On Wedding Anxiety, Or How The Cake Was Actually Easy

After taking a break from reading wedding media, one of the most distinct things I noticed when I started reading wedding blogs and magazines again was a spike in my anxiety levels. Big time. I wasn’t quite able to put my finger on what was going on, but I read a few posts, and browsed through few articles, and then start calling David and emailing my mom, freaking out.

I emailed my mom, pretty much in all caps, about how, “MAKING THE WEDDING DRESS WAS PROBABLY A MISTAKE. And people have EMERGENCIES when they make dresses. WHAT WERE WE THINKING. And it’s never going to be DONE IN TIME. And then I was going to have to find something CUTE and CHIC at the last minute, and it’s going to be a DISASTER!”


Then I called David, “I’ve been reading some stuff.”
“What stuff?” he said with understandable suspicion about my vagueness.
“Wedding stuff. Anyway. I think we are REALLY BEHIND. I think there are lots of things we need to get done that we haven’t even thought about!”
“Ohdearjesus.” Said poor David, “What kind of stuff?”
“Ummmm…. I can’t even remember. Um, rings! We need wedding rings! It’s apparently very complicated! And we need…. ummm…. to taste cake! And layout the wedding reception. And bond with our wedding party or whatever, in a complicated way. And, I’m not sure but we need to make a lot of decisions. And we’re only FOUR MONTHS AWAY.”

My friend Emily calls this the wedding blackout stage.

I’m not really sure how we get here, but I am sure that somehow, whether it is knowingly or unknowingly, the wedding industry sells us on anxiety. I think part of where this comes from is the un-stated assumption that we all need to be doing certain things. The same things. The things on those dreaded wedding “lists.” If you are not doing these things, or worse, it’s never occurred to you to do these things, you might start freaking out wondering what you are doing wrong. Or perhaps you are made of stronger stuff then me.

It is assumed, for example, that we all need to taste cake. In fact, it’s assumed you need to have cake tastings. Plural. False. First of all, we don’t need to have cake. It seems obvious, when you say it out loud, but somehow amidst the unspoken assumptions, it gets lost. Second, even if you are having cake (we are) you don’t need to taste it (we didn’t). And you certainly don’t need to go to more than one tasting (what?)

After my blackout-anxiety moment, David and I trotted down to the local bakery this weekend, to nail down the details of the cake. It was literally a 10 minute conversation: we picked a size that seemed not too big yet formidable enough to cut with my grandfathers marine corps saber, we told her we wanted it to be chocolate and chocolate but nothing too fancy. Then, the darling baker offered to decorate it with flowers for free, so we decided on blackberries and dahlias for the decoration. Then we ordered four blackberry cobblers, on the theory that wedding cake is actually kind of boring. She added up the bill, we didn’t pass out but actually smiled because it wasn’t that bad, and then the baker thanked us for supporting a small local business, twice. We walked out in to the parking lot, and I did a crazy happy dance, and squealed “Blackberries and dahlias blackberries and dahlias blackberries and dahlias!”

And then we crossed a task off our “list,” anxiety free. And it only took ten minutes. Thanks, WIC, for making that seem like it was going to be hard.

Now, I’m throwing this to you, as you are a smart-smart-smart group of readers. What is it about the wedding industry/ our cultural assumptions that feeds our bridal anxiety? What makes you go into the blackout stage?

(Tomorrow, we’ll talk about those crazy making lists.)

Picture: I’m a study in contradictions. Martha Stewart provided our not-to-fussy cake inspiration. And I kind of love it.

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  • Urgh the dress.

    Its got to be perfect, you’ll just know its ‘the one’, it’ll make your mother weep when you step out of the change room, your husband will be speechless when he sees you in it…

    Im actually putting it off because Im feeling really pressured about shopping for this amazing dress which I think might not exist!

    What if I rock up on my wedding day and just look ‘okay’?

    • SamB


      I have been a huge fashion nerd for a long time, but as a bigger girl, it terrifies me. Outdoor wedding on the hottest day of the year in the desert, seriously. Every fricking person and every bridal shop has said:

      1) “How much weight are you planning on losing for The Big Day?” Umm, none, but thanks for making me feel like I’m too fat to wed right in the middle of trying on a crapton of white clothes… Awesome!

      2) “Were you thinking lace or satin for the shrug? We can have one ordered to match so it can cover your arms a bit.” I’m not having one, actually, considering that it’s gonna be 95 degrees at the absolute minimum, the less of my chunky arms you cover, the better.

      3) “Wow, you’re so brave to just accept your body like that; I’d be too worried about how the pictures would turn out. I mean, that’s forever, you know?” Wow, you’re really brave to call me fat, offer to hide my fat under yards of fabric, and then imply that my size will ruin my wedding pictures.

      4) “No, we don’t have anything in red and black.”

      I’m seriously considering making my own dress all of a sudden…

      • Toni

        I’ve been putting off wedding dress shopping for the EXACT same reason. I keep seeing dresses that look pretty good and would flatter my body type (I know pretty much what cut looks good on me).
        “so, do you have this in a size 16”
        “no, but our plus sized dresses are over here.”
        plus sized dress selection = 5 dresses, none of them my style.

        I’m getting my mom to sew my dress and am THRILLED to have something so meaningful.

        Yeah, I’ve been trying to lose weight since my weight skyrocketed with an ex a few years ago. My fiance met me at my heaviest and LOVES every inch of me. I feel beautiful and empowered with him. Our photographer made us feel like models on our engagement shoot…and on our wedding day, I’m pretty sure I’m just going to be overwhelmed by everything else, that the bit of extra chubs here and there just won’t matter. (to anyone)

  • Hooray for easy!

    We ended up getting our venue crazy fast because of the hype– oh no, you’ll need to reserve your venue three years in advance!

    In a tizzy (thank you interwubs and WIC!), we started looking at venues over a year out. We loved the first one we saw (a summer camp) and jumped on it three days later after fretting over if we should look at other places because we can’t just pick the first place we saw! Then I read somewhere (Offbeat Bride?) a great quote that went something like “We’re booking a place for a party, not buying a house.” SOLD.

    We ended up booked so early that the camp were like, “Yeah, we don’t actually have a calendar that far out (May 2010), so you’re good.” So that actually worked out well! I know it doesn’t quite answer your question, but there it is:)

  • As always, I feel this.

    We did not do a cake tasting. In fact, we already knew the bakery that our venue provides and we loved them, and the conversation I had with our venue manager literally went like this:

    Me: They make this amazing pistachio and raspberry cake. Can you ask them if they can make that cake in tiers, enough for everyone, and make it really pretty?
    Her: I asked them, and yes.
    Me: Then that’s settled.

    No magazine clippings whatsoever, it’s an awesome French bakery that turns everything it makes into something beautiful. I am sure it will indeed be beautiful, and I don’t know that there was any need to micromanage it. (Actually I did ask my friends after this incident if they felt I was being “too laid back” about the wedding. Ha.)

    Also I stopped looking at those “lists” about a month into our engagement. They do not make any sense and don’t seem to apply to how we’re doing things at all. Fuck the lists.

  • You said it! Once again you’ve expressed exactly what I’m feeling.

    My mom and I attempted to make my dress and got through the muslin okay, but then decided to try a cotton sundress based on the pattern for extra practice and it was a FREAKING NIGHTMARE! We found a seamstress post-haste and she’s making it for only $150, and is starting this Friday to make it for our late June wedding.

    We’re also going with a local bakery, with A cake, pies, squares and cookies.


  • Lots of things are like this. Boo on them. Thank you for speaking to that.


  • *smiling*

    Your cake inspiration reminds me of ours :)

    I love your use of the cake as an example here, because I was determined the cake thing be easy too. I had to keep telling my mum, “I don’t care about the cake looking perfect. I know you will make it look fantastic in a very home-made way. I promise I won’t be disappointed whatever the cake looks like.”

    It was delicious, which was what mattered. But it was only a frickin’ cake. Seriously, on top of everything else…? Gah.

  • mel

    My fiance and I are trying to keep things simple and frugal, but still unique and fun. I feel like it is a completely sane idea, and things are actually turning out just like I had planned – if not better.

    We live in Washington, DC, home of a lot of snooooobery, and I can’t tell you how many raised eyebrows and chilly silences I’ve endured.

    Lady: “You’re *not* interested in a $9,000 venue? But it comes with six candle holders and one napkin! It’s a steal.”

    Me: “But that’s more than my whole budget.”

    If you’re in the DC area and need some advice on affordability with style, please drop me a note.

  • mel

    I forgot my contact info – melanie_j at hotmail dot com.

    And I am serious – if you are in the DC area or know someone who is, and planning a budget friendly wedding, I would love to share some of the hard-learned lessons I’ve accumulated.

  • LG

    I totally agree with WestAussie- the dress. I cannot remotely justify spending $3k on a dress I will wear once and then pack under the bed. Sure, some of them look great and sometimes I freak out a bit that I won’t look “special” enough. In the end though spending that amount of money on a garment makes me feel physically ill.

  • honestly – sometimes i wonder if my experience planning my wedding is a microcosm of my entire life. aren’t we always struggling against what society tells us is proper/right/necessary? at times social pressures (re: wedding, jobs, social status) challenge my own identity/my priorities…and like many, I just have to take a deep breath and remember I am my own self.

    i love your blog, meg. sometimes i think i could just cut and paste some of your entries into my diary…if i kept a diary. you are fantastic.

  • Meg

    You actually heard that here. It’s Cate Subrosa who said it (commenting below you), smart firecracker that she is. I loved that line. We booked the second venue we looked at, also more than a year in advance. We loved it, the price was right, why keep looking?


  • I think I’ve reached wedding blackout stage at five months to go, I don’t even feel like writing my blog about our wedding planning. I’m thinking it’s time to unsubscribe to many blogs – not a practical wedding of course!I feel like I’ve failed at sane bride when I freak out boo!

  • I love the cake photo — very nice!

    As for wedding blackout, it was most definitely the dress. It has to be “you” and you have to cry every time you put it on and you have to say “it’s worth it for my wedding” when you look at the price tag. The pursuit of the “perfect” dress, one that I imagined myself wearing after poring over too many wedding magazines, really drove me nuts because it went against this strong part of me that loved the idea of wearing my sister’s dress. I felt like it instilled all the marriage blessings she’s enjoyed into my own marriage and was an infinitely practical choice.

    Yet, every time I heard about someone finding their perfect wedding dress, I doubted whether I would feel like a bride or feel like “myself” in someone else’s dress. I’m so glad I got over it, because, on the day of the wedding, the thought or doubt didn’t once cross my mind!

  • The dress almost killed me. WestAussieWedding is so right — it has to be perfect! It has to make you feel like a princess and like a supermodel and like a bride! If not, keep looking, because otherwise you might as well wear a burlap sack.

    No dress can do all that. And yet, the pressure to find the “perfect” dress definitely got to me. There were several I liked a lot, and I’m still not sure I picked the “right” one, but I try to remind myself that I will still be legally married even if somewhere out there a “better” dress exists.

    I actually really enjoyed our cake tastings … my philosophy was, “mmm, free cake!” (In fact, now my mouth is watering remembering the flavors we picked out.) But there was one bakery that kind of had their nose in the air about my very simple suggested design, and about our desire to order a small decorated cake and have a couple large sheet cakes to serve the majority of people from. Needless to say we went with a different bakery.

  • I didn’t want to choose from too many choices. We visited no less than 6 venues near my parents’ home but ended up booking the only one we had visited near the in law’s house because I had just fallen in love with it (it was the first one we visited) and every other venue just made it more perfect. But for the caterer, we just choose from 2. My mom freaked out because we hadn’t tasted the cake of the one we choose, and then ? It’s his job, he knows how to make cakes !
    I auditioned just one DJ (I knew the girl who had recommended it had the same taste as us), he was cheap and great so, done !
    As for the dress… well… I look at the pics and never regret my choice :-). I’m not having that “I’m in love with it” feeeling, but I definitly feel it’s “me”. What I wanted.

  • I think it is the infamous line: “But you only get married once!”

    Wedding vendors love to mention this…especially when they’re trying to get you to reach deeper into your pocketbook. It seems to suggest that you get one chance, one shot to do this right, and you better not screw it up. And that’s what creates the anxiety, and the feeling that you need to research every possible option before you make a decision.

  • The WIC seems to have a firm grip on both my mother and his. Especially his. She gets online and digs up lists and breakdowns of who pays for what and then tells me about them. She’s very sweet and I know she means well, but my fiance and I have pretty much thrown them out the window. And I thank you for that, Meg. I feel so much more sane for it. I don’t remember how I found yur blog (or Cate’s or east side’s or Peonies’) but I am so glad I did.

  • Catering. Why must we feel as though a meal/cocktail reception has to cost a certain amount. And has to be done with 2 sous-chefs to a person. Do I even need sous-chefs? Srsly.

  • For me, it’s this sense that since I wasn’t a girly girl and never really thought about or even attended a wedding until a few years ago that I’m going to do it ALL WRONG by The Standard and everyone will notice and know that I could have made stupid favors in little folded together boxes and created a menu card and I CHOSE NOT TO because I don’t love them enough. (No one we are inviting would ever feel that way, of course, but WIC makes me feel like a failure-bride)

    And the dress. First of all, why does the word wedding make things cost so much? I want a simple sheath dress, not a construction project. And! Why does it have to be the BEST DRESS IN THE HISTORY OF DRESSES – can’t it just be a dress I like that I look good in and feel like myself in? For crying out loud, I do not want to look like a princess since I am not, in fact, a princess. …I may end up making the dress, too.

    My coworker (who gave me a great book on the wedding ceremony and its different parts to help us come up with our ceremony) has a theory that weddings have turned into a “pretend you’re rich” day instead of a “yay we’re married” day. That’s what really bothers me about the WIC.

  • I guess the venue was the main thing, because we had all these requirements that seemed hard to pull off (not a weddingy place, reasonable price, small scale, relatively private, not a full sit-down meal, kid-friendly, different…), and I kept contacting restaurants that turned us down (I guess for a lot of non-weddingy places weddings = trouble). Then we had this idea of doing it at an orchard where they produce this ice apple cider we liked, do it when the trees would be in bloom, and hey, they said yes, and everything’s great.

    The rest for me was pretty much… icing on the cake (couldn’t help myself with this lame pun, sorry).

  • Oh, Meg!

    You’re so honest about the whole process, and I love that about you. I also admire you for actually thinking through the conventions–you’re right, there doesn’t have to BE a cake!!

    Personally, I am not a fan of the cake. I think the cake frequently doesn’t taste like anything at all. And then they make you freeze the cake and eat it a year later for good luck, and it is GROSS. Screw the cake! Or have the cake, but have it on your terms–blackberries and dahlias indeed!

    I know the dress will be grand.

  • Oh wow! This post could not have come at a better time! Thank you!

    An hour ago I jumped out of bed at 11pm at night because my mind was running crazy with the most obscure details I have to remember for the big day.

    I’ve never heard of this ‘blackout stage’ but it’s EXACTLY what I’m feeling right now. I had a hiccup with my dress which had me going in to find a new one… it went from a white dress to an ‘off-white’ dress and I never realized how much it would change the style/theme of the wedding – well now I’m losing sleep over it! Knowing the wedding is 3 months away, half way around the world, I’m re-thinking all of my decisions and not knowing whether my choices are going to create something as magical as what I’ve been dreaming of since I was a girl. But WHY?!

    After reading your post, I think maybe the answer is all brides are drilled that perfection in the planning is the only way to have a happy wedding day for everyone… so most brides focus on that one day – they get stressed and depressed and angry and confused until the actual event, and even then they freak out when something goes wrong. How awful right? But maybe happiness actually lies in enjoying the planning period. I know I’d rather get stuff sorted in a morning and spend a fun afternoon out with Ben, rather than interrogating vendors all day and crying over not finding the perfect cake.

    It’s true, everyone is different, and some women find this sort of thing invigorating, but my god, If I’m not an organiser by heart, why am I trying to micro-manage a wedding now?! How am I going to enjoy my wedding day if I look back on the heart-ache and sleepless nights it caused because I turned into someone I wasn’t?!

    I’m going back to bed now knowing on my wedding day I’m going to be smiling into the eyes of the only thing that really matters in the end – the greatest man of my life.

  • I had a similar experience with photographers and florists. The WIC makes it seem like you have to interview an army of applicants for each position on your wedding staff. In reality, you can do so much research ahead of time on the internet and over the phone, actually meeting people in person is just the final step.

    I’m planning a wedding in my hometown, which is 2000 miles from where I live and I was so worried about making time to meet with vendors. In reality, I chose my photographer without even meeting her. We emailed, I loved her portfolio, and we had a long phone chat where we really clicked… and that was enough for me. For florists, I had 2 appointments set up on a busy weekend and 1 cancelled. I almost cried, thinking that I need options. But when I talked to the other florist in person, I realized that what I was looking for could be done by any floral shop, this one came with great reccommendations, and the prices were reasonable.

    Moral of the story. Don’t over complicate things. Do your research and go with your gut. This doesn’t have to be so difficult.

  • Anonymous

    I had some serious anxiety after attending two weddings of close friends two months before our wedding. They were bigger! more expensive! more traditional! They had professional flower arrangements! matching bridesmaids! a string quartet! They were doing everything right, and what I was doing must be weird. And possibly tacky and cheap. Worst feeling was that these same friends would be coming to our wedding and WHAT WOULD THEY THINK.

    It’s very hard not to negatively compare ourselves to media wedding porn, but for me it was a whole new level of doubt when I started comparing myself to my friends’ weddings.

  • @Amelia – I’m curious what book this is. We’re using one that sounds similar (also loaned from a coworker) called Weddings From the Heart.

    For me it was the dress – I hate shopping for clothes, even more I hate shopping for dresses, most of all I hate shopping for clothes when I’m *required* to buy something and not just browsing.

    With the dress, and with many other aspects of this process, I reminded myself to balance having it “perfect” with the time/stress it was going to cost to achieve that. We’ve gone with “good enough” in a lot of aspects of this wedding, and I think the trade-off is totally going to be worth it.

    Will the guests care if things match perfectly?
    Will the guests care if I’m stressed out because things don’t match perfectly?

  • KE

    The thing that kills me is the idea that you’ll “just know” about X product and everything will be perfect. This seems to reinforce the whole “love at first sight” ideal that just isn’t realistic for a lot of us. Don’t get me wrong, I love my future husband, but I didn’t know for a long time that we were going to be with each other for the long haul. Comparing a dress to the actual relationship of marriage is beyond ridiculous. These things are all nice, but the pressure of falling in love with every aspect of a wedding gets to me. I just care about the things that matter to me (like food, especially the dessert to feed my sweet tooth!) and don’t get emotionally invested in the rest.

  • hi meg.

    thanks so much for this. i’m also 4 months away and think i had my blackout toward the beginning of the entire process. now i’m having fun (although *just* starting on some DIY projects, so check back in in another 2 months and see how i’m holding up!). :)

    my blackout came with trying to manage my own expectations of a ‘simple, easy, fun’ wedding, with the WIC, my mom (who’s graciously contributing funds), my fiance, etc. i didn’t want ‘traditional’ or ‘conventional.’ i wanted to be different.

    i started reading blogs and flipped through magazines at the bookstores. i cried when i thought my finance would rather elope. i was frustrated when my mom, sister, potential guests tried to expand our invite list and i recoiled at ideas that i thought were *too* traditional.

    when i finally realized that {gasp!} i wanted a wedding, i started to let go. i acknowledged that i wanted a lot of people there to bear witness and celebrate with us. I wanted to bring our families and friends together.

    once i accepted that my fiance was okay with all of that because he loves me; and that even as non-traditional and unconventional as you think you can be, the basic formula is the same, i was able to embrace the tablecloths, the catering, the invite list (we decided to provide less expensive, simple foods and open the doors for invites) and the whole process of planning the event with the enthusiasm i’d been wishing for.

    i’ve been able to be excited and stay strong to my original vision of simple, fun and easy (much easier to do when you let go of all the expectations). i’m still worried about the vows (writing them), the music (finding a playlist) and getting my projects done, but i think i’ll be okay.

    thanks again for providing such a sane perspective on the whole process.

  • Well done! It sounds like the cake and cobbler will both be amazing.

  • The Knot’s wedding timeline checklist. It’s the root of all wedding-related evil.

    And blackberry cobbler is the best.

    • mac

      What KILLS me about the knot’s list is that every item is supposed to have 5 parts to it. Like it’s not just “pick florist and decide on flowers.” It’s like “set up florist appts.” “meet with florists to discuss options” “sign contract with florist.” “Make final decision on floral arrangements.” “double check with florist to make sure flowers have been ordered.” If i were a vendor I’d hate to work with somebody who wanted her order to be a fifteen-step process. Seriously it needs that many steps. I freak out every time I look at the knot’s list. Then I look at the one I made and settle down, ’cause I’m right on track.

  • The cake (or table of cakes to be precise)- see link (!) is the one thing that I know will be fantastic and affordable, because I can do it myself and it will taste good and be exactly as I want it. Hooray for being able to apply ones skills and talents wherever they are best put to use. Other things have at moments made me anxious, the lists, the invitations..I only made a decision about my dress today, with 2 months and 6 days to go…what you write makes so much sense, thanks.

  • Amanda, totally. And when you login to the Knot it tells you “you have 93 items due this month” or whatever. Gawd, it is THE WORST. Total blackout.

  • (Wow — can you believe the stuff in these comments? You sure touched a nerve with this one!)

    Amelia: “Let’s Pretend We’re Rich” Day is priceless!

  • Are you reading my mind? I had the exact same wedding ring anxiety blackout, like, two days ago.

    Also shoe anxiety (I didn’t have shoes at my first dress fitting, I am a bad bride, I must have shoes by the second fitting or everything will be horrible) and envelope anxiety (our printer messed up and we ran out of invitation envelopes, and for a minute I was trying to figure out when I could make a run to the paper store to make sure we got the exact same shade of envelope, and then I realized that, um, no one will know if it’s a different shade) and plate anxiety (we would have to rinse the rental ones, and the “biodegradable” disposable ones are only biodegradable in commercial composting facilities) and… yeah, I don’t even know what else, but it all seems so very important…

    I think my downfall is that I worry that I’ll realize all the things I need to get done the week before the wedding. So I look at theknot checklist. Which says I have 184 things to do, and has helpful red exclamation points next to about twenty of them. Bleh.

  • Back in my wedding planning days (oh, ye olde days of yore) my dress shop wanted to charge me a whole lot more than I wanted to pay for the petticoat. Let’s just say that outside of the dress itself it would be THE most expensive item of clothing I had ever bought. Not kidding. I was bitching about this to a co-worker oneday, and her response? “But it’s for your WEDDING!”.

    So what? Because it’s my wedding I must make an undergarment that no one will ever see the 2nd most expensive clothing purchse of my life? I think not.

    In the end I found someone willing to lend me theirs for FREE. And further in the end, I decided the dress looked better without a petticoat anyway :-) But that “It’s for your wedding” line killed me. Like a wedding excuses any amount of normally inexcusable exorbitance.

  • Great post Meg.

    I deliberately didn’t choose *the* dress. Just one that I quite liked (not sure that I do now, but that’s another story) and one that was affordable and from a charity shop so the charity benefited too.

    My sister-in-law offered to design me *the* dress. But I couldn’t take her up on the offer. How would I pick what it should look like and how could I only justify wearing it once. So hopefully she will make me a dress in the future.

    So many people have looked at me oddly when I say, that to me, it’s not about the dress. It’s about the marriage and then the party. That it’s kind of playing dress up, so you want to look nice, but you only wear it once, so it would be real shame if it was the best dress ever.

    Cake wise, we saved ourselves all the problems by deciding to have cheese. With our mothers making whatever they consider to be a wedding cake (plain white icing only, and the only decorations to be added by them are an ‘R’ and an ‘M’ – we will add flowers).

    Cheese goes much better with a party I think than cake anyway. Or at least it does at our parties.

  • Anonymous

    I know you try to leave “budget” out of it, but it can be difficult. When my fiance and I started planning we were having a difficult time staying under $10,000 for the type of event we wanted. We wanted to host our family and friends to something loving and fun and beautiful. For us it wasn’t about needing to stay at 10k, but rather wanting to.

    We finally realized that all the budgeting and venue hunting was beyond stressful and that what really mattered to me was the ceremony and close friends, and to him, a party and that it is easy.

    So… we rented a house that sleeps 16. for a week. in a sunny place. Our immediate family and a few close friends are joining us for a long weekend and we are going to do the ceremony in the backyard by the pool. It is costing us a bit more (we want to host everyone… pay for food, let them stay with us, everything) but we know it will be such great memories.

    I truly believe that in being really honest as to what is important to you at the end of the day (fun sweet simple easy and our family, for us)the rest falls into place. I can’t wait.

  • I had wedding blackout over… ehem… the favors. Good grief! But not specifically the favors really. The RIBBON around the favors. Double good grief.

    Trying to incorporate my mother into the wedding was important to me, as she passed away five years ago. There were many creative ways to have her spirit there the day of and the favors was one of those ways. We gave away her favorite honey! Awesome–no stress behind that decision–happy, happy, happy all around. But then, OMG, this strange pressure thinking the jar of honey had to be MORE. A month before the wedding I became obsessed with organza ribbon. Writing, “Life is Sweet” on top of each individual jar was not enough! It had to have RIBBON. Organza ribbon.

    WHAT?!?! I literally lost my mind and was one click away from buying $50 worth of meshy bridal-like ribbon. Well, ok, it was purple, but still… I called my fiancĂŠ up and said, “You need to talk me off the ledge.” Which he did–man I’m glad I married that wonderful man. And the favors looked lovely and in the end did NOT NEED ANY RIBBON. Shesh!

    Meg, thank you again for a wonderful post. I think these “blackout” moments are so very human. And as Rabgram so wisely points out, planning your wedding is a microcosm of your life. There are pressures to conform in many areas of life. Be true to yourself. Have ribbon on your favors, don’t have favors at all. Just do it because you want to and not because you feel you “need” to. =)

  • Anonymous

    yes! : And as Rabgram so wisely points out, planning your wedding is a microcosm of your life. There are pressures to conform in many areas of life. Be true to yourself. Have ribbon on your favors, don’t have favors at all. Just do it because you want to and not because you feel you “need” to.

    Spend money on things that matter to you and your fiance. Worry about things that matter. or don’t worry. You are going to be MARRIED!! If ribbon and the perfect cake matter to you, then go for it! No one will judge you for staying true to your values and likes. we are making cupcakes. the dessert doesn’t matter to me. But I am paying for an amazing photography, so my children’s children have photos.

    Ah how I love this forum of grounded women!

  • All agreed. Everyone in my family knows I don’t like cake, unless it is red velvet or ice cream. I think cobbler is a fantastic idea! I recently went to a wedding that had red velvet cupcakes, and now that’s all I can think about. However, my plan (for whenever my wedding happens) is to have ice cream sundaes for all!

  • Meg

    Hey Anon-
    It’s not that I try to leave budget out of it…. pllllleeeeaaaasseeee. I know budget stress ;) No, I try to avoid the dreaded “budget wedding” term, because I think it just makes people feel badly, Oh you’re spending $10K? How cheap/rich are you. Blergh.

    So, I feel you. But your solution sounds amazing!!


  • The unstated assumptions about how we have to do things… this gets me everytime!

    Me: The wedding's going to be on a beach.
    Mom: < long pause > not in a church?

    Fiance: And in the programs…
    Me: What programs?

    It seems that everyone has a vision of What a Wedding Is, but these don't always match.

    Meg, and all the Practical Wedding participants, I do hope you'll come out with a Practical Wedding Manifesto! There's so much sane and sage advice here, and maybe we can take back weddings from the WIC. (yeah, ok, I realize there's huge amount of money/ power invested in making us believe the WIC message, but it's good to push back.)

  • I think we get so hung up on making the “right” decision rather than what we want. Putting together a wedding shouldn’t be all that much different than any other event, and yet it is. It’s that elusive ideal we have in our minds, whether it’s put there by our upbringings, our families, our friends, or the beloved WIC — or the indie bride community too. In most of our other life decisions, including choosing WHO we marry, we understand the “rightness” of it is less important than how it is right for US.

    By the way, I see a lot of people are stressed about the dress…I found mine in a day; I’d looked online, kind of knew what I want, and found a boutique that carried that designer. I tried on lots of dresses but I definitely had a favorite. But it wasn’t like angels came from the sky and I started crying or anything. I was just happy to be happy with something!

  • Sherrlyn Photojournalist

    Sherrlyn of http://www.lovesimplyhappens.blogspot.com says…I hope that brides-to-be can keep in the heart somewhere to have fun on the journey. It’s interesting your comment on the side “because we are people not just brides”.
    I have lots of fun during engagement shoots with couples. It’s kinda time for them alone (with me) and I think it helps to bring everything back into perspective. I love hearing from brides so I can be more understanding. Hugs to all.

  • Ellie

    The Venue hunt is going to make me crazy. We’ve looked at three places. We both really liked one of them. But we’re so pushed to find the “perfect” venue that the idea of simply booking a reasonable venue in a great location that serves good food seems nuts.

  • god you are so right.

    last night my guy and i went to hear our dj again, he spins/jams on tuesdays at a local bar with some musicians accompanying him. now that is wedding planning. i am a little hungover today though.

    i hate cake. i didn’t really even like the cake at the cake tasting but i said fine that’s great. gotta have a cake.

    i don’t really loooove the dress. who wants to wear a long white dress ever in any circumstance but this? white is not flattering if you are over 99 pounds.

    but i am excited about the party. i hope it feels like last night. dancing and smiling with friends and my new husband.

  • Anonymous

    The dress. Right after I got engaged I was browsing a blog (a non-wedding blog because at that point I didn’t even know about wedding blogs)that had featured an amazingly whimsical short ivory dress. I LOVED it and I knew it was the dress I wanted to get married in it. But, my mom and sister both freaked out because it was so non-traditional. I spent many weeks arguing back and forth with them about the virtues and vices of the dress. Finally, I decided that it was MY wedding and I would do it the way I wanted to. This has been a great point of clarity whenever I feel like I need to do something a certain way I just remember that I can do it the way I want to not the way everyone expects.

  • Haley Dawn

    I feel like I have been in this stage since we got engaged. We don’t have a ton of money, I am still in school and he is still trying to get his name out there as a classical singer and private teacher. and pretty much from the beginning of this planning endeavour, all that we have done is fight.

    All I ever wanted out of this was a special day where we commit ourselves to each other in front of close family and friend and then we go to someones house and have a party. Nothing fancy, just a party. People have parties ALL the time and don’t require tents and a fancy caterer and seats for everyone, so why does this particular party need that. WE area very laid back couple and just like to have a good time. BUT everyone seems to think that all of these things are necessary because it is a WEDDING..

    Even my mom who have a BBQ wedding herself it trying to make this more than we want it to be.


    thank you so much for yourpost. I has really helped me reevaluate my feeling and thought towards this whole process

  • I saw myself in so many of these posts! Most women today feel this enormous pressure not just to succeed, but also to excel at everything. Trying to excel at planning a multi-faceted and highly personal event and getting right the first (hopefully only) time is nerve-wracking. Having everyone you meet attach their baggage to your plan doesn’t help.

    I think that most wedding blackouts are born from the idea that everything about the wedding is a symbol or a special reflection of you and your spouse-to-be. And the implication is that if your [dresses/cakes/favors/invitations] are not symbolic of something, that you don’t take your relationship with your spouse and/or your guests seriously.

    I’m avoiding wedding blackouts by working with my fiance to figure out what we really want to imbue with symbolic meaning, and what can just be…other “stuff”.

    Sometimes a cake is just a cake, and that’s okay.

    Good luck to everyone, and thanks for sharing your anxieties. It’s nice to know that we’re all in the same boat!

  • This is so difficult – as a vendor (I do flowers) I want people to use my services and I want them to pay me enough money to live on. As a woman and a person who believes in a budget I don’t want to overcharge and I want people to have a wedding they will love. Not a wedding they will feel vaguely ripped off by.

    Thanks for a great site! Wish you were around 8 years ago when I got married….

  • While I totally agreed with the previous poster on the thought of “free cake!!” for the tastings, I do think it is interesting the details that we get hung up on/mildly obsessed with. My mantra these last few weeks has been, “no one will notice, no one will notice…”

    It’s funny (though not necessarily in a “ha ha” way) too how far reaching the WIC is. People who you would think would not care one way or the other have popped up with all the opinions! Ummmm, hello dad’s bachelor college roommate, why do YOU care that there will not be toasts? And why did I feel a little anxious when you mentioned it??? And don’t get me started on my mother and the words, “but it’s your wedding.” Crazy lady, you are paying for the thing, I’m trying to save YOU money.

  • So often lately, I read your blog and want to shout, “YEAH!” Thank you for writing a little about what many brides to be are thinking. I’ve definitely had my moments. I am naturally a crazy list maker so I’ve got about 5 wedding lists I think. But overall, as it gets closer, we keep thinking more about the ceremony. The most important part and how we want that to look. Knowing the family and friends that will be in attendance, I have no worries about the party to follow! :-)

  • kahlia

    The thing that freaks me out occasionally is when I’m all calm and talking to my best friend and she’s all “yeah, we can totally feed 130 people in your parents back yard after a couple of runs to CostCo” and I’m all “cool, we can totally handle this”… and then I talk to my mom and she’s all “[you’re my oldest child and the first one of your many, many cousins to get married so this is going to be a huge party] Now don’t forget about the rehearsal dinner and the day-after brunch! Plus, we should have a day of activities (like water volleyball in the lake) the day before for all the out-of-towners.” … and then I get all “*bad word*, I can’t afford to feed 130 people three or four times!”
    However, on a positive note, I emailed a picture of the J. Crew “Sophia” dress (which is all over eBay for $100) to my mom, sister and best friend and they all went, “ooh… aaah”, so that was easy. :)

    • Two years + 1 day later, I’d like to update this comment, just in case people are just finding this post & it helps:
      We did have a rather large party, mostly due to the fact that I’m the oldest in my family of origin and one of the first of many cousins to get married, and I was ok with that; we didn’t have activities other than hanging out on the lake together with all of the family that was in town already, and everyone was ok with that; we did have a rehearsal dinner, but a friend/neighbor kindly offered to throw it for us and let us invite all of the out-of-town family (dinner for 50? No big deal!); and for the wedding we ended up finding a small caterer who used mostly local, all in-season ingredients (who was not that much more expensive than buying it all at CostCo) and we were very glad to pass off the prep work to her, freeing up time to bake lots of cookies for favors (which we had WAY too many of).
      So in summary: no, you do not need to entertain and/or feed people more than once (everyone who was staying at my parents’ house those days each pitched in and shopped for then prepared at least one meal for everyone), and yes, you can totally feed 140 people in your backyard… but if you have a caterer, it’s a lot easier!

      Also, I ended up finding that dress new with tags on eBay for $65 (including shipping) and, magically, it fit perfectly without alterations! And it came with a veil which I liked and which convinced me that I did actually want a veil. Yay!

    • Also, the “day-after brunch” consisted of about 10 people showing back up to my parents’ and eating left-overs from the night before with my partner while I ate some of the desserts I had missed & we read all of the lovely cards people had given us. Blissful.

  • The dress. I loved my dress. Until I started reading the silly internets with all their fancy designers and expensive fabrics. I got all paranoid because my dress is made of polyester taffeta not REAL taffeta and then I saw the prices of the real ones and they were ridiculously expensive. I am calming down now. What I tell people about the dress is that is essentially a costume you wear once, so who really cares how/what it is made of?

  • For me, my wedding blackout moment was the invitations. I know, it’s weird. I’m having my dress made by one of my law professor’s wife and it has ended up being a really nice bonding experience for me and my bmaids. A little more expensive but totally worth the weekly/bi-weekly hang out time with my uber-busy friends!

    Anyway, back to the invitations. I decided to go with a graphic designer friend to save some money. It’s been really really stressful, and I had to do a lot more work that I thought I would. It’s the first thing that people (read: groom’s family) will judge me on in terms of the wedding and they had to be PERFECT. The anxiety/panic attack ended last week when I was able to check a bunch of things off the list. In fact, the invitations went to the printer this morning!

    Thanks for blogging about your anxiety—it makes me feel less nuts! It also makes me want to show this post to my fiance so he can see I’m not alone in my craziness.

  • Anonymous

    I think a lot of the anxiety comes from what people *think* others expect of them compared to what others *really* expect of them.

    In regards to the dress, Sweets made a comment about my wedding day attire that I plan to honor. I was joking around about finding a hairdo that didn’t involve flat-ironing my “enthusiastic” wavy hair (something that for may reasons I don’t want to do-but everyone else wants it FLAT), and he said that he didn’t want me to “not look like yourself”. He doesn’t want ‘Bridal Barbie’, he wants ME-poufy hair and all. ;-)

    That doesn’t require “the perfect dress”, it requires a dress I’m comfortable in and feel good wearing. I’m lucky that my Mom is putting her fantastic seamstress skills and motherly love into making my dress. Even if there are fancier or flashier things out there, nothing I’ll find from a store could ever be ‘more perfect’ than that.

  • Amy

    I agree. Why taste multiple cakes? Our family is making our deserts. I know I love those. I don’t need to taste my Aunt Sandy’s delicious red velvet cake.. it’s already one of my favorites. And taste Jonathon’s homemade apple pie.. yum! And my gran’s strawberry shortcake, and my soon to be mother in law’s pumpkin roll. I know I love these things. That’s why we picked them.

    PS. Blackberries and dahlias?! I can’t wait to see this.

  • Actually, multiple cake tastings sounds fantastic. I do enjoy eating cake, and if we decide to have a cake (we’re currently leaning toward individual pastries from my hometown), then I want to enjoy eating it, too. There are some bakeries that normally bake delicious cakes that make butt-awful wedding cakes (I am looking at YOU, Beaverton Bakery).
    Pretty much everything else on the list terrifies me, however.

  • Ugh, I’m experiencing Black Out at 3 weeks to the wedding.

    It set in just as I finished all the bigger DIY projects that you get to do with your hands…invitations, programs, test menu (I’m making most of the food, including the cake, because I am both quite poor and quite foolish) etc.

    I hadn’t realized how much I was alchemizing my anxiety into 200 pieces of carefully folded vellum and the like.

    Now I guess I have to go ahead and face the nerves in the fact that this is a huge change in my life, in my self identity…even my name! I love my soon-to-be husband more than anything, and can’t wait for the rebirth into being a wife…but inside this rebirth, there is a tiny death of an old self that I loved deeply too.

    Yikes! Feelings! Aren’t there more bows to tie instead?

  • It’s nice to know I’m not the only one. My fiance and I decided on a simple, casual, outdoor thing in summer. Easy right? Two days after getting engaged, at my sister’s suggestion, I tried on a dress at the mall that was a couple stores down from the tea shop she works at. It was a simple cotton sundress with eyelet lace and little buttons all the way down. It fit me perfectly, I really liked it, and it was only $150! I bought it right away, then started reading bridal magazines. Bad idea. I started worrying that my little sundress wasn’t “wedding” enough and now my mom keeps emailing me links to poofier princess dresses. Now I’m conflicted because I worry that I will be too casual, but I’ve started to think of the little sundress as MY WEDDING DRESS and don’t know if I want anything else. Damn the WIC and their pages of glossy dress ads that make feel bad about my dress.

  • Alethea

    Oh god, thank you so much for writing this.

    This is essentially what exploded out of my mouth at my fiance three or four days ago: "ZOMG there are THINGS and we are supposed to DO them and I keep looking at wedding blogs and they are full of WHIMSICAL CHARMING DETAILS and we don't have ANY of them and our wedding is going to SUCK and we are DOING IT WRONG and NO ONE WILL HAVE ANY FUN."


    My fiance looked at me, and said (veryvery gently): "If you let other people tell you what your wedding is supposed to be, it will never end. There will never be enough. There will always be something else to do. I don't want my wedding to be a competition."

    And I regained my sanity.

    The problem with the wedding machine, as I call it, is that it purports to ease your anxiety – but in order to do that, it has to first create anxiety. Suddenly, you aren't enough. Your love isn't enough, your simple ceremony with friends and family isn't enough – BUT THAT'S OKAY, WECAN FIX THIS! DON'T WORRY! WE HAVE A LIST OF EVERYTHING YOU NEED! IN COORDINATING COLORS! And it spirals from there.

    The craziest thing about all of it? We had already kyboshed whole reams of the "expected": we made our own invitations (I do calligraphy), I got my dress for $199 down from $1,240 (floor model), we had no wedding party, no DJ (yay iPOD!), no registry, no florist (wedding is in a garden and I'll get roses from a florist the day before), no garter toss, no flower children, no first dance. Just our best riends and closest family to laugh and drink great wine and eat great food. So, what was the panic?

    It was something that came from the wedding machine. Not us. So, I shut off the power.

  • Anna

    I’ve been reading an AWESOME book called “The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner” (find it on Amazon!) that treats a wedding as a rite of passage and acknowledges all the emotional things brides go through during their engagements.

    One of the things she mentions is that sometimes we obsessively focus on details in order to avoid thinking about the larger issues of getting married – saying goodbye to our single selves and past lovers, dealing with family issues, having doubts about our partner, etc. So now whenever I start obsessing I check in with myself about what I might *actually* be freaking out about.

    What if our crazy high expectations about our cakes, dresses, etc. are based on our crazy high expectations of our future husbands? What if we want our dresses to make us feel like princesses, because we want our husband to make us feel like one, too? What if our “blackouts,” instead of being freak-outs about the wedding details are actually about the fears of being married?

  • Moe

    Of the last few weddings I went to, I didn’t eat cake and I don’t have a clue what the cakes looked like. I remember some of the couples cutting cake though, because that was more memorable than cake.

    When my friend got married she actually FORGOT to order a cake and didn’t realize it until the day before the wedding when someone asked her when the cake will be delivered. She wanted to buy a few boxes of Twinkies and arrange them on a platter. Her sis intervened and bought a few plain cakes at her favorite bakery and put leftover fresh flowers on them…

    Six years and one baby later, it doesn’t matter…. :D

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  • Becca

    I know I’m a little late to the game (3 years is a little, right?), but thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyou. It’s refreshing and beautiful to find out there are other people who love weddings but don’t believe they need to cost the GDP of a small country.

    When I first logged onto TheKnot, I was told I had 127 over due items on my to-do list. Your blog is lovely and helped me take a deep breath.

  • Mary

    obviously i am late to this post, but thank you so much. i am 2 weeks away from my (tiny, partially-backyard, very d.i.y. wedding). i feel like i should be freaking out, but i’m not. and so far, this is how things have gone… “oh my god! we’ll never find a photographer in time!!” “oh look, this very nice lady in our own city will take photographs and is free on our wedding day. perfect!” it all seems so easy right now i’m sure the other shoe is about to drop, but you’re giving me hope that it won’t.

  • Bethany

    I had one about my budget… Everything that I looked at and liked was way out of our price range. But, I was lucky to find a planner that was within budget who will be able to get us the look and feel we want without spending a gazillion dollars.

    I kind of had one with my dress… My fiance wanted a tea length so we can swing dance, but I’ve always seen myself wearing a long gown. I thought about getting two, but that made me freak out even more. I ended up falling in love with a fabulous tulle tea length dress, but when I went back and looked at all the pictures of me in long dresses (never try on over 70 gowns… Bad bad idea), I started questioning if I had made the wrong choice. My mom calmed me down by telling me that i was happiest in that dress, it was so me and it’s perfect for my venue (a refurbished warehouse).

    I’ve really stepped back and started telling myself that this is about our marriage. Sure, we want it to be a great party, but I’ve put my wedding magazines away, I no longer go on the knot and i’ve calmed down a whole lot.

  • birdsong

    So, as I was reading this post (I realize it was like 4 years ago when posted) I was overcome with waves upon waves of emotion- not the kind that makes you secretly weep while staring at your computer screen (we all know those moments, I’m sure) but the lightbulb emotions- like “yeah. I totally know what this is about. It literally encompasses every decision I feel I HAVE TO make.” Recently, I tried to have a calm pre wedding meeting with my fiance and his mother and I ended up storming to the nearest fridge to find the coldest beer available to chase my creeping anxiety. I think we brides- no matter how simple or calm or chill- get a bad rap. I end up feeling accused of getting stressed about the smallest things by the people who actually induced the stress to begin with! Does that make sense? As simple as I’d like to make this process, I’m also terrified of not having a voice in the matter. I have been to weddings where I think to myself, “wow, you really did just sit back and let everyone else make all the decisions didn’t you?” Which may seem valiant to some, but I guess when I know that there was a point of giving up- it’s sad. and scary. I am fighting a very thin battle here. yes, I said thin battle. one, if lost, I feel will lead to solid indifference. Knowing my mule-y self. How do I make this blissfully uncomplicated while keeping the skeptics at bay? And still make this joyous occasion seem- well just that- joyous?

  • paigeannt

    Recently engaged and this is exactly what I needed to read. All of the planning websites are full of drama seeking brides who offer no help on the boards unless tears are involved; the articles, magazines, etc don’t seem to have anything that applies to our goal of a small budget, diy wedding and I’m such a high stress person as it is.

    So far, the little bit of this blog as completely de-stressed me (which is good, because we’re going to see our first venue tonight)

  • Erin

    Decorations make me feel like this. I love crafty stuff, but I feel like the emphasis on what my (AMAZING WONDERFUL SANITY SAVING) wedding officiant calls “Pinterest Weddings” makes me freak out entirely. Mostly, because, even if I have a great time hand write 100 names on name cards, I’m going to want to cry when I or someone close to me has to go set them out on the day before or day of the wedding. The same is true of flowers or something decorative to put on the end of each pew in the chapel.

    But cake tasting is making us happy. We like cake. We’re going to make a date of it. We’re visiting to bakeries on the same day and we’re going to laugh and eat cake and go for a walk. Then we’re going to decide on a cake. And then probably have some beer because the cake was expensive. Oh well. We like cake.

    But making individual silk flower centerpieces for the dinner tables? Forget it. Focus on the stuff that makes you happy, forget about the stuff that makes you wanna elope. Thanks for this. I needed it.