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:
Lastly, fighting about the wedding is better than not fighting at all.
BY Kate Arends - February 27, 2017
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.