7 Tips Every Bride Needs To Read

Illustrated by Alex Marino.
The stories keep popping up on my feed. “50 things all brides should do the week of their wedding.” “100 gajillion things you’re doing wrong when wedding planning.” “A tub load of things your wedding guests will literally HATE.” And so on. Enough. Stop it.

I’m not losing sleep about forgetting the 20 things brides apparently always forget. Bouquet adornments (#1!) are just not that high on my priority list. In fact, in general, I’ve been surprisingly chill (for myself...) about the whole wedding-planning thing since getting engaged in March. I just want everyone I love, including myself, to be happy. That’s intangible, and, let’s face it, a lot more difficult to orchestrate than the perfect reception entrance, the dream tablescape, or the cute signature-cocktail table. But most of us, at least theoretically, agree that happy is more important than perfect.

Your family, friends, fiancé(e), finances, and even the well-meaning glossy bridal mags can all be major sources of stress in the months leading up to your wedding. You can chuck it all and elope in Vegas, or you can hone a more laid-back approach. I like to think that I know a thing or two about this approach. So stop reading all those articles about what you’re doing wrong, and instead check out the tips ahead and breathe.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Have you ever heard this in yoga class? It’s useful. You’ve likely been fed a lot of ideas about what a wedding should be, and some of them may not resonate with who you are as a person. Until very recently, for example, I just kind of assumed that I would wear a veil and throw the bouquet. But as it comes closer to actually doing these things (admittedly, it’s still a year away), a voice inside me is starting to be like, “Oh, hell, no.” I’m also not going to have a bridal shower unless someone forces me to because, a) that’s enough family get-togethers in one year, b) I find it an unnecessary financial and time obligation for those involved, and c) bridal-shower games are so tacky; please don't make me play them anymore. But over my dead body am I forgoing a bachelorette party (bridesmaids, I know you're reading this: somewhere beachy, please).

Consider that women are often expected to do more of the emotional upkeep in relationships, more of the housework, the child-rearing — it’s the same with wedding planning. If you try to tick off every box, you won't be happy. So, focus on the parts that you're truly excited about. And then, as Amy Winehouse said, eff the rest.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
What's your pie-in-the-sky wedding wish? Maybe it's having your puppy be the ring bearer. Maybe it's only inviting 10 people and holding your ceremony on a Monday afternoon. Or maybe it's wearing a navy-blue dress. Whatever it may be, it's very likely that your mother, maid of honor, or someone else will hate your brilliant idea. But you can’t please everyone. You shouldn’t sacrifice an essential part of yourself just because someone doesn’t get it.

“Shortly after you announce your engagement, your family and friends will have an opinion about your wedding,” says Kawania Wooten, owner of Howerton+Wooten events in Maryland. “And, because you love them, you will want to include their ideas and traditions into your wedding plans. Before you know it, your wedding doesn’t belong to you anymore and you become a ball of stress! Consider saying ‘yes’ to a couple of the ideas and traditions — then, say ‘no’ (or ‘maybe’) to the rest.”

Not caring goes both ways. Sometimes, it also means getting to hand off an unpleasant task (high five!). “Define what you really don't care about,” advises Allison Moir-Smith, a psychotherapist in the Boston area who specializes in counseling brides-to-be. “Don't care about flowers, but your future mother-in-law does? Give her your colors and be done with it. Let her go to town. She'll feel included; you'll feel unburdened. The catch is that you have to genuinely let go.”

When it comes to actually making a decision, though, don’t waffle — it’ll just stress you out more. “When you plan a wedding, you will probably make 50+ decisions in the span of a few months,” says Wooten. “It can be overwhelming, and you may want to put off making some of those choices out of fear... Unfortunately, putting off decisions can result in missed opportunities, missed deadlines, and missed discounts. I recommend doing a little research first; then get some feedback from a trusted advisor; then see how it fits within your budget, and finally, trust your gut.”
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Adrienne Laursen, LMFT, a licensed family and marriage therapist in Minnesota also known as the Engagement Coach, stresses that, as a couple, it’s important to “present a united front” to your family and friends. Before you discuss your wedding with anyone else, sit down and hash out what you actually want with each other — whether you imagine escaping to the Dominican Republic with 15 of your closest or inviting 400 guests over for $2,000 cake (not an unrealistic price for a wedding cake, unfortunately). That way, you’ll be on the same page before anyone can muck up your vision.

Remember to listen to your partner's ideas, too. If it hadn't been for my fiancé's emotional connection to our venue — he immediately loved it because it reminded him of the mansions in Newport, RI, where he used to visit as a kid — I might have overlooked it. And now I love it just as much as he does. “I think it’s about understanding that it’s [his or her] show, too, and [his or her] priorities will be different from yours and you may not understand them,” says Moir-Smith. “That’s the hard part of marriage; letting someone be different from you. Planning a wedding is the practice you get.”

Don’t be afraid to actually schedule time together, too — time to talk about things other than wedding-planning; Laursen says this is the easiest way to reconnect, since you’re less likely to hang out spontaneously when you’re so busy all the time.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
— PAID —

Given the stress that goes into pulling off your big day without a hitch, it's only fair that your honeymoon be a chance to relax — not another nerve-racking production to coordinate. Luckily, opting for a Carnival cruise means the majority of your travel plans are taken care of for you. All you need to do is show up, order a tropical drink, and kick back. Another upside? You get to visit multiple romantic destinations instead of just the one. We're way on board for that.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
While you may be planning a lot of social activities — engagement party, shower, bachelorette — it’s more important than ever to do some “emotional digging,” as Moir-Smith puts it. Wedding planning can elicit a lot of unexpected anxiety and stress: You’re embarking on a new period in your life you might feel unprepared for, and on top of that you have a logistical mountain to climb. You might be worried about losing control of your life and transitioning to a new role. It's worth it to find some time to figure out why you’re stressed for the particular reasons you are.

The digging will help you realize that a lot of your wedding-planning crises are really not about wedding planning at all, says Moir-Smith. “It may look like it’s the suit or the florist or a dress problem, but it generally never is. So when you find yourself overwhelmed, really stressed, or acting way out of proportion to what the situation requires, that’s the time you look inward.”

Family issues often surface — or resurface — during an engagement. “Everybody I work with has a big family issue," says Moir-Smith. "There’s some sort of family history we bring to our weddings. This is the complicated work. People would rather focus on vendors and flowers…” One example she's seen is: “My mom is micromanaging me, and, guess what, she’s done that her entire life,” she adds.

Moir-Smith recommends writing in a journal to get to the bottom of your issues. “Get it all out and write. And keep writing until you’ve exhausted yourself, without being critical. Making the emotions verbal is important.” And when all fails, pick up a good book and a glass of rosé.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
So, yes, I just shelled out for a top-notch, ridiculously photogenic mansion venue, and a designer dress. These were my splurge-worthy non-negotiables. But I’m also looking for a cheap headpiece on Etsy instead of the $1,000 ones recommended by said designer dress shop. We’re not getting a fancy wedding cake, and no photo booths or other random extra stuff. Plus, my mom is making the save-the-dates and a talented bridesmaid has volunteered to bake cupcakes. Moir-Smith recommends defining, and budgeting for, three “non-negotiables” for your wedding — and letting go of the rest. That’ll keep you and your bank account from stressing out.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Stories of guests and attendants spending ridiculous amounts on weddings, and brides mistreating their bridesmaids, abound. These always make me wonder if some people secretly hate their friends. Personally, I’m not super-comfortable making everyone spend thousands of dollars on me. And I think my bridesmaids have appreciated the fact that all I've said about dresses is: “Find something sparkly in a nude shade; online sales are great.”

It's important to spend time with friends and family outside of wedding-related events, too. And be careful about when (and how often) you discuss wedding planning. “Shut up about your wedding,” says Moir-Smith. (Love it.) “Especially with your single girlfriends; they don’t want to hear it. I [got married when I was 35, so I] spent 12, 14, years in New York having to hear about friends’ weddings. Be very selective who you’re talking to and how you’re talking to them about it. Your single girlfriends — be incredibly sensitive to the impact. It [can be] triggering stuff for them, whether they acknowledge it or even know it. Be interested in them. They have lives going on.”
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Remember in Mean Girls when Cady couldn’t help but word-vomit about Regina? (“Here it comes again, word vomit. No, wait, actual vomit.”) It’s so easy to fill any conversational lull — or subway ride — by whipping out your phone and discussing your latest flower-wall ideas. And your companion will smile and nod, because they’re so happy you’re getting married (and they kind of have no choice).

Well, to reiterate what Moir-Smith already said, shut up about your wedding! Obviously, there’s always a time and a place to talk about it. But Laursen notes that sometimes, it can even feel as though the wedding has overtaken your whole relationship. And when it’s over? “When that stressful piece is gone, there’s a void there,” says Laursen. “And now what do you have left?”

In conclusion, focus on what truly matters — and then eat some cake.