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This Is How to Stay Sane in the Wedding Planning Process

This is How to Stay Sane in the Wedding Planning Process

Planning a wedding can be stressful for many women. In years gone by, I’ve worked as an event manager for a venue, coordinating several weddings and managing an entire staff, making sure the bride’s special day went off without a hitch. From there, I worked as a planner and coordinator with an all-inclusive wedding company in the D.C. area. I’ve helped countless friends as their day-of coordinator, managing rehearsals, running to Wal-Mart for safety pins, grabbing donuts the morning of, and even escorting a flower girl down the aisle.

So, when I got engaged, I had no worries. I am a planner, after all. Details are in my blood. I wasn’t going to be one of those brides who stressed about the small stuff and broke down in tears over centerpieces. Not me.

We breezed through the big stuff effortlessly, nailing down our venue, caterer, and photographer within weeks. We blocked hotel rooms, set up the wedding website, and our registry. My fiancé planned our honeymoon. I found my dress on the first trip, and it fit perfectly—no alterations needed. We kept commenting on how “easy” this process was. At our first premarital counseling session, my pastor mentioned that he was encouraged because so many couples are stressing about the wedding and only focused on that, but we were not.

Then we hit 90 days out. For whatever reason, 90 days out, I clicked into full-on “do all the things” mode. I had just gotten back from a family vacation to the beach, and it was as if I jumped into the shark-infested waters of wedding planning. For a couple of weeks, I struggled to stay afloat, overwhelmed by florists, searching for an arch, and discovering that the bridesmaid dresses we ordered were more Christmas red than they were burgundy. Getting eloped starting looking like a great option. The whole planning process started losing its joy for me. I started seeing in myself the same overwhelmed, frustrated, “I really don’t care about the plate color” stress I had seen in so many brides.

I wasn’t going to be one of those brides who stressed about the small stuff and broke down in tears over centerpieces. Not me…Then we hit 90 days out.

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As things got overwhelming, I started talking to myself like I would a bride. See, I’ve been behind-the-scenes at so many weddings, and I’ve seen them start to come off the rails. Later, I’ve asked the bride and groom, “Did you feel like anything was going wrong?” and no matter what the catastrophe was, the answer was always, “No. The day was perfect.” Because, at the end of the day, it wasn’t the plate color that mattered. It was the fact they were married. I needed to remind myself of that.

At the time I am writing this, we’re 60 days out, and the waters have calmed significantly. I’m less overwhelmed but also have a lot more empathy for overwhelmed brides-to-be. In a world of Pinterest-perfect weddings, it can be easy to feel defeated by the details.

Here are some tips and tricks from a former wedding planner and fellow bride-to-be:

Define “Progress” for You

Weird first step, but it’s so important to alleviating stress during the planning process. Some people don’t feel accomplished until they have actually finished a task. Others feel accomplished when there is at least progress made.

If you’re a “completer,” then your planning style is going to look different compared to someone who values “progress.” If you are a “completer,” then your planning will be better off in large chunks of time that you can devote to focusing on a specific task. Don’t try to squeeze in wedding planning within two hours of your evening. Instead, set aside a half day somewhere and pick one or two tasks you can complete.

I value progress. My fiancé values completion. So, he got the tasks that were easy to finish. He booked the hotel room blocks and our honeymoon. I have managed the jobs that require more time and therefore should be tackled a little bit at a time.

I’ve been working on my wedding invitations for two weeks. Every day I take a little time to address 10. One day, while I addressed another 10, my fiancé put stamps on all of the envelopes. A task complete for him, progress overall for me, and we both felt accomplished, even though the invitations weren’t technically “done.”

Work with your planning style when you’re planning. If you value “completion” don’t force yourself into a “progress” style and vice versa. Then allot your time accordingly.

Choose What Is Important

Repeat after me: you cannot do it all. I’m not suggesting you hire a team. What I mean is, everything can’t be the most important thing. The centerpieces can’t be as important as the cake; the cake can’t be as important as the bridesmaids’ dresses; the bridesmaid’s dresses can’t be as important as the bouquets, etc.

From the beginning, choose what is important to you. It doesn’t matter what is important to your BFF or your mother’s first cousin twice removed. Make a list of components of a wedding (dresses, food, décor) and choose the top three items that matter to you.

In a world of Pinterest-perfect weddings, it can be easy to feel defeated by the details.

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For my fiancé and I, we wanted good photos, great food, and an overall feel of just celebrating with friends. We wanted our friends and family to feel as if they were being welcomed into our home. So, we opted for a lunchtime wedding at a lodge with a BBQ buffet provided by a full-service caterer, so our families and friends wouldn’t have to do anything. Simple and meaningful—a reflection of who we are as a couple. Since I am a writer and photographer, we are going to decorate our reception with photos and pieces of our story written out.

What is the takeaway from your wedding day? What do you want people to remember?

If you’re a visual artist, then maybe you want a beautiful design. If you’re a musician, then great music may be essential for you. If you’re a party animal, then perhaps you want a DJ that can keep the party going and a cocktail hour that will keep them talking for years.

The overall “tagline” for our wedding is welcoming people into our story. What’s yours?

Make Planning Fun Again

When you can, balance planning with a date. Your relationship should always take the front seat to wedding planning. After all, your wedding is one day; the marriage is a lifetime. Don’t neglect the relationship in order to plan the day to celebrate that relationship. Try to balance work and play as best you can.

When we were trying to pick our caterer, we decided to go to the restaurant they had. We figured that would give us a better idea of how their food really was than to go to a tasting. We drove to the restaurant and, after a delicious lunch, drove to a park nearby and went on a hike. That’s still one of our favorite dates, but the whole reason we were there was that we were trying to find a caterer.

Yes, there are going to be times when you need to sit down and work on something specifically (like addressing wedding invitations), but when you can, multi-task and make wedding planning a smaller part of an overall date. This is also good practice for your future when kids, projects, or family drama may try to take over your life. Making time for each other even in the midst of deadlines and pressures is important and will infuse joy back into this process.

Revel in Your Strengths; Outsource Your Stress

It’s a tough balance living in a world that expects Pinterest perfection that you somehow DIY. You know when DIY isn’t worth it? When it doesn’t bring you joy. If some DIY project is completely stressing you out, find a way to outsource it, nix it all together, or go a different route.

If you’re good at it and love doing it, then by all means, go for it. But if whatever you’re trying to tackle is bringing you to tears, it’s time to call in the cavalry or abandon ship. None of us are good at everything.

With a background in event management, it didn’t shock me at all that I had the food, floor plan, and overall event timeline on paper within weeks of being engaged. When we went for our walkthrough, I handed the venue manager a binder full of everything needed: floor plans, phone numbers, timelines, duty sheets. I was managing my wedding like I would any wedding I ever touched. Our walkthrough lasted a grand total of 20 minutes.

You know what I don’t do? I don’t do design. I like when things look pretty, but I don’t know how to make them look pretty. I am a writer, not a painter, interior designer, or a crafty person. So, when it came time to pick out colors, invitations, flowers, I felt entirely out of my league. I hired a friend to design our invitations. I enlisted the help of interior design friends and family to help me choose a color palette that didn’t look like a crayon box threw up on my wedding.

Repeat after me: you cannot do it all. Make a list of components of a wedding (dresses, food, décor) and choose the top three items that matter to you.

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It’s ok that I need some right-brain help to balance out my left-brain wedding approach. That’s not a weakness. You aren’t some failure as a bride if you didn’t hand-letter the entire wedding yourself. No cute favors are worth your sanity.

Remember What Matters

At the end of the day, what really matters is that you’re married. You’ve taken the next step in your relationship and committed to a lifetime together.

Plan all you would like, but something will inevitably go awry. When the cake flips onto the floor, when your dress rips on your way down the aisle (happened to my sister-in-law), when the flower girl refuses to throw her petals—whatever “wrong” happens, laugh, because something is bound to happen. And when it’s all said and done, the cake is served, the flowers are wilted, and your feet are sore from dancing, what truly matters is that you are forever with the one you love.

Everything else is secondary to that.

So, join me and take a deep breath. Yes, there are things that have to get done. There are guest lists that have to get written, dresses that have to be found, food that has to be chosen. But don’t let it stress you. This season takes a lot of grit and grace, but we’ve got this.


Don’t miss our recent podcast episode, How to Have Healthy Relationships with All the Men in Your Life – 036!

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Known for her grace, candor, and a little bit of sass (ok, maybe more than a little), Jessica isn't afraid to tackle topics that would make her own mother blush.

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