A simple item turns into an emotional battlefield
Wedding checklists, planners, books, and magazines are extremely useful. The ideas, creativity, and expertise of wedding vendors are amazing and hard to stop reading. Every where you turn is a new trend, a new twist, a new product to make your wedding more beautiful, more fun, more unique.
So why are we suggesting you stop for a moment when you have so many decisions to make and not enough time as it is?
Perhaps you’ve already learned an important rule of thumb: checklists can’t predict which wedding tasks and which people in your life have an emotion, opinion, or stake in how that task is completed. And to make matters worse sometimes the person with the emotion or opinion doesn’t even know it until a FINAL DECISION is made or it’s too late.
An example of this in my own wedding planning was the arrival of our wedding invitations. It is a very exciting day to finally see, in print, that you are actually getting married. My father had not seen them nor expressed any interest in them up to this point. I did not think to include him in any part of the decision since we both knew he didn’t care. We were in his living room and I show him one in excitement. He takes a look at the wedding invitation and panics, moving from room to room. They are too hard for him to read no matter what lighting he is in! They are unique invitations with red ink on red paper, orange ink on orange paper and yellow ink on yellow paper. We have a ton of middle aged and older guests who will have similar eyesight to my father. This means they may not actually be able to read the wedding invitations. Disaster, anyone?
Meanwhile I’m looking at getting these invitations out within the next couple weeks and they were expensive! I can read them just fine and have my heart set on this style and look. It sets the tone of the entire wedding. I can’t back down now. It would be a huge waste of money, a huge stress to find new invitations and have them ordered and back in time to send out and ultimately isn’t this MY DAY, MY DECISION?
Rational thinking flew out the window – dad isn’t a man who exaggerates things. Of course he can’t read them and of course others might have problems too. But that wasn’t the point, in my mind. My mom and groom thought they were fine so he was outnumbered, even if he was right. Welcome to emotional bridal land where many different perspectives collide and a solution has to be found. In this case my mom made a similar version to send to the grandmothers and a few other elderly people so they would for sure be able to read them.
Just ask any bride a week, month or 12 months into wedding planning what they are experiencing and underneath the “it’s my day, my way” mentality is the desire to have a joyous wedding planning experience. Nobody enjoys making their mom angry, their dad stressed out, upsetting their friends or frustrating their groom. Some brides even get so stressed out trying to maintain their ground that they just give up and let someone else have the final say in everything (the opposite extreme of the bridezilla.)
So why don’t all those people just shut up and let you plan your Cinderella day? Why don’t the checklists warn you about the landmines of emotions that can erupt at any point up to and including on the wedding day itself? How on earth could I have known dad would have an opinion on my wedding invitation style, of all things?!
Regular event planning is generally a linear process with a logical checklist. Ultimately a wedding is a huge event, but there is a reason for wedding planning specialists – it is not your every day event. You could hire a wedding coordinator for a non-wedding event but you would be unwise to hire an event planner who had never planned a wedding before.
Let’s take a normal event example and play out the checklist. The guest list emerges out of the events purpose (annual holiday parties, for example, are going to include all employees.) A date and location are quickly arranged (often the date and location don’t change year after year.) Then you have budget (set in an accounting spreadsheet without room for negotiation), theme, invitations, entertainment, etc. There was a party last year so you have an easy template for this year and can crank this event out with minimal stress.
So why don’t wedding checklists work as easily as an annual holiday party? Here are a few of many reasons:
You are bringing two distinct people, with distinct families and friends together for the very first (and probably only) time.
Unlike other events, births, weddings and funerals celebrate a high-emotion, high-stakes change of life.
Most of us will never plan another event for 100, 200, or more people in our lives. Our inexperience mixed with the event “guests” being our loved ones with their own notions of how the wedding should go is a potential recipe for disaster.
Unlike other events, the outcome of the planning and wedding day itself will stay with you and your loved ones forever. It can change your relationships for better or worse and set the stage for how you go through life in the future.
Weddings are now an anything-goes event with few cultural norms and expectations. This may easily rub up against notions of etiquette and wedding propriety from prior generations. Few other events have such emotion tied to how things go (birthday parties, for example, are open for complete freedom.)
So how do you manage the wedding checklists knowing there is a lot more going on then just planning an event? Through hundreds of real life wedding stories, we have culled the wisdom on how to work together as a couple and how to work with your own, and your fiancé’s family. These principles have been filtered through a marriage and family therapy model of thinking based on how people actually behave, not on how we wish they would behave (those with divorced parents or other difficult relatives can appreciate this distinction.) Our perspective is filled with empathy and compassion for everyone involved in the wedding process so you can have a wedding you want but don’t steamroll over your loved ones in the process.
We’ve presented these principles to many engaged couples and the feedback has been heart-warming. Weddings are not about right and wrong, do this and don’t do that. Planning your wedding is more of a dance between all the people in your lives as you and your spouse-to-be figure out your visions and dreams for the wedding day and how those fit into your values around family, friends, and your community. Getting to the first dance is a huge task as a young couple. We wish you all the best and are here to help you on the journey.