Kelsey: Using Our Time Wisely

Sometimes it's easier said than done

Julie and I will end up with a seventeen-month engagement. We started off strong, embracing the idea of front-loading the stress. We got our venue, we got our food truck, we found our photographer. We chose our officiant and our DJ and congratulated ourselves on building in this luxurious stretch of time to plan this event, stress free. Cue the smugness.

Coworkers and friends would ask about the wedding planning and I’d be cavalier. “You know, we’ve got most of the big pieces in place. We’ll get to the rest. We’ve got lots of time.” We started to believe it too. Julie changed jobs, and I took on more part-time work. We spent weekends out to dinner, sitting on our porch, and hiking. I would do a lot of big talking about all the things I need to spray paint gold but, really, happy hour was always the better option.

Then I woke up one morning and we were three months out. And where had all my damn time gone? We’d planned on getting those invitations out next week, but I hadn’t even finished cutting out all the pieces so we could put them together. I’d bought no liquor. I’d called no places to find donuts. My mom and my sister threw us the most gorgeous shower recently, and I’m glad people got to see all that pretty goodness once, because we had no decorations made for the wedding. I was a broken out mess with my to-do list running in the margins of my calendar, and a notepad next to my bed so that when one of us woke up from a wedding related nightmare, I could write down whatever we’d forgotten until our collective subconscious brought it to our attention.

Finally, I worried enough that my social worker training kicked in. When you feel like you’ve lost all control, it’s time to look for some resources, and in our case, we’d already picked and put deposits on some wonderful ones, back before we took an extended break from the wedding. We’d hired our lovely day-of coordination team. I am the person in my friend group who stage-manages the weddings, so paying someone to do it for me was one of the first things I wanted in our budget. Our photographer referred us to Lauren, her fellow roller derbyist, and an East Coaster like Julie. We clicked with Lauren immediately, just like we had with our photographer. We spent all of our initial meeting talking about our favorite restaurants in Denver, and comparing the most delicious Colorado beers. Julie and I could instantly see the wisdom in hiring people we would enjoy hanging out with to spend our wedding day with.

Except, the wedding was going to be a super fun party that I was hoping they’d enjoy attending, and now I was going to ask our new “friendors” to hang out with us and… talk about folding chairs, and timelines, and who was going to pack stuff into cars. These people liked us because we were fun and had so many other interests besides our wedding. We were supposed to be the couple that was so on top of things and had used our time so wisely that we could execute a year and half of stress-free wedding planning. I was so sad to think about how we were going to disappoint them by being stressed about wedding details, and then I beat myself up, both for feeling anxious about something as silly as wedding details, and for “wasting” all of our time and allowing it to get to this point.

We met for planning happy hour at our favorite neighborhood burger place. Lauren, her co-coordinator Molly, and photographer Kristy were already there. “We got here early to defend your seats,” Lauren crowed triumphantly. “Now people will believe we have friends!” I was even more nervous to broach our to-do list once I’d had the opportunity to remember that we really did like these people. Before I could say anything, Lauren had whipped out a to-do list she and Molly had made (gender neutral, and complete with plenty of reminders to enjoy ourselves and each other). “Do you want to check stuff off?” she asked, smiling. “You’ll feel better.”

So we did. We talked about first looks over fried Oreos. We ate fries and made a plan for the ladies to load up the wedding stuff at our house. Finally, Julie and I were able to relax just a bit, because we really have hired great people, who also seem to be pretty great at their jobs too. Part of them being so great at their jobs is that, of course they weren’t fazed at all that we’re maybe just a bit focused and a titch overwhelmed at this stage of the proceedings. We weren’t expected to be anything else.

We’re still having some wedding nightmares, but we can laugh about them now. We’re stressed about the logistics of the wedding, because it’s a big day, filled with people we care about, and we want everyone to enjoy it. Best of all, we’ve hired people that will make it very possible for us to be in the moment on that day, which is worth way more than we’re paying. And the same could be said for the bourbon, which, really, I should probably go buy already.

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  • scw

    we’re about seven months into a seventeen month engagement and I’ve been saying the same thing about lots of time. the venue, food truck, photographer, and bands are booked and, right now, it feels like we’ve got forever to get those save the dates out, pick our first dance song, and decide what our groomsmen are going to wear. this post is a good reminder of how quickly that time goes! FH and I both have the day off tomorrow to celebrate our seven year anniversary (today)… we better get some fries – and bourbon! – and start hashing out these details.

  • Laura C

    Oh my gosh, are you me? Our engagement is 18 months, we’re two months out, we had this early rush of activity where we booked most of the big stuff and then we haven’t done a ton. Though we did get invitations out early. Our big advantage at this point is that we’re not really doing any decorations. My fiance’s mother is handling flowers and I think I finally got her to believe that I really didn’t need any input on them, and our venue is outdoors on a river so I feel like it’ll be pretty enough.

    The rehearsal dinner is the big part that could totally flop if we don’t get our act together. But we’re moving in two weeks, so anything major is just going to have to wait.

    • JSwen

      Uh, moving is insanely stressful. Maybe a family member would like to spearhead the rehearsal dinner plans?

  • js

    My engagement was also seventeen months and I handle it really well, right up until my walk down the aisle. That’s when seventeen months of stress caught up with me. I lost my shit and ugly-cried the whole way. My point is, I could’ve used this post two years ago. Also, I love the word “titch”.

  • Charis

    I’m three and half weeks out of a 16 month engagement, and at the start of this week I found panic mode. My partner has had this annoying habit of vetoing lots ‘details’ that I’ve shown him – either saying we can find it cheaper or that we can DIY it – then not looking for alternatives or starting work on the projects himself. Cue me, on a rare morning off my full time job, hitting up amazon and etsy and just buying all the stuff I liked already lol. I think I’ve found some zen in just not over-thinking this thing, I like the stuff so hopefully he will too, thought this wasn’t the way I intended to do it – I wish I had thought about this stuff a few months ago, but so is life!

    • vegankitchendiaries

      My partner is like this too. It’s fine to say he doesn’t like an idea I’ve had or whatever but instead of helping me think of an alternative (let alone helping me to shop/diy one!) it’s then back to me to go away and think up something else. It’s so annoying, but at the same time if I put him in charge of everything it would just be a kegger with red cups…

    • JSwen

      Yep. I respond with, “what is your idea?” But I also have to check myself and let him make the decisions that are important to him (ie music, pictures, shoes)

  • Nina B

    Oh man, this is us exactly. We’re two months out and suddenly it’s like “Oh, those things we were going to do actually have to be done now.” We thought we had taken care of the big things but it turns out, the ceremony is not going to write itself, the direction signs won’t write themselves, and the decorations will not fold themselves.

  • Fiona

    Oh man this sh*t hit a little too close to home. We are technically 8 weeks out from W-day…and the groom still doesn’t have a visa to the United States and I’ve handled very little of the details beyond the vendors. I’m tempted not to deal with anything because if I don’t have an interview date for the visa in TWO WEEKS, we have to cancel the wedding. Oof.

    • JSwen

      oh that is rough… visas are a nightmare. goodluck on that but I have a feeling that if you don’t have fluffy DIY decorations, no one will notice. they’ll all be excited that things worked out!

      • Fiona

        Thank you internet stranger! That was actually quite reassuring and JUST what I needed to hear.

  • macrain

    Yup. We are four months out, and suddenly wedding planning feels more frantic. I actually have enjoyed (LOVED, even) most of it so far, and we’ve been pretty damn organized. But now that we are getting into the nitty gritty logistics I’m starting to feel like a stressball. Since we are planning from afar, I’m try to be very conscious of what we add to our to do lists that can only be done when we get there. (My fiance has brought up hotel bags more than once, something I thought we agreed NOT to do so as to not add week of wedding stress).
    I’m grateful that we have help- my mom is taking charge of decor, which is something I want to have but don’t care too terribly much about. My parents have taken on the rehearsal dinner. My fiance’s family, who lives where we are getting married, has and will pitch in a ton. I’m trying to live by this mantra- ASK FOR HELP.
    Great post, Kelsey!

  • Caroline

    Haha yes!! 20 month engagement here. We had everything in hand, super set, we’re on top of this, until 3 months. We’re two months out now, and my to-do list is nuts! It’s basically a second job at this point.

  • Alyssa M

    Oh my God I’m right freakin there!

  • Kelsey

    The first two paragraphs of this describe my exact engagement experience so far (substituting Marc in place of Julie)…like my name is even Kelsey (weird). We are coming up on the one year mark in two weeks, so I’m going to stop pretending like I have all the time in the world now. Thanks!

  • Hannah

    We have about seven months to go of a year and a half engagement, and I recently realized I have essentially nothing accomplished. Cue the stress. I know things will all come together eventually (but not magically on their own; things will happen because I make them happen), but I swear if one more person tells me that I have “all the time in the world” I’m really going to lose my shit. Allow me the freedom to express my stress, people.

    • Ashley Meredith

      “Allow me the freedom to express my stress, people.”

      YES. Why is this something that is so hard for everybody, in pretty much every context?

  • Erin

    FH and I had originally intended an almost 2 year engagement. My family encouraged us (and generously offered financial support) to move it up so we are ending up with an 11 month engagement. At first I thought they were making this more stressful by taking away half our planning time, but now I am super grateful we sped things up! I am NOT a very patient person, and with 156 days to go, I am very eager to just be married already! I am also very eager to start work on more of my crafts, but am worried about them lasting, and surviving the move we are planning for 6 weeks before the wedding. Does anyone know the approximate shelf life of tissue paper flowers?

    • Orangie

      I imagine they would last just shy of forever, if you keep them out of the sun and damp. Put them in big trashbags so that they don’t get dusty, and they’ll be fine for years!

      • Erin

        Great idea! The reason I was worried is because I am making the flowers, then attaching them to foam balls to make pompoms and was worried that they would crinkle or fall apart. But I guess I could just regule fluff up where needed. Thanks!

    • laddibugg

      Maybe spray glue or something?

    • I made my flowers out of paper and started working on them 8 months before our wedding. I stored them in a large shoe box and didn’t add the stems onto the flowers until a month before the wedding. It’s much easier to store the flowers without the stems.

  • Katie

    I have been using the checklist, and I have found it INVALUABLE. It’s the best, and most editable one, I’ve seen. It’s complete enough that I don’t have nightmares I’m forgetting anything! When I first looked at it, I clicked through every month and read all the items, and then formed a strategy. Basically, I’ve tried to keep up with what they assign every month, and ALSO do a few items it assigns from the month of and before the wedding, since I know things will be CRAZYPANTS then. This has basically turned out to mean anytime that checklist says “purchase…” in those two months, I’m already doing it. We’re doing most of the decorative elements ourselves, so getting those things out of the way means I can spend the few weeks before the wedding crafting and whatnot.

    • Elizabeth

      Just spent the past 30 minutes on weddingwire after reading this and now I feel totally productive! Woohoo!

  • sara g

    We will end up having a 7 month engagement…so not a long one, but since we were having a small-ish and fairly casual wedding, we thought we’d be fine. I got everything “big” out of the way in the first month: venue, photographer, caterer, dress… then I thought I could just chill and be crafty and everything else would work out. Because I was going to be Super Laid Back Bride!

    Yeah, well, it turns out it’s really hard to be Super Laid Back Bride when your bridesmaids still haven’t gotten their dresses and your extended family is bugging your parents about details that they would know IF THEY WOULD READ THE F-ING WEDDING SITE and you suddenly realize that someone needs to be in charge of moving chairs and speakers and you thought color schemes were stupid but now you wonder if you need one after all and those tissue paper pom poms won’t make themselves and who will watch the cats while you’re on your honeymoon?

    Edit: I would like to recommend Todoist as a great checklist/to do list tool. Whenever I think of some random thing that needs to get done, even as tiny as “get a basket to put programs in,” it goes on the list. The thrill of checking things off is pretty much my drug right now.

    • Alyssa M


      OMFG YES I FEEL YOU!!! I’m making my RSVP date almost a month before the wedding because no one is reading the damn site and it’s got all the info about the 50% off hotel rooms that have to be booked by three weeks before the wedding… if they have to RSVP to the site then they should read it? And if they don’t RSVP by the date I can call and say “hey! you’ve got 5 days to rent a room or it doubles in price!”

      • JSwen

        Dang, 50% off! Way to go! You don’t owe your guests a damn thing after snagging them a deal like that.

        • Alyssa M

          Lol! weeeelll… I work at the hotel… and 50% off is still $75 a night because of where I live. But that makes it a REALLY big deal because if they miss the deadline it’s gonna cost them $150 a night… and then of course they’ll expect me to work around it because I work there… but I can’t because my boss set the deadline.

          • Amy March

            Not a big deal. You’ve told them the deadline right? If they care, they’ll book the hotel. If they don’t, they’ll wind up paying $150 or staying somewhere else. I think you can nudge this detail over to the “I’ve done my best and now I’m done caring” column.

          • Alyssa M

            Well I’ve put the deadline on the website… and sent them all the link on their save the dates… but nobody will READ THE F-ING WEBSITE

          • YOQ

            Not your problem. They’re adults. Amy March is right–you’ve done your best, now you get to stop caring.

      • Kat91314

        YES!! We’re doing a destination wedding in 3-months from tomorrow (9/13), and I honestly don’t know how many people actually checked the website and booked rooms already. I gave them an entire list of local places from actual hotels to B&B’s, etc., and told them to book as early as possible because it’s a tourist destination and things tend to book up quickly. But at this point as Alyssa & Amy pointed out, it’s NOT your problem or mine that people don’t move on things. You & I both gave our respective peoples the information….they’re adults, they all know how to make plans. If they don’t, it’s on them.

        • Since our guests were clearly not reading our website, I ended up making a Facebook group of all our guests who RSVP’ed yes. I would post stuff about it being the last day for the hotel discount, and everyone would see the group updates/alerts on their phone. It seemed to be a much better way to communicate with our guests, which is SO frustrating because that website was really time consuming!

          • Kat91314

            Hmmm….might be a good idea for me to try. But what did you do about FB peeps who were just friends w/your fiance, as opposed to both of you? Some of the guys on my fiance’s side are just his friends, so I’m not sure I could create a group with them included. Unless I made both my fiance & I co-administrators on the group & had him include them? How did you handle that part of it, Rebecca?

          • I made my fiance a co-administrator, but I also ended up sending friend requests to his friends that we invited. I figured that since we’re getting married we might as well be friends with the same people.

      • Kirstin

        I wish I hadn’t even made a site. Honestly. So much time and no one read a thing. And then I found myself feeling like a babysitter. Until my fiance finally said, “These folks are grown ups. They know how to book a hotel room. If they miss the wedding block, that’s on them. They’ll find a place to stay.” True.

    • Kelly

      READ THE F-ING WEDDING SITE. YESSSSS. All of your questions will be answered! It’s all there! We made it for you. And it took forever so please just looooookkk at it.

      • sara g

        I spent a hilariously long time agonizing over making the website… now I’m wondering why I even bothered, since it has around 30 views (it has a counter) out of ~125 guests. And I know some of those 30 views were repeats by the same people.

        Joke’s on them, I’m making them RSVP through the site, so they’ll be forced to look at it. Muahaha.

        • vegankitchendiaries

          I HEAR THIS SO HARD.

          • Ashley

            How about you know they’ve read it because they’re making fun of the description of how we met and the wedding party bios we wrote. I feel the effort and thought we put into the wedding website was wasted

          • Lauren from NH

            This is all making me feel wonderful about the conclusion I made yesterday to save money by doing everything through a wedding website. Or on the other hand, invites could get lost in the mail (hypothetically my fault) whereas if people choose not to take two minutes to pull up our site, maybe f’it I did my part lol.

          • I’m sorry. That’s sounds hurtful :(

        • Alyssa M

          Man I almost wish it DIDN’T have a counter…

        • We got married about 3 weeks ago and also asked our guests to RSVP through the website, and only HALF THE GUESTS actually did it! I was so irritated…actually I’m STILL irritated about it and we’re already married!!

      • macrain

        Our invitations are pretty bare bones in terms of info, but our wedding website is listed at the bottom, and I have this fear that no one will read it. We didn’t even put directions to the venue with the invitations to save money. Jokes on us! (probs)

  • Sarah E

    This is the feeling I definitely want to avoid. We’re nearly a year out still, but I know in the months leading up the wedding, my stress level will continually ramp up in regards to family logistics. I’m not looking forward to negotiating divorced parents through all the meals and picture taking that weekend. So the more concrete planning details I can tackle now, the better, so I can leave myself some emotional space to rage at the idiocy of others :-)

    Whenever I think of things, I write them down in our wedding folder. That way, even if it’s waaayyy too early to be coordinating where we’re getting the beer coolers from, I know I won’t forget it when the time comes.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      As a wedding graduate who had to deal with an abusive family on one side and a hates-to-plan family on the other, this is the way to go. Get everything done in advance that you can, and reserve as much of the last 4 weeks for family drama as you can, rather than making escort cards or choosing flowers.

      • Sarah E

        Thanks. Kudos to you for dealing with all of that. Our situation is more. . .Dad in denial that things together are awkward, so he acts like nothing is wrong, which makes everything MORE awkward. And since we aren’t doing dinner at the reception, figuring out who to eat with when from rehearsal dinner on through wedding day. Thank goodness my in-laws are gems, I love them to death.

  • Megan

    This is exactly the spot where I’m at! 4 months and 1 week to go and I think we’re definitely at the point where the “we have lots of time” as ended. My mom and sister are throwing me a shower this weekend so with all of my family coming in plus my mother in law I feel like this will probably be the kick-off to crazy time. I still am worried that I haven’t planned this weekend to be more productive with them here in town, but I feel like it’s a little too early still to be having final meetings with vendors and such. They’re all booked but beyond a walk through of our venue with our caterer, I don’t really have anything else planned. I really need to start tackling decor!

  • ART

    “and then I beat myself up, both for feeling anxious about something as silly as wedding details” – yep. Honestly, I feel like we ARE in great shape, and even so my to-do list is long. We are 2.5 weeks out and I still have to sew bra cups into my dress, touch up our photobooth backdrop, find a necklace, make MORE F-ING GARLANDS…. I feel ridiculous for being stressed about little things, which just adds to the stress.

    • vegankitchendiaries

      I think I’m muttering “fucking garlands” on the regular, as of late…

      • ART

        my mom sees pictures of the crap i’ve made and goes, “no wonder you’re exhausted!” so yeah…fucking garlands…may not get made :)

  • JSwen

    Eh… I’m not so much going crazy *SIX WEEKS OUT OMG* as I am completely ignoring my other responsibilities. So I’m being Super Laid Back Bride about the wedding and the honeymoon plans but I’m also being Super Underachieving Grad Student… no bueno. I think I need to make lists of wedding/honeymoon to-do items and have specific wedding planning time each week.

  • Megan Summers

    We decided we wanted to go skydiving for our bachelor/bachelorette party, so the joke always was we wouldn’t put too much effort into wedding plans until after that was done. Well, it ended up being true. I woke up the morning after skydiving, 3 months away from the wedding stressed out about everything.

  • Kat91314

    This is exactly where I’m at right now. We’re 3 months out (9/13/14 wedding date) as of this week, and it’s been a 2-year engagement, because we wanted to save up as much $ and minimize as much stress as possible. It was great to have all our big stuff nailed down pretty early in the game, but now at the 3-month mark, I’m starting to feel like I’m missing/not paying enough attention to some of the detail work. Lists are good things, and it feels great to check them off as we’re going.

    • Peekayla

      Ditto! And I’m the week after you 9/21/14! =)

      • Kat91314

        Internet fist-bumps for September 2014 :-) Good luck, Peekayla!!

      • lizperk23

        Me too! details/lists….and yay 9/21/14 & sunday weddings! that’s ours as well :)

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Just another perspective: We didn’t hire friendors. Obviously, we had to like our vendors, but not as friends. I think we were polite enough (except for being late to our engagement session photos), but I never put pressure on myself to be likable to our vendors. I worked to project an image of being organized and no-nonsense, but that’s because that’s what I wanted from them. My husband would have gone nuts with meandering-conversation vendor meetings. I tried to keep ours to 20 minutes.

    • Meg Keene

      Just to clarify, Kelsey didn’t hire frendors at all. In fact, she hired at least one APW sponsor before she was an intern. She just ended up liking them a lot. Which can happen ;)

  • Maggie

    Our wedding is 7.5 weeks, of a nine month engagement, and the anxiety is crazy. I know it will all work out. I know my friends and family are here to support me. I know we love each other and that at the end of it we will be married, and that’s all that matters. BUT DAMN, THE DEVIL: IT’S IN THE DETAILS.

  • This was so me a few weeks ago. Hiring a week of coordinator was the best decision ever.

  • lady brett

    hah. when we first talked of a wedding date, we planned for october – but we nixed it because it was only 4 months out, and that wasn’t feasible, so we pushed it to april, and…didn’t plan a damn single thing ’till…4 months out.

    but on to the important bits: what sort of bourbon are you buying? inquiring minds and all.

  • Kirstin

    I remember that feeling. The “Oh crap, I can’t say I have all the big stuff done any more. What just happened?” I had to forgive myself for the stuff I slacked on, and also to be okay with the fact that some stuff you just cannot do six months in advance.

    Some of the stuff I did try to get ahead on, like buying decorations, I actually would have been better off slacking on, because once our guest count came in, our entire venue configuration changed. In the last week, I was running around returning things and re-buying new/different things.

    The best part: Not caring at all on the day of. I didn’t care one bit as I was hugging people and enjoying the love of the day.