There might be easier things than managing the wedding planning process, like passing a kidney stone, watching Miley Cyrus do math, agreeing with Glenn Beck, and sitting through all seasons of Keeping up with the Kardashians in one sitting. Fiancés these days are like doomsday preppers; they’ve heeded the warnings of their married friends and families that planning a wedding can be a beautiful but disastrous experience. Except when the hail and brimstone hit, no degree of preparedness is enough.
As a best lady (a modern feminist bride term for a bridesmaid) to my best friend right now, I’m getting the occasional WTF text when it comes to her own adventures in wedding planning. The best part of her coming to me is that I know it’s not for my uncanny ability to perfectly plan a wedding. When it comes to weddings, I’m more like a gravedigger. I dig myself into my own man-made hole, then when I realize I’ve hit rock bottom, I then dramatically cry in a Razzie-worthy performance. After a few desperate and cathartic phone calls to friends, I will calm down and figure a way out of my own mistake. As I mentioned, I’m probably most qualified to write this article because I bring with me the perspective of what not to do.
It seems the been-there-done-that accident-prone experience and, in retrospect, wisdom is worth its weight in gold more so than the ‘how to have the perfect wedding’ misleading dogma that litters wedding media. So I thought I’d share some of the advice I’ve been giving my friend. From one imperfect bride to the next, here’s some survival advice.
#1: “You’re going to make a lot of mistakes…”
Those wedding how-to books only set brides up to fail by implying that if things don’t go smoothly or perfectly – you’re failing. The problem is the perfect wedding is a Holy Grail quest. Like Don Quixote, Bridezillas can very easily to go mad searching for that elusive perfection. The truth is, it simply doesn’t exist.
For a number of reasons, be it second-guessing decisions or not doing enough due diligence, couples are likely to forfeit deposits, end up with multiple dresses or offend someone in the process. Human wedding error is inevitable. It’s due to this bitter cross between high risks and lost costs, sky-scraping expectations and then down in the dumps results.
To keep your sanity, embrace mistakes. Nobody gets through wedding planning completely unscathed. There’s a makeup artist to cover up the scars anyway. Find a way to be comfortable with making blunders, learn from them, and accept that imperfection is what makes a wedding memorable. The perfect wedding is boring and trite. Your reaction to problems is a choice and completely in your control.
Don’t be overly concerned with having tight control either. Being able to roll with the punches is a better skill set than being rigidly perfect on the first try. If the former advice is not enough, find solidarity with other butterfingered brides. Misery loves company, and with understanding company, calamities can easily turn into chuckles.
#2: Think like a politician.
Think managing your own high expectations was hard enough? Well, a wedding is also about managing other people’s expectations over your affairs. It’s complicated because everyone’s communication style is unique. A wedding is the perfect amalgamation of the personal and political. Everything from the guest list to seating chart, gendered traditions to eco-friendly flowers, from appeasing in-laws to yourself, is a political decision. Making the right decisions is a cunning ballet of political prowess, trade-offs, anticipation, and listening.
Now, before you get all Frank Underwood, take a step back and assess the who, where, when, how much and what would make them happy. Do this so no one pulls the rug out from underneath you. Managing others and a wedding is a game of chess. You can’t always predict what your opponent’s next move will be, but through keen awareness you can anticipate multiple moves down the road and create options or compromises (i.e. rolling with the punches). If you can assume the role of a politician, everyone will feel like they’re being heard and you’ll be able to play the board until you can walk down the aisle and say checkmate ‘I do.’
#3: Have an Escape Outlet
An escape outlet does not include a secret elopement plan (though wine or binge watching Real Housewives might count). The first rule of chillaxing wedding planning is to embrace scheduling goals and planning deadlines. The second rule of chillaxing wedding planning is that you don’t talk about the wedding…when you’re not planning. Believe it or not, there are more important things in life than the details of your party. Remembering that will really help you maintain perspective and a life balance. Your friends will also thank you. It’s only one day out of the rest of your life, and proportionate attention is required. Find something else to put your mind and energy toward.
#4: Don’t Over Think Things
The K.I.S.S. method (Keep It Simple Stupid) sounds mean-spirited when spelled out, yet tenderly appropriate for it’s loving acronym. Weddings are complicated, but streamlining how you make decisions can make a huge difference for your sanity. Granted it will never be as simple as eeny-meeny-miny-moe, especially since there are other people involved in the process.
Using the expert tips I’ve already given you, identify the elements that you are comfortable with delegating (there’s that use of control again). Assigning tasks can be a great way for people to feel included (i.e. being a politician). It also distracts them from the items you want to focus on (i.e. being a chess player). Trusting your instincts and worrying less about being perfect will simplify the decisions too. And remember, if you change your mind on something, there’s the Just.Suck.It.Up strategy of dealing with the ramifications like a mature adult, the WWWF? (What Won’t Wine Fix?) Method and again, there’s embracing imperfection.
#5: It’s Only One Day
Sure, a wedding is fantastically important. It marks the day you promised to love, cherish and protect the one you love. But how the event goes down is not the point – all that matters is making the commitment. Understanding that many have walked down the aisle before you and survived might help reduce wedding jitters. For knocking knees, find a mechanism that calms you down, be it deep breaths, yoga, more wine and more Real Housewives, or reciting a mantra. Finding perspective and keeping it is crucial.
It’s quite possible that in ten years you are going to be mortified by the bridesmaid dresses you picked out. So don’t worry about today, worry about tomorrow. When the released ceremonial doves accidentally eat your celebration rice and their heads explode (is that just seagulls?), don’t worry about it today (maybe just have a moment of silence for them at the reception). Tomorrow you’ll go to the dry cleaners and formally apologize to PETA. That’s why not succumbing to the pressure to have a perfect wedding is key to keeping all your marbles. In the grand scheme of things it’s just one day. And if you can survive the disasters of one day, tomorrow can only be better.