Lessons I Learned While Planning My Wedding (And What You May Learn Too)

Today is May 31st and on June 9th, I will be getting married. I have had a lot on my mind these final days before I become a wife and what these past 11 months have taught me while I've been engaged. You hear it all the time: planning a wedding is stressful and not easy. I don't disagree with that but I will also say that for me, it has been way more fun and enjoyable than I thought it would be. It's felt more like play than work most of the time. That doesn't mean it hasn't had its challenges, though. For anyone who has planned a wedding themselves, you know how it has the power to teach you a lot about yourself, your partner, and the other relationships in your lives. For those of you who haven't planned a wedding, let me share with you what I've learned from my own experience. If you plan a wedding someday, maybe these lessons will help you along in your own process. 

1. Every issue that you have with your partner will come to the surface (and some that you didn't know you had either). 
I don't want to send you running for the hills now but this is important to know. Planning a wedding is often a lengthy process and if it's a first wedding for both of you, neither of you know what you're doing. Weddings take up time, money, and energy. All of this sets the scene to trigger issues between the two of you. Whatever the two of you have disagreed on before will likely come up again. If one of you has a tendency to take things over, that will happen. If one of you is chronically late, that will happen. And while I know this may sound pessimistic, it's something that is actually a really good thing. Me and my fiance have said it repeatedly: we've learned a lot about each other in this process, things that we may not have learned otherwise. Wedding planning forces you to talk about things and make decisions together, even if it's about silly things like how the centerpieces should look. Don't shy away from the conflict that will inevitably arise. Let it make you stronger as a couple. 

2. Past and present issues with family members and friends will also come up. 
Everything I just said above about you and your partner absolutely applies to your family and friends who are going to be involved in the big day. If your mom is critical, she'll criticize choices you make about your wedding. If your uncle is struggling with drinking too much, he'll likely over-indulge at the reception. It is very easy to hope that people will be different when it comes to your wedding but this may not happen. Rather than becoming upset with them for doing what they've always done (even if it seems amplified during the wedding planning process), use this as an opportunity to set boundaries which you may have never set before. Don't be afraid to tell people clearly what they can and can't do while you're planning the wedding and on the day. They will either respect your decisions or they won't. If they won't, you may have some hard choices to make. I had to let go of two of my bridesmaids during this process and my fiance had to let go of one groomsman. It was hard to set those boundaries and it also led to a lot of relief and less stress after doing so. Don't keep people involved if they're not willing to help with your wedding on your terms. 

3. Focus on HOW to plan, not just WHAT to plan. 
There are tons of details that go into planning a wedding. There's flowers to pick, catering tastings, dress alteration appointments, invitations to send. It's easy to just start making decisions and checking things off your list without talking about how that's feeling. How does the pace feel of getting things done (too fast/too slow)? How often are you talking about the wedding (too much/not enough)? Are you truly making decisions together as a team or is one person running the show? Make decisions beforehand about what would feel right for you. What things are you both going to do together and what things may be done separately? Are there certain times/days where you don't want to talk about the wedding because it would feel too overwhelming? Think and talk about it before you start planning. I didn't realize until halfway through our wedding planning process that what felt right for me was picking one evening of the week (we picked Sunday) to sit down with our list and make a plan for what would get done that week. Thankfully, that felt good for my fiance too. Up until then, we were having random conversations at random times about the planning that weren't always well thought-out or at a good time. When you have a plan for how you will plan, it all goes smoother.

4. Be yourselves. 
It's easy to get caught up in what other people envision for your wedding or what you think it should look like. I'm telling you now: throw all that out the window. Make your wedding as personal as you can. Think about two or three words you both agree on that describe how you want the day to feel and let that guide you with every decision you make. When it starts to feel overwhelming, come back to those words and re-group. While it's important to make sure your guests have a good experience, they will have a good experience if YOU have a good experience. Your wedding should be a reflection of your love and your relationship; it doesn't need to look like something off of Pinterest. Do your best to have all of the different components of the wedding (food, music, etc) bring you a feeling of excitement. Look forward to what's to come on your big day. A couple ways that my fiance and I did this: we have puzzle pieces as our guest book (because I love puzzles) and tacos as our food (our favorite meal). 

5. Don't give up. 
I don't know of a single couple (my relationship included) where one or both people haven't joked at some point during the wedding planning process, saying "Let's elope." No disrespect to those who choose this, but if you and your partner have decided to have a wedding ceremony and reception with family and friends present to celebrate with you, don't give up on that. The decision to get married is arguably the most important decision you will ever make. In my opinion, a wedding day shouldn't feel like any other day - it is a special, important, powerful moment in your life and it deserves planning and thoughtfulness. Honor your decision to commit your lives to one another by putting effort into this day. Planning will feel really hard at times but it is worth it. As I sit here a few days before my wedding, thinking about all the things I have to accomplish and get done next week, I feel at peace. I feel at peace choosing to spend the rest of my life with him. I also feel proud of the work and time we put into making this happen. Keep going through the challenging moments. You've got this. 

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