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Not Loving Your Wedding, The Follow Up


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

I opened Pandora’s Box last week, asking if people didn’t like their wedding. It seems that everyone has some part of the wedding experience that they didn’t like – which is not surprising, given that weddings are part of life, and in life nothing is perfect. What’s shocking and sad is that women don’t feel empowered to mention that they didn’t like part (or all) of the wedding and planning, so we endlessly perpetuate the same miserable cycles. “Oh yes, I loved picking out my invitations, you should totally do that.” (What you’d like to say, “F*ck invitations. Seriously, forget that sh*t.” (slams head repeatedly on the table.)

After reading through all (117 at this writing) comments, and thinking it through, and discussing it was my wedding-partner-in-crime David, I’ve got some things that need saying:

For the not-yet-wed:

  • No matter how many times people tell you that the wedding is YOUR DAY, it’s not. The wedding is ‘our day.’ It’s a day for you and it’s a day for the people who love you. Make your decisions accordingly. Maybe that means you let your mom invite her cousin that you dislike, because it’s really important to her, maybe that means you include a blessing in the service that you otherwise wouldn’t. Think of the compromises you make as small gifts, ways to make the day ‘ours’ instead of ‘yours.’
  • For all that the wedding is not your day, it is YOUR WEDDING. Period. The wedding planning process is when you start to learn (under fire) one of the key skills of being a full-fledged grown up: standing up for what you want and what you need, gracefully, kindly, but firmly. If you want a courthouse wedding, and your mom wants a big church wedding, you need to remember that it is you and your partner who are getting married, and it is ultimately your emotional needs that need to be met. In the end, if you are happy, your mom will be weepy and happy and sad all at once, just as she should be. On the big scale you need to make choices that are right for you, even if your parents disagree. You’ll repeat this over and over in your adult life, making decisions about jobs or parenting or any number of things. You’ll make these decisions differently than your parents might wish you to, but following your gut. And then you’ll take responsibility for the result – that’s the great thing about being a grown up. Because here is the key thing I learned: when people tell you they want you to do XXX, what they really mean is that they want XXX to make you happy, or they want you to be happy doing XXX. If you agree to do it, because you don’t want trouble, fully knowing that XXX will make you miserable… nobody wins. So it’s your wedding! Be brave, relish your status as a grown up, and stand up for what you need. (And go find a joyful wedding graduate who did something similar to what you want to do, and show them the pictures, so they can really envision it).

For those already wed:

  • It actually doesn’t matter if you liked your wedding. It matters that you can talk honestly about it, it matters that you come to terms with your feelings about it, that you understand what mistakes you made, but it literally does not matter if you liked it. What matters is that you feel empowered to move on, and that you like your marriage. When I was in the last month of planning, dealing with the great dress debacle, I remember sinking down on the couch wearing my soon-to-be-wedding dress, putting my head in my hands, and saying “I’m so g*d-d*mn glad that I only have to do this once in my whole life. This f*cking sucks.” And yes. That’s the magic of weddings. Once you do it, you never have to do it again. (Or if you do end up having to, you can make a whole different set of mistakes the next time…)
  • Didn’t like your wedding? Well. Excellent. Because you have a lifetime of entertaining ahead of you, and now you can make each party better than the wedding. It doesn’t mean you need a vow renewal, it means you need a great anniversary party, or a 30th birthday party, or a just-because party. It means everything is uphill from here (and isn’t that the way you want it to be?)

So stop worrying about screwing it up, because if you do, who cares? Life is too short for regrets. Stop worrying and start playing. Roll up your sleeves, remember what you really wanted in the first place, get messy, create. Because as much as I told you about the mistakes we made? Non, je ne regrette rien.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12997875522614810785 Mouse

    Yep. People aren't perfect, so how could a wedding be? Grieve for any major horrible stuff, and hop into the marriage. (I am way more excited about the marriage than the wedding.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02189637917666578405 Allison

    I get so nervous, and it's not even about being perfect it's mostly about being myself.
    I am pretty untraditional but something about the "traditions" of getting married evokes this strange emotion in me.
    We're not having a boquet or garter toss or dancing or bridesmaids. My mother doesn't seem to get that I don't want the word WEDDING associated with our reception at all.
    Our sisters will be our attendants and there is something about them being in the same beautiful shade of purple with a rose corsage that I just really, really, really want. Does that make me crazy? My fiance seems to think so.
    Now begins the strange internal struggle of dealing with a non-traditional fiance, traditional parents and trying to find where I fit in-between there.

    THIS is why I get stressed out. I've already come to the conclusion that the day won't be perfect so I've cut out a lot of the crap but I can't seem to be able to convince others that the things that I DO want are wonderful and nice and SIMPLE.

    We haven't even REALLY dug deep into planning and I'm already looking for my zen.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03935793403239182466 A.Mountain.Bride

    had a great convo with my sisters about our wedding. they kept telling me that it's MY day – and i kept telling them it's more inclusive than that.

    they are both youngsters in college…they dream of weddings found in Disney cartoons and think I am totally bizarre for wanting to get married in the woods. i sent them your post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06039509732190999476 Janet

    I just want to say, "thank you". For this post, for this blog, and for being completely sane and rational in a industry that has gone completely mad.

    I'm mid-way through the wedding planning, and I only found your blog about a month ago. Now it's where I come every time I'm on the verge of (or, frankly, in the middle of) a panic attack. I'm not saying that everything is magically okay and suddenly I know exactly what it is I want and what is important, and what doesn't matter… but reading this blog DOES help. It makes me feel empowered to let go of the nonsense and focus on what is really important to me (ie marrying the love of my life with friends and family there to celebrate).

    The Our Day, My Wedding distinction is dead on. It's what I've been trying to say from the moment my parents met my destination wedding plan with disapproving silence, but 2 minutes earlier gave me the "it's your day" speach.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14883810777045952246 Karuna

    You keep saying just what I need to hear. As an ALMOST wed (13 days out). I am excited to be having 2 very different weddings. The first, in 2 weeks will be at the local brew-pub where the boy and I had our first real date. We will be in the company of a few very close, carefuly chosen buddies and the ceremony, if you can call it that, will be performed by our friend who will likely be in a utilikilt or other such wacky outfit. We will drink beer, eat dinner and get married. It will be dirt simple and the next day I will be in the hospital operating room learning how to intubate people (I am a paramedic student).

    The second wedding is the wedding for our family and friends from away. It will be at a summer camp in Oregon where everyone can stay the weekend and there will be trees planted, food cooked, bonfires and oh, yeah a wedding ceremony officiated by the same friend in more tradition garb. We will be having a quaker ceremony so that our closest friends and family will be doing the marrying. We have decided to make January our "us-averssary" and September our "community-averssary". We are going to make a point of celebrating future Sept 18ths by doing something for our community such as a service project or volunteer a day. It is a real gift to be able to separate these out in my head as I feel that they both serve different desires of mine and would likely be mutually exclusive in all practicality. Anyway, thanks again for the provocative conversation. Keep the hot topics and pearls of wisdom coming ladies.

    Anna

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06008386302876377978 Lyssachelle

    And once again, I rejoice for having Meg around to put into words what people need to hear, and curse that I didn't find APW until way late in the game.

    And I fully volunteer my services as a wedding graduate for those who need someone to give a testimonial on why STD's are only necessary if you're a paper slut like me, the only thing that matters about a cake is that it tastes good, brides should wear glasses AND there is nothing wrong with having a man of honor and anyone who says otherwise needs a punch in the nose.

    And THANK YOU for saying the bit about this being your foray into being a full-fledged adult. It drove me BONKERS to see a friend pay for the wedding her mom wanted to have 20 years ago. I'm not saying I didn't give in for a lot of things, but they were things that I didn't care that much about. You just gotta figure out if it's a hill worth dying on. If it is, then stick to your guns. They love you and they'll get over it. If not, well…that's a bigger issue than your wedding.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06272654565469914998 sam

    The bit of advice at the end of the post is the best. I always feel a little sad when people talk about something in the past as if it was the high point of their existence. Because if your wedding is the best day of your life how depressing is that? Hopefully we all have many years after, and I expect them to be awesome.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08921799458850000661 Victoria

    All that you wrote is true but I think it is only natural and even right that if you spend 20,000 on a party and it didn't turn out well you'll be sad. Very different from spending 500.

  • Sarah

    Tell it, sister. I lurk on this blog daily and live by it because you affirm the things I'm living. Everyone tells me that it's "my" wedding and, in the same breath, inform me I MUST do something lest I regret, insult, lose, put-out, waste, etc.
    Being a straightforward person, this duality has distressed me enormously…it borders on dishonesty in my mind, and your blog has helped mediate that horror.
    FI and I have been forced to own US and OUR choices in new and amazing ways throughout this process, and we've grown closer as a result.
    Thanks.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    @Allison
    First, you're not crazy, and you need to put a moratorium on people calling you crazy. Not ok.

    Second, try to remember that the wedding needs to be compromises you make with your PARTNER. Then, once you've done that, you can and should make your parents feel included and welcomed. But you have to make a stand that like it or not, the two of you are the ones getting married, and you are going to meet your emotional needs with this wedding, much as you love them and care about what they think.

    Third, once fiancĂŠ's get acclimated to wedding planning, they are excellent barometers (that you should use). If they say, "Ehhh don't care," Then whatever, they don't care. If they say, "This is silly and a bad idea," then LISTEN. they are not in the thrall of the wedding monster the way we are.

    @girl
    To buffer the slams. Heeee….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    @Victoria
    Nonsense. There is no right budget size, and regret is not the province of the bigger spenders. No dice.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02189637917666578405 Allison

    Okay I really am going to copy that comment and put it on my phone's notepad.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one that thinks the bridezilla word just ISN'T FUNNY.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10693080137196812405 Eco Yogini

    i love this- "our day" as opposed to "your day".

    I'm really tired of people's answers to my problem solving-challenges-damage control being: "just do whatever you want".

    Sigh- SO not helpful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13236824688269605584 Kate

    Once again, thanks for saying what I've been trying to but so much more articulately than I ever will! Your two pieces of advice to those still planning their weddings are exactly what I've been telling my friends as they've gotten engaged.

    Once I even almost got into an argument with a dress boutique owner when I was planning my wedding because he called it my day. When I told him that no, it was our wedding and the day was for us and our families, he actually disagreed! I couldn't believe it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12245297960220355931 nc

    Hi, it's Nicole. This Nicole: http://www.apracticalwedding.com/2008/10/wedding-graduate-prom-to-altar.html

    Awesome all around.

    Your third point, about having a lifetime of parties, is so RIGHT ON. Our wedding was traditional- a church and a country club reception. I loved it, it was a blast! But I also love outdoor weddings, picnics, other types of parties. No one ever said to me, "It's ok if you're too worried about upstate New York weather to have an outdoor wedding. You can throw a mid-summer outdoor party every year for the rest of your life!" It would have been good to hear that.

    Less than a year after our wedding we threw a kickin' graduation party for my husband. It was in a park, we picked flowers from our farm share, we had s'mores, we played bocce.
    The photos are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/intermittent/sets/72157621393895558/
    It was like getting to have one of those "alternate wedding fantasies" come true, but without all the wedding stress!

    And my cousin threw a rad 1st birthday party for her daughter, with a very fun theme:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/intermittent/sets/72157615595568071/

    There are so many opportunities for parties in this life. Your wedding may be the biggest one you throw, but you shouldn't feel like "If I don't do this for my wedding I never will." A lifetime of celebrations awaits!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12245297960220355931 nc

    p.s. Thank you for opening this Pandora's box. You've liberated a large part of the wedding world.

  • Anonymous

    To defend Victoria's position above, I think what she is saying is that it is not weird to feel extra sad about things not going the way you thought or hoped they would given the amount of time and money and energy you probably put into those plans compared to other parties you're likely to throw in your life. Yes, I am more upset about my flowers not coming out the way I requested because I spent a lot of money on them, and less upset than I would have been if I'd spent even more (money and, in this case, emotional energy). Sure, some of the upset is because it's a let-down for my wedding not to be peeerfeeect as we've been discussing here. And some of it is really about paying for something I didn't get. Just as important to let go of, but there is no reason to discount the impact of the cost you pay (whether money or time or emotional energy) on your feelings about the results afterward.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09361658418978897159 Danielle

    @nc (Nicole): "There are so many opportunities for parties in this life."

    YES!

  • Sarah

    P.S. Yes, the clarity that this is the first of many fabulous parties that FI and I will host is enormously helpful…and silly, because why did I ever think this needed to be the best party EVER? Why did I need to cram everything I think is cool into one night, like there won't be another?!?!?!
    My wedding will be the best party that May 2010 has ever seen, and the random party that we'll throw on a random Saturday night this summer because we've invented a random excuse to throw down with friends in our backyard will be the best, too. Maybe better!
    I've had an epiphany here ya'll…seriously….

    Just goes to show, you gotta look forward to the marriage, not the wedding.

  • Sara

    I've actually told many people around me that I'm not enjoying the wedding planning, and most women around me totally get it. The ones who've been through it, definitely relate. And the ones who know they will go through it in the future seem a little daunted as well. What gets me through it all is what you stated as it being "our" day and that includes all our family and friends. While I want to race to the courthouse tomorrow, I know that trying to bring all our peeps together for a celebration is going to be great.
    I like what you said about incorporating things you may not normally do, for the sake of others. We are agnostic, but many in our families are religious, so i've been conflicted about how our ceremony should go down. I keep thinking some may be offended if there isn't a prayer.
    But a blessing or prayer, when the fiance and I don't really pray?? Fake? Well, I think your statement helped me, because prayer/blessings/sending out thoughts of hope feel good to an agnostic as well. And I'm not offended by including it, so why not.
    So, thanks Meg!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17682263086086087709 Tara

    Love it. Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08921799458850000661 Victoria

    Meg,

    Of course there is no right budget size. How did I imply otherwise?

    Of course regret can occur for emotional reasons that have nothing to do with cost. I took your post to be discussing the emotional reasons not to have emotional regrets. I'm pointing out there are non emotional reasons to have regrets.

    I responded speaking from my own experience. I'm on board with all the emotional aspects, I'm not expecting a perfect day, I'm not overly stressed etc. etc. However, having decided to spend a lot of money on this party if this party is not a success I'm going to feel like shit because I threw away a ton of money. I've throw parties before and when they weren't as much of a hit as I wanted it was no big deal, if they had cost me serious money yes it would have been a big deal. It doesn't have to be a success in all ways but if it doesn't fulfill any of its functions, of entertaining people, of pleasing our families, of surrounding us with the feeling of love from people we care about etc. than we made a mistake, a very costly mistake. I regret costly mistakes in a different way than I regret cheap mistakes, I don't know what's wrong with that.

  • agirl

    Another print-it-out-and-stick-it-to-your-fridge piece of awesomeness.

    And I think you got it exactly right with the not your day but your wedding distinction. Exactly. Right.

    Where is the book deal? I think people need this stuff on their coffee table. (To buffer the head-slams if for nothing else.)

  • Anonymous

    Sarah: "Why did I need to cram everything I think is cool into one night, like there won't be another?!?!?!"

    YEAH! What Sarah said!

  • Anonymous

    NC: "There are so many opportunities for parties in this life. Your wedding may be the biggest one you throw, but you shouldn't feel like "If I don't do this for my wedding I never will." A lifetime of celebrations awaits!"

    YEAH! What NC said!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02189637917666578405 Allison

    I love how this discussion turned to talking about partying! You all are my kind of ladies!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    @Victoria
    Ah. Sorry. Your comment was not fleshed out, and sometimes it's very hard to tell when things are getting judgy. I have handled a lot of nasty budget comments on the site, so I get trigger happy. (And I try very hard to keep us away from budget numbers for that reason).

    As for what you are saying, be very very careful. I think you have to fully let go of what it cost once you reach the week of. Because it's not going to all go right… I've thrown much much much bigger and more expensive parties than our wedding, and the secret is, something is ALWAYS at least one disaster behind the scenes, even at a $100K+ gala. It's just that you don't see it. And unfortunately, being a bride is most peoples first introduction to behind the scenes….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08921799458850000661 Victoria

    No worries.

    It's just my pet fear, I know it won't go perfect and things will go wrong but say if the food is all cold and all my guests are miserable – I will definitely cry. The day of I will cry just because but the month after I'll be feeling miserable over the money. It's probably because I'm not entirely comfortable with our budget. If it's a good party and we enjoy it and the ceremony is meaningful and at least a good portion of our guests enjoy it and our families are happy – it'll be worth it definitely. As my guy keeps says it's a once in a lifetime event. But sometimes I think that's having too high of expectations when I know that if they aren't met I will feel like I made the wrong calls budget wise. Ahg. The only thing I've ever spent this much money on was tuition so I'm nervous.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08921799458850000661 Victoria

    But I will definitely be letting go of the cost the week off, no point stressing then!

    (Not that there's much point now but still.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12245297960220355931 nc

    @victoria – I recommend a read through of all the Wedding Graduate posts– it will make you feel better and help you to let go of the worry that things will go wrong. Then again, sometimes you just have to live it.

    (And, um, when you get to my post you'll see that my wedding cake FELL APART. FELL APART! The day was still awesome, everyone had a blast, and it's a funny story that we'll always have. Also- the flowers were too pink, food got served late, we forgot 'details' that we'd made– I didn't cry over any of it (that day or a month later), and the guests were too busy having fun to notice anything else. It was a damn good party, for a damn good reason- and the joy I felt all day long, and every time I reflect on it? Damn amazing. Priceless, in fact.

  • Anonymous

    NC, there's something ridiculously funny about a wedding cake falling apart. It's kind of cartoon-like.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    @ Lyssachelle: Paper slut? Love it. Punch in the nose? Even better :-)

    @ Meg: Where IS your book deal? That is an excellent question…

  • Tree

    I'm getting married in 39 days.

    THANK YOU. You have been a very nice, soft buzz in my ear, saying what I need to hear. So far, I don't hate wedding planning, and things have come and gone relatively smoothly, but it's not what I invisioned (even though I never thought about marriage until I was with Jake, my fiancee).

    Meg, you kick so much ass. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Dude. You have to go look at the pictures. Or the ORNAMENT for the CHRISTMAS TREE that they made that was an EXACT REPLICA of the smashed cake. Priceless indeed.

    Sh*t goes wrong, it just does. Sometimes REALLY snow-in-august wrong. But in the end, you really can't ruin a wedding if you remember why you're there. Which could be an argument for spending less if you need it to be… or not. You just have to lllllleeeeeeettttttt gggoooooo.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08630952870183488792 Rachael Eisner

    I love that you finished this awesome smart post in french.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    @Shebar
    SMART!

    I'd add to that that my mom told me I shouldn't go into more debt on my student loans (undergraduate) than I would for a new car. I'd say a rule of thumb is that you probably don't want to spend more on a wedding than you would on a car? Because as my mom says, "People buy cars all the time!"

  • agirl

    PARTIES PEOPLE. F*ck weddings. Let's all throw more rad parties!!! (And sometimes have a wedding ceremony thrown in there too.) I, for one, cannot wait for our future Christenings, Anniversary bashes, Birthdays, the works…

    @Karuna – best of all worlds. We ended up doings similarly to that. People thought we were crazy initially, but oh my world it was wonderful in so many different ways.

  • http://theimaginarywedding.com The Imaginary Wedding

    I just read this post to my fiance as we are soon-to-be-wed and some of these issues are coming up with, ahem, his parents. We both smiled at each other and held hands. So true, and thanks.

  • http://theimaginarywedding.com The Imaginary Wedding

    I just read this post to my fiance as we are soon-to-be-wed and some of these issues are coming up with, ahem, his parents. We both smiled at each other and held hands. So true, and thanks.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00296286661854197887 Fatale Femme

    I love that the first commenter said "where's the book deal?" because I kept thinking that as I was reading along. It needs to be published bound together, for flipping back through in chapters.

  • Elissa

    Our rule of thumb for compromises with other people was that if we could shrug our shoulders about something (and it wasn't insane in a budget sense) we included it but, if we were actively opposed, it had to be a big no. We'd spent too much time examining our values as a couple to get rail-roaded into decisions that we would later regret.

    As a friend of mine said in one of several valuable conversations, compromising our values for the wedding would set a poor precedent for our marriage. With that treasure in mind, we found it much easier to say, 'No.' Out of respect, we always followed with an explanation, but the 'no'itself was non-negotiable.

  • http://zeeandthoseknees.wordpress.com/ zeeandthoseknees

    hi meg, i just wanted to say thank you for this post. truly, thank you. i'm reading this 8 days before my big day, feeling a bit lost and morose that i don't really like my wedding dress (but it's custom made and costs about US$2500)/wondering if i could've added more details to make the event better (letterpress? more flowers? 2nd photographer?)/worried i won't have a good time at the wedding, cos my mum and i don't really get along and she loves to spread negativity and worry.

    and i had not dared to admit it! because i thought, oh no, horror of horrors! i think i may not LOVE-love my wedding.

    but now that i've read your post, i realize yeah. it's okay to not love my wedding. cos at the end of the day, a lot is not in my control. plus, i know i cannot WAIT to get to the marriage part :)

    so, thanks.

    love,
    zee

  • Anonymous

    I didn't tell 90% of my workmates and most of friends that I was getting married. I think that's one of the best thing that I've done (so random people don't ask me about the progress of my wedding planning).

    I liked my wedding, although there are a few things that I would have done better, etc etc. But the most important thing that I'm now married with my wonderful man and the wedding planning is over! I look forward to spend time with him for the rest of my life. I probably will not remember every single thing about my wedding day in 50 years time anyway.

    Thanks Meg for your blog, it definitely kept me sane as I was very relaxed a few weeks and days prior to my wedding.

  • http://theimperfectwedding.blogspot.com Vicki

    Thanks so much for this post! It hit a lot of issues I'm having with this wedding. I am a laidback person and didn't do too much *stuff* for this wedding (i.e. placecards, programs, no other decorative stuff other than what the florist will bring), yet people interpreted this as meaning I am a pushover, which made me furious. To give you an example, I let my mom invite a friend. However, once I invited her, I was told that she HAD to do my makeup as apparently that is what she's good at. Giving people a heavy hand in makeup. I don't wear makeup. That was so invasive. Anyhow, I digress; thanks for this post and keep them coming because you definitely need a common nerve here.

  • SL

    Thank you for posting all theses pieces on how it’s okay to hate your wedding. It really helps to know other people have had same feelings.