Decisions and saying I do: Why most brides lose their minds

Every single person who's ever thrown a wedding has had a moment of wishing they'd eloped instead. I know this because even though this may be my first time to get married, it definitely is not my first wedding.

Weddings in Texas are unrelenting beasts (think of Dolly Parton's hair and sass in EVERYTHING you do everywhere), and I've been through plenty of them. (I even helped write a book about Texas Weddings.) I've witnessed firsthand all the ways that weddings could become overwhelming or disingenuous or just plain crappy. As a professional observer and memory filer, I've tried to listen to what EVERY person said about the pros and cons of eloping and getting married "big style." 

Elopement sounded like a no-brainer for a no-nonsense person like myself.

However there was one stop-ya-in-yer-tracks fact that kept bugging me:

A wedding is the only moment in your life when the most important people in your life will all be under one roof. It will never, ever happen again -- not when you have a baby, not when you retire, never. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

Along with a handful of other lesser reasons, Lee and I decided we'd go for the big sha-bang. We started planning three months before we got engaged so we could set me up for success. And we had a pretty good setup: Lee would work the long hours, and I'd manage and plan the wedding with input in the areas I knew mattered most to him. Nine months to plan a wedding sounds pretty good, right? Fast forward five months and here I am writing a blog about why I think brides lose their minds.

Frazzly Meltdown Time: Commenceth

Lee and I sat down to talk about the menu for our dinner tasting Sunday evening. For some reason, I was agitated and nervous. I had paired TEN pages of menu items down to five or six good course options that I thought we might like. Our task was to pair them down to four. No big deal -- easy. Except it wasn't. Somewhere in between discussions about prosciutto-wrapped shrimp, I became DEFENSIVE ABOUT CROSTINI, you guys. My breathing was labored, and although I remained relatively calm, we clearly had some things to discuss. We talked through all the lists and emails and questions that were pushing me over the edge in the last two weeks. Lee was concerned and asked if there was anything we could outsource, and I said it's all things that are a natural byproduct of wedding planning. (We're planning a spa day for this weekend, so *love* you, baby, if you're reading this.) Later that evening, I frantically texted and called a half dozen people to laugh about how stressed I was:

I just wanted to know how many tables can seat 100 people -- and she came back with six questions, including one about where I'd like the dance floor located. I don't know! I've never had a wedding before at your venue! Can you give me some options?

I really did laugh that night while I recapped how I finally lost my in-charge-of-it-all demeanor.

I reached that breaking point, I thought. That place where all couples think about the what-ifs of eloping instead of throwing a wedding. And I knew for a fact that it wasn't because I didn't know where the dance floor should be located. I knew deep down inside, there was something more going on.

It's not about organization

It wasn't because I hadn't been organized enough. I had THE plan in place, you guys. With Kris's help, I even created a branding guidelines document to share with all of the creative people I was bound to work with (baker, wedding designer, photographer, florist, DJ, venue coordinator). You can click on it over there. I wrote about themes, the general feeling of the night, RGB values. I've had nine whole months to blissfully plan my wedding (four more to go! Huzzah!), and I've had the leisurely option to just put it aside on occasion and come back when I was ready to tackle the next round in the boxing ring.

It's not because I don't have a big enough budget

Maybe brides regret big weddings because they don't have enough money? Not the case here. We're probably going to clock in about 20% less than the average Dallas wedding. So I knew I didn't have a fantastic frazzle meltdown because I'm trying to throw a wedding on an unrealistic budget. Though, props to you folks who get this done right on a tight budget! For me, everything that can be outsourced, has been. The only "luxury" I didn't really think was necessary was a wedding coordinator since our venue has someone who's directing everything the day of. And since I'm a pretty experienced project manager, it felt a little redundant to pay someone to organize what was already floating around in my head. 

The real reason this bride lost her mind

When I quieted down to really examine what was going on I discovered a few things to be true:

  1. Leading up to the engagement, Lee and I had been blissfully sequestered in a lover's paradise. We have been entirely at one another's good pleasure and soaking up US time. Deciding to get married meant that literally hundreds upon hundreds of people now wanted to see us and celebrate with us, and this (no matter how good intentioned) is jarring and stressful. It's a big shift in daily life and suddenly you're robbed of the bliss of spending unchecked amounts of time with your favorite person. Suddenly there's pressure to meet everyone and their pet goat, when really you're just wanting to eat pizza all day in your pajamas. It's a little conflicting, to say the least.

  2. You become the Decision-Maker-in-Chief for the most emotionally charged production of your life (trust me, it's a production, whether you spend $10,000 or $40,000). No matter how much I have outsourced, I am still the bride. I am still the person whose opinion matters most and who must offer input on everything. For someone who likes the start of things more than the ongoing and wrapping up of things, this shone a real good light on where my strengths are and are NOT.

  3. All this wedding fog is being thrown at you while you're making THE biggest decision and transition of your life. I think this is the part that was the most challenging: when I needed to quietly sneak away and just be with Lee, I also had a pile of emails with questions taunting me in the back of my mind. And I like to simmer on big things. I like to analyze and process and dream and organize slowly, methodically. Combining my life, shifting to a state of continual collaboration, talking about the future and things like how will we keep house plants alive, let alone actual children? THIS IS A LOT OF THINGS and the last thing you want to do is be asked about where the dance floor should go because it doesn't matter whatsoever.

Pressing the reset button

I don't think it's necessarily true that most brides wish they'd eloped, it's really more that they just need wedding planning to stop at a point in time when it can't. And elopement seems like the "grass is greener" alternative that could've prevented them from being in this uncomfortable place. At least, I know that's true for me. When I calm down and think about it, I know I'd regret not having a wedding. But the fact is weddings take a lot of effort and time and energy, during a season of your life when all you really want to do is be alone with your favorite person in the world. Any normal person planning a wedding, I'd imagine, will probably be agitated at some point along the way. 

So, since there's no real way to undo the last two weeks of frazzled wedding planning, I'll set it aside for the moment, knowing I'll likely daydream about eloping again in the next four months. In fact, right now I have a few deadlines looming, but they'll just have to wait while I watercolor or cook some fish tacos. I'll set the wedding stuff aside and regroup. I'll reclaim my normal functioning brain. I will snuggle my honey. And I will remember that even if the dance floor ends up on the ceiling, we'll be getting married on December 10 with our friends and family and that's really all that matters.