When a People Pleaser Plans a Wedding

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a people pleaser. I’m also an over-achiever. I like to be liked. I like to succeed. I care what people think of me. I’m the kind of person who “takes one for the team” if it means avoiding conflict and reaching the end goal more quickly. I’m passionate about many things, but I approach those things with equal parts reason and practicality. Maybe it’s because I’m from the Midwest. Maybe it’s because I am a first-born child of multiple divorces. Maybe it’s because in my career, I lead teams of creative people and daily navigate fast paced, emotionally charged environments.

Newly engaged people take note: the above traits will not serve you well in the early stages of wedding planning. In fact, if you’re not careful, you may quickly start to feel like being engaged is nothing but an endless series of opportunities to disappoint people. You will immediately be expected to have and share strong, public opinions on many issues, most of which you likely never considered before. You will endure stares of shock and horror when you announce that you don’t want your bridesmaids to wear matching dresses, and that you’re considering wearing a short white dress instead of a ball gown. You will constantly be told: “Do what you want! It’s your day! It’s all about you!” You, being a practical people pleaser, will realize that those statements are not actually true. You will probably feel compelled to point out to people that it’s not all about you; it’s your fiancé’s day too, and in a way also the day of your parents, and your entire guest list. You will want to please the guests so they don’t judge you, after all. I won’t sugarcoat it: at this point, crying (lots of it) will probably ensue.

Here’s the secret I know now, that I wish I knew then. This thing, this wedding that at times feels so overwhelming you wonder why they’re not using wedding planning as a legal form of torture, it will provide you with a kind of joy you’ve never experienced before. It will give you a feeling that I can’t compare to anything else in my life up to this point or put into words. It’s something that you have to experience in order to feel. Suffice it to say—it actually is worth it. And remember all those people you felt like you were disappointing back in the early stages of planning? Well, if their wedding was half as amazing as ours was, I can now understand that they didn’t actually care about those dresses (well, maybe a little). Mostly, they just wanted to feel that magical feeling again. It turns out; they were already in on the secret too.

And here’s the other thing. You and your fiancé, and the love and happiness that will be so incredibly evident in each of you, that’s what sets the tone for the big day. Nothing else. If you’re happy—they’ll be happy too. So don’t spend your precious time worrying about pleasing others. Please yourselves as a couple and the rest will fall into place. Make decisions together and from your gut and then don’t look back. Weigh input from other sources, but ultimately do what feels right to the two of you. Because even when they were received with shocked stares, none of our decisions ever seemed anything but obviously right to us.

My husband and I can both honestly say that working through the planning process together, as a team, helped confirm what perfect partners we truly are. We naturally fill in the gaps for each other. Where one lacks, the other excels, and vice versa. It really is an incredible realization and one not to be missed.

Recently, I was feeling guilty about missing my family and friends spread out all across the country (warning: this is wedding side-effect). To make me feel better, my very wise husband said: “Ultimately, everybody just does their own thing.” He’s right of course, and that’s how we approached our wedding. Sometimes it’s okay to be different. Sometimes it’s okay not to please everyone. Sometimes it’s okay to let your passion outweigh your practical urges. Because weddings and marriage should never be about taking one for the team. They’re about creating a new team with your partner, where you’ll never feel like you have to.

Photo by: Emily Takes Photos

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  • Alexandra

    This is something I needed to hear. I hope you’re right, because there’s something about every opinion I care about being “It’s your special day! Do what you want, it’s all about you!” that is going to drive me crazy before this is all over. It’s already making me a little crazy.

  • Oh goodness did I need this right now. I’ve been engaged for 6 weeks and I always feel like I have to defend and apologize for my choices. (I didn’t have a ring for a while because we made it, it’s not diamond, my brothers are standing up with me, not just girls etc., etc. etc.) Fortunately, my fiance keeps reminding me that at the end of the day, it’s the vows and the rings that matter, and everything else is details.

  • Leslie

    THIS “Because weddings and marriage should never be about taking one for the team.”

    As a fellow midwesterner/people-pleaser in the early stages of planning, this exactly what I need to hear.

  • Sarah

    Did I write this in my sleep? Because it is so true for me. I’m also a people pleaser and had to let that go some during the planning process. I am so glad I did, but really the fact that you are getting married, that you are so incredibly happy to be doing so, is what even the hardest to please guests I think will remember (if they love you).

  • kara

    As soon as I saw the title of this post, I knew desperately needed to read it. I wish I’d read it earlier in my wedding planning and done something about my people-pleasing. There are a lot of aspects of my future wedding that I caved on because my parents wanted it that way. We tried to make changes, but the damage was done – we are having a 200 person wedding now whether we like it or not. I have been standing up for myself though lately rather than just trying to please everyone around me. NO I will not wear a veil, have a bouquet/garter toss, change my name, spend thousands of dollars on favors no matter how many people it will please. (Not) doing those things pleases US.

    Btw- why is the groom reaching (or in some cases putting his head) up the bride’s skirt in front of her family a tradition?

    • Jennifer

      What is with the party favor thing? Honestly, what is the point? I was looking in a magazine at all the different party favor ideas, and all of them I thought “Who wants a matchbook or shopping bag with our names and wedding date on it?” It made me feel so self absorbed.

      As for pleasing people I am in a fine line. I voted for no wedding and save the money. But I knew my mother wouldn’t be please, along with my husband and his mother. If only other people knew that. I get tired of some girls asking if I’m excited about planning the wedding. Answer no. My mother in law asked what my mother was wearing. Answer, I don’t know or care. I don’t care if you outfits “clash” in the photos.

      I fear my Mother in law might hire a professional photographer for our wedding. She has heard me verbally say how I plan on cutting costs of photographer, and she doesn’t seem happy. I just want a few photos to have, because I KNOW I won’t look at them, unless people ask to see them or when I am 40+. She seemed a little ticked that I didn’t want to hire two photographers to get “different angles,” which means to me, more photos to sift through. I know the photographers she likes (and hired for her other sons wedding) were VERY intrusive and I wouldn’t want that- even if that meant a FABULOUS photo. I want to appreciate the moment, not a representation of the day.

      If only there was a polite way of saying “F U LADY! I DON’T CARE!”

      • KEA1

        Hire a photographer–or tell her you already have–and you can bring up the exclusivity clause in the contract so your FMIL won’t be able to step in!

      • MDBethann

        We had a wonderful photographer, but I also gave my digital SLR camera to a close friend for the day to take a few pictures for us to look at before we got the professional ones. I think my friend took almost as many as the photographer. They aren’t perfect, but she did capture some things that our photographer (who was awesome and NOT intrusive) missed because she couldn’t be everywhere at once. Other friends took lots of photos too on their own accord. I do find myself looking at the wedding photos (3 months out) more than I thought I would and I like having them around the house and my office to enjoy.

        And if you want to make sure you have good photos without breaking the bank, maybe a local school has a photography program and has budding photographers who might love to help you out – people on APW have mentioned it before. And since they are new, they may be more flexible about giving you what you want. Good luck setting boundaries!

  • GCDC

    I’m a Midwestern people pleaser as well, and it’s made the whole wedding planning process incredibly hard. I’m in the end stages, thank goodness, but I feel like we’ve ended up planning a wedding that has made no one happy, me least of all.

    I think the advice to not concern yourself with the wishes of others is good, and probably correct, but ultimately impossible for people pleasers caught up in the process of wedding planning. When do you reach that point? Is there some magic moment (or mental breakdown)? I’m hoping there is a threshold to caring about the wishes and expectations of others, and some day soon I will reach that threshold and be able to say “So what?” and mean it.

  • Callie

    DEFINITELY a great post that I am bookmarking to re-read over and over during my planning process!! Also, I think I might even be brave enough to send this out to my nearest and dearest “helpers”… :)

  • Every wedding I go to – and there have been many in the two and a half years I’ve been married – all I want it to feel that warm fuzzy magic happy feeling I remember so clearly from my wedding. I don’t care about the food or the music or the drinks (okay, I do care about the drinks a little) but I just want to feel that warm fuzzy love in the room.

  • NB

    Oh my goodness gracious, THIS: “In fact, if you’re not careful, you may quickly start to feel like being engaged is nothing but an endless series of opportunities to disappoint people”…perfectly sums up why, exactly, I had to have a sobbing, hyperventilating panic attack at the Circle K, because maybe I wasn’t giving my mom and sister the shopping-for-my-wedding-dress experience they deserved (Yes. Exactly.)

    It is kind of a people-pleaser conundrum, right, that the people who love you just want you to be happy (sort of, in a complicated way, and in the way that they understand takes the path ‘happy’ for you), and you just want *them* to be happy, and they just want you to have “your day” so that *you* can be happy, and oh sweet Moses, we’re stuck in an endless loop of just really, really wanting everyone to be happy, so why are we all crying? People-pleasing detente!

    As a fellow people-pleaser, I say unto you: Whatever you are doing in this very moment makes me happy! Go you! Keep doing that one! Or the other one! Here’s a popsicle! But seriously: thank you for this post. It is so wonderfully wise, and so wonderfully helpful. You rock.

    • H

      Oh man. This. This post. I hope this is not what I turn into. This hits home so much.

    • Totally relating here…I’ve encountered a few stress release cries myself. I heard planning was hard but for me it’s not challenging logistics but my people pleasing indecisiveness that stresses me out.

  • Other Katelyn

    I need this article, but for work.

    Okay, also maybe for wedding planning, FINE.

    I just want everyone to think I’m the coolest, most considerate, least annoying bride of all time! Is that too much to ask??

  • Irena

    Awesome Post! I foresee needing to re-read this a LOT.

    Ummm OT but where are those rings in the picture from? They are gorgeous from what I can see!

  • I hate to be the eloping broken record, but I must say, in case this reaches someone who needs to hear it:

    Eloping is an option. You know from the get go that it’s not going to please anyone, so your wedding gets to be all about what you want and what your partner wants.

    And yes, in a way, you’re cheating yourself out of an opportunity to grow, and to confront your people pleasing issues, but on the other hand, your wedding doesn’t have to be therapy. Trust me, there is SO much time to work on your people pleasing issues.

    • Alexandra

      Yes, eloping is an option… But then all those people AREN’T happy and oh god, you must be a terrible person to force so-and-so to miss your WEDDING.

      Really, eloping isn’t going to help a people pleaser. All it does is mean that you’ve pleased no one, and if you’re already stressed because you want to see other people happy, making no one happy is just going to make you feel like you’re a huge failure and a disappointment.

      I kinda see eloping as the opposite of “not working on your people pleasing issues.” Trying to make others happy at your wedding is not confronting the issue. Eloping is like… Going cold turkey.

    • I don’t think eloping is necessarily a matter of cheating oneself (and one’s partner) out of an opportunity to grow. It can also be an opportunity to embrace yourself and your needs – and for people who have a hard time putting themselves first (people pleasers) it can actually be a great growth opportunity since afterwards you have to be able to stand up and say “I’m sorry you weren’t able to be there with us, but we made the decision that was the best for us.”

  • Dilemma

    This is right on and like all the people above… it’s perfectly timed. Just as RSVP’s are trickling in and I’m getting wind of comments like “so inconvenient”,”rental cars are so expensive” and “why would a city couple get married in the woods?” I need to tattoo “Ultimately, everybody just does their own thing” on my forehead!
    And while we’re confessing our People Pleasing Secrets… I waited a week (a few actually) to tell my family we were engaged because my I knew my older sister (who is single and not happy about it) would be upset. The whole “We’re engaged!” phone call never happened because I was so concerned how she would react. My fiance eventually pulled me aside and said “You’re worried how she feels… how about how I feel? What are you waiting for?” I think I thought if I waited she’d magically find a partner and be wildly happy, so I could share how happy I was. But, he was right so we shared the news and moved on. But, we never did get our “We’re engaged!” moment… By the time we got there, the excitement had faded. I had minimized it for others, in an effort to be sensitive but all I did was miss out on a moment I realized I had always looked forward to.
    I will not do this at my wedding. I repeat, I will not do this at my wedding! Maybe I should tattoo that one also!

  • Ana Maria

    “You and your fiancé, and the love and happiness that will be so incredibly evident in each of you, that’s what sets the tone for the big day. Nothing else. If you’re happy—they’ll be happy too. So don’t spend your precious time worrying about pleasing others. Please yourselves as a couple and the rest will fall into place.”

    I wish you had told me this before; we spent our wedding trying to please everyone else and worrying. But now we laugh at the craziness that was that day : )

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post.
    “In fact, if you’re not careful, you may quickly start to feel like being engaged is nothing but an endless series of opportunities to disappoint people.”
    As a perfectionist people-pleaser with an anxiety disorder to boot, this has described my engagement thus far– I’ve procrastinated as much as possible just to avoid the discussions I know are coming. Currently I am dreading my first dress-shopping trip with my mum because there’s nothing like trying on white frilly dresses that makes a shy non-princess-loving introvert like myself want to cry.
    But I will take your word for it that it is worth it. And I will most likely come back and read this many, many times. And I will be constantly thankful that my FH is not a people-pleaser like myself and thus helps me stand firm on the big decisions and tells me that it’ll be okay and that people won’t hate me. And hopefully, in the end, we will be a stronger team who can say that it was all worth it.

  • Ambi

    I really appreciate this post, and I am definitely going to try to keep this all in mind as we go through wedding planning. I do believe that, as a general rule, you’re right – all those people you feel like you are disappointing really just want you to have the same kind of magical amazing experience they had. BUT, I would also say that you need to be aware of some people who may pressure you and have less-than-pure motivations and intentions – I personally know that my guy and I will (already are) getting pressure from certain members of our families to do certain things not because of the experience it will create or the happiness it will bring us, but because of how it will reflect upon those relatives. Whether it is inviting my mom’s entire book club or serving a full open bar because his dad thinks anything less is tacky, their pressure is based on worry about how others will judge us and judge them.

    • MDBethann

      Hint: Open wine & beer keeps people just as happy and is A LOT cheaper than full open bar :-)

      Either that or see if your FFIL is willing to pay for said full open bar.

      • Ambi

        Thanks. Luckily, my guy and I aren’t really getting direct pressure yet (not formally engaged, although we have discussed our plans to wed with our parents), but since we both have siblings who are about to get married, we have witnessed much of this already and have already gotten “advice” about our own future wedding.

        I agree, though, wine and beer would be fine. But there are a whole lot of things that would be absolutely fine that, for one reason or another, someone objects to . . .

        Anyway, to use a phrase I learned on APW, I am not going to borrow trouble from the future by worrying about something that isn’t yet an issue for us.

  • Laura

    Truly great post. It really made me think about the issue of *where* to have a wedding, if you live somewhere (far) else than your families, and/or if your families are spread out into the netherregions of the country (or world!). Because the obvious planning-friendly choice is just to have the wedding wherever it is that *you* call home. But is it fair to ask *everyone* you’re related to (who you actually want to have at the wedding!) to pay for plane tickets and hotels? [In my case, that would actually make coming to my wedding prohibitively expensive for, like, all of my extended family.] Maybe the wedding should be somewhere within driving distance to as many people as possible? But then you would probably have to plan the wedding from a faaarrrr distance in a place you don’t know very much about, which could be a complete disaster. So, I’m not sure if this situation is about people-pleasing vs self-pleasing (or… you know what I mean). Ostensibly, maybe, but not when the choice you make could really impact people you care about.

    [Anyway, what would you guys do in this case???]

    • Edelweiss

      Hi Laura,

      Have a hug. This was my people pleasing dilemma that brought me to tears more than once. If we had the wedding where I grew up, my feyonce’s immediate family would come but that was it. If we had the wedding where he grew up, my immediate family would com, but that was it. And regardless of where we had it, we still had to invite everyone. So you were planning for a wedding where half the people woulid lkelly not come, but still needed to allot or the fact they may come, and compelling people to spend tons of money on travel. I cried after many, many phone calls. All I wanted to do was make people happy and it was actually impossible.

      Luckily, my feyonce managed to keep perspective. The solution that’s woking for us is a small wedding halfway between both locations with just immediate family and a few forever friends. Thn a big after party in each of our respective home regions. It works for us because deep down we wanted a small wedding anyways. But it’s not the perfect solution for our families. My mom is upset that her afterparty won’t be big and special enough, hi mom is worried about hurting the feelings of extended family members. This weekend we questioned our choice when talking to his mom, but thankfully she’s a great lady and when she heard all the thought and complexities that went into our choice, she supported our decision and feels better equipped to talk to her family and friends about our choice.

      We were engaged in January and didn’t find our locution until March. So I with you luck as you look or yours, because it was hard. But it feels amazing every time we realize it was the right choice.

    • ohno oto

      Laura, I know what you mean! I grew up “bicultural,” as they say. I was born in the states but moved back to Asia as a child and then came back to the State for college. Most of my family is in Asia, but our friends and my fiance’s entire life are in California. We decided to have a ceremony and reception here, followed by a smaller ceremony (possibly) and a reception in Asia.

      I like that by bringing the party to our families, we are ourselves absorbing the costs of travel, however, I hate that there will be so little mingling of our family and friends. His family (particularly his mother) have health-related travel restrictions, and flying to CA is cost-prohibitive for all but my immediate family and one of my aunts.

      For the sake of Zen, we are trying to think of it all as a grand wedding tour, but it’s hard not to feel like my family is being shafted.

    • PAMI

      Laura, I had the same dilemma. We wound up choosing to have the wedding near my family–I had many friends and family back home who were willing to pitch in and help with the wedding, and the costs in the Midwest are much more affordable than where my fiance’s family is, and also cheaper than where we live. The downside–we only have his immediate family coming (we did discuss our choices with them in the process of planning to make sure that they were going to be able to make the trip, and tried to accomodate them by talking with them about which wedding date would work best for them in terms of travel). I keep telling myself that all of the people at our wedding are the people who should be there, but I definitely have had my moments where I feel awful about not being able to please everyone with the location. Sometimes, you just have to make the best choice you can, and live with the outcome. Good luck to you & your fiance!

    • Laura

      You guys are the best, thanks for all your thoughts!

      We are probably going to pick a location closer to my family so they can drive, but near-ish to a major airport so everyone else (us included) can fly in reasonably affordably and conveniently.

      And then just try to breathe and read APW and remember that it’s ok if we don’t have control over every detail, as long as we have a marriage by the end of it.

    • MDBethann

      Also remember what APW has posted before: YOUR WEDDING IS NOT A BURDEN!! If they can make it, they will because in the end, they are happy for you and they want to see you get married. They’ll make it work and fly, drive, carpool if they feel strongly about not missing your wedding.

      And with technology, there may be a way through Skype, video cameras, etc. to set up something for those who can’t attend to watch the ceremony as if they are there.

      Big hugs and good luck!

    • Ah. I struggled with this too. We choose to do ours in my husband’s home town though and said we would do a post-wedding party in my hometown later. But the wedding ended up being so much fun that the post-wedding part in my hometown hasn’t really been mentioned again…. Somehow everyone ended up happy in the end, when the wedding itself was fun and filled with love, the location ended up not being a negative. and in fact, it became a positive because it ended up making our wedding more unique and more us.

      Long way to say…it might be painful, but the choice that feels “most right” out of no ideal choices could end up being “exactly right” in the end, when it’s all said and done.

  • Emily

    I could have written every single word of this!

  • WahineWrites

    “Because weddings and marriage should never be about taking one for the team. They’re about creating a new team with your partner, where you’ll never feel like you have to.”
    Yep, yep, yep. Weddings and marriages do much for creating a new team.

    I wonder, though, if occassionally it’s fine to – take one for that new team. My husband deployed when our baby was 10 days old. That sure felt like taking one for the team! I’m sure others have situations that are not ideal/chosen/etc, and being part of the team mean doing something you otherwise would not have.

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