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Wedding Undergraduate: The Stress Is Worth It


I started this blog writing about my own wedding planning, so as the blog has grown and changed with the community (we occasionally talk about babies and how they affect marriage now!) I’ve missed having more planning voices on the site. So I’m thrilled to welcome Athena, who wrote this before her wedding a few weeks ago. She talks about what she learned during the planning process and why she found the stress to be worth it. And of course, in case you were wondering, she’s now totally mandated to write a wedding graduate post (cough, Athena, cough):

Wedding Undergraduate: The Stress Is Worth It | A Practical Wedding

With our wedding a mere ten days away, I find myself reflecting on this last year and the various ups and downs of being two 30-year-old engaged students planning a big wedding. As soon as Craig proposed last summer, a friend told me about APW and I was instantly hooked (think checking-the-site-several-times-daily-for-new posts-and-reading-all-of-the-archives type of hooked). I love how everything makes me an emotional, sentimental mess, and how intelligent all of the discussions are, but even in reading about wedding stress and wedding drama in the planning stages, I still didn’t think those concerns applied to me.

Being an extremely organized, maybe even obsessive, planner, I figured that I could prevent any screw ups, disappointments and drama by planning meticulously. That’s not to say I am super-crazy-detail-obsessed, but rather, a firm believer in planning ahead and getting sh*t done. My plan from the start has been to plan like crazy before the wedding so I can safely say, “F*ck it!” when things go wrong, knowing that I had done my absolute best. So far, I figure I’ve done a decent job of it, but there really was no way to prepare for the heightened emotions of my friends, my family (both origin and married), and especially, myself. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am an emotional creature (as Eve Ensler says in her TED Talk), and I fully expected to remain so throughout this process. Even so, I have been taken aback by the intensity of wedding planning.

It is both strange and remarkable how becoming engaged impacts you emotionally while immediately creating a boatload of expectations. Everyone has a different vision of what one should and should not do, but Craig and I remained firm on the decisions we made together (like forgoing a full sit down meal for our 185 guests and, instead, having a private dinner of 40 and a cocktail reception). Even still, planning the wedding put us in awkward positions and we sometimes felt backed into a corner. Add some hurt feelings and poor communication and we got ourselves a pile of emotional upheaval in the months leading up to the wedding.

Wedding Undergraduate: The Stress Is Worth It | A Practical Wedding

However, it has not all been uproar and unrest, we have shared many beautiful and touching moments on the path to marriage. For instance, we went to a wedding with Craig’s family, and they were all so loving and so proud of having me in their family. His dad told everyone how much he adores me; his mom introduced me to everyone and was concerned when Craig left me to socialize; his sister practically doted on me. I’ve also found in my dad a sympathetic and stabling confidante, and I’ve had endless support and generosity from everyone, especially my mom, sisters and friends. But interestingly, even in my calmest state of mind, my body has been showing so many signs of stress: migraines, anxiety, uneasy bowels, jaw and facial tension, and an increased heart rate. And it feels like a total betrayal! In my mind, I am not at all stressed about the wedding—it will be beautiful and I will be present and I can’t wait to be Craig’s wife—but my body is in panic mode. It’s alarming. But, I think now that it’s a visceral response to the gravity and significance of tying myself to Craig forever, and maybe it’s an unconscious reaction to my sensitive emotional state, however calm I may think I feel.

Yesterday I read the post on How A Wedding (Can, Maybe) Shape A Marriage, and it got me thinking that all of the highs and lows were Craig and I learning to navigate our families and our lives as a team. We were learning how to support each other when it comes to our families and how to traverse through the most emotionally stressful times (think both of you owning a home, working your asses off, going to school full time, turning thirty, PLUS planning a wedding). Through all of the unexpected detours and roadblocks of getting to the point we’re at now, we managed to stay on course, to strengthen our partnership, and to really think and talk about our future. Some of the conversations we’ve had are unique to our situation as an almost married couple, and the weight of our destination is palpable, tangible—it envelops us in this hazy glow of love and commitment.

As we get closer to actually marrying one another, we’re both getting a little giddy, and a little heady, at the intensity of the promises we’re making. We both find ourselves grinning in the middle of some inane task at work, just thinking about marrying each other. This is real, it’s really happening, and it’s only 10 days away! And the “Holy sh*t we’re getting married!” moments just keep on coming… but I guess, to sum it all up, the stress, however agonising at times, is worth it (and I say that without the wedding even happening yet!). Have there been times when I wish we’d eloped? Yes. Have there been times when I have wanted to scream at everyone that this is our damn wedding? Yes. Have there been times when I would just cry for no evident reason? Yes. But, seeing the immense love, invaluable generosity and insane kindness of our friends and family, having impassioned (albeit difficult) discussions about our future, and growing into one another as a couple while trusting each other and remaining individuals, have been outcomes completely derived from this journey towards marriage.

Wedding Undergraduate: The Stress Is Worth It | A Practical Wedding

And people say getting married is just a legal matter! Pfffftttt….it’s genuinely beyond anything I ever imagined already, so I can only suppose that in 10 days from now it will be utterly transcendent.

Photography by: Jessica Fern Facette

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  • http://www.dearwedding.wordpress.com andee

    Yes, yes yes!

    Weddings work in mysterious ways. I feel like legitimate part of my husband’s family now, and I never expected that. The power of rituals and ceremonies is awe inspiring, even if you shirk some of the traditions!

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/sparrowgrey/ sparrowgrey

    Wonderfully wise words; I love undergraduate posts! And it’s all very true, the stress is definitely difficult and definitely worth it and getting married is indeed much more than a legal matter. It’s a struggle to navigate through your own feelings, other peoples expectations and still come out sane on the other side. Hope to see you two back for a wedding graduate post; congrats!

  • Lindsey

    this is everything I’ve been trying to express to myself and my fiance. The random crying, goofy smiles, confusion over the stress symptoms, etc. Glad to know it’s all worth it!

  • http://ammirare.tumblr.com Erica

    Oh, I love this post! Annnd, I just microwaved my lunch and my bread is done toasting and I am really hungry so I’ve got to go eat, but! Fantastic.
    And, even though I am, er, very much pre-engaged–that is, the boyfriend is 19 and I am 21, and though we are ridiculously in love and serious about our future together, we will certainly wait to assess our situation in at least 4 years–this post touches on a lot of my feelings about weddings and what they mean. I also understand the betrayal-of-the-body you speak of: I am very happy with my relationship and confident in it, but as the boyfriend is away at school, I find myself pulling at my hair and clenching my jaw, and I’m like, “Gah, I guess I really am anxious!” And, even though we obviously don’t have “Holy shit, we’re getting married in 10 days!” thoughts, we were wrecked with excitement and anxiety and amazement at “Holy shit, we’re in love! Holy shit, we are FOR REAL discussing our future lives together; we are for real talking about how to best foster our relationship and care for our individual needs in the here and now, too. This shit is getting real!”
    It is a heady time. And I am so happy. Thank you for this post and your outlook. :)

  • Chris Bergstrom

    Wow, if I were a much better writer I could almost have written this myself, down to the impending wedding (6 days), turning 30, reception for 40. And the stress symptoms – in the last week I’ve had headaches, stomach issues, and hives. Thank you for sharing, for putting into words exactly how I’m feeling, and for making this girl feel less alone in this weird (good, but weird) time.

    • Aine

      I was really careful with my skin for like, the year before the wedding- found a cleanser that worked perfectly, drank lots of water, took my vitamins every single day, and it showed. Then two weeks before the wedding, I suddenly noticed weird little bumps all over my face. My doctor said that it looked like poison ivy but he really had no idea, told me to put cortizone on it and take some antibiotics in case it was acne. I just kind of went, well what can I do? Panicking won’t help and this will be a good story later. Luckily it went away, but it almost made me calmer to have something go wrong that early on, but close enough that there was no point in worrying.

  • Kate

    Yay for more planning voices! The comments on last week’s Ask Team Practical showed how many of us pre-engaged ladies are reading the site, so more planning posts from undergrads will surely be welcome!

  • http://www.delightningstrikes.blogspot.com Sarah

    Oh I love this. You write so elegantly. I adore these types of posts, with undergrads’ hope and lessons and excitement and tiredness. I can’t wait to read her follow-up!

  • http://realizingself.wordpress.com Krista

    I love this post in so many ways. I totally relate to the whole “I’m not stressed but my body sure is.” I love that Athena’s wedding is exactly how I want mine to be (so I’m itching to see the graduate post). I love how wise and truthful the words are.

    Looking forward to upcoming undergraduate posts – I hope there are many more on their way!! As a NEW undergraduate (YAY) I enjoy reading about everyone else’s experiences during the planning process. :)

    • Manya

      I actually loved planning my wedding, and really enjoyed the excuse to make beautiful things and craft a beautiful evening.

      But–three weeks before my wedding I broke out like a teenager. I didn’t think/know that I was stressed, but I ended up going on a crazy hunt for Proactiv’ (which is miraculous, by the way) because my face suddenly went VOLCANIC. Then, i was sure I was going to get my period the day of… but it came a week early–again, because my entire system was all wonky.

  • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

    This post makes me grin, since the whole “Pfft, I’m a totally Type A planner, a wedding will be easy to pull off, wait, what the hell, why am I a total stress-case now, where are all these emotions coming from?!” experience was mine as well. Athena’s right – it’s all so worth it, in the end. Can’t wait to read the corresponding grad post!

  • Steph

    Im 5 days away and this is exactly how i’m feeling. I feel like planning this wedding has been great practice for us in making decisions, having hard conversations, navigating our families and making boundaries. It has also reaffirmed for me how much i cherish my relationships with friends and how important it is for me to nurture those as well. I am beyond excited to start our life together!

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  • http://dearhappenstance.blogspot.com Helen-Elizabeth

    “I can only suppose that in 10 days from now it will be utterly transcendent.”

    It will be.

    • Manya

      Or it may not be, and that’s ok too. I loved every second of our wedding, but it wasn’t covered in fairy-dust like I expected it would be. I was me. In my body. VERY in my body.

  • ManderInMaine

    This is my first time responding to a post, but I just had to say I loved it! Thanks for such a great perspective.

    • http://www.craigathenawedding.blogspot.com athena

      Thanks! I am so pleased that it’s gotten such a great response!

  • Rebecca

    Ours is 25 days away, and this post, THIS POST, is perfect. It sums up my feelings entirely. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and expectations and love, and I have, for all my whinging and crying and tension, loved the ride.

  • http://www.marriedwithkittens.blogspot.com MWK

    Yes yes yes to the body betraying the stress that your mind doesn’t think it is experiencing. Sorry if this is TMI but the summer before our wedding I was spotting EVERY DAY all day. I almost went into Planned Parenthood even though I didn’t have insurance, it was so weird. Guess what? It stopped the day we got married. Full stop, cold turkey, no more. It was a big lesson to me in listening to my body and not trying to drown it out with my mind saying things are fine (not that that is what you were doing, of course). A great post all around. Thanks for sharing!

    • Aine

      kind of derailing, but Planned Parenthood is the place to go if you don’t have insurance- I’m really bad about taking time to go to the doctor, so I shouldn’t talk, but I know being stressed out about random symptoms like spotting tends to make them worse (uteri are evil)

  • Ms Fran

    I was nodding so vigorously all through that post my neck hurts now!!

    I hope it was all fabulous on the day and I can’t wait to hear more.

  • http://smittenimmigrant.wordpress.com Pluis

    This post is coming at precisely the right time, and the wisdom in it is extremely valuable to me. FH has already exclaimed several times that he wish we had eloped since family pressure is pushing us from ‘small, intimate and no-nonsense’ to larger and larger affairs. I think he can do with this post so that he feels he is (we are) not alone, and I’ll send it to him right now.

    All these wise words.. It must be the name, Athena, you do it justice :)

    • http://www.craigathenawedding.blogspot.com athena

      Well, aren’t you the sweetest thing, Pluis!

      Now that it’s all over, I know even more how much the stress was worth it.

      Interestingly, though, day three of our honeymoon I pretty much slept the entire day away with only brief awakenings to eat! Craig said to me, “You really WERE pretty stressed, I think you needed that rest!”

      Even though there were things that I had originally wanted differently, the day was so completely amazing! Besides that, the important thing is that we really learned what it means to be a team in our year (and some) of engagement and planning. We’re both glad that time of our life is over, but we also know how important it was for our relationship and the joining of our families.

  • http://dylanandsarah.com Sarah T

    Athena and I emailed a little after finding each other on the comments here because our wedding day schedules had some similarly non-traditional aspects. I don’t even know how she found the time to email with a stranger a few weeks before her wedding. I am completely not surprised that she found/made time to write a Wedding Undergrad post

    Now my wedding has come and gone too, just this past weekend. I was convinced all the way up to when people started arriving that it wouldn’t be worth it, that it would be my mother’s wedding even though my fiance and I had fought so hard to keep it representative of us, that I would just be going through the motions until the day after. I can’t even tell you how sure I was of all this.

    And it was fine. Better than fine. It was great beyond my expectations, often in ways I never saw coming. My best friend told me she’d never seen me so happy and “glowing” and all those other cliches. Which is not to say that it was perfect. But it didn’t need to be perfect. It just needed to be us, and it was, and it was worth it.

    • http://www.craigathenawedding.blogspot.com athena

      Sarah, I JUST sent you an email before I saw this! Thanks for your kind words. :)

      I am so happy to hear that your wedding was all you and your hubby. Reply to my email, I want to hear all about it!

  • http://halfpintwords.wordpress.com Christen

    All the yesses in the world on this one.

    In the two days leading up to our wedding, we were so overwhelmed by family and finalizing and financing and friends that we both had a mini-melt. And we curled up with each other, pulled hard on the cocktails in hand and just shook with stress. Together. As a team. And that’s how I knew we’d be just fine. Because if we could still pull through in those moments of overwhelming expectation and daunting emotion, we’d be just fine.

  • http://twitter.com/whitney923 Whitney

    OMG so glad to read this. My physical symptoms of anxiety have been freaking me right out lately. I am emotionally calm, while my chest is tightening like I’m about to wrestle a bear. Which then freaks me out– why am I worried? Does this mean something bad? Does this mean that deep down I don’t want to get married? Does this mean that sub-consciously I’m not happy? And my anxiety increased each day until I realized that I was really anxious about being anxious, and that I just needed to chill.

  • Apples

    Yes! While I’m generally OK emotionally, at least I tell myself so, and I loved having a high-stress school schedule, somehow the stress of wedding planning/rennovating a house/navigating family expectations while still long distance/being in a full-time job for the first time is really getting to me physically. I’ve started losing hair and needed a lot more sleep. 2.5 Months until the house is done and we move in together, 9 months until the wedding, and 2 months until apple season (and the crazy) is over. Come on body, keep it together.