When Tim proposed five months ago, I had no idea what kind of a roller coaster we were stepping onto. Once we navigated the initial excitement, the planning started and we were bombarded with far more questions than answers. I guess this season is different for each person and couple, but the more I talk to current and former brides, I find that we all seem to circle the same mountain.
If I could write a letter to Lindsey-Five-Months-Ago, I would have so much to tell her. I don’t think I would go back and change a thing, but in this process I have learned more about myself, about my husband-to-be, about my family, and about people in general than I ever knew before. To anyone who is getting married, or plans to get married one day, I hope these words will help you. Engagement is supposed to be hard, because marriage is hard, but it is also supposed to be fun. From a Christian perspective, marriage is a sacrament created by God to refine us, to smooth our rough edges, so that we may become more of who He created us to be as we learn to navigate life with another person. Have you ever seen a metal or pottery piece being refined? It looks REALLY painful! But, as far as I can tell, it is worth it. There are, however, a few tips I wish I knew back then that I would like to share now.
Dear Bride to Be,
Congratulations! You just got engaged. No doubt you are excited, but the questions are flooding in from family, friends, and even total strangers. You may have only been engaged for 10 minutes, but I am sure someone has already asked if you have picked a date. So strap in, get ready for the ride, and let these words of encouragement help you along the way:
- Enjoy the moment. Tim and I got engaged in a remote place, so we had some time to enjoy it a little before we shared the excitement with our family and friends. The “moment” may be 10 minutes or two days, but create some space and time to enjoy it just together if you are able to do so. This made a big difference in us knowing what we wanted, rather than trying to please everyone around us.
- Pick Three. We realized we couldn’t do EVERYTHING we wanted to do in a wedding because that’s just not practical. We knew we had a set budget, but even if you have all of the money in the world, is it really wise to spend thousands of dollars on releasing rainbow-glittered-doves that will never come back? We decided to pick three things that were important to us – the “hills we would die on” so to speak. These three things for us were the venue, the photographer, and our honeymoon. We were willing to sacrifice in many other areas to splurge on these things. For you it may be something different, but these were our “hills”. Free Tip: Get married on NOT a Saturday. Who started that rule? We saved a lot of money and got more of what we wanted by getting married on a Friday.
- Pet the sweaty stuff. No, really, I mean it. When you are planning a wedding, things are going to get really sticky really fast, and it is going to make you sweat. Lean into it. The big hurdles are usually the guest list and the budget. Since we knew we wanted to get married on the beach, we knew we couldn’t afford to invite a ton of people. I started to sweat when I realized this meant that we could afford for about 100 people to attend. For anyone who has never sent out wedding invitations, that is 100 PEOPLE. There are usually two people per invitation. And *spoiler alert* your future spouse will want to invite some people, too. So you *may* get half of the invitation count, which is around half of the total guest count. Yea, those numbers subtract really quickly. Now, I am 33 and Tim is 43. Over a span of 33 and 43 years, we have lived in multiple different cities and our lives have been shaped by hundreds of important people. I started to sweat when I realized just how small the number one hundred was getting. In my mind, I was going to hurt a lot of feelings. It would be foolish to think that there are people sitting around their mailboxes pining away for an invitation to my wedding, but that is not what I am saying. I am saying there are HUNDREDS of people I would want to stand with me on my wedding day, and I had to realize we just couldn’t do it all. It’s hard, and everyone in your immediate circle or family won’t agree with you. Sometimes you and your betrothed won’t agree. But it’s ok. Really, it is. The people who love you will get it. And the people who don’t get it probably need a reality check. No one can do it all, and I don’t know anyone who is operating on unlimited funding. As harsh as it may sound, your wedding isn’t about pleasing people. It’s about celebrating the lifelong commitment you are making to the person standing in front of you.
- Agree to disagree. Tim and I rarely agree on anything. We have different tastes in music, movies, television shows, fashion, decorating style, books, ideal geographical location, and pretty much every other surface-level decision that can be made. When we got engaged, I had no idea Tim would have an opinion about every. single. thing. I am so glad he has been so involved in this process. From choosing Thank You Notes to the material texture of the groomsmen’s ties, he has been a part of the entire process. However, being with someone who has an opinion also means they may have a different opinion. In this case, I refer to those hills on which we were willing to die. There are some aspects of the wedding I was willing to stand my ground on, yet there are other details that I probably won’t even remember or notice. We sort of gave each other a certain number of “vetoes” and then moved on with our lives. Which leads me to…
- Trust your spouse-to-be. Honey, you have just agreed to spend the rest of your life with this person. That means you are going to be sharing beds, toilets, toothpaste, tears, credit cards, and a hair dryer. (My man styles his hair. I’m cool with it.) If you can’t trust him to pick out his own suit for the wedding, how in the world are you going to trust him to hold your hand while you give birth or hold you through the night? Let him do his thing. If you can’t trust him now, I promise things are just going to get harder.
- Ditch the #WeddingShred. When Tim and I got engaged, we knew we were looking at about a six month planning process. I immediately started calculating the amount of pounds I currently weighed, the amount of pounds I wanted to weigh come wedding day, and how much time there was in between. Let’s just say the numbers didn’t exactly work in my favor. The first several months of engagement were so stressful, I actually gained weight. I didn’t really focus on being healthy until about 50 days out. When I went in for my second dress fitting, the seamstress said that my dress would look weird if I lost more weight. I was just getting started! I was just gaining momentum! My final fitting is in two weeks and I don’t plan on touching flour, sugar, or processed foods for the next 40 days! If you know you want to lose weight for your wedding, plan ahead of time. Last minute “shredding” complicates the dress fitting process and also makes it more expensive. Which leads us to…
- Love your body, girl! Look, if you have read anything I have written, you know that I have been in a lifelong battle with my body. I felt pretty good about myself when Tim and I first met, then I gained about 40 pounds while I was living in a safe house and working three or four jobs at a time. Then I lost about 20 pounds. Then I gained some of it back. The bottom line is this: Tim fell in love with ME, not my body. Yes, he finds me attractive and I want to feel attractive, but he isn’t waiting for me to reach that golden number on the scale to marry me. He proposed to me, as I am, because he loves me. If I believe him when he says, “You are beautiful”, then that means I trust him. If I respond with “Yea, whatever” or “Not at this size!” then I am calling him a liar. If you WANT to lose weight for the wedding, that is fine, but don’t do it for the photos or for anyone’s approval. He loves you as you are, and if he doesn’t then something is very wrong.
- Know what you want, and what you don’t. The most painful question I keep getting asked is, “Lindsey, what do you want?” I DON’T KNOW! I make a living on helping other people figure out what they need and want in life, but when I was asked something as simple as what kind of cake I wanted, I just stared into space. This really came to a head when it was time to plan my bachelorette weekend. I knew what I DIDN’T want. I didn’t want to bar hop, I didn’t want to get all dressed up, and I didn’t want my friends spending a ton of money. So I started thinking about what I did want, and I ended up having the best weekend ever with close friends on a farm in the middle of Alabama. It was perfect. I would have never come up with that if I had not stopped to listen to myself and ignore what Instagram said I should do. It’s ok to say “No.” In fact, I promise you and the people around you will be better off if you do. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do want.
- Do some shopping. We interviewed several DJ’s, photographers, musicians, and florists. You are about to give these people a lot of money to hang out with you ALL DAY LONG. Would you go on a weekend vacation with someone you couldn’t stand? No! These people are professionals. They want to earn your business. The first DJ I interviewed made me want to box my own ears. It look three tries to convince him that I was not going to hire him. That is ok. I would much rather be uncomfortable for five minutes than to spend my wedding reception and hard earned money with someone who makes my skin crawl. Remember: “No” can be the healthiest word in the dictionary!
- Let Your Family Show Up. I know your family is probably crazy. Mine is, too. I have always dreaded planning my wedding because I was afraid it would bring out all of our family crazy. Guess what? It did. But, it also brought out all the best in my family. It doesn’t look how I thought it would. I had a complete melt down when our photographer started asking personal questions like, “Are your parents divorced or married?” I lost it. My parents separated a little over a year ago, and I didn’t know how to answer the question. I started envisioning all of the situations that would now be potentially awkward because I didn’t know how to answer a simple question. That was hard. But y’all, my parents have shown up in such big ways for Tim and I, and I know they will keep showing up. We rarely all have the same opinions on things, and some awkward conversations have happened, but we are all better for it in the end. In most cases, your family wants to be there for you and be a part of this process. To the extent that it is healthy for you to let them to do so, let them. Let your family be your family.
- Breathe. At the end of your wedding day, you will be just as married. Even if all of the linens burn up and you are forced to eat pizza off of paper towels, you will be just as married. Even if your spouse-to-be insists on personally testing every single one of the 100+ light sabers you ordered as wedding favors, you will be just as married. Even if you can’t invite everyone who has been important to you over the years, you will be just as married. The details are fun and your guests will enjoy them, but without them you will be just as married. Breathe. Hug each other. Do something silly. Go to dinner and don’t talk about anything wedding related. Like pastor Zach Van Dyke says, “If your wedding day is the best day of your life, something is wrong.” All of this planning is for an important moment, but it’s just a moment. Let it go.
- Don’t forget to say “I love you”. Wedding planning is insane. There are so many traditions that we carry out and no one has a clue what they mean. There are days when I have been so caught up in what I thought we “should do”, that I forgot what we are here to do. I get to plan a wedding because I love a man and a man loves me. We aren’t tossing a garter or or a bouquet or even eating dinner with our guests, and that is ok. Those things just aren’t important to us. We are doing other things that may seem “non-traditional” because those are things that show how we love each other. Whether you are planning for 10 guests or 10,000 remember: your wedding is a chance to publicly say, “I love you, now and always”.
Those are the things I have learned over the last five months. I hope you find them helpful. Give yourself a hug, take a deep breath, and remember: even if ________________ happens, you will be just as married. So go have fun!