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Why Wedding Planning Is Worth It


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Why Wedding Planning Is Worth It | A Practical Wedding

About a month or so ago, I took to wandering around the house saying, “Thank god we got married before I got knocked up,” and then cracking up and adding, “But totally not like that.” Which is to say, it turns out I was glad we got married first, simply because all of those painful emotional lessons that I learned during wedding planning are getting put to very good use for the second time around. (Least you get offended, I’m pretty sure this would work in the other order too, and I could have been wandering around saying “Thank god I got knocked up before we got married,” but I’ll leave that to those wiser than me to confirm or deny. Who wants to write a post on what you learn doing it in the other order?) But the moral of the story is, none of it was wasted.

Last week, we ran a post about how wedding planning was like project management, and @Kathleenincanrah (who I met on book tour, and who wrote this post on women and finance) piped up on Twitter to say, “Sort of, but sort of not.” Her response was that, “The heavy (and important) work is the emotional stuff. The to-do lists are false processes to do the real work.” And I think for me that was mostly accurate. Half of our wedding planning was project management (something we were blessedly good at, after being a former theatrical producing team) and half of our wedding planning was emotional work (which we felt like a total disaster at, doesn’t everyone, always?). The project management half of wedding planning didn’t end up being a life lesson. The emotional work, however, is still paying dividends. Or rather, is suddenly paying huge dividends again.

Of course I’m writing this for those of you who have been up half the night, at any point in the last few months, sobbing over something vaguely related to wedding planning. Because you and me both sister. Eye to eye: it’s worth it.

As I have been making my way through pregnancy (I want to feed our Hallmark-y images of pregnancy by saying I’ve been drifting through it, but instead I’ve been grinding through it and surviving it, so you’ll have to turn elsewhere for more diaphanous images) issues keep coming up, and the solutions feel like muscle memory. As anyone who’s ever been vaguely athletic knows, it’s painfully hard to build up a muscle the first time; it’s much easier to tone it up the second time around. Emotional muscles work much the same way. Once you’ve tuned up your emotional response to something, figuring out how to do it again, even after a lengthy pause, is much easier (if not exactly painless).

So, for those of you in the trenches of wedding planning, and for those getting ready to go for another round (be that in baby acquiring, or other major life decisions) here are the wedding planning lessons that are proving to be priceless in my current state (for your reference, here are the lessons as recorded the first time around, in my own wedding graduate post):

It’s not your business what other people think of you. This gem came to me via Christina of Steady Happy (her amazing wedding graduate post is here). This ended up being my mantra during wedding planning, when I wasted way too much time worrying what other people were thinking of the way we were planning the thing, or what they might think about the wedding. First of all, it really did all work out in the end. Learning to stand up for the way we do things was the single biggest lesson of wedding planning. Second of all, honest to God? It’s not my business what other people think of me. Interestingly, this time around I get that. Sometimes I have to remind myself hard not to care about the widespread cultural conversation about what I should be doing, but on an individual level? We’re just doing our thing, and letting people think whatever they think.

It’s your job to present a clear plan to your loved ones, if you need them to follow your lead. Looking back, I realize that I made wedding planning more complicated than it needed to be by being too nice (I know, right?). That is to say, instead of politely telling people what was happening, I asked them how they felt about what was happening, or what they wished was happening, and then got myself in a total tangle doing things that I knew were dead wrong for me in an effort to make other people happy. (Hot tip: that almost always ends in disaster.) Now, if I know what we need, I do my best to guide friends and loved ones through it, kindly, but without apology.

Some (many) people will not respond the way you need them to respond, but with some work you’ll be able to find people who can support you and your personal experience. There is something about major life markers that makes people want to tell you how to feel (oddly, I think men have less of an issue with this… though sadly, I think no one gives men’s feelings any real weight at all). People like to assume this is a happy magical time for you. It may not be. If it’s not, or if it’s complicated, do the work of digging up the people you can talk honestly with. They will save your sanity. You can only put on a brave face for so long without cracking.

Reconciling the way things are and the way we wish they were is hard. It’s funny, because I’ve used that phrase a million times on APW and in the book. But I’m having to learn it all over again, which sucks sometimes. During major life transitions, most of us convince ourselves that the difficult parts of our lives and relationships will be somehow… different for this big important moment. And when the people around us carry on behaving in the same flawed and wonderful ways they always have, the difference between the dream and reality can be hard as hell.

Ask your partner for help when you need it. Be specific. Because for sure, surviving this without them is going to be hard, and they may not know what you need until you ask for it very clearly.

Some people will be really hurtful. Other people will be staggeringly generous and loving. The good won’t make the bad go away, but the good will be more important. Weddings and babies (and many other big life decisions) are complicated because they bring up people’s own baggage. And sometimes, that baggage is not positive. So in any of these high intensity situations, there will be people who are totally awful to you. Learning how not to take it personally is a lifelong project that I haven’t begun to really master. But the easier project is to learn to accept the unexpected generosity that comes your way with open arms, and to realize those moments are way, way, more important than the horrible ones.

Sometimes it’s easier to apologize than to ask permission. Just tattoo this on your arm. For everything.

And, this time around, I’m learning a new lesson:

Don’t borrow trouble from the future. This new mantra also comes from Christina of Steady Happy (she’s a smart one). She paired it with “Worrying is meditating on a bad outcome” and I hung it over my desk. This would have come in handy the first time around. But it’s fine, I’ll use the shit out of it now.

Photo: Moodeous Photography (APW Sponsor)

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 Oakland, CA with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • One More Sara

    I’m doing the baby-wedding thing in the reverse order, and you’re right, it totally works both ways. I think having and raising a child teaches you how to hear advice (politely) without always feeling obligated to do what that people tell you to. I learned that I don’t need All The Things by having a kid (wipe warmers? I guess it would have been nice, but it wasn’t in our budget. Much like fancy flowers or a designer gown aren’t in my wedding budget, and that’s okay!).

    • meg

      I seriously want one of you guys doing it in the other order to write a post about THAT. Just throwing that out there to the universe :)

      • Victwa

        OK, I’ll take this on– except that we’re still in wedding planning mode because the baby just arrived (July 2nd), and we wanted to wait a year before getting married (yay for adult beverages at your own wedding!) so you’ll get planning for the wedding instead of finished event… does that still work? Plus, I can add the stepparenting twist to it! So many variables!

        • meg

          Yes! Do a wedding undergrad post. I’m sensing a week of content coming up (which is AWESOME, because I’ve really been be-moaning the lack of weddings with kids posts we’ve done recently).

          • Victwa

            OK! I now have a Task To Do while the baby is still hanging out in I-sleep-for-hours-but-can’t-really-go-anywhere mode.

      • One More Sara

        The universe is listening. :)

  • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

    Your last lesson is one of my favorites! It’s even in the bible in Matthew 6:34: Don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let today’s own troubles be sufficient for today. Your phrasing is definitely more optimistic.

    All this advice is spot-on, and this is what I followed for our wedding. And, completely honest, we had very little trouble with our wedding and planning. There were maybe just a small handful of discordant moments, but I was adamant that we do what works for us, and people were surprisingly accepting of that. It’s kind of like sneaking into somewhere you should only kind of be: the more confident and sure you are, the less folks will question your presence (or decisions).

    Best wishes for continuing to grind through your pregnancy successfully. You get an awesome product at the end.

    • Marcela

      After 4 years of watching mostly cartoons, my quote is from Kung Fu Panda (well, from Master Oogway, in the first movie) : “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mistery, but today is a gift: that is why we call it present”. I tell you, there is great wisdom in cartoons ;)

  • carrie

    Holy hell, this: “Worrying is meditating on a bad outcome.” This needs to be my mantra as well; thank you and Christina for this.

    I was out of the country when you told us about the pregnancy, so I wanted to offer a heartfelt fist bump to you guys. :-)

    • mimi

      I just came to this conclusion myself this weekend, so I love seeing it here today. No point in worrying about something that hasn’t happened unless there’s something you can do to absolutely change or prevent it. Otherwise, save your energy for something positive.

      • carrie

        Exactly. Or in other words, my husband has been right all along. ;-)

  • Suzy

    This is fantastic. And so useful for basically anyone trying to navigate life on her own path (or trying to get the guts to find her own path), not only baby-planning and wedding-planning. The one that hit it the most for me this morning:

    Reconciling the way things are and the way we wish they were is hard.

    Uh, I think this should be the mantra for all type-A personalities between 20-40 who are reeling from the way this economy has not allowed us to meet our own expectations.

    • http://www.advancedlivingforbeginners.com Jen W

      YES x infinity

  • Chelsea

    the easier project is to learn to accept the unexpected generosity that comes your way with open arms, and to realize those moments are way, way, more important than the horrible ones.

    Read more: http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/07/why-wedding-planning-is-worth-it/#ixzz20nFmfJMt

    This was me yesterday. And such a valuable lesson. I had a major bridal breakdown and was talking with my mom on the phone in the parking lot at work. My boss’ boss drove by in her car, stopped in front of my and mouthed with such emotion on her face “Are you ok?!?” I’ve never felt more supported by her, and it was exactly what I needed, and so wonderfully unexpected.

  • Jashshea

    Still reading, but I’m taking a moment to snuggle up with #2 on presenting a clear path to people. I’m still 3.5 months out and I JUUUUST realized that this was important. Even when you’ve hired someone to do all the heavy lifting. “I want XYZ” is the best way to get XYZ.

    ETA: I’m generally really pushy (and nosy and loud. These are my favorite qualities about me), but I’ve found it hard to be that way surrounding the wedding stuff. It’s good to remember that clarity is best (while being a smidge kinder than I am about work or other life stuff).

    • http://twitter.com/itsradishtime Taylor

      Ahhh thank you! Silly little things that won’t matter in the long run:
      I just had a meeting with the florist and I showed her some pictures, and she suggested we use flowers X Y and Z. I wanted flowers A B and C but I just kept telling myself “She’s the florist, she knows better than me” and “I won’t really care, on the day of the wedding, what kind of flowers I have”

      But then, what the hell is wrong with saying “Actually, I would like flowers A, B, and C?” Does it matter if I get XYZ or ABC in the long run? Not really, But as long as I am spending this much time and money on it I might as well get ABC if that is what I want.

      • KB

        I can totally relate!! Part of you thinks “Why am I getting so worked up over this little silly thing?” and then you feel bad for getting all worked up about it because you should be zen and realize that it doesn’t matter. And THEN you think “Well, wait a minute, it DOES matter, it matters to me, isn’t that what’s important?” And THEN you just cycle back around to what it means that it’s important at all to you. And you’re back to where you started.

      • Jashshea

        YES! And on the other hand, I need to stop giving directives like “make it look like autumn.” Seriously? What does that even mean?

        • http://www.twitter.com/you_love_lucy youlovelucy

          GUILTY.

          When we were trying to decide how to decorate things, I kept saying “I just want everything to be really simple.” By that what I really meant was, “this place has a lot of natural beauty, so I don’t think we’re going to need more than lights and centerpieces.”

          Luckily, Bryan was/is a great translator.

    • H

      Giving a clear path to people (including your partner)…. it reminds me of something we’ve started doing at home. Because our cats, when they want attention, come up to us and meow in our face, and he has been working long hours, I’ve taken to coming up to him and saying, “Attention, please” and looking up at him like I’m a cat. And he laughs and we’ll sit down on the couch and talk or cuddle or what not. But it’s a way to keep me sane when he needs to work a lot and we’re not really seeing each other enough. But this thing works way better than if I just wait for the attention and get all passive aggressive over not having it, and it’s because I’m vocalizing exactly what I want when I want it. Yay for effective communication.

      • KB

        Hahahaha, I TOTALLY DO THIS!!!! I come right up to his nose or press my face against his shoulder and say “Hiiiiii…” That means “I would like some attention please.”

  • Steph

    Meg thank you once again! #1 came pretty easy to me/us with wedding planning but definitely needed the reminder about it as we contemplate where we are headed next. And you are so right that this can be applied to any big life transition, not just weddings and babies. Thank you!!

  • http://somewhatbookish.wordpress.com Carrie

    Such good life lessons and so applicable to wedding planning, and baby having, and house buying and job changing and parenting and all those big life things that folks have opinions about.

    I know for me “Ask your partner for help. Be specific.” is a life lesson that I need regular reminding on. I’m such a doer that I tend to just keep trucking. Even if I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed and resentful. I need to ask for help and not just general “I need you to do more” but specifically, “It would really help me if you did the dishes.”

  • Anon

    We’ve been married less than a year and every once in a while I think, “maybe we should’ve waited longer to try for a baby,” not because we don’t feel ready but because we JUST did this whole big life-changing, planning-intensive thing and more of a break would’ve been nice. But! I totally agree that wedding planning gave me a lot of tools (both the planning stuff and the emotional stuff) to handle pregnancy. Knowing when to stop caring about what other people think has been a big one. We haven’t told people outside close family and friends and part of me dreads all the questions and comments that will come later – even though another part of me can’t wait to be publicly excited about this.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.com/ Amanda

      Congratulations ! And don’t worry, you will be able to handle everything that comes and learn along the way.
      I guess I am just sensitive on the subject because we’ve been trying for almost 2 years, and though the tests are all fine… we are there in the limbo-

      • Anon

        Amanda, I think you’ve totally earned the right to be sensitive on the subject. I saw a close friend deal with two miscarriages and a lot of heartache before finally having a healthy baby this spring. That has given me endless gratitude for how lucky we’ve been – I know I can’t take this for granted. I hope your limbo has a happy ending!

  • Mara

    Thank you. So much. We’re five weeks out from a DIY wedding in our backyard, and I keep thinking the awful parts are uniquely awful to us/me, but reading your post makes it clear how universal this experience is. It’s become a bonding experience for me and my boyfriend, and we’re both growing up more. Being in couples counseling for the last eight months has also been extremely helpful.

    • meg

      That’s always my hope with these posts. It always feels like “It’s only me,” or worse “It’s only me I MUST BE BROKEN.” But then when you realize it’s totally not just you at all, it’s like a huge exhale.

      • Jashshea

        Y’all. I cannot tell you how normalizing I find this site. Everyone other wedding site I’ve ever found is all sparkles and kitten kisses about the planning side. And for some people, maybe it is that easy-breezy (I doubt it? But maybe). I don’t find the tasking portion of the wedding terribly challenging, but the expectations and the emotional baggage portions are TOUGH.

        Great comparison, Meg! It’s helpful to think that I’m actually learning a skill instead of just planning a stupid party :)

        • meg

          It’s funny, in therapy that’s what they call ‘Reality Testing.’ And they tell you that you need to find the right people to Reality Test with, or you’re going to get really wacked out results.

          “Is it normal that this is stressful and I’m crying?”
          “Yup.”

        • Gigi59

          “…sparkles and kitten kisses…” Best description ever!!

    • Lindsay

      i just wanted to chime in and say that the awful parts happen to us, too. i’ve been reading APW for a few months now and each post seems to serendipitously arrive at a time when i’ve been struggling with friends, money, ideas, surrounding our wedding and what we envision our marriage to look like. this post (and specifically the line about how people can just be awful to you when you’re at one of life’s major milestones) certainly resonated with me once again, and has inspired me to be a more vocal member of this community so everyone knows how universal these experiences are!

  • http://www.twitter.com/you_love_lucy youlovelucy

    I find it interesting that there are plenty of quotes for the future that focus more on positive imaginings, when negative imaginings of our future (or future events) can be just as distracting and/or harmful. So thank you for those last two mantras in your new lesson. I think they’re much needed.

  • http://www.againstthegraincopyediting.com Sandy

    When my husband I married, we each chose a bible passage for the ceremony, seperately. I chose a reading from Ruth, the vow to not leave, “Your people shall be my people.” My husband chose Matthew 6:24-35, which ends with “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

    Our pastor wrote his homily on this passage and told us about how much time the average person spends worrying about things that we have no control over. It was a wonderful message and meant so very much to us that day. The really cool part, however, is how much it has mattered since, as we have been making our way through married life. The lesson from Ruth, that we are together from here on out, working as a team and the lesson from Matthew, that we have to deal with today and have hope, not worry for tomorrow, have become the cornerstones of our marriage.

    • http://www.twitter.com/you_love_lucy youlovelucy

      I also picked that Ruth reading for our wedding. Fist bump of solidarity!

      Also, brilliant cornerstones. Just brilliant.

  • Sara A.

    I was talking about this with the ladies in my birth class! We were talking about our birth plans and how we’re pretty stumped, just because it’s so overwhelming to try and anticipate every little thing. I looked at them and was like “Are you ladies also married?” and they nodded, and I was like “Do you remember that itinerary you made like a month out from the day outlining how things were supposed to go and who was to stand where? It’s like that, but with needles.” It was like a light bulb went off for them.

    My problem has been with worst-first thinking. My mom and her side of the family don’t carry easily or well. My dad’s side has perfectly boring stories of swimming along pregnancies followed by normal births. Every single appointment I have prepared myself for THIS being the one where sh*t hits the fan. And it hasn’t happened, I’m 36 weeks and apparently take after my father’s side in terms of childbearing.

    • meg

      It’s like that, but with needles and very little control ;) I had a spreadsheet for our wedding day. For our birth day: HAHA. I have a note that says “Get It Out.”

      I guess lack of control is a whole other lesson for me… VERY tied into the last and new mantra.

      • Victwa

        Yes. Everyone kept asking me about my birth plan, and (fortunately?) the one lesson I have learned from listening to other people is that you cannot control your birth experience. Good thing I was feeling flexible, because my daughter showed up 3 weeks early, while we were back in my hometown for my 20th high school reunion, at my parents’ house. No hospital bag, no car seat, no medical providers I was remotely familiar with. And you know what? It all turned out fine. I would not recommend taking a 6 hour road trip with emergent breast-feeding skills and a 3 day old infant, but we did it and it is all progressing more or less how I suppose it should be…

      • Sara A.

        Not to hijack, but there are tons of things you can control! You can control your breathing, how you respond to pain, how you respond to unexpected events, etc. You are the only one that has control in your birth experience. Everyone else is along for the ride.

        I was a complete head case about labor and what I can expect when we got to the practical part of the class where we’re all on the floor and breathing and changing positions and talking about what squatting does for your pelvis and it clicked for me. We do these positions in yoga all the time. I’m a classically trained singer, so I have spent years learning how to breathe from my diaphragm and tense my core muscles with out creating tension elsewhere (in singing it’s in and up, in birth out and down). I’ve had surgery before. I’m an athlete so I’ve been in pain before, it’s just going to be combining in ways that I’m not used to. I really recommend Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Newborn: The Complete Guide for really breaking down the process step by step in an even-handed non-threatening manner.

        • Victwa

          Weeeeeelllll, yes. I can control my attitude and response toward anything. However, I did not have control over when my water broke. I would have chosen for it to break at a more opportune moment, say, not when we were 6 hours from home. I did not have control over how fast or slow my body decided to dilate my cervix (or not). For me, a dyed-in-the-wool control freak, remembering that I did not control this little person and I could not control everything about her exit into the world was a very important thing to hold on to. I don’t think (in the same way that I will not be able to control all details of my wedding) that it would have helped me to say to myself, “I am the only one who has control here.” Maybe that helps some women, but for me, to relax into “Welp, this is the experience I’m having right now, whether I would have picked this sequence of events or not” was far more grounding and helpful. I think it really depends on where one falls on the control spectrum.

          • meg

            And it’s funny, that’s my big wedding lesson too. Just show up and ROLL with it, because it’s almost never what you expect it to be. Just being able to accept it for what it was, was for me, the real blessing.

            (And I don’t want to derail this into a birth plan conversation, that’s why I don’t want to write a parenting blog. These things become super political loaded topics, with everyone debating back and forth, something that just freaks me out. Wedding lessons, y’all.)

          • Class of 1980

            I knew someone who left work for a checkup.

            Her water broke while sitting on the doctor’s exam table and flowed right into the open drawers where the doctor kept supplies. ;)

            She was planning on going back to work; not giving birth that day.

        • christa

          That’s not just weddings or birth, its f**ing life. The only thing we can control is our response to the things that happen to us. We can’t change that cancer and car wrecks and wildfires happen. We can’t make people be their best selves in stressful situations, but we can strive for that ourselves. Breathing is a big part of it. Life goes on.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          Eh, in the end, I think the baby controls it. I did all the right things, and had a very basic birth plan (David had to be there, try for natural birth, avoid as many interventions as possible, let him cut the cord) and the only thing that worked was having David with me, because my kid, after almost 3 days, refused to come out the normal way. All the prep in the world (and I did it all) wasn’t enough to change the fact that my kid’s head was 99th percentile and that the only way she was coming out was by c-section. I had no control over the outcome, even though I did in the 50-odd hours that came before.

          Believing that I had any control over my body really messed me up, as I had to post-partum come to terms with the fact that I really wasn’t in charge of my own body or destiny any more.

          • Marisa-Andrea

            Right and as it sort of goes back to Meg’s original post, that’s kind of the point about these kinds of life transitions; at the end of the day, things are going to happen the way they happen. At the end of the day, you’re can’t control what people think and their expectations and just like in weddings, with pregnancy and childbirth, you do have to be prepared to roll with it, to a certain degree. Weddings and births don’t happen, life does. Uncle Jake might get drunk at your wedding and pick a fight with your dad and you might get to the hospital expecting to get through hours of coached breathing only to be told that you need an emergency c-section immediately.

      • October12

        We wrote a birth plan and were fully prepared to throw it away. The real birth plan was written in red on the chalkboard in our kitchen: don’t panic.

        • meg

          I love you. EXACTLY.

        • meg

          (Also useful for weddings ;)

        • Diane

          I’m not an ob/gyn but from my med school experiences with L&D I just want to give you a huge gold star for this! I think that the best part of a birth plan is that it opens the door to conversations about what’s important to you, makes you think about potentially big decisions in advance, and helps you learn and practice skills to manage what’s going on (pain, uncertainty and poop all come to mind). I think it also helps some couples feel more prepared to communicate their own needs and values with hospital staff which is HUGE. That said, some of the patients that drove the L&D staff most nuts were the ones who seemed so focused on the delivery going completely according to their birth plan that they refused to deal with the reality of unexpected complications. If wedding success = married at the end of the day then childbirth success = healthy parent(s) and baby at the end of the day (or two days if you’re in my mom’s family — we take our sweet time in the having of babies).

          • One More Sara

            aaaaaaaah the poop! No one told me I was going to poop in front of people! But I guess I didn’t really give a flying f* at that point. Someone told me while I was pregnant “You won’t care who the hell is in the room with you. They could march the entire army right in front of you and you couldn’t care less as long as that dang baby comes out.” That person was totally right.

          • Marina

            “If wedding success = married at the end of the day then childbirth success = healthy parent(s) and baby at the end of the day”

            I agree with this exactly. You can write up the most detailed wedding plan in the world, but you’re going to be happier if you realize that if you have to throw it all away but you still end up married then it’s all okay. I think a birth plan should be similar–you can write up the most detailed thing in the world and prepare for your best case scenario, as long as you keep in mind that the real goal is healthy parents and babies. Buuuut honestly I think it’s as silly to go into birth with no plan as it would be to go into a wedding with no plan. Or maybe silly’s the wrong word. Mostly I just think that just because a plan might be thrown out the window is no reason not to have a plan.

  • Christina

    I just really love this post. I am fresh off of a weekend spent making a DIY illustrated wedding weekend map (moral of the story, its hard, there is a reason there are professionals who do it, but it is ultimately possible). I could write a whole post about the emotional and project management experience, maybe I will later, for now I will say this is exactly what I needed today and I am glad to know that our hours and hours of struggling together with my colored pencils and the fiance’s scanner was not in vein and will ultimately pay dividends much greater than the fleeting enjoyment of a nice wedding map.

  • http://www.weddingfortwo.blogspot.com Ellie

    I love this post. I needed it today. We are struggling, really struggling, with my parents right now, with their growing older and what that means for us and our future and in a totally different and still the same way, it’s a constant reminder that my parents are going to be the same people whether they are dealing with difficult health complications, and the rest of my family isn’t going to suddenly turn into supportive, kindly people just because the rest of us are going through something difficult. But you are right. It is not our business what other people think of us or how we handle this, and it is our job to present a clear plan to others to make sure they follow our lead.

    • meg

      YES.

    • Marisa-Andrea

      Yes, yes and yes. As I’ve gotten older, certainly when I entered my 30s, this became easier for me to do. Becoming a parent has made this even easier. At this point in my life, I am literally tapped out physically and emotionally and I have to choose wisely where I want to direct my energies and focus. Contrary to what a lot of people have told me both while I was pregnant and now, there is NOT have enough of me to go around (enough of perpetuating the superwoman complex…I have no desire to be her because frankly it just looks EXHAUSTING). The more time I spend worrying about what others think of my choices or lamenting the fact that certain family members just won’t behave the way I want them to or wish they could is less time I am spending invested in pursuits that contribute to my well being and that of my family. One of the hard parts of growing up is grasping the harsh realities. On the flip side, we have a great deal of control over how we choose to interact with, embrace and deal with them.

  • Class of 1980

    “Worrying is meditating on a bad outcome.”

    That one is solid gold. I have only recently figured this out on my own. You can look at something you want to do in the future in a negative way or a positive way.

    I’m reading a book right now that advises to watch the questions you ask yourself. Make sure to ask yourself only positive questions.

    EXAMPLES:

    How can I double my income this year? or How can I get enough money to pay the bills this month?

    What is life trying to teach me right now? or Why do bad things always happen to me?

    How can I increase my peace of mind? or Why am I always stressed?

  • Mae

    “Some people will be really hurtful. Other people will be staggeringly generous and loving. The good won’t make the bad go away, but the good will be more important. Weddings and babies (and many other big life decisions) are complicated because they bring up people’s own baggage. And sometimes, that baggage is not positive.”

    I know this in my heart, but I really needed to read this reconfirmation today. A close friend of mine has been really awful towards me ever since I told her I was getting married (I never even got a congratulations from her, but I did get a giant eye roll and a loud scoff, which made me almost start crying). It’s been weighing on me for weeks and has definitely been casting a rain cloud on our planning.

    I feel much better now. It’s not my job to make her a good friend, and I don’t need her own baggage around marriage (she’s been waiting for her bf to propose for 5 years, we got engaged after 8 months) to overshadow the friends and family who are excited and supportive of us, because they are the ones who deserve to be focused on.

    • meg

      I know, my dear. LOVE. This happens to all of us (well, all of the *best* people, at least ;) It hurts, and I’m sorry.

  • emily

    As for your last point, it’s something I recall my grandfather saying often… I tried to remember it during my wedding planning, but it’s so. damn. hard. Thanks for another reminder!

  • kathleen

    I can’t help but picture all of these lessons and mantras with the ribbons of fights and discussions and the real work behind them. It’s so easy to read them and think yeah! easy peasy! when in reality I bet they were hard won. (I say as I’m learning and earning and building my mantra muscles BIG TIME this month)

    And oof, I needed the “it’s worth it” reminder. Thanks Meg.

    • meg

      Hard. Won.

    • http://www.twitter.com/you_love_lucy youlovelucy

      I think these ribbons seriously need to exist.

      That, and tiny emergency pinatas for celebrating when awesome things happen.

      • kathleen

        YES. you are my people. we keep little bottles of champagne in the fridge at all times for celebrating the awesome things. and it’s even more fun when it’s someone who just happens to be over and happens to mention an awesome thing (promotion, citizenship, A+ on exam) and you get to whip out the mini bottle and get your celebrating on.
        also, we are having pinatas at our reception. just as we take the wedding work seriously, we take our celebrating very very seriously.

      • Taylor

        They exist: my friend:
        http://www.pinatapalace.com/minipinatas.html

        I have long kept a piñata head in my bedroom (a remnant of a high school spanish class presentation) as a little reminder that sometimes I just need to chill the eff out and celebrate for a minute.

        I feel like I need to order a few dozen of these mini guys to place strategically around my house and workplace now, to keep the theme going. I have no problem whatsoever with becoming the crazy piñata lady. Because when someone has an awesome thing happen to them and I show up with a tiny blue brontosaurus filled with candy, they will thank me.

  • A.

    I have sort of done the acquiring-a-child-then-planning-a-wedding thing, but for me it has been about becoming a stepmom in practice (by living together) before the wedding makes it official. So far I’m learning a LOT.

    • meg

      At some point you should write a post about this, for serious.

      • A.

        I actually just submitted one on the continuing adventures of stepfamily life. Hope it’s what you’re looking for!

  • Sharon L

    Every now and then I get reminded how much I love this site. Thinking of the terrible time I had wedding planning as a learning experience is GENIUS. I’m going to print this list out and remind myself I learned these lessons and survived the life changing event. Now here’s to more!

  • http://theroadto92912.blogspot.com Molly

    I’ve said so many times to my fiancé when dealing with emotional issues (mostly setting boundaries with our parents), “Can you imagine what it’s going to be like when we have kids?” I’m glad to know the battles we’ll face in the future will be similar to the one’s we’re (rather successfully, I think) facing now.

  • KB

    “Reconciling the way things are and the way we wish they were is hard.” This, this, THIS.

    It’s amazing how weddings just bring up so much baggage. I’m really struggling with the way things are versus the way I want things to be. It is really hard dealing with friends and family because I’m realizing just how little they know me. I send dress ideas to my friends and they’re like “I never would have pictured you in that.” I told someone else I wanted a David Blaine-like magician at the cocktail hour because it would be really interesting and get people talking, and they said, “Ew, why would you want to do that?” And I told someone else that I wanted a photo booth and they said, “Ugh, everybody does those.” It’s not that I want people to be open-minded or say “I would totally do that!” I want people to see that the reason why we’re choosing to have X, Y, or Z is because it fits OUR style. I realize that our opinion is the only one that matters – but it sometimes feels very lonely to know what’s “you” when no one else does.

    • Magpie

      I feel you. My own mother made some comments to the tune of: “Why would you want to DO that?” when she saw some items on our honeyfund site.

      Gee, ma, I dunno? Maybe because that’s what we like to do?

      But then, this has been the theme of pretty much all of our (blessedly rare) wedding tensions: mom assumes that I/we are somehow an extension of herself and therefore will always want to do things the way SHE would want to do them.

    • kaybee

      I should have read your comment before I made mine … which pretty much says the same thing (except about my mother). I totally feel your pain. It’s kind of devastating to find out that people you thought you were the closest too don’t really know you at all. It’s ok. You are marrying the one person who IS the closest to you and really DOES know you. And that’s what counts. You aren’t agreeing to spend the rest of your life with those other folks.

  • http://asashaparty.blogspot.com thesasha

    This is an awesome post, and great lessons, but I want to, well, not exactly disagree, but point out an alternative perspective to the last one.

    “Don’t borrow trouble from the future. This new mantra also comes from Christina of Steady Happy (she’s a smart one). She paired it with “Worrying is meditating on a bad outcome” ”

    I am a worrier. I worry. I worry all the time about everything and constantly run scenarios through my head. And people always told me to stress out less. And that, well, stressed me out. I worried about worrying. And then I worried about that. It made me pretty unhappy. [True story: I used to have worry dolls when I was a kid, in the theory this would calm me. They were these tiny figures you hold in your hand and you were supposed to give your worry to them, but I always felt guilty and stressed about the poor doll…)

    One of the biggest difference I have made to my quality of life is to allow myself to worry and borrow trouble. Because then maybe I get upset about that but it stops there. And sometimes I find it calming to run the scenarios and have answers.

    So just for the people like me, maybe the answer instead is go ahead and worry. Enjoy the worry. And if you run through the worries in your head about everything from the wedding flowers being the wrong color, to your groom or bride not showing, you will probably find that in the scenario where the flowers are the wrong colors you skip them or spraypaint them or decide that, hey, pink is one of our colors after all and you talk to your future spouse and s/he tells you how very much s/he plans to show yup and you think well, it would be better to know it the wedding day then the day after. And then you have gotten the worries out. [and probably move on to new worries]. But you aren’t worried about being worried anymore at least.

    For some of us, the best way to do it is just to go ahead and let ourselves worry.

    • KB

      Oh my God, I hear you – sometimes I think that the worrying is just going to kill me. Yesterday’s worry was that my dress was too gaudy (it’s blinged out like whoa) and I’ll hate it when I see it again months from now. Today’s worry is the reception venue contract – it didn’t have an impossibility clause. My mother, an attorney, is like “It’s no big deal, just put one in there and send it back to them.” So now I’m freaking out like, what if they refuse to put it in there, what does that mean? Should I sign it knowing that there could be a power outage and they could cancel my reception and take my money? Should I get another venue? I don’t WANT another venue. But my mom is paying for the reception, she’s not going to want to have it there if there’s no clause. AHHHHH!!!!!

      So, yeah, like you, running scenarios usually makes me feel better – but before I figure out what the scenario will be, it may, in fact, drive me crazy.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      My future husband and I were watching “Bridezillas.” [It was actually cathartic for me.] In one episode, the wedding planner casually told the bride that the flowers she requested were out of season and unavailable for her wedding. The bride had a fit, of course. At the end of the appointment, the wedding planner casually told the bride that, actually, the flowers would be there.

      I commented that that seemed incredibly unprofessional, to tease a customer like that. My future husband commented that maybe the bride was a high-drama person who would throw a fit about something, even if everything was perfect. By directing her attention to something fixable, the wedding planner had avoided an expensive or impossible last-minute change of plans with extreme savvy.

      Now, I don’t think that level of drama-queen-dom is healthy, but, I’m totally one of those people for whom it’s helpful to go over every worst-case-scenario. Groom doesn’t show? I’ll be very embarrassed, but my family will get me straight home. Food spoiled? Umm, we’ll send someone to get party platters. Mother unhelpful and fidgety? Well, dealing with such things are a lot of what wedding planning has taught me.

  • sarahdipity

    I love this list and really embraced many of these ideas when we were wedding planning. A lot of it even came easily: not worrying what other people think, I’d been doing it for years.

    With pregnancy it hasn’t been as easy. When I was wedding planning it was just one of the things I was doing. I was also rocking my job and building my career and having a great time with friends.

    Everything has been so much harder with pregnancy because I just don’t feel like me. I’m tired, I barely have the energy to keep up with my work. I don’t *feel* like my normal self, I think slower and move slower. At 36 weeks pregnant I’m starting to worry I’ll never be myself again. I think when you feel less like yourself you need lists like this to remind you of what once came naturally.

    • One More Sara

      Fellow Sara(h)! It gets better! Eventually you will start sleeping again and Mom will just be one piece of who you are. Just a few more weeks! Hang in there!

    • meg

      Oh god. Pregnancy and I do not agree at all, but that’s a whole other thing. That said, during the day when I’m working, I don’t feel like a pregnant person (just a tired person) most of the time. So those moments are good ones. But yeah, just ugh.

    • Marina

      I felt the same way during pregnancy and 6 months postpartum do feel like I have my self back. I know it’s different for every person, but hang in there, I think you’ll be ok. :)

  • iammarchelle

    Duly bookmarked. Also, <3

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    This post? I needed it, today.

    The comments? I needed THOSE more than anything today.

  • kaybee

    “Reconciling the way things are and the way we wish they were is hard.”

    This. Thank you. I needed to be reminded of that today. I’m going dress shopping with my mother tomorrow and instead of it being a “oh gosh isn’t this just too much fun” and “oh I’ve waited my whole life to see my daughter get married” kind of day … I’ll likely have to suffer through eye rolls, well-timed coughs and negative comments about why I have to waste so much money on one day (followed by the frequent requests that we just elope and save everyone the trouble). It’s such a perpetual dilemma, working to change a relationship into the one you truly wish it was and accepting that sometimes, reality is all you’re gunna get.

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s ok. We’ll get thru this. Perhaps this will help our relationship grow for the future? Ah well, a girl can hope.

    • KB

      I hear you!!! I had actually steeled myself for the tears and the “Oh, my baby getting married, you’re so beautiful, etc. etc. etc.” because I just don’t deal with sentimentalness or nostalgia very well – but then we actually went dress shopping and there was nothing! No tears, no gasps, no wow – just kind of a head-tilt and “That’s pretty – what do you think?” To be fair, I think she was so conscious of not taking over and not making it All About Her. But I think I secretly wanted that reaction as validation, you know?

    • anon today

      I’ve been having the opposite issue, but it’s been an equal surprise! The fact that she wanted to do it together was a total shock — and then for a while it just felt like she was trying to up-sell me on bigger and fancier gowns. But we got through it, and we’re both totally excited about the dress I found. You’ll get through it!

  • Erika

    Worrying is meditating on a bad outcome. I want to stitch it on a sampler. Or tattoo it on my eyeballs. THANK YOU.

  • anon today

    Having had a day today that should have been joyful and instead involved a lot of emotional work and a lot of tears, and a pretty long phone conversation with my best friend (who kept using works like “boundary” and “toxic”), I needed every single line of this post. It *all* sounds completely, totally familiar, and makes me feel so much less alone (and, more importantly, makes me have a sense of how to move forward from here). Thank you.

    • meg

      ((((())))))

  • http://www.safarimama.blog.com Manya

    This is an awesome post Meg. Hugest hug.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    “It’s not your business what other people think of you.”

    Invaluable. This is on repeat in my head daily.

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  • Sarah

    Meg – I just want to thank you for this entire website. I am recently engaged and the “WIC” seems to be slowly taking over the rational part of my brain every time I visit the internet for wedding research or inspiration. And then I found your site. Now I come here every time that evil little voice in the back of my head tells me that I need more *stuff* – every time I become gripped with fear that I will put together a wedding that doesn’t live up to what society expects. This site is a breath of fresh air. Thank you for restoring my sanity.