7 things I would tell my wedding-planning self

It’s been a little more than six months since our wedding, and feel like I am finally coming up for air on the other side. Maybe it’s that I’m finally finished ordering prints for our wedding album. Or maybe it’s that I just needed a bit of time to process everything before I could reflect on it all. We got married in September, and after returning from our honeymoon I promptly started a new teaching job AND my editing work for college app season cranked up three notches. Then it was the busy pace of the holidays: our first holiday season as a married couple, balancing two families. The past couple months I’ve been focusing on my word for the year — FOUNDATION — establishing routines and care practices that I hope will nourish me throughout 2017 and beyond.

And now, as I sit here with my steaming mug of tea and a refreshed mind, I feel called to revisit my wedding-planning journey and reflect.

I know this might sound like a cliche, but our wedding truly was the best day of my life. I’m so grateful for all the time and effort we put into planning our special day. During the process, reading blogs and articles with advice was enormously helpful. I hope my thoughts might be helpful to others! So, without further ado…

Here are 7 things I would tell my past self, in the midst of wedding-planning craziness:

1. Savor the anticipation and the beautiful messiness.

In the last few weeks before our wedding, life was a whirlwind of tasks, questions, and to-do lists. I would wake up in the middle of the night to scribble notes to myself that were only sometimes legible in the morning: song for recessional? cupcake labels? check with minister about kiss timing. My brain was flooded with details and planning and more details. I felt constantly abuzz with nervous energy, my stomach a flurry of butterflies.

At the same time, I had never felt more ready for anything in my life.

I could not wait to marry my sweetheart and officially join our lives together. Yet, I would remind myself to savor this precious anticipatory time, too. I would stand in the middle of our one-bedroom apartment, crammed with wedding gifts and decorations and half-completed craft projects, and smile a pure, giddy, little-kid smile. There is joy to be found here, now, in this glorious mess and in this perfectly imperfect moment. There is something delicate and beautiful in the final days before you hold hands and leap together into the unknown.

2. Stay true to your vision and your vibe as a couple.

Allyn and I are a pretty relaxed couple. We wanted our wedding to feel down-to-earth, homey, and full of love. At the same time, we also wanted to have a “big wedding” with all of our friends and family enjoying a sit-down meal and dancing together. Within the first few weeks of getting engaged and talking about ideas, we had a solid vision for what we wanted. And, looking back at the end, the wedding we actually experienced was very true to that vision!

However, the thing about planning a wedding is that everyone wants to hear what your plans are… and everyone has their own opinions on those plans. Throughout the process, different people {who all loved us and meant well} offered their own ideas, advice and concerns about our plans. Perhaps the best example was our decision not to hire a DJ and instead play dance music from a playlist we created ourselves. Not only were we aiming to save money by not hiring a DJ, we also liked the idea of being able to control the songs that were played during the reception. Some people — people who love us and wanted our wedding to be great — were skeptical of this idea. I can’t even tell you how many times my grandma said that no one would be dancing and that we needed a DJ to “keep the party going.”

Allyn and I listened to these concerns, but we ultimately stayed true to our desires for our wedding. And it all turned out perfectly! I loved every single song that played; I loved the memories that sprung up with various songs; I loved that we had someone who knew us {our friend Justin} as our MC instead of a random DJ who said the same cheesy lines at every wedding. Moreover, guests were raving about the dance playlist. The dance floor was hoppin’ the entire night, right up until we had to leave. I’m so glad we stayed true to our vision and our vibe as a couple, in this aspect and all aspects of our wedding.

3. Be creative.

We wanted our wedding to reflect our personalities and our story as a couple. Allyn and I didn’t have a huge wedding budget, so I took it as a fun challenge to make as many of our decorations as possible. Often, I repurposed items, like making a garland out of wedding and bridal shower cards we had received, and hand-drying rose petals from a bouquet I’d received. We tried to keep things simple and streamlined whenever possible: for example, we planted mini succulents in 4oz mason jars that tripled as place cards for our guests, extra greenery for the tables, and wedding favors. {Six months later, the succulents are thriving — we still receive photos from friends and family of their now-huge succulents!} We also scored some great like-new items on Craigslist for our cocktail hour decorations, gift table and centerpieces. Instead of having table numbers, we named each table a place that we had traveled to together, and decorated the tables with framed photos of us at that place.

I really loved the idea of having a “photo booth area” with props that guests could use to take photos, but renting a professional photo booth was out of our price range. So we thought outside the box and created our own diy photo booth. We rented a pipe-and-drape to create a background, gathered together fun props, and made a sign with instructions for guests. It was such a fun part of the reception, and I’m so glad that we didn’t give up on the idea when professional photo booths were prohibitively expensive for us.

During and after our wedding, so many people commented that our wedding just felt like “Allyn and Dallas.” That, to me, was the best compliment!

4. Don’t get trapped in the prison of perfection.

In these days of Pinterest and Instagram and a million wedding websites, inspiration and advice abound. Which, on the one hand, is a gift. Want to diy your own centerpieces? Google it and you’ll be golden! But, on the other hand, this avalanche of information can totally distract you from what really matters. It is so easy to get caught up in the gorgeous photos and glamorous decor shots. It is so easy to fall down the rabbit hole of wanting every.single.tiny.aspect of your wedding to be “perfect.” It is so easy to fixate on the details of the day that, in the grand scheme, aren’t really that important.

What is important is that you are pledging to travel through life, in the good times and the bad, in sickness and in health, with another person. That promise is where the beauty and the magic of the day resides. All the other stuff is just icing on the cake.

5. Ask for help.

I love being the helper. I love feeling strong and independent, capable of doing things on my own. Sometimes I can be a bit of a control queen. Typically, I would much rather just do something myself than ask someone else to do it for me. I never want to be a bother or put someone else out.

Maybe you’re like me. If so, this piece of advice is really important for you to hear. Repeat after me: ASK. FOR. HELP.

Others want to help you. Sometimes they just don’t know what you need or how to begin. It is up to YOU to reach out and tell them how they can help you.

A funny thing happened in the week leading up to my wedding. As the oldest grandchild on my mother’s side of the family, this was the first wedding we had celebrated in a long time, and it became a family reunion of sorts. I was thrilled that many of my second cousins and relatives traveled out to California to attend. But this also meant that, in some ways, the event seemed bigger than me and Allyn — it sort of took on a life of its own. Relatives were flying in from all over the place and staying with family in the area. Everyone’s plates were full.

My mom came up a few days early to help me with last-minute things while Allyn was at work. Since Allyn and I live in a small apartment, she was staying with my aunt about 45 minutes away. The first day she arrived, I drove out there to pick her up and bring her back to my apartment, and then at the end of the day I drove her back there and had dinner with everyone before driving home. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have minded, and it was nice to have some quiet car time with my mom — but, you guys, I was STRESSED. I felt like time was spiraling away from me and I still had a ton of stuff I needed to do. And a 45-minute drive each way adds up when you’re doing it four times a day!

I remember crumpling at the kitchen table when I arrived back home to our wedding-overloaded apartment, crying to Allyn about how I felt so exhausted and I had to get up early in the morning to pick up my mom the next morning, and I still had so much to do to get ready for our wedding. “Why don’t you call your mom and see if she can borrow a car?” he asked. “Or if someone could drop her off? That would save you a lot of driving time.”

His words made a ton of sense — but at first, I hesitated. I didn’t want to seem like a demanding “Bridezilla.” It felt hard to ask for help, to admit that I was stressed out and overwhelmed. I didn’t want to cause a hassle for anyone. But, eventually I wiped my tears and called my mom, and admitted to her how I was feeling. She was completely understanding and apologized for not realizing how much driving it was for me. It wasn’t that she, or any of my other relatives, had intended to put any extra burden on my shoulders in the days leading up to my wedding, when I was already firing on all cylinders. It was simply that they hadn’t thought about it. Once I asked for help, they were easily able to make arrangements. My grandpap, who was already driving in the direction of my apartment the next morning to pick up my cousin from the airport, simply dropped my mom off on the way. Which allowed me to sleep in a little bit, face the day more calmly, and saved me an hour and a half of driving through morning traffic.

Don’t expect people to read your mind or magically know what you need. Tell them. Ask them. I promise, you will all be happier!

6. Soak in that walk down the aisle.

My entire life, whenever I thought about getting married, I would think about walking down the aisle to my future husband, and my heart would swell with emotion. In the months leading up to our wedding, that might have been the moment I thought about most. I would get goosebumps imagining walking towards Allyn, stepping with a brimming heart into our future together.

Walking down the aisle, my arm slipped through my dad’s arm, is a memory I will cherish forever. But not just for the reason I was expecting.

Before the moment came, I hadn’t fully put things together in my mind. I hadn’t realized that yes, I would be walking towards Allyn. But before I reached him at the end of that aisle, I would be walking past all of my friends and family members who had played such important roles in my life up to this point — who had, in essence, made me the person I am today.

Walking slowly down that aisle with my dad was a surreal experience. I felt as if I were seeing a montage of my life. There was my best friend from kindergarten, smiling at me, standing beside my close friend from college and my dear friend who I met studying abroad in England. There was my mom’s best friend, who I think of as an honorary aunt, crying next to Allyn’s aunt and uncle who flew down from Washington to attend. There were my friends from church; my grandparents; my aunts and uncles and cousins; Allyn’s relatives and friends from grad school. Everyone in our lives, smooshed together in one room, cheering us on and giving blessings to our union. I teared up as I walked down the aisle, and I tear up now thinking about it.

And then, at the end of the aisle: the person I love more than anything, standing there, beaming.

Can you imagine anything better?

7. Remember the purpose behind it all.

All of the decisions and options that come with wedding-planning can feel a tad bit very overwhelming. Before getting engaged myself, I had no idea how much goes into planning a wedding! {Side note: I am definitely going to appreciate weddings and big parties much more now, noticing ALL the details and remembering that someone out there had to plan for every little thing at the event.}

Throughout the process, I would sometimes be overwhelmed with tears of stress and a spinning-with-details mind. The one thing guaranteed to calm me down would be reminding myself the whole point of planning a wedding: getting to marry an amazing man who loves me and who I love with all my heart! With that thought, my tears of stress would transform to tears of gratitude. And, looking back now, I can tell you that those are the moments I treasure the most from our special day: when Allyn and I said our vows, slipped rings onto each other’s fingers, and promised to be partners in this journey, now and forever.

Now, I’d love to hear from you! What would you tell your wedding-planning self?

6 thoughts on “7 things I would tell my wedding-planning self

  1. Wonderful advice Dallas! Thank you for sharing your pictures and such wise words.

    When I look back on my wedding (almost 14 years ago!), the only thing I really stressed about was the cake. Guests started eating the cake (sheet cakes for the masses to save money) before we cut the smaller display cakes. I wasted energy being upset that it wasn’t exactly perfect and how I wanted it. I would tell myself that cake makes people happy and it really doesn’t matter if they see you cut he cake or not. Just enjoy and grab a piece yourself!

  2. Great post! I loved reading through this and remembering your wedding (which was a blast! and perfectly “Dallas and Allyn”), as well as my own. Spot on advice.

    I think some of my favorite wedding moments are the things that actually “go wrong” – it adds character and silliness to the occasion. For Chris and me, we totally screwed up the sand ceremony thing that we were planning on doing… and I don’t think anyone noticed, and we had those shared thoughts of of “ahh what is going on, this is silly!” that was like a little inside joke. And even though it was so windy after the ceremony and everyone’s hair is completely windblown in our photos, those are some of my favorite photos.

    • Aww thanks so much Julie! I absolutely LOVED your wedding and you’re right — the windblown photos on the beach are some of my very favorites from your wedding day! And I had no idea (I don’t think anyone did) that anything was screwed up on the sand ceremony… you are so right that those little inside joke moments are the best. 🙂

  3. Pingback: thoughts on turning 30 | Day-By-Day Masterpiece

  4. Pingback: mental snapshots from our wedding, one year later | Day-By-Day Masterpiece

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