When it’s all said and done, you’re not really going to care who walked down the aisle or who gave a speech or who wore what. You’re going to care about how you felt.
Despite the headaches they cause, there’s a lot to love about weddings. How often do we get to celebrate someone we love with other people who love them too?
There’s a certain magic that comes from this kind of gathering — a magic that comes from everyone’s good wishes directed at a particular couple at a particular place at a particular time to send them into an unknowable future. That magic is what a wedding should try and capture.
But modern day wedding planning focuses on everything but the magic. It focuses on everything but what actually inspired the wedding: the relationship.
A bride once told me about the time her future in-laws offered to contribute a significant amount of money to her wedding. Her friends warned her: “They’ll tell you that there are no concessions, that you can plan the whole thing, but just wait. One thing after another, they will start complaining.”
This bride and her fiancé had a strict no-kids policy for their wedding. But her mother-in-law-to-be — the same woman who had just written the couple a very large check — asked if she could invite her young niece and nephew.
“She made her case to me,” the bride says. “She was emotional about it so I was like, ‘This means a lot more to you then it does to me.’” The kids got an invite.
Did the bride cave? Yes. And she was smarter for it.
Here’s a wedding planning secret none of the books or blogs will tell you: You don’t have to care. Not caring about every little detail associated with your wedding doesn’t make you any less of a bride, partner, or person.
We’ve been taught to think differently. We’ve been taught that to not care about every element of your wedding is evidence of doubt. That it’s a sign that maybe you shouldn’t be getting married and that — worst of all — the relationship you have isn’t worthy of a marriage.
We’ve been taught this because it’s good for business. To paraphrase a New York Times article about the business of wedding planning, if you get women as stressed as possible, they’ll spend any sum of money to get what they want.
We don’t have to settle for that.
So try this instead: When that next difficult wedding planning decision comes up, ask yourself, “How do I want to feel on my wedding day?”
If the answer to the question — from who’s in your processional to the color of your bridesmaids’ dresses to who’s invited — doesn’t move you closer to the feeling you want to feel, then that question isn’t worth your time. Let other people make the decision. Even if their choice isn’t the one you would have made, chances are good that, if you take 30 seconds to think critically about the question, you don’t actually care.
And that’s OK.
There’s only one thing you absolutely do have to care about when planning your wedding: your relationship.
I’ve seen it time and again: What couples remember about their wedding day is each other. That look. That kiss. That touch. That whispered kindness. Those moments aren’t on any checklist. You can’t plan for them. They wouldn’t be the same if you did.
When it’s all said and done, you’re not really going to care who walked down the aisle or who gave a speech or who wore what. You’re going to care about how you felt. And you’re going to care about that feeling not in five or 10 or 15 years. You’re going to care about that feeling immediately.
Having the right flowers or guest list or dress won’t make that feeling any more likely to appear. In fact, focusing on getting those details “right” is what leads to the stress that steals from that feeling. When your focus is on, say, centerpieces, it’s not where it should be: each other.
This isn’t about hating weddings. This is about allowing people to love the weddings they have.
Elisabeth Kramer is a day-of wedding coordinator and writer based in the Pacific Northwest. Read more of her work about the Wedding Industrial Complex.
This originally appeared on Unwed: Not Your Typical Wedding Blog. There you’ll also find a Q&A series with women who’ve planned their weddings and a series about nontraditional wedding planning resources.