It's an interesting time to be planning a wedding. When our parents' generation got married, a wedding was a prim event completely organized by the Mother of the Bride and designed to please her friends. Now popular advice is often, "Express yourself! Think about what you want! Have your wedding be authentically you!" A plethora of wedding planning blogs ask you to make your wedding incredibly creative, unique, and memorable.
And yet. And yet. A wedding is a ritual, and rituals gain meaning by repetition through time. They are a link to the past because our grandparents and great grandparents did the same rituals, which were the same rituals that their grandparents did. A wedding is also a formal entertaining occasion, which means etiquette, and more rules and prescribed actions. Your family and your friends will feel free to chime in and tell you how weird or wrong your ideas seem. Add in budgets and time and limited options and caterers who want you to choose the same rubber chicken option that everyone else has, and that authentic you can feel pretty squashed.
Couples can be stuck between the blogosphere's pressure to have the most creative wedding ever and the real world saying, "You can't do that! No one does that!" So how do you deal?
A wise design professor once said to me, "You can break any rule you want to, so long as you know what the rule is and why you are breaking it." That's why I have many articles telling you about wedding etiquette for your wedding ceremony and reception - they help you know what the rules are that you might want to break. Listen to your clergy, parents, and close friends about the choices they made, and the traditions they value. And most importantly, talk with your sweetheart about what means most to you as a couple. You might want to complete the Newly Engaged Wedding Planning Questionnaire as a starting point.
Then it's time to be realistically fearless. What does that mean?
First, relieve the pressure on yourself. You're not planning the Queen's coronation and you don't have a limitless budget. It's time to let the type A personality relax a little bit. Your wedding can never be the most creative wedding ever or the most fun wedding ever, especially if you're curled into a ball in the corner. However, it can be a very creative and fun evening. Be realistic about what you can pull off with your budget, time, and resources. (It can be helpful to realize that many of those oh-so-creative wedding themes featured on blogs and in magazines aren't real weddings. They're staged for the photo, but lack the limits of real world concerns.)
Second, when you understand what rules you're breaking and why you're doing so, you can be FEARLESS. I've gotten plenty of flack about everything from not inviting plus-one dates to a wedding to making a do-not-playlist and telling you that you can DJ your own wedding. There's plenty of criticism to go around no matter what choices you make. Yet if you only listen to everyone's criticisms, you'll end up with a wedding that has nothing to do with you! So feel confident in those rules you're breaking. When someone harps at you, "I can't believe you're having your wedding on a weeknight! No one from out of town will be able to come!" you can confidently reply, "We've considered that, but we have very few out-of-town guests, and the cost savings allows us to have some other exciting things at the wedding. I can't wait for you to see them!" Staying positive, confident, and thoughtful helps deflate critical arguments quickly.
Lastly, being realistically fearless means deciding to enjoy the wedding planning process. Most likely, this wonderfully weird engagement