A Letter to Brides.

Dear beautiful bride, 

RIGHT?! It happened! You're engaged! Are you SO FREAKIN' EXCITED!? I know. It's the best. It really is. 

In about two weeks, people are going to start asking you lots of questions. What kind of wedding do you want? Big? Small? What time of year? How many bridesmaids? What sort of dress do you have in mind? Will the wedding be in your hometown or your fiancé's? Or neither? 

Your head might feel like it's going to pop right off your body and spiral into space. 

Been there. 

I've got five pieces of advice for you - both practical and philosophical - that I believe, if taken to heart, will make things a whole lot better. 

1. Be kind to your mind. 

At first, the decisions you get to make will be thrilling. Because it is thrilling! You're getting married!

After the first hundred of them, you'll start to notice yourself becoming a bit more sluggish and fuzzy-headed. This is a real thing called decision fatigueThe more decisions you make, the harder decisions become. Band or DJ? Indoors or out? Pink bridesmaids' dresses or grey? 

Choose a time of day (the best is in the morning, when your mind is fresh and well-rested) that you'll spend a set amount of time planning. I'd recommend an hour and a half or so a day. Set up a call with your planner (or, if you're doing it yourself, really discipline yourself to stick to the amount of time you've chosen). After an hour of decision-making ("Band! Indoors! Grey!"), try to make as few choices regarding your wedding as possible. This will save you (and everyone who has to deal with you) a lot of brain cells, headaches, and tears. I promise. 

2. Pick people who make you happy.

You've obviously already followed this advice - look at your fiancé! Now, all you have to do is keep making that choice. 

The guest list may be the most stressful part of any wedding. Two families, with all their relatives, close friends, and distant acquaintances, trying to compile a reasonable list of who's invited to this shindig. Let me spoil something for you: there will be people that you forget to invite. They will just slip your mind, until you run into them in person one day and your stomach sinks. 

It's not the end of the world. They'll forgive you. 

As for the ones who you do remember to invite, here's my advice: only invite people who, when you see them in the aisles of the congregation, would make you (or your spouse) light up with joy. Otherwise? AXED. 

That distant friend of someone's family member who once gave you a cookie on your birthday? You don't have to invite them. That fraternity brother who always kind of bugged you? Not on the list. 

Of course, if someone isn't invited, that doesn't mean they bug you or that you don't care for them. It just means that a guest list can only be so large. 

This day is about filling a space with l-o-v-e. That means if you were to run into a person at your reception who makes you think, "Oof. Avoiding THAT guy," then "that guy?" He ain't comin'. It's not because you're hateful, or cutthroat. It's because this is a time when obligations or forced interactions don't have to take place. It's because you should fill a room with the people on Earth who make you ONLY feel happiness. That's your prerogative. 

3. Delegate your responsibilities. 

When I got married, my mom and I did all the planning, calling, and deciding. We chose not to hire a wedding planner, because my mom happens to love doing all of the things surrounding a wedding (flowers, choosing a paper weight and calligraphy style for invitations, etc.). But she is also a freak of nature (in the best way), and I recognize that. 

The very first thing you should to to ensure that you don't end up with 30 tasks to complete 2 weeks before you get married is download a timeline, like this one, that helps you know how far out you should be booking/thinking about certain things.  

If you're planning by yourself? Enlist your bridesmaids to help complete certain tasks, like researching florists or venues in the area. And hire a "day-of" planner to take the wheel on your wedding day, so that all you have on your plate is to enjoy getting married. A day-of planner is a very inexpensive way to buy peace of mind. 

Planning with a family member or close friend? Make sure the division of responsibility is clear. You're handling invitations, the gown alterations, and booking spaces, while the other person deals with flowers, contact with the officiant, and making sure everyone gets paid. 

Working with a professional planner? Make your vision clear from the start - give them your Pinterest board, your scrapbook, your box of wedding ideas. Check in with them periodically. Be proactive. They may be running the show, but it's your wedding - input from you is crucial. 

It sounds un-romantic and stiff, but schedules and delegation are big. When you look back at this season of your life, it will undoubtedly have been a little frazzled, but you want to remember it as a happy time! Not as a time when you wanted to pull all the hairs from your head, one by one. 

4. Prioritize. 

Weddings cost money. Boy, do they ever. Your eyeballs may fall out and roll across the table when you start to realize just how much they can cost. 

Because things are so expensive, it's major to choose what's most important to you. Unless you're Kim Kardashian, you can't have the most expensive venue, AND the most expensive band, AND a $15,000 wedding dress, AND a 50-tiered cake, AND an open bar, AND a great photographer. There are choices to be made.

For Jordan and me, our priorities were: photographer, wedding gown, bar, and band. We wanted to have beautiful pictures of our day, for me to have a dress that made me feel great, for the bar to be full and open, and for there to be a great band that made it a real party. And I think (I hope!) we achieved all those goals. 

But that also meant that certain things were less of a priority. And that's okay! Not everything was as important as those top four. 

No matter what your budget looks like, your wedding can be exactly what you have in mind. It's a matter of deciding what things you want to spend your hard-earned money on. There has literally never been a better time than now for a DIY-wedding, given that places like Etsy exist. Some of the most touching and fun weddings I've ever been to were also done on a lower budget. 

Because you know what really makes a wedding? YOU. And your spouse. Which brings me to piece of advice #5 - the most important: 

5. At the end of the day, you're going to be married. 

All that other stuff I said before? It's important, sure. It's nice to not want to fling yourself from a building while planning. It's nice to have a concept of who's in charge of what. 

But the most important thing is you and the person you've chosen. Remember your first date? Remember how you had no idea that this was who you'd end up with, and now you're going to MARRY them?

Remember how, when you were a little girl, you dreamed about your wedding? You played house? You thought about what your grown-up life would look like? 

Here it is, sister. It's him. It's her. It's here. 

The reason to work hard in the planning process is not to throw a great party, or to have the "best" wedding, or the fanciest, or any of that. It's so that, on the day you get married, your mind is totally free to absorb the fact that YOU GET MARRIED TODAY. 

If you're really lucky, you'll only do this once. So SOAK IT IN. Every single moment. Every engagement party. Every time someone wishes you well. Every gift you open. 

When Jordan and I entered our reception, we did so from a second-floor staircase. Suddenly, all these people - all the food, the band, the lights - everything came into focus. And it was absolutely overwhelming. At no other time in my life will I be surrounded by that much love, and I was holding the hand of the person who made life whole for me. 

Whether the napkins are cream or white, whether your aunt Brenda's hair catches fire during your ceremony, whether you drop the rings, whether your drunk uncle wipes out on the dance floor - it doesn't matter. (And hiccups make for great stories.)

What matters is that you've found the person who lights up your soul, and you're marrying them. That's what everyone showed up for. 

Every time things get overwhelming, remember the reason this is all happening: two people fell in love. 

Best wishes,
Mary Catherine