Stop Telling Me Wedding Planning Is “Supposed to Be Fun”


I’m not your monkey

View of bride's dark green, bejeweled shoe, walking away on paved path

This is supposed to be fun.”

The florist might as well have said, “What is wrong with you?” and handed me a wearable sandwich board reading “DEFECTIVE BRIDE/WOMAN/HUMAN.” I was sitting across the table from her, my mom on my left, talking about flowers for my wedding—and I was in tears. I was ashamed of my emotions, which, as usual, only made it worse. If the florist thought her comment was going to help, she was delusional.

Why was I crying, you ask?

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because I am a persistently anxious person prone to depression. Or because we were about to spend a bunch of money on me for a day when I would be the center of attention I didn’t want or feel I deserved. Or because I had to make decisions. Or because I was about to have my period. Or because I had to communicate my wishes to a stranger. Or because I was about to go through a huge life transition in a year that had already had too many of those. Or because I’d had a bad day at work. Or because my friends were getting divorced, and I was sad for them and terrified of that prospect for myself. Or because I worried people would judge my choice of flowers. Or because I hadn’t been feeling very good about myself. Or because I was convinced I was incapable of being a good wife and mother. Or because I was in the process of going off one of my antidepressants. Or because I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before. Or because I had stopped drinking coffee four days before that. Or because I have an utter lack of self-confidence. Or because I’m marrying a man whom I love deeply but who is in recovery, and the possibility of relapse, though rarely at the front of my mind, is agonizing when it crops up. Or because wedding planning makes people crazy and emotional. Or because I’d been “trying” (not very hard) to lose weight and failing at it. Or because I was hungry.

Or, you know, because all of those things were happening inside me at once.

Perhaps the most difficult part of wedding planning for me has been that at times there has been a conflict between how I feel and how I think (or others tell me) I am supposed to feel.

How I think I am supposed to feel: constantly happy, giddy, exuberant, and mushy-gushy romantic; blushing at every mention of my wedding or fiancé; always more than happy to gab about the details of my dress or decor or wedding party (oops, don’t have one of those); forever smiling, laughing, and being generally bubbly about wedding plans and the sure expectation of marital bliss.

How I actually feel: excited, nervous, happy, sad, energized, depressed, productive, paralyzed, thrilled, terrified, confident, uncertain, quick to laugh, quick to cry, giggly, deer-in-headlights, loquacious, tight-lipped, open-hearted, closed off, beaming, withdrawn, bouncy, frozen, effervescent, flat, overjoyed, overwhelmed, calm, stressed, relaxed, tense, eager, anxious, romantic, frigid, gregarious, antisocial, encouraged, disappointed, idealistic, cynical, cheerful, frustrated…

Well, you get the picture.

My emotions have been all over the map during our engagement and especially since we began planning the wedding in earnest. And I’m finally realizing… that’s okay.

Because the truth is, although many parts of wedding planning are fun for me, there’s plenty about it that just isn’t. And being told it’s supposed to be fun just doesn’t help.

People, especially men, feel they have the right, even the obligation, to tell women to smile. Women get criticized for being afflicted with RBF (Resting Bitch Face). Women are expected to be happy, upbeat, and agreeable. Having a bad day, being angry, or just having your face in a neutral position demotes you on the beauty and desirability scale.

Sometimes, questions about wedding planning (and especially comments like the florist’s) sound a lot like someone telling me to smile. Now, I don’t blame people for asking me about wedding plans in a way that tells me they expect a bubbly, positive answer. I’ve done the same to countless engaged women, and I know folks are excited for me and just want to connect.

But I’m thinking about it a little differently now that I’m in the thick of it myself. I’m going to adjust how I approach those conversations in the future. I’m not going to assume that everything about wedding planning is fun or exciting for the woman I’m talking to. Maybe it is, and that’s great. But maybe it isn’t, and that’s okay, too. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with her or with her relationship. It just means she’s approaching a huge life transition marked by a high-pressure event, and she is largely responsible for the story, script, production, direction, and starring role, all of which are expected to win metaphorical Oscars by votes cast in likes on Instagram and Facebook. For some women, these things are energizing; for others, they are incredibly draining.

My fiancé has encouraged me to let go of some of the junk related to wedding planning and focus on what really matters: our relationship and our soon-to-be marriage. It helps that we have an amazing honeymoon planned, that we are already building an incredible life together, that we have plans and hopes and dreams for ourselves and for the family we’re forming. Because these are the things that really matter.

This is what it really boils down to when it comes to being told to smile, or that wedding planning is supposed to be fun: no one can tell me my emotions are right or wrong—including me, because that’s not how emotions work anyway. The majority of my wedding anxiety has been about the fact that I’ve been anxious and I think I shouldn’t be—it’s anxiety about anxiety. Now that I’ve named that, my anxiety levels are way down, and when they spike, they’re more manageable.

So don’t tell me to smile, and don’t tell me this is supposed to be fun—but give me space for both. Depending on a zillion factors big and small, I might be jumping-up-and-down-excited about my wedding one day (or minute) and ugly-crying-anxious about it the next. But I’m learning to accept that and go with the flow, because when I let go, what is fun is the ride.

Sarah Howell

Sarah is a pastor in who spends her free time kickboxing and weightlifting, collecting musical instruments and stray pit bulls, and watching depressing documentaries with her fiancé or challenging him in Scrabble (they’re pretty evenly matched, but he’s more competitive). She has a lot of opinions and likes to sass the patriarchy and make holy mischief, preferably when well caffeinated.

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • I think that was the biggest challenge for me as a bride. I am not the typical bride type. And we were young without much money to spend. So I wanted to keep things casual. But so many expectations started to come into the picture. And when I look back there were some happy, special moments I appreciate. But wedding planning was mostly just super stressful, exhausting and I’m so glad we’re living out normal lives married. The wedding was worth it, but planning, buh bye.

  • theteenygirl

    This is a fantastic article. I relate with the author so much. I have enjoyed wedding planning a lot, but family stuff and emotional stuff has made it really difficult to feel HAPPY HAPPY about it all the time. Like on Saturday when the bridal salon told me it was going to cost $700 to alter my dress and I started crying.. the woman’s reaction? “Stop crying, why are you crying?” as thought I should be happy to throw down 45% of the cost of the dress on alterations?

    Or when people ask how planning is going and I say, “it’s done, we’re just waiting for the day now!” even though no.. it is not done. I just don’t want to mush over details of the day because if I do, I know I’ll start worrying about how this random work colleague feels about those details and I just don’t need that in my life right now.

    • Jessica

      “Why are you crying?”

      Because that is absurd, lady!

      Also, +1 to not talking about wedding stuff because you don’t want acquaintances to know/feel things about your life.

      • Violet

        Yeah, that strategy for keeping people out of your business is so clutch. And sadly, not available to the visibly pregnant. : ( Some random guy on the street last week wished me luck with the baby. wtf

        • Jessica

          No. Fuck off, random guy.

        • theteenygirl

          What!! That’s so rude.

          • Grace

            That’s the perfect time to pull out an, “I’m not pregnant, just fat!” No matter how obvious the pregnancy is, just to get those people to mind their own business.

    • Violet

      “Why are you crying?” She asked this?! “Because seven HUNDRED dollars, that’s why!!!”

      • theteenygirl

        She really did. “Why are you crying? Stop crying there’s no reason to cry.” Sadly this is not the first time, as a cryer, I have been told/asked this. A few years ago I had shingles, thought it was just a rash, but when the walk in clinic doctor told me shingles I started crying because, um, shingles HURT and they’re kind of scary! And he had the nerve to say, “there’s no reason to cry, you’re not dying”.

        • Violet

          UGH. I just want to ask those kinds of people, “Oh, that’s worked for you, has it? Telling someone not to cry actually got them to immediately stop and feel better? Please, do tell me, how do you do it!?”

        • Rachel

          Oh my gosh that would make me so stabby. I’m a huge cryer, and also I ALWAYS cry when I go to the doctor with something that’s physically wrong that hurts and is confusing because, duh, that hurts and is stressful as all get out!

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          I’m so sorry your doctor said that to you! I cried once in a doctor’s office, and it was embarrassing and horrible, and she said something like, “I know this is stressful,” and didn’t make a big deal about it and I will go to her until one of us dies or she retires, whichever comes first. It shouldn’t be so rare to find a compassionate healthcare provider.

          • theteenygirl

            Luckily it wasn’t MY doctor it was a clinic, although at the time MY doctor wasn’t much better…

            I moved a year ago and started going to the most wonderful doctor / family health team. Three women and a male doctor and the most positive and young environment. It’s actually a pleasure to talk to them. I went recently to get help for my acne and when I told the doctor filling in for my doctor’s mat leave that I was getting married she completely understood and put in a rush referral to see a dermatologist!

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Oh, that is a happy place for this story to go.

          • Leah

            Just to add a story about how much of a difference this makes – I got sick while I was pregnant and my husband was out of town, and I felt awful and had a solid fever so in addition to feeling awful I was scared because fevers aren’t good for fetuses, so I went to my clinic and they wanted to run some tests and the person taking blood missed the stick on the first try and I BURST out crying because sick + pregnant + alone + OW. And everyone was WONDERFUL – they totally got it, brought me juice and a snack and tissues, and even called me the next day just to say hello and make sure I had everything I needed support-wise (since I told them my hubs was out of town). It all just felt so honest & healthy and good & made me feel SO MUCH BETTER. So, yay for caring medical professionals.

    • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

      OMG. BECAUSE 700 DOLLARS IS NOT CHUMP CHANGE AND I AM ALLOWED TO BE SHOCKED.

  • Kelly

    A thousand times this. I cannot muster any excitement about planning or even the wedding day. And it’s all people want to talk to me about. (Not helped by the fact that I work in the industry.)
    Anyone have any advice for getting excited about your wedding when parties are your worst nightmare? I’d like to look forward to it instead of dreading it.

    • Violet

      I think trying to get excited about the whole wedding is probably too tall an ask. Because if it’s a party and you don’t like parties, you’re stuck. But there might be some elements of it that you can look forward to. Maybe the food that you chose, or seeing a particular friend from out of town. Maybe it’s just even after it’s all done crashing with your new spouse in your comfiest jammies and eating Chex Mix. I don’t know, depends on what you like. There will certainly be elements of the day that you enjoy and are worth looking forward to, but they’re gonna get lost in the shuffle if you’re trying to look at the whole thing at once.

      • penguin

        I’m focusing on little things to look forward to, like how the cake is going to be super pretty and delicious. And how we’re driving up to our honeymoon the next day and getting massages when we arrive – any time I start stress-spiraling about wedding stuff I try and focus on that. Just me and my fiancé! No family around! Fireplaces and massages!

        • sofar

          I focused on the dessert, too. I picked one of the cupcake flavors and made damn sure I ate two of them at the reception. I was thinking about those cupcakes as I walked down the aisle.

          • Jessica

            This is the best detail.

          • rebecca

            it was hot pretzels with cheese dip for me :)

          • sofar

            OMG I wouldn’t have even listened to our officiant during the ceremony if I’d had those waiting for me.

            “Sofar do you take J to be your lawfully wedded husband…”

            Me: “Pretzels! I mean, I do!”

          • Katharine Parker

            My major wedding regret is that I didn’t ask for a large to-go box and fill it with dessert. We had little cellophane bags on the dessert table for people to take home, and I got two of those–but I could have had so much more! Why didn’t I think ahead? And so, regret.

          • sofar

            Oh man. If there’s one time nobody will give you side-eye for filling a giant box of leftover sweets it’s at your wedding!

    • penguin

      This probably isn’t helpful, but do you want to have a wedding with the reception and everything, or would eloping or having a very small wedding appeal better? It sounds like you’ve already planned it, but just throwing it out there. If you’re having a big wedding that you don’t necessarily want, I’d try and focus on why you’re having it – to bring all your people together? To appease your parents? You don’t have to get excited about the whole party itself, I think Violet has good suggestions.

      • Jess

        Focusing on the why was a big deal – APW has the Wedding Mission idea, which we made into Three Goals of Our Wedding. That helped me identify my one thing to start being excited about (which was a meaningful ceremony).

      • Kelly

        I don’t want to have the wedding. I wanted to elope. But everyone, fiancé included, wanted a Wedding.
        I am partially having a hard time because I told fiancé that the proposal part was what was important to me, and he totally dropped the ball. I feel like the thing I thought I could hold onto as my reason why has been stolen from me.
        And I didn’t want to make him feel like because he didn’t give me what I wanted that he had to miss out on what he wanted.
        How do you tell everyone you love that you want to take away the thing that they are so excited for? We’ve had so many deaths and losses and bad things on each of our sides and our families are using this as their ‘happy thing’ they look forward to.

        • Jess

          It was really hard to take the image I had for my Tiny Wedding and set that aside for the Big Wedding I was having. It definitely added to my lack-of-excitement pre-wedding.

          Something I found useful was to get to the root of why I wanted to “elope” (we would have had a few close friends and our immediate family), and figure out ways to bring the feeling of those moments into the day.

          Yours could look very different, but we landed on specific words in the ceremony, doing a “First Look” so we would have some time alone, sitting and eating instead of being out and about during the cocktail hour, and agreeing that we could grab each other at any time during the reception to meet someone important or to escape the party or to just have a hug. Those agreements really mattered.

          It sounds like the proposal thing is also a big let down – have you let yourself feel and process all the disappointment about that? Are there ways your fiance is able to get you things you need between now and the wedding to help emphasize that he’s there for you? For me, those kind of actions would be a big step to healing.

          • Kelly

            Thanks :-) in some ways it’s just nice to know I’m not alone in finding this whole experience undesirable.
            We’ve planned breaks into the day, I keep an ongoing list in my planner of the things about the day I like (or at least don’t hate), and we’re paying for it ourselves so my mom can’t completely take over and turn it into the wedding she wants. I feel like I’m just doing damage control to keep it from being completely awful but at every turn it’s a compromise. There has yet to be 1 decision we’ve made that I’ve felt 100% good about. It’s all just party planning, what is most convienent/affordable/will make this decision go away so I can go back to my real life.
            For me, eloping was 0 other people. None. I feel like saying our vows in front of others is entirely too intimate, and Fiancé feels like if you don’t do it with people it doesn’t count.
            And, yes, fiancé and I have talked about the disappointment of the proposal at length but neither of us is really sure what to do about it. He just handed me the ring first thing in the morning, no “I love you.” Or even “Will you marry me?” He thought he was keeping it small because I’m an introvert and I feel like he didn’t bother to put in any thought into what a big deal asking someone to spend their life with you is.
            You can’t really redo it. It’s just kind of lost.
            I did ask my bridesmaid to help with the excitement generation per your suggestion and she said she is ready to be pumped for me. So thanks for that! I hope it helps :-)

          • Jess

            Yeah, I would have loved to do zero people, but my mom had her one ask of “I just want to be there” so…

            I hear you on the constant compromising and feeling like nothing is really your choice. I felt very much the same (Even down to the wine we served!). My mom was a big part of that also.

            I’m glad asking your bridesmaid turned out great! It really helped me out, so I hope it works for you!

          • jazzygingery

            I’m really sorry about all that’s going on right now, it’s a lot of emotions to process and it’s just plain hard. One compromise that you can maybe bring to your fiancé regarding the vows; doing more generic vows in front of the wedding guests, and then reading personalized ones just to each other. My husband and I did this, and it was great. I wrote our ceremony, and created more generic, but still “us” vows for it. After the ceremony, we went and signed the marriage license, and then we snuck away for about 15 minutes. We had a private spot picked out, and read more intimate, personalized vows to just each other. Have a few moments for just the two of you to be present with one another and express those feelings.

        • Songbird2220

          That was me a year ago preparing for my wedding. I wanted to elope with just my mom and my fiancé and one person for him. He wanted a “fairy princess wedding” and didn’t understand any of the expenses or work that went into it. He’d been married once before, and his previous wife didn’t want a big wedding so they planned a BBQ in their backyard for immediate family and then she made him elope the week before their families came in (and yes I mean made him, there’s a reason they aren’t together now). So every time I taked about what I wanted and how I wanted something small, he’d get upset and go off about how he already didn’t get a say the first time, so he was getting what he wanted this time. And when that didn’t work, he’d start talking about how sad he was because his dad had just died unexpectedly right before we got engaged and how much an event like this meant to his family, and there’s nothing you can say back about that. A big reason why I didn’t want a wedding is because my parents are divorced and it’s really ugly, and I wanted to avoid the family drama that I knew would happen because my parents refuse to put their differences aside for a day for their children. I threw myself into wedding planning because if other people were going to make me plan an event I didn’t want, I wanted it to be Pinterest perfect. I was also the only person keeping track of the budget so I made a bunch of things myself to cut down on our expenses. Those small details were a way I tried to put positive things into the process for myself. We are both big readers, so I made all our flowers from old books, and we got engaged at the Lincoln Memorial so we gave everyone a penny from the year we were born and a lucky penny from the year we got married as favors (plus who doesn’t love $0.02/person for favors?) I got excited about the little things because I needed to focus on something small and not the whole day.

          My advice is to pick something you can be excited about and focus on that. For me, it was 100% the honeymoon. I wanted exactly nothing to do with our entire wedding, and even a year later, thinking about the wedding still makes me angry (due in large part to our photographer leaving early and not taking any pictures at all of the entire reception). My mom has always told me that there are some things you do for other people and not for yourself, like showing up for graduation when you just don’t care about it. For me, that was my wedding. I had the event for other people, and made them pay for things I didn’t want or care about. I just focused on how excited I was for 2 weeks away from work where I could nerd out on books and games and just hang out with my new husband. Everything I hated about the wedding process was just crap I had to go through to get to the vacation part. I hated the wedding and all that unnecessary stress, but I love being married. I’d still go back and elope if I could, but if I had to I’d do it all over again just to be with my husband.

          Do you have anything exciting like the honeymoon you can look forward to? As for the proposal, I feel for you. My husband was really into the proposal thing and apparently I ruined it for him. He thought he was being sneaky and I totally knew what was happening and apparently said yes before he even asked (not how I remember it, but I was so excited that it’s entirely possible and is definitely something I would do so I believe him). He still gets sad about it every once in a while, but I remind him that I was just so excited to be his wife that I couldn’t hold it in anymore and it helps. Maybe your fiancé was similarly excited and that’s why it didn’t go the way you’d hoped? Is there something you could do together that would help you feel less disappointed or resentful that you didn’t get what you wanted?

    • Jess

      Hi, I’m your future self from the other side of your wedding. Seriously, go back to about this time last year and look at all my comments, I was right there. It’s going to be ok!

      It’s ok to not be excited. It’s ok to be afraid or sad or angry. It’s ok to even not enjoy everything on the day of your wedding. Give yourself that permission to feel whatever you’re feeling. Give yourself space on the day of to be alone and sit with those feelings without other people trying to amp you up (I sat with a coffee and my brother’s girlfriend while she steamed out my dress because she’s a kind, wonderful hero who prattled on about steaming the partner’s suits at her job so I didn’t have to say anything).

      Violet has the best advice, which lots and lots of APW commenters gave me. Figure out just one thing you actually are excited about. When people ask you about your wedding, talk about that one thing. When you envision your wedding, think only about that thing. Maybe eventually you’ll have two things. Maybe you won’t. That’s ok, too.

      The other thing I did was I called up various friends and literally asked them to be excited about X thing with me. Usually something I was not super excited about. They were champs and put on their most enthusiastic voices and gushed about everything from table number ideas to flower types to telling me how beautiful I looked in my dress. And you know what? That worked. I would leave our conversations having a little bit of excitement that rubbed off on me.

      I made a playlist that got me in an happy, dancing mood, and played it every time I got ready to go out for months before our wedding. I played that while I was getting into my wedding dress.

      Good luck, and know that no matter what happens, it’ll be ok!

    • Her Lindsayship

      I had issues with that too, and one thing that I realized was contributing to it is my tendency to always focus on whatever we still needed to get done. Or whatever I was worried about. It just seemed more efficient to put my mental energy towards whatever still required thought, but sometimes it was good to put that aside for a moment and think about the things I knew were all set. Like I knew the food would be good – even if the things I worried about went wrong, the food would still be good, and people would enjoy it. Maybe this is obvious, but for my particular brand of anxiety, it required a level of mindfulness I don’t automatically practice!

  • Abs

    Amen to the policing of women’s feelings. Oddly enough, I felt the opposite of this–that in order to maintain my identity as a “serious intellectual person”, I was supposed to be totally over it all, when instead I was intensely interested, because…a) it was the start of my marriage, b) it was a ton of my money, and c) I was hosting (and feeding) everyone I loved, and I wanted them to have a good time. And of course d) I like pretty and delicious things.

    One family member even spent most of her toast making fun of me for being obsessed with weddings, like this was this weird, unexpected personality trait I have.

    Ultimately this post is so right–somehow there’s never any way to win, except by finding that zen place of zero fucks given.

    • savannnah

      Yep. I had to course correct my fiance on this. He was like ‘you really like wedding stuff, weddings are your thing’ and I said ‘um we are having a wedding- so yes right now I’m into wedding stuff. When we have kids I’ll be into kid stuff- and so will you mister’

      • Abs

        Preach

      • NolaJael

        Exactly. Wedding planning felt like a deep dive into a culture that I had avoided most of my life, but damn it, when in Rome I commit.

    • penguin

      Ugh that toast would grate on me. One time (shortly after we got engaged) my fiancé made some joking comments to our friends about how I was super into engagement rings and had talked to him about it a lot before we got engaged. I was pissed and let him know it after we left. Of course I was excited about getting engaged, it’s a big deal and we talked about it a lot ahead of time. I made sure he knew that this was Not OK and he got it.

      • Jane

        Yeah, my FH joked once that I wouldn’t have anything left to talk about once we actually got married. Not very funny! But it sparked a good conversation that has been useful for the rest of planning.

      • Abs

        Yeah it kind of bugged me, but in the end I just leaned into it. Her big punch line was “So…will you still be reading APW AFTER you get married?” (hahaha that would be so silly). And here I am…

    • toomanybooks

      Totally – there can also be pressure (even from inside!) to be like “oh blah weddings are hard to plan who cares gross!” because planning a wedding is a “feminine” thing.

      And also – that toast – like, women are sold the big romantic fantasy wedding HARD since BIRTH practically – it’s hard NOT to want to do it! And then when we DO, people are like “lol she’s obsessed with weddings and she’s a bridezilla” – but it’s what we’re supposed to be doing, according to, you know, society? Or whatever. Just another way women can’t win no matter what.

    • Her Lindsayship

      This happened to me too! There were times when my inner emotional police were like, “be HAPPY, you’re engaged!” but other times I felt like I needed to approach planning/talking about planning very seriously and not let myself be giddy about it. (I think that actually mostly stemmed from the fact that my early excited ideas about the wedding all got slaughtered by this thing called a budget, and I hadn’t thought they were impractical at all, but I still couldn’t even dream of affording them. This was sobering.)

    • Meg Keene

      Go that’s also a thing. I had pressures from both sides from different groups of people. Like OH BE HAPPY AND LOVE THIS and OH YOU’RE SO OVER THIS RIGHT? Great. Let me feel what you want me to feel to prove my worth.

      Nobody really gave a shit what my partner was feeling FWIW.

    • Zoya

      Gah, I felt this so hard. For me, one of the hard things was sorting between the stuff I really deeply cared about (food, music, ditching or adapting certain traditions), where I felt like people patted me on the head and said, “Don’t worry about it.” Then, the stuff I really didn’t care about (flowers, linens, paper goods), people expected me to have super-detailed opinions. It felt like low-level gaslighting.

    • ManderGimlet

      YESSSSSSS! And having NO ONE to talk to about any of your wedding stuff except with rando coworkers who never had any interest in your life until you got engaged because all your friends are not for it. I 100% get why people have a hard time with/actively disliked planning their wedding or any big event, but for me it is my favorite thing, I’m a big planner. But god forbid should I act excited to be planning my own wedding! I won’t even tell my bff my budget, I don’t want to hear it from her.

  • emilyg25

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I had to go back to therapy during wedding planning. It was so helpful. I also read The Conscious Bride, which I highly recommend. It talks about the transitional aspects of getting married and how important and fraught they are.

    Some people might find wedding planning fun, but getting married is a big fucking deal. You’re cutting your ties to your family of origin, starting a new family, and cementing your commitment by signing a legally binding contract. And possibly planning a big, expensive party. That’s a lot.

    • ssha

      I’m buying The Conscious Bride to give to my cousin at her bridal shower.

  • toomanybooks

    Ohhhh my gosh, this is such a… I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say harmful, but certainly non-helpful myth about the period of engagement and wedding planning. I’ve always wanted to get married and plan a wedding and wear a gorgeous white ballgown etc etc etc. I thought engagement was supposed to be the happiest time of one’s life, so why was I suddenly kind of freaked out after getting engaged? I thought wedding planning was supposed to be super fun, so why was I so stressed out? The idea that this time is all sunshine and roses makes you feel crazy, like you shouldn’t talk about it, when it’s not. But it’s NOT! And I think a lot of other women can relate to this – that actually, planning a wedding is the most stressed-past-understanding-reality I’ve probably been. I’m referring to those moments where you suddenly don’t know if not providing X thing for your guests means that you are a) cleverly avoiding unnecessary WIC costs or b) being a terrible, withholding host who isn’t providing the most basic of comforts for people!

    I was at a secondhand clothing store yesterday looking through dresses and saw some white ones (like not wedding dresses, but cute shorter ones that are fancy enough to wear to events) and remembered the time I was scouring stores (in person and online) for such a thing. “I’m not an Engaged Girl anymore,” I thought wistfully – then remembered that being engaged was not the floating-through-air-like-a-Disney-princess time it’s sold as, and I’m MARRIED now, which is better! It’s like I’m already forgetting the harder parts.

    Of course, I will say that it’s not like it was all hard! Things that involved spending thousands of dollars on one aspect (like venue or catering) were hard to decide, and things that involved, like, social politics and emotional labor (who to invite? How to keep the guest list down? Where to seat people?) were tough. But I LOVED crafting for the wedding, and picking out flowers. I liked wearing a ring, and shopping for a wedding band (the only time in my life so far and for the foreseeable future that I’d be picking out fine jewelry). My cousin in law asked at our wedding if our favorite part was picking out the dress, because that’s what it was for her. This might have actually been the hardest part for me because I had so many feelings about what my dress would be! But I LOVED my dress! (And it was the third dress I bought after regretting two cheaper ones, so… what can I say.)

    • ssha

      You put this so well! I have had the thought of “I’m not an engaged girl anymore” wistfully too! And then I do remember that I’m married and it’s better and doesn’t have as much emotional turbulence, and I can look at Pretty (Wedding) Stuff for fun and not have a nervous breakdown.

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  • ssha

    “At the end of the day, you’ll be married.” The writer says her husband encourages her to focus on this. I think this was both helpful and very UNhelpful for me during planning. I would have two reactions to people saying this: 1)”Yes, you’re right, and that will happen, since we have an officiant and each other! Good perspective!” 2) “That’s great but we still need napkins and plates for everyone.” I know I’ve seen this discussion before on APW, but it would grate on me if my husband told me that, because it almost seems like one more thing that lets the guy get away with not worrying about “details” and the woman left with the worry work.

    • Violet

      I see both sides of this, too. Yes, focusing on the why of getting married is good for keeping perspective. But when you’re putting down a big chunk of your own money for something, it’s also fairly reasonable to be at least minimally concerned that things go well. Also, if I’m already stressed, I could see myself getting into pretty dramatic thinking in response, like, “Oh, so if none of this matters, then why am I doing it at all?” There’s got to be a balance. Yes, the marriage is the main priority, but if you’ve also previously decided that something like feeding your loved ones is a priority too, I don’t think it’s fair to pretend mid-stream when your partner’s stressed that it’s no big deal the caterer isn’t getting back to them.

    • Meg Keene

      Sometimes that helped for me, sometimes it made me LIVID. When my partner said it, it was calming. When I asked a family member for help with something, and they were like “oh don’t worry, at the end of the day you’ll be married,” I was like IF YOU CAN’T BRING THE BOOZE TO THE WELCOME DINNER JUST FUCKING SAY SO.

      • rebecca

        This was the worst. My now husband’s family kept asking for jobs to do and acting really hurt that they weren’t as involved as they wanted to be (we had an all inclusive venue, there were no decisions to make) and then when we did come up with things for them to do, they said “no” and totally left us hanging. It was a constant cycle for the last 2 months leading up to our wedding, them asking for something to do–>us asking them to do something–>them dragging it out forever then saying no–>us scrambling to find a solution last minute. It really damaged my trust in them tbh.

        • NolaJael

          This is not okay!!! AAAAHH, this stressed me out just reading about it!

        • penguin

          Was it the same people doing that over and over or did they take turns being crappy? That would stress me out too!!

          • rebecca

            sigh it was MIL and SIL, back and forth forever

          • penguin

            Nooooo :(

        • BSM

          Ugh, yes. This is sort of how big things go with my in-laws.

          They want to help with the wedding/baby/whatever (they’re nice people and really do!), but what they actually mean is, “I already booked my hotel; it’s 45 minutes away from the venue,” or “Here is this used car seat I got for you.” Which… OK, I can see how those things could be helpful in theory, but it turns out that they actually are not in practice because of X, Y, and Z. So we (I) end up trying to figure out how to accommodate their “help” without hurting their feelings, which, in turn, makes a lot more work for me and ends up being unhelpful.

      • Jess

        Saaaaaame. R saying “Hey, at the end of the day we’ll be married” was really great because he was doing the work with me.

        Mom saying it in the middle of throwing up new and fun obstacles about food, wine, and other things? NOT COOL.

        • ssha

          “Doing the work with me” being the key phrase. If he was not worried AND not doing the work, that’s when I’d be mad.

          • Jess

            Truth. Which is basically my philosophy on marriage – Do the work with me. Whether it’s vacation planning, cleaning, cooking, or future-child-raising.

      • savannnah

        Might be dramatic but I see that comment as the lighter version of “well, you have a healthy baby, so just be happy”

        • ssha

          ugh! what an awful thing to say!

      • ssha

        Yeah a big NOPE to all that! Similar: “It’ll all get done.” NO IT WILL NOT IF THE PEOPLE WE’RE DEPENDING ON DON’T COME THROUGH.

        • Ashlah

          “It will all work out.” YEAH, BECAUSE I’M DOING ALL THE WORK TO MAKE IT SO, GLAD IT LOOKS LIKE MAGIC TO YOU.

          • NolaJael

            Yes. Nobody wants to spend their limited time on earth thinking about napkins. But somebody has to think about napkins. I will think about napkins for you. You’re welcome.

          • Lexipedia

            Haha, this is my favorite one. It’s like there are magical wedding elves somewhere who make sure we’ve coordinated five vendor visits in three days.

          • penguin

            Yep this is an argument my fiancé and I have had before. I’ll be stressed about something and talk to him. He says it’s OK and it’ll all work out. I get upset because it’s only going to work out IF SOMEONE MAKES IT WORK OUT, and in our relationship, that’s usually me! He’s gotten way better with this over time, and I told him that him saying that and not following up with how he can help stresses me out more.

          • ssha

            Omg, yes. “It will all work out” because I will worry to the point of tears about it for days until I think of something.

          • Anonanonanon

            YES, I have thought this so many times!

        • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

          YES. I just helped run a festival related to my hobby, and numerous people brought up the whole “It’ll come together” thing. YES IT WILL COME TOGETHER BECAUSE I AM SCHEDULING ALL THE PEOPLE TO MAKE IT COME TOGETHER.

      • Katharine Parker

        Ugh, I can be cavalier about my wedding/event, but I don’t want other people that I’m relying on to be cavalier.

        • Katharine Parker

          Also I loathe any suggestion that by caring about my wedding being a nice event, I was being unreasonable and missing the point of the day. I can care deeply about marriage and my relationship and also want to throw a good party!

    • ManderGimlet

      I hate this comment too. It’s like, “the why the fuck are we doing this??!?!” That’s the kind of thing you say, like, 2 days before the wedding when all the big shit is done and you’re freaking out because the napkins got left behind or you don’t have enough trash cans. Not when you are already 50% through your budget and you haven’t even found a caterer yet.

      • ssha

        exaaaactly.

    • Katharine Parker

      I found thinking this helpful in the week before my wedding. Because at that point, often there is nothing that you can do–people may not show up, the cake may arrive lopsided, the flowers might be late, the DJ might play the wrong song for your first dance–and whatever happens is out of your control. But you will be married!

      More than a week or two out from my wedding, though, I could not muster that type of calm acceptance of my wedding’s fate. I still had the chairs to order.

  • NolaJael

    “The majority of my wedding anxiety has been about the fact that I’ve been anxious and I think I shouldn’t be—it’s anxiety about anxiety.” This is about 85% of my emotional output on any given day. I’m an INTJ-type (no shocker there) and I get more upset over feeling like something is the logically “wrong” emotion than just feeling the original emotion. I flail about because I’m grumpy that I’m grumpy or depressed that I’m depressed or frustrated that I’m frustrated.

    So 1) solidarity and 2) congrats on being able to name and tame that cycle.

    • ssha

      Feelings on top of feelings! I DO THIS TOO and it REALLY confuses my husband. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a gendered thing. Are women taught to question their feelings, when men are taught not really to think about them that much?

    • Olga Mikhailov

      Ohhh I know this so well. INTJers unite!

    • Anonanonanon

      I know this spiral too well. INTJness! Thanks for reminding me. I was reading APW to just now avoid how anxious I am about feeling anxiety about something perfectly natural to cause anxiety.

    • AGCourtney

      INTJ solidarity!

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  • Lexipedia

    FI is generally good at helping me calm down over this, however there was a misstep on Sunday where I lost my shit more than a tiny bit.

    I’ve been freaking out about budgets, on the regular, since we got engaged. As I complained about yesterday, catering is the biggest concern, and also the one that still doesn’t have nailed down numbers. After we spent some time finishing the guest list FI went the gym and by the time he returned I was in full melt-down mode. It’s not like the wedding is unaffordable, and my parents are paying for most of it, but money is a stressful thing. FI’s parents have made a nebulous offer about contributing financially, but he hasn’t gotten it together to sit down with them and hash this out so we don’t know what this means. He basically said “don’t worry, at the end of this we will be married and that’s what matters” and I lost it and responded saying that we may be married but we also may be hanging out in an empty room with nowhere to sit and thing to eat or drink.

    You can’t just “wing” a destination wedding for 100 people and have it turn out fine.

    • ssha

      Oof. That’s the worst. What did he say?

      • Lexipedia

        That we’ll block off Thursday night for a Planning Summit, and that by the time I come back from my weekend away he will have had the necessary conversation with his family.

        • ssha

          Good.

        • Jess

          That is a nice reasonable deadline and a commitment to a plan. I like it!

  • Anne

    Don’t have time to say much more today but alllllllllll of this (post & comments) is way too real. Just spot on.

    My version of figuring out how to give zero fucks when these feelings started getting intense has been to be skeptical about the whole concept – how does anybody in the world feel capable and relaxed about being in charge of putting a big complicated event with lots of expectations while also preparing mentally for such a big life transition? And enjoying it too? Yeah right.
    (If that is how you feel – you’re amazing, congrats. I just think it’s probably the case that most people struggle with this time more than we usually see, which helps me accept my own struggles.)

  • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

    This is awesome.

    And while I had fun making some decisions and physically doing some of the work (choosing my dress! Making centerpieces!) most of the planning was logistics. In theory, I find logistics cool, but actually doing the work was not. always. fun.

  • Kinza

    I felt exactly this way about buying a house. Everyone thought it was so exciting, and I felt so much pressure to be excited and happy and lucky. But I had really conflicting feelings about it, because the house was really really expensive, and not perfect, and ate up all our savings. It’s really hard giving yourself permission to feel the way you feel, when that is not what society expects.

  • Rachel

    Thank you for this!! I have been experiencing all these emotions and feeling horrible about it. I have anxiety about my upcoming wedding almost everyday. But I’m trying to focus on the most important part… marrying the love of my life!

  • Elizabeth

    Yes to all of this. I’m getting married in 3 days and up until we dropped everything off at the venue last night, I was a giant ball of anxiety for more or less 2 years. I also struggle with anxiety and often make it worse because I’m anxious about being anxious. On top of that, I also feel guilty because I know that I’m anxious about being anxious. Anyway, my point is that today I finally feel excited. I despised when people who weren’t my really close friends asked about the wedding. I just came up with a few quick “go to” answers and changed the subject. You can do this. Hopefully a few days before you can feel excited too. If that doesn’t happen though, that’s okay too.

  • quiet000001

    I feel like this is also a good time for people to remember – you can say no. You can delegate. You don’t have to do everything just because it is ‘traditional’. (Yes, there are family and social expectations to manage, but you don’t have to do everything someone is expecting. And if you want to include something, you don’t have to be the one to make it happen. My first wedding, we were having a small thing for legal reasons and were planning a vow renewal big party later. I was not particularly into the whole flower thing, but my MIL felt really strongly I had to have a fancy bouquet for the legal wedding, so she asked me what flowers I like/don’t like and then she arranged it all. Made her happy, didn’t add to my stress.)

    I mean, even things you want/like aren’t going to be enjoyable all the time, but if something is really making you miserable, stop and think about if it is something you have to have or you have to do. Figuring out the bar package is driving you nuts and the in-laws are the big drinkers? See if someone on that side of the family can take over. You don’t have to do it all yourself no matter what the WIC tries to tell you.

    (I admit to being pretty blunt about these things these days, though – the booze conversation would go “you figure it out or we are just having soft drinks and water.”)