Planning a wedding is undoubtedly an emotional experience, but if you do it right, a lot of the stress that you face will be positive stress. In life, there’s good stress and there’s bad stress. Good stress comes from events and occasions that are happy, but simultaneously emotionally impactful and life-changing (like a wedding). We’ve all seen what bad stress does to brides (just think of the TV show Bridezillas). It can be easy to fall victim to bridal meltdowns, especially when society tells you that it’s the norm. With all those wedding reality shows, it’s not surprising that so many women think it’s completely fine to have a level-five tantrum just because they’ll be wearing a wedding gown in a few months.
Part of the issue here is that weddings often become about so much more than the bride and groom. With two families joining together, it’s inevitable that you have to consider other people’s emotions. You can’t alienate your parents or siblings in the process, and it’s imperative to keep the people you love in mind. However, it’s also important to remember that, at the end of the day, the reason for the wedding is because you’ve decided to commit to another person for life. Everything else has to be at least a little bit secondary.
Society has created a lot of expectations for weddings, and for brides in particular. These expectations can make the experience of being a bride completely stressful, especially if you find yourself planning around other people’s desires. There comes a point when you have to consider what you want, and what your fiancé wants. If you don’t prioritize what’s important to you, you may end up resenting the entire process.
My husband and I were married in September 2015, and I think it’s safe to say that some of our wedding was “traditional,” but most of it was not. We were less concerned with etiquette than we were with making sure our wedding reflected who we are as individuals. Above all, we wanted it to be right for us.
Here are five expectations that I chose to ignore while planning, and I’m so glad that I did.
1. Expectation: A bride will only know her dress is “right” if she cries when seeing herself in it.
Thanks to Say Yes To The Dress, there’s this bizarre expectation that women have to tear up at their reflection once they’ve found the dress of their dreams. When I went shopping for my dress, I felt like the consultants at the bridal boutiques were waiting for that specific moment. They kept scrutinizing my face, looking for any sign of tears. When they thought I could be close, they’d fix a veil to my ponytail, probably thinking that it would be the finishing touch — the clincher.
First of all, I didn’t even want a veil. I ended up with a flower crown instead, as veils have never been my style. And secondly, I never cried at my reflection — not even on the day itself — but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t love my dress. The day I went shopping, I was in such an analytical mode. I was making a pro/con list in my head about all the dresses I had tried on, calculating the value of each one and keeping my budget in mind. And there was a point when I started to wonder, should I be crying? Even I was misled by this weird notion that I had to cry in order to select my dress. But ultimately, everyone expresses emotion differently. Tears are not the endgame for finding the perfect wedding dress.
2. Expectation: Brides should want a million pictures of herself taken on her wedding day and posted all over social media.
Brides love being the center of attention, right? Brides want you to tell them how gorgeous they look, right? Brides want you to take a million pictures of them and post them to Insta immediately with their customized hashtag, right?
Okay, my husband and I did have a customized hashtag, but we also had an unplugged ceremony. We placed a sign on the table with our programs kindly asking our guests to refrain from taking photos or using their devices during our ceremony. And we did this for a few reasons. For one, my husband is a professional photographer who happens to shoot weddings, and one of his biggest pet peeves is when Uncle Larry stands up in the aisle and blocks his perfect shot. Also, we wanted our guests to be present with us, not trying to find the best Instagram filter for their picture. And, let’s be real, everyone using cameras during the ceremony is distracting, and a bit intimidating. When I was coming down the aisle, I was so grateful to see everyone’s faces instead of their phones or cameras pointed at me. Most importantly, we hired two incredible wedding photographers who were more than happy to share all the great pictures they took.
I know that not everyone feels the same way, but I stand by our decision to have an unplugged ceremony. I think it was one of the best choices that we made.
3. Expectation: Brides are obviously going to freak out over every last detail.
While I’m sure there are some brides out there that behave exactly like the girls on Bridezillas, I’d guess that most do not. I, for one, was more of a “bridechilla.” On the day of the wedding, my mom and mother-in-law worked together to set up the decorations, flowers, and centerpieces. Never once did I think about “checking” to make sure they were in the “right” spot. I knew that whatever they created would look beautiful.
Again, I think sometimes the media portrays brides in a certain way, and it gives the impression that we are all materialistic monsters. I think some people expect us to behave this way, and when brides do behave this way, it’s because we have told them it’s okay to do so. But bridezillas IRL are not as fun as they are on TV. Additionally, there’s a perception that one’s wedding needs to be “perfect.” And if that’s the goal, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, because it’s inevitable that something will go wrong. How you react to those minor flukes can make or break your day.
4. Expectation: Everyone and their mother’s second cousin’s child should be invited to your wedding.
Ah, the guest list. This is a loaded topic because every family dynamic is different. My husband and I were adamant that we didn’t want a ton of strangers at our wedding. I’ve been to weddings where the guest list is humongous, and there’s just no way that the bride and groom know everyone there. I didn’t want our wedding to be like that scene in The Devil Wears Prada, where I needed to memorize a binder full of people’s names and photos beforehand.
At the end of the day, we decided that we wanted to keep the guest list relatively small, to include the people who were most important to us and to our families. We were really lucky in that our parents were respectful of this, and we were able to reach a compromise that fit out needs and budget.
5. Expectation: A wedding must include X, Y, and Z.
Ultimately, there are no rules. No one is keeping score, and there is no “official” wedding referee marking things off on a checklist. Our reception included a bouquet and garter toss, but we didn’t keep a guestbook (we honestly didn’t think we’d ever look at it again). Our ceremony was officiated by one of my best friends, and our readings were from classic literature instead of scripture. We also didn’t have a traditional registry.
It’s important to remember that etiquette and tradition are not written in stone, and you can create and follow any rules that you want. Because if you end up modeling your wedding after what you think is “right,” you’ll end up disappointed with an event that doesn’t feel like you.
De is a New Yorker turned Bostonian and a lover of all things theatrical. In addition to writing, she is an actress/singer/dancer/teacher and owner of the fluffiest cat imaginable. She is on Twitter.
Image via Unsplash