by Rachel Lowe
My husband, Greg, and I consider ourselves to be practical people. So we embarked on the wedding planning journey with a practical, meaning-seeking mindset. Shortly after our engagement, we simultaneously read a book entitled, The Smart Couple's Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams: Planning Together for Less Stress and More Joy and actively discussed each chapter. We were determined to have a wedding that was intimate, authentic, and just plain fun! For the first few months, it was pretty easy to stick with this plan. I had all the checklists handy, we made a list of all the things we wanted our wedding to be, and took our time finding venues and vendors that fit our priority list - local/independent, friendly, affordable, and talented. We were on a roll, and knew we'd have a great wedding, without letting the planning rule our relationship or allowing our budget to get out of control.
Then life hit, as it tends to do.
Then life hit, as it tends to do.
In mid-March, after a 9-month search, we finally started the closing process on our condo. By the time our closing was finalized in late April, I had begun the transition to a new job, was hosting my mom in the new condo for a few weeks, and finally graduated with my Masters degree. Yay! So needless to say, during the months of March, April, and May, wedding planning was not even on the back burner...it was still in the cupboard. By the time I got back into the full swing of things in July, there were only three months until the wedding day. I'm not sure if it was the time away from the process, or the feeling of severe urgency, but when the planning continued, I felt much more consumed by the stuff than the substance. I became more concerned with checking things off the to-do list than building our relationship and finding meaning in what was about to happen. I was more focused on the wedding than the marriage. This was particularly heart-breaking because Greg and I set out on this journey with such high hopes of having a ceremony-centric wedding; and yet up to this point, we had barely even discussed the vows, the unity ceremony, the readings, or anything of the sort.
Additionally, we were both absorbing an abnormal amount of stress from some strained relationships. Greg and I both encountered some bouts of severe loneliness throughout the planning process. To start things off, our pastor, whom we were extremely fond of, took a position at another church out of state and would no longer be able to perform our ceremony. That was a pretty tough blow.
Next, my fiance felt misunderstood and pressured by his employer, who didn't seem to think working 60+ hour weeks throughout the entirety of our engagement was an issue.
I, on the other hand, felt supported at work, but abandoned by many of the women I thought would stick with me most during this process. About seven weeks prior to the wedding, my Matron of Honor informed me that she would be unable to fly to the wedding because it would be unsafe for her pregnancy. I completely understood the situation, but it was still heartbreaking. Not even one week later, the other girls in the wedding party were experiencing high stress levels of their own and became closed and distant. I took this personally, because I did not understand at the time that they deal with stress by going inward, while I deal with it by going outward and being social. For a number of weeks, I continually felt a sense of guilt, as if I had done something to drive them away.
We felt very unsupported as individuals, and as a couple.
Thankfully, and serendipitously, right about the time all of these challenges - the stress, the lack of support, and the pressure - were coming to a head, we attended an engagement weekend that changed the direction of our planning and helped us refocus. The mantra of the weekend was: your wedding is a day, your marriage is a lifetime. Throughout the weekend, we discussed crucial topics such as why we first fell in love, openness in communication, why marriage is a vocation, decision making, sexual intimacy, and what it means to become a family. Let me tell you, that weekend, away from life and everything "wedding", was EXACTLY what we needed.
Right before we left on Sunday afternoon, we covered the two topics that springboarded us into the final six weeks of planning. We had a discussion on the wedding as the beginning of our sacrament, and then ended the weekend by writing each other a betrothal letter (which we both looked at as the precursor to our vows). I don't even remember the last time I cried so much. Whoo boy! These two discussions gave us the focus we needed to keep the right focus until it was all over; to stay on the right path until the wedding was finished and the marriage had begun.
Soon after the weekend, we began meeting with the new pastor at our church to begin the premarital counseling as well as the hammering out of the details. Finally, the ceremony was once again our number one priority, like we had wanted all along. As much as I hate to admit it, this situation worked out perfectly for me. I thrive under last-minute pressure and was bound and determined to work with Greg in creating a ceremony we would always remember. And about three weeks later, we finalized our entire ceremony. And at that point, we knew all the last minute crises didn't matter. No matter what else happened on October 3, 2010, we were going to be married. Our vows were meaningful, our readings were going to be read by people who meant the world to us, and our unity ceremony was special and spiritual.
Although we wanted to focus on the real meat of the wedding from the beginning, I truly believe everything happened the way it was supposed to. All the trials and tribulations we went through brought us closer together, and made the ceremony so much more focused, intense, intimate, and meaningful. Our pastor still comments on how it was one of the most unique and special ceremonies he has presided over. That feels so good to hear.
I still remember talking to other couples at the resort on our honeymoon (as is natural for newlyweds I'm sure). While many women could not stop talking about their reception, my HUSBAND (I still love saying that) and I lit up whenever we looked back on our ceremony. The reception was awesome, don't get me wrong, but we were both still in awe of what took place that day. We entered the alter as two separate people with two separate lives, and left as two individuals with one life. It was so surreal, so special, and so worth it all!!
So if there is any lesson to be drawn from our journey it is this: remember that the wedding is one day, and the marriage is for life. Try to stay focused accordingly. However, when life shows up with a load of challenges along the way, cut yourself some slack and realize that as long as you're in it together, everything will work out exactly as it's supposed to. I wish you ALL the best in both your wedding and your marriage.
Rachel Lowe is a very part-time blogger and photographer living outside Washington, DC. Along with her brand-spanking-new husband, Greg, she loves to ride motorcycles, look at random things through her telescope, and go hiking in her new Vibram Five-Fingers. Read more about their journey toward a balanced life at Lowe on Balance.