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

Monday, October 13, 2008

When You're Drowning in the Sea of Wedding Planning...

There’s a lot of debate out in the Wide Wedding World about the ideal length of engagements (i.e., wedding planning periods). On one side, you’ve got the Longer-Is-Better advocates. They argue that the longer you plan your wedding, the more relaxed the process can be. You’ll have time to search for the best vendors and the best accoutrements. You’ll get better deals, and you’ll avoid much of the anxiety associated with the wedding planning process because you can take your relaxed time.

On the other side, you have the Shorter = More Sane supporters. They argue: The longer you plan your wedding, the more you obsess about details, the more you second-guess your decisions, the more you covet other people’s decisions, the more your wedding has the potential to overshadow your relationship, the more your life becomes consumed by The Big Day, and the more you lose yourself and find Bridezilla. Besides, people can pull together amazing funerals in three days, why should a wedding take more than a year?

When Matt and I got engaged, we didn't do much thinking about either of these camps. We planned a 7-month engagement because it was December and we wanted to get married in the summer (and we didn't want to wait a year and 7 months). It was more about logistics and impatience.

But as the wedding planning progressed, I started to realize that for myself, a shorter engagement did keep me more sane. Wedding planning started to consume my life, primarily because it was fun. I like planning things, especially fun things for my friends. I liked doing all the crafts and choreographing our dance and writing our ceremony.

But after seven months of it, it started to feel like we were devoting too much of our life's energy to wedding planning. Even after we had finished all the major stuff, I started adding new things to the to-do list, just because there was still time: flower pins for the wedding party and a matching bandanna for the dog. And even when the wedding wasn't our primary focus, it was always in the background. It was still The Most Important Thing Happening in Our Life.

When you're swimming in the big ocean of wedding planning and you're getting battered by the waves of the Wedding Industrial Complex and you're getting tugged by the undertow of pressure from family and friends and your own emotions and anxiety are threatening to sink you, it's important to cling to Rafts of Perspective.

Sure it's a cheesy metaphor, but, unfortunately, it's oh-so-true for a lot of us!

Here's a Raft of Perspective for you on this fine Monday morning [Editor's Note: The inspiration doesn't start until 51 seconds into it].

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M said...

Don't forget, when you're deciding how long your engagement should be, that this is an emotional transition as well. If you are commitment-shy, if you've been married before, if you've known each other less than a year, if your families have never met... if any of these are true, you might need more time to learn the skills of coupledom.

I can plan a party in no time at all, but I've needed time to move through the personal processes. Getting to know each other's families and histories, learning to budget and work together on decisions, becoming 100% comfortable with the reality that "forever" and "married" all take time, for me, anyway.

I'm often frustrated that weddings are seen as events and not life transitions.

V. Wetlaufer said...

That video was awesome and so needed today! Thank you.

It's so funny, we didn't consider wedding planning time at all when we set our wedding date. We based it around teaching schedules and when I was graduating from one degree and moving to a new school for another degree. It made sense to get married before starting the PhD for a number of reasons...but sometimes I do wish the time frame had been shorter. I could've been ready to wed this past summer, but waited, also, because my brother was getting married this summer. I do like, though, that having a longer engagement means that The Wedding doesn't have to be the total focus of my life for a year. It can be something I turn to for DIY projects when I feel like it, not because I HAVE TO get something done RIGHT NOW.

Unknown said...

We will be engaged for 14 months when all is said and done. We thought that was the soonest we could get married given some of the financial considerations. Shiner thought he'd need that long to pay off one debt that I was pretty adamant about him taking care of.

It's been nice to have that long, because we could book a venue and photographer right away and be sure to get vendors we loved yet could afford. For example, our photographer told us she's had at least four more requests for our date since we booked her. That's probably because she's amazingly awesomely talented, yet relatively cheap for our area. But after we got those couple things done, we pretty much stopped thinking about it for several months. We only started really talking about planning in mid-September, four months out from the wedding date.

I had been led to believe planning a wedding would be stressful and time consuming, but really it hasn't been at all. We just aren't doing things that feel like more trouble than they're worth. It won't be the world's most convetional wedding, but it will be fun, and it has been fun to plan.

nikkimatt said...

thank you for posting that video.. i caught it one early morning on vh1 about a year and a half ago when i was pregnant, and it made me just sob.. i havent caught it since, cause i'm not exactly a nickleback fan, i didn;t really search it out.. but it's wonderful and i'm glad to be able to find it on your (most fabulous!) blog.. i love all you have to say, it keeps me grounded while thinking about the many upcoming weddings inmy world(child hood friend and her partner,may09, my sister and her bf,june 09, and myself and my bf, fall09)and also, i like what m had to say a lot!

mimi said...

god thanks for that. i'm no nickelback fan but that really struck a chord. ha ha pun not intended.

Anonymous said...

I heartily agree with M. We dated for 4 years before getting engaged, and planned a one-year engagement because a) that's how long I thought it would take to put a wedding together and b) it would be more convenient in my graduate school calendar.

As it turns out, we have really needed all that time for emotional re-adjustment. We are both very independent people, and making life decisions as a "unit" has taken some getting used to. I'm glad we have some time to practice and get used to the idea before we are married.

Jessica McLeod said...

I think you have an excellent point! I am really enjoying being engaged and talking about being married, it's lovely. But we really chose our date for the same reason as you: we wanted it to be warm and soon! But I can absolutely see how things get out of hand over time. A childhood friend of mine has been engaged for at least three years because they're saving up for an insanely elaborate destination wedding!

Cate Subrosa said...

We planned our 10-month engagement for similar reasons: we wanted to get married in winter and we didn't want to wait nearly 2 years. In the event, it has kept us sane too. I love having a project, have massively enjoyed this, but I'm getting close to having my life be about The Wedding now.

Meg said...

II have to say, pick a date based on logistics and when it makes sense to do it. The length of the engagement shouldn't be too much of a factor in my book. We had a three times in two years that would work with his grad school, and only one would work with my parents schedule, so that was that.

I find the idea of "the longer you have to plan the more you get sucked in" to be a little condescending (and I'm not putting those words in your mouth!) I don't know about everyone else, but I have 80 plus hours a week of non-wedding related stuff to do. I barely have time to get all the invitees in the spreadsheet (over three months). So the idea that a longer engagement means I'm going to be hand knitting napkins is just absurd to me. I'll be doing everything I normally do, while trying to squeeze in time for wedding chores when I can. And I must not be the only busy professional working bride in this situation... Gah!

Frustration now vented. And not at you.

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