Well, it happened. The stress of planning a wedding led to the one conversation I never thought I'd have: What if we just eloped? It's true. Planning a wedding is quite involved. There's about a billion decisions you have to make and it's tough to really know if you're making the right ones. Ultimately, it's you and your significant other's big day—but realistically, it's the day that you're celebrating with family, and their ideas (whether you wanted to know them or not) can sometimes make planning challenging. I've always been a big person pleaser. I can't help it. I always want everyone to be happy but at the same time, I'm a bit of a control freak. That means there are aspects of wedding planning that aren't exactly ideal for me. I want to incorporate other people's suggestions and what others want, but I can have trouble letting pieces of our big day go into a world where I'm supposed to trust they'll get done and just wait and see. For the most part, I think Tom and I had the right approach going in. We made a budget early of where we wanted to spend our money and where we didn't care as much. We used our resources (friends, family, friends of friends) to find people we could incorporate into our day, without feeling like we were trusting complete strangers. We made checklists. We tried to get things done early. We tried to cut costs wherever possible—using good, trustworthy smaller vendors or up-and-coming vendors. And even still the cost, the checklist, it can all be a lot to take in. I had no idea going into this process that everything would add up so quickly. Before we knew it, we had several thousand dollars out the door and that was just to hold dates and reserve vendors. It's stressful, no doubt, especially when you know you have that little ol' rest of the bill you still have to pay.
Plus, there's the guest list—how do you know who to invite? Beyond your family and close friends, it gets tricky. Do you invite all of your co-workers? Just the ones you're closest with? Won't the others be offended? And what about children? When we totaled our "initial" guest list, the amount of children added up to almost a fourth of our total guests. Our caterer said they don't really do kid's meals so we'd be forced to buy regular adult meals (and then watch the kids eat three bites and be done). Tom and I's conversation, I'm guessing, started like any other couple in the midst of wedding planning. While calculating our latest estimates, totaling the various bills and looking at the dreaded "still due" column, I felt as if I needed to breathe into a paper bag. How were we going to do this? Was it worth it? And that's when he said, "Let's say, just for argument's sake, we cut our losses. We already have a few thousand dollars out there, but if we stop now, go elope somewhere, we'd still be saving quite a bit." Now, had this been any earlier in the process, I'm guessing my reaction would've included a gasp of shock and disgust, ending with a new bed for him on the couch. But since it landed right smack dab in the middle of my possible meltdown, I had a very different and somewhat unexpected reaction. I thought about it for a second and immediately thought, no, this is what I really do want—no matter what the headaches and what the cost. It was a good moment of perspective. Wedding planning is stressful, there's no doubt about it. But as I sat there and thought about what it's all for, what that day will be like, I suddenly had a new realization of its worth. We sat for a moment and shifted our focus. Instead of stressing about the cost of a piece of cake, we focused on the moments we were excited for—seeing each other for the first time, walking down the aisle with my dad, having our first dance, being surrounded by our closest friends and family. Just like that, all the stress magically disappeared. Clearly I'm not an expert at controlling stress by any means but going through this process has certainly taught me a lot about how to plan an event of this magnitude—and come out on the other end alive. Here's just a few of the tips I've taken to heart, and what's helped me push on to plan the best day of my life:
- Don't forget: At the end of all of this, you will be marrying the love of your life. Repeat this to yourself, as needed.
- Also don't forget: It's you and your fiancé's day. Write it down and keep it at the top of your mind when you're making decisions. By the end of all of this, it's the most important that you and your future husband are happy.
- Don't feel pressured to doing things because that's what other people did. It took us a while to decide, but in the end, we decided to politely ask that no children attend. I'm sure that will offend some people, but it was either that or go broke. I'm hopeful those people wouldn't have wanted the other option. : )
- Make small lists—a yearlong list of tasks, responsibilities, and obligations will only stress you out more. If you make a list just for each month, you'll feel like you're accomplishing everything you need to be without the added stress of seeing EVERYthing that's left.
- Recruit people to help that you know you can count on and that won't add to your stress. As much as I love certain people, I know having them help in this might make things more complicated and overbearing. Start small—ask a couple of close friends to help you make your table numbers, for instance. It turns each task into a more enjoyable and yes, actually fun, event.
- Whatever you can do early, do it. Don't feel like you need to wait to the last moment to do everything just because you won't need it until the big day. Even though I won't give them until the rehearsal dinner, I decided what I wanted to do for bridesmaid gifts and put them together—wrapped and all. Now I don't even have to think about that anymore.
- Spread out the spending as much as possible. This ties in with the last point slightly —I knew I didn't need gifts yet but by buying them months ago, I knew it would help keep costs on an even scale. Instead of letting everything accumulate at the end (which, let's be honest, you already know is going to be spendy) buy things early and check them off the list. Get your bridal accessories months ahead, or ask if you can pay the full total of the venue ahead of time. Try to devote one expense per paycheck or every other, it'll help in the long run—and it'll help the financial stress.
- Think about what you remember from the weddings you attended. It'll help you realize what's important and what guests, admittedly, won't remember. Did they have chocolate cake or cheesecake? Can't remember? Maybe it's not a big deal, then. What flowers and decorations were at their ceremony? Drawing a blank? Then keep it simple. Remember, people will remember moments, and probably not details.
- Keep in mind that stress, unfortunately, is part of the process. Don't dwell on the fact you're feeling it, it'll only make you more stressed. Instead, take five minutes during your most stressful moments, sit with your partner and each share five things you can't wait for at your wedding. Then watch the stress melt away.