So you're newly engaged! Congratulations! Now what? There is so much to be done! Announcements, choosing the date, choosing the venue and the caterer and the photographer and creating a guest list. Will you serve light refreshments or a four course meal? Open bar or dry wedding? What will the bridesmaids wear? It all seems maddening! Well, I want to let you in on the biggest secret to remaining stress free during your wedding planning experience. Are you ready for it? The answer is, you can't. There is no possible way to eliminate all the stress that naturally comes with planning an event as big as a wedding. Your nerves alone are going to be out of whack enough to make you feel sick, at least mine have been. After all you ARE promising to love and honor and make huge sacrifices for someone for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. That thought alone can make you feel really overwhelmed at times. But there are ways to reduce your stress, pick your battles, and create healthy boundaries throughout the wedding planning experience. I'm going to share them with you today!
1. Let's start by understanding why we do what we do; the origin of wedding traditions.
- Bouquets: Why do we carry flowers at weddings?
Until modern times, brides carried garlic and dill. The practice probably originated from the time of the Plague, when people clutched the herbs over their noses and mouths in a desperate effort to survive. Survivors of great tragedy can affix tremendous protective powers to anything that has provided comfort, and the herbs made it into the ceremony marking renewal. Over time, brides added better-smelling flora to the arrangement, and a whole dictionary of meaning arose to define each type of blossom.
The earliest tradition in bridesmaid fashion involved dressing the bridesmaids exactly the same as the bride. As with many older traditions, the idea was that by setting up lookalikes, any troublesome spirits in the area could not fixate on the bride.
That custom gave way in Victorian times to dressing bridesmaids in white dresses but short veils, to contrast with the bride's voluminous veiling and train system. When society's fears of evil spirits subsided and commercial dyes became more available, those first hideous dresses made their appearance. In colors like lime green, harvest gold, tangerine and fuchsia, those dresses all ensured that the bride would be the best-looking girl in the church. Not that any bride would ever consciously do this.
The Bridal Veil
The veiling of the bride has origins in the idea that she's vulnerable to enchantment, so she must be hidden from evil spirits. The Romans veiled brides in flame-colored veils to actually scare off those spirits.
Perhaps the most evil of spirits, in an arranged marriage, is the threat that the groom, who is perhaps seeing the bride for the first time, won't like what he sees. The veil saves everyone some embarrassment in the short term.
Also, in many religions, the veil is a sign of humility and respect before God during a religious ceremony.
If you want to really extrapolate links to tradition, the honeymoon is a carryover from the days when grooms abducted their brides from the neighbors. ("Will you take this woman?" Well, for a lot of human history, that's exactly what the groom did.)
Through time, those abductions became fun-filled, ritualized enactments of capturing brides. Those escapades, in Norse tradition, led to a tradition in which the bride and groom went into hiding for 30 days. During each of those days, a friend or family member would bring them a cup of honey wine, so that 30 days of consumption equaled a "honeymoon."
Wedding and Engagement Rings
Whether this is a legitimate long-held tradition or not is subject to some debate, because the whole category has been corrupted by commerce.
Some sources report that the Romans and Egyptians recorded the use of wedding rings. There's also chatter about the ring being a less restrictive symbol of the hand and foot bindings of a captured bride. (As for abduction -- that's a real tradition.) A pope in the 12th century decreed that weddings would be held in church and that the brides were to receive rings. He also decreed that the time between engagement and marriage should be lengthened, which boosted interest in engagement rings.
But those rings didn't have diamonds.
There's no dispute that DeBeers singlehandedly created the market for the diamond engagement ring with a simple sentiment in a 20th-century ad campaign: A Diamond is Forever.
As it turned out, the slogan might outlast the product, as socially conscious brides steer away from the products of the war-torn diamond industry.
2. Now that you know a little bit of history behind those mysteries, lets talk about budgets.
Know your budget and stick to it. Traditionally, the brides parents pay for the wedding and the grooms parents foot the bill for the rehearsal dinner, but those were the old days when people got married straight out of high school; they were still dependent on their parents. These days, a lot of couples have been financially independent for several years. First, have a discussion with your fiancé about how much you can realistically afford to spend. Then, have a meeting with both sets of parents to see if they want to contribute to the wedding cost in any way. Lastly, decide what is most important to you. For some people (me) it's the photographer. It was the first thing I booked and my biggest expense, but being a photographer myself, hiring the best of the best wedding photographer was not up for debate. Figure out where you can "cut corners". Try to outsource to friends and family as much as possible to keep the cost low! For example, my aunt is an amazingly talented interior decorator. She will help me with my vision for how to decorate. My high school math teacher caters on the side, so we asked him to cater the wedding and he offered us a really great price!
3. Now, lets talk about alternatives to wedding traditions. Because lets be real, you are a modern bride living in modern times, and things change. These are the main decisions I made that have helped to eliminate so much stress.
- Your bridesmaids do not have to wear the same dresses. NO ONE looks good in the same cut or color. Cut the concern for making sure everyone is happy and let them do it on their own! Consider giving your girls the freedom to go buy their own dresses on their own time and budget with a specific style in mind. For example, our wedding color is green in honor of David's late mother. She loved the color green, so I asked my bridesmaids to go buy a green dress. It can be olive, or forrest, or emerald or sage. It can be long or short, floral or sparkly. I want my girls to feel as confident as I do walking that isle, and I certainly want them to be able to wear their dress again for another occasion. Letting go of the burden of finding a dress that will please every size and shape and skin tone, just let go of this one. Everyone will be so much happier and the "mix matched" look is very in right now anyways.
- The same goes for your groomsmen! Give them a color palette. For our wedding we are asking the guys to all wear white shirts and then pair it with trousers, in a shade of grey, khaki or brown, and then their choice of suspenders, a vest, or a suit jacket in those same shades. Again, this takes stress off of not only the groom, but the groomsmen too. They may even have some of these pieces in their closet already! To tie it all together have your groom gift them a bowtie or tie in a shade of your wedding color; in our case, green.
- Have your bridesmaids be responsible for paying for their own hair, but make hairstyling optional! Some girls are already very talented at doing their own hair, so this could save them a little bit of money. Go ahead and get a quote from your hairdresser about what a styling will cost and let your girls know way in advance! The more time you give people to plan the better off they will be financially, and that is really important, especially if they are paying for a hotel room, alcohol, their dress, etc., you see my point.
- The same with professional makeup! Make it optional! Some girls feel confident doing their own makeup (hello, they do it EVERY morning anyway) and some girls may want to have a professional handle it. Giving everyone options just means less stress for you to keep everyone happy.
- Designate a responsible family member or friend to be the coordinator for the day. They will be in charge of making sure everything runs on time. Make sure your vendors all have this designated persons phone number in case something goes awry during the day. If you would rather hire an outside coordinator, that is also a very solid option if you have the budget for it. Regardless, someone needs to be in charge. Trust me on this one.
- Do not buy a wedding gown that you have to change yourself to look good in. I can't preach on this enough, and it is pretty self explanatory. Buying a gown with the mindset of "this will look great once I get rid of my belly pooch" is going to send you into a frenzied fit for the entire year. DO NOT DO IT. Buy a dress with your current figure already in mind. If you slim down a bit throughout the year, great, but DO NOT put that extra pressure on yourself. You will most likely loose a little bit of weight anyway to being so busy and running around so much throughout the year.
- Have a well thought out plan for rain. Sometimes this requires monetary commitments, like reserving a tent to make sure everyone stays dry. Even if you are on a low budget, you HAVE TO FIGURE THIS IN. You should plan the "in case of rain" scenario out just as well as you are planning Plan A. You may not end up needing to use this backup plan, but if it does indeed end up raining, you will be so glad you put the time, energy, and money into a well thought out plan.
It is my hope that all of these things will help you shape an idea of what you want your wedding day to be like, and ultimately relieve some of your stress. I hope you also enjoy some of these images from last weekend. My parents and I went out to the farm to take some measurements for my wedding planning. My Dad is great at measurements and numbers, so he was very helpful in helping me create my "in case of rain" plan. My Mom is also helping me coordinate pretty much the entire wedding day. Needless to say, I am feeling pretty blessed and very unstressed today.