Ask Team Practical: Wedding Planning Exhaustion

Meg put out a mini-call for ATP questions over Twitter and Facebook, and one in particular stuck out.  Jenny S. wanted to know:

“How to get over having the longest engagement ever.”

I knew exactly how Jenny felt just by reading that one sentence; it was simple, succinct and shows that she’s completely over the whole effing thing.  Those nine little words were holding back a torrent of emotions, the flood of which would come forth if ONE MORE PERSON smiled brightly at her and said, “Sooo, when’s the big day?!?”

Wedding planning can suck for a multitude of reasons, but sometimes it’s just because it can take so damn long to be over.  A long engagement may be the most practical thing in the world for you and your partner, but about halfway through, the excitement has worn off, reality has set in and it’s hanging up curtains, and there does not seem to be an end in sight.  In fact, Meg wrote about this very thing in the middle of her too-long engagement, if you need moral support. What’s a woman to do when the very thought of waiting nine more months to be wed makes her go, “RAWR!!  WEDDING HATE!  INSPIRATION BOARD STUPID!  BRIDE SMASH!”?

Well… I don’t know.

Seriously, I really don’t.  And that’s because there’s not really much you can do other than just keeping planning (or just stop planning!) and wait it out, move your date up, or just haul off and elope.  Such is life, and life is a jerk sometimes.  However, leaving it at that would make me a jerk, so let’s chat about some ways to fend off wedding planning exhaustion.

  1. Set a wedding-free zone in your house.  Or, better yet, create a wedding workspace (or a wedding box?) and keep the rest of the house clear. Planning a wedding will start off with just a pile of invitations in the living room.  Then there are bridal looks on the bathroom mirror, inspiration pictures on the desk, and suddenly your wedding seems to be everywhere. You really don’t need the reminder that you have 450 more days until your wedding staring at you while you’re brushing your teeth, so get rid of it.
  2. Stop Reading Wedding Blogs.  Yeah. We said it. YOU NEED A BREAK. (You can keep reading APW if you’re just reading for the marriage and the community stuff, but we will SEE YOU if you start sneaking a glance at the How-To posts and wondering where that wedding grad got her bridesmaids dresses. Seriously, stop it. You can read about how Meg stopped reading wedding blogs back here (hint: she calmed the eff down). Yeah, she says her engagement was too long. She’s with you.)
  3. Make out with your partner as often as possible.  Married life changes things in big ways (and doesn’t change them at all in others) and while it’s a great place to be, NOT married is a great place to be also. Enjoy the state you’re in, kiss your partner like you did when you first started dating, feel those butterflies all over again and remember why you’re getting married in the first place. Also? Your partner is smokin’ hot, why are you not kissing them RIGHT NOW? Oh. They’re at work? WHATEVER, DETAILS.
  4. Get a hobby.  One of my problems while I was being DIY crazy-face is that I used my wedding as an excuse to do all the fun things I’d always wanted to do anyway.  I stressed over these details when what I should have done was hired someone to make the stupid projects I was killing myself over and then learned how to do them just for the fun of it.  A long engagement may seem like the perfect time to learn letterpress or make your wedding dress because it gives you incentive and a purpose to justify spending time and money on it.  But unlike a typical hobby, screwing up on those projects could also give you ulcers and make you a sobby mess if it gets down to the wire and you haven’t perfected your skills yet.  Go out and learn something for the fun of it, not just for your wedding.  It’s hard to brood about long engagements when you’re elbow deep in a new venture and having a blast.
  5. Stop planning your wedding and start planning your life.  Your wedding is a stop on your journey, not the destination. Make plans even farther in the future, like where you want to go when you’re not paying for a wedding, or what you want to do with your career, or how you’d decorate a house you bought together. Dreaming a little is the fun part of planning, so start doing it for other aspects of your life and stay excited for not only your wedding, but beyond that.
  6. OR, plan something else.  Know what?  Y’all need a vacation.  Something small and super budget-friendly that involves cocktails and lots of laughing.  Or a party. When’s the last time you threw just a kick-a**tastic bash?  How about that 10k in eight months, why not train for that?  Much like anything else, breaking up a large amount of something into smaller chunks makes it much easier to deal with.  So yes, your wedding is nearly two years away, but in three months you have that trip to the mountains.  And a month later there’s that wine tasting party.  And two months after that is your cousin’s wedding and two months after that…you get the idea.

Then next time someone asks you about the wedding, you’ll think, “What wedding?” Because you’ll be that busy living.

So how about it, ladies?  What have you done to ward off wedding exhaustion cause by a long engagement?  Dish!

Picture: by knfriel

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted.  Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh).  We’re not kidding.  It brings us joy.  What, you don’t want to bring your editors JOY?!

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  • Emily

    First comment? Wow, clearly I am reading wedding blogs way too early in the morning!

    Just wanted to say that most of this is pretty solid advice even for a short engagement, when wedding tunnel vision doesn’t necessarily cause exhaustion for you but it can for other people.

    • This used to *always* be me, but then I got a new job with earlier work hours. I also avoid commenting on blogs while at work (I work in HR … gotta set the example, right?). The downside is, I often feel too overwhelmed to read all the comments than I don’t comment at all!

      So, in other words … you’re in a good place. :)

  • I think part of wedding exhaustion can also be just wanting to see the damn thing you’ve been planning already. I feel like I’ve been thinking and talking about all the details for so long, but the work hasn’t “paid off” yet. I know when the day comes, it’ll look nice and people will have fun (fingers crossed, that is), but so far it’s a lot of effort with not a lot to show for it. My fiance and I are about a month away from the wedding, and aside from the “actually being married” part I’m really looking forward to just seeing everything actually come together.

    • Our wedding next September will be the end of a fifteen month engagement. But, we’d been talking about getting married, and talking about THIS wedding option for a lot longer than that so I totally get what you mean by wanting it to pay off.

      My advice is to just keep looking forward to new phases of the planning, whether it’s the lull we’re hoping to have in the early summer, or the exciting part of starting to hear which family members are considering making the trek to the wedding. (SO fun! Occasionally a little sad, but mostly FUN. Because if it’s not fun, why do it? Right? Right.)

      • “Because if it’s not fun, why do it? Right? Right.”
        Amen to that! One thing that’s been fun now that we have invitations out is, like you mentioned, hearing back from people. In all the details, I’d kind of forgotten that these were things that real people we know and love (not just theoretical “guests”) will see and enjoy.

        • The whole point of the place we chose is that it’s important to us and we want to share it with family and friends (when it’s not 100 degrees! So fall it is!). I feel so loved when I talk to friends who are figuring out how to get a little nest egg together to come and support us. The wait will be worth it. I believe this.

  • When I was engaged, and people would ask me about the wedding, I would sometimes joke “Who cares? Why doesn’t anyone ever ask me about my CAREER?” I said this to one friend, who from then on, every time she saw me, would ask “How’s your career?” which always made me laugh.

    My point: Get a few people on your side who will really get it when you tell them you don’t want to talk about the wedding anymore.

    • meg


      • Sharon

        This is our exact situation. My financee and I are both finishing our final year of law school (long distance, no less) so we chose to have a long engagement (about 16 months) because of everything that has to happen in the next year – graduating, taking the bar, finding jobs hopefully in the same city, moving in together, starting those jobs, etc. People seem surprised at our long engagement, but to us, it was necessary because of our careers. I’m already feeling exhausted, but I think its because of everything else we have going on in our lives that will ultimately make the marriage, if not the wedding, richer and more fulfilling.

        • Kate

          Long distance 3L with the added complication of deciding which bars to take? This is us, too (except I’m the only law student; my fiance’s in a PhD program that may or may not let him return to my area next summer…fingers crossed). We’ve been engaged for about a month, and I’ve only just learned which state I’ll be in next year, so figuring out the logistics of a wedding is feeling like an impossible task. I keep reminding myself that it will be easier once we get ourselves to the same state!

          • Long distance wedding planning is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My wedding last month was great, but I’m sooo glad it’s over now, and I’m still destressing! We had (only?) a 13 month engagement, and we still won’t be in the same city until the end of the year.

    • Yes. This. I have a coworker who is very well meaning, but I’ve been engaged (in a very passive, non-planning kind of way) for over a year now, and every time she sees me, it’s, “How’s the wedding planning going?” And I always answer, “Oh, it’s still the same, nothing new.” And she looks disappointed. And then asks me again the next day.

      • Mara

        af*ckingmen, ladies.

        I’m two years into my three year engagement, and we finally allowed ourselves to set a date and make some real decisions. It’s been so long, but in that amount of time, some awesome stuff has happened – I finished grad school, got a grown up job, and generally started sorting out who I am and what I stand for.

        And apparently what I stand for is not limiting women to the stereotypical things that are supposed to consume their ENTIRE BRAINS.

        Not to say I don’t love a pretty dress and gorgeous flowers…just don’t let other people limit your interests to that. And don’t let yourself limit your interests to that.

  • I’m not having a long engagement (just 15 months) because I would not cope. However I have quit wedding blogs that are not APW and we have started panning for the honeymoon and things we want after the wedding as sometimes the wedding gets in the way of the relationship when you are engaged and that just seems silly.

    So thought it is not too long, I am trying to not think about it all the time. This freaks some people out who think all brides should be wedding obsessed but that is their problem. I like being engaged, and I like sometimes forgetting what comes next as being engaged kinda rocks.

    • meg

      *Just* fifteen months? Historically that’s super long. I think it’s interesting how engagement times have stretched out. First it was the wedding industry, wanting them long (so we’d spend more), then it was the economy (stupid economy). Mine was eighteen months and I considered it to be near endless. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have anything longer than a six month engagement, though it would mean a smaller wedding. That’s the one thing I would change.

      Commentary aside though, I’m really glad it’s working for you :) And that you’re here.

      • In month three of fifteen and sometimes I just want to drop it and go get married by ourselves. (In the place we’ve been planning all along.) I just felt, since it was a destination wedding, I needed to give people time to save/take time off/plan THEIR trip. Am I pretty sure this is too long? Yes. Will I deal with it in the hopes that one or two more family members will come. Absolutely.

      • Thanks. It does not seem long compared to so many people. Though one of my friends is having a three week engagement and I am so happy for her – it sounds wonderful to be honest!

  • CJ

    yeah, I think this is definitely good advice no matter the length of your engagement. Ours is relatively short (7 months) and I still find that it really helps to do things like take a weekend off of wedding planning and just hang out with the boy or my family *without* talking about the wedding at all. And I quit my ultimate Frisbee team for these last couple of crazy months…but up until now I’ve been keeping my regular schedule and that was awesome. And trying to actually focus when I’m at my job that I love, instead of reading wedding blogs all day. Ha.

  • Carbon Girl

    Alyssa, this may be my fave column of yours ever. It can apply to many other things besides engagements and hit a chord with how I feel about my PhD. 4 years down, ? many left.

    • Emily

      Absolutely ! Lately I’m feeling like planning for the wedding, which is relatively close, gives me a break from thinking about the PhD, which is SO FAR AWAY. I get exhaustion thinking about that. And making out, hobbies, and mini vacations are also excellent treatment.

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        Yes! We’re getting married this summer (far away!), and the countdown to the wedding pretty closely mimics the countdown to the end of my PhD (ahh, not yet! I need to find a J-O-B?!). [Insert Einstein’s quote about relativity here.] Flipping between the two helps keep me sane on both fronts.

        • Alana

          Same here, I’m due to submit by mid-January 2012 and our wedding is 1 April. So I’m leaving all the *pretty details* till after I submit (which makes them something to look forward to)! And then hopefully I will have my defence and know if I have passed before we leave for the wedding (which is on the other side of the world). Just IMAGINE how that honeymoon is going to feel!!! Ahhh…. and then back home for a month of married life before we have our second (European) reception and my PhD graduation, all in the space of a week :) This is, of course, if all goes to plan and I pass without huge corrections…

          Agreed that handling final write-up and wedding planning at the same time is actually quite a good thing, as it prevents you from disappearing too far down the rabbit-hole on either front!

          • As someone who is only doing her masters and runs around flailing and screaming ack! on a regular basis my hat and socks and shoes and pretty much everything else is off to you doctoral candidates…

          • Kat

            Your honeymoon is going to be AMAZING. I was floating on clouds of euphoria for months after I defended my PhD :) I felt such a huge sense of relief and became so much more relaxed.

  • Amy

    Once again, Alyssa’s advice is spot on. The biggest thing that I did that kept me sane over my (relatively short) 14 month engagement was just to take a break. There’s usually a natural gap once you’ve booked vendors/made plans/etc. before you really need to start doing the rest of the wedding stuff. So take advantage of it. I took the entire summer “off” from wedding planning and it was fabulous.
    Heh, it helped that my husband’s job moved and we suddenly had to sell our apartment, find a new apartment, and move 3 weeks after we got back from our honeymoon. That’ll distract you from wedding planning for sure.

    • This is great advice. My husband and I took a month off at several points in our 11-month engagement and it was really necessary for recharging our batteries. Even if you’re worrying about something else during that time, it helps to live out of a different part of your brain for a little while.

    • Is 14 months seriously considered short these days? Our engagement has been 12.5 months and it feels interminable. My feeling is that if it’s long enough to gestate a child, it’s certainly long enough to plan a wedding. (Of course our original plan was to get married within nine months, but then my fiance’s sister got knocked up a month later and we had to move the wedding so she could come.)

      • Amy

        Ruchi – I think it depends on where you get married too. We got hitched in NYC and our church flat out wouldn’t marry you without at least 9 months notice, and for some churches it was closer to 12 months. Also, venues and vendors in NYC (that are closer to affordable by city standards) all tend to book up at least a year in advance. So my friends generally had 12-15 month engagements on average.

      • My engagement was 14 months, and it felt way too long. That’s typically the first thing I tell the newly engaged. On the other side, we ended up needing to find a new officiant and church site with less than 4 months to the date, and that made me panicky. I think 8 – 10 months would have been ideal for us.

    • Yeah, we did that too. We moved a month after we got back from our honeymoon.

      Alyssa, this advice is awesome! Some of it I did (the wedding box) and some of it I should have done! I agree with Lauren about everyone asking about the wedding and not the rest of your life. It got weird when someone would ask how it’s going and I’d be all, “um… okay. I don’t know?” because everything was fine sometimes and scary another but I wasn’t the harried bride people expected and I didn’t know how to give them what I thought they wanted.
      Also, I knew they were happy for us and excited but I was trying to figure out details that stressed me out, so my feelings about the wedding were sometimes vastly different than theirs.

      • I moved internationally 6 weeks before our wedding and agree that moves are distracting! Customs paperwork is crazy and all that was going on at the same time as DIY invites: It was intense. But I guess moving helped me spread my stress around, haha. (Though we had a short engagement, so I actually didn’t have the too-long engagement problem.)

  • Stephasaurus

    I’m in the middle of a long engagement, and initally it stressed me out a little. But then I realized that something a good friend of mine said about her long engagement (she’ll probably see this comment, in fact!) rings true for me too: I’m only going to be engaged once, so I’m going to enjoy a long engagement! I’ll be married for the rest of my life, but I only have these two years to be engaged, and being engaged has been a lot of fun. We look forward to the wedding, of course; but in the meantime, my fiance and I have had lots of wedding budget-friendly adventures to prepare us for some more extravagant adventures we’ll be able to afford after the wedding’s paid off. :)

  • Jo

    We had “no wedding Wednesdays” where neither of us were allowed to talk anything wedding, so we had to just HANG OUT and remember why we were doing this crazyness anyway. It was perfect.

    Also, yay to the poster of the nine-word sentence… because if you’re looking forward to after the wedding more than being engaged, then you have a great great life ahead of you.

    • Abbie

      hahaha we did the exact opposite… we had wedding Wednesdays. It was the only night that 100% of our focus was on wedding planning (and sometimes it was just drinking wine and talking about how awesome our wedding/marriage will be). But neither of us are planners, so maybe that’s the difference!?

    • I wish I had done something like Weddingless Wednesdays. I overloaded my fiancé with too much wedding talk…

  • Erica

    Thanks Alyssa! We got engaged in August and the wedding isn’t until next October because FH’s brother just got deployed (which kind of puts everything into perspective in the first place). We are both graduate students, which means we have approximately four minutes to ourselves every week and we’d rather spend it doing something fun than wedding planning. And this is probably a good thing, because I’m a suuuuper type-A perfectionist former stage manager who could probably get a little too obsessed over say, favors. (Not having them! Whoooo!)

    I think it’s important to remember that just because you HAVE a year/14 months/2 years/however-many-years-it-takes to plan doesn’t mean you NEED to spend that entire time planning. We picked a date and a location, have more or less decided the guest list and will be doing e-mail save the dates at some point, maybe winter break when we have more than the aforementioned four minutes, and other than that figure we don’t really have to worry about it until next summer. So for now we’re just enjoying being engaged, and I get all giddy any time I talk about it because the stress hasn’t really set in yet.

    Although I do read a lot of wedding blogs….

    • Claire

      “I think it’s important to remember that just because you HAVE a year/14 months/2 years/however-many-years-it-takes to plan doesn’t mean you NEED to spend that entire time planning.”

      Ahhh, my thoughts exactly!! I got engaged in May and while we have a tentative date and location, I haven’t spent more than a few weeks in wedding planning mode. One reason is because my fiance proposed to me while abroad and then left (so currently in long distance mode… sigh). There is a certain point where you actually need to BE in the location of your choosing in order to start planning, and so I soon gave up 100 Layer Cake/Style Me Pretty/general whoring of the WIC.

      Long engagements don’t bother me, though, and I wouldn’t mind extending the engagement due to career and financial issues. It’s no one’s business but you and your partner’s as to when you should get married, and I’ll be damned if people try to tell me otherwise.

  • Ake

    Maybe not super helpful as it’s so specific to our situation, but we had a seven month engagement and that was too long for us…so we decided to go to the other side of the world for a month. We had been planning the trip anyway (it had to happen at some point in the next 18 months for reasons to do with my PhD) and although of course people said, “You can’t go travelling for a month during wedding planning!” we were like, “Uh, or, you know, we CAN and we ARE” and we just did it. It was awesome…a life-saver. We (literally) had to do things like sit on a canoe for four hours with a motor so loud you can’t speak and balance so fragile you can’t move and watched the world go by as we canoed down to an inaccessible village where we hung out with people who build awesome tree-houses and sometimes hang bones outside their houses to show how ‘hard’ they are (allegedly). Did I spend ANY of that journey thinking about napkins or flowers? Obviously not. The whole trip opened our eyes to LIFE and MARRIAGE and we barely had access to the Internet at all and I honestly cannot remember a single wasted moment on that trip spent thinking about wedding details. Of course it really helped that I barely took any wedding planning stuff with me and told people we would be out of contact and nothing couldn’t wait till we got back (and all credit to my mum who was awesome at answering calls if vendors got stressy and dealing with any time sensitive things).

    So obviously not everyone can just go to the other side of the world, but I guess it’s just to echo Alyssa’s point no. 6 and say that if you CHOOSE to put other things in your life than wedding planning they can really help take up brain space and bring perspective.

    Marriage prep really helped too.

    We also had whole periods of time when we just refused to do wedding planning. People would say “what are you going to do about this or that?” and we’d say “my parents are on the other side of the world (which they were for a lot of our engagement), they want to be involved, so we’re not going to talk about it till we see them” or we’d say “It’s Christmas! We’re not doing wedding planning! It’s Christmas!”

    The flip side of this is that the time when we DID do wedding planning, because we had cut whole chunks of time out, was pretty stressful at times, but I preferred it that way – for us – at this stage of our lives.

  • I love this. I think people ask so much about how the wedding planning is going because it’s an easy conversation tool. Makes me think of the recent article telling us to ask little girls what they’re reading or anything even halfway intellectual, instead of telling them how pretty they are and moving on.

    It’s crucial to focus on the marriage aspect of your future, that’s what lasts! Wedding planning is stressful, so go get a coffee and think about what you want to do this weekend, make tonight for dinner, plan for a fun date for next week :-) And tell the people who always lead with “Sooo how goes the wedding planning” that it’s great but you’re more excited about ___________ right this very second.

    • meg

      I love the comparison of people talking to women about weddings, and people talking to little girls about their looks. Wise. And would be good if it changed?

    • ahh, love that article! Since I read it, I have made a super conscious effort to talk about life with all the kids I run into. And so true re: conversation topics. People want to be nice and friendly. They just don’t know what to talk about.

  • This is kind of a combo of #5 and #6 but, what helped me was going to the gym. About 6 months before our wedding I splurged on a membership to the spa-like gym near my job and I even went to a trainer for a little while. For me it wasn’t about losing weight or getting in shape for the wedding (between my very low impact workouts and all the cake “tastings” I just broke even), it was about having an hour to myself in the middle of the day a few times a week when I knew the only thing I had to concentrate on was how my body felt. I found that no matter how stressed I was when I went in, I always came out in a better frame of mind.

    I didn’t have an end goal in mind that I was training for. I know some (maybe most?) people thrive when they have that 10k or X number of pounds to keep them motivated. But I’ve never been that way with exercise. Once I start working toward a specific goal it adds stress to my workouts and I start feeling like I’m falling behind or like I’m a loser if I don’t stay on track. For me what worked was just to be really easy on myself by picking a gym I enjoyed being in, with a trainer who was nice to me, and spending as much time as I wanted to in the stretching area. I didn’t weigh myself or track my progress anywhere, I just concentrated on exploring my athletic side and making it a regular part of my routine. It was good to feel like I had a project I was working on that was going to last long after the wedding day was over.

    • meg

      Alyssa wrote about the gym, but we took it out because we didn’t want to sound like Cosmo. That doesn’t mean it’s not *good* advice though. Of course, I use that for every stresser ever… and hence go to the gym most days.

      • Meg, I think someone on APW needs to write a post on “gym-shame”. I wasn’t sure what the response was going to be when I posted that about working out, because it’s really hard to talk about women working out just for the sake of working out. It’s easier if you can say “I’m training for a charity run”, “I’m trying to lose X pounds” or “I do yoga/pilates/ spinning” (aside — those are totally valid forms of exercise, which I’m not discounting, I just don’t think they should be the only forms of exercise for women), but people really turn off when you say, “yeah I just used a stationery bike for 20 minutes” or “I just ran a mile on the treadmill. No I’m not training for anything”, nevermind weight training.

        I don’t think it’s the same for men. For some reason it just doesn’t come across that women can enjoy exercise for it’s own sake, without it being a tool for something else. I think if there was more open discussion of regular-everyday-because-I-like-doing-it exercise then women who might enjoy working out wouldn’t avoid it like it’s a party they’re not invited to (which is what I did until I was into my 20s). The Cosmo approach of forcing yourself to work out harder than you should for 3 months to fit into a bikini is giving healthy exercise a bad name.

        This is not meant to say that training for a race or even losing a certain number of pounds is a bad thing, if that’s something you’re interested in for your own reasons, I just think women who don’t have specific exercise-related goals in mind shouldn’t feel like it can’t be a part of their lives.

        • Claire

          Kayleigh, I think you should submit a post! And hopefully it will posted because I do agree that this is an important issue. I have such a complicated relationship with the gym and exercise in general, borne out of so many factors like self-esteem and the way I was raised. Slow food and good nutrition habits are becoming en vogue but movement and activity for the sake of it are not, as the discourse still revolves on weight loss and achievement, as you have said.

        • Amy

          I can’t exactly this enough. I go to the gym to use the treadmills (and watch the tv attached to the treadmill) about 3-4 times a week. I’m not training for anything, I just like how it feels to get a good cardio workout in. Plus, its a great stress reliever. No, I’m not there to lose those last 5lbs, or train for a charity run or whatever, its just part of my weekly routine.
          Somehow the fact that as a woman I can go to the gym just because it makes me feel good to sweat and de-stress (and not because OMG I ate a brownie!!!) took me until my late 20s to realize.

        • Uh oh….If you ever start a sentence with “Someone should write a post about….” and it’s something that you do or have done, you totally just volunteered yourself.

          May I direct you here? :-)

        • Stephasaurus

          Please write this post. People need to be aware that there are other/more logical/more healthy reasons to work out than just weight loss. You can be the skinniest person in the world, but if you don’t exercise, you’re due for heart problems later in life. To me, working out is something to keep my heart and body healthy.

    • Umpteenth Sarah

      So, so true, although people assume bride+gym=losing weight for wedding, which annoyed me. And for me, it was just trail running, which had the added bonus of getting outside, another wedding-stress abatement mechanism.

      • Yup. MAYBE, I just WANT to run. Dammit.

        Also, it made the post just a step or two away from, “And then go shopping with the girls! Buy some shoes! Learn some sexy moves guaranteed to make him go WILD! ALL OF THESE WILL SOLVE WEDDING EXHAUSTION!!”


        That’s not how we do.

        • Umpteenth Sarah

          Buy more crap, change your body, and all your problems will go away. Gross. Keepin’ it real on APW.

      • I got really into intense training in the year before our wedding, and I think a lot of coworkers were assuming that it was for weight-loss which definitely rubbed me the wrong way. In fact, it was a great stress reliever and distraction. And in the end it sort of made me feel more… buff (as I was doing a lot of weight work), not more skinny, on my wedding day.

      • My MIL flat out asked me during the rehearsal dinner whether I had been working out (no, too stressed, which I know is completely backwards) and whether I had had a weight goal. I was so annoyed, but I gave a bright, cheery “No!” and no other comment.

  • Alyssa, you’re awesome. every single one of those points, I went yes! do that! and yeah #4, I almost killed myself making the simplest of veils, I just couldn’t get it right – so I bought one on etsy. bam. I considered learning how to do it myself eventually but now I’m kind of over it. still, even if you never try learning it just for the fun of it, if it’s a craft you don’t know well and it’s making you insane – it’s so worth it to just buy whatever it is, or scrap the whole project for something simpler.

    these really are all great points for so many things in life. Alyssa! <3

    • Yes simple wedding veil demons! I tried 4 times and finally said screw it. 4 times, what a waste of anxiety and time and frustration. I should have been making out with my hot fiance instead.

      We only talked about the wedding between 7pm and 8 pm. That was it.

    • I was so sure I was going to make a million bazillion paper flowers, because…I’m crafty! I love paper stuff! But then I decided I’d rather walk barefoot across a field of glowing cigarette butts and ordered the flowers off etsy. And it was cheaper than the supplies I would’ve purchased. I still assembled the actual arrangements, though.

    • 7 days before our wedding I still thought I had time to learn how to make a veil, find and buy the supplies, and make the exact veil I was imagining in my head, without problems. Thankfully a friend talked sense into me, and I just decided to throw money at it and bought a veil that night. Which is great because unexpected events that week zapped all my energy and there is no way I would have had the desire or motivation to make a veil anyways. But in my pre-wedding-la-la-land it seemed perfectly feasible to learn how to do a completely new DIY project a week before the wedding. Ha. :)

  • “… kick-a**tastic…”


    I think I’ll have one of those RIGHT NOW, thanks.

  • carrie

    I’m a big reader, but I’ll go through jags of not being in the mood to read and that coincided with most of our engagement. After starting Game of Thrones on HBO, I started reading the book and getting back into reading totally saved my a**. Someone also commented that it’s okay to take some time off from planning, and it is. You have to sometimes, and it’s totally okay.

    Solid advice, as usual. And now I wanna make out with my husband.

    • brdnbutta

      I’m doing exactly the same thing right now, to de-stress from all of the planning pressure! I watched the entire first season of Game of Thrones marathon style on my dvr and then bought the first four books as a set from Walmart. It’s my guilty pleasure since I don’t typically read this genre but I love it and its and excellent way to decompress at the end of the day

  • i don’t have any advice – this just reminded me of something i noticed about engagement/planning when we got married. we ended up being engaged for about a year and a half. we had kind of been aiming for the next april, and in june we were discussing various snags in the plan, and she said “how about october” and we talked about how fall is lovely and it might be easier for my folks and we could be *married* sooner, and then i went “OMG that’s only four months away! panic! there’s no way!”

    so we re-decided on april. and did every last bit of the wedding planning in the four months prior. all that extra time in between…stressing out, second guessing, not making any single decision or getting anything done at all.

    it was lovely in the end – but that idea i had that a short engagement would be too stressful? lies. i mean, i’m sure it would have been stressful – but in a helpful, kick-in-the-pants kind of way rather than a useless, wringing-of-hands kind of way. i could have used this list, though our engagement wasn’t all that long =)

  • “Stop planning your wedding and start planning your life.”

    MMMHMMM. Do this.

    And the makeout session. ;)

  • My engagement was only 6 months long, but I still got tired of it. People would ask if I was excited and I’d say “Excited? Eh.” The wedding didn’t matter all that much to me, I just wanted to be married. Also, LIFE was a big drain, I had a lot of other crap going on and couldn’t really get too wrapped up in planning. So yeah, planning other things and having a career (and starting a business for me) will definitely take your mind off the wedding…. or just stress you out further. But hopefully it’s just a constructive distraction.

    • Yeah, we had a lot of other stuff going on while we were planning, which was a blessing and a curse. The wedding sometimes felt like a hurdle we had to jump to get back to regular life, but the craziness in the rest of our lives put a lot of wedding decisions into perspective.

    • I can’t exactly this enough. So I commented. :)

  • Sharon

    We were engaged for 21 months. The first few weeks I started to get into planning, and then I realized I had more important things to do. So the first 6 months I completely ignored all wedding planning to concentrate on my life. People have expressed surprise and shock at this, but to me it didn’t seem that big of a deal.

    It was a bit weird to see other people get engaged and married during our long engagement, but that’s someone else’s life, not ours. Now, on the other side, I do sometimes think our engagement was too long, but not because of the length of time. Because really? After the mess of planning I think we should have just eloped! =)

  • We went from a 22 month engagement (our first date) to *just* a 15 month engagement (moved our date up for several reasons). We just had to make ourselves take it slow. Engagement is a marathon training session for marriage! Practice, practice, practice!

  • We got engaged right before we moved across states and we both started graduate school. It was poor timing for a lot of reasons, but he got excited and jumped the gun. After a few months of trying to plan and just not having TIME or energy to put into it, we called off the engagement. It was the best decision we could have made. It took the pressure off externally and internally, and stopped all the questions!

    When we did finally restart the engagement, we planned our wedding in 6 months, and still felt like it was a lot of time. There were months where we didn’t do any wedding planning because there wasn’t really anything to do, anyway (and because we didn’t want to do anything – liminal states are not my friend!). People thought we were crazy, but it worked, so whatever. All told there were 2 years between our initial engagement and our wedding, but it really helped to push the wedding to the back of our minds for a while, and to focus on other things.

    I know some folks who have long engagements and seem to have never ending to-do lists and are in heavy duty planning mode from the moment they get engaged, and I don’t know how they do it without burnout. It helped for me to focus on getting the big stuff out of the way (venue/caterer/ceremony site) and thereby take the pressure off of myself for the little stuff. It all fell into place.

  • (I don’t post on here often, just because I usually am just echoing what everyone else said. But I’m a fan of this community.)

    Our engagement was just shy of two years.

    PRO: I saved up most of the money to pay for the wedding. That was a great feeling. We slowly purchased things like dishes, silverware and details over time. We had the time to do the projects we set forth for ourselves.


    –Those projects became huge looming to dos. Much like Alyssa, we used the wedding as an excuse to do things we loved or wanted to learn: go rummaging through antique stores and resale shops, learn to do screenprinting, make a yurt (all him, not me), dye and make flags. But when things went even a little awry, I was in tears. I couldn’t approach new things without being tense.

    –Fiance didn’t want to talk about plans so early because he didn’t want to suddenly change his mind half way through. I felt like I wanted to get the plan down right away so we would have time to make it epic. So, for the first six months we couldn’t even have a fully civil discussion about the wedding. He felt like planning it down to the nitty gritty would make it too wedding-y. I felt like if I didn’t plan every detail, I would be a crazy person come that day. He didn’t want a theme. I wanted something cohesive to hang my hat on.

    –Saving for the wedding became a big deal to me, and we cut out a lot of the extras. We didn’t go out to eat as much, we didn’t go out. It felt like we’d basically suffered for two years. It also meant that changes that really may have been important to consider –moving, getting a better job, etc–were off the table. I’d always say, “Can we think about this After the Wedding?”
    –Because we had “so much time” it felt like we could take our time with things. Which means, of course, that I was gluing flags two weeks before the wedding until 3am.

    –The dress. Because I had “so much time” I could “Lose That Weight”. This one makes me headdesk all day thinking on it. I put off getting measured for my custom made dress until six months before, and the dress wasn’t finished until four days before the wedding. It was amazing, but it was a serious stressor, especially since life collaborated to make my seamstress’ life difficult by having deaths in the family around my wedding.

    –Escapism. Because we weren’t doing as many fun things together, and I was constantly thinking about the wedding, we kind of found ways to escape that weren’t the healthiest for the relationship. We dealt with them, but there were months in there where I LIVED on my computer, and I did NOTHING actually helpful for the wedding but surf sites, gather images, and play video games to “relax”. Looking back at it, I think I may have been depressed. I wasn’t eating (this would be good for the dress, right?) and I wasn’t sleeping.

    –Recovery. We are having a hard time adjusting afterwards. It was an amazing wedding for both of us – extremely meaningful and worth all the effort. But now…we are tired, trying to define a non-wedding planning life together again.

    So, summary? Two years was too long.

    • Exactly times a million. Especially with the escapism. I’m almost 3 years into to a 3 1/2 year engagement – with the wedding being next June, and I have days where I tell myself to work on wedding things…and I watch the Office for 16 hours. We haven’t been planning through the whole engagement, but the minute I think of our wedding I get tense, and I know that’s not good.

      I think in trying to give myself a break for November, I’m stressing myself out further. My to do list for October includes about a million things that probably don’t need to get touched on until January, but I’m still trying to do them now. Vendors have even told me I’m really prepared…but it never feels that way.

      Geez, that sounds really neurotic once I type it out. o_O

  • Umpteenth Sarah

    This is excellent advice, all of it (even for those of us with shorter engagments. Mine was 10 months and felt like an eternity). Basically, the advice speaks to the assumption by many that during your engagmeent, you suddenly become Bride, Queen of Crazyland, which in itself made me feel like if I wasn’t going crazy, something was wrong with me. As Alyssa sagely points out, taking breaks from the process is so so important.

    I hated all of the unnecessary “oh, you must be going out of your mind” conversations I had to squash in those 10 months, and can only imagine having MORE of them in a longer engagement. Basically, every time some casual acquaintance would say “oh, going crazy yet? ha ha?!” I’d say “no, WE’re not going crazy at all. Just keeping it laid back and simple. So how about them Yankees?” or something to that effect.

  • We went 14 months, and I took that length as an excuse to not think about wedding planning every day or even every week or month. I have a very time-consuming work life that leaves me little time to think about anything else from Sept to Dec. So I told everyone: “I’m not doing any wedding planning from Sept to Dec.” And it was grand. I realize I’m not a fan of planning large events, so that may not be as appealing to someone who is, but I recommend taking regular breathers from wedding planning anyway. Schedule one day a week to think about it and ignore as best as you can the rest of the time.

  • I really. really. hated being engaged. Really. We threw an engagement party 1 month after getting engaged, and seriously considered making it a “surprise we’re actually getting married today lolz!” party. BUT I wanted to be married in a Catholic church, by a priest, and that required at least 1-year’s notice. And, truthfully, I wouldn’t have been OK getting married without those things. So the 14-15 months of engagement were necessary. But F*CK I hated it. It’s only now, post-wedding, that I’m able to feel how pointlessly stressed out I was during planning. I really wish I could go back in time and give newly-engaged-me a list of all the vendors I used and choices I made so I wouldn’t waste so much effing time and energy. No, you’re not going to have 3 separate photobooth areas with different types of cameras at each. Yes, you’re going to have a ton of broke college students be your day-of-staff. Also spreading the costs out over almost 1.5 years was the only thing that made this ish remotely affordable. And, seeing as I am IN LOVE with my wedding day, I guess it was all worth it.

  • Becky

    I’ve been reading this blog since I was a pre-engaged gal. I’m now officially engaged as of two months ago, and this is my first comment on here (I know! Bad APW community member!). I just logged onto my dusty profile on The Kn*t to double check this, and yes, yes I have 547 days to go until I get married. That’s right peeps: we’re not even in to 2012 and by the end of THAT year I still won’t be married. People look at me in absolute horror when I give them my answer to the question, “so when’s the big day?!” I just say 2013 now instead of our set date (4/27/13). What am I doing with all this extra time? Well, I’m planning a wedding in FL while I live in NYC, so the extra time helps with logistics. Then there’s the whole saving money thing. I’m not having what I would classify a “fancy” wedding, but it will be nice, and “nice” costs something like $18-$20K now? That’s what my research is telling me. I could scale down, but my fiance and I have a not over-the-top vision (the biggest splurge will be food), and we decided we’d spend the extra time saving money so we could achieve that. We secured our venue in August, shortly after getting engaged, and now I’m sitting on my ass. It’s great! People ask me how the planning is going, and I say, “It’s going great! I’m not even stepping foot in a bridal salon until after Christmas.” It’s the people around me (close friends and acquaintances alike) who I can see making this VERY long engagement annoying. People at work (in an office of 100) ask me ALL the time how my wedding planning is going. C’mon people! Give me a break! I just hate explaining myself and telling them my long engagement is fine. We’ll see how it goes at month 10, though. Elopement might be a strong word in my vocab by that time!

  • We started planning last November, were engaged in December and married in July. It was frenetic at times, but I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any longer! I am bound and determined to get the thank you cards out and print some photos before a year is up!

  • Thank you all so much for the advice! I was the poster of that exasperated question and as I’ve been reading the comments it has definitely helped. While I LOVE hearing that there are plenty amazing couples out there there that have had long engagements (and made it through them!) I’m pretty sure ours is still the longest…it’ll be 3 years on the 25th of October. It is a seriously long story to go into why its been so long but I just keep trying to focus on what married life will be like and ignore the people that ask (mostly my family) WHEN the wedding is. Here’s hoping it gets better and I’ll look back on this time with fondness =).

    • Kristin H

      Jenny, I’m with you in the “extra long” engagement camp. My fiance and I become spontaneously engaged in May 2009. We might be getting married next September. Or maybe the fall of 2013. Sometimes it feels silly to be waiting this long, but then I remind myself why we chose to wait. We didn’t want to spend the first year of our marriage living apart, both struggling through the first year of grad school. I stand by that decision, because I think it was the right one for us. We’re trying to time the wedding so it’s a celebration of really getting to spend our lives together again. And I am SO excited for that day. In the meantime, I’m keeping myself busy with the rest of my life…and trying not to let pressure (societal, familial, personal) get to me. Granted, we’re pretty laid-back people who come from from pretty laid-back people so that helps a lot. Also, grad school is an amazingly effective distraction…anyways, here’s a fist bump of solidarity with the hope that things do get better!

      • Fist bump of solidarity!

        We waited for similar reasons – school, being apart, financial struggles. In my opinion, I wasn’t ready (or sure I wanted) to be married when we got engaged in 2008; however, I feel like maybe we saw engagement differently. To us it was another level of commitment, but not necessarily a ‘marriage comes next’ guarantee. No one around me seems to like that idea, so typically I keep my mouth shut about it.

        I feel like engagement is its own level. It’s a level that’s more than ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ but definitely not ‘husband/wife’. I know that we wanted to know more about one another, live with one another, start building a life together, and that just didn’t mesh well with trying to plan our next steps. To me it felt like counting chickens before they hatched. I know I needed this time to feel sure, so I don’t think I’d do it any differently.

        At this point though, I know I just want it to be here already!

    • Pippa

      Ladies you are not alone!
      By the time we get married we will have been engaged for FIVE years. This wasn’t designed as a torture device (although it’s certainly proving to be one). Kristin H, so many of your reasons ring true for us as well… I don’t like waiting but we don’t really have any other feasible option. So it’ll just make it all the sweeter when the next part of our life begins (the married part!).

      My mantra at the moment is “good things come to those who wait.” Considering how long all of us are waiting, we have to know it’s gonna be pretty freakin’ good :)

      • ElfPuddle

        *hugs to you all*

        I’m right there with you. (See below.)

    • Chantelle

      We’ve been engaged for three years at this point and will be at the four year mark when we get married. Since we’re planning a destination wedding it’s allowed us excuses to visit said destination (twice) and really be low key about things. I alwasy tell people that we just aren’t in a rush when they ask about wedding plans. We already have a life together and the wedding is just another stop along the way.We knew we wanted to be engaged but we also knew that a few other things had to be in place before we were ready to be married.
      It’s been really healthy for us as we were a couple that had a lot of “stuff” to work through and I feel like we’re at a better place in our relationship now where we have learned to communicate.
      It has added a level of embarassment of sorts when people exclaim “Congrats!” It just doesn’t feel that new anymore. (Side note, can we work on a different word to express happiness, I always hear “Congrats, you caught a man and have fulfilled your duties as a woman” which I know isn’t the case, but it always feels strange to be congratulated).
      I do have to switch gears now since the wedding isn’t in the misty future anymore and I need to start working towards making my visions reality :)

  • The norm around my circle tends to be 12-15 month MINIMUM, with 18-24 month being quite common. (More than 24 month tends to be “too long”.) If you’re under 12 months, people think you’re crazy. My coworker is marrying a Navy boy, and a few weeks after he proposed he got transfer orders, so they accelerated planning significantly – 2 1/2 months after the engagement they’re tying the knot. People think it’s nuts, but I think it’s flippin great. When we got engaged, we elected an 8 month engagement (which even that sometimes felt too long!), and I had a lot of people raise eyebrows. “But how do you PLAN it with that little time?” Seriously? It’s not hard. “But, what about the DRESSES?” Oh, you mean that sales pitch dress shops give you to order your dress a million years in advance to scare you into locking you in to a sale? Yeah.

  • Kim

    I guess I’m going against the norm here – we were engaged for 2 and a half years, and I thought it was great. It gave us time to really ease into the feeling of commitment, to be fully ready by the time the day finally came around. It also meant that pretty much whenever I felt like procrastinating from actually accomplishing anything on my wedding to-do list, it was no problem. It made it easier to continue living life, and figuring out what life together would be, without having the pressure of the proximity of the wedding take over everything.

    • Jessica

      we watched through multiple TV series while procrastinating on wedding planning- Weeds, The Tudors, Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, Skins- still working on 30 Rock though- we only started that a week or so before the wedding. Procrastination is the best part of a long engagement :-)

  • Jessica

    Our engagement was just shy (5 days-ish) of 20 months long. My coworker got engaged a month after me and was married over a YEAR before me. At first, it didn’t seem so bad, plenty of time to plan, look at pretty pictures, get money saved up. Sometime after our wedding shower, I just got fed UP. I would have a moment every day on my way to work that maybe today I should just call in sick and we could go to city hall and get married that day. I never actually did it, and by the time the 1 month mark rolled around, I was pretty stoked that we *only* had another month to go. By the time the actual day rolled around, it was like time was going double fast. Don’t even get me started on the day of. As of tomorrow we’ve been married two weeks, and I am still reeling by how fast it went by.

    (I just asked my husband, and he said he liked having a long engagement because it gave us time to work through a lot of stuff like his depression, my car accident, our money problems etc without the added pressure of “we’re getting married in two months, this is too much stress.” So I guess that’s another way of looking at it)

  • Rebekah

    Alyssa, I love reading ATP more and more each week. You have a really fantastic voice and you totally own your advice.

    Today I can’t stop grinning at
    “Also? Your partner is smokin’ hot, why are you not kissing them RIGHT NOW? Oh. They’re at work? WHATEVER, DETAILS.”

    Thanks for the smiles. I’ll be back for next week’s.

  • Sarahkay

    Ugh. I needed this today. I’m technically in the pre-engaged camp, because we’re waiting for some life stuff to make the big announcement, but this wedding is planned and ready to roll out with a 60 day notice. I know everyone else will we thinking, “Wow, what’s the rush?” But we have been waiting to marry each other for almost two years, and it just feels like forever.

    I cannot wait for wait for winter so I can get out there and start snowboarding again and focus on that instead.

  • ElfPuddle

    I have been engaged for 26 months and still have no date in sight. (At the earliest, it looks like….next August.)
    It’s a very long story that involves his annulment-in-process and wanting to “do it the right way” for ourselves and his kids.

    It makes me weepy and stressed, but at least y’all can say, “Yes, we’re having a long engagement, but we’re nowhere near Elfie!”

    • ElfPuddle

      For anyone searching the archives, I can finally say I have a wedding date.
      We were engaged on July 17, 2009.
      We will be married on July 20, 2013.

      You will be okay. *hug*

  • HeatherM

    Honestly, I’d say stop planning so much of your future and start living your life now. Pick something that you want to do together someday and do it now. For us, we did two of these things while we were engaged: we got a dog and we bought a house. These things distracted us effectively during wedding planning, and they continue to delight us today. Go on a road trip, or go camping- get away somewhere. And don’t just designate certain times of the day when you both refuse to talk wedding stuff. Create at least a week, or heck, even a month of a break free from wedding planning. For us, we had to take three months off. I promise the world will still be turning and the wedding planning will still be there when the mental vacation is over, and you will come back much more refreshed.

  • charm city vixen

    Spot on advice, as usual, Alyssa!

    I had the pre-engaged excitement/wedding fever, and it continued for about 1 month into the engagement process… and then it stopped. Now we are tentatively thinking October 2013, but maybe also playing around with the idea of eloping next year and running away to Italy together.

    I keep telling people I’m not stressed, and the only reason it’s true now is because I let it go. We are determined not to stress because honestly, if it isn’t fun, what’s the point?

    We’ve been spending a lot of time looking at houses and are considering buying a house… it’s a lot more fun to look at then wedding stuff, if you ask me ;)

  • Putri

    A few things I did when I was planning my wedding:

    – Only one corner of the apartment had wedding stuff. Invitations, magazines, table runners, contracts, everything wedding-related. The rest of the apartment was wedding free :)

    – I didn’t tell everyone that I was engaged. Of course friends and family knew, but only a few people at work knew. Eventually all of my coworkers knew because they threw me a little party to celebrate the upcoming wedding but it wasn’t like I announced to the world that I was engaged.

  • Adele

    I’ve just passed month 12 mark on the looong way to our 21 month engagement and I couldn’t be more peeved. I am very tired of planning this wedding, and constantly shifting it to accommodate others’ needs (our current date is our THIRD date). Like most things that my family does, this wedding will be a joy, but too big, too harried, too expensive, and too much of a compromise from what my fiance and I actually want. The thing is, we’re afraid of putting our ‘feet’ down for fear of upsetting my family, and the drama of date switching yet again. I just wish that we could do our marriage our way: intimate, small, and SOON.

  • Claire

    My engagement will end up being 19 months, got engaged in November (2010) and our wedding date is Aug 18th 2012. This plan works well for us, we’ve been together for almost 5 years now and we’re ready to get hitched. We’re both in grad school though, so a long engagement gives us time to plan everything, even though we’re super busy (and I will graduate in December!).

    I think the worst thing about my long engagement is the irrational feelings of jealousy I’ve been getting when other people get engaged and start planning, especially those who are getting engaged after we did, and will be married before we will! I have a good friend who just got engaged and will probably be married in just a few months. Of course I’m happy for her, but I can’t help hearing that little whine-y voice down in side say “but it’s MY time to be the bride, not hers!” even though I hate the whole “I”M THE BRIDE ME ME ME” thing that the wedding industrial complex pushes.

    I also have this worry that people will rank my relationship as “not as serious” or “not as impressive” because they will have been married longer than me. Which is totally crazy because who would do that! I just need to keep reminding myself that it’s not a race, it doesn’t matter who’s been married longer, and we’re doing what works for US. If we moved up our wedding date it would be totally crazy and stressful and not fun.

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