As someone who, just like today’s wedding grad, started planning her wedding as soon as she could talk, I appreciate Whitney’s frank discussion of how planning a real wedding is very different from planning an imaginary wedding. Whitney says, “It took me a really long time and some tears to recognize that this was no longer my wedding; it was our wedding.” And, indeed. For those of us who’ve always dreamed about our wedding, it can take time to really realize that this a real life, messy celebration, full of lots of people’s opinions and actual limitations… is actually going to be way more amazing than the perfect celebration we made up in our head. So with that, here is Whitney, sharing what she learned.
If brides fall into two different categories—those who have had their wedding planned since they were five, or those who hadn’t given a wedding a second thought until they were engaged—I most certainly fell into the former. Not only did I already have my wedding planned before I met my fiancé (or really, was old enough to legally be married), I had weddings planned for different seasons and different locations, with different colors: periwinkle and pink for a spring wedding in Denver, red and black for a fall football wedding in Lincoln, black and white for a winter New Year’s wedding, and purple and green, the colors I thought I would have for my summer 2010 wedding.
But let me tell you something: planning an imaginary wedding is way different than planning a real wedding, for many reasons. For starters, the groom is a real person, and if you’re lucky, he’ll want to help and be involved. Secondly, your family and his family and your friends and his friends will be part of the planning, whether you want them to be or not. And finally, sometimes you have to let go of your expectations and accept what has evolved rather than what you have planned.
Let’s just say that I learned all of the above the hard way. But in learning those important lessons, I really learned what marriage is about—because after all, a fake wedding is only about the wedding; a real wedding, however, is about a marriage.
We will start with Lesson 1: You Have A Partner
While I didn’t realize it then, I was lucky to have a fiancé who wanted to be a part of the planning. I was also lucky that he agreed with most of the things that I wanted: the book theme, an outdoor ceremony, appetizer reception, and no DJ to force people to dance. However, it was the things we disagreed on that caused so much conflict. It took me a really long time and some tears to recognize that this was no longer my wedding; it was our wedding. And even though I did eventually figure it out, it took a long time, and looking back, I wish I would have given him more of a say, rather than just steamrollering him all of the time. I also encourage you to accept his help, if it’s offered. Because the best part of a marriage is that you have two peoples’ strengths to rely on, and that definitely came into play when patient Nathan covered 75 books in vintage wallpaper, made all of our card catalog guestbook cards, and made 150 bookmarks. Turns out he’s better at executing projects than I am.
As we talk about on APW a lot, a marriage is the start of a new baby family. But, a wedding is also about the people who are a part of it. I’m not saying that you should accept all of the ideas that people give you, or change your mind on things that have already been decided because someone doesn’t like it. But let your family and friends be a part of planning the day, especially in regard to things you don’t have such strong opinions about; it’s worth it. And on that note: Let. People. Help. You. It is not an imposition, and people want to be involved. Especially accept help from people who understand you and have a calming presence in your life—they will be priceless in the days right before the big day.
Lesson Number 3: Let Go
I’m sure letting go of expectations is easy for people who are not quite as Type A as I am. In fact, before the wedding, someone gave me this advice: No matter how well you plan, something will go wrong. At the time, I thought, that seems like the worst possible thing to tell a bride. Now, I realize that it’s true, and more importantly, it doesn’t matter what goes wrong, and at the end of the day, nothing matters as long as you’re married. And things will go wrong. Despite my crazy, OCD planning, our photographer quit and we didn’t know until the week before the wedding, every road surrounding the ceremony site had construction on it, and the reception site was locked when we went to set up the morning of the wedding. I was late for pictures, the rented candle screen fell down and broke, and we couldn’t get the unity candle to light because of the wind.
But it was the unexpected parts of the wedding that are my favorite memories, including the unity candle not lighting. The way I felt when I said my vows, the happiness and love that overtook the ceremony (and reception) in ways I couldn’t imagine, the butterfly that flew down the aisle as we said our vows, our family friend (who shared their wedding date with us) bringing her cake knife with her for us to use. My dad said it best on the way to the wedding; he said, “From now on, remember the moments, not the minutes.”
Lesson 4: It’s About The Marriage
It’s been almost a year since the wedding, and I learn something about marriage every day. Marriage is not about colors, registries, a pretty dress, delicious food, and spectacular photography. Marriage is about two people joining their lives together and committing to each other, and it requires an open mind and heart, compromise, dedication, love, and the willingness to accept someone, all of someone, for who they are. Sometimes you don’t even need a wedding to have that.
And so if you can take these lessons into account when you’re planning your wedding, it will be easier. You realize that in the end, nothing about the wedding matters as much as your marriage does.
Photos By: Something New Productions