Over the last two weeks there’s been a scene from Friends playing over and over in my head. It’s the morning after the night before Monica and Chandler’s wedding and she grumpily exclaims “I’ll never be a bride again, now I’m just someone’s wife!” and that’s pretty much how I feel right now! Because I am now longer a bride, I’m just…married. I find myself walking past bridal shops envious of the nervous brides-to-be waiting in reception and go to pick up a copy of Brides magazine before putting it back down again, wistfully thumbing the pages of flower arrangements and the perfect wedding shoes.
These feelings of quiet reflection and pangs of envy are interspersed with confusion and occasional wondering “did that really happen?” But happen it did, three weeks ago in fact, after 14 months of planning, endless hours stressing, one cancelled venue (more of that later) and a lot of sleepless nights, Toff and I tied the knot. Being a bride-to-be was one of the strangest experiences of my life, full of expectations, traditions, opinions, surprises and disappointments. From the moment I got engaged my ears were ringing with the pearls of wisdom from brides gone past and while their advice differed, there was one nugget that they all confessed: “The planning is the best part.”
In hindsight, now that the wedding is over I will probably join this chorus of wives offering some optimism and silent promise to frazzled brides that one day they will look back and agree but right now, fresh from months of stress, I can definitely say I’m not there yet. OK, so renovating our house at the same time was a tad ambitious / damn right stupid and moving into said house two days before we flew to Italy to get married did result in a few all-nighters but that being said, I’m relieved it’s all over.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a Kikki-K notebook and a Style Me Pretty binge as much as the next girl but there are a few things that an organised mind and a page divider can’t deal with. The combination of living out of a suitcase with family for the last 4 months, navigating a new freelance career and dealing with your dream wedding venue, (the entire reason why you chose to get married abroad in the first place) cancelling 2 weeks before the big day left me with the type of stress I’d never experienced before.
I’m the sort of person that quite enjoys stress – it pushes me forward, motivates me to do better and helps me to, well, get shit done. But this was something I wasn’t familiar or comfortable with. The all-consuming stress that led to heart palpitations, skin breakouts, muscular pain, slight hair loss and on average, 5 hours sleep a night. It was horrendous. At a time where you’re doing everything you can to boost your bridal beauty, it was all I could do but hold myself together as we flew back and forth to Italy looking a new venues whilst talking to solicitors and trying to re-house 26 guests that were no longer staying at the venue.
In between flights and pulling (what was left of) my hair out, we were choosing kitchen fittings, meeting electricians and builders at the house and desperately trying not to think about the dusty, rubbled building site that would be our marital home in less than 72 hours.
At this point you’re probably thinking I’m a bit of a Debbie downer and this account is definitely not what bridal dreams are made of but I wanted to share our experience of getting married regardless because, while it’s rare and unlucky what happened to us, we still had the most perfect wedding day. Not many people decide to renovate their house at the same time as organising a wedding, let alone a wedding abroad so that’s on us, but at the same time, I wanted to inject a little dose of reality into the process. While planning your wedding is wonderful and some may find it the best experience of their life, there are others who can also relate to it not being unicorns and rainbows and for them I want to say one thing – hold on in there! Breathe, stay strong and remember why you’re doing this.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It wasn’t easy and I wouldn’t say I’m in a rush to do it again (!), but as I sit writing this in my brand new, beautiful kitchen with my wedding ring sparkling in the sun, I’ve never been happier. There’s a wave of calm over me that I haven’t felt in six months. My hair is thick and glossy, my skin is clear and dewy and, after 8.5 hours sleep I have a clear focus that I’m never taking for granted. Looking at photos of my wedding day, it was the best day of my life and I feel so grateful to have had so many people surrounding us that have don’t nothing but love and support us the last 5 years. I don’t think about the negative parts, other than to give ourselves a metaphorical pat on the back for pulling off such a beautiful day.
But here are a few things that no one warned me about in the lead-up to the wedding…
ALL YOU THINK ABOUT IS THE WEDDING
I never anticipated the all-consuming thoughts of a wedding. For those who plan their big day whilst working full-time with little flexibility, I tip my veil to you as I struggled to fit it all in whilst honouring my work commitments. From going over table plans in your head to jotting down to-do’s in the middle of the night, there was never enough hours in the day. If you can, designate an hour or even half an hour of the day to do something for you that’s completely un-wedding related, it will focus and relax your mind.
ALL YOU TALK ABOUT IS THE WEDDING
Now that it’s over and we’re home, Toff and I couldn’t believe how much we talked about the wedding. We have months of forgotten stories and daily activities to catch on that faded into the background as we prioritised the house and wedding. We can now enjoy a glass of wine in the garden at the end of the day and actually talk about our day without disruptive thoughts and decisions about favours and guest books. This is where date nights are a must in the lead ip to the wedding. Take some time just for the two of you where wedding talk is strictly off limits.
YOUR PHONE WILL NEVER BE SO ACTIVE
I love getting messages – I still get that hit of dopamine in my brain when my phone flashes with a call or text. But if I NEVER receive a message again it will be too soon. I understand you become a point of call when it’s your wedding, especially abroad, but the questions were intense. We became a full-time travel agent and looking back it was probably our fault. We became so focused on making sure everyone had a good 3 days in Italy that we made ourselves too available. My lovely friend at Shimmering Sands blog had the right idea when planning her wedding in Sri Lanka. She made it clear to her guests from the beginning that while she was happy they were there, they sort themselves out. Set boundaries from the word go!
IT BECOMES ABOUT EVERYONE ELSE
A wedding brings out the best and worst in people. Surely that’s been claimed as a fact by now. Suddenly Aunt Wendy has a lot to say about not being invited despite not seeing you since 1995 and yes grandma, you’re right, I should change my venue to be next to the airport so you don’t have to pay for a taxi, why didn’t I think of that?! Ultimately, my one piece of advice is to keep bringing it back to why you’re doing this. In the end, we adopted an attitude of “if you don’t like it, don’t come.” It may sound harsh but you absolutely have to protect your positivity in these instances.
DECISION-MAKING IS YOUR NEW FULL-TIME JOB…
… To the point where I can’t decide what I want for dinner anymore! I can be quite an indecisive person but with a wedding the pressure is on to make the right decision every single time. But in the end, don’t over-think it, go with your gut and on the day you won’t be thinking about the alternatives.
BE PREPARED FOR THE WORST
No one wants to think about the worst case scenario when planning their big day but head and heart need to be working together on the practicalities. Our wedding venue was a luxury B&B that I had taken Toff to for his 30thbirthday. We hadn’t been together long and we were both working through some personal stuff so it was the perfect opportunity to escape and have some alone time. We fell in love with the hotel and each other and decided if things worked out we’d get married here. Five years later, we booked it the day after we got engaged. To cut a long story short, over the next year the owners became increasingly difficult, going back on the contract, putting up the prices and cutting things completely when we didn’t agree to the price (like evening food! £25 a head for pizza? I don’t think so). As much as we tried to keep going, they cancelled two weeks before leaving us reeling. Luckily, I had a feeling this might happen and had started looking at new venue and found somewhere even more perfect for our wedding. Although, thankfully, this doesn’t happen often, I would definitely recommend getting wedding insurance and putting a paper chain and contract in place with every supplier for your wedding. Cover your back with EVERYTHING at every stage.
LET IT GO
I don’t believe in regrets but looking back, the one thing I would change about our wedding day is that I wish I had let go a little more. I was wound so tightly in the planning process that I became used to the stress, making it difficult for me to relax on the day. Into the night I was still arranging taxis, chasing people about the small details and checking that our guests were having a good time. With everything so busy up until the last second, I wish I had found the time to unwind and be present a little more. It’s important to let all the planning and stress go and look at what you’ve achieved with pride.
If you want to read more about my wedding advice, you can in my feature for Brides HERE
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