It’s easy to go off the deep end with wedding planning.
A few months after my February engagement, I patted myself on the back, a little proud that I had not succumbed to what I consider an over-the-top wedding culture. I just couldn’t understand how couples let the glossy, sales-pitchy bridal magazines suck them into thinking that their wedding day is all about stuff.
My back pat came too soon.
One night, after meeting with some very sweet vendors, I found myself in tears over my iPhone calculator, trying to figure out how to nearly double my wedding budget. Exclusively for reception décor. I could eat rice and beans for six months…
At dinner that night, I unloaded my anxiety on my fiancé and both my parents. We have a major problem, because we certainly can't get married without multiple heated tents, and apparently we need a dance floor large enough to land a helicopter, and rental lighting is worth more than my car, and THE GUESTS ARE GOING TO STARVE!
Simultaneously, my dad and fiancé laughed, pulling me out of crisis mode. “We’re not trying to host a three ring circus.” (...so only two tents then?) Just like that, it hit me that I had slipped down the materialistic slippery slope.
Thank God for reality checks. I ended the night laughing, too.
It would be a great wedding. Not only because a beautiful wedding actually can be affordable, but mainly because it is a holy sacrament, because all our loved ones would be there with us, and because at the end of the day, the two of us would be a new family.
Too often, the reception is all we think of when we think ‘wedding.’
While attending a good friend's wedding recently, it struck me that, while their reception was fabulous, the ceremony itself was stand-out lovely. It was a pleasant reminder of what mattered most.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with elaborate wedding receptions. In fact, I think they highlight just how special weddings are. But it's a shame when the reception details become more important than the sacrament of marriage itself.
So how do you keep the right perspective in preparing for your Catholic wedding? Our engagement has been full of joy and, aside from a few of my own little melt-downs like the one above, pretty low on stress. Although I can’t claim the benefit of hindsight yet, here are some things that have helped us so far:
1. Pray together.
Spiritual preparation is important for starting out your marriage on the right foot. It’s nothing totally new; we’ve always prayed together. But prayer gets deeper when you are praying with and for the person you are going to become one with. We've noticed how much closer we have become since our engagement began - it's tangible. Plus, your joint prayer life now will set the tone for your spiritual life in marriage.
2. Don’t forget your future spouse.
This seems obvious. However, as funny as it sounds, it can be easy to lose sight of each other in the midst of wedding planning. Remember that your engagement period isn’t just to give you enough time to book vendors and order a dress. It’s meant to prepare you for the sacrament of marriage and for life together. It’s a unique and lovely stage in your relationship. Don’t rush through it or wish that it was over already. Continue to find ways to show your love, and take time to appreciate the other.
3. Talk it ALL out.
Although you probably have a very good idea of where your significant other stands on most matters, don’t leave anything unsaid or unasked before the wedding. It is much easier (emotionally and practically) if you understand each other’s specific expectations for marriage before the wedding.
Our diocese’s Engaged Encounter and the meetings we’ve had with our celebrant have brought up topics that we had of course discussed before, just not always in such detail. Talking at length about everything from family history to our own future family expectations turned out to be really enjoyable.
Answering basic questions about ourselves felt sort of fun and novel, like a first date conversation. And hearing each other’s answers to harder questions gave us a very detailed idea of what the other hopes for in our marriage. It made us more aware of each other’s needs and more appreciative of each other’s strengths. Despite having dated for years and knowing almost everything about each other, we still learned things.
4. Enjoy the planning.
While a wedding involves a solemn vow, it should also involve plenty of lighthearted moments and fun. If possible, avoid burnout by spreading the planning over the course of months. Then you’ll have time to mull over ideas and to decide what is important to each of you. Feel free to laugh at the differences in each other's taste, but do concede to the other when you can tell that he or she would really like something a certain way…be mutually flexible and gracious.
5. Put special thought into the ceremony.
Be deliberate in choosing the readings, hymns and other aspects of the wedding ceremony. Again, the sacrament is what matters most on your wedding day. What I did not realize until recently is that it is the bride and groom, not the priest, who are the ministers of the sacrament of marriage. You are not just participants, but the actual ministers of the sacrament. How incredible! It makes sense to put thought and effort into showing how special the ceremony is to you.
6. Pray, hope and don't worry.
Offer up any glitch in your plans, and let it go. If you run out of time to craft those 197 handmade favors, don’t sweat it. Your guests will still love you, and frankly, probably won’t even notice. And if the organist doesn't show up? That kind of glitch is a little harder to swallow. But a good marriage takes an enormous amount of trust in God, so the wedding prep period is the perfect time to practice.
Someone told me recently that seeing couples full of life and dedicated to having holy marriages gives them a lot of hope. Maintaining a spirit of joy throughout your engagement and into your marriage is a gift not only to your future spouse, but also to your families and those around you.
Just remember that you'll need God’s grace to do it!