*Kelly Benvenuto, Administrative Coordinator and Wedding Photographer & Ian Campbell, Graduate Student*
I’m excited about Kelly’s Wedding Graduate post today because it takes me straight back to my planning. It takes me back to the stress, the second guessing, the trying to get it right, and the every-stupid-choice seeming important. It takes me back to why I wrote the APW book in the first damn place. For those of you planning, this post is chock full of the best kind of advice, plus some hand holding of I’ve-been-there. So read, take notes, and really let yourself absorb it…
How I learned to stop worrying and love my wedding ten months later
Ten months after our wedding, I found myself crying in my husband’s arms. “But you did like our wedding, right?” I asked. OMG and WTF. How did I get to that point?
Let’s back up. I love love stories. I will admit that when I was little, I loved the Disney princesses. I loved reading Little Women and still love all things Jane Austen. So it feels natural that I’ve always loved weddings, or at least what I knew of weddings. A huge celebration of not only finding love, but committing to live a lifetime of love with another person—all while in fancy clothes and surrounded by pretty details (and I do like pretty). What could be better?
Turns out, I hated planning our wedding.
When Ian and I first got engaged, I wanted to take some time to enjoy it. If I knew what wedding planning was actually like, I would have taken longer than three weeks (do you hear that, those of you just engaged?). But, one sunny Sunday afternoon, Ian was off to work, and I decided I would just try to find a timeline or something to get me started. I was almost instantaneously sucked in to the WIC, scrolling through endless inspiration slideshows. I went to bed with all sorts of prettiness in my head and woke up at 5 a.m., a solid two hours before my alarm, feeling sick to my stomach and thinking about Martha Stewart’s suggestion of giving “a pair of pears” as a favor. WTF? Seriously? It was a bad omen of the times to come.
So much about the modern wedding seems to be about selling you something. I’m the kind of shopper that wants to look at everything before making a decision. That way I can weigh all my options and choose what is best. The WIC wants to sell you everything you might possibly need and even more that you don’t. And there are lots of people to sell it to you. And they present all these different visions of happiness that you can buy into: A hotel wedding! A beach wedding! A farm wedding! A backyard wedding! It was like a personality quiz and my choice would somehow define me. It was so completely overwhelming. While I can make a decision in a crisis, a wedding planned over a year let me look around, not make a decision, then make a decision and second (and third) guess my decision. Over and over again. And it is really hard. Two of the decisions really stand out.
We both knew we wanted to focus on friends and family, and we wanted to at least have some part of the celebration be outdoors. But that still left a lot to be determined. Ian had said that it would be most significant to him if we got married in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I had two sick grandparents, and I knew they wouldn’t be able to travel that distance. I pushed and, as I was doing most of the planning (and boy did I resent it), decided to have the wedding in Saratoga Springs, a location that was easier to access for my grandparents. Despite all the logic on my side (equal travel distance for our parents, a home base with my sister who lived in the area, a fun destination for out-of-town guests), I felt like I never convinced Ian of the validity of my decision. The one thing I felt so sure of, and he just didn’t seem that excited.
To make up for getting “my way” on the location, I felt like I was always trying to dig myself out of a wedding hole, trying to make it live up to some mythical mountain wedding. We had our ceremony outside in a garden. We had a brunch reception (Sunday brunch was a regular thing while we dated in college). I made sure sweet tea—one of Ian’s favorite beverages—was on tap. We skipped dancing and instead played whiffle ball. All things Ian wanted—and I wanted too! But I wasn’t sure if it made up for the location. I felt guilty that I didn’t give him the one big thing he wanted.
In the morass of wedding planning, I held out hope that finding a wedding dress would be fun and easy. I had tried on a few with my mom when I was home for a visit. My favorite option was a simple but striking bridesmaid’s dress. I didn’t want to settle for the first thing I liked. (Why? I think I was holding out for the “aha” moment, or I like pain, or something.) So I tried on weddings dresses, and they were all just so much—not only expensive, but heavy and hot and overwhelming. So I tried on simpler dresses, but I worried that it was my one chance to wear a big “princess” dress, and I didn’t want to regret not going for it later.
So I bought a dress that was a little more than I wanted, because I couldn’t trust myself to know what I did want.
By the week of our wedding, I was starting to let the wedding zen come in, and a day before the wedding, I just decided that I was done with the planning and was going to embrace the experience. It is one of the best decisions that I made. It saw me arranging flowers on the porch in the rain with my sister approximately two hours before the rehearsal was to start. People were so worried about the rain (um, yeah, we were supposed to eat outside), and I could. not. care. less. It was what it was. Why fret about something I couldn’t change? I knew that my family and friends were going to make it work. And they did (small barn + quickly constructed tarp awning = win). And then the rain stopped (even bigger win).
My emotions hit me like a ton of bricks during the rehearsal. Looking Ian in the eye, hearing him speak his vows—I completely lost it. I teared up, then I started crying. I got all red in the face, and people had to bring tissues. I tried to speak the vows back, and started crying again. I finally squeaked them out in a little high-pitched voice. We’d written the ceremony, including our vows, together. The words contained no surprises. But my emotional response to them astounded me. I knew marriage was a big step, but I felt prepared. I’d checked off all my boxes. We’d had our ups-and-downs and heart-to-hearts. I had embraced the zen! But I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that moment. Or maybe it was the zen that allowed me to be open to that feeling. Either way, what I do know is that it was one of the most intense emotional experiences of my life.
Looking back on our wedding day, now well over a year ago, it almost seems like a dream—it’s warm and sunny and a bit hazy. I remember feeling very present—that I was both within myself but also riding on the love and energy around me. Moments stand out to me—Ian’s ring getting stuck going on, holding my dad’s hand during family photos, hitting the whiffle ball on the first pitch (we’d had to practice!), hiking up my dress and sitting on the grass with my friends, walking hand-in-hand along the sidewalk and having strangers congratulate us, being utterly exhausted and taking a two hour nap before going out to dinner.
Despite a day full of joy, it’s taken me a long time to get to the point of happy memories. After our wonderful honeymoon, we had a month of (planned) homelessness and joblessness, which we spent visiting family and friends. It was during this time that a new anxiety hit hard. I’d wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “Now we’re married. Now we can get divorced.” Not that I wanted to get divorced. Far from it. But it was a possibility that had never existed before, and now it was something that could happen to me. Once we settled in our new place, and I confided my horrible-sounding but really-quite-silly-fears in Ian, this anxiety receded.
I tried to take some time, and process all the changes that we’d gone through (marrying, moving, changing jobs). Reflecting on the last year, I felt guilty about the fact that I hated planning our wedding. I was mad that I didn’t trust myself, that I didn’t stick up for myself to vendors. I resented that I had done most of the planning. I was sad and disappointed that I hadn’t found a better way of working with Ian on the wedding. I worried that it wasn’t the wedding that Ian had wanted.
One night, upset about who-knows-what, Ian came into the bedroom to try to figure out what was going on and to see if he could cheer me up. I let out a long list of worries and fears, ending with the question of if he enjoyed our wedding. “Of course!” was his enthusiastic reply. “Didn’t you? Was there something you didn’t like?” “No, there was nothing I didn’t like. I loved our wedding!”
I loved our wedding. There, it was out. Somehow I had forgotten that fact. All the stress of the planning had overwhelmed my memories. So I let go of the stress a second time. And Ian and I reminisced about how awesome our wedding was.
If I could go back and give myself some advice, I’d say:
- Stop stressing out. Just stop. Really, stop! Make a decision, and move on. It is the kindest thing you can do for yourself.
- Listen to your partner a little more. They may not know what weddings are “supposed” to be like, but they knows what’s important.
- Trust yourself to know yourself and what you want.
- When facing the desire to buy a “thing” just because it is pretty or on all the blogs, the mantra “F*** that shit, I don’t need it!” is very helpful.
- Weddings are not “normal” experiences, and you shouldn’t expect them to be. But finding “normal” things to do that day—for me that was waking up next to Ian, spending the morning with my mom, sisters, and maid of honor, and to not hiding from our guests before the ceremony—kept me grounded.
- Work with people who are easy to work with. It will make everything so much, well, easier.
The Info—Photography: Keira Lemonis / Venue: The Lodge / Caterer: Terra Luna / Flowers: Heaven Scent / Dress: I Do I Do Wedding Gowns / Invitations, decorations, cakes, cake toppers: Hand-made or passed down from family