How Do I Stop Planning My Imaginary Wedding?


After years of pre-planning, will my wedding feel like a letdown?

Wedding Advice Two Cents Pink Confetti Sign

Q: As long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with weddings. In younger days, my friends and I would dream about the silhouettes of our wedding dresses, the reception food, and the color of our fiancé’s hair. While previously this hasn’t really been a problem, recently my imaginary wedding obsession has become a bit more of an issue.

For the last few years I’ve been dating a truly excellent person, and marriage and a wedding have become tangible possibilities, although not for a few years—after we have some savings and we’re both done with our education. Add to this our friends seem to be getting married en masse and my Type-A personality, and my wedding obsession has reached all-time heights. Sometimes in a Pinterest frenzy I forget I’m not actually engaged, and I have to stop myself emailing photographers for quotes, or I forget that we haven’t talked to our parents about what a budget might look like, and therefore I don’t need to worry about whether to get paper or linen napkins.

But before this turns into a “How We Did It” post for a wedding that hasn’t actually happened, I should say that by the time I do actually get married, I will have effectively been planning for seven to ten years. I’m worried that I’ll feel completely letdown and empty, with nothing as exciting or life defining to look forward to (I know having kids is a Thing, but somehow welcoming a screaming, crying tiny human doesn’t seem quite as exciting as deciding which shade of blush my underskirt will be).

So, how do I stop building up my imaginary wedding as this huge castle-in-the-sky, pinnacle-of-my-life affair? How do I stop a Pinterest wedding board addiction, and in the process, stop nearly telling people about how I found the PERFECT photographer for $200 under my imaginary budget?

Answer from the editor:

Knowing that you will have been effectively planning for seven to ten years by the time you actually get married, I’d say it’s time to pump the brakes.

Now, more than ever, Pinterest and Instagram make it easy to hop down the rabbit hole of your yet-to-be wedding and get lost in the details. Maybe it’s time to use your energy to learn a skill or take a class that’s relevant to the wedding industry. By the time your special day comes, you’ll be able to contribute in a way that you weren’t expecting to before (and it might keep you from being glued to Pinterest).

Did you start wedding planning when you were (very) pre-engaged? Did you set boundaries for yourself? did it affect your feelings about your wedding day? How did you deal?

If you want the APW community’s two cents, send it to QUESTIONS AT APRACTICALWEDDING DOT COM, and we’ll do our best to crowdsource you some answers!

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  • Violet

    I could not agree more with the advice to redirect this researching, project coordination, and styling energy towards somewhere more sustainable. Looking forward to and planning events is admittedly fun (apparently a lot of joy in vacations is the anticipation) but that inevitably comes with a post-event letdown. Monday after Thanksgiving, amirite? This letdown will be so much more intense if the obsessing (sorry, it’s true) has been going on for a decade. I agree that turning that energy into trying to plan your kids seems like a highly questionable next step. Kids have a way of being whoever the hell they are, so no sense trying to plan that one.

  • Lizzie

    Lots to unpack in this letter, but one thing to keep in mind: wedding planning involves a TON of interpersonal compromise. The bulk of the process is working with your partner together to build something you both feel good about. (And don’t get me started on dealing with in-laws, siblings, parents, etc.)

    So, yeah, cut it out – but also, um, you’re not actually wedding planning right now anyway. When do you plan your actual real wedding, it will be awesome, and fun, and stressful, and exciting, and *nothing* like this whatsoever.

    (That sounds harsh, but I’m taking you at your word that you want to stop, so this is a little bit of tough love. If it stings too much, I apologize!)

    • ManderGimlet

      This! Initiating conversations with your partner about wedding planning now, when everything is hypothetical and no credit cards are being handed over, is so crucial to getting an idea of what the actual process is going to be like, which is when emotions are running high and cash is flying out the window and everyone’s mother is saying the worst thing possible. Knowing which page each of you is on, even if it’s not the same one, is a good place to start so you know where you need to work towards and where your compromising and rough spots are most likely going to happen.

      • Lizzie

        Yes, agreed totally. It’s so funny to see how far apart you can be from someone you love so much you wanna marry them! And so crucial to have those first talks in a safe, unstructured, your-mom-isnt-waiting-to-hear-back-about-the-favors-by-10-pm-tonight environment. (Can you tell we had a thing about the mom and the favors… :)

    • Eenie

      There’s a switch from planning “my” wedding to planning “our” wedding. It’s a big switch that comes with lots of compromises and a budget.

      • Tolkien Gay

        Yes! Everyone tells you it’s your special day, but it’s actually not. It’s also your partner’s and their family’s and your family’s and potentially your friends if they’re in your party. You can look and develop priorities in advance but it will all change once things are official. Maybe now is a good time to start mentally preparing to let some things go?

        • sofar

          This, this, this so much. “My” special day would look almost nothing like the wedding we had.

          Had I been spending 7+ years planning my dream wedding, the one we actually had (an unholy FrankenWedding hodge-podge of things our families wanted and things we just did/didn’t do because we ran out of energy) would have been a HUGE disappointment.

          • tealamal

            yes! and when it does come time to plan the wedding of two people, instead of your own dream wedding, I hope you leave yourself some self-compassion to say a wistful goodbye to some of those details that *are* perfect for you, and *aren’t* perfect for you as a couple and a gathered community. (I mean, that’s super hard and enlightened, but it’s a noble goal ;) )

      • Lizzie

        Word. I remember the moment when my now-husband was like “oh I think a carving station would be cool” and I was like oh wow ok this person has a whole different set of opinions! (Nothing against carving tables – just never part of my solo visions!)

  • Katharine Parker

    I had lots of thoughts about my wedding before I was engaged (I had read many an issue of Martha Stewart Weddings, to the point that it was probably my favorite magazine, although that feels almost sacrilegious to say here at APW :), so I can understand this. Have you thought about what element of throwing a wedding appeals so much to you–is it about the general design or party planning or party hosting or gathering friends and family or beautiful paper goods or floral arranging, etc etc? If you can identify some material things that you love, you can try to channel your interest in those ways–perhaps learning calligraphy or brush lettering, taking a floral arranging class, or hosting people regularly for parties? For me, decorating my home appeals to the same part of me that loves weddings–thinking about color palettes and arranging flowers and searching for the best possible rug did and does scratch that itch before and after my wedding.

  • ManderGimlet

    I agree with putting the brakes on hypothetical wedding planning but…maybe start the real-life discussions necessary to making a wedding happen?
    If you and your partner have already discussed marriage and its extreme likelihood and it’s now a matter of certain things being lined up, why not talk about what you both envision? Not necessarily linens and photographers, but do you both want a big wedding, a small one? Does he want a wedding AT ALL, or perhaps to elope someplace special? Getting this kind of thing in hand now will not only help you hone in on financial goals that need to be met between now and then, but will also help prepare you for that inevitable let down (all big events have their little disappointments, even if they are 99.9% perfect). Also, it will prevent any really deflating major surprises like whipping out your decade-in-the-making planning binder after getting engaged and your fiancee staring at you in horror.

  • emilyg25

    I love planning things and I love weddings. Back in the days before Pinterest, I used to copy and paste different ideas of dresses and venues into Word docs. By the time we actually got engaged, my husband and I had been talking seriously about our wedding for a few months and I already had all my preferred vendors picked out. I just had to shoot off a few emails and it was pretty much done. I didn’t feel any letdown–there were still tons of specifics to iron out.

    All that is to say, if you just like looking at pretty pictures and planning pretend events, have at. If you find yourself getting very specific about How Things Will Be, pull back. Or if you’re not feeling good about it, which I suspect you aren’t if you’re writing in. Now that I’m married, I like to plan imaginary vacations and house projects.

    • Katharine Parker

      Yes to planning imaginary vacations! Travel planning is v v fun.

      • Amy March

        And no one judges you for buying travel books when you’re not actively buying plane tickets

      • emilyg25

        I find it at least as fun as actually traveling. None of the stress or expense!

    • penguin

      Love imagining house projects (we live in an apartment). Some day…

      • Amy March

        People are so judgy about planning a wedding when you aren’t engaged and yet HGTV feeds our collective real estate fantasies around the clock.

        • And arguably is so much worse because it feeds equally unrealistic ideas (like, crown molding is make or break to home value, and it is basically very easy to remodel to change your entire floor-plan) but over assets that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

        • Megan

          Preach. I just found out that House Hunters is on its 126th season.

        • penguin

          Say Yes to the Dress was/is one of my guilty pleasures, although it shouldn’t be guilty I just like watching it.

          • Katharine Parker

            I read recently that Four Weddings is coming back, but the brides are all going to know each other. I am definitely watching that.

          • lamarsh

            Yaaaaaaaassss. They were doing Four Weddings marathons on Sunday for a while and now-husband and I would just drink coffee and be unable to pull ourselves off the couch for hours. I had a lot of very specific thoughts on Pittsburgh wedding after one particular season. But that makes me so happy it’s coming back, because I’m pretty sure I’ve watched every ep available on demand/live.

          • Kat

            This sound cutthroat, I am into it.

          • Violet

            Ugh, “guilty pleasures.” Since I’m not committing a crime/being actively mean to someone, I just refuse to feel guilty about SYTTD.

    • quiet000001

      Also other parties! Sure, someone’s birthday isn’t likely to be quite the same size or expense as a wedding, but there are plenty of important events that might suit a proper party if you feel like orchestrating one. Or if you are a volunteering type, you can volunteer with a local group to help plan fundraisers and so on. Several of our local groups usually have some kind of big fancy thing once a year that isn’t that far off wedding planning in terms of lining up vendors and having a theme and so on, although you do need to work with other people for those. :)

      • Rachel

        I think the volunteer event planning idea is an AMAZING one! Plus you’ll gain valuable real-life event planning and compromise skills to use on your own future wedding :)

        • quiet000001

          And honestly most groups usually need help with big events, even if to start with you get stuck with boring not very creative stuff. I’ve gotten good ideas for my own parties from volunteering – you can see what works and what doesn’t, or what works for which groups, what problems to watch out for, etc.

    • Another Meg

      Shout out to pasting images into Word docs.

      Also, this is spot on:
      “All that is to say, if you just like looking at pretty pictures and planning pretend events, have at. If you find yourself getting very specific about How Things Will Be, pull back. Or if you’re not feeling good about it, which I suspect you aren’t if you’re writing in. Now that I’m married, I like to plan imaginary vacations and house projects.”

      Hello house projects. We don’t even have a house and I’m killing the planning stages. Zillow is very helpful for house dreaming, and you can put together paint samples on Pinterest boards, and I don’t know what city we’ll live in yet but I know neighborhoods with good school districts in multiple cities, so prepped there.

      There are always things to pretend plan!

      • Rachel

        Hahaha, are you me? I think Zillow and city-data.com probably come up an embarrassing amount in my browser history. Heck, I actually bought a house two years ago (VERY EXCITING PROCESS) and I’m still a grade-A real estate stalker!

      • Sarah Thomas

        OH MAN. Somehow I never linked my wedding planning obsession with my house planning obsession/ garden planning obsessions/ vacation planning obsessions! I just love planning! Sounds obvious now but it makes me feel better about my level of obsession about wedding planning pre engagement. I’m glad I read all these comments.

  • Amy March

    Oh hi this is obviously also me. And I vote don’t worry about it. There is a vast difference between “planning” when everything is fake and there are no real decisions to make and planning, with real money and contracts. Remind yourself of that, frequently. Actual planning comes with people and budgets and real constraints. As long as you actually do get that just because Sandringham does weddings does not mean you’ll be able to afford them, I don’t think it’s necessarily terrible to do as long as you enjoy it.

    • Katharine Parker

      It is, truly, a beautiful magazine.

    • H

      Totally agree – I “planned” my wedding for +10 years before I got engaged, and actually planning was completely different than daydream planning. It wasn’t a let down at all, just a different experience. Also it’s nice to already have an idea of what you want before you get there! I think it’s only a problem if you make it one.

    • RNLindsay

      Same! I definitely had 2 different Pinterest boards. A pre-engaged one that is essentially my dream wedding and a post-engaged one that aligns with “our” vision and budget. Both were still fun to plan though! There’s always going to be a little bit of a let down when you realize dream doesn’t work in reality but, coming from the other side, I wouldn’t say it’s not enough to stop dreaming :)

    • I mean. Same. How do you think I have this business? I’ve been planning my wedding since I was 4.

      Planning that imaginary wedding that was all mine was way more fun than planning that shared wedding, also. I mean, sure sure, the wedding to the love of my life was great. The planning part that *wasn’t* just thumbing through wedding magazines and picking my favorite things without asking anyone else’s opinion? That part was kinda bullshit. ;)

    • Abs

      Yes–I’ve been “planning my wedding” since well before I met my husband (started reading APW about four months before we started dating. But actually planning our wedding was totally different.

      ALTHOUGH, I will say that all the imaginary planning was actually really helpful, not because our wedding ended up looking anything like my fantasy weddings, but because I had spent so much time thinking through what I thought was important, and what wasn’t, and what I liked and what I didn’t, so that when it was time to do it for real the decisions were a lot easier.

      So I would say go wild! And if you fall in love with the idea of a pizza truck before you’re even engaged, like I did, then that just gives you more time to get your skeptical partner on board (he now thinks it was the best part of the wedding).

      • Sarah Thomas

        THIS. After three years of dating and having bought a house together I told my boyfriend that we could be engaged as long as he liked but we should really get engaged so I didn’t feel like a crazy person planning a wedding with no fiance. Even though I felt crazy and definitely had to set limits on how much day dream planning I allowed myself each week I don’t regret having spent so much time dreaming. I kind of feel like a wedding planner ambassador to my fiance. I can explain a lot to him and help him not feel overwhelmed. AND its made planning with him so exciting because the dream wedding really was MY wedding vs OUR and the OUR is the whole point. For example my dream wedding had a beer/wine only bar just to save some money and make it simpler and my dream wedding had insane amounts of beautiful flowers everywhere. When fiance told me he really cared about having a full and amazing bar at first I was worried about where that money would come from but it turns out that growing zinnias and black eyed susans in our yard and my moms yard and nixing the expensive shipped flowers (though might not look as grand) fills me with such joy and pride and is perfect for our mid july casual love party. Also I SO agree a good way to divert the wedding planning energy pre engagement is to plan dinner parties/ garden parties/ silly parties/ fancy parties. Be your group of friends social planner. I found that when I had an actual party to plan I didn’t have the wedding planning urge for a month or so.

  • idkmybffjill

    You know… I’d say that I actually sort of wish I’d done more fantasizing about my wedding before it was time to capital P plan it. And now after my wedding I still sort of plan ghost ship weddings on my pinterest. Def chill out with the actual logistic stuff, but I don’t really think there’s that much harm in thinking about the pretty.

    Although realize that actually planning a wedding is often WAY less about the pretty wand way more about the “what do our families want and what does marriage mean to us”. If exercising your fantasy muscles now means you’ll be able to focus on the marriage when it comes time to focus on that? Go for it. If thinking about the wedding is confusing you as to which is more important…. yeah perhaps don’t.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      Yeah, I wish I had some of this passion. Not all of it, but some of it. Planning big events fills me with whole bunches of anxiety. We only had relatively general conversations about what we wanted before we got engaged, and then after we got engaged, everything I initially planned out fell through. Now that’s it’s been a year, we’ve waded back into the planning waters, cautiously, just up to our ankles or so. Reading this letter makes me feel slightly panicky, but I wish to high heavens it didn’t. If it’s something the OP loves to do, and it’s not hurting anybody, then maybe just they can take a moment to be pleased that it’s a fun thing for them?

      • Anne

        “Slightly panicky” is exactly how this made me feel too. Partly irrationally for myself, because I’m just insecure that because I’m not a “wedding person” of this type, our wedding will be less fun or substantial or something.
        But I do think there are red flags for LW to be careful of. I have found the collective, community aspects of wedding planning with FH and our families to be very central to the whole process, and there wasn’t any mention of how she’d envisioned that at all. I think being able to embrace and roll with those interactions has been more important than the fact that napkin choices and underskirts never in my life crossed my mind before getting engaged.

  • JenC

    When we were pre-engaged, we had a lot of talks about what our wedding would look like and I thought we had some good plans. I accidentally fell down the rabbit hole of doing too much planning before getting engaged. The thing is that it didn’t matter what we agreed to when we were pre-engaged or what I had envisioned, when we actually got engaged the circumstances were different. The destination wedding came to a grinding halt when we realised my grandparents couldn’t travel. The small, intimate wedding of 20 people came to a grinding halt when we actually counted who we wanted there. The ideal home venue went out the window when I realised it wasn’t wheelchair accessible and that would isolate some of our guests.

    I realise that this probably sounds hugely condescending but it’s hard to know what your priorities are until you are actually engaged and you have a certain set of circumstances in front of you. Those circumstances influence the decisions you make, the compromises you make, the dreams you adjust because your partner wants something more. Until you are actually engaged you don’t know how crazy you’re families will be, what random set of wishes they’ll come up with and how important they are against what you want overall. Until your mother has broken her ankle 5 weeks before your wedding and is still insisting that she makes your cake less you appear to be unloved, you don’t realise how much importance your mother has put on making your wedding cake.

    Not trying to be a *CoolGirl* but genuinely I didn’t plan my wedding until I met my partner but I still had to mourn that dream wedding. The image of me in a tea length dress and wicked bright blue heels, him in a smart, casual suit, standing on an Italian cliff and saying our vows with just our immeadiate families there. I mourned it when I had to pay the venue, I mourned it when my father in law was a shit about the lack of catholic ceremony, I mourned it when we had to invite those people we didn’t want to invite. I even mourned it on our wedding day, which was great, but not what I originally dreamt of. No matter how great our actual day was, it didn’t stop me mourning the dream wedding when I saw an Italian elopement on Facebook the other week. Had I been planning this wedding for 7-10 years, I know I’d have struggled to move past it. To accept that actually our circumstances made us have a different wedding. I don’t think I’d have been able to enjoy my wedding.

    How do you stop that? I don’t really know. It’s at a level that a lot of time has been invested and you can’t just cut that time without feeling the loss. Even stopping for a few years, with this level of input there will probably be some residual feelings when things don’t work out the way you’ve planned. I think LW needs to focus on not making her wedding day the biggest day of her life. Read as many articles as they can about how things didn’t go to plan, how they hated their wedding day and try to prepare themselves for the worst. Temper their expectations somewhat. It’s also important to remember that Pinterest is just a snapshot of what happened on the day – they’re pictures that have been shared, therefore moments that have been picked to create an image. The photo of the bride digging vegetables out of teeth doesn’t get shared but still happens. Don’t pin your wedding dreams on Pinterest, maybe google some Pinterest fails to remind yourself that it doesn’t always go to plan.

    • penguin

      “Until you are actually engaged you don’t know how crazy your families will be”

      Truer words have never been spoken. And sometimes it won’t come out right when you get engaged, but will just explode at some point during planning. Also if this happens to you and you’re looking for commiseration, I’m available haha.

      • JenC

        And that is precisely why if I find myself divorced or widowed and I want to remarry, I’m just going to slip away on a Wednesday lunchtime and send everyone a “Guess what…” text.

      • Pannorama

        This is the part I’m not looking forward to. Partner’s family is really wonderful and we get along great — but I don’t know how they feel about weddings. And my family is kind of a mess, and I’m going to have to tell my dad that I don’t want to invite most of his family. Maybe I should just enjoy the faux-planning period while I can.

    • penguin

      Also stories of brides who hated their weddings have been helpful to me – it doesn’t have to be a perfect day, things WILL go wrong.

      • JenC

        A lot of things went wrong on our wedding day. Understanding that it wouldn’t go to plan was so instrumental in actually being able to enjoy the day and now I can laugh about it all. Had I believed that everything would be perfect because it just is on your wedding day, I know I would have regretted our wedding.

    • Kat

      Yeah my dream wedding has evolved a lot as the person standing next to me has come more into focus. I.e., “romantic, exotic, rooftop venue” has turned into “accessible to all the grandparents”. And that’s totally ok, because those people are more important than the pretty ceremony space.

      • AtHomeInWA

        For me it has gone from “fun and offbeat but still romantic and dignified” to “my immediate family and bridal party alone involves 5 states an 4 academic schedules, WTF and I going to do to accommodate these people?” It would be 5 academic schedules, but one will be a recent grad by then. And even then, the people who are in state are scattered so that no matter where we hold the event, 2/3 are going to have drives over 3 hours.

        (BTW: My answer is resort wedding. Fly in, check in, steam your dress/suit, get married, drink, dance, sleep. No effort for them, no house guests for me.)

        • Kat

          I’m thinking the answer to most wedding issues is “resort wedding.” Thin the herd, you don’t have to clean, entertainment is often built in…..I’m trying to convince people that taking a cruise and getting married on the boat is a good idea.

          • Amy March

            But then they all have to pay for a cruise? Which some people hate. At a resort they can always stay nearby, leave, etc.

          • Kat

            Yeah you’re right. This is my most impractical wedding idea.

          • penguin

            A resort (not on a boat) sounds fun though.

      • quiet000001

        I find planning with Pinterest or similar to be helpful for figuring out what it is that is really standing out to me when trying to plan an event or make an aesthetic choice. (I do this for stuff like haircuts too.) The key is to have multiple passes – first is just pin/clip/whatever what you like, even if you aren’t sure why you liked it, and even if you think you’ve already pinned it.

        Then take a break for a day or two, get your mind on other things.

        Next step, look at your board/scrapbook/whatever and scan for similarities. Pay particular attention to things that turn up more than once. If you like one thing you pinned more than another, see if you can figure out why. Usually things stand out if they are common to a lot of the images.

        Then either make a note for later (if you are planning – an example would be that I discovered I find living rooms look more inviting if the coffee table is fabric like an ottoman with a tray, rather than a proper table) or select the image or images that best show what you like and reserve them for later use. (With hair, for example, I usually try to get it down to ~4 different similar images and then I show those to my hairdresser so he can get the idea of what it is I’m looking for and customize it to suit me.)

  • Lexipedia

    Also, right now you are planning YOUR wedding, not the one that you and your partner may eventually have. I had about 6 months of “official waiting” (deciding we were ready and would like to get engaged early the next year) in which I had some elaborate ideas of the type of wedding “we” would have. Then I discovered that my now-fiancé had a completely different view of some aspects of it that I didn’t expected – expensive invitations, dessert, and bridesmaid dresses being the surprising ones. So my wedding Pinterest board was abandoned in favor of a new one, and when I look back it is very clear that if we had planned the “dream wedding” it would’ve been completely wrong for us as a couple.

    TL;DR – don’t get too attached to a wedding vision as life/budgets/weather/whatever, or more importantly the vision of the person you end up marrying, might not line up.

    • JenC

      My husband was very vocal about some surprising aspects too. Some of his priorities also influenced things that typically you wouldn’t think he had any influence over. My husband wears a suit everyday so he wanted a traditional morning suit, so something a bit posher than an everyday suit. I wanted a tea length dress but a tea length would have looked absurd with his suit. In the end it was more important that he felt special on our wedding day, than I wore a shorter dress. My dress had a lower priority than his suit, it might not be the way it’s meant to happen but it’s the way that worked for us.

      • NotMotherTheresa

        Yes! Another person’s priorities/concerns/desire can have some super unexpected influences!

        In my case, my husband didn’t really have any things he ~did~ want, but it was working around all of the things he ~didn’t~ want that influenced the wedding in some weird ways. For instance, he hates having his picture taken, so when picking a photographer, I had to pick someone who was really good at working with people aren’t comfortable in front of the camera…our pictures ended up a little meh (artistry and people skills are two very different things), but our photographer was a genius at working with the cantankerous family members who wanted to spend as little time as possible posing for pictures! Similarly, he absolutely hates being the center of attention, so we nixed the grand entrance, the dance with his mother, the garter toss, and the big sendoff (plus, he ended up with about a four person guest list, which gave us a far smaller wedding than I’d expected).

        When I was still in the fantasy planning stages, those are never the things that I would have imagined him influencing, but low and behold, he did.

  • I was definitely an imaginary wedding planner before I got married — Not to this level, but even when I thought I really didn’t want to get married, wedding magazines were still my guilty pleasure.

    My wedding day was awesome, and I don’t think over-planning had any impact on it besides making certain aspects a little easier. Like, no matter what weddings are a big, consuming planning process that culminate in a 6-8 hour party. If you are going to feel let down, it’s probably going to happen either way.

    All that said, I do think if it is feeling actively obsessive, you should take a break. Like, if you are having fun exhaustively researching local photographers in your down-time, keep on rocking. But if you are ending up in edgy zombie-mode when you should be going to sleep because you just have to find a shoe pin that perfectly coordinates with a headband pin, it’s definitely time to hit the breaks and chill.

  • Alli

    I can relate! As a stress reliever all throughout college, I would plan my potential wedding with my now-husband. He knew I did it but stayed out of it because I would get VERY into it. I’d make budgets and menus and potential guest lists, price out tent rentals if it were outside, come up with logistics and how many buffet tables/round tables/chairs I would need, ALL of it. Luckily I had a few friends I could gush about weddings to.

    And then when it came time to plan OUR wedding, with all the family drama that comes with that, it got less fun. It’s suddenly real money you’re working with, and the 80 person guest list balloons to 160 because you forgot about whole sections of your families that would be so sad if they weren’t invited, and some of the vendors you had in mind are booked solid on your wedding day. I loved my wedding but it’s a lot different planning a real wedding vs dream weddings in your head.

    I still love planning things though. I do all the research for our vacations, I handle the household budgeting spreadsheet, and I adore christmas, so I’ve already started planning hosting it this year. There’s always stuff out there to be planned, if you feel like you’re going a little too hard on the wedding pre-planning, shift your focus to something else!

  • Tee

    As someone who engaged in similar thinking in the past–this seems less like wedding planning and more like maladaptive daydreaming that happens to center on wedding planning. I’m a bit concerned about what the LW is describing and I’m wondering if this over-investment might be a bit more serious than she thinks. Maybe she needs to take a break and re-evaluate this a bit more. Like everyone else said, a fantasy wedding is not the same as real wedding planning.

  • Sarah E

    Maybe find ways to reinforce to yourself the “fantasy” aspect of your interests. For example, instead of labeling your Pinterest board “centerpiece options” or “Someday.. “, label it something like “If life were a fairytale” or “Pretty things I like” or something. I mean, honestly, lots of the stuff you see now may not be an option when you get married simply because they’re out of style, or out of business, or you moved, whatever.

    Put your efforts into planning real events with the ideas you like. Host a fancy cocktail party and try some stuff. Put together a centerpiece for Thanksgiving. Plan your own birthday party. Hire a photographer for head shots or family photos or something. If you make those things part of everyday life, there might be less fantasy and dreamy soft-focus lighting around saving them for “someday.” Kind of like using the nice china for everyday dinners.

    A strategy I like to use, usually when I’m literally in a store with my arms full of purchases I’m not sure I need to/ want to/ should buy, is gratitude. Like literally thinking to the items “This is really pretty. I’m really glad this exists in the world.” Which allows me to put things down more easily and step away without “having” them. I’ve still spent some time appreciating them. Perhaps work on training your brain that way? Maybe with the help of computer-side post-it note? Thinking “I’m really glad that option is out there” or “I’m so glad someone made that, how beautiful,” you get the appreciation of the thing.

    • Jess

      I’m super into the idea of planning other events to stretch those “pretty things! centerpieces! calligraphy!” muscles.

      • Kat

        I’ve found that decorating my house really scratched that “pretty things!” itch for me too. Like maybe I’m not obsessed with weddings, I just like rose gold?

    • NolaJael

      Yeah. If wedding planning is a creative outlet or stress relief for LW, then I’d say it’s fine, but don’t make it too specific. Have different ideas to riff off of – like a destination wedding in Mexico or Colorado, then another one with an intimate elopement. I think the problem arises when you get into a *there is only one right way to do this* mode, and that mode doesn’t take into consideration your partner, families, weather, etc.

    • suchbrightlights

      I appreciate your outlook towards choosing gratitude.

  • Kat

    I’m not engaged but definitely would fall into the “obsessed with weddings” category. I’ve been reading this blog for at least 2 years and I think it’s done a lot to curb my hypothetical wedding planning habit and help me see weddings a real & logistically challenging, rather than just a pile of pinterest projects. I’m as excited as ever to plan a wedding, but now I’m excited to make it personal, not perfect.

    If all else fails, working in the industry for a while may be the cure. I’ve worked for a planner, a photographer, and as a bridal stylist. Nothing gets rid of those rose colored glasses like dealing with drunk groomsmen, mean MOB’s, and sparkler exits.

  • Greta

    If you think you might love event planning and have the time, maybe it might be worth it to try and get an internship or some sort of assistant job to a wedding planner/DOC. If you were out there working weddings and solving problems in the wedding field, it might stoke your planning desires by helping other people plan theirs. Plus, it’s generally a weekend gig.

    I had a long engagement (19 months) and spent all of that time deep in the wedding planning hole. The wedding was amazing, and I was seriously exhausted and simultaneously bummed out when it was over. I felt like I didn’t have anything to think about anymore. And so I threw myself into helping all my friends who were getting married. I have now DOC’ed 5 friends weddings and it has been so much fun! It also really helped me get over my coulda-shoulda-woulda’s and help my friends solve their own wedding problems and plan their special days with their own visions. And guess what? 3 years after my own wedding – I’m finally letting go of the wedding planning obsession. House projects is the new obsession. :) Though I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to let go of APW.

  • Anna

    When I was pre-wedding planning with my now ex-boyfriend, I missed a lot of the signs that this relationship wasn’t for me. Instead of spending too much time pre-wedding planning, invest in yourself and your relationship. These investments are so useful for life and the stress of wedding planning. Enjoy now. Read the APW book for general understanding on weddings and how they should work. There are so many lovely ways to have a wedding. By the time you do plan your wedding with a real timeline, real fiance and real in-laws, you, your plans and your budget will be different. Mine were. You probably can’t even fit all the quotes you love in a wedding. You can enjoy weddings, especially other people’s weddings, and you can help your friends in their real wedding planning. Just make sure that your biggest hobby isn’t compiling a long, impossible list of wedding things.

    • CMT

      I’ve started writing and deleted a bunch of comments in this vein. I got more involved in hypothetical wedding planning the more my relationship started to fail. I wanted so much for the relationship to work and was just kind of grasping at straws by pinning things that deep down I knew weren’t going to come to fruition.

      • Anna

        I feel you – Maybe the best & healthiest pre-wedding planning is learning ways to become the best version of yourself and how to have healthy relationships in general. Then, sometimes, moving on from unhealthy places, knowing that somewhere in your future you’ll probably find what you’re looking for. But you’ll find it faster if you are healthy & your relationships are healthy.

  • lurker2209

    I found APW on wedding planning binge that was triggered by my sister’s wedding. First it was fun and then I kind of felt anxious and out of control and like I ought to stop but couldn’t. When I sat back and thought about what I was really doing and why I came up with some pretty important things.

    1. Stuff that reflects my values. Like getting married at the church I joined in my 20s, which isn’t just a pretty venue but a community that reflects my faith and my progressive values. Or being in a relationship with a lot of gender equality including gender equal wedding planning. Those values were important even when I was single and when dating and in my relationship now, and will be really important in marriage and parenting. So looking at wedding planning checklists and thinking “oh wow this is my partner’s strength”, or saying “I’ve always seen myself getting married at my church” to my partner, don’t feel frivolous or premature. It’s just also important to be having a lot of conversations about other things that also reflect those values.

    2. Bridging Family cultures. The more time I spend with my partner’s family and the more time I spend with my partner and my family together, the more I notice things that are very different. And those differences will come up in a lot of ways but the first big one is probably going to be our potential wedding. So yes, I have a plan for a dry church wedding reception and an afterparty at a bar; we may actually end up doing something totally different, but thinking through ideas to handle those differences feels like a good mental exercise. Figuring out how much I want to compromise to make my family comfortable and what I really want has been really helpful. I don’t think I’d want to just jump into negotiating that without really unpacking my feelings about the topic.

    3. Feeling like everything is so expensive! After my sister’s wedding I felt like all the things I like about weddings in general were really, really expensive. Spending some time deliberately looking for things that were less expensive that I also really liked made me feel a lot more comfortable. Most of those dresses and silk flowers probably won’t even be for sale in two years. That wasn’t the point. Also I realized I’m a little bit anxious about my financial situation in general and there are more constructive things I can do here and now to address that.

    4. The pretty and frivolous. Some of the pre-planing I was doing was just pretty and frivolous and fun. Having thought through 1-3, it’s both more fun and easier to set boundaries around it so that it doesn’t take up all my time.

    So my advice to anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by pre-planning a wedding is to think about what’s really driving that impulse. You might uncover some pretty important stuff.

  • NotMotherTheresa

    I was totally one of those people who started planning my imaginary wedding when I was like, four.

    My actual wedding was completely different from that wedding I had in my head, because as it turns out, imaginary weddings are exactly that. Imaginary. They involve imaginary personalities, and imaginary budgets, and imaginary timelines.

    There are two important things to keep in mind here: (1) You’re going to (eventually) be getting married to A PERSON. A real life, living and breathing person. Don’t let yourself get so caught up in the wedding fantasy that you forget about the actual relationship at the core of it all. (2) Remember that there’s a difference between fantasy and reality. There’s nothing wrong with pinning pictures of gorgeous dresses and imagining the amazing dance party you’ll have at the reception, but recognize that very few weddings ~actually~ turn out the way that the bride fantasized about. In real life, there will probably be unexpected expenses that cut into your budget, and friends who can’t make it, and relatives who throw hissy fits about the color of the flowers, and weird wrinkles/zits/bits of pudge that keep you from looking like The Perfect Pinterest Bride. There will be unseasonably hot/cold/rainy weather, and vendors who screw up random things, and guests who leave early. Those are just the realities of any event bringing together large-ish groups of people. Know that. Remember that. Maintain reasonable expectations.

    As long as you do those two things, you’re golden. On the other hand, if you find yourself getting too caught up in the fantasy (which it sounds like you ~might~ be doing, if you’re legitimately wanting to brag about the photographer you found), then yeah, time to step away from the Pinterest board and go back to focusing on real life for a bit. Because there’s nothing wrong with keeping a board full of cool ideas and vendors to talk to when the time comes, but like, that board isn’t real life, and your wedding probably won’t quite be like the thing you’re picturing in your head.

  • Thriftypenny

    Also as a point:
    Your partner (be they male or female) may also have their own ideas or preferences or their own expectations for the big day. And yes…they get a say.

  • Cathleen

    Oh man I feel this. I had not been planning an imaginary wedding for 10 years but I did start planning a “perfect” wedding about 6 months before we got engaged when we really seriously began to talk marriage.

    I wish I hadn’t. I wish I came to planning with a totally open mind. My fantasy wedding wasn’t even that lofty or expensive, but wouldn’t you know it, when it came time to plan:
    The perfect vacation rental venue got sold.
    Our favorite local queer soul night DJ decided to stop booking weddings.
    The taco catering we wanted didn’t work out.
    You get the idea.
    And you know what? It’s gonna be FINE. We found another venue, our guests will somehow be fed, and everyone will party whether we find another DJ or just do a Spotify playlist etc etc.
    But, it was surprisingly hard to get that first vision out of my head. When you do get engaged I’d say really try to clear your mind of all that pre planning and just start fresh.

    • NotMotherTheresa

      I don’t ~regret~ the fantasy planning I did, but yeah. Same story.

      I had two fantasy weddings: The super fantasy/I Know This Could Never Happen But It Would Be Nice If It Did wedding, and the “realistic” fantasy.

      Neither worked out. Yeah, the “realistic” fantasy might have technically been able to fit within our budget, but pulling it off would have required getting about 5,000 boring logistical ducks in a row, and that kind of stress would have been the exact opposite of the relaxed vibe I was trying to create. Practicality won out over my super personalized, super boho preppy chic fantasy, and we ended up having a regular freakin’ reception at the country club, complete with regular country club food and chair covers.

      And you know what? It was great! We spent less than we would have on our boho fantasy wedding, I didn’t have to worry about coordinating 700 different vendors, and our guests raved about the mac and cheese! Some of the individual elements were a bit more cookie cutter than I’d initially envisioned, but at the end of the day, it was still very ~us~, and it beautifully reflected our values (including practicality…a value that was not reflected in my fantasy draft).

  • I didn’t have years of imaginary wedding planning, but I did fall down the rabbit hole when a change to my bc started giving me anxiety attacks. Thinking about palates and venues and decorations was so soothing compared with thinking about my job, my finances, my home, my relationship, the economy, global warming, north korea… (a bunch of wedding vendors genuinely have Trump’s hideous rhetoric to thank right now for my sudden burst of productivity). All of my personal ducks were in a row, but my brain was lying to me and convincing me that they weren’t, or wouldn’t remain so. Even now I still sometimes feel like I don’t deserve to be married because there’s a test I haven’t passed, because I’ve never had my heart broken, because we’ve never had a serious fight, because everything has just gone so smoothly. I look over at J at night and have to check he’s still breathing, because life can’t actually be this easy.

    Other commenters have raised the issue of whether you’re trying to distract yourself from other problems with wedding planning, and I do think it’s worth being very honest with yourself about that. Take some time to think the hard thoughts. You can’t imagine having kids with the same joy you can imagine your wedding. Is there something about that future you don’t enjoy thinking about? Are you both on the same page about kids? J and I fantasise about kids together. We fantasise about him being a stay at home parent. We fantasise about our careers, about our retirements, about our holidays and projects. Most of the fantasies are just as fantastical as a dream wedding (surviving as a one income family!) but we’re fantasising about our lives together. It’s not just one of us thinking about one day. That’s easier, and safer, and more soothing, but it’s so much lonelier, too.

    • AtHomeInWA

      “We fantasize about him being a stay at home parent.”

      I fantasize about him being a stay at home parent. Is that close enough? :D

  • SeptemberBride

    Looking for advice:
    Just started wedding planning and while talking to my mother in law, suggested I try on her daughters dress that she got married in 2 years ago. I don’t want to be rude, she’s paying for most of the wedding but I find it rude for her to say that. A wedding dress is sentimental to every bride. I first off would not feel comfortable borrowing her dress, even if she was ok with it. Second, the biggest part of a brides wedding IS the dress. Shopping and trying on and finding what you like.

    • penguin

      Is she suggesting you get married in it, or just try it on to see if you like the style/it’s your size? If you don’t want to wear it then definitely don’t. If it’s just a reference, it might be useful (but you still don’t have to put it on).

    • My mum suggested I wear my sister’s dress for my wedding. Neither of us are sentimental about stuff like that (I looked at a bunch of secondhand dresses when I was shopping, and I’ll probably sell mine) but what suited her wouldn’t have suited me, or suited my wedding.

      I’d say give your FSIL a heads up about the fact your FMIL is offering her dress out, because if she’s anything like my mum she won’t have asked her daughter first! If FSIL is also all for it, there’s no harm in trying it on and, as penguin says, using it as a reference for what to look for when you go shopping. Don’t feel pressured into wearing it, though. Tell your MIL that dress shopping is something you’re looking forward to, part of the ritual and tradition, and maybe invite her to join you if you’re comfortable with that (otherwise, say your mum/bridesmaid/sister/person is super looking forward to it and you don’t want to let them down!).

      Just bear in mind that if your FMIL is really into the idea of you wearing her daughter’s dress, then it would be rude to ask her to pay for an alternative – you want to go shopping, you need to pay for it.

    • april

      “Second, the biggest part of a brides wedding IS the dress. Shopping and trying on and finding what you like.” – This may be true for you, but it’s not true for everyone. I ordered my dress online (from JCrew, back when they did wedding dresses). I loved my dress, but it was definitely not the “biggest” part of the wedding for me, or even close to the thing I spend the most time and energy on while wedding planning. I donated the dress to charity pretty soon after the wedding.

      That being said, try to assume that your FMIL means well. It’s likely that she thinks this is a very generous and practical offer (in her mind, she’s offering you a gorgeous, and probably very expensive, dress for free!). Thank her, and politely decline. You can explain that dress shopping (with her? with your owner mother and/or other close family members and friends?) is something that you’re really looking forward to. If she’s a reasonable person, she won’t be offended!

    • Amy March

      I think you are in for a long ride if you’re going to get offended about this. Just say no thank you and move on. If you really don’t want to deal with her input, reconsider having her pay.

  • Amandalikeshummus

    This is me now. Well, I’m not obsessed, but this past month I’ve been delving into the APW archives as my way to relax. I’m in a show while working full time during the day and doing my regular church job. So it’s a nice way to turn my brain towards some fantasy when I can.

    But also we are going to four or five weddings this year, which has helped to restart our “at our wedding” talks. We talked a lot about marriage the first year we were together, then when it became a thing we might actually do, we sort of distanced ourselves like it would all spontaneously happen if we mentioned it, suddenly, like lighting the stove burner.

    Then lastly, one of the last things my paternal grandmother said to my mom was that she wanted me to get married. Now my mom is on a mission to make that happen, as if she didn’t actively try to thwart any of grandma’s plans while she was alive. It’s something I want; but it takes two, mom and grandma!

    So I’m very seriously considering jumpstarting the wedding and marriage thing, but kind of enjoy planning it in my head with no one else’s opinions.

  • Pannorama

    I feel for LW. We’re about six months out from getting engaged and I’m really working to reign in my desire to talk to my partner about our wedding all the time. As a person who’s generally interested in weddings and very planning-oriented, it’s also really hard to stop myself from talking about or reaching out to potential vendors. I’m trying hard to not put pressure on him to abandon his last wily duck (which really matters to him), so I try not to talk about it too much (esp since we do have a real timeline for said duck). I think I do probably have a different kind of hard time with this since we’re so close to really planning and I’m interested in moving forward with mutual planning — but it can be hard to back off from thinking about it.

    • AtHomeInWA

      I did have a conversation with my partner about why planning is a thing I need to do. I find planning relaxing, it gives me control and order in a crazy world. While at this stage it is “early” for planning, I want to use the time I have now before my ducks waddle back in and take up my time. I think it is fair to say to your person “Your wily duck matters and we’ve agreed to that timeline. Also, X,Y, and Z matter to me and I need A,B, and C from you right now to make that happen.” Maybe you aren’t ready to tour vendors together, but a conversation about the number of people and general vibe is enough “us” information that you can do some “me” planning while his duckies are wrangled.

      • Pannorama

        Yeah, I think that’s very fair. And we’ve started to do a little of that, which is great! (It came up recently because he said we should start planning a trip somewhere for a year from now and I said “that sounds cool, but we’ll be doing X, Y, Z and probably planning a wedding, so maybe?” and he was like: ?????) But it’s definitely slow going. So now I know: approximately 50-75 people, ceremony outside. Which is more than I used to know! And hopefully we’ll keep moving forward as we get closer to the engagement point.

        • AtHomeInWA

          I learned that my dude is adamantly opposed to elopements and very small or backyard weddings and that he is super into the bouquet toss. Like, freakishly excited about it.

          • Pannorama

            That’s so interesting! It’s great that you know that, though, so you can figure out how you feel about those things and how you want to navigate those areas of wedding planning :]

          • Amandalikeshummus

            Will he get his own bouquet or toss yours?

          • Pannorama

            OMG I hope he gets his own and tosses it.

      • Amy March

        I kind of disagree? If someone says they dont want to be engaged now, they’re not engaged. And I think that means they don’t have to agree to doing any sort of planning because they are not engaged and don’t want to be. This just feels like pressuring someone to advance the time line- if you’re planning a wedding then you’re not waiting on their ducks.

        • Pannorama

          I think some of this comes down to what the point of engagement is or isn’t, what your reasons for waiting on an engagement are, and what the point of having plans is.

          I definitely don’t understand my partner’s need to live together for another four or five months before getting engaged, but I do respect it. We are not engaged. But we both know we are definitely getting married. To him, the engagement involves the active planning of the wedding, but more importantly it’s the period where our intention to get married is public. It’s also relevant for me that the reason I need information from him is because his general stance on weddings is “why waste the money?” — so what I’m looking for him is to know that he even HAS affirmative preferences and that our engagement won’t be a miserable year of me suggesting things and him going “no, no, weddings are wasteful no.” And, so far, those private conversations have been ones that he’s totally fine with having.

          We’ve had way more struggle (in terms of him feeling pushed) in the conversations where I try to understand his need to wait than we have in discussing potential wedding preferences. But I think part of that is that we’re discussing broad preferences rather than committing to specific lists or vendors etc.

          I suppose it’s a YMMV situation.

          • penguin

            Yeah I’d definitely have some conversations about weddings before you get engaged – if he thinks the entire thing is wasteful, is he just going to want to elope at a courthouse? If that’s not also what you want, better to try and sort that out now before people know you’re getting married and ask you about it a lot.

  • Maranda

    Did I accidentally black out and submit this question to APW? OP, you are 100% not alone in this. I too love thinking about weddings. I love scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram for wedding inspo and I visit APW’s site way more than an unengaged person should. As a fellow type A person who loves organization and details, I totally get the love of planning a fantasy wedding and looking at all the beautiful inspiration that is out there. I will say that I do limit myself to only looking though. I never go as far as researching vendors, creating a budget, searching locations, etc etc. I keep it very This Is Only For Fun in my mind, and I would suggest that you do that as well. From your letter it sounds like that’s where you’re struggling to maintain balance. And then when it is time to plan the real thing, you’ll already have a leg up in knowing what your tastes are, but you won’t be 100% sold on one specific vision.

  • april

    It sounds to me like you’re the kind of person who needs a project (I know, because I am also one of those people). So, find some other projects! Volunteer for an organization that you care about, plan a weekend getaway for you and your partner, train for a marathon, host a dinner party – just find something to do with that creative/organizational energy that you are currently wasting on pre-planning your wedding! And, yes, you are “wasting” that energy right now. You have no idea what sort of parameters you’ll face when you actually start planning your wedding – you said yourself that you don’t really know what the budget will be, and your partner and your partner’s family might have some of their own thoughts on the details. Also, if you can learn to redirect some of that “wedding-planning” enthusiasm into other projects now, it will be a lot easier for you to move on after the wedding is over.

  • Elizabeth

    Maybe other people are different, but while I found wedding planning to be a fun creative outlet, it PALED in comparison to the actual day. I was so high on the feelings of community and love from my wedding guests in a way I truly did not expect. And when it was over, I missed having all my family and friends around way way more than planning, even though planning took years and the feeling took a day. (Plus I can always come back to APW when I feel like dipping my toes back in the wedding planning world).

    ETA: My point is essentially this: if you are worried about being let-down by your wedding because you’re swept up by the build-up, remind yourself that there are way better things than the build-up.

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