My husband and I dated for exactly eight years before we said “I do.” We attended the same preschool, grade school, middle school, and high school, and started dating at freshman homecoming. We attended different colleges, but stayed steadfastly together. After graduation, Erik got a job almost immediately. I found one a few months later.
The same week I started my career, he proposed. He took me fishing at a small pond near my dad’s house—a favorite pastime of ours. The weather wasn’t ideal, and the fish weren’t biting. He convinced me I needed to change my lure, so he switched it for me.
When he turned around and dangled the line in front of me, all I could see was something sparkly. For several seconds, I had no clue what I was looking at. And then he was on one knee, and I saw it:
By then, we were thrilled to finally take the leap. Both of us felt entirely committed to the other, and we ached to make it whole. We didn’t feel a hint of fear; nothing about marriage gave us anything but joy.
We set a date for seven months later. The timeframe was tight, but we couldn’t wait another year for the fall wedding we’d always wanted. So that was that.
Honestly, I think there’s very little is fun in the logistics of planning any kind of large event—even if it’s a wedding. I don’t know if I would’ve said that before I did it, but there’s no arguing with me now.
We had a fairly conservative budget (by the modern wedding’s unreal standards), and we wanted to make the most of it—which, ultimately, meant we had to do almost everything ourselves.
I am not an organized person. Some brides-to-be have three-ring binders with labels and color-coded paper ordered by chronological relevance. Not me. I had a poorly sorted inbox and a few handwritten notes floating between my desk at work, my purse, and my bedroom. Yikes.
I didn’t mean to be that way. At the beginning, I tried. I got a wedding planning app for my phone, which told me when and how to do what. I scrolled through the to-do lists. For a little while, I updated it: I added the info for our church, our priest, our date, and the wedding colors. The basics.
Then I got freaked out looking at that long to-do list every day, and I stopped. I told myself I didn’t need it and, naively, I believed it.
Turns out it’s harder than you think.
I won’t bore you with all the details, but here’s a list of simple tips for the bride-to-be. They’re broken down into highlights and struggles.
- Picking the little details. Flowers, the wedding party’s attire, and the little decorative details are so much of the fun. They make it your wedding.
- Working with your husband-to-be. Don’t let him get lost in the shuffle—or avoid it. It should be fun to work with him. Like nothing else you’ve ever done, this is a project you two must accomplish together. Consider it practice for the years ahead.
- Finding the dress that sings to you. Pick the one that makes you feel as beautiful as your fiancé knows you are. Bring the most important women in your life and share the moment, but don’t let them decide for you. And don’t bring your fiancé. There’s nothing like a first look at the altar on your wedding day. Cherish that. Protect it.
- Bringing your dreams to life—humbly. Don’t settle, but find joy in what’s within reach. That means avoiding materialism. Ultimately, your wedding is about the way you begin your married life. “Things” don’t make that special. Focus on making this precious time with your new husband and your favorite people jubilant. Obsessing over the tangible will taint that, and it doesn’t set a good precedent for the shared life ahead.
- Counting down the days. Each step in planning—even the annoying phone calls with vendors and the difficult conversations about who you can invite—brings you closer to your marriage. There’s no greater motivation. Hold onto it. Keep it in your sights.
- Preparing for your marriage. A wedding is simply a stepping stone to something much bigger: a whole, permanent, and loving marriage. Catholic marriage isn’t just a new chapter—it’s sacramental. This “intimate community of life and love” is “a partnership of the whole of life,” and it’s not to be taken lightly (CCC 1602 & 1603). The Church helps you sit down with your fiancé and prepare, together, for the life you’ll share. If you complete that work with a genuine spirit, you’ll be thankful for it when the tough stuff arises later.
- Husbands and wives aren’t perfect. Neither are weddings. As soon as you accept that, you’ll be happier. The prep is stressful, but allow yourself to let go on the big day. The people who love you won’t care if your dress gets a little muddy after the photo shoot, or if you don’t have an open bar. Free yourself to enjoy and share the day.
- Everyone has an opinion. Take your loved ones’ feedback to heart, and respect the wisdom of your elders. But don’t let their preferences cloud your judgment—or your wedding dress, menu, or guest list.
- Ask for help. You can make the decisions that matter and not have to do everything by yourself. Erik and I handmade our invitations, favors, centerpieces—everything. It was fun, but it was hard work. At one point, I had to talk to vendors on the phone almost every day. We could’ve shared the load. Everyone offers to help. I should’ve been humble and patient enough to take it.
- Weddings are beginnings, but they’re also endings. Life isn’t the same after you get married. Understand that that’s okay, because it should be profoundly different. But you can commit yourself to wedded bliss and stay accountable to your friends and family, too. You’re starting your own family unit; the healthiest ones lean on and lift up the same supporters they had before the wedding, as well as each other.
- Butterflies. As I mentioned, my husband and I weren’t nervous about getting married. But minutes before I walked down the aisle, my stomach was all aflutter. Most of us aren’t used to being in the spotlight. Quick fix: above all, keep your focus on your soon-to-be husband. Everyone’s there to celebrate you, him, and the love and life you now share. Let their joy chase your butterflies away.
Plenty of things went awry on my wedding day. To name my favorites, we forgot to make programs for the Mass, and a few speedy family members had to rescue us during my dad’s toast because we didn’t have toasting flutes or champagne in front of us.
But you know what? I’ll always remember it as a perfect day—unequivocally the best of my life. And you will, too. So relax, prepare calmly, and, when the big day comes, don’t let a single minute pass unappreciated.