1. You don’t actually have to have a wedding.
Gasp! I know if my parents or in-laws are reading this, they’re rolling their eyes. That’s because both of them told me this. If I had a dollar for every time that my dad said, “Take the money and run,” I would have enough money to pay for this wedding.
But alas, I was blinded by Pinterest boards and the completely overrated — and not to mention, ridiculously expensive — societal norm. Also, I have this super stubborn tendency to discover things for myself instead of taking people’s word for it. Sorry, dad.
About halfway through my engagement (of course when it was too late to cancel and elope), I did a complete 180 in perspective. Maybe it was seeing the spreadsheet that showed how much money my parents were putting down for this shindig, or maybe it was all the reading I did on the real importance of a wedding — marriage.
Suddenly I cared a little less about what flavor cake I wanted and what the center pieces were going to look like. The younger me was all about being the center of attention and now I’m less than stoked to have all eyes on me for seven straight hours.
If you’re wishy-washy on the idea of a wedding, consider other options. Elope on a mountaintop, have a tiny ceremony, or courthouse marry and then throw a party. You don’t have to have a wedding.
2. Remember to put self-care first.
Should you decide to have a wedding and dive into all its chaos, remember to take care of yourself. One of my biggest challenges during the engagement was not knowing how to attend to or understand all the emotions that come with committing to someone for life.
One of many ways that brides mask this discomfort is by completely immersing themselves in wedding planning. This is because it’s way easier to channel your energy into researching venues and photographers than to face the nagging feeling of “why do I feel sad?” This brings me to the next sub-point, which is feel all the feels. Because it’s all normal.
Frustration, numbness, grief, bliss, nostalgia — everything. Not only be ready for these emotions, but embrace them. Invite them in. One of the biggest myths in wedding culture is that it’s supposed to be the “happiest time of your life,” when in reality, it’s a crazy roller coaster of emotions.
Giving up single-hood, becoming a wife, and figuring out what that means, moving in together, changing your last name, and narrowing your career options (especially for my fellow military spouses out there) are enough to shake any bride.
3. Doubt doesn’t mean don’t.
Similar to the last point and contrary to popular belief, if you have doubts about your lifetime commitment it doesn’t mean you should run. As a person who’s always had anxiety, I constantly searched for the 100% certainty. I was uncomfortable if I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be.
I have since come a long way from that notion. Whether we like it or not, life is never certain. Even though my relationship with my man is healthy, loving, and loyal, there is always a possibility for failure.
There is always a possibility that your fears could come true. But there is also a strong possibility of a life full of love. Learning to be comfortable with uncertainty and diving into it anyway is one of the most important lessons that has gotten me through the toughest times.
(I should note, there are obviously real red flags that exist in particularly unhealthy relationships. If your partner is emotionally or physically abusive, silences and puts you down, manipulates or controls you or anything of the sort, that is NOT someone you want to commit your life to. If you are a victim of domestic violence, please contact 1.800.799.SAFE.)
4. Remember why you’re having a wedding in the first place.
It’s easy to forget the most important part of a wedding is the marriage. There’s a reason why there’s this phenomenon called “post-wedding depression.” Many brides forget to channel some of that wedding planning energy into what comes after: being a wife.
What roles do you want to establish in the house? How will you and your husband handle a budget? How will you guys handle conflict? How do you want to raise your future children? Inner (or personal) work and pre-marital counseling is an amazing tool for preparing the couple for these types of questions.
5. Every couple is different.
There are couples who married in their late teens or early twenties and have had a long, healthy, and happy marriage. There are 30-something-year-olds that get married and it fails, and vice versa.
There are couples who have a massive production of a wedding who divorced the next year, and couples who married in a courthouse and have been together for 50 years, and vice versa.
There are couples who didn’t find “the one” until their 3rd marriage and couples who found their person the first time around.
Every couple is different and has their own story. Don’t compare your relationship to others and base your decisions off of someone else’s experience. If your significant other loves you for you, encourages you to be independent and pursue your goals, and is honest, loyal, and makes you laugh, embrace it.
Cherish it. Dive into it. Love unconditionally.