Why wedding planning is stressful, and tips to handle the pressure
It was only a few short months ago that I married the man of my dreams, and in the lead up I was absolutely over the moon excited for the big day, although admittedly I was also really excited for it to be over once and for all. Sounds weird, no? Well, let me tell you - wedding planning is definitely not as easy as I thought it would be.
By nature I'm a planner. My day job is being a professional project manager which means I spend the majority of my time working to a schedule of tasks, and am absolutely outcome focused. So naturally, I figured that planning a one day event would be pretty straight forward. When Rich proposed we decided to take 12 months to enjoy being engaged before even thinking about the wedding (okay admittedly, I was thinking about it the whole time) and we started to put plans in place around the time of our engagement party last September. Which brings me to the first point that can raise stress levels for any newly engaged couple when its supposed to be one of the happiest time of your lives:
Stress #1: Planning the wedding immediately after getting engaged.
It's easy to be excited about getting married the second he / she pops the question and immediately start planning your perfect wedding day - of course because you just got engaged. I know I'm completely guilty of this and fell into the trap of planning within the following weeks simply because I was being asked about it so much, which ended up leading to a not so pleasant conversation with Rich about re-aligning the objectives of our engagement and of our wedding. Naturally as we were newly engaged, plenty of our family and friends were asking questions about how he did it, what he said, how I reacted, what the ring looks like (etc etc) and inevitably - what our plans were for the wedding. After two months of endless questions about the big day (all well intended of course, and not to sound unappreciative because I absolutely loved that our nearest and dearest were interested in discussing such a wonderful life event), I was well and truly ready to hide away from the world and not talk about weddings, marriage, rings, dresses, venues, menus or anything else until I was ready.
As it turned out, both Rich and I really wanted to spend some quality time enjoying being engaged before contemplating the required hours planning our big day together, however we hadn't discussed or agreed this before we announced our engagement. As a result this ended up leading to unnecessary stress and miscommunication which could have been completely avoided in the first place! I can't stress enough how important it is be on the same page with your approach before announcing your engagement to a broader audience, whether you do decided to start planning straight away or defer it for a period of time.
Solution: Agree on the planning approach before announcing your engagement TO A BROADER AUDIENCE.
Aside from consciously delaying planning for a year, the first decision we made was to have a destination wedding as we loved the idea of incorporating a holiday with our guests and being able to properly catch up with everyone who could attend. The second decision was to hire a Wedding Planner (which side note - was the Best. Decision. Ever.). It goes without saying that all brides / husbands to be experience some level of stress in the lead up to their wedding day, which is the reason we decided to hire a professional wedding planner since they're experts in their field and can help with each step of the process. As much as I love googling and spending hours going down Pinterest and Instagram holes, in actual fact for a destination wedding we didn't know any of the local vendors or which ones were the best / easiest to work with.
Stress #2: Trying to do it all by yourself.
Stemming from the conversation about budget and time, every couple has to make decisions on what they can organise themselves and what they can / should outsource. When Rich and I discussed what was important to us for our wedding, we agreed on the style of venue (and ultimately the atmosphere it would provide) and also that great food, drinks and company would be the focus for our event. With this in mind and knowing that I would likely be the one doing most of the organising out of the two of us, I made a list of all the things I wanted to DIY / contribute that were important to me, and what things I would be more comfortable leaving in the hands of a professional.
One of the most common pieces of feedback I have heard from newlyweds is that the day goes so quickly, so remember to set aside some time to relax, enjoy and soak it all in. Personally, the thought of organising a destination wedding including vendor drop offs / pick ups, table settings, flower arrangements, lighting installations, music equipment, seating placements, remembering your vows and all the rest on the day at a whilst taking time to relax and enjoy myself sounded like an impossible task. And seriously - credit to any couples out there who manage to totally DIY, but many hands make light work and there's a reason that this phrase is thrown around plenty during wedding planning.
Depending on the chosen venue, you might not have an option to DIY some things. For example, one venue we looked at required us to use the furniture hire, lighting and catering vendors that the venue had selected, and not ones that we had chosen ourselves. So a word of warning, make sure you check and understand all of the venue requirements before locking it in (and ignore this if you're having your wedding on a private property as pretty much none of those rules apply).
No matter what you're intending to DIY, be it as big a task as catering, setting up structures, MC'ing yourself or as little a task as bringing along your own tea light candles, know that there are a number of people ready and willing to help you along the way. This doesn't just include things you can outsource, it also includes family members, friends and even distant relatives who are all willing to pitch in on or before the day. You might be surprised by who wants to be really involved in the process if you ask!
SOLUTION: Many hands make light work, and remember there are people willing to help you along the way.
I’ll add to this point however that when Rich and I decided to hire a wedding planner around 18 months out, it was originally based on the fact that we were living overseas in Hong Kong at the time (so far away and 3 hours behind AEST) - and it was honestly the best decision.
It was challenging enough to gauge which local vendors to go with when we wouldn’t have an opportunity to meet them before the wedding, and then to think of having to organise them all in the lead up and on the day would be far too much stress to handle!
Our decision to hire a planner was built into the budget very early on, and I’d highly, highly (did I say highly?) recommend it. If your budget doesn’t allow for a full planning package, see if you can accommodate an on the day coordinator as I guarantee it will eliminate a huge amount of stress for already stressed brides / grooms.
I’ll be dedicating a full post to the benefits of hiring a wedding planner, but in the mean time I’ll just say that it was 1000% worth it! We went with Kiera from Creative Weddings Byron Bay - she was absolutely incredible and we had the most perfect day imaginable!!
STRESS #3: SETTING LIMITS AND STICKING TO THEM.
There are so many factors that can impact the limits you have put in place for your wedding. This could include a budget, the size of the bridal party, who to invite, whether to have a hens / bucks party (with topless waiters?) or not, etc. It’s super easy to get carried away if you’ve signed up to Pinterest and start with looking at floral arrangements, low and behold 2 hours later you’ve planned the most elaborate wedding known to man (because Pinterest is literally a girls best and worst nightmare when it comes to weddings).
Although you might set your limits when you start planning they may end up morphing, especially if you plan your big day over a longer period of time. This often includes how many guests to invite, and the budget to cover the cost of hosting them. For example, when Rich and I started with a budget limit we didn’t factor in a few things that would impact the cost including:
As we picked a farm in Byron Bay, we didn’t entirely account for the fact that our venue was a blank canvas. This meant installing a structure (marquee) with a generator, bringing in a kitchen, cool storage, and EVERY. SINGLE. THING. that was going to be used on the day, including transporting our guests to and from the venue!
The number of guests could significantly impact the budget with per head costs of seating arrangements, table sizes, dance floor space, meals, drinks, etc etc.
As a result, we ended up spending ~10% over our original budget however we did have a number of conversations before agreeing to each cost. I managed each of these closely on my wedding spreadsheet, and highlighted anything that would go over the budget so I was consistently reminded of the limit we originally set - and the reason why we set it in the first place.
SOLUTION: Set your limits when you start the planning process, keep a list of them visible so you have a visual reminder. then stick to them as much as possible!
Stress #4: Your partner / family / friends aren't as supportive as you'd hoped they'd be.
Although being newly engaged and planning said wedding is generally a very exciting time, it may surprise you if some of your nearest and dearest may not be as thrilled about it as you are. I’m not talking about them being as over the moon / loved up / “OMG I’m a bride!!” and “I can’t wait to have THAT hanging floral installation” type excited, I’m talking about the type of un-excited where it may prompt the question of why exactly am I inviting this person to my wedding?
It can be quite difficult to come to terms with this type of situation, especially if their not-so-enthusiastic reaction catches you by surprise. This isn’t an easy one to solve as weddings can bring out the best and worst in people, however the best advice I can give here is to remember that your wedding day is about you, your partner - and that means eliminating / reducing as much stress as possible in the lead up to, and on the day. Also, try to be as picky as possible when inviting guests as it’s much easier to not invite than to un-invite them!
SOLUTION: maintain a positive frame of mind, be picky with your guest list and stay focused on what you and your partner want on your day.
STRESS #5: KEEPING UP WITH TRADITIONS AND KNOWING WHEN TO BREAK THEM.
When Rich and I started planning our wedding there were plenty of suggestions from family and friends on what we should include in our wedding, based on traditions. As we’re both rather headstrong it wasn’t that difficult for us to break traditions where we wanted to, however I can imagine for some couples it may not be that easy. Something as small as wearing ‘something blue’ could easily become a huge issue if the feelings of the person who suggested it are not managed with care.
The key is to stay true to what you and your partner are both comfortable with, and be ready to negotiate / compromise if there are traditions that they or your families feel very connected to. Sometimes those closest to you may also need a gentle reminder of what matters to you and your partner whether it be sticking to, amending or totally dismissing traditions - at the end of the day it’s your wedding!
SOLUTION: STAY TRUE TO WHAT TRADITIONS AND YOUR PARTNER WANT TO KEEP / BREAK, and Be ready to negotiate if needed!
STRESS #6: Setting expectations early on for those involved in planning.
I’ll be brief on this point as it’s pretty straightforward. Whenever anyone is involved in planning your wedding, it’s crucial to set expectations with them very early on about what you want from them, and how you want them to be involved. This applies to family, friends, bridesmaids, groomsmen, vendors, you name it.
I experienced some challenges along the way, and to summarize where I could have improved (and saved myself the headaches) I could have spent a bit more time thinking about what I wanted and how I wanted it before asking people to commit their time and energy to planning my wedding.
SOLUTION: Be clear about what you want to achieve and continually check in to make sure each party is aligned.
STRESS #6: LEAVING THINGS TO THE LAST MINUTE TO ORGANIZE.
For the love of god, do not leave anything to the last minute to organise. I can say for a fact that I left my speech and vows to the morning of the wedding and was up at 5am finishing them off to then send to the wedding planner and celebrant to print off so I would have a copy at the ceremony and reception. I ended up forgetting to include one incredibly important and significant person in my life to thank in my speech, and felt so awful afterwards because I could have so easily avoided this situation with better time management.
Try to avoid a situation where you become so stressed with last minute planning (sometimes unavoidable if there is only a short window to plan in the first place) and seriously consider cancelling the wedding and just eloping instead. Although it would certainly be an easier option to coordinate, it can be avoided with thinking and planning ahead!
SOLUTION: TRY NOT TO BECOME BRIDE-ZILLA - PLAN AHEAD!
Dress: William Emerald Green by Elle Zoutine
Heels: Tan Heeled Sandals by Dolce Vita
Accessories: Pandora Jewellery