Getting Overwhelmed By The Meaning Of Details

During my senior year of college, I managed a student orchestra and began having concert daydreams. In them, I would forget the keys to the theater or everyone would loiter backstage while I struggled to explain that the concert should have started fifteen minutes ago. These dreams weren’t frequent, but they were memorable. I’ve been engaged since March, have barely started planning, and yet my wedding daydreams have already begun.

In one, I don’t realize until after the reception that none of my friends or extended family came because I scheduled the wedding on a Thursday night and forgot to tell them enough in advance. In another, we hire a DJ/photographer who gives us attitude whenever we ask him to take a photo. I find myself midway through the day wearing a dress that I definitely wouldn’t have picked out on my own, wondering where all our initial ideas went.

I can identify some major causes of these dreams. Most of my friends live in the Midwest and our wedding will be in New England, so I’m worried that they won’t be able to travel to it. Even though my fiancé Eric reassures me that we can have the wedding we want on our budget, everything I find seems expensive. (My first attempt to outline a budget left me curled up in stressball before I even added big costs like food.) Our original plan of an autumn wedding in our college town, Ann Arbor, Michigan, has turned into an autumn in Boston wedding, which could very well turn into a spring in Boston wedding. I keep coming back to the same worry: I’m going to get to our wedding and think, “Wait. Wait, this isn’t what I meant.”

I know that the wedding isn’t about the party. I would be thrilled to grab Eric and run down to city hall. What has always appealed to me about a wedding, though, is that it is one of the few parties where you can invite everyone you love and most of them will fly across the country to be there. I always imagined a sort of “Hey everyone! We love you because you’re the best people we know! Meet all these other cool people we know!” situation, where everyone makes new friends and there is a lot of dancing.

As soon as I started wedding planning, though, it seemed that the way to have a meaningful wedding was to infuse yourselves into every single detail. I’ll admit, I definitely overdosed on the wedding blogs at first. I looked at photos of beautiful events while the articles explained, “Look what she did! Look at the deep meaning behind the flowers! The tables! Every single canapé!” As I searched for venues, I wondered, “But what does this place say about us? Am I really a ‘rustic farm’ girl? Is Eric the kind of guy who would get married in a museum? Or a historic New England estate? Is that ‘us’?” I worried that we wouldn’t be able to find an affordable “us” venue, once I figured out what our relationship looked like when translated into architecture. From there, it just kept going. We love picnic foods, but what would sandwiches at a formal event tell our guests? If Eric doesn’t care about flowers, how do I make them meaningful to both of us? How do I make a centerpiece that represents us as a couple? Every decision felt like it had to become a symbol of who we are, and I felt like I was stuck before I even started. My mom’s semi-serious joke about a drive-through wedding in Vegas sounded more appealing.

I know that centerpieces don’t matter. If I choose blue flowers instead of pink, it will not affect my marriage. But there’s still this nagging fear, saying, “Wait—this isn’t what I meant.” I’m scared that if I don’t care about all the things, I’ll spend the day feeling like I’m at someone else’s party. There are a lot of beautiful venues in Massachusetts, where I grew up, but Eric has little connection to that state. Will we feel like us if I’m walking down an aisle somewhere that we only visited together a couple times before the wedding?

I keep reminding myself that we don’t have to show off at our wedding. Our guests already know us. That’s why they’re invited. We will take care to make a ceremony that reflects our values, and then plan a fun reception. I can invest in the details I’ll enjoy, such as fitting in little lights or naming the tables after our favorite spots in Ann Arbor, but it’s okay if we pick our venue because we think it’s pretty instead of because we have a connection to it. I know that as long as people we love are there—or thinking about us, if they can’t make it—it will feel like us.

Photo of a cafe in Sighisora, Romania from Laura and Eric’s travels. They’ve been collecting wedding inspiration as they go.

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  • Nicole

    “If Eric doesn’t care about flowers, how do I make them meaningful to both of us?”

    Ahhhh, I can totally relate to this. I almost drove my husband crazy trying to make everything meaningful to both of us, when really he could care less about certain details.

    • Class of 1980

      People would have a lot more fun planning their wedding if they chose just what they LOVE. Meaning is already inherent in the wedding itself.

      If you LOVE your wedding details, you’ll get a kick out of thinking about them. If you have to wrack your brain analyzing details for their meaning, it’s going to be a long exhausting slog.

      Wouldn’t you rather have fun?

      • KE

        At the risk of sounding like a giant creeper, I’m typing this in my phone and saving it to refer back to. I spent 5 hours researching guest books last night.

      • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

        Oh god yes, this. We were halfway down the road to crazytown before this finally occurred to us; now our wedding “theme” is “shit we like,” beginning with each other and continuing through cheesecake and embarrassing 90’s singles. As soon as we stopped overanalyzing, it all fell into place. It won’t be super coordinated or matchy, but then, neither are we!

        • Kate

          “now our wedding “theme” is “shit we like,” beginning with each other and continuing through cheesecake and embarrassing 90′s singles.”

          I can’t even express how awesome this statement is!

          • Moe

            I’d love to see “shit we like” printed on a wedding favor or program.

  • Rowany

    My mantra is that we don’t need things at our wedding to represent us, because we’ll be, you know, THERE. And I think we can represent ourselves just fine.

    • Miriam

      I just burst out laughing! Your mantra’s brilliant. Gonna try to remember that =)

    • Another Meg

      I’m writing this down.

      Sad, isn’t it, that we need to be reminded? But it’s necessary. And brilliant.

    • This. I spent so much time worrying about random details and in the end we had a fairly simple, Unitarian church wedding – with a vegan meal and it all looked perfect. All of those moments spent worrying about “will it look decorated enough, or will it look barren?” disappeared as soon as I walked into the reception and saw that it was simply perfect. It was probably the first and last time we would ever get that entire group into the same room again, but for that day – it was amazing.

    • Mira

      Wiser words were never spoken!

  • Lia

    Oh my goodness, THIS.

    This week I have found myself getting stressed out about chairs. I’ve never cared about chairs in my life before, but suddenly having to hire chairs because I hate chair covers has become important. And I keep telling myself that no-one will care about the chairs, but somehow it still seems to matter. And my lovely wonderful fiance REALLY doesn’t care about chairs, except that they’re expensive.

    So, yes. Exactly.

    • Moe

      I suffered from chair anxiety too. I had to have wooden folding chairs because the plastic ones were going to look even cheaper in a backyard setting.

      I envy my husband (we’re already married) who is so carefree. “They could sit on the grass for all I care.”

    • feeny

      Aaahhhh!! My wedding planner keeps trying to sell me chair covers (which I hate) because a few of the chairs have minuscule stains on them. I just have to keep reminding myself -and her- that if people walk away from my wedding and they are focused on the chairs than something went horribly wrong.

      • Anon

        Sad to say but the chairs do matter, a little bit. I went to a wedding last fall on a farm. The ground wasn’t leveled. The wooden chairs weren’t stable themselves but they really weren’t stable on the unlevel ground. And the chairs were narrow. There were many elderly people. It was not a good situation. Someone almost fell walking to her chair, others (including me) were wobbly in our chairs.

        As long as the ground is level and the chairs are wide enough to accommodate regular sized people, then there is nothing else to worry about. But please, for people throwing outdoor weddings – please make sure the ground is level.

        • feeny

          Yea this is a rooftop wedding with regular convention/hotel chairs. :-) we should be fine.

          • A rooftop wedding… *sigh* that sounds wonderful.

  • Allie

    During the long distance phase of our relationship (on a plane every other weekend) and then again in the lead up to the wedding (flew 6000 miles for the wedding the day before), I would have recurring airport nightmares. I would be traveling and trying to get to an airport and wouldn’t have my passport or couldn’t find a way to physically get to the airport and was going to miss my flight and couldn’t find anyone to help me/who would grasp the problem… it’s not nice when the stress/anxiety invades your sleepy time!

    • Edelweiss

      Uhmm…yeah I just dreamt last night that I went for a dress fitting and the seamstress had detached the bodice from the skirt so my midriff was exposed – a lot, as if I was a belly dancer. I woke up, knew it was silly, but still had trouble getting back to sleep.

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        That’s the worst! “I know this doesn’t sound like a nightmare, but believe me, it still felt like one.”

  • Moe

    My wedding nightmares are mashed up with episodes from Lost because I’m currently watching the entire series on DVD right now. Wedding guests have been kidnapped and dragged into the jungle of my backyard wedding venue. Catering was provided by the wild boat I had to hunt down myself.

    Last week was all about worries over plates. Our budget caterer is providing plastic plates (gasp!) and I was ashes and worried that I had no room in my budget to rent nicer things. Then I tried to rember the table setting from Any Wedding I’ve ever attended in my life or even just last weeks lunch and I can’t remember a single detail.

    So I have myself permission to say “eff it” and move the eff on with my life. It was liberating!

    • This is exactly how I feel. I’ve been looking at all the blogs and pictures, and I keep having to remind myself that I won’t be having a party for the photo album. I’ll be having a party because of us. Also, I’m trying to look at things with a 10 year frame of mind. If I won’t care about it (or even remember it) 10 years from now, it doesn’t matter.

      • Granola

        “I keep having to remind myself that I won’t be having a party for the photo album. I’ll be having a party because of us.”

        What a great mantra. I’m going to borrow it. Our photos didn’t turn out very well, and definitely didn’t capture the awesomeness that was our wedding. And while I know the photos weren’t the point, there’s still some grief there. Your comment is a good reminder to hold on to the more important part.

        • Thanks GRANOLA. I keep telling myself it’s a good idea. We’ll see if I can actually keep this mind set, it really is hard with all the great inspiration out there (I need to spend less time on wedding blogs! but I love them so much!). I’m sorry your photos didn’t turn out well, but I know your wedding was beyond fantastic. Hopefully you still have the amazing memories, even without sufficiently awesome pictures. :)

      • Moe

        It’s not for the photo album, so true!!! Thank you!!

        Clearly I should not be posting too early in the morning because I can’t get my thoughts expressed correctly.

        On a sidenote, I’m almost finished with the last season of Lost and now I understand why so many people were sad that it was going to over.

        • Thanks, MOE! Is Lost really that awesome? I’ve heard great things, but I’m always nervous about investing time in shows with multiple seasons. I have this awful worry that I’ll be disappointed with the ending after putting so much time into them!

          • Moe

            It really is great. Watch it!

            My guy has the entire series on DVD. I don’t like watching TV and I’ve never been the type to follow a series.

            I remember hearing people complain that if you missed an episode of Lost you’d be ….well, lost. So much happens and there’s so many story lines I forget where people are.

            Last night a character died and I was devastated. I rarely feel that attached to a TV character.

          • anonymous

            Lost is awesome but be forewarned: It ends stupidly.

      • Maddie

        “We won’t be having a party for the wedding album” = YES.

        Also, can I just say, as a pro wedding photographer, that the way those things are represented in blogs and magazines and the way they actually end up in your pictures are WAY disproportional (most of the time. Depending on the couple and the photographer). Most of the time I take maybe 25-50 detail shots out of hundreds. And the story is no less authentic without those photos if you have no details or aren’t in love with certain things. However, if I wanted to, I could put all 50 of those photos together and make it seem like the details were a BIG deal. A lot of what you see is editorial spin.

        In short, you’re doing it right and everything you said above is SPOT ON. The 10 year rule is brilliant. (And that’s also acknowledging that for some people, ten years down the road they WILL be proud of say..their invitations or their centerpieces. But if that’s not something you normally remember, no sense in killing yourself over it for the wedding).

        • Emilie

          Yes. To this day my mom insists her favorite thing about her wedding was the flowers. She looooooved her flowers. But I think she knew how important they would be to her going into it (10 year rule). There’s a difference between stressing about a detail because you’re excited about it and stressing about a detail because you’re anxious about it.

          • ” There’s a difference between stressing about a detail because you’re excited about it and stressing about a detail because you’re anxious about it.” -This exactly :) Now comes the hard part of figuring out what is going to matter 10 years down the line.

        • Thanks, Maddie. I need all the encouragement that I can get for this matra to actually hold (I’m convinced that some of the wedding blogs out there are judging me for my lack of details). It’s great to know that editing really makes a difference. I never thought about it before. I’m going to have to start thinking about which pictures I want to make sure happen, and focus on those for the wedding. After all, years down the line, will I want to tell my daughter about the escort cards (I cannot tell you how many escort cards I am enamored with but have neither time nor funds for) or the people who were supporting us?

        • ElisabethJoanne

          My advice as a wedding graduate on photos and details:

          Handle must-take photos the same way you handle other wedding “musts” in terms of family. I wasn’t very interested in photos of “things,” but when I put together our albums, Mom chose the bigger one (which surprised me) partly because it had the pictures of all-the-things, and the album I (thought I) made for her didn’t.

    • “Catering was provided by the wild boat I had to hunt down myself. ”

      That might be the most intense wedding dream I have ever heard of. Wow! And yes, definitely good to give yourself permission to move on!

    • So I have not watched Lost, but thought you Lost watchers might like this site that chronologically arranges the storyline:
      (Though I guess that might be best to look at AFTER you’ve seen them all or else I guess you would see major spoilers.)

  • Moe

    My wedding nightmares are mashed up with episodes from Lost because I’m currently watching the entire series on DVD right now. Wedding guests have been kidnapped and dragged into the jungle of my backyard wedding venue. Catering was provided by the wild boat I had to hunt down myself.

    Last week was all about worries over plates. Our budget caterer is providing plastic plates (gasp!) and I was ashes and worried that I had no room in my budget to rent nicer things. Then I tried to rember the table setting from Any Wedding I’ve ever attended in my life or even just last weeks lunch and I can’t remember a single detail.

    So I gave myself permission to say “eff it” and move the eff on with my life. It was liberating!

    • mimi

      This is awesome. I miss Lost!

  • mimi

    I love the idea of naming your tables after your favorite spots in Ann Arbor! My fiance and I also both went to UM (even though we didn’t meet until several years after we graduated) and we’re getting married in northern Michigan this summer. We’re also asking people to travel, although most of them will be coming from within the state. Good luck with the planning and I’m sure your wedding will be beautiful (and meaningful) wherever it is! Go Blue!

    • Jen

      we named our tables after restaurants / foods / food-related-stories that were important to us and it turned out great! each ‘table number’ had a title, and then a small paragraph so that when you found your table you could read what “Segafredo Zanetti” was all about and why it was important to us (that’s where we were working when we met!). People loved milling around and reading all of the little stories at all of the tables!

    • Susan

      Laura, don’t worry too much about not getting married in Ann Arbor — there’s actually a relatively limited pool of available options here (which is partly why we’re getting married far away where I’m from). But I like the idea of the table references!

      I’d love to hear more advice, though, on what to do with those things that my partner really doesn’t care about yet I want to reflect us. I’m thinking of more complex things, though, like those having to do with religion…

    • Moe

      Naming tables….

      We’re naming our tables after favorite music artists on our playlists. (Prince, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles etc…)Upon hearing songs by their artist each table will be dismissed to hit the buffet line.

  • Kirsten

    I have the exact same fears. I want my wedding to be different than the typical wedding everyone has been to a hundred times, yet still traditional and simple. Not an easy feat, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s probably impossible. Your post was such a great reminder that it will be different because it will be our wedding and well, no one has attended our wedding yet. We can make particular, personal decisions, but some things are just going to be a bit random because they can be nothing else. (Also planning my wedding in Boston, btw!)

    • Granola

      This is what’s so insidious about this pressure to be unique. Weddings are a thing! People have been getting married for a couple thousand years. There’s no making a wedding not look like a wedding, which I don’t think anyone wants anyway. You can want it to not be too tacky, or traditional or stuff, all adjectives that can be tweaked. But not wanting a wedding to “look like a wedding” is inherently silly.

      Just to be clear, I felt this way too, and I write my comment not as judgment of your feelings but as a broadside against the expectation that a wedding has to be something radically different than what it is, which is an impossible standard that just makes people nuts trying to live up to.

    • One More Sara

      As a bit of a math nerd, if you and all other couples getting married in Boston had 30 venues, 20 photographers, 10 caterers, 15 music options and 10 florists to choose from, that means that there are nearly a million unique combinations of weddings (of course this totally ignores the uniqueness trump card- THE COUPLE!). You would pretty much have to steal someone’s wedding binder (or hack their Google Docs) and choose their vendors exactly to have exactly the same wedding as someone else. Even then, I’m willing to bet those weddings would still be pretty different.

      • I love this comment Sara :) The math behind it!
        All weddings are unique, because every single person is unique. Not only the couple,. but the combination of people that attend any given wedding (quite different even between our wedding, my sister or my brother’s wedding).

  • LoLauren

    I, also, am completely overwhelmed by details. We’re also doing the Midwest (Minnesota and Michigan) to Boston thing. I would love to have the wedding in Boston, where we live now but I feel so guilty asking family to fly out here, especially when we can have a cheaper wedding in Minnesota that’s also close to family. In the end, I honestly think we’ll have a very small (parents and siblings) in Boston and then receptions in our hometowns. It’s just so stressful and we’re both in grad school. So- we’ll get married in a lovely small ceremony and then our parents can help organize a party with drinks and dancing when we get home. I think I’m finally coming to peace with this idea…

    • KATE

      We are doing the same thing…small ceremony/reception in DC with family and close friends, then reception in our home town for the family that can’t make it to the east coast. My only fear is that my small DC wedding won’t be as much fun as a larger wedding. I don’t really know what to do for the reception…we’re only having 20 people, many of whom are over 60 and not big dancers, so I feel like we will eat dinner and then just….sit?

      • Rebecca

        Tell stories! This could be the best chance you’ll get to get alllll of the embarrassing stories about your spouse. Or maybe you could come up with conversation prompts to leave on tables?

        We’re having a similarly sized small family wedding, and I’m basically counting on my gabby relatives to keep everybody entertained. And, probably, the reception won’t go quite as late, and we’ll get to go to be early, and that will be fine.

        Although 20 people is totally enough for a dance party in the right circumstances.

      • LMN

        We’re opting not to have dancing at our 75-person reception. Yes, we enjoy it, but many of our friends and family don’t. Also, it’s not what we do when we hang out with our friends and/or family; we usually end up telling long stories and laughing over a very leisurely meal, followed by more drinks, stories, and board games. So that’s what we’re doing for our reception. I was initially worried that people would think it was weird or boring not to have dancing, but a couple friends have already told me how relieved they are. And I’m really looking forward to having time to visit with each guest without having to shout over music. And the savings on not renting a dance floor or booking a band? Huge! So I guess I would encourage you to think about what you normally like to do when you get together with those 20 people and go from there. Or maybe you will have an over-60 dance bash! Who knows? :)

      • brenda

        We just had a 12-person post-ceremony lunch for our civil ceremony (the big wedding is coming in the summer) and it was awesome. Seriously, if they’re your friends and family and they’re happy for you it doesn’t matter how small it is or how little you’ve planned. Just provide some food and alcohol (if that’s your thing) and everything will be great.

  • Granola

    While planning our wedding this past October I struggled with these ideas a lot. The wedding we actually had (in a Catholic church followed by a country club reception) was not the wedding that I planned in my head (outdoor ceremony followed by a party in a rustic barn with tea lights.) And man did that dream die hard.

    However, choosing things that work for you and your fiance, for your families and guests, is choosing a “thing” that represents you. When I realized how logistically complicated having barn reception would be for all the people who needed to help, I realized that aesthetic choice conflicted with a value – namely having all my friends and family around – and a reality – I needed their help to pull it off. Now I don’t play golf and the country club isn’t necessarily representative of my husband and I’s relationship, but the choices and compromises we made definitely represented us.

    Lastly, I just want to say to try to let yourself off the hook about minor decisions. Nothing drove me more nuts than the mental monologue of “I know the shade purple for the bridesmaids’ dresses doesn’t *mean* anything, so why can’t I decide? (queue extra guilt)” Really, a decision has to be made, and sometimes that’s stressful. And whether it “means” anything about your relationship doesn’t eliminate the need for a decision to be made, and the extra layer of guilt is just something you don’t need.

    • Laura

      “Lastly, I just want to say to try to let yourself off the hook about minor decisions. Nothing drove me more nuts than the mental monologue of “I know the shade purple for the bridesmaids’ dresses doesn’t *mean* anything, so why can’t I decide? (queue extra guilt)” Really, a decision has to be made, and sometimes that’s stressful. ”

      Thank you for saying this. I need to learn to let myself off the hook about this, because telling myself I shouldn’t stress about them certainly isn’t helping! Sheesh, who knew having so many decisions to make (whether you “care” about them or not) could cause anxiety, lost sleep, and self-deprecation?! I think I will print your wise words out and post them above my computer as a daily reminder to let myself off the hook!

    • Jashshea

      Yes to all of this, esp the last bit. Try to let yourself off the hook on the guilt: human brains are not yet wired for consistent, (non-life-threatening) rapid-fire decision making. See

      I don’t know how many times I read or heard the phrase “it won’t matter in the end” (where it = table cloths, chair covers, flower styles, venue location, etc etc) and lo and behold that’s true…but it REALLY mattered at the time. My mental state during wedding planning was pretty much the same as my mental state in junior high – prone to distraction/tears, SUPER dramatic, parents driving me crazy, NO one understands me! It’s hilarious/embarrassing to think about it now (uh, 3 months later).

      • Granola

        Sometimes though I felt like “it won’t matter in the end” was a way of making how I felt seem unimportant (kind of like automatically calling someone who’s upset a Bridezilla)

        I’m not annoyed because I mistakenly think it *matters* but because I’m tired of making 500 decisions that still, in fact, need to be decided regardless of whether they *matter.*

        But yes, spot on about decision fatigue and how the human brain isn’t such great help. Which I kept trying to tell people – I’m excellent to have in an emergency. Day-to-day unimportant stuff? I’ll dither for weeks.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Another perspective on whether it *matters*: I like to plan. I especially like to plan fun stuff involving tasty food and pretty dresses and flowers and stuff. I like the planning almost more than I like actually attending/hosting the parties. If someone had said to “stop worrying about the details because they don’t matter / you won’t care the day-of / you won’t remember in 10 years,” I would have told them that misses the point. Choosing the dresses and flowers and cake decorations is fun in itself. I’m doing it for now, and the now doesn’t diminish the day-of or our 10-year anniversary.

        And, when it stopped being fun (like after I’d made 3 spreadsheets comparing catering bids and attended 2 tastings), I told my fiance (or anyone else holding up the decision-making) that further not-fun stuff was their responsibility. I had the information I needed to make a decision, and — I wasn’t having fun any more.

        • Thanks for making this point. I know I talked about 10 years from now, but to tell the truth, I’m really detail oriented (that’s partially why I have the 10 year rule- without it, I will either craft myself to death, or keep moving the wedding back until everything is perfect, or both) I think it’s important, especially with the dichotomy of WIC (where more is mandatory) versus Indi/Crafty Wedding Culture (where less is always better) to remember that you should do whatever you enjoy when planning.

          And party planning is a lot of fun :D

    • KE

      Yeah, occasionally I feel WIC-y for having a ballroom wedding, and then I remember that (a) my fiance and I have horrible allergies and (b) in my town, only country clubs and hotels have room for 150. All the ballroom means is that I have allergies.

      • One More Sara

        The only decision I have had doubts about was our ballroom wedding (for the same anti-WIC feelings it sounds like you have). All our ballroom wedding says about us is that we planned it from 4,000 miles away and really like one-stop-shopping. Solidarity ballroom fistbump!! ;)

  • Kristen

    I worked VERY hard to not care about the details. Unfortunately this led to me not really feeling like it was my wedding and being pretty disappointed after the fact. But honestly, still not really a big deal. The minute your wedding is over, unless you’re way too intensely tied to it, it kind of all stops feeling as important as it did. I’m way more invested in how awesome being married is than how disappointed I am in my wedding. It doesn’t stop the worrying now, but I promise no matter what happens, you’ll be totally fine. Thank goodness our wedding days are just the FIRST day with our husbands not the ONLY. They’re actually the bestest, awesomest, most wonderfulest part of getting married. Legit.

  • I think we went with this “if its something we like then its kind of us by default” so because we liked the venue (mostly because it was good value for London and we could do the whole shebang there and it came with a person and they did bacon sandwiches) what I liked was that other people read into the venue things about us, other than that we are lazy and like to hand the organising part to someone else as we have jobs that are all about organising things. It was great.

    Favours and flowers and so on? They seemed us in retrospect. Like when I ordered vases the wrong size, sent them back and ended up with most of our flowers in glass Irn Bru bottles (and by the time we’rd drunk that much Irn Bru before the wedding that was certainly us too!).

    Like up there – if you’re there it’s already you. And the people who love you will see you guys in everything you do and if they don’t, they don’t. And you’ll get married. And that is ace.

  • My husband didn’t care about the flowers either, but I didn’t care that much about them myself. So the only thing our flowers said about us was “we trust this florist to do something pretty without much direction from us.” And she did. I also worried about having our wedding in Pensacola since it was just where we’d be living for six months while my now husband was doing training here and wasn’t a meaningful place for us. But it was where we were during the planning, it was far cheaper than doing it back in DC, the one place that really is meaningful to us as a couple, and we could have the ceremony on the beach. I worried that having low country boil for dinner wasn’t meaningful about us since we’re not from places that have it, but everybody loved it and it had to say something about us, it said that we like making people happy with good food. Basically, we ended up with meaningful details where we could and where we cared about those details (like the ceremony text, naming the tables after places we’ve visited, having a cookie buffet, using a machete to cut the cake) and let go of the rest (our centerpieces were nice and beachy, but not fraught with meaning). Our cake was accidentally pink and people said they just figured that pink cake must have some kind of meaning for us. So yes, people will read meaning in where there might not even be any. And like other commenters have said, all of it pretty much stopped mattering the minute the wedding was over. What did matter was what you wrote about seeing our favorite people meet and become friends with each other and have a great time on the dance floor. And that we had fun and got married and aren’t in debt over it.

    • Moe

      I don’t care about flowers either, as long as they’re paid for and delivered on time. I’ve had a few friends ask about the flowers I ordered and they’re alarmed when I shrug and say “I don’t know, the florist is doing whatever she wants.” She’s awesome, that’s why I hired her.

  • Kelly

    I am 100% positive this post had the opposite effect on me than it was supposed to…with my wedding 3 months away, I just got inspired to decorate each reception table with a different theme (movie, rock band, sports team) that we both love/share together! LOL – but I’m still focused on keeping the details to a minimum except the ones we truly care about, especially when I start to feel the craziness seep in. Thanks for posting all of your experiences!

  • Moe

    I’m in the final weeks of planning for my April wedding and I’m just about done. If I could give advice to brides in the early stages of planning I’d tell them to do things their own way. I’m not a rustic-vintage-garden-burlap-and-lace kind of girl in everyday life. So why should my wedding be like that? When I first began looking at blogs I was intimidated.

    I’d scroll through all these fabulous weddings online (which after a while begin to all look the same) and say to myself “Wow, where am I going to get all those mason jars?” or “I guess everyone puts lace on things now.”

    When it came time to make decisions for my own wedding I was overwhelmed and in a moment of clarity I asked myself “what are all my favorite things?” and almost immediately it fell into place. The colors, some details, a faint resemblance of a theme (you don’t need a stinking theme for your wedding either). I ended up with what I describe as an 1960’s-industrial-desert-distressed-Mexican wedding.

    I’m happy with everything I’ve decided on and I’m so glad that I’m going through this process at a point in my life where I trust myself and my own instincts.

    • I think I tend to get swept away by the hype too (I mean, how can I make my bridesmaids wear anything other than mismatched vintage prom dresses? All the cute wedding blogs have mismatched vintage prom dresses! Where will I find mismatched vintage prom dresses!) This is such a good thing to keep in mind. I’m going to have to write it out and put it up somewhere- To thine ownself (and thy partner’s ownself) be true. Thanks for the inspiration!

      Also, “1960’s industrial desert distressed Mexican”? There are no words for the awesomeness of that phrase.

    • Class of 1980

      “I’d scroll through all these fabulous weddings online (which after a while begin to all look the same) and say to myself “Wow, where am I going to get all those mason jars?” or “I guess everyone puts lace on things now.”

      This illustrates exactly why everything begins to look the same. ;) Everyone is thinking what they see online is what their choices are.

      It seems to me that if mason jars aren’t your preferred style at home, they wouldn’t be your style at your wedding. People should think about what they already love and use that for their wedding style.

  • feeny

    This is why I come back to this blog every day. I have been struggling with this so much lately and this was the perfect thing to read this morning. Right now I’m struggling with a “theme”. Everyone keeps asking my what my colors are and what the theme is and I’m just shrugging weakly and saying “the theme is we get married punctuated with pretty things that we think are neat?”. Emails from other wedding blogs every day telling me how to achieve the most unique awesome wedding and 75 brand new ideas for wedding themes don’t help either. This really did though!!

    • Moe

      Your theme is “wedding”. Done. :)

      • Maddie

        True story: one of my favorite ever APW quotes is from the very very early days of the site when Meg ran a contest asking people how they defined what it meant to be a practical bride. My favorite response was:

        “I’m a practical bride because the theme of my wedding is marriage.”

        I mean, hard to argue with that, right?

    • ““the theme is we get married punctuated with pretty things that we think are neat?”” – Yep, Moe is right and I am going to write this somewhere so I’ll see it every day.

  • Meg

    I just had my first “I’m not woman enough for a wedding!” meltdown last night, so this post is really timely. To me, our wedding is about becoming our own family unit and having our broader family there to celebrate with us. I find myself much more concerned about who’s at the table, what’s being served at the table, and how much fun is had around the table than how the table is decorated. All the fun parties I’ve ever been to have had the right mix of people, music, drink, and food; the decor never really mattered. It’s so helpful to have a community that feels the same way, while we’re otherwise bombarded with tips on handmaking everything from table runners to cutlery wraps and spending thousands of dollars on succulents. (What IS the deal with succulents??) We just have to remind ourselves to keep coming back to the people around us, cause those are the details that matter.

    • Catherine B

      Hahahahahah what is the deal with succulents indeed….

      • Moe

        *hides succulent plant catalog*

        I collected them before they were cool. But they are rugged little plants that survive well in a sunny dry So Cal climate. They can be cloned easily and look like little modern sculptures.

        I’ll write a post “In defense of succulents”

        • KC

          Little modern sculptures that are ALIIIIIVE!

          But they do not move fast enough to eat you. I mean, in general, at least. So they’re good.

        • KC

          Oh; I would also note that I really like a lot of succulents [and am intrigued by the existence of catalogues of succulents], but if someone gave me a plant of any kind as a wedding favor, especially without “operating instructions”, I would feel a little bit like they had just given me a Wedding Goldfish. Not quite so high on the guilt level if you kill it, but still guilt – I killed their wedding plant! But this may not be at all normal.

          • hahaha- Wedding Goldfish, that’s an awesome idea- I can only imagine the horror on so many guests’ faces when they realize THAT is their favor. If only it didn’t involve real, live animals, that would be an awesome prank.

          • Moe

            My niece convinced me that succulents as favors might not be the best use of my budget. She explained that some of them would be left behind at the end of the night.

            The thought of abandoned orphaned succulents made me so sad.

          • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

            I just made elephant noises trying not to laugh out loud at “Wedding Goldfish.” Love!

          • I accidentally killed the “wedding violet” that I received as a part of a bridal party. She gave us each one of hers to care for since she was moving out of the country right after her wedding… :( Oops. (I will say it made it back home with me several states away and survived a while before it gave up on me…)

  • sfw

    This! This!

    We were fortunate in hat we didn’t feel too much pressure to adhere to tradition with our wedding planning but, for me, the freedom to do things our way morphed into needing every detail to mean something huge about us. And I was convinced any wedding detail decisions that were not driven by our shared deep and meaningful investment in what they represented were signs of the WIC insidiously finding its way into our minds/hearts/wedding. So in the early days of planning I tortured us both with questions about what are “our colors” or “our flowers” or “our food” and ohgodwhatdoesitmeanthatwedon’treallycareaboutthesethings?

    At one point we had kinda chosen our wedding colors (with a good amount of input from others), but I just wasn’t as excited about them as I wanted to be. So I told the now husband that I thought maybe I wanted a purple and orange wedding instead, but everyone (mom, sisters, etc.) thought that was crazy and we didn’t have any deep meaning associated with those colors so I felt like I couldn’t justify it.. He turned and pointed to the throw pillows on our sofa, one of which is orange and one of which is purple, and said sounds about right. I stared dumbfounded because I hadn’t even made the connection. And then I realized that maybe making decisions based on your gut and going with what speaks to you (even if you don’t have a deep and meaningful explanation for it) IS one way of being true to you both and having a wedding that represents you!

  • This post took me back to wedding planning. I can totally remember feeling like this. I wish I could say that I figured exactly which details were important before the wedding but that would be a lie. I paper mached lace onto a balloon and I can’t even remember why now. But the farmers market flowers our friends arranged in vases and milk bottles scattered around the yard truly did make it feel magical. The most important detail was that it was that it was at our house and in our yard and that still holds meaning now as we live our lives with the memory of the wedding in the same space.

  • Emilie

    It always comforts me to remember TONS of people get married all the time. It’s not exactly the UNIQUE thing to do (especially where I’m from). It’s impossible to make everything personalized because it’s. a. wedding. Lots of people do it. Chances are my wedding’s going to remind lots of guests of other weddings they’ve been to. And that’s a good thing. I’m embracing it. Why choose to do something so traditional if you’re going to beat yourself over the head trying to trick people into thinking it’s UNtraditional. Much easier to just go with it.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Following tradition can make things simpler. Or maybe it’s that tradition only goes so far, but it’s enough. We actually consciously tried for a wedding as traditional as possible (and we had discussions about what “traditional” meant for us and our families), and I remember during the planning process pausing occasionally and reveling in how many decisions and planning steps we were skipping because we were being traditional.

  • When I was in the planning phase, we’d had this whole thing set out where the only things we cared about were all super meaningful details that were all supposed to be so very “us”. In the end, life led us to scratch that plan, plan out a big backyard bbq and then scratch that and elope.

    In the end? Our wedding was us. Not fussy at all and we spent the night on what might be the most amped up awesome date night ever, and in the end the way we got married perfectly represented what kind of couple we are and how we both like to do things, and the way we spent the rest of our day represented us perfectly.

    Which is all to say that the big picture of your wedding says a whole lot more about you than any of the little bits. Even if it’s compromising and throwing a massive party to make your families happy even though you’d rather have a small wedding or something else that feels out of character during the planning process.

  • Jen

    Hm… We booked our wedding venue online without either of us having ever been there. I can’t say it ever really occurred to me that the venue needed to be representative of who we are, or perhaps i just realised that ‘booking a venue online without either of us having ever been there’ is who we really are. Interesting.

  • meaganep

    I’ve been feeling really worried about this too! We’re doing the reverse–we live in Boston, but are having the wedding in the Midwest–and I feel like I don’t know what our wedding will even look like. Mostly this is because the decoration stuff is totally out of my hands–because of distance and my apathy, my mom is kindly taking that on. And now, after looking at our wedding photographer’s blog, I’m worried that our wedding won’t be as cool and unique and pretty and special as the other weddings she’s done. I really like her, and I’m terrified of being the dud wedding in her portfolio! I know it is a silly thing to be concerned about, but it haunts me. I’m scared we’re going to walk into an empty room and expect people to have a good time…which normally I think our friends and family could do, but for some reason I don’t trust it for a wedding.

    Strange and silly fears all, I know. But at this point, I’m just ready for the wedding to happen so I can stop worrying (and hopefully put away these feelings of “not good enough” guilt.)

    • I know that you already know this, but it needs to be said anyways.

      Your wedding is going to be unique and amazing because it’s been put together by you, your significant other and your families. Your pictures will look great because you really like your photographer (and I’m pretty sure she really likes you). And she is going to be more than proud to display them on her website. Because you, your significant other, and your families are AWESOME!

      So no more guilt. :)

      • meaganep

        Thank you!! It helps to hear it again. It especially helps to hear it from someone who isn’t a) my mother or b) my partner.

  • Hannah

    I had my first wedding nightmare a few weeks back. In which I forgot to put my dress on and got married in a hoodie, and basically no one recognized it as a wedding at all. Best of all, afterwards when I asked David if we made a mistake by not planning a “real” wedding, he said, “Yeah, I think we did. Why did we do this?” Gahh. At least I have experienced the worst-case scenario and the real wedding can only be a relief at this point…

  • Alexandria

    This is such great advice! As a recent bride, I was so overwhelmed with all of the “inspiration blogs” and Pinterest that I got lost in the stupid details that I didn’t even remember or notice during the wedding. I would have paid anything to have a planning tool that could have helped me narrow sort through the noise and narrow down my options!