Wedding Undergraduate: Something Like Zen

Well. You didn’t really think we were going to get through this week without a wedding planning post about Staying, did you? Of course not. This post by Sarah is about that classic APW topic of somehow finding Wedding Zen, of finally being able to stay in the moment through, well, struggle. It made me go reread Alyssa’s classic Wedding Graduate post (now in the APW book), and my post on my own cake hunt and planning realizations. Because other than the part about not planning her wedding since she was six (um, I started planning mine at four), this post could have been written from inside my head. In fact, reading it, I felt the ghost of past-planning-Meg sitting on my shoulder. All of it sounded so familiar: stressing about not stressing, not wanting to include people who you feel won’t hold true to your vision, and then caving and letting people lift you up.

This, wedding undergraduates, is my confession: it is so insidiously easy to overplan your wedding.

I haven’t been planning my wedding since I was six. Until I got engaged last August, I never spent a lot of time looking at bouquets and favors in craft stores. I made concentrated efforts in school—which I am impressed with, in retrospect, because it was insight I had no clue I would ever need—to enjoy my time with friends and not worry about dating, and especially not worry about marriages or babies or any of the Big Changes I was nowhere close to ready to experience. I am definitely the last person you’d expect to be anxiously going through page after page of monogrammed anything six months before the wedding.

Several friends and my brother have gotten married in the past couple years, and the more I gleaned from their processes, the more I sort of mocked the whole wedding industrial complex. My bright, crafty pals shared with me the triumphs of venues and the bummers of sticker price, so I thought by the time my wedding process began, I was prepped. I thought that armed with the reflected glow of their nuptials, I could do the whole thing. By myself. On the super-cheap. With zero stress. And it would still look chic as hell.

Well, as you can guess, this combination of options is awesome but didn’t happen. One of my friends told me I would stress, stress, stress about the details and so I became determined to not stress about anything. This started a chain reaction of becoming very defensive about all of my decisions. I blocked out my friends, my mom—everyone but my fiancé, and he has been so genuinely calm about the whole thing that he wants whatever I like the best.

My very-soon-to-become-my-husband Joe is a very laid-back character when it comes to most things. He gets intense about his work and he listens to me fiercely when I have something on my mind, but generally speaking he takes things as they come. He doesn’t have to-do lists or concerns about how to spend an afternoon, and there is definitely zero fuss about what he is going to wear to any specific occasion. He even has a large Latin tattoo on his leg that means, “It is what it is.” I’m much more, “It is what I think it should be maybe today but you know we’ll check back on it and hopefully it will get better.” That phrase doesn’t fit quite as elegantly on the ankle.

I went through some…weird quandaries. I fretted that my guests wouldn’t have anything to do or enough to eat (we are having a very casual reception), I fretted that I wasn’t involving Joe enough, I fretted that if I wore a veil in my hair the entire mood would fall apart and it would all seem way too formal. I stressed and stressed so much about being stressed and stressed, I stopped putting care into my decisions and just started assuming that I needed to do it all and not let anyone in, lest they learn my terrible secret that being a bride can be hard.

I also forgot a key element in my fervor to do the whole thing as though tiny fairy godmothers followed me wherever I went: I have never planned a single thing, not even a friendly birthday party or a 4th of July barbecue, alone and under-budget without a single bit of stress! I am a planner at heart, and I relish planning. But sometimes that fun has come from splurging on Halloween decorations for a party at the last minute, worrying about the timeline of a TV show marathon, or having no idea how to feed a dozen people with one bag of pasta. Seeing everything come together in the face of adversity, that’s where the joy is. Planning is about challenge. If you enjoy planning, and you enjoy challenge, why kid yourself? You’ll just become miserable that you’re not the perfect, blushing bride model in the magazine spread that shows a giggling bridal party gluing together handmade wooden bird pew decorations. You’re probably much more likely to be the bride with greasy hair and a hot glue gun, your one friend with the night off from work stoically counting out bits and pieces of ribbon for you. There may be wine involved, there may be nervous mannerisms. And there is nothing wrong with that.

I reached my moment of planning zen a few weeks ago when my second photographer turned me down for our wedding, and the following day the bakery I had connections with told me they were no longer selling wedding cakes. It was so far from perfect, and sitting there holding my cell phone, the whole thing felt silly. I texted Joe, who promised me he’d make sure it worked out. I broke down to my mom that I felt like a failure, and after reassuring me that I wasn’t, she was more than delighted to take me around town to look at other options.

After that therapeutic weekend of phone calls and wedding shopping, someone casually asked me what kind of cake we were serving. “I have no idea,” I told them. I realized in that moment that I really didn’t have any idea. I realized I didn’t care! I knew that we’d get one, people would like it, and the day would be great. I suddenly felt free from all the self-imposed expectations of throwing a not-too-traditional, classy, DIY, carefully-budgeted wedding planned on a cloud of happy, easy choices. I just want to get married. I don’t care if there are ten or two hundred pictures commemorating the day, I don’t care if I freak out about something as the day draws near, I don’t even care if the cake doesn’t make it to the table. I get to spend a joyful day with a room full of the most important people in my life, and the most important one of all will be there—and has been there—with me through all of it.

It is what it is.

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