The original version of this article appeared on www.thebrokeassbride.com.
I talk to lots of engaged couples every week, as you can imagine. And, I've watched a lot of you exhibit two very disturbing emotions when it comes to your weddings: fear and shame.
It takes me at least a couple of tries to find out how much your budget is.
Or, in the reverse, getting upset that you're spending so much of your/your parents'/whomever's money on one day, when you could use it on a downpayment on a house, instead.
Or, the sideways look you and your fiancé give each other when I ask how you met.
Or, when you tell me how much certain family members need to be kept away from each other, or, kept away from you. And then follow up, five minutes later, by saying it's not that bad... but seriously, everyone has to be on opposite sides of the room.
Or, how you keep giving in to what your parents or your friends want you to do, instead of standing up for what you want. Are you being a doormat?
Or, not giving into what your parents/friends want you to do, and standing up for what you want. Are you turning into a Bridezilla??
You can't win, because you won't let yourself win. You're ashamed of where you are, so you won't allow yourself to be happy with what you have, whatever that is right now.
Researcher Brene Brown defines shame as "the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging." Shame is built out of the fear that you won't be understood. And I've noticed that a big reason that people don't feel worthy of acceptance and belonging is that they don't really think that they can ever get what they want. Not really.
I understand -- there is a lot of pressure to make your wedding the best and most perfect and most beautiful day of your life. And (GASP!) there are not supposed to be any limits -- financial, personal, logistical -- on the best day of your life! That's what makes it such a great day, right? Poor people don't have beautiful and perfect days, only people with unlimited budgets do. You can't have a beautiful and perfect day if your families are at each other's throats, only people with close, well-behaved relatives can. Do you deserve to live happily ever after if you met online and not through a Random Act of Fate? What will happen if you tell the truth? You want to impress your family and friends, and most of all, you want to impress yourself. It's a lot of pressure, and completely unrealistic.
The cost of wedding fear is that you focus on what you don't have, and on hiding what's not there. It's a waste of time. Plus, it makes you feel like crap.
So, what's the cure?
1. Be honest, with yourself and with anyone else you're dealing with, wedding-wise. Just... be honest. The more you try to hide what you're afraid of, the more control you give it. And, eventually, it's going to have to come out. Are you worried about being judged and rejected by potential vendors... who don't know you? It's business, not personal. If they can't work with you, for whatever reason, then you can't work with them. If they are going to be mean or snooty about it, then you really don't want to work with them, right? Which brings me to ...
2. Don't go in looking for a fight; don't walk into the room expecting resistance. What you look for, you will find. I've met with many brides who will, in one sentence, tell me they have a limited amount of money, and then tell me that's not enough for them to have the wedding they want, and then ask me, "You can't work with that, can you?" This is before I've even opened my mouth to reply. I get it -- you're rejecting yourself before I get a chance to do it, but don't assume. Same thing with your family and friends. Tell them what you need and what you want, and then see what happens. Don't be defensive, just have a conversation.
3. Remember that you are not alone. Not even close to being alone. If you're facing a wedding planning problem, there are tons of other couples facing the same thing. Find them online and and seek empathy and sympathy. And solutions, too.
4. Some things will not change, but they can be worked around. If your parents couldn't be in the same room with each other before you started planning your wedding, odds are then they won't be able to on your wedding day. You've been managing your family for years, and you know how to deal with them -- or not deal with them -- so they don't drive you insane. Keep doing that. The historic house you love is not going to drop their rental rate by a couple thousand dollars on a Saturday night. You are probably not going to win the lottery before then, either. Accept it. You might not have Ivanka Trump's budget, but you're not so broke that you can't have a beautiful wedding day, and the love surrounding you will be free (Aww!). It is what it is. If you can't afford Saturday night, what about Friday or Sunday? Less guests? What about a cocktail or dessert reception? Figure out what you feel comfortable with and go from there.
5. Use what you have to get what you want and need. You think you don't have anything, or not nearly enough? You're so wrong. If you have access to the Internet, you can find a local bridal show and see what's possible. If you've picked your venue, you can ask for photographer and florist recommendations. Don't know how to do something? Google it. If anything, you have too many choices. Keep looking until you find the best option for you.
6. Be grateful for what you do have. A fiancé who loves you, and who you want to spend the rest of your life with, no matter how you met them, or what type of reputation either of you had during the Bush administration. Friends and family that are happy and eager to help, even if they won't back off (they mean well, I swear). One day to celebrate that with all your favorite people in the world. Pollyannish? Sure. True? Totally.
7. Don't twist yourself into knots. Many a bride has overextended her budget, her patience and her good will trying to overcompensate for a perceived lack of... whatever. Pull the brakes anytime you hear yourself saying, "I don't want them to think..." or "I know it's still not going to work, but... " Full stop. Turn around. Find an option that doesn't make you hyperventilate. Ask for help if you need it. Take help when it's offered.
8. Finally, give yourself some credit. You're sitting there thinking, "HowamIgoingtodothishowamIgoingtodothisHOWAMIGOINGTODOTHIS?" Look around! You are doing it, the way everyone does it: One step at a time.