A Wedding-Planning Family Drama Playlist

Songs for your sanity

The year since I got engaged has been the most emotionally draining of my life. And I was totally blindsided. I knew wedding planning could be stressful, but somehow the process managed to devolve before any “planning” had even begun. Lately, I’ve rediscovered the power of music as a coping mechanism. Here’s my annotated playlist for getting through wedding-related family drama.

Livin’ On A Prayer
—Bon Jovi

We’ve gotta hold on to what we’ve got
It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love
We’ll give it a shot

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My fiancé and I got engaged just over a year ago, and our wedding date is about a year from now (if we stick to that date… it’s possible we’ll elope before then). Reflecting on the fact that we were “halfway there” from engagement to our wedding, we started belting out “Livin’ on a Prayer” one evening while taking a walk around our apartment complex. This was hugely comforting. We love each other, and we’re getting married somehow, even if that means eloping.

We Can Work It Out
–The Beatles

Life is very short,
and there’s no time
for fussing and fighting my friends.

My mom and I were discussing how to approach some sticky disagreements with my fiancé’s parents, and I was trying to convince her that some issues just aren’t worth arguing over. In Judaism, there’s a concept called shalom bayit, meaning “peace in the home.” The idea is that you might refrain from speaking your mind on certain issues for the sake of preserving a positive family relationship. This line from The Beatles captures that idea. When I texted my mom a link to the song, it defused a lot of tension. The song also reflected my optimism that we could indeed work things out with my fiancé’s parents, eventually.

Bad Blood
—Taylor Swift

So baby now we’ve got bad blood
You know there used to be mad love

The phrase “bad blood” best reflects what’s going on between our families. There’s no specific problem per se—there’s just a lot of bad feelings, built up over the last year through various minor slights and misunderstandings. On paper, everything should be fine. I love my fiancé; my family loves my fiancé; my fiancé’s family loves me; both sides are Jewish families with similar backgrounds and values; my fiancé and I are both highly “accomplished” according to traditional measures of success; we’ve been together for seven years, lived together for the last two, and are very sure we want to get married; neither of us wants to have a particularly expensive wedding or has asked for anything unreasonable. There’s no ostensible reason anyone should be arguing. And yet, there’s all this bad blood. Our parents don’t trust each other, even though they got along just fine before we got engaged. It’s impossible to untangle how we got here, and I wish we could just turn back the clock and get a do-over.

I Love It
—Icona Pop

I crashed my car into a bridge
I don’t care
I love it

I crashed my car last year… twice… but not into a bridge, everyone is fine, thank god. I blame the accidents in part on the stress associated with our wedding. The second accident came a couple days after a particularly bad phone call with my mom. I was on the phone for over an hour, pacing around, getting more and more upset. The conversation was going downhill, but rather than end it, we just let things spiral downward, getting worse and worse. Two days later, I was still ruminating on our call, wondering what I would say to my mom the next time we talked. I told myself I needed to be extra focused while driving, knowing I could be distracted by my mental state. And yet I got into an accident anyway. This was my “rock bottom” moment—I canceled my plans and walked myself over to an on-call therapist, where I sobbed uncontrollably for about an hour. It was bad. For the rest of the year I cut my commitments to the bare minimum and tried to focus on my mental and physical well-being. This song reflects that feeling of “Fuck it, things can’t get any worse, I’m an imperfect human, I’m angry, and I’m going to revel in all that.”

Writer In The Dark
—Lorde

I am my mother’s child
I’ll love you ’til my breathing stops
I’ll love you ’til you call the cops on me
But in my darkest hour
I stumbled on a secret power
I’ve found a way to be without you babe

Lorde is referring to her partner here, not her mother (other than in the first phrase), but I listened to this song reflecting on my relationship with my mom. We all go through a process at some point where we realize that our parents are imperfect, and we can love and respect them while disagreeing with them. Wedding planning brings this out acutely. In one conversation, my mom was upset with me for doing something that I hadn’t thought of as wrong and was asking me to apologize and promise not to do it again. I realized I couldn’t make that promise, and I flat out told her I didn’t believe I had done anything wrong. It was a liberating moment. This phrase captures the balance I’m slowly finding, where I can love my mom deeply while holding different opinions and living my own life.

Supercut
—Lorde

In my head I do everything right
When you call I forgive and not fight

I’ve repeated this phrase in my head as a mantra, reflecting both the belief that I’ve done my best to try to get my wedding process back on track, but also that I’m fallible, and it’s probably only in my head that I’ve done everything right. Reminding myself that I’ve done my best is particularly helpful in the context of the Three P’s that Sheryl Sandberg shares in her book, Option B. The first P is Personalization: when we experience emotional trauma and tell ourselves it’s our fault, it’s harder to recover. It’s helped me to remember that I can control my own words and actions, but I can’t control other people, and it’s not my fault that my wedding is such a shitshow. It’s important to accept responsibility where appropriate and ask ourselves what we can do to improve a situation, but it can be emotionally unhealthy to blame ourselves for things outside our control.

For the record, the other P’s are Permanence and Pervasiveness. I try to remind myself that my wedding issues won’t last forever (eventually we’ll just get married and move on), and that other parts of my life don’t have to be affected by this (i.e., I can still have a great relationship regardless of how the wedding itself plays out).

Shake It Off
—Taylor Swift

It’s like I got this music
In my mind saying it’s gonna be alright

On a particularly bad day in the development (devolvement?) of my wedding plans, I was shopping with my grandma (retail therapy is real), and “Shake It Off” started playing over the store’s speakers. I grinned, realizing that I could indeed shake this off, live my life, and not let the haters get me down. This phrase particularly speaks to the curative power of music, so it’s a fitting end to my wedding drama playlist.

I hope these songs and reflections can help others get through the tough times that inevitably come along with wedding planning. Hang in there, you’re not alone!

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