(This post was co-written with my wonderful wife, Jenn Ramsdell)
Well, I got married a month a go. It feels like longer but after having a month to recover and catch up on the world, I am ready to look back on the lessons learned. It was a whirlwind of planning and preparing from the time we started until the day of. In the end, all the hard work and stress came together into a beautiful ceremony and amazing time with friends and family.
With that being said, as much as we tried to avoid it, it all got to be overwhelming at times with so many details to keep track of, things to buy, and pieces to coordinate. We had a smaller guest list (around 60 people altogether) but we were also planning the event from afar (we had to take trips at least once a month to New Jersey from Maryland, a 3.5 hour drive).
For those who may be planning their own nuptials, or for those who have been there, here is what our experience taught us:
It Can Easily Become Mostly Not About You...
Weddings often illicit a lot of opinions from different friends and family members. It is important to not let your dreams and needs get lost in the weeds. Make sure to stand your ground with your beliefs and values about your special day where you can (For example; don't want to exchange rings? Plenty of other rituals you can do like handfasting), since it can snowball into something you don't recognize and if you're going down a path you don't want to take, it can feel disingenuous and get costly really quick (see point #3).
Luckily though, our wedding brought many of our friends together in one room, and even though some had never met each other before, everyone had a blast dancing the night away. It was incredible to feel so much love and joy in one room despite anything disputes we had getting to the fun stuff.
The Power of Patience!
Planning a wedding (especially when long-distance planning) requires a lot of moving pieces. We had to coordinate with different vendors, families, friends, work schedules, to get the whole thing together. Jenn and I (but mostly Jenn, bless her) spent many weekends driving back and forth between Maryland and New Jersey to make sure that all the pieces came together. We also were slowly accumulating items for the wedding (we were DIYing hard), so it felt like we were just making small steps toward this bigger thing each day that felt like a lifetime away.
We originally wanted to elope with an even smaller ceremony sooner but we ended up conceded to our families (see point #1) to bring more people together later on. We're glad we were patient with it all since the final product was better than we could have dreamed.
There are lots of unexpected expenditures in addition to the standard costs like food, drinks, venue, and the dress. Stuff like gifts for your bridal party, new dress socks, favors, and markers for the guest frame all can sneak up on you or get lost in the shuffle. Thank goodness for helpful friends, family, Amazon, Costco, Michaels coupons and DIY wedding blogs. We were able to focus our budget on things that were important to us. Jenn got a limo, and it turned out to be extremely awesome (crossed that off my "bucket list")! We were also able to save money for our honeymoon in Puerto Rico and also end up breaking even with what we got in gifts and some other money that came in at the nick of time. The whole thing was super cost effective but still a great time, which we were really proud of.
You must set a budget, keep track of everything, and stick to it so you don't let things get out of hand. People will help you out with all this too, you just need to ask.
Make sure to enjoy the day and have moments with everyone that you can. We're grateful that we were able to spend quality time before and after the big day with family and friends. During the reception, we also were appreciative of the fun we had sharing drinks, dancing, and catching up with everyone who came. The stresses of planning fell away and nothing else mattered.
A wedding can be one of the most stressful times in your life (seriously) with managing everything, but it is also an incredibly unique experience that you need to make sure you soak up so you can have the amazing memories and good vibes to coast off of for a while.
Afterwards, Just Relax
The Honeymoon at the end is awesome. For us, it was a well deserved respite as well as an awesome chance to get out of our comfort zones together. We spent about a week in Puerto Rico, eating good food, laying out on the beach, seeing cool history, and watching the sunset. We loved our time, and imagine going back in a few years for our 5 year anniversary. It was the perfect laid back journey to a new place that we won't soon forget.
Weddings can be stuffed to the brim with emotions, both good and bad. They're a lot to manage but can be an inspiring, magical day filled with loved ones. You just have to make sure to keep the dreaded wedding industrial complex at bay, keep it genuine, relax, and focus on what matters; celebrating your love with your partner.
Hopefully this is helpful to those looking forward to their day, and anyone who has been there, we'd love to hear of your experiences to maybe help normalize ours!