“So, how’s wedding planning going?”
If you’ve been engaged for more than a week, you’ll understand when I say that this question has been coming up a lot in casual conversation lately. My fiance and I have been engaged for many months already (with only a few to go!), so my answer usually sounds something like this:
“Oh, you know, we’re just trying to focus on the important things like deciding on a church, reception venue, caterer, musicians, dress, photographer, videographer, picking colors, doing marriage prep, choosing our wedding party, and, you know...everything else.”
When I was a single young adult watching my friends plan their weddings, I swore that I would not let the commercialism of the wedding planning industry stress me out for my entire engagement. And yet, even my most easy-going friends seemed to fall into this trap.
In fact, the rebel in me always wanted to sneak away to some little chapel with my beloved, a priest, and our immediate families to have a simple wedding. Just to spite the industry that tells me I can’t get married without a stressful, expensive party.
Meeting and falling in love with Chris definitely changed my perspective. He loves me with such a selfless, strong, Christ-like love that I wanted the whole world to witness it! So now we’re planning a wedding and reception for a few hundred of our closest friends and family. But my inner rebel still refuses to be swallowed alive by the all-consuming wedding planning industry.
Here are a few ways that my fiance and I are trying to keep our peace during the wedding planning process:
Be realistic about your timeline.
My fiance, Chris, proposed in April 2018, and we were so excited to get married. But we set the date for June 2019. Why did we choose a fourteen month engagement when we were so eager to start our lives together?
Chris and I looked at our situation and knew that we would need some extra time to adjust to this new stage in our lives. When we got engaged, I was getting ready to move from Denver, Colorado to Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada so that we could live in the same city.
I was adjusting to a new ring on my finger, not to mention a new job, new home, new friends, and a new country. Even adapting to the metric system was a challenge.
Personally, I process new information slowly and internally, so it was important for me to remember my emotional needs as we planned our timeline. Chris knew we would benefit from adding a few extra months to our engagement so I didn’t get overwhelmed. And now that I’m getting used to life in Canada, I’m better prepared to tackle the logistics necessary in wedding planning.
Maybe you are in the opposite situation. Maybe you have both been awaiting your vocation eagerly for many years or have dated for a long time. Whatever the situation, don’t feel pressure to pick a certain date or timeline based on anyone but you, your fiance, and the marriage prep requirements of your diocese. Take the time you need.
Choose your top priorities.
After a few weeks of engagement, Chris and I sat down and talked about what aspects of wedding planning were most important to us. He really wanted to find a beautiful, big venue to host all our loved ones, while I wanted the Mass to be at the church where I grew up. I also really wanted an excellent photographer.
I love this strategy, because once we picked our top three or four priorities for our wedding itself, we were free to be flexible about the rest of the details.
This means that I bought a lovely dress at a great price, and we plan to email all of our save-the-dates rather than mailing them. Our friend is going to DJ the music at the reception, and we are borrowing most of our decorations from a friend.
Most wedding stress, in my opinion, comes from thinking that every Pinterest-worthy detail is essential. In reality, you get to decide what is and isn’t important on your wedding day. To make this easier on everyone involved, communicate your priorities to the people who are helping with the wedding.
I was able to realize this first-hand when my sister got married a few weeks ago. It struck me that the things I remember most vividly from that day are the details that she and her husband prioritized: the beautiful chapel where they got married, the way they planned the dinner hour to make sure everyone got to eat right away, and the epic glow-stick dance party at their reception.
Every detail was beautiful, but I could easily distinguish what was most important to the couple. Decide what matters to you, and give yourself permission to be flexible about the rest.
One thing at a time.
Here’s the most practical wedding planning advice that I have received to date: do one thing per week and nothing more.
Try to imagine a plate spinner performing at a circus. They run around a stage trying to keep a dozen spinning plates and bowls balanced on top of sticks. Watching that much chaos would make me anxious!
It’s so tempting to try to “spin” a dozen tasks at once, especially if you are a multitasker like me. Often, my days include calling the caterer, and while I’m waiting to hear back, I email a bunch of photographers. In the meantime, I buy the craft supplies to make gifts for my bridesmaids while scrolling endlessly through centerpieces on Pinterest.
The problem with this approach is that, unless you’re superwoman, something comes crashing to the ground from neglect. You definitely don’t want to be three months away from the big date, meticulously crafting those centerpieces, only to realize that you never actually got back to that photographer with the deposit.
When we get wrapped up in these last minute details, we lose our peace, and it gets harder to prepare our hearts for the sacrament we are about to receive.
Get an excellent planning checklist (find one that works for you), and check off one thing at a time. Don’t move on to something else unless you’ve finished the previous task, or at least added a note on how to finish it later.
Remember your “why.”
I recently watched an excellent TED talk that reminded me to make wedding planning decisions based on why I’m getting married in the first place. The speaker illustrates how companies and organizations should start by talking about why they exist, determining how to share that with the world, and finally focusing on what products or services they should offer as a result. In reality, most organizations get that order flipped and focus too much on petty details instead of remembering the underlying meaning behind everything they do.
We can be tempted to do the same thing. We get so focused on the details, or the “what”, that we start to forget our “why”.
Ultimately, I want to marry Chris because I love him, I trust him completely, and I am convinced that he will do a better job getting me to heaven than anyone else. He has given his heart to me and his life to the mission of the Church. I want to join him in that mission to bring Jesus to the world. That’s my “why.”
Because of those reasons, we can better know some of our desires: we want a beautiful wedding Mass with all our friends and family present so that we can give witness to the centrality of God in our lives. When I think about it from this position, the tactical decisions come into perspective.
During my sister’s recent wedding, one the bridesmaids kept saying, “All the details seem to work themselves out. As long as the bride and groom show up with the priest and make those vows, the whole day is a huge success, in my book.”
Our wedding is about celebrating the vocation that God is calling us to embrace. Chris and I want all those little details, from the photographer to the music to the reception decorations, to point to the beauty of the sacrament. And yet I want to look back on our wedding day and remember not the stress of worrying about the details, but the joy of becoming Chris’ wife.
About the Author: Becca Arend is a twenty-something who loves Jesus. As a proud Minnesotan who recently moved to Halifax to be nearer to her fiancé Chris. She loves American things, like Chick-Fil-A, spelling words without an extra u, and the Imperial System.