Ian and I fell in love in a heavy-metal-themed dive bar over a platter of chicken wings. Three years later, we returned to that same bar and got engaged. There was no grand proposal, or even a ring. It was my birthday, and I felt like getting married. So I told him, and he did, too! That was that. Everything was perfect. For a day.
As soon as the news of our engagement got out, the questions started rolling in. “How’d he do it?” “Are you pregnant?” “When is the wedding happening?” “Have you thought about a venue?” The happiest time of my life was quickly becoming the most stressful. And I started to panic: How was I going to do this? Ian was working full-time but I had a flexible schedule, so the bulk of the planning would fall on me.
Within a week, I found a wedding planner and got started. I had to. I wanted a summer wedding, and it was October, so we’d either rush-plan for summer or wait another year. I’m impatient and opted to rush (mistake number one). Within a month, our save-the-dates went out so invitees would have adequate time to plan (unlike we did). That was important to me, ironically — ensuring everyone else’s comfort and ignoring mine.
Soon it felt like everything revolved around the wedding. It was all I could think about. I’ll admit: I was obsessed. It had to be perfect. I’d forgotten, of course, that nothing ever is.
Juggling cultural traditions on top of this didn’t help. My mom is Mexican, and my dad’s and Ian’s families are Jewish. We had to negotiate if and how we would or even could honor each culture in the celebration, which stressed me out even more.
Then there was finding a dress, which I put off for as long as I could. I have body dysmorphia, and worried this would be the thing to send me over the edge. But it didn’t, and I fell in love with the second dress I tried on. I purchased it right then and there, without anyone’s “approval.”
I felt great about my decision, but that didn’t last long. Soon, people started asking how I planned to lose weight and recommending skin care treatments to “perfect” my skin. Sobbing over eggs at brunch one day, I told my wedding planner that I wanted to cancel everything and elope. Alas, there’s a reason wedding vendors make you pay in advance. Plan B: I had to figure out how to manage this stress.
My next move was to start working with a personal trainer. I didn’t actually want a trainer, and I was terrified, but I knew it would hold me accountable. I could barely walk after the first few sessions, but after a week, I can honestly say that I never felt better. The consistent cardio gave me clarity, and the gym became a sanctuary from all the mayhem — a place where I could gather my thoughts. Even when my trainer abruptly quit after two months, I kept going. I had learned to use the machines, so I continued the routines by myself. A month earlier, I wouldn’t even look at weights, and now I was lifting them on my own!
To clarify, this wasn’t some “wedding diet.” I ate a whole pizza at my engagement party. I simply craved some non-wedding related aspirations, and the confidence I knew I’d get in accomplishing something I thought impossible — like doing a pull-up (check!).
Exercise helped me keep my stress in check. And so did my newfound perspective: Things would probably go wrong when the big day arrived (Spoiler alert: They did). There weren’t enough chairs at the rehearsal dinner. And the caterer cooked the wrong chicken when we were so looking forward to fried. A few other things may have gone awry, but they were insignificant in the bigger picture. It was still the best day of my life. And I did end up getting a plate of fried chicken.
Ian and I celebrated our first anniversary in July. I got food poisoning, but it was perfect, as everything with him always is.
If I could go back in time to give my newly engaged self — and anyone else planning a wedding — some advice on how to make the process less stressful from the very beginning, here’s what I’d say:
Take your time
I wish I could rewind and enjoy a longer engagement. You’ll make things so much harder on yourself if you try to plan under a tight timeline.
Put yourself first
Don’t let others distract from what you and your partner really want. This can be scary, especially if you’re a people-pleaser like I am. But this is your day.
Accept that nothing is perfect
All I can say is: Everyone loved the “wrong” chicken. And no one but you notices these details anyway.
Communicate and compromise
Sometimes you and your partner may not agree, and that’s okay! Ian wanted something more classic, while I wanted a rustic farm vibe. We went for a happy medium — slightly rustic, but with functioning bathrooms — and I am so grateful.
Compromise with family members, too. It doesn’t have to be anything big: Maybe let your parents help choose flowers, or napkins. They really just want to feel involved.
Take breaks from planning — or thinking about — the wedding
Appoint strict “no wedding talk” time with your S.O., friends, and family. Trust me: You need a break.
Ask for help
I was embarrassed to ask for help, and didn’t want to bother my friends. But they were more than happy to pitch in — they’re friends after all — and yours will be, too. It takes a village.
Whatever you do, find time to eat at the reception.
Wear comfortable shoes
I wore Crocs at my wedding, and that, tied with marrying Ian, was genuinely the best decision of all.
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