Elisabeth: Decision Fatigue


Take a step back, and breathe

by Elisabeth Snell, Contributing Editor

Elisabeth: Decision Fatigue | A Practical WeddingElisabeth: Decision Fatigue | A Practical WeddingK and I have spent the last ten days in an utter frenzy of wedding jobs. After coming home and seeing me microtasking at the dining room table repeatedly (do we really need cards designating gluten-free and vegan ingredients to have tiny lobster stamps on them? Can’t our vegan guests use their powers of deduction to infer that the lobsters are, uh, lobsters? Perhaps. But why think about the overwhelming day-of schedule when I could stamp tiny red lobsters everywhere?), she suggested that we ramp up on the wedding planning so we could just get the damn thing planned and done. If we could finish almost all the planning, we could reframe our thinking in these last few weeks prior and actually inject some excitement into our conversations, and move out of this hazy, anxious, fatigued limbo.

This close, the wedding is all anyone talks about, and I’m grateful, I am. But truthfully, I am also tired of talking about my wedding. I want to go back to being in love with K, and having fun with K, and living our lives, and not having to put on a pageant to show for it. I know I’m supposed to be thinking about forever and the indescribable feeling of our community showering us with love and support. I know. But I’ve thought so much about it that the profound has started to feel…a little mundane.

Friends: “You have to order the flowers. It’s simple math: how many tables do you have, accounting for the rounds, rectangles and two-tops, divided by the vintage bottles versus mason jars, divided by the skinny and tall blooms, divided by a wrinkle in time.” Me: “Eh.”

Mom: “I decided to get you twenty of those white disposable cardboard cameras and I’ll scatter them throughout and then bring a basket to collect them at the end!” K, baffled: “But it’s 2013. Where’s she going to get those developed? ” Me: “Eh.”

Sample chignon that was so tight that I looked like I was heading out on the ice for a triple salchow jump with a permanently surprised expression: “Okay, then. I guess this is what wedding hair looks like.” K, bless her, who knows nothing about hair care, who uses a shampoo bar when she remembers or when I force it upon her, who spent most of last year with crooked bangs because she refused to go anywhere but the barbers around Grand Central, said gently, “I think you’re going to wish you looked a little more, um, relaxed.”

I think this is called decision fatigue.

Yesterday, we were so close, so close to finishing. We condensed all of the tasks from our master wedding planning project in Basecamp (remind me to remind you to plan your wedding in Basecamp!) onto a scrap of paper and headed into Manhattan to Get Things Done. It was going to be a long day, but then it would be over, and the reframing could start. Our first task, only semi-tangential, was to get me a bike helmet so I could conquer my fears of urban biking. And then we were going to use the city’s new bikeshare program to jet around crossing tasks off our list.

It’s not just that I am scared of biking. It’s that biking has generally been a simple choice for me: I can choose to bike, or I can choose to derive any pleasure from my genitals. Hold off on your suggestions for the reverse saddle and the moon seat and the cut out one and the banana hammock. You and every girlfriend I’ve ever had. I’ve tried them all, and it’s best for all of us if I skip the biking. But this summer on Chincoteague I delicately tested out a beach cruiser and discovered that something has shifted just slightly in my mid-thirties skeleton to make biking not quite as unbearable as it used to be. So! We found a helmet and K, who was probably the second person in all five boroughs to sign up for a yearly bikeshare membership, showed me the ropes, and we were off whizzing up the Bowery.

Even in my terror, I realized that this was awesome. We hit our first stop, the Union Square Sephora in what must have been thirty seconds, and thirty seconds after that I was walking back out to meet K with tinted wedding moisturizer in my hand (check!). I was still wearing my helmet. I looked good. I was ready to be done.

K, meanwhile, was patting her pockets. “Do you have the list?” she asked. My dress had no pockets. Shit. How could we have left the list at home?! We were supposed to finish everything today. We had so many jobs today. We looked at each other. Probably, we agreed, we should head home and battleship with our computers. But then we reasoned since we were both hungry, we might as well keep riding for a little longer. So we zipped over to Chelsea for burgers and salads, and at the end of lunch, we both agreed that since K had never seen the Christopher Street Pier, in the name of queer history she really ought to. And once we both were laughing hysterically as we slowly rattled down a cobblestoned street in the Meatpacking District, we both agreed: screw the jobs. Forget the jobs. Let’s have some fun.

We biked down the West Side Highway. K reported that she does not ever want to go to trapeze school. Duh. Have you ever been to Battery Park City? How have I lived here this long and never seen Battery Park City? In! We stumbled on the tiny Irish Hunger Memorial. We kicked back with iced coffees and watched cruise ships and tugboats circle the Statue of Liberty. A pair of tiny twins practiced walking and falling, walking and falling, beaming at their delighted parents. We agreed that we are scared of having twins.

We counted sailboats and speculated about how long a Sunfish could stay upright in New York Harbor. I reminded K that I plan to have a kayak, canoe, scull, and sailboat wherever we live next, so she should get on that. We made mental plans for trips to Ellis and Governors Islands. I loudly complained about hapless pedestrians outside the Ferry Terminal (with the expertise of exactly one urban bike ride under my belt). We slowed down at the old Fulton Fish Market and then headed up the East Side, meandering at times, racing each other like wholesome Von Trapp children at others. We hit Alphabet City and I showed K where the Life Cafe from RENT used to be, hasn’t everything changed so much, and I tried to remember any buried clues from Ani DiFranco’s lyrics about where she once lived in Alphabet City. When we finally got home that night, I was sore and sweaty and happy. Of course I was happy. I spent the entire day with my favorite person in the world, and we didn’t quiz each other about tasks or jobs or project management once.

We’re not forever New Yorkers. I think our departure date is going to come racing up more quickly than either of us anticipates. Sometime soon, we’re going to be reminiscing about how we got married in New York City, how we took our local subway to get married and walked together to the church and ended the night at our favorite neighborhood bar. How there were all kinds of jobs that we meant to get done, but didn’t get done, which in all likelihood, absolutely no one noticed, and it was all for want of a sunny afternoon and exploring our city in the simple, delicious company of each other. This is the good stuff.

Photo by APW Sponsor Corey Torpie

Elisabeth Snell

Elisabeth is an MPH working in public health in New York City. Her old okcupid profile said she’s really good at: fixing socially awkward situations at parties, return trips to Ikea, whipping up excellent mac and cheese on camping trips, leaping into the ocean, being chronically late, and having Friday night adventures all over Brooklyn. In September 2013, she married her introverted, punctual K.

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  • Paranoid Libra

    A great reminder that sometimes you just need to say screw that to do list and just enjoy the day because decision fatigue is real. I was there and didn’t enjoy a lot of my engagement from it.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    You’re right, it’s so important to take time together away from the wedding planning, even though it feels really irresponsible at the time. We ended up, by coincidence of timing, doing a speedwork program together for the six weeks leading up to our wedding. Sprints and squats may not sound fun (they were emphatically not fun most of the time) but it was five hours a week that we spent together doing something unrelated to the wedding and gave us something to talk about that had nothing to do with the wedding. It was a project that we completed together, but since we just had to follow the plan Stew Smith wrote, it required no decisions whatsoever on our part, which was also a wonderful thing.

    (Also, I think you’re very brave to ride a bike in NY. I am not a very confident biker and am nowhere near ready for riding in traffic. I did choose a beach cruiser for my bike in large part because of the big seat.)

    • Laura C

      I will never ever do any urban biking after seeing what happened to my friend while biking in Philadelphia. Also I’ve been casting a side-eye at buses ever since even though I’m not on a bike.

      But I loved this post. As is usually the case with an Elisabeth post. Such a good reminder to keep having fun together, and of course so well written.

  • Rachel

    Another hilarious and wonderful post, Elisabeth! And yes, please tell us about wedding planning on Basecamp!!

    Also I’m not the only one whose mom still buys disposable cameras for events.

    • AmandaS

      I am so proud of my mom for suggesting multiple times that I “look into those wedding app thingies where people upload their pictures to the same place. Don’t you have that on the google?” She has no idea how it works or what it’s called but she knows it’s out there, and that it’s better than disposable cameras.

      • Elisabeth

        Oh god please don’t tell my mom about those wedding app thingies!

  • Jessica B

    Thank you for posting this, as someone who is in the middle of decision fatigue. My fiance is out of town until Thursday, our wedding is on Saturday, and everyone is asking me what to do/where to be/every other question possible. It’s great that they want to help and get everything perfect, but I’m so on the “eh” page right now. I have to work today and tomorrow. I just want to sleep.

    I made FH go out on a date with me last Saturday, and we spent 5-10 minutes talking about stuff other than the wedding before making another checklist of stuff that needs to be accomplished.

    I’m so done. Just get me to the church on time.

    • Vyvyan

      I so hear this. (Also on Saturday.) After breakfast this morning, my fiance said “It’s Tuesday! We’re on the week-of spreadsheet. So that’s the to-do list. Along with this stuff on the list on the table. And my own separate to-do list.”

      Family turns up tomorrow and is already asking for Stuff to Do. Mostly I want a few minutes to have non-wedding thoughts!

    • Copper

      I’m a month out as of Thursday, and I’m already hitting the decision fatigue wall. It’s just going to get worse, huh?

  • April

    Love this post! I was gchating the fiance about pies yesterday (we just confirmed our pie order for our wedding this saturday – yikes!) and said I had decided to have them delivered rather than trying to pick them up the day of our wedding … for a $40 fee. His response: “Ha! the wedding monster finally got you.” Which is sort of true. I’ve been super conscientious about our budget for months now – shaving off expenses (sometimes just a couple of dollars ) by searching for the best deals and choosing to take on a lot of tasks ourselves. But at this point, my answer to just about everything is “DO NOT CARE,” and if that means coughing up an extra $40 so I don’t have to figure our who’s going to swing by Whole Foods to pick up pies before the wedding, then FINE. DO NOT CARE.

    • M.

      I’d love to hear your experience with ordering from Whole Foods’ bakery (I know each local one will be different, but in general). We are going with (vegan) cakes and brownies from WF, I think. Good to know about delivery fee! I have to say, as the budgetmaster of my wedding, I will definitely throw down for one less thing to think about.

      Congrats!

      • April

        Yay WF desserts! To be honest, they were kind of a pain to work with. We went through the store’s catering coordinator, who was very nice but she only works part time and she wasn’t great about following up on e-mails or phone calls. It was about 3 weeks from the time that I first called her to the time when she finally confirmed our order. To be fair though, our local WF is really small. A larger store with a more robust catering department would probably be more responsive. And I’ll definitely give them bonus points for affordable deliciousness and their ability to absorb a pretty large order in a short timeframe.

        • M.

          Thanks for this! :) Have fun this weekend.

    • Beth

      I was the same way. But I liked to tell myself that it was worth all the early planning and frugality while I still had the mental energy so that when it came to the point where I couldn’t handle thinking about it anymore, then there would be some extra cash to throw at those annoyances. I don’t regret it!

  • M.

    Good stuff, indeed. Love it.

  • 39bride

    Wonderful post about what’s really important. And it reminded me that I think the best thing we ever did in wedding planning (on the advice of a now-forgotten website) was to hold wedding planning discussions to once a week. We were living 25 miles apart at the time, so it was pretty easy to do, and it allowed us to have at least one of the two weekend days together wedding-free (we each had tasks to manage on our own, so there was still planning going on but it didn’t interfere with our time together). There was a point about six weeks out where I took an entire week off from planning, but other than that, the decision fatigue didn’t hit until the last two days or so before the wedding.

  • mimi

    We got married on August 3 and we were both so relieved to get back to real life after all the good/crazy. Of course, we were so busy planning the wedding that we neglected to plan the European honeymoon that we are taking in October, so I’ve spent the last few weeks doing that…

    Oh, and my mom made a bunch of signs for our wedding and I asked her to make one with our wedding Instagram hashtag. She wasn’t sure what that was, but she made a lovely sign once I told her exactly what it should say.

    • jashshea

      Unrelated to anything, but where’s the honeymoon? I’m travel nosy (and may be able to give tips!).

  • Becca

    Oh boy, have I gotten the decision fatigue! To the point where I’m considering not even ordering flowers! Nothing matters to me anymore except that 1.) we get married 2.) everyone gets fed and 3.) everyone gets enough booze.

    • M.

      Well, if you decide not to, I send you a solidarity fist bump from the “no flowers” camp. I love flowers, but it was just too much (money, decisions), so I’ll make my own bouquet from TJ’s flowers and that’ll be it. It was a liberating non-decision for us.

      You will be married and it will be grand!

      • Stephanie

        Right there with you in the “no flowers” camp — also making my own bouquet from TJs flowers (thank you, APW tutorial!) and centerpieces that are photos in mason jars filled with oil, surrounded by tea lights. Boom. Done.

      • Paranoid Libra

        If it wasn’t for the fact that my friend worked at a florist I was just going to make my own bouquet as I wasn’t having any flowers on the tables just to hold/boutineers. He arranged them a little bit and asked the wedding woman to pretty them up a little so they got the extra treatment without the price :). So thankful that day of or day before I was not dealing with all of that as I had NO time.

    • Claire

      I’d say you’ve got your priorities straight. We didn’t have a single flower at our wedding and everyone lived.

    • C

      I also just joined the no-flowers camp. My venue offers centerpieces (mirrors and votive candles) and I realized that I could spend hundreds-to-thousands of dollars on flowers that would get thrown out after a few hours, or I could save that money to serve my guests high-end liquor. Done and done.

    • Jessica B

      If I didn’t have some wonderful aunts who volunteered to do all the flowers and go get them with me at the farmer’s market the day of the wedding, there would be no flowers at all. I’d probably have my bridesmaids carrying books or just one big sunflower to save time and questions.

    • MM

      I knew that would be me, so I ordered dried flowers (craspedia) from a local farm, and all the boutonnieres and bouquets have already been made (wedding is in 5 weeks). All that’s left to do is throw a few stems in each centerpiece on the day of and call it good. I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made… and so cheap too!

  • E

    One of the very first pieces of unsolicited advice I got upon my engagement was also one of the absolute best. My dear friend told me she and her (now) husband specifically planned a wedding “sabboth” every single week. They set aside at least one day where they didn’t talk at all about wedding stuff, and just enjoyed being together. She told me it would get harder and harder to do the closer it got to the wedding day, but that it would be so worth it. I’m now one month out from my wedding day and I can feel the pressures to fill all the non-work, non-sleep hours with wedding stuff. But my fiancé and I still work to have date night and bike rides and conversations that have nothing to do with the wedding. And it’s such a respite in an otherwise chaotic time for us.

    • Jessica B

      I wish that had been part of my unsolicited advice packet!

  • Tania

    This is so me! We have 25 days to go. We are both so over it. We are actively looking for non-wedding activities to distract ourselves with. Now, if I can’t solve a problem by throwing money at it, them I’m just deleting the problem area from the plan. And I know what you mean by the wedding being the begining of the end of something… we will be leaving London not long after the wedding and our whole day has been designed to be a love letter to the city where we met, fell in love and will be married.

    • Jack

      25 days for me too! We’ve been throwing money at problems too– my mom finally wore me down about flowers, we had issues with the first two caterers we talked to about the rehearsal dinner– but we don’t really have the money to throw around. I’m unemployed and waiting to hear about a job I’ve had seven (!) interviews for this week. Fingers crossed!

      • Meghan

        24 days for me – which means we three have the same date! Just gotta say I feel you guys. Delegate it, throw money at it, or cut it the hell out. We’ll get through it!

        PS: Good luck Jack!

        PPS: Tania, your wedding sounds awesome. My Anglophile fiance would love it.

  • Steph

    As someone who is getting married in 4 days (!) I could not possibly be more sick of thinking about, talking about and dealing with this wedding. I’m looking forward to the big day sure but I’m much more looking forward to the whole thing being over and getting my life back (with the bonus of being married to an awesome dude).

    Every day I’m so thankful for Practical Wedding for reminding me that I’m not the only one who doesn’t LOVE wedding planning!

    • SamanthaNichole

      I’m getting married on Saturday too and I just freaked out a little when you said 4 days!!

  • Rachel

    I love this post! And my favorite line is that you spent the entire day with your favorite person in the world so how couldn’t it have been a blast? That’s exactly how I feel – you definitely need days where you can just relax with eachother and forget the to-do lists. Sounds like you had an awesome time :-)

  • Kater

    The decision fatigue hit me so hard – but soon after came the transition into “I don’t give a f*ck!” territory which has been so liberating. We are in the homestretch (October 12th – yikes!)

    As my cousin (got married in June) texted me yesterday, “pretty much details from here on will have little to nothing to do with how awesome a time everyone has!” Now THAT was helpful to hear.

    • CLee

      Getting married October 12 over here too!!

      I hit decision fatigue TODAY (seeing into my soul as always APW), and am very quickly moving toward the “don’t give a flying f*ck” phase. Let’s hope libration comes soon, shall we?

      Good luck with the rest of your planning! We’ll make it thru with our sanity intact!

    • Copper

      We’re date triplets apparently. And yeah, most wedding questions now garner the response, “zero fucks given.”

  • Claire

    I’d like to nominate this line for Best Line Ever Published on APW:

    It’s that biking has generally been a simple choice for me: I can choose to bike, or I can choose to derive any pleasure from my genitals.

    Amen!

  • Claire

    Love this post so hard! The story and the writing.

    It reminds me of how we were supposed to spend the weekend before our wedding making a photo line out of pictures we had collected from our families of each of us growing up through the years and pictures of us adventuring together. Instead the wind conditions were just right, so we said, “Fuck the photo line!” and ran off to the beach to go kiteboarding with my sister and our nieces instead. Best wedding decision ever, even though all those cute pictures never saw the light of day. We still use “Fuck the photo line!” as shorthand for playing hookey on our plans in favor of having fun together.

    • Meghan

      Awesome and hilarious! You know that early video of a young Bill O’Reilly freaking out on live TV that was circulating awhile back? Where he gets pissed at the teleprompter and yells “Fuck it, we’ll do it live!” then freaks out? That’s totally mine and my fiance’s wedding zen phrase. Whenever something gets to be too much, we just say to each other “Fuck it, we’ll do it live!” and either delegate it, throw money at it, or cut it.

  • C

    “I want to go back to being in love with K, and having fun with K, and living our lives, and not having to put on a pageant to show for it.”

    THIS. So much this.

    • lady brett

      that is totally the best part about being married – at least in an immediate just-married sense!

  • catherine

    ANI DIFRANCO!! :)

  • hampton

    I am about 6 weeks out from our date and deep in the throes of decision fatigue. If I haven’t decided by now, it’s because I don’t give a shit about those things! It is perplexing and exhausting the number of questions I get about things that are on the don’t-give-a-shit list.

    Also, this made me laugh out loud: “It’s not just that I am scared of biking. It’s that biking has generally been a simple choice for me: I can choose to bike, or I can choose to derive any pleasure from my genitals.” TRUTH!

    • del678

      “If I haven’t decided by now, it’s because I don’t give a shit about those things! ”

      This.

      My wedding is now only a month away.. My new response when someone (read: everyone) asks how the wedding planning is going is “anything I put effort into now is the kind of stuff people won’t notice, therefore I’m not doing anything between now and the wedding”. First they look a little taken aback but then they kinda nod knowingly, “that’s true”.

  • marie

    The last week before my wedding, I was having serious decision fatigue. My sister (MOH) was in town. The best thing I did for myself was delegate all decisions to my her as her *only* MOH duty. She has a similar aesthetic to me, and a no-BS attitude about this stuff. Anytime someone asked me to make a decision, I forwarded it to her and she made the decision. She picked out how things would be arranged on tables, how napkins would be folded, et cetera. All of the little decisions that I just could NOT handle anymore. It allowed me to focus on hanging out with my almost-husband and trying to be a little bit calmer before the wedding. She was awesome and I plan on offering her my services as decision maker if she decides to have a wedding in the future :) It was really nice to have someone with a little bit of distance from the whole process just take over and be the rational one!

  • SamanthaNichole

    Our wedding is Saturday – wedding decision fatigue is running rampant in our house.

  • lisa

    Thank you. I needed this today. That is all.

  • pibs

    it’s almost over, lady. For now, GTD. G-mother-T-ing-D.

  • blair

    I know my comment is a month too late and all but this one almost made me cry. If ONE MORE person asks when we got engaged, and how, I will scream.

    And the answer to decision fatigue is everything Elizabeth just said…plus APW. On my way to search for a bridal entrance song because I am stuck between 4, and just sorta stopped here.

    true story.

  • tiffany

    THANK YOU!! I now officially know that I am not the only person who feels like that! I have exactly three weeks and two days (sorry, not doing the whole day counting thing, weeks sounds so much less stressful and scary) and I just told my fiance last night that I was done with decisions. I am not deciding anything right now from this point on. I am tired of lists for my lists for my lists etc… I’m just done with the whole thing. Sad thing is, I thought (and still do) that our wedding was going to be laid back; I mean vows on the beach, drive to the restaurant for dinner (pizza and calzones) and then back to the beach for bonfire and homemade mead. Simple right, wrong.. the logistics of it all… and it seems like NO ONE is able to think for themselves! I know I shouldn’t say that, but at this point as an adult, don’t we all kind of know how to follow intstructions and book hotel rooms? There are simply somethings that I have decided to handle the day before/of the wedding, such as my flowers. I am going to be picking some up from a farmers market the day before and bundling them up (thank you APW for the tutorial on that, which in turn turned me on to your most amazing site that I wish I had found earlier), most wedding stuff is diy (which I feel like I am drowning in DIY projects) as well, we just simply don’t have the cash to just throw at everything. So, in short (can you tell I’m midly panicked here?), thank you for this wonderful post that has let me know that it is normal to just be done with the wedding before it even happens. Pretty much every other wedding source out there tells you its a wonderful experience to be cherished, I say rubbish!

    Thanks!

    • MDBethann

      It is amazing how, when you’re swamped with a gazillion things on your list, otherwise capable adults want you to help them with something as simple as booking a hotel room? It’s simple – here’s the phone number, call, tell them you’re with our party, & you get a discount on your room. You don’t even have to go online.

      Good luck, and I hope people will let you do the things you need to do and stop asking you to do stuff for them in the next few weeks!

  • Jenna

    This is exactly why we hired our dear friend (a professional event planner) to be our wedding planner, day-of coordinator, and officiant. She is going to totally run the show so that we can focus on each other, our love, and not losing our damn minds. :)