Big AZ Wedding: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey
We gave ourselves one full month. One glorious month of sheer joy and excitement where we allowed the happiness of that evening to wash over us and ignore the fact that imminent stress was upon us. We gave ourselves a month to revel in the perfection of a proposal gone perfectly right. One that was years (4 to be exact, 4.5 to be exactly exact) in the making. The wedding planning process was certain to be stressful, even despite the fact we had discussed and dreamed of our wedding for years already. Why ruin the excitement of this moment with the thoughts of table linens and guest counts? So we didn’t. And do you know what? It was an EXCELLENT life choice that I cannot recommend highly enough.
And that’s my #protip (a favorite hashtag for my best life tips) #1: give yourselves time to be happy in life. To celebrate whatever occasion you are celebrating, be it an engagement or a birthday, before you start planning the “next big thing.” It is sad but true that you have to consciously give yourself permission all too often in life to actually BE happy. So be happy! And trust me when I promise you there is SO much time to be stressed later.
So we let a month of ecstasy pass and we began wedding planning. I will admit that my now husband (Brendan) and I made one hell of an awesome team. We split responsibilities, shared research and spreadsheets, Pinterest boards and magazine clippings, ideas and concerns, openly and often with one another. I cannot imagine planning the biggest moment/event/party/day of my life with anyone else by my side than Brendan. The wedding planning process, if it taught me nothing else, taught me that when we are together as a team, there is literally NOTHING that can deter us. We bought books and read articles and interviewed family and friends who had gone down this path and we did everything the best way we possibly could. We were as organized and creative as we have ever been. We genuinely enjoyed the entire wedding planning process because we were fully in it together.
On that note, I cannot wrap my head around the fact that some people pride themselves on single-handedly planning a wedding and making every single decision. The thought of it horrifies me from both a feminist perspective and also a logistical perspective. (HOW IS IT POSSIBLE?!) So there it is, my #protip #2: don’t go it alone. Planning a wedding was a truly amazing adventure! Brendan and I made so many fun dates out of visiting sites, going to see and meet with vendors, shopping for items, assembling gifts, hand writing save the date envelopes for hundreds of people (less fun), and even working in spreadsheets together. (I will deny I said that last part) Sappy as it sounds, there were times when we would literally gush over how much fun we were having with one another as we experienced all of these new things in life and made unique memories together.
Tip #2 extends beyond just the couple, too. Near the end of the planning there was just SO much that needed to be done we simply had to ask many people for help. As a Type A personality I often struggle with delegation, but am proud to admit that in that final month, I had no problem asking for help when I needed it. In fact, I think back about specific tasks and wish I had asked for help a bit earlier. Our loved ones (and yours if you’re reading this) really want to contribute and pitch in in meaningful ways. When they offer to help, take this as a genuine sign of their willingness to do so. As much as Brendan and I had planned every minute, tiny, microscopic tidbit of our wedding, we knew that at some point we would have to place our full trust in the very capable hands of loved ones and professional vendors we hired (only hired the latter) to execute every minuscule detail perfectly. I admittedly had a harder time peacefully transferring all of this trust than Brendan did, but that is the nature of our personalities, and that is one reason of millions why he is a perfect match for me.
This leads me right into #protip #3: when you allow others to help you, make sure you thank them! This is something we are still working on doing in meaningful, intentional, specific ways 2 months after our wedding. (Good news, the etiquette books give you 6 months, and more generous ones give you 12 months to thank everyone!) This is actually the impetus of this entire post. I wanted to capture some ruminations from an epic day and acknowledge all of the amazing people who made it so insanely perfect. It was perfect and yes, Brendan and I will take some of the credit for professionally planning the crap out of an epic wedding, but when it came to the day of the event, it was the aforementioned loved ones and vendors that made our day so nauseatingly perfect. So thank you to each of you, if you’re reading this! I don’t think I have enough space here on Medium to thank each of you by name, but I am going to try. More on this in a separate post because there are actually so many people to thank!
The excitement of an engagement and the joy of wedding planning will ultimately, and inevitably, turn into a stressful month of anxiety, loss of sleep and appetite, loss of weight, irritability, and general “i feel like a maniac with no control over my body or life” moments. Or at least some people have told me that…That’s right, even the most organized, best adjusted humans on earth will enter what I call: stress month. Others call this: the final countdown. It is in this month that lots of little things will go wrong, such as, but not limited to: you have to hunt down dozens of missing RSVPs from people who refuse to return a pre-addressed, pre-stamped card (DO NOT BE THAT PERSON!), or you keep losing weight and your dress needs to keep getting tailored, or select people decide to not follow basic human etiquette, or your groomsmen didn’t receive the right suit on time, or your father-in-law didn’t receive the right tux three times in a row, or ALL THE BILLS ARE DUE, or your Dad is in the hospital (but totally fine Thanks be to God!) 48 hours before your wedding, or, and this is only if you’re especially masochistic (and I hope you are not) it’s time to move and get a new condo and forward your mail and wonder why mail is getting lost because like an idiot you forwarded it during the most time sensitive month of your life and now you have belongings in two places and mail missing in the black holes of the US Postal Service. Whew, that last one hit too close to home. Well, you get the point. It all begins to get VERY real, very quickly! And if you are especially masochistic, or thoughtful, or a mix like we were then you’ll decide to have your nuptials around a holiday because “people often travel during that time anyways.” But also because it is one of the nicest months when your hometown genuinely has the best weather in America. Again, you get the point. This leads me to #protip #4: if you anticipate and acknowledge that stress is inevitable you can maybe, possibly, hopefully also plan ways to minimize the stress while preserving a shred of your sanity.
Planning a wedding is a humbling experience. It is humbling for so many reasons but #4 is a legit reason. There was a point when I gave in to stress, in a good way, and acknowledged that to an extent it was going to permanently exist for that final month. It was up to me if I was going to let it control my life, or if I was going to control it. So one day, I decided I was going to do my best to control it. When I could, I did 15 minutes of yoga, I took deep breaths, I looked at our engagement photos and photos from when we dated to center myself on the “reason for this season”, I watched tv and cooked with Brendan. I relied on my closest loved ones to keep me calm and centered. I allowed my sister to talk sense into me on multiple occasions when I was just plain freaking out and over analyzing the stress. I went to church and listened to music and tried to eat when I was hungry. Self care is necessary all the time, but especially in that final month of wedding planning. Love yourself and your partner and return the love people are sharing with you.
Then the magical day arrives. And it arrives and goes by in the blink of an eye! Truly. And my cheesy, final, #protip #5 is to soak it all in! EVERYONE told us how quickly it would fly by. We doubted no one. We knew it was sure to happen, and I completely dreaded this fact. A year’s worth of endless planning, a final month of stress, SO MUCH MONEY, so much energy, so much anticipation, all leading up to a brief moment in time. If that weren’t enough to think about, I tried time and time again to wrap my mind around the fact that hundreds of people from around the country and world were traveling to Arizona to celebrate us. US! My heart is exploding with love and joy just thinking about it again. We love when one or two people come to visit, so the prospects of hundreds coming was really overwhelming. One of my friends put it best: people are coming to be there and support you on your special day. They don’t expect you to spend every single second with them. This is totally plain and obvious advice, but it helped me adhere to #protip #5. Brendan and I decided we would do our best to make every single person feel welcomed and loved and appreciated AND we would focus the great majority of our attention on each other since that was the reason for this occasion. In retrospect, I think we did a really excellent job at this. It was a fine line to walk, and it was a lot to juggle, but it worked well for us. Yes, there are a few people I genuinely and sadly do not remember seeing at our wedding or reception, but I am nonetheless grateful they were there and I am all the more grateful our photographers captured them on film for us to eternally cherish.
Another simple way we adhered to #protip #5 on our big day was by doing a first look. This was somewhat controversial for a few family members who were against the principle of it. Brendan and I wanted to do it though, and our photographers highly encouraged it, and when our priest told us there was literally not an ounce of religious significance or precedent for not seeing each other before the Nuptial Mass, we confirmed we would do the first look. The night before the wedding I barely slept because of nerves (and seating assignments) and I felt a bit sick to my stomach the morning of the wedding due to said nerves. Once my bridesmaids and glam squad arrived, the anxiety slowly wore off. However, it was not until the moment of that first look in the gallery of the art museum, when I spied my soon-to-be husband, that my anxiety and nerves vanished. Seeing him put me at ease instantly. It is hard to describe how special and necessary the first look was for me, and how important and special it was for both of us. It was a way for us to put ourselves first and it allowed us to soak it all in! I cannot recommend it highly enough. And now that we have gotten our stunning photographs back, even the people who had some opposition to the idea of the first look are pleased with the end result.
Another simple way we adhered to #protip #5 was to eat dinner. That’s right: we gave ourselves permission to eat the food we paid for at our own wedding. Imagine that! The caterers and a few other vendors asked us if we wanted to walk around to every table during dinner, as some lovely, saintly couples do. But food is so important to us, and we planned our menu with special care. Not to mention, we were physically STARVING by dinner time. So we decided to stay at our Roman Feasting Table (as epic as it sounds) with our bridal party and consume an obscene amount of pasta(s). I think our guests appreciated this, and they also realized they could come visit with us and speak with us 1:1. This was extra special because it allowed us to eat and also have time with the guests that visited our table. It was a simple gesture, but I am sure glad we sat, ate, and enjoyed that moment!
So there it is: a total mind dump of 5 earth-shattering wedding #protips that I bequeath to you, dear reader. Whether you were an amazing guest at our wedding (I love you!) or you’re planning your own, I hope it was helpful. And if it was not helpful, I hope it was at least somewhat humorous. And if it was neither then there are LOADS of other things you can read here on Medium. The thing about this entire, crazy, and amazing thing called life is that it is what you make of it. If you give yourself permission and space to be happy, and to create happy, epic moments, chances are pretty good that your happiness and joy will multiply. People, and by people I mean society, place SO MANY UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS on couples who decide to get married. The wedding industry is just that: a highly profitable industry that is built on this desire to do more and buy more and have more. And yes, to a large extent we bought into that evil scheme. But at the same time, we tried to do things the way we wanted to. We kept traditions we like, we shunned traditions we hate (garter toss, bouquet toss), we started new traditions, we made decisions together, we asked for advice when we needed it, we ignored advice when we didn’t need it, we tried to save money in certain areas so we could spend it on things we value most, we thought of special details to make it memorable for ourselves and our guests, and we tried to keep the end goal at the forefront of our minds the entire time.
This whole entire process was an amazing, fun, and life changing journey! I usually look forward more to the destination in life, and that can be problematic because I can be prone to miss the journey that leads to said destination. In this case the destination was a marriage, and it is by far the COOLEST and BEST thing ever. (I highly recommend it!) I thought the wedding planning process was merely a means to an end, and I never anticipated it would make such a lasting impact on my life. The engagement and wedding planning journey was one I am glad I experienced. And I am glad I experienced it with my best friend and now spouse by my side. It made me a more creative person, it made me a calmer person, it humbled me, it put SO much into perspective (don’t sweat it about table linens, for real!), it strengthened relationships and gave me new ones, and it ultimately made me a better person and wife. So cheers to the journey! I wish you an awesome one.