post is not meant to convince you to throw out the glue gun. All five of these tips were inspired by mistakes I made myself. Even if your wedding planning is harmonious and free from the pressures most of us fail to conquer…

Things will go wrong and they will feel like a big deal.
You will doubt yourself.
You will feel afraid.
You will fight with your partner.
You will be disappointed in people and in the way certain parts of the day played out.
At least one friend or family member will try to steal your thunder. They won’t realize it.

And when these things happen, only a few things matter:

  • You and your partner acknowledge that there are now three relationships to care for: yourselves, one another, and your marriage.
  • Your closest friends and family have a chance to share in your celebration. Honor the ones who have supported you along the way. Don’t be afraid to tell them how much they mean to you.
  • You capture the moment, however disastrous it was. Joe and I didn’t have video taken at our wedding that is why my most prized possession is an iPhone video taken by Joe’s cousin.

Lastly, fighting about the wedding is better than not fighting at all.

  • Yes, yes, YES. Love everything about this post. We’re in the midst of planning a wedding for June. And while I assumed I would dive into wedding-planning mode the second we got engaged a few months ago, both my fiance and I have found ourselves feeling kind of blissfully unmotivated to put much time into wedding planning, and overwhelmed by Pinterest and the “look” that seems to dominate the wedding industry. So we’ve resolved to just stick to the basics and add in a few small touches that feel fun and like “us”. And it’s been great. I feel like we’re actually getting to soak up this time of being engaged without having wedding planning dominate the whole season. And like you said, try and focus more on the marriage and dreaming about our future, ha, which is way more fun than centerpieces anyway. 😉

  • We’re coming up on our 3rd anniversary this summer, and this rings so true for me! Especially that things will go wrong and seem like a big deal (I remember bawling because I’d looked at “all” of the venues in town and couldn’t find one that wasn’t half of our budget — and of course I found one the next day) and that you’ll be disappointed in people and they’ll try to steal your thunder. For me they turned out to be the same people, and I was so stressed out that it kind of took over the whole week of the wedding, which was a bummer. But looking back we got married and we have some really great/ funny memories. Like the photographer taking multiple photos of my mom steaming my wedding dress while I was wearing it because the dress shop had forgotten. I’ll never forget that! XD

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. I am getting married in a couple weeks and my fiancé and I are starting to feel the pressure. This makes me feel a bit more at ease to know that it is okay to know that it won’t be perfect!

  • Agreed with a lot of this post, great tips! Helping to focus on priorities (for ours it was the food, photography and the venue) and selecting at least 1 or 2 activities to DIY not only helps to budget but is more satisfying that way. The to do list feels less like obligatory spending and is more fun!

    I would say about the mini moon: I feel like going back to work right after the wedding would sort of make it feel anti climatic. After all the socializing and effort put into the wedding, theres really something to be said for taking a long honeymoon afterwards.

    Last thing is I totally agree on focusing on the marriage while doing all the wedding planning. Our method was for religious reasons but it definitely doesn’t have to be. Our session was very practical and really helped us to talk about our values, even if you do already do that naturally it certainly is important in the midst of having trivial conversations with your husband/wife about wedding favors and paying vendors.

  • This is one of the best articles I’ve read online in ages, I loved it! There’s so much I enjoyed about it, and I really appreicate how honest and open Kate was throughout.

    I’m not engaged, though my boyfriend and I are attending more and more weddings and beginning to use them as a way to talk about what we’d like to do/when we’d like to do it.

    All I know is that I’d like to be married to him – but I don’t particularly want to ‘get’ married. The idea of a traditional wedding makes me feel a strange combination of overwhelmed and disinterested, and I think that’s because I’d rather be pouring energy into figuring out what marriage looks like rather than what a wedding day looks like. Asking our immediate family and closest friends to attend a small ceremony and then taking everyone out for dinner afterwards would be my idea of perfection!

    Flora
    x

    http://www.theeverchanginghome.com

    • I felt exactly the same way about my wedding day. I had never been someone who could visualize their wedding and plan all the tiny details out growing up. I’m an art director, even, so knowing that the details weren’t important to me, I decided to keep it really simple. My husband and I got married on a cliff in front of just our parents and a photographer. We picked the flower arrangements ourselves and saved so much money. We took everyone out for dinner after and the whole day was still absolutely magical. Don’t feel pressured to do a wedding for everyone else’s wants. Do a wedding that’s right for you.

  • My fav part: ‘Lower the expectations for the wedding and raise them for the marriage’ – every engaged couple should frame it and hang it above their beds. Thank you for writing this.

  • YES! Our wedding was a potluck gathering in a friend’s back yard. I ordered my dress on sale at ModCloth and then we “honeymooned” in a town 45 minutes away. We got to sleep and sleep and sleep in a nice hotel room in a familiar city. We saved our big vacation for our one-year anniversary after we’d nearly recovered from the exhaustion.

  • I think it all has to do with expectations. I had low expectations to begin with, and my small, budget wedding really did exceed those expectations. If I think about the day in terms of getting to marry my best friend being surrounded by our closest friends and family from across the country, and how I’ll likely never have all those people in the same place again EVER, then it really was one of the best days of my life. That doesn’t mean I’ll always love the dress I wore, or that my wedding was so stylish and !awesome! that it would ever be featured in a wedding magazine/blog, but that’s not really what it was about anyway.

  • Well, if you can plan your wedding yourself then there can’t be anything better than this. But, usually, at this moment, managing everything yourself is difficult. So, in such a scenario, hiring a wedding planner is the best thing you can do to make an unforgettable wedding for you and your guests.

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  • Absolutely! I’m lucky that I’ve never really been overly concerned with doing things “the right way” – We had an immediate-family only ceremony in a nearby park, jetsetted off to our honeymoon where we exchanged our vows privately and had photos taken, and then threw a big BBQ block party when we got home!

    We spent money on things that mattered (our unforgettable honeymoon, a live band, and awesome BBQ), got unbelievable photos in Iceland (and a ton of “best-of” features), and had a fun, laid-back party with all of our friends. I have 0 regrets and aside from the stress of setting everything up ourselves (to be fair we had LOTS of help from our friends) the entire thing was easy and fun.

    There’s no “wrong” way to celebrate a marriage!

  • This is such good advice, it can be so hard to keep things simple and about your relationship when others’ expectations are piled atop you, and when unexpected things happen. My partner and I have been together for 9 years, and lived together for 3 of those. We weren’t fussed with having a wedding, but there has been so much pressure from our families to get married. When his grandmother’s health began to wane, we got engaged and planned to get married in 2 years time (on our 10 year anniversary of dating – his idea!). She then was diagnosed with cancer and so we brought the wedding forward so she could be there. She passed away 2 weeks ago and our wedding is in 10 weeks time. It has been a strange time of tempering grief over loss with joy over love. I will be wearing one of her brooches on my dress to carry her with us on the day.

  • Though I NEVER imagined my wedding day, and was completely unbothered about getting married, I can actually say that my wedding WAS one of the very best, most happiest times in my life, which I owe directly to the fact that we eloped. In Greece.

    I cringe at the whole on-display-ness of traditional ceremonies that you touched on, and felt that MY marriage really had nothing to do with anyone else in my life besides the person I was marrying.

    The whole day was just the two of us, plus our completely amazing photographer (quality photos are a very necessary consolation prize for parents-word to the wise)–and was so totally authentic to who we are that we could hardly believe it was real.

    Besides my man, I consider the way we wedded to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.