Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stress-Free Wedding

A stress-free wedding almost seems like a contradiction in terms, which is due mainly to the message our culture force-feeds us. As soon as I got engaged, the horror stories started pouring in.

"It rained at our outdoor wedding, so make sure you have a back-up plan!

"I was so nervous, I couldn't eat all day. I didn't even get to try the catering I paid for!"

"You and your fiance are going to fight all week, but that's normal."

And that's honestly just the tip of the iceberg. I decided to do it a different way.

Now, it's only fair to note that my mom and I are great friends, and that the dear family I married into are some of the sweetest people I've ever met, but I still think that every bride can have a counter-cultural, stress-free wedding day if she embrace a few ideas.

1. Being stress-free is a choice. For me, it was a conscious choice I made when I first started to get overwhelmed by the idea of planning a wedding while teaching. I was talking with my mom, panicking about how I was going to get everything done, and she said a few words that changed my mindset: "Stephanie, we are going to have a stress-free wedding. Just remember that. If something stresses you out, we won't do it, or we'll find another way." That decision completely changed the way I handled the planning. When I realized I didn't have time for DIY invitations, I found an inexpensive alternative and ordered them. When I couldn't find a cake-topper I liked, I decided not to have one. Deciding that you simply aren't going to stress is the first step to stress-free wedding planning and a stress-free day.

2. It's actually not all about you. I received a lot of advice before my wedding, and a lot of this advice went something like this: "It's your day. It's all about YOU." But when you think about it, that's a terrible way to think about it! The marriage is certainly all about you as a couple and God, but the wedding includes and involves dozens of other people who you love and care about. Maybe the wedding should be about them. I love the feedback about my wedding that I've been getting from friends and family. Bridesmaids have told me it was the least stressful wedding they've been in. Family has told me that it's one of the sweetest, simplest weddings they've been to. And those are great things to hear! So instead of focusing on yourself, see if you can make this experience wonderful for the people you love.

3. Learn to say "no." Okay, I know this seems like a contradiction to point 2, but just because you need to consider the people you love does not give everyone permission to walk all over you. That would be a recipe for stress! As I already mentioned, my family is great and Dan's family is great, so we didn't really have a power struggle of people trying to plan the wedding. Even so, I had to consider suggestions and decide what I was okay with, and what I'd like to politely pass on. In the end, you and your man are the ones who are going to look at those wedding pictures and remember that day the most. If someone wants you to make a change you know you'll regret, just say no. For instance, I knew I wanted to walk alone. My dad died when I was 15 and no other male figure has taken his place. I have a wonderful grandpa, and many family friends who would have been thrilled to walk me down the aisle. My mom even offered, but I knew that I needed to walk alone as a way of remembering and honoring him. Even though I could tell some people thought that was weird, when I made my choice, everyone went with it. Here are three questions to help you sort through when to cave and when to say no:
Will this cost money that is not in the budget?
Is this something you will remember in 10 years?
If you say no, will it matter more to the other person than saying "yes" would matter to you?

4. Plan to prove everyone wrong. I was told from the second I got engaged that the wedding would be a trying experience. I was told something would go wrong. I was told Dan and I would fight. I was told so many negative things that simply aren't true! The other day, I had coffee with a friend from college who I haven't seen in quite awhile. As we were catching up, she naturally asked about the wedding and how it went. When I responded that it was everything I ever imagined and that nothing went wrong, she said, "You need to write a book! No one thinks that can happen, and people need to hear that a wedding doesn't have to be a terrible experience for the bride!" Well I agree.
I was ready and waiting for something to go wrong, but then nothing did. Dan and I remained crazy about each other the entire time, and I don't think I terrorized any villages as bridezilla (correct me if I'm wrong).
Here's the deal: if you decide that whatever happens happens, and that you can't control the weather, and that you are going to love your man and not abuse him when you're stressed, that's how the wedding will go. I truly believe that if something did go wrong, I probably wouldn't have noticed. I was too focused on enjoying this once in a lifetime experience and making sure my friends were having fun to care if the pastor forgot my new last name (which did happen). Decide to have a counter-cultural story, and that will happen.

So here's my story. I woke up on my wedding morning knowing that everything was in place, but not caring if it wasn't. I felt radiant and ignored the voice in my head suggesting that I really could have been a little thinner that day if I'd tried. I sang along with the radio while Dan and I held hands in the car on the way to our preparation locations. I enjoyed our kiss before we went our separate ways knowing the next time we'd see each other would be as I walked down the aisle. I wasn't so nervous that I couldn't eat as my bridesmaids and I got our hair done and changed into our dresses. I took in every moment and stored them in my heart! I treasured sitting in the limo, watching guests arrive. I let my heart soar with the violin and guitar as the bridesmaids and groomsmen walked down the aisle. And when I saw Dan standing there in his tux, everything was perfect.

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