I’ll be married in two weeks at a 150 guest wedding planned in in less than four months, a feat I accomplished with a lot of caffeine, determination, and willingness to compromise. My vision for the wedding was an event that was comfortable for our guests, inexpensive, and as low stress as possible. With less than four months to go, my fiancx and I jumped into planning head-first and began tackling the essentials: securing a venue, booking a photographer, deciding on food, writing up the guest list, and completing the hundreds of tasks that accompany event planning.
Like many brides, I encountered hiccups on the wedding planning road, but time constraints meant that I had to make quick choices and settle for good enough. The pretty $30 bridesmaid dress I selected started running out of sizes online? No problem: two bridesmaids can wear the original dress and two can wear another equally cute $30 dress. My coworker who was doing the flowers and groom’s cake suddenly lost her entire house in a flood? Okay, I can DIY bouquets using bulk roses from Costco and order a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake. Parents want to add some extra guests two weeks before the event? It’s okay: we can add on a little more food to the appetizer trays.
As time raced on, I determinedly and methodically chewed through my to-do list, endlessly searching for ways I could simplify, streamline, cut, reduce. I decided to forgo reception decorations, do my own makeup, create silk flower boutonnieres, and buy Costco sheet cakes. I did abandon the $75 wedding dress I had purchased a decade ago at a thrift shop in favor of a new gown but I compromised by getting a $30 veil and $10 shoes. So many little things, from bridesmaid proposals to personalized envelope seals to guest favors, were items I had to toss from my list due to lack of time and energy. We had wedding colors of aqua and silver but that was about it for a central vision: one of my aunts asked me what my theme was and I joked, “Retro 1980’s church basement wedding”.
Never Tell Anyone What You Want
What I didn’t quite grasp in the beginning was that a lot of my no-fuss frugality was driven not just by a desire to save money and lower my stress but also a deep-seated determination not to commit the cardinal female sin of inconveniencing others with my wants and desires. The internet was quick to remind me that vast hordes of people absolutely hate weddings (who are these people? I don’t know) and if I wasn’t going to do the decent thing of just going to a courthouse and sparing everyone the fuss and bother of a wedding, then I’d better do my best to plan an event that was convenient and undemanding for all involved while spending the absolutely minimum amount of money possible.
That, coupled with my naturally sky-high anxiety and people-pleasing nature, had me bending myself into knots to make absolutely certain I was being agreeable, flexible, and non-demanding to everyone. Above all, I took pains to avoid even venturing in the direction of a (the super sexist but still real) threat of being called a “bridezilla”, with many of my choices hinging on the question of, “Would this work for everyone?”
As the wedding planning steamed forward, I kept getting the same feedback from people:
“You’re so easy to please.”
“You make this so easy.”
“I love how relaxed you are about this.”
“Thanks for being flexible.”
While none of these individuals meant their words to be anything but encouraging and complimentary, the real truth is that I was lauded for being a “good bride”: one who takes on all the stress, work, and worry of a wedding with a cheerful face and uncomplaining lips. I was a “good bride” because I didn’t let my emotional labor show and I did an excellent job of not burdening people with my stress, anxiety, and workload. I was a “good bride” because I put others’ comfort, convenience, and wants over my own desires and hopes.
What I Really Really Want
The reality is I actually would have preferred a bigger, more elaborate wedding and to have felt the freedom to inconvenience others a little more in achieving that. I’ve helped with quite a number of weddings and “paid it forward” in that regard, and I would have liked to see some of that returned to me. It would have been nice to have a central theme and create decorations and sweet little touches to make the day more lovely. I had secretly longed for a bridal glam session with all of us in cute matching robes getting our hair and makeup done by professionals, but most of my bridal party is on a tight budget. I would have liked it if my mom had enthusiastically helped with planning but she, for all her stellar qualities, is not a party planner person and has told me for years that her sole contribution to my wedding would be writing a check.
My “bridechilla” demeanor cloaked an enormous amount of pressure I felt to bow to other people’s wishes and readjust my expectations around what everyone else wanted. The truth is, our society pays lip service to the notion of a wedding being the bride’s “big day” but completely fails to mention, “Oh, yeah, it’s all about you but also your groom’s constant budget complaints and your sister-in-law who’s always sniping at you on Facebook and the six different food allergies among your guests and your bridesmaid who has three sick kids at home and your grandmother who is scandalized you had electronic RSVPs rather than paper and your cake baker who suddenly went out of business a week prior to the wedding and your sister who’s upset your wedding is three weeks before her due date and you are ‘stealing her thunder’ and your brother who can’t be arsed to return any of your texts and your roommate who is mad at you because you don’t want her to do your makeup. Have fun dealing with all that but don’t let ‘em see you sweat. You owe it to the world to be a bridechilla no matter what! Because, hey, you were the one who chose a wedding over the courthouse. Even if it was your groom who wanted the wedding not you, this is still all your fault and responsibility! Own your decisions, dammit!”
You Keep Wasting My Precious Time
Originally I felt pride when people praised me as a “chill bride”; however, towards the end of my wedding planning, it dawned on me that people were actually saying, “Great job not inconveniencing others!” Planning a wedding is an incredibly stressful event, but our culture further complicates this by demanding women perform “bridehood” in a way that makes others feel most comfortable and happy, regardless of the toil this places on the brides themselves.
I wish, deeply wish, I could stop caring so much about what others think and not be so pathologically worried about making a nuisance of myself. But this is ground deep into my psyche and cannot be rooted out within the few months I have for wedding planning. I’d honestly prefer people stop telling me how relaxed I am about this and instead encourage me, “Wedding planning is really stressful, I get it. You are doing a great job. Let me do this thing for you to help.”