Ask any married couple what was the most stressful day of their lives, and a good showing of them will tell you it was their wedding day. Consider what faced them: family pressures, chiffon, emotional roller coasters before, during and after the Big Day, not to mention publicly declaring one’s love in front of friends and relatives! Marriage is all about working together and there’s no better place to start than with your wedding.
Help each other with the ceremony preparation: It’s easy to get caught up in the details surrounding the wedding itself, but the words that will be spoken on your wedding day will take you across one of life's important thresholds. Work together to select readings, music and rituals to include. If you’ve spent time making the ceremony personally meaningful, you’ll be less likely to feel like an outsider at your own wedding. Start this early by meeting with and selecting an officiant early. If they are a Celebrant, like me, they will have lots of guiding questions from the very first meeting. These questions will help you think and feel into the details of your ceremony and the earlier you work with someone on this core piece of your wedding day, the earlier you will have an anchor to ground any of the other wedding day details.
Rely on your wedding party: Select people who will pitch in when necessary and who have been with you during other stressful occasions, so that you know that they will help you keep your cool. I have heard people talk about planning your wedding day as a part-time job and you should keep in mind that you will be acting as a manager delegating tasks. I do not think that this analogy is totally off. But you could also think of your wedding as a community event that calls on individuals within your community to bring their special skills. Either way, you cannot do it all and people who love you want to help to the extent they are able.
Take pressure off each other: One calm partner leads to another calm partner. One of you may think you are endowed with the powers of a superhero. This is the partner who plans every last detail, but they will certainly appreciate your interest and your help. Divide up the tasks and whichever your choose, perform them well, like arranging for activities for out-of-town guests, booking hotels and cars, coordinating airport runs, being the contact person for specific wedding vendors. Partner A takes the lead with florist, baker, DJ, and Flower Dog wrangler, and Partner B takes the lead with photographer, officiant, and venue. Choose your special selection of tasks based on your superpowers.
Ask for help: It is particularly helpful to identify someone who can be the day-of contact. Whether that's a planner or a Person of Honor, it should be someone who knows all of the details of the day and can shield you from answering every little question while you try to be in the moment on your special day. Let them handle the family, guests, wedding professionals, parking, and the rest so you can focus on enjoying what you have spent so long planning.
Speak from the heart: If you are writing your own vows, speak as if you two are all alone. To calm your nerves on the day of the wedding, focus only on the one you love, and let the guests melt away as you pledge your love. I am always happy to help with vows to whatever extent you want or need me to. I would never change what you are trying to say, I only make suggestions that make your thoughts more clear, if needed. Practice your vows in front of a friend with speaking experience before reading them at the wedding. After eight years of creating custom ceremonies, I have learned how to write like I speak, but most people do not have the experience I do. So, do make sure you read your vows out loud at some point to hear how you sound and get your mouth used to saying the words. You might get tongue tied and realize a change in word choice, reminding yourself to pause, or rearranging your sentence structure helps your words feel more natural.
Know what’s going on: Because one of you may be in hiding on the day of the wedding, people will be relying on whoever isn’t for information or to make last minute decisions. Take the time in advance to familiarize yourself with the preparations so that you can fulfill this role with ease. You may have divided and conquered as suggested above to take the pressure off the planning. Just make sure you touch base before the day to share any details that your partner should know.
Don’t worry about the “perfect wedding”: Honestly, there’s no such thing. Most guests won’t even notice “mistakes”, and even if they do, often such gaffes add charm, humor, and authenticity to the event. I have mentioned this in a previous blog post, but it is not your job to entertain your guests. You are not making your debut on Broadway, or taking a driver's exam, you are having a human moment within your loving community.
Just say no until after you say "I do": Hopefully this last one doesn't sound too preachy, but for some of us alcohol and cannabis are social lubricators that help turn down the stress signals we may feel, but please avoid them before the ceremony. Your officiant has a legally important job to do, even if you choose your cousin or best friend to perform your ceremony. They are filing a vital record that will live in the State records forever and show up on family tree making websites in a hundred years. In my case, I get to know my couples over the course of creating their ceremony, but I do not know them like a family member. I need to know on the day of the ceremony that each marrier knows what they are choosing to enter into and are doing so willingly. If I have any doubts, like someone is chemically altered at the altar and might not remember what they are doing, it is my job to not sign or submit your marriage license until I know for sure. If having a drink tied to your ceremony is important, incorporate a unity shot right after you exchange vows, that's fun. Remember, there will be plenty of time to party after the ceremony.
A few final thoughts: Be present in the moment. Look at your partner during the vows. Listen carefully to your readers. Reflect on the meaning of the symbols you have chosen to include in your ceremony, whether wine, candles, flowers or rings. Remember this moment in time. It goes by very fast.