Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Will's and Won't of "I Do"

I wrote this three months before I got married. I thought I would post it to give my engaged friends some tips as they plan their weddings. Not only did these commitments make my engagement period much more enjoyable, but I believe it's helped my first year and a half of married life to be pure bliss. Enjoy!

The flower girl refuses to walk down the aisle. One bridesmaid forgot to get her nails done. The florist is short one centerpiece. Whatever will the bride do? Her perfect day is ruined. At the end of the ceremony, the bride is absolutely ______________.

Hysterical? Devastated? Maybe. But what is she absolutely? Married. Period. No matter what goes wrong, two things are left: the marriage and the pictures. So why have we turned wedding planning into a stressful and lengthy process?

Reality TV glorifies “bridezillas” who throw tantrums, put their families’ lives on hold, and force their parents to spend more money on a 20 minute ceremony than they spent on her college education. This behavior is not only accepted, but it’s expected.

The average cost of an American wedding is $28,800 – not including the rings, honeymoon, or wedding planner. (Why would you spend money on another opinion? Trust me. You will have enough.) Is this an investment? Perhaps. But Dr. Scott Stanley, author of The Power of Commitment, says 40-50% of young couples who marry will divorce.

Many people are shocked by this statistic. As a bride 96 days shy of our (not my) big day, I can clear up the confusion: Too much focus on the wedding. Too little focus on the marriage.

We’re not the only ones to blame, brides. Daily, we’re asked, “How’s the wedding planning?” But when was the last time someone asked about your preparations for marriage? No wonder we spend more time talking about the font for the invitations than offered advice on how to handle finances.

Divorce is not an option for me. Neither is valuing the wedding over the marriage. So here’s my plan:

I won’t spend more time dreaming, obsessing, and planning for the wedding than preparing for the marriage. Do I want a wedding or a marriage? Being married is work, and if I’m not willing to put in the effort, I should throw a big party because that’s all I want anyway.

I won’t try to be the bride AND the groom. If I trust him to take care of me for the rest of my life, he needs practice. He can pick out the ring, plan a honeymoon, and choose his groomsmen. And if his parents are paying for the rehearsal dinner, it’s up to them.

I won’t be a control freak. I picked a venue, set the date, and put it on my calendar. I selected a florist, chose the flowers, and paid the bill. In other words, I will do my part, delegate, and check it off my list.

I won’t repeat other’s mistakes. I hate paying too much money for an ugly dress I will never wear again. I will choose a color from one store that offers and variety of styles and prices. This way, I can let my bridesmaids choose a dress they can afford and feel comfortable in. (Plus, matchy matchy is not even in style anymore!)

I will say thank you and send thank you notes. This is practice for putting someone else above me, which is what marriage is all about. Plus, the more grateful I am, the easier I am to work with, and the more others will be willing to help me. I recognize I can’t plan a wedding alone.

I will seek advice from others. I will schedule pre-marital counseling sessions, ask questions of those who have marriages I respect, and read every book on marriage I can find. (P.S. This won’t end once I get married. I want to keep learning and keep getting better.)

I will expect imperfection. The day of the wedding, something will undoubtedly go wrong. Guaranteed. The only thing I can control is how I will respond. I can cry and make my mascara run, or I can smile, knowing I will laugh about it eventually.

I will eat, rest, and enjoy. Crash diets, lack of sleep, and stress will leave me unhealthy and unhappy. This is supposed to be the happiest day of my life. I can’t be a good wife if I’m sick and worn out. I will eat healthy, exercise, get enough rest and enjoy our engagement.

I realize keeping these guidelines will ruin my chances of being a reality TV star. America won’t be captivated by my fits or my dad’s checkbook. No one will fidget impatiently through a commercial break to see if my fiancĂ© follows through with his threat to call off the wedding. But I imagine that I will still be smiling when I walk down the aisle in three months.

Peace out, Bridezilla. Hello, happy ever after.