Lauren: Wedding Zen Fake-Out

If only I had opinions about all this stuff

Wedding Zen came early for me. There were two months of activity in which we chose a country, pinned down a date, grappled with how much it was really going to cost, and booked a venue, photographer, and caterer. I bought a dress and we sent out Save-the-Dates. That was nearly six months ago and I have been in a blissful state of calm ever since. That’s pretty much it, right? Venue, photographer, caterer, dress: the big four of the Wedding Planning Safari. We made a list of additional details and left it buried in the computer.

“How’s the wedding planning going?” my parents asked over Skype.

“It’s fine,” I said.

“Nothing you need us to do?”

“Nope. Everything’s pretty much under control.”

My sisters asked me about bridesmaids’ dresses. I told them that whatever color and style they like is fine. Yellow, maybe? Lavender? My lack of direction must have been frustrating, but there was no rush. We had plenty of time! People continued to ask me how planning was going, and I continued to say that it was “fine.” Their questions bewildered me because the wedding wasn’t part of my day-to-day life. It was like asking how my best friend from fifth grade was doing. How would I know? Fine, probably.

Then the wedding was less than four months away and things got real. That wasn’t Wedding Zen I’d been feeling; it was Wedding Denial. The Braxton-Hicks of wedding planning. I thought our wedding date was a moving target, that it would always be about a year away. In reality, it’s been stalking us, creeping closer and closer like a stealthy ninja. It’s close enough now that I can see it and believe that it’s real, that one day soon I’m actually going to wear that white dress outside of the house, where people can see me.

Jared and I sat down and verbally ran through our to-do list to reassure ourselves that there wasn’t that much to do.

“We need to book a celebrant,” he said.

“Yep, and get rings,” I said. “Oh, and also the stuff.”

“The stuff?”

“You know, the chairs and tables. The tent. The stuff.”

“Right. The stuff. Does that include speakers for the iPod?”

“It does. Shit! Music. We have to make playlists. But first we should probably do invitations. And decide what time to have the wedding.”

Things felt decidedly less fine after that conversation. It appears that the Wedding Planning Safari has a more detailed itinerary than either of us had initially absorbed. If only I had opinions, I thought. This would be so much easier. One of the reasons I’d let our wedding grow moss in a corner is because I was hoping that my opinions would come to me, perhaps in a dream or a Pinterest-infused bolt of lightning. Yes, I would cry, bolting upright in the middle of the night with an air-punch. The bridesmaids should wear teal!

That still hasn’t happened. We went to get Jared’s suit and I was rendered speechless by the selection of ties on display, the ties that in theory were to match the as-yet-determined bridesmaids’ dresses. The salesman held up two suit jackets, one dark and one less dark, and both he and Jared looked at me expectantly. I was the bride, and therefore the one with the Opinions. I stared at the lifeless jackets and waited for clarity as the seconds ticked by. What seemed like a simple errand suddenly felt like Sophie’s Choice.

“What color is that one again?” I pointed at the darker one.


“And that one?”


Useless. I’d been hoping for a creatively named color that would tip me in one direction. It’s the way I choose racehorses, by identifying the name I connect with the most and hoping for the best. It is not a lucrative strategy.

The salesman sent us outside with the jackets so we could compare them in natural light. Standing on the sidewalk, looking at Jared dressed in a suit jacket and board shorts, I realized how ridiculous this was becoming. This was exactly why I’d stopped planning: the more time I have, the more worked up I get. It’s like when I get ready too early for a night out; I don’t relax, I use the extra time to mess with my makeup and change my outfit.

Last-minute deadlines are my thing. I pretend that they’re not, obviously. In job interviews I tell prospective employers that I get things done in advance, to allow for plenty of wiggle room. The facts don’t lie, though, and I usually find myself the day before a deadline, charging through, making quick decisions and relying on instinct. Clarity comes over me when the luxury of time is removed from the equation, and I don’t stress; I act.

“You know,” I said to Jared, “I’m hardly going to look at you on the day of the wedding and say you should have gone with the grey. Whichever one we pick will be fine.

What I’m feeling now is not Wedding Zen, but it’s not Wedding Denial either. It’s more like… Wedding Determination. We are doggedly working through our list; after ordering the suit we sat down and picked out invitations, and the fact that we needed to get them done became more important than getting them perfect. Some of our choices will be perfect; some will be wrong; some will be just fine. And that, in the end, is how we need it to be.

Featured Sponsored Content

  • this was *exactly* how I was throughout planning. Up until about the last month…we got married two weeks ago,and rest assured that everything will come together and what needs to get done will get done :)

  • Lisa

    This is exactly where I am in wedding planning now. We are slightly less than 4 months out, and some of our other friends who are getting married keep pointing out to me how far behind I am! I thought I was going to be a control-freak, type-A planner, but in reality, I’m a procrastinator who enjoys using her free time to do other things. We’re finally ordering our invitations and talking about things like flowers and tastings and playlists.

    I’ll probably end up putting it off until the last minute like most other things, winging it, and we’ll (hopefully) end up being fine.

  • LE

    “Their questions bewildered me because the wedding wasn’t part of my day-to-day life. It was like asking how my best friend from fifth grade was doing. How would I know? Fine, probably.”

    THIS. SO MUCH THIS. Thank you for articulating it.
    I felt like I had nothing to say about the wedding for so long and always put a fake smile on my face and answered “Great! I’m excited!” in a ridiculous voice when someone asked “How’s the wedding planning going?” Now that we are 2 1/2 months out I just get a panicked look on my face and tell those people exactly what is currently stressing me out. HA.

  • MC

    Just chiming in with another EXACTLY. We reserved the venue for our September wedding in January, 9 months out, so in my head the wedding has always been nine months away. Until we realized that last month it was 4 months away…

    My fiance & I made a big list of all the small things we still had to do and put reasonable deadlines for them on our google calendars – so even though we’re still a few months out from the wedding, we have mini-deadlines that send us into the “last-minute-productivity” frenzy. Otherwise I don’t know how we would both make so many decisions about things we have very few opinions about.

  • CB

    In early May, we decided to move our wedding originally scheduled for May 26, 2015 to July 18, 2014 for a variety of reasons including health of a family member and the fact that I just didn’t want to wait that long to marry my fiance! We were only waiting that long so we could save up money, so why not downsize it, right!? We decided to take advantage of Emily Alt’s Pop Up Elopement deal scheduled for that date in Traverse City, MI (seriously, check it out I’m lazy, so it helps that she takes care of almost everything. So we went from a wedding with 60 guests to 15 guests. Let me tell you, moving up your wedding like that helps you make quick decisions. Invitations? What would have taken me months of looking at every single option took me a day to make (Paper Source’s printable invitations FTW!). It also helps you realize what is not worth the effort. Programs? Not gonna happen.

    • S

      Please write about your pop up elopement/2 month planning experience for APW once July 18 has come and gone! Please?

  • Jane

    The reason you procrastinated on picking out the small stuff is because the reality is that most of the decisions you make during wedding planning aren’t that important. Don’t get me wrong, you HAVE to make the decisions and get stuff done, but most of the details beyond the venue and the date (and for many, the dress, because yay a pretty dress!) have little life-threatening urgency about them to most non-wedding-obsessed people, and as a result, aren’t that interesting.

    Read The Paradox of Choice and start powering through “satisficing” your decisions. “Satisficing” is the decision making practice of figuring out what’s good enough, according to your criteria, and going with it. And then never second-guessing yourself about options that could have been slightly cheaper or slightly more ideal. Good enough! is a good mantra for wedding planning, in my opinion. It worked well for me!

  • Sara P.

    I’m a regular APW reader, but rarely comment, but I had to today– no post has quite spoken to me as much as this one (also particularly timely, because I had this exact epiphany last week when we hit the 2-months-before-our-wedding mark).

    “Clarity comes over me when the luxury of time is removed from the equation, and I don’t stress; I act.” YES! Frankly, I’m pretty happy with this strategy so far. Someone once told me that goldfish will grow depending on the space that you give them– if you give them a huge tank, they’ll grow bigger than if you put them in a small one. I feel like wedding planning is the same way, and you should only give it as much space in your life as you want to spend on it. As a big picture person who hates managing all the little details, I’m pretty glad that I put the details off this long. The more attention I give to them, the more they seem to expand. But since I’ve only got 2 months left to finish (and plenty of other non-wedding things that need to happen in that time), there’s a very finite amount of expanding they can do. I’m sure this strategy would be terrible for someone who’s really detail-oriented, but I’ve been pretty happy with it for myself.

  • amalance

    This is exactly how I’m feeling. I did the big stuff right away and got congratulated by everyone about how organized I am, and now I have to do the small stuff because I’m a little less than four months out. The days of sitting back and relaxing are over, and I’m procrastinating because I honestly don’t care when it comes down to most of the small details. I have a MOH, no bridesmaids, and I don’t care what she wears. I don’t really care much about the small things, and the details and options seem overwhelming. The problem is now we actually have to make some decisions about some pretty big things: how the ceremony will actually flow, our wedding song, etc.

  • Carrie

    “My sisters asked me about bridesmaids’ dresses. I told them that whatever color and style they like is fine. Yellow, maybe? Lavender? My lack of direction must have been frustrating…”

    This is one of those things that surprised me the most. My maid of honor/best friend of almost 20 years wanted me to just tell her what to wear, while I figured that she was buying herself a dress, so it should be something she liked and was comfortable in and, terrible cliche or no, might actually wear again. For some reason I thought “whatever you like that’s gray and knee-length” was a good enough start, and that we could just have fun shopping until we found something we both liked.
    It somehow turned into a screaming match with each of us not wanting to make a decision. For some reason, in her head, either I should just tell her exactly what dress to buy or I didn’t care at all and didn’t need to be involved in the shopping. She’s been a bridesmaid before, and I’ve never been ‘in’ a wedding, so maybe she had specific expectations that were different from mine? All I know is it put stress on our friendship that I never saw coming. We didn’t find anything, and now I’m SEWING her a freaking bridesmaid dress because she wouldn’t pick anything out and the only thing I could picture doesn’t seem to be available in stores…GAH. Ok. Rant over, it’s off my chest now. :)

    • Lisa

      THIS. This also happened with my sisters’ bridesmaid dresses. I said, “Pick out something you like and will wear again in dark purple and just kind of coordinate with each other,” and they refused to make decisions and forced me to pick something out. Of course the only thing I decided I liked was an out-of-stock dress on ModCloth so my mom is sewing their dresses from an altered pattern in addition to my gown and her own MOB dress. God bless my awesome, stressed-out mother!

      • Jade

        Something similar happened with my wedding, only I said “wear whatever you like so long as it looks okay together. Oh, and if two of you pick the same dress just get that for all three.”

        The response was “Orange. We want to wear orange.” But they couldn’t decide on dresses, one of them wanted only natural fabrics… so she decided to make the dresses. Which were completed at 2 am the morning of the wedding. Slightly stressful all the way around but they turned out just fine :)

        Some pics from our photographer in case anyone is interested:

    • ElisabethJoanne

      In retrospect, I don’t know if we should or shouldn’t be surprised by this choice paralysis in others involved in our weddings. In retrospect, I’m not surprised my now-husband made me choose the tux rental place and his tux for our wedding. When it comes to clothing, he hasn’t bought so much as a pair of socks without consulting me, since we got married. Last week, I asked my mother to help me choose between 2 sweaters I had brought to my cousin’s wedding. And last night, I spent an extra 20 minutes wandering the grocery store trying to decide what to have for dinner, and that was after changing my mind against my first thought of just scrounging in our cupboards.

      But my husband selects his own clothes for job interviews, when I’m already at work and can’t help him. I’ve been to plenty of weddings without my mother helping me get dressed. If I didn’t have a car and couldn’t go to the grocery store at 10pm, I would have scrounged in our cupboards just fine.

      But I know the clothes stuff in particular is part of the fabric of the relationships. My mother will ask what I wore to weddings, even of people she doesn’t know. It seems human – normal to ask for advice, even on unimportant things.

    • Alyssa M

      I had the same thought process as you… only one of my attendants is a dude, and another is a lady in pants, plus my my sister and my ultra fem skirt loving best woman… so it was even more “it should be something you EACH like and are comfortable in, and I know none of that will be the same thing” So I just said “something nice in fall colors”

      And then it was like herding unhappy chickens… as my lady in pants went gaga over three piece suits while my sister tried to convince me a white! tanktop was dressy. I narrowed it down some more… but I’m pretty sure nobody has anything yet close to three months out…

    • Alyssa

      I gotta say – as a bride I picked the dress but wanted to let them choose the shoes. (Two of the girls already owned the dress, so it was just a matter of finding 3 more!) After months of indecision and the wedding around the corner, I found a great, on-sale pair and just said, how about these? They were all so relieved they didn’t have to make a decision and I thought it was just so bizarre, because I would have much rather picked out my own…
      FLASH FORWARD to being a bridesmaid with “coordinating, not matching” dresses and shoes, with restrictions on necklines and fabrics and length. Let me tell you, that shit was STRESSFUL. Whenever I found a dress I liked, the color was wrong, or I had chosen chiffon, or etc. and onwards. I had been feeling guilty for a year as matching bridesmaid dresses slowly became the most “bridezilla” option you could choose… but I would so much rather have had the bride choose my dress for me! Then, I would at least know that she, the bride, was content.

      • Carrie

        Oh dear lord, we haven’t even talked about shoes yet. I might cry.

        • Jess

          I’m just going to say “Neutral/light tan shoes, I don’t care what height, shape, or style” The color is pretty basic, goes with most colored dresses, and they can pick flat/heel/anything in between. Plus… they probably already have a pair.

          • Sarah McClelland

            Yup. I’m saying warm metallics and letting ’em go for it. The dresses are floor length so it’s not a huge deal- and I want everyone to still like me at the end of the night. No crazy heels.

          • Anon

            Ok, I just had the shoe conversation with my bridesmaids. They will be wearing floor length dresses so I told them to wear whatever shoes they like just please no neon. This wasn’t enough direction though so eventually I was like ‘ok, get black shoes’ then they wanted to know if it should be patent or matte, open-toe or closed. So I was like closed-toe and otherwise I don’t care. In the end, one of my bridesmaids was like ‘I would feel better if you picked a shoe for us…’ I’ve never been a bridesmaid before so I really don’t get this. I thought my way was the easy option…

        • Alyssa

          You’ll be fine! Either go with what Jess says, or you can pick out like 5 that you love, and send them her way. That way she knows you already like the shoes you chose, but she gets the final say. Win/win!

      • laurasmash

        Honestly I think picking the dresses is the least “bridezilla” option. It was much easier to just get the bridesmaid dress that was picked out for my by my sister, and thanks to the magic of tailoring, I was able to wear a style that normally doesn’t fit me well at all. I would never buy a dress like that and get it tailored except for a wedding, so that was a super fun treat for me! I never wore the dyed-to-match shoes again, but I’ve worn the dress a couple of times.

    • kc

      I can totally relate to this! I told my bridesmaids to pick a short (i.e. knee length or above) dress from davids bridal in 1 color, no specific fabric. They have a million choices which has led to them 1) putting off shopping or 2) shopping multiple times because they can’t settle on something. But I’m really working with different body shapes and ages in my bridal party, I don’t think it would be fair to pick out a dress that is flattering to some and not others. And they all live really far apart so shopping together wasn’t feasible. It was one decision i didn’t want to have to make for everything…

    • Dawn

      I ended up picking the bridesmaid dresses with consultation with my MOH because figuring out “looks good together but doesn’t match” was too hard given the distances involved. They didn’t want to just choose something. They wanted me to pick it. I had always pictured non-matching dresses, before that became “the thing to do,” and, because we found a suitable dress in the wrong color, i ended up with matching bridesmaid dresses in a color I never would have chosen. I ended up falling back on my wedding motto: simple in execution. No regrets.

      For shoes, I asked the, to wear whatever they each wanted in my original dress color of choice. Interestingly, they were happy to choose shoes– totally different styles and shades.

    • Outside Bride

      So, funny enough, I got this idea from one of my bridesmaids, who did it years and years ago – it wasn’t trendy, it was just a second wedding and she knew one of the girls had a dress that already worked, so she just asked for “fall colors”. Fantastic! I look great in fall colors!

      Funny enough, she was the one who had the most trouble with picking a dress for our wedding. Which, OK, I didn’t specify beyond “sky blue”, so at least part of that was on me! She looked great – all the ladies standing with me are people who have picked clothes for me, since I am hopeless at such things – and they all looked great, but it was an unnecessary strain on the relationship. In retrospect, I am glad I did it, since one of them has been able to wear her dress three times already this spring (didn’t even have to wait for the wedding) and another picked something I’m sure she will wear again, but…

      About a month before the wedding, it occurred to me that “sundresses” is a much easier way to get to “effortlessly mismatched”, especially for people who actually know how to dress. For one thing, they don’t have to worry so much about how they will look next to you, which my very thoughtful bridesmaids did.

  • JDrives

    You’re in my brain. We booked and brainstormed and Pinned and bought decorations within the first few months of our engagement, then took a break for several months with plans to put it all together “later, closer to the wedding.” We actually really enjoyed that break! Now we’re less than 5 months out and I’m starting to wake up from my wedding-zen-coma and realizing that the ideas I have aren’t going to just *happen.* I am definitely the same sort of person who works best with a deadline looming; if I pick away at something I just end up fussing and stressing more. You describe it perfectly: “It’s like when I get ready too early for a night out; I don’t relax, I use the extra time to mess with my makeup and change my outfit.” Reading APW, especially the “IT WILL BE FINE” comments from recently wedded readers, has helped me maintain a good balance of Zen + Action that I think is perfectly described with your term “Wedding Determination.”

  • This x1000. Just yesterday I looked up and realized that we are almost at the six month mark and actual decisions need to be made. We picked a caterer months ago. Oh so you mean I have to decide on a menu too? And I can’t send invitations with meal choices until I choose said meals? Oops. No DJ means I have to actually pull together a playlist for six hours of wedding? I can’t just put on Pandora “wedding station” and be done with it? Damn!

    So yeah…I should really get on some of this stuff, huh?

  • Ariel

    This was me, up until a few weeks ago. Now that we’re eight days out, shit is very real.

  • STM

    When we got under 3 months I definitely woke up from my planning coma. I had gotten SOME stuff done, but things like decorating and crafting felt ridiculous so far in advance. “Great, it’s done! Now I have to store it for 6 months and pray no one trips over it or spills tea on it!”
    But now we’re two months out and AHHHH I guess we need pinking shears???

  • Alyssa M

    Starting to think from the comments that this is like a universal wedding planning stage! Man oh man is it exactly where I am… only, I occasionally thought about doing stuff (I’ll get it all done now so I’m not so busy right before!) but everything seemed so far away that there was nothing to do yet… like why would I make centerpieces 6 months ahead of time? then I’ll have to store them! :(

  • Caitlin_DD

    Your writing is so hilarious and compelling. I’m not quite at any of these stages yet, but I’ll know what to do if I get there.

  • Sophie

    Yep. This is me, too. Both the lack of significant opinions about details (bridesmaid dress colors, what my fiance should wear at the wedding) and the phase of non-planning I’m in right now. People keep asking me how wedding planning is going. We booked all the vendors months ago. I’ve barely thought about wedding stuff since April. Our wedding is about four months out and I keep thinking I should look at my planning timeline and figure out what I need to do next…

  • Sarah McClelland

    This week in posts has felt like my brain is being channeled.
    We are 4.5 months out, and the big pieces are (mostly) in place. Date, venue, rough timeline, bridal party clothes, and it’s down to the giant list. Which is still giant after getting rid of excess. But making it all happen… Just doesn’t seem to be happening. I’ve got too much sewing to put much more off… My dress and the flower girls. So here’s to hoping wedding determination kicks in soon with a vengeance.

  • M

    I love that there is a Braxton Hicks reference.

    We need more writing from brides with kids. :)

  • Jessica

    Yes! This post totally speaks to me. We’re 3 months out. I’m waking up from a 4-month planning hiatus. And I just don’t care about so many of the details… But we’ll get there!

  • amy

    This made me guffaw with laughter out loud. I am less than 3 weeks from our wedding, and still haven’t hemmed my dress, made the dress for our flower girl, made my veil, made my shrug, finished knitting my shawl or finished sewing the bunting. Added to that, thanks to a beautifully sunny July in the UK (oh yes, did I mention my strap mark-riddled shoulders and the fact my dress is strapless?!), all our wedding flowers in my dad’s allotment are in bloom *now*, and likely to be gone by the day. Dunno what I’d call my mental state (it is not currently wedding zen), but I do think it’ll all come together.