Every Little Bit Helps

Wedding planning can be the most stressful phase of your life, aside from complicated pregnancy, financial hardships, serious illness, family drama, clinical depression, career setbacks. . . .

Okay, so in the grand scheme of things, weddings and wedding planning really don’t rank too high on the list of “Life Struggles.”  After all, it’s supposed to be a fun time filled with parties, happiness, and hope for a bright and beautiful future.  No matter how blissed out you and your intended are, though, you’re sure to hit a few road bumps.  I have so far, but they’ve been minor: our first choice for our ceremony site was booked by someone else only hours before I called to reserve it; we pushed back the time line for ordering the bridesmaids’ dresses, which made me a bit of a frantic nuisance this past week; and I’ve done my fair share of agonizing over the larger-than-expected guest list. 

But all in all, my six months of engagement have been the most joyful of my life — thanks in part to a few good friends and some good planning.  Here are a few things I’ve learned so far about staying as worry-free as possible.

Buy a good wedding planning book/organizer ASAP!  When I asked one of my best friends to be my maid of honor, she responded by giving me a gorgeous little notebook — The Bride’s Book of Lists: Things to Do & Questions to Ask— with a note card printed in bold: “Absolutely!”  This little book has kept me organized, even though I’ve left more than half of the suggested questions unasked.  Find your own wedding planning guide and keep it close by all through your engagement!

Tackle long-term tasks -- including choosing bridesmaids dresses, such as this chiffon dress from Thread -- early in the planning process.

Tackle long-term tasks -- including choosing bridesmaids dresses, such as this chiffon dress from Thread -- early in the planning process.

Surround yourself with supportive friends and family.  The above mentioned friend/maid of honor has been an angel, keeping the other bridesmaids in the loop (so I don’t have to be a constant nag) and offering me suggestions, encouragement, and frank advice.  My other bridesmaids have been equally supportive.  Because they live out of town, though, it’s nice to have one girl close by to serve as a face-to-face sounding board so my mother and fiance don’t have to bear the full brunt of my wedding dreaming.

Give yourself plenty of time.  Get the big tasks out of the way as soon as you’re comfortable doing them: book your venues, hunt down your dream dress, start scribbling out your guest list.  Be sure any big ticket items especially close to your heart are addressed early on so you won’t feel pressured into making a decision motivated by time.  For me, that meant finding a color for the bridesmaids’ dresses, envisioning the decor and theme, and booking a photographer.  For you it might be something entirely different, but whatever it is, don’t wait until the last minute or you probably won’t be satisfied with your results.

Set reasonable expectations.  Sure, I love the photographs from the big budget weddings on The Knot and Brides.com as much as the next girl.  I also know I don’t have $60,000 to splurge on my wedding.  Figure out how far you can stretch your money and just what your budget will let you buy, and dream accordingly.  Keep in mind: this is the day you’re marrying your beloved!  If you’re expecting a day that simply celebrates your love and your friends’ and family’s love, you probably won’t be let down.

Keep the lines of communication open.  Your family wants to be in the know.  And so does your fiance’s.  Let everyone close to you know of your plans as they happen — which doesn’t mean you need to make hourly phone calls, but it does mean your family shouldn’t be asking about your band long after you decided to go with a DJ instead.  (This is one are where I must admit I’ve fallen short — and yes, it has caused undue stress.  DON’T do it, girls!)

Don’t obsess over the details.  Throw your energy where it’s needed — preparing for a lifelong marriage, being a warm hostess to your guests, and making sure your wedding day is one that will make you tingle with happiness when you think of it for years to come.  Chances are, the scroll design on the escort cards isn’t what will make you tingle.  Neither are your bridesmaids’ shoes, the exact shade of the napkins, the size of the flower arrangements or the elaborately choreographed reception entrance.  If you bury yourself in minute wedding details 24/7, you’ll be too busy and too stressed to relax and anticipate the biggest day of your life.  In fact, you might start dreading it because you’ll be afraid you don’t have time to get every project completed.

Programs add a nice touch to your ceremony, but they aren't worth getting stressed about.

Programs add a nice touch to your ceremony, but they aren't worth getting stressed about.

Learn to be flexible.  Every bride likes to think she’s flexible, but until we’re faced with quasi-crisis, for all we know we’re as stiff as Iron Man.  Roll with the punches — so your calligrapher left the “e” off your cousin Anne’s name.  Anne will survive.  So the church exterior is half painted.  The guests won’t remember.  (This really happened to one of my bridesmaids.  I, one of her bridesmaids, had forgotten until she reminded me.)

Take time to relax.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been stashing away pent-up stress — or maybe it’s just because I’ve been involved in a lot of other friends’ wedding festivities lately — but I’ve had more uproariously funny fun times in the past few months than I can recall.  Every chance I have had to take a night out with my girls, I’ve jumped on it!  Make sure you get a breather from wedding planning in the form of game nights with friends, pool parties, spontaneous road trips — whatever gets you laughing until your stomach hurts, it’s a good wedding stress remedy.

Basically, do whatever it takes to enjoy your engagement!  It’s probably going to be one of the shorter phases of your life, likely shorter than the time you dated your fiance, and much, much shorter than you’ll be married.  Make the most of it, and make it memorable — for the right reasons!

~ Laura

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