10 Things I Learned Planning My Own Wedding

07

I’ve spent the last year planning my wedding. Unfortunately my family is scattered so I didn’t have my parents, maid of honour or one of my bridesmaids around to help. We are now 30 days away and I thought it might be helpful for other brides to share what I learned while planning my wedding.

  1. You know more people than you think. When we first booked the reception venue, we were told we needed a minimum of 100 and an absolute max of 120. That isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room! My family is huge, so I decided to make a cutoff of not inviting cousins. We ended up having about 90 people on the list, and figured we could pay for a couple more plates if needed to reserve the venue. Then I asked my parents for the list and all of a sudden our count was about 175. 175?? Are you kidding me? Who are these people and why have I never met them?? Luckily we were able to compromise and reach a reasonable number.
  2. There is family drama no one tells you about. Apparently even as an adult I’m not privy to the knowledge that there is a spat on my mom’s side so if one of her siblings wants to come, two others won’t. Grow up, kids.
  3. “Tradition” is a complex and sometimes ridiculous thing. Did you know it’s considered rude to tell people where you are registered? Apparently they are supposed to ask your parents where you are registered, but you can’t just tell them. This is silly. We reached a compromise by putting the registry info on our wedding website, then including the website on the invitation. Not everyone knows my mom or how to contact her. Let’s be serious.
  4. At the same time, you don’t need to follow tradition. I’ve always found the garter toss to be creepy. I don’t want his hands up my dress. I don’t want the guy’s grabbing for a thing I’ve been wearing on my thigh all day. So, we decided not to do it. And for that matter, we aren’t doing a bouquet toss either, because gender equality.
  5. Why is everything so expensive?! Most places jack up prices for a wedding. I know someone who booked the venue without calling it a wedding, just saying it was a formal dinner. Well, the venue realized at the last second that it was actually a wedding and made them pay a few thousand dollars more. Which is ridiculous because they would have done the exact same thing for cheaper if there wasn’t a fancy white dress involved.
  6. Costs add up quickly! My budget included everything related to our wedding day. Yes, I counted the calligraphy pen I spent $6 on for our invitations. Yes, I counted the $12 I spend on material to make my garter. Yes, I counted the $10 we spent for a cake tasting before booking our cake. And you would be AMAZED how these little things add huge costs when you include them all together.
  7. A good Excel spreadsheet will save your life. I’m a huge fan of Excel. I like that I can include whatever I want, and it will update sums and the remaining budget with just a few simple formulas. If you aren’t comfortable using Excel, there are tons of free wedding planning spreadsheets out there. Whichever you choose, use it and be thorough. If you are working on a strict budget, you will be amazed how much of a headache it saves you. As a bonus, I added a column for the dates all our payments are due so that we don’t have to pay late fees.
  8. Sometimes weddings bring out the worst in people. My sister is my maid of honour, and we had HUGE issues. Apparently purple is her colour and I wasn’t allowed to use it. (What. You don’t own the colour. And no one cares if we use the same colour. You aren’t even engaged.) And then there’s the shoes… she bought shoes in the wrong colour and now has told me she’s wearing them and it doesn’t matter what I think. Are you kidding me. It’s not even the shoes that bother me, it’s the fact that she doesn’t care how her decision makes me feel.
  9. But, weddings also bring out the best in people. I can’t count how many lovely well-wishes I’ve gotten. And the generosity oh my goodness! My groom’s parents told us that they would pay for the entire reception, whatever it cost, so don’t even worry about it. They just wanted to make sure our day is perfect.  They are far too nice to me. I also decided to invite the group of girls I have been taking dance classes with for the last 3 years, and some of them were so touched to be invited. It makes me feel good to be able to say hey, you’re important in my life, and even though we don’t hang out I look forward to seeing you every week and I want you to be a part of my special day.
  10. Despite other people’s input, ultimately it is your day. Make it the way you want it. People have good intentions. This would be a more complimentary colour pallet. You should serve this food instead, people will prefer it. You can’t take pictures at a waterfall your dress will get dirty before the reception (ok that was a good point). Despite it all, it is your day. No one is going to be at your wedding going “she really should have picked the other dress”. What seems like a huge issue now probably no one will even notice. Make decisions, stay true to yourself, and trust that even if everything is a huge disaster, at the end of the day you are still married to the person you love. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Call-out for Marriage Advice!

I’m not sure if I mentioned it on my blog, but I’m getting married in… *checks calendar*… 38 days. 38 days?? When did that happen?!?! Really sneaks up on you doesn’t it.

I love weddings. I’m a huge suck, I cry at everything romantic or cute (thanks for the faulty genetics, mom), and I think weddings are a really beautiful way of showing you aren’t afraid of people knowing how in love you are in a world that tends to frown upon public displays of affection.

The thing that bothers me, though, is the statistic that about 50% of marriages fail. I mean, James and I have been together for 5 years, lived together for 2, and we know each other quite well and what we’re getting ourselves into. But somewhere in the back of my mind is the nagging anxiety that maybe we’re in the other half. The half that doesn’t work out. Because, really, does anyone ever go into a marriage and think they WILL be one of the couples that divorces? Of course not! No one ever sees it coming!

*inhale, exhale*

Regardless, do any of you have any advice for how to keep a marriage strong? I’d love to hear it!

Sigh.

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything. Let’s catch up.

This past year I’ve been in school doing my master’s degree. I went into this program being told by the time I graduate I’ll have one to two job offers and a promising career ahead. So you can imagine how it felt to graduate and… nothing. I’ve been out on 5 interviews, been applying for months, and I’m still just unemployed. I don’t think people understand how hard it is to be unemployed. As it turns out, finding a job in this day and age is a lot harder than it used to be. See, employed get hundreds (no exaggeration) of applications for every job they post. And we keep hearing about how most of the jobs that exist are never posted. The postings I do see are often full of ridiculous requirements (entry-level job, must have 5 years of experience,  3 certifications, and been to mars, pays $12 per hour). It isn’t like 20 years ago when you could just show up and ask for a job, then start tomorrow. Having strong credentials doesn’t mean you’ll get through the gauntlet of computer algorithms that are trying to turn you into a number based on how many words on your resume match their expectations. And even if you interview for the job and are a great candidate, jobs disappear at the last second, get filled by an internal candidate, or for other reasons disappear and you never get to find out what you did wrong or how to do better next time.

But the truth is that unemployment is really difficult for me emotionally. I’ve spent the last 6 years in school, got really great grades, all to find a great job, and it just never came. Now I’m having to lower my expectations. Look for jobs outside my field, further away geographically, lower my salary expectations because apparently even if a company wants my skills they don’t want them enough to pay a fair rate. Grad school isn’t going to pay off itself, people!

I’ve noticed that my anxiety levels have been fluctuating as time goes on. A month ago I was anxious but confident. Then I was hopeful. Then as the job I interviewed for twice and was exactly what I wanted got pulled from me at the last second, my confidence crashed. I’m no longer confident that I’ll find something I enjoy. I don’t feel like the job offer is going to come in any day now. So despite all of my academic success and the relevant work experience I do have, I just feel hopeless. And it’s that hopelessness that lets the depression in to gnaw away at my heart until I feel so lost and scared that I don’t know what else to do but curl up on the couch in the middle of the day and cry.

Somewhere deep inside I know I’ll find something. I know it may not be the dream job, but it’ll be a start. I’m just scared that it will take another two months, maybe longer. And without work I have nothing to do but overthink and wonder and dig deeper into the hole I’ll soon be able to bury myself in.

I Dream of Pegasi and Unicorns

I’ve been having a recurring dream lately. In it I am sitting down in class like I would on a normal day. I open my computer, and go to open my notes… and instead I open a bunch of pictures of My Little Pony.

Yeah you know it. The kids show. The kids show with a surprisingly large adult following, especially the male viewers who have been named Bronies. Well, here’s the thing… I am a brony. I watch the show. I buy toys. I have a poster up in my room, and I have a calendar too. I’m quite at peace with it, actually. The show is calming to me. It’s funny and positive. When I’m anxious, I watch the show and just feel… better. The times when I don’t think anything could make me feel better, I watch the show, and I just…do.

But at the same time, I feel like I’ll be judged by other adults. Which is a bit funny since everyone has hobbies. Everyone has interests. But if my interests aren’t what you would expect of a young professional, suddenly it’s a problem.

The weird thing is, I’ve never really been judged for it. Some of my friends have seen the toys and other things, and some of them have even gone “oh cool I know that character”. So it isn’t the judging that scares me. It’s the fear that I could be judged that gives me nightmares. And that’s just not logical.

It doesn’t matter what other people think of me. I hoped that over time I’d be able to truly believe that, though, and not just say it. Because as my sleeping subconscious can tell you, I’m still very much afraid that people will judge me for liking My Little Pony. I bet the judgment is even worse for the male fans of the show. So I just want to say to any bronies out there who struggle with it like I do…

Pony on.

A question for anyone who’s listening…

Does there ever come a point where it simply isn’t worth it to keep fighting your anxiety anymore?

This is the dilemma I’ve been facing lately. I keep reading supportive messages about how it will get better. About how the panic attacks will end and I’ll be able to cope just like I did before the anxiety took over my life. About how I’ll be able to enjoy my job again, not feel anxious, do the things that scare me and get over the negativity that environment fills me with.

But lately it hasn’t just been those situations that trigger my panic attacks that make me anxious. It’s anything to do with work. It’s seeing those people. It’s feeling like they don’t support me. It’s knowing that I’ve done everything they have asked of me and more, outperformed my coworkers and gotten the qualifications, but still not received the promotion I’ve earned.

This is a part-time job that was great while I was in school, but I really don’t need it anymore. It has been a source of pride for me, though, and I love the opportunities I’ve gotten. I just don’t want to have to live with the idea that I gave in to my mental illness if I leave now.

I guess this is my question to anyone who’s listening:

If you remove yourself from the thing that triggers your anxiety, does that mean you are letting the anxiety win? Or does it just mean you’re taking positive steps to your own mental well-being?

I would love to hear what you think.

Reaching Out

I finally decided to get help about my anxiety. Despite how it may seem from my periodic blog posts, I actually think I manage my anxiety pretty well. One day I realized that when I think about my life in the future, I assume I’ll quit my current part-time job with the military. Why? That’s a good question. I mean, I love my job. I love the people I work with, the cool things we get to go out and do, the stories I get to tell, the person I’ve become as a result of my service. The only part that I don’t like is my anxiety. And yet, I want to quit because of the anxiety and panic attacks. And I decided that’s not okay.

I always used to think that as long as my anxiety isn’t running my life then I’m doing fine. I still go to work, I still do my job. I just worry about my job before I get there. I plan a couple of days beforehand to avoid anything that could make me anxious. I eat very cautiously the day I have to go to work out of fear that something will make my stomach upset, which will in turn cause another panic attack. I thought all of this was normal and showed that I’m coping well.

But the truth is I’m not. I want to quit just so that I won’t have to face the situations that make me anxious. If that’s not letting my anxiety run my life then I don’t know what is.

So I called the university health center and asked to talk to someone about anxiety. They told me the first opening was in a month. Side note, this is absolutely ridiculous that people with mental health issues are being asked to wait a month to get help. If others are like me, then they don’t call a month before it needs to be addressed. If I’m actually reaching out, it’s because I need help now.

Lucky for me, there was another counselor I could talk to. So I went, and told him about my anxiety. I told him about my fears and rationalizing behaviors. I told him about the panic attacks, and how I’m scared for a few weeks from now when I will be back in that situation.

My counselor is optimistic. He thinks I’ll be able to make a full recovery and not have to quit my job. We are going to come up with a plan to accustom my body to the symptoms of panic so that they don’t escalate into a full-blown panic attack.

He told me that the situations that cause my panic attacks show a lot of signs of the common triggers for people who are prone to panic. He told me that panic occurs when I am introspective about my body signals, and allow them to turn into disastrous thoughts.

But more than that, he gave me hope. Hope that I would be able to get better. Hope that I wouldn’t have to hide this awful secret from the people I work with. Hope that I can heal, and that my anxiety issues don’t define me. And hope that my nerves will heal and in time I won’t be triggered as easily by my anxiety.

And that hope is enough to keep me going and instead of dreading the next time I’m back in those situations, I’m looking forward to seeing whether I’m truly able to heal inside.

The Misfits’ Table

My anxiety is about doubt. Doubt in myself, in my abilities, in my right to be here. I worry about whether I fit in. I worry about what others see when they look at me. I worry that they will see my anxiety and decide they don’t like me anymore. That I’m unreliable because you can never know when my anxiety will emerge.

And yet the strangest thing happened this weekend. All week long I had been anxious about work. I was stressed out because I have a lot of schoolwork right now, and I didn’t know how I’d be able to get it done if I had to work all weekend. I told my bosses this, and they told me it was not negotiable.

Saturday night I’m at work and we take a break for dinner. I sat with a girl and two guys, none of whom I knew other than their names and faces. The girl told us that she got promoted earlier that day. And during the midst of her promotion, up at the front of the room shaking the officer’s hand, she was having a panic attack. Luckily she was able to sit back down before it escalated. Her friends told her afterwards how happy she looked. None of them even knew.

Wait… I’m not the only one who has panic attacks in these types of situations? Being military, having anxiety can get you kicked out. If you have panic attacks you are unfit for military service. And up until now, I thought it was only me who was trying desperately to hide their anxiety in fear of what would happen if they knew.

I told the girl that she isn’t alone. I told her it’s more common than she might think. Then I turned my attention to the two guys who were sitting with us. One told us that he also gets anxious, and he finds that what is most helpful to him is tea. He also told me he had a big travel mug of tea with him at work tonight. I wonder if that means he gets anxious at work sometimes too.

The other guy also joined in. He told us that he has social anxiety disorder. He told us about how groups make him anxious. And that sometimes when he’s with a group of people, even people who he’s known for years and is very comfortable with, sometimes he just needs to get away. He told us about when he was at a barbeque at a friend’s house and even though he should have been comfortable, he had to leave and go to his truck to just sit and be alone for a bit. He just needed to breathe.

So there we were, four misfits who live in fear that someone will find out about their anxiety. Four misfits who bonded over the thing that makes them worry, that makes them afraid. Just four people, sitting and talking over dinner in a room of 100 of our coworkers. Four people with more in common than you would ever guess just looking at us. Four people learning that even with the stigma, the fear of losing our jobs, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of not fitting in, we are not alone.

Sometimes you just need to know that the people around you truly understand. Not because they can empathize, or they can imagine what it must be like. And if you know someone with anxiety and you help them through it, then thank you for being there. But sometimes you need to talk to others who are going through the same thing you are to really believe that it’s going to be okay. Maybe not immediately, maybe not without a struggle, and maybe not without a few setbacks. But it is. It’s going to be okay.

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