It's wedding season. I turn on the TV, and I am asked to Say Yes To The Dress or to rate Four Weddings. Each programme tells at least a few stories about couples who are trying to create a wedding that celebrates their unique relationship. I find myself watching because I am getting married too. I watch the drama, the family conflicts that arise, the pressure to create a certain kind of ceremony and celebration and notice the intense pressure to conform that comes through even the most liberal of shows.
The programmes that set out to celebrate love and celebrate the lives of these couples often highlight family dramas and how judgemental others can be when it comes to what is acceptable. Each religious and cultural group has a wealth of traditions and customs around marriage, some of which are mandatory and others optional. One thing becomes clear very quickly: weddings are as stressful as they are exciting and joyous.
My fiancé and I have spent a lot of time creating the series of unique celebrations that are marking our marriage so that we minimize as much stress as we can and we keep within a pretty tight budget. This is not our first trip down the aisle. Both of us have been married twice before. Everyone we tell gives us the same benediction saying, "Third time lucky!" From their mouths to the God's ears!
We have been together for 5 years and we live thousands of miles and an ocean apart. He lives in Los Angeles and I live in the United Kingdom. We speak and Skype every day and have seen each other on average every 8 to 10 weeks since we got together. He has lived in LA for 30 years and has been working the same place for over a quarter century. I lived in San Diego before moving to the U.K. 23 years ago and have friends remaining in Southern and Northern California. We both have a group of friends and family on the East Coast of the U.S. I have family and friends in the U.K.
Our first problem: Where do we get married? We decided on the East Coast and then a second small celebration in the UK. As soon as we told people, our West Coast friends expressed anger and sadness. After much thought, we decided to have three celebrations, moving from West to East representing our journey to our new life together. How do you create a wedding or commitment celebration that suits your style, minimizes negative stress and does not lead to a mortgage's worth of debt? Good planning and good communication are the keys.
Getting the balance between your desires and those of your family and friends can be extremely difficult. Families often have their own expectations about weddings that can be diametrically opposed to what the couple who are marrying desire. When parents are funding the celebrations, there can be a lot of pressure to do things their way. Deciding to fund the celebrations yourself can mean freedom from these pressures but taking on financial pressures. Often family are insulted if you don't wish for them to participate in the planning phases. In many cultures, families save from the child's birth to pay for wedding festivities or dowries or both.
Don't assume that there are less expectations for second, third and further weddings or that paying for the celebrations yourself will relieve you of this pressure. As I began to talk with my family, I discovered that my mom still wanted to be involved in parts of the planning stages and had strong opinions about what was acceptable and what was not acceptable. I have many tattoos. My mother hates them and expressed strong opinions about having them covered for the ceremonies and receptions. The idea of covering my tattoos for my California ceremony when my Officiant has just as many as I do seems absurd. My mom's message of disapproval is very clear. Even at 51 years old, it is hard for me to simply do what I wish. However, holding my ground is essential. I am setting an example for my son that self-acceptance and authenticity are keys to happiness.
As you begin your planning consider your priorities. Do you want a public ceremony and reception? Would you prefer a small group at a destination wedding? How about eloping? What kind of impact are your choices likely to have on your loved ones? My fiancé and I were clear that we wanted to celebrate with those we love, so eloping or a destination wedding were not viable choices.
Once you have decided on what type of wedding, you can begin to budget and plan. Remember that getting married is number 7 on the list of most stressful life events. Though most of the stress associated with getting married may be from positive factors, the stress can still result in physical illness, fatigue, sleep disturbance, significant anxiety and symptoms of depression.
My 10 Best Stress Busting Tips:
1. Appoint a reliable enthusiastic and, most importantly, organized second in command (maid or matron of honour, best man or groomsman): My maid of honor is one of the most organized people I know. She is doing the job in the old fashioned style. She has written each of the guests with their invitations, is collecting RSVP's and answering questions that arise. She anticipates possible issues and acts to solve them, seeking my advice only when it is needed. She tries to approach issues objectively, helping me to make less anxiety laden decisions.
2. Leave yourself extra planning time for the type of wedding you want: If you are looking at traditional wedding attire, you could need 8 months to get what you want. If you want to get married on a popular day like Valentine's Day or Midsummer's Day, start planning at least a year in advance.
3. Decide what parts of the ceremony and reception are most important to you and your partner. Are there any deal breakers? For me, dancing is a necessity so any venue without space to dance was not a possibility. That would be classed as a deal breaker. We were clear that we did not want to use caterers so we prioritised a venue with a kitchen facility.
4. What traditions are important for you to incorporate into your ceremony and reception? The joining together of two families means the joining of traditions and often the creation of new ways of celebrating and expressing culture and spirituality and bonding that will become traditions in future generations. Anticipating problem areas and dealing with them as early as possible can drastically reduce stress as you move closer to the day. Since we are doing three different celebrations, we are bringing some elements through from each ceremony to the next. This gives us continuity, helps us to tell the story we want to tell and makes sure that anyone who attends once event gets a full flavour of our relationship and commitment to each other. By having some elements that vary from ritual to ritual we can incorporate more family, cultural and spiritual traditions, honor more people by having groomsmen and bridesmaids who differ between the rituals, and keep things interesting for us and for the guests who are attending more than one ritual. Keep reading...
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