Wednesday, September 16, 2009
7 lessons from wedding planning
The pre-wedding list of things wedding planning has taught me thus far:
1. Don’t expect your friends and family to be as into the “big day” as you are.
Inevitably, despite wanting to be there for you, their enthusiasm will wax and wane dependent on their level of interest. They may start off enthusiastic but fade away somewhere in the middle as boredom about hearing all the details/ideas sets in. That said, sometimes friends and family will surprise you in areas/ways/times you least expect. In the beginning everyone offers to help, some of them will follow through, some won’t. But no one will help if you don’t ask. The offers are only as good as your delegation skills are! When they offer, let them jump in and help even if you have a hard time letting go of the detail because you’ll be uber thankful for that help later! (Shout out to V: thanks for the cupcakes! You were right and you have no idea how much I appreciate you taking care of this and letting me sit back and be pampered in this way. Sooo glad that I’m not making 120 cupcakes!) With just over 3 weeks to go, I’m finding that my friends are starting to surface and regain their enthusiasm for the big day. It couldn’t have come at a better time! Until then, find a community of people who are there to support you and are going through the same process (for me this was OBT and for us the Catholic Marriage Prep course—brief though it was—was a nice experience (not for the lessons) but because all the couples were in the same place, often dealing with the same issues).
2. Be realistic about Do It Yourself (DIY) projects.
Sometimes these projects take more time than expected, more money than you want to spend, and better abilities than you might have. Sometimes they require that you practice a few times before you get it right, which means supplies, time and effort. Do you really have these things available? Is it really worth the effort and time to you? Are you a perfectionist and if so, will it always bother you that what you created doesn’t necessarily match the ideal vision you had of the item in your head or inspirational image? Pick your DIY battles wisely, start early, get as much done as possible before the final countdown, and then let go of the rest (let someone else do, pay someone, or just don’t include it). This is where it becomes important to stop reading too many wedding blogs/sites because you’ll keep getting ideas for your big day. At a certain point there is only so much you can do and want to do.
3. Sometimes less is more and sometimes it isn’t.
We looked at over 10 halls/venues and booked the very first one we saw. We ended up going with the first church that I found that appealed to us even though we went back and forth between 2 other churches and visited another one in our neighbourhood. It took time and caused anxiety and made the decision harder. Sometimes your time and effort is more valuable than making sure that you’ve seen every venue out there. Sometimes it’s not. We looked at countless photography websites before narrowing our list down. It was overwhelming and exhausting. After a while they all started to look the same. I fell in love with a photographer from across the country (and am still in love with her work). Was it worth it? Yes. Why? Because it was the very last photographer we found, of all places, on facebook, that we booked and I love his work. The price was right, the pictures he’s done are gorgeous, and he fits what we need and want better than all the others did. I’m thrilled that we held out, even if it was an exhausting process.
4. Don’t compare weddings.
There will always be a wedding that is prettier, more creative, more original, or more you than your own wedding is. There will be other dresses, rings, decorations, readings, and other things that someone else has that will fill you with longing, envy and make you second guess your own choices. Do the best you can and make the day as much your own as you can. Be inspired by others, but don’t let it fill you with angst or doubt. Inevitably there will be elements in those amazing weddings that you won’t like, or cost beyond your budget, or just don’t fit with your own needs. (Read the fine print on all those wedding blogs out there: you’d be amazed by just how many of those featured are done by wedding planners… hello, cha-ching… most of us don’t have the means to fund such elaborate events!)
5. Everyone will tell you it’s your day, and it is, up to a certain point!
Everyone, your family, your friends, your colleagues, will be full of words of wisdom and tell you it’s your special day and you should do what you want, what reflects you as a couple, and in their heart of hearts, they mean it, as long as it fits their image of what should be done. And that’s the key. When you cross the line of their vision/expectation you wander into no man’s land. Where that line is will depend on the person’s threshold of tolerance and expectation. For some it’ll be loose and malleable: jump over a broomstick, no problem, wear a red dress, awesome; diy your wedding bouquet, great idea; don’t invite the extended family, WTF! For others the line will be more rigid: get married outside, not ok; no flower girl, but what will people think… And so on and so forth. At this point you have 2 options: work from within the boundaries expected and strive to make the day yours in other ways OR put your foot down and never look back. But whichever path you choose, you both have to agree on it and then stick to it. We made the mistake of wavering between the 2 and it caused us a lot of misery. It also prompted a lot of heated debates between us as a couple.
6. Learn how to “fight” with your partner.
By this I mean learn how to fight constructively. Choose your battles, learn where your boundaries are, figure out when you need to fight it out or let it go, and most importantly find language to communicate to each other that you’re not in the space to have this conversation right now because you can’t think objectively. (Which also implies: learn how to accept that from your partner). Rebecca Mead, in her book One Perfect Day, talked about why we feel the need to make the wedding planning process so difficult and angst ridden as a society (in our quest to make the day unique) and for me, I think the biggest answer is to learn how to deal with conflict with your partner and to carve out your boundaries (between the 2 of you and between your families). We don’t have a lot of rites of passage anymore in our society, and most of those that remain have been heavily commercialized (yes, weddings, I’m talking about you) but regardless of your age, there is something about the planning process that, for me, is about really claiming your couple-dom and defining it within your family structures and as a cohesive unit, all of which you can do before getting engaged (or without ever getting married) but the planning process has really reinforced the process.
7. When all else fails, find a safe place to scream, yell, or cry.
Sometimes there are going to be moments during planning that your partner won’t be there for you (hopefully it’s not often, but there will be times). Sometimes there will be times when your partner can’t be there for you. Sometimes you need to let off hurt, anger, or frustration alone (either because you need alone time or because letting it out would actually hurt your partner). This has been one that I’ve had a hard time negotiating. I’m a complainer. I vent. And sometimes I’ve really trodden on my partner’s feelings/enthusiasm because what for me is just venting is actually hurtful to him because he hears it as being blame and lack of enthusiasm. And granted, sometimes it is. So I’m learning to yell out loud in the car ride home with the windows rolled up to let it out before I get home so that we can have a grounded conversation. Or I write in my journal. But I’ve really had to learn when to vent and when to shut my mouth and keep it to myself in order for him to feel like I’m still in this with him (which is a lesson I think was important for me to learn for our marriage (don’t worry, this lesson goes both ways—he’s had to learn to share his feelings or engage in mine) but he needs to know I’m in this with him. And I am. I might not like some of the shit that has come our way through the process but I am excited about marrying him and spending the rest of my life with him. I’m excited about walking down the aisle and seeing him at the end. I’m excited about dancing our first dance together. And I’m excited about sharing OUR day with our dearest family and friends. So after you’ve let it out, and told your partner you love him/her, you let it go and make the best of it all on your big day because your attitude on that day, will set the tone for the day (or so I’ve been told).