Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guest Post: Keeping Bridal Expectations at Bay

As I read through this guest post by Susan over at Quitsville, USA, my head got tired from nodding so much. In this post, Susan talks about the pressure that comes from all the "should-ing" that goes on around us. Since the birth of my son Henry this past February, there have been times that I've felt like an inadequate mom because my responses to motherhood don't seem to be as glowing and syrupy sweet as all the other moms I know.

At the end of the day--in wedding planning, in raising children, and in living our lives--we have to find our own way. It's usually easier said than done! Thanks for the reminder, Susan...

By Susan

There are, I know, women who plan their weddings long before they're engaged. Women who spend time on wedding blogs and in wedding magazines for fun, who know exactly where they want to get married and how it should work, how big it will be, what they will wear, and what they will feed their guests. There's a certain comfort in knowing exactly what you want and being able to implement it.

I was not one of those women.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a ridiculous planner (you should see my archived spreadsheets) and I'm pretty girlie. But before I got engaged last year (to my long-term, live-in boyfriend) I'd only really given thought to what I didn't want to happen at my wedding - and that only in response to the weddings I'd attended. I was really excited to marry Nate. I was excited to be taking this next step together and knew it meant a lot for us. I wanted to start the next stage of our lives together...but I had no idea what color scheme I wanted to mark the day or what my dress should look like and it wasn't very long before this started to make me feel inadequate as a bride.

Weddings are an interesting thing. This is by no means an absolute but, generally, they are a very public display of a very private, intimate moment. Weddings are the external, social embodiment of two people pledging their lives to each other in a legally binding way. For better or worse, our society (or at least mine!) attaches a certain "importance" to marriage that you don't get without the legal document. And amidst all the emotional and logistical minefields that can come from taking this step with someone you (hopefully) care a lot about, a woman is expected to feel a lot of very different emotions.

For the record, I never ended up caring about my color scheme (or my makeup, or a bridal shower, or a lot of other things) but I was frequently reminded of what other people thought I should be feeling. There was a heck of a lot of "should-ing" going on and I ended up worrying that I wasn't doing my wedding right, that I was missing out on things, that I was some sort of bad bride. I worried that I was being too demanding, or too easy going, that I had made the wrong choices, that I would end up caring about things that I thought I wouldn't. And while all of these feelings were self-imposed, they were certainly helped along by the expectations of others - most of whom were just trying to be helpful.

In the end, my wedding was wonderful. It went nearly perfectly and had the sorts of hiccups that really only make the story better in the end. I felt beautiful and loved. I had an amazing time and it made all the DIY time we put in worth it. Everyone told us that it was a fantastic time and best of all, we agreed. But when the wedding was over, I didn't miss it. I was glad to get my real life back and to spend time just being rather than checking off a lot of boxes all the time. I know I am not alone in feeling inadequate as a bride. Any woman out there who wants to make their wedding meaningful but affordable but unique...will end up feeling inadequate at some point (if you don't, you know far more than I do). You'll end up getting unsolicited opinions and advice from practical strangers and it's important to keep your eyes on the prize (whatever it is for you).

I'm not an expert. I hope to only be married this one time. But, here's what helped me when I fell into the "should-ing spiral":
  • Know that the advice is actually coming from excitement: strangers will be excited because you're getting married and weddings are exciting and your friends and family will be excited for you. It might not always come out that way but it's helpful to remember.
  • Hindsight is 20/20 and all that jazz. If you're a first time bride, folks will inevitably think that you're missing something - because they missed something - and they'll want to help you see it.
  • Their advice might actually be helpful. I know this is hard to believe but for real, I did get some good ideas. And for the others? Smile, be gracious, and only roll your eyes with your best friend or your husband/wife-elect.
  • People will seem less annoying when you're married. This seems callous but I'm being honest! Sure, I never did end up caring about the guest book but looking back, it's kind of cute that my mom was so concerned about it.
  • Stay true to yourself. It can be very easy to give in. Sure, it's just a guest book, it's just a color scheme, it's just a...whatever! Pick your battles but remember that this is supposed to be about your and your person and your life together. If you want it to feel/look/be a certain way, stay true to that.
  • There is not one type of bride (or groom for that matter). You are allowed to feel any GD way you want. It's scary and exciting and fun and stressful and pretty much everything else that comes along with event planning and major life decisions rolled into one. YOU ARE OKAY.
  • This bullet point is for you guys. What would you add? What helped/helps you?

Enjoy your day and the life that comes after. And try to remember what it was like when you were engaged. Don't ask someone their color scheme if they don't want to talk about it - let them tell you what's important to them. And share it.

Susan is a book fanatic who spends her working hours building communities and marketing programs and the rest of her time reading, cooking, canning, crafting, creating spreadsheets, and intermittently blogging about all of those at Quitsville, USA. Her husband, Nate, photographer extraordinaire, kickass guitar player and all around nice guy, reaps the benefits of her many culinary enterprises and helps to settle her restless mind.

A huge thank you to Susan for sharing her insights with 2000 Dollar Wedding kindred spirits! If you have an idea for a guest post you would like to write, please
send me an e-mail!

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Andee said...

Yes! Thank You so much. I had all the intense feelings of being an inadequete bride! I even told my fiance "wedding planning has made me a failure, and I've never failed at anything". Some of us aren't born with a wedding in mind so when we are confronted with it and everyone else expectations it can be daunting.

Toyin O. said...

Thanks for sharing, it is not about the wedding, but the marriage you have after the wedding.

Anonymous said...

Reading this post was interesting and I enjoyed it. I've taken a different approach to the way I view my fiance and I getting married. For starters, I hate saying "my wedding". It's not just my wedding it's my fiances too! It seems like a lot of brides think that way. It bugs me!

Those little details that every bride worries about aren't so important to me either. I may not have a perfect wedding but that's okay. I don't want a perfect wedding. When the wedding is over I will probably miss the wedding planning. The reason why I feel that way is because I'm taking everything in stride. Every day, I do a little bit of wedding planning so I won't feel stressed out in the end.

When I read things about how a wedding should be I try to avoid those words. I don't let people try to tell me what a wedding should be like. If they don't like my ideas, then oh well.

Susan said...

I totally get what you mean Andee - I'm an overachiever too. =) Good luck with everything!!

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