5 Lessons You Can Learn From My Wedding

Toy versions of a married couple sitting on a groom's cake

Everyone has a specific idea of what they want their wedding to look like, and thanks to movies, reality shows, and the wedding industrial complex, we think we have a certain idea of what the planning process looks like.

In reality, planning a wedding is a lot like running your first marathon without having any extensive running experience. You start off strong and confident, but by the time you reach the halfway mark, you’re ragged, flustered, and unhappy. The end is nowhere in sight.

You regret having a wedding in the first place, and if you weren’t already knee-deep in the ordeal, you would give up. The idea of running away with your partner sounds pretty damn good. As the finish line draws near, your body is an achy mess, but crossing the line gives you such a rush of relief. You made it! It’s over! You’re married!

The early stages of wedding planning are sweet and relatively stress-free. Enjoy that fleeting stage, and brace yourself for what’s to come.

1. You’ll say yes to the dress…and then you’ll say no. Perhaps more than once.

I was convinced that I wouldn’t spend an egregious amount of money on a dress I’d wear only once. My wedding was thoroughly budgeted, and I didn’t want a chunk of money to go toward my dress as opposed to something that my wedding absolutely needed. Like food. Delicious, plentiful food.

Originally, I didn’t want to pay more than $300 for my wedding dress. I found a retro-inspired, tea-length dress on Modcloth’s clearance sale…but it had sold out. My second choice was a secondhand, strapless gown. When I laid eyes on the french lace, I instantly imagined walking down the aisle. Would I wear a long or a short veil? Should I go for a boho or romantic look? Whatever, I’d figure it out as soon as I bought the dress. Which was around $670.

There was a brief moment of hesitation before I bought the dress, but I threw budget to the wind because I had a big fat tax return from Uncle Sam – it pays to be a broke college student! And when the dress arrived in the mail, it was five-ish pounds shy of a perfect fit. Easy, right?

I went up two sizes instead. Oops! Of course, by the time I realized there was no way I was giving up beer and chicken strips, the three-day return period had been long gone. So I dropped around $600 on a yet another wedding gown a month before the wedding. But I didn’t have to wear Spanx!

And I felt like a princess.

2. You will probably go over your budget. Prepare yourselves.

Now that I’ve walked the aisle, tossed the bouquet, and skipped the garter toss (Google it and cringe), I can say that my wedding was everything that I wanted and more. However, it was a lot more expensive that my husband and I ever imagined.

The wedding we’d initially wanted would have cost us no more than $3,000, and we would’ve paid for it by ourselves. This would’ve been a more modest, laid-back ceremony than what we ended up with. However, our artsy wedding in the park would’ve been flooded by an unexpected weekend of rainstorms. The venue we ended up with, which was a gorgeous Victorian house, cost more than our original wedding altogether.

Not only did I fall in love with a dress that was $300 over budget, I replaced it with a gown I never planned to buy in the first place. Flowers, which we admittedly got at the low price of $693, cost hundreds more than we’d expected. We lost our security deposit and down payment on our previous outdoor venue. One thing happened after another, and our cozy, $3,000 wedding swelled in cost.

At one point, my husband and I would joke about the “wedding curse,” a recurring financial affliction that appeared at the most inconvenient moments. Life happens. Having a stash saved up for wedding-curse-related surprises wouldn’t be a bad idea.

3. You will butt heads with your mother.

I’ve heard it from other brides, and unfortunately, it’s inevitable. Even if you and your mom are BFFs, your relationship will grow tense as the wedding approaches. Chances are, your mother will have her own idea of what your wedding looks like, and her vision won’t mesh with yours. She’ll insist on something you don’t want. You’ll want to do something that she doesn’t agree with.

My parents had different expectations for my wedding than I did. They had a big wedding in New England 25 years ago; meanwhile, I was having a smaller wedding in the South. As you can assume, their idea of a normal wedding was more traditional and pretty different than mine, right down to the details of the invitations. I remember designing my invitations on Vista Print, jazzed about spending under $70 on 100 cards (that’s a good deal, people). When my mother saw the final product, she was utterly distraught.

Not because she thought they were tacky, but because of the wording: instead of having my parents’ names, my invitation read “together with their families…” My mother assumed that I’d go with a traditional, formal invitation. She said she thought I knew better – but when every single wedding invitation I’ve received didn’t follow custom, what was I supposed to know?

With most cases, the tension will evaporate after the wedding. After the wedding, I thanked my mother for helping bring it all together. Finally, we were both at peace. But in the meantime, expect some conflict.

4. You’ll have a newfound respect for Bridezillas.

Bridezillas are both laughing stocks and cautionary tale. The reality show highlighted the horrors of brides who were hellbent on having the best wedding ever. Like all reality TV, the footage was edited and emphasized with splicing and background music, but viewers could see that these women were very demanding.

Can you blame them?

Weeks before my wedding, I felt my inner bridezilla emerge. She was tired of being pulled in different directions, she was fed up with having her decisions second-guessed. I thought of the women from Bridezillas and felt a pang of empathy. In that moment, I understood that in order to obtain the wedding you want, 100% free of outside influence, you’re gonna have to be a bitch.

Do you have to throw a tantrum, overwork your bridesmaids, and force people to treat you like a princess? No. But you’ll have to stand firm on the things you really want, even after it upsets others.

5. You will forget to eat on your wedding day.

From the minute you wake up until the moment you leave the reception, you will be overwhelmed. Your schedule will be stuffed with last-minute to-do’s, hair and makeup appointments, and pre-ceremony photos. There’s so much on your plate that it’s easy to forget to fill it with food.

I woke up at 7 a.m. on the day of my wedding. The ceremony was supposed to begin at 5:30 PM. If it wasn’t for my amazing bridesmaid-turned-personal assistant, I wouldn’t have eaten breakfast or lunch. Brides, you won’t have the chance to grab a plate at the reception, so you should have a meal buddy during the wedding too. Between talking to every guest and hitting the dance floor, you won’t eat anything other than a bite of wedding cake.

After the receiving line, I had about 10 minutes to take off my floor-length veil and bustle my dress. I was lucky enough to run into a groomsman (well, a groomswoman) who asked how she could help. She brought me a plate of food with the lowest mess potential.

Pro Tip: When you send someone through the buffet line to fix your plate, tell them to mention their mission. Cutting in line is acceptable if they’re feeding the bride!

Have I convinced you to elope yet?

Thirteen days before my wedding, I was dying to elope. We already had the wedding license, and I was willing to do anything that would undo the stress that manifested in my shoulders. But I’m glad I toughed it out; as soon we were pronounced husband and wife, I felt a wave of calm. It’s over. I’m married. And in spite of the curses, expenses, and nuptial-related nightmares, I had an amazing wedding.

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