I was the bride that was too cool for a banquet hall. “No cookie cutter wedding for me,” I thought, perhaps a little smugly. I obsessed over dozens of details that I doubt anyone noticed and can almost guarantee they don’t remember. I transformed an old window into a Pinterest-worthy seating chart and dyed paper doilies in five different colors. My husband and I wrote our own vows (of course) and put together a cocktail-hour playlist, despite hiring an expensive DJ whose job was to do just that.
I drove myself just this side of crazy—here’s what kept me sane.
My Birth Control
First of all, my dress was TIGHT. And white (or close enough; I think it was actually ecru, or “seashell in the mists of time,” or some other god-awful name for off-white). And a sheath. If I’d had a bump, you would have been able to see the lint in my bellybutton.
I was planning a wedding as if it were my job on top of a full-time-and-then-some actual job. My then-fiancé and I lived in a railroad apartment with almost no doors to shut out the squalls of an infant, I was training for a half-marathon, and my father had recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It was not a good time to get pregnant.
For me, there had to be some separation—no matter the order—between baby and marriage, and birth control made that possible.
We actually have a baby now, after the wedding, after adopting a dog, after moving cross-country, and after buying a house. I don’t believe in “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage,” but for me, there had to be some time between baby and marriage, and birth control was the answer.
I made my poor coworkers weigh in on all the wedding shoes I ordered online, including the pair covered in red sequins, the hot-pink satin peekaboo platforms, and the dusty-rose metallic-snakeskin bejeweled stilettos, which I ultimately kept in my one fit of “I am bride, see me sparkle.”
They also had to attempt to concentrate over the din of my phone calls to the tent guy, the venue guy, the table-rental guy, the manager of the Mexican-barbecue fast-casual restaurant that served as our caterer, the saleswoman at the boutique where I bought my gown, the seamstress, and the makeup artist. I asked what they thought about my wedding colors, whether I should wear my hair half up, and how many margaritas they estimated guests could drink per hour.
I was distracted and almost certainly not doing my best work. And yet my fellow editors at the magazine I worked for at the time threw me a shower and suffered through having to nibble on mini cupcakes and sip sparkling wine out of paper cups in a conference room while pretending to be excited about the two weeks I would be taking off and the extra workload they would have to shoulder while I was away. They were either great fakers or saints. Regardless, I appreciated their enthusiasm.
That half marathon I mentioned? It saved me. When I was wedding planning, we lived across the street from a huge park, and three or four days a week I would run the 3.3-mile loop around it again and again. Not jog, but straight up run fast enough to pretty much be panting the whole time. Sometimes I would tear up thinking about my dad or laugh at an episode of This American Life.
For someone who spent most of her time in a cubicle, on the subway, or in an apartment with peeling paint and heavy brown velvet drapes, being surrounded by huge leafy trees and electric-green grass that sprang back after you’d trampled it made me feel open, alive, and free enough for all sorts of random, brilliant thoughts to bubble up (and some not-so-brilliant ones too; I’m still sorry I got it in my head to custom-stamp save-the-dates).
Running also helped me let off steam. The more I exerted myself, the less energy I had to devote to worrying about whether the hydrangeas would wilt in the heat. Though my anxiety still managed to move along at a pretty impressive clip, literally racing in circles did help me keep my mind from racing in circles.
Everyone occasionally jots down what they want to pick up from the supermarket, the things they need to do this week, or the reasons they should break up with their therapist.
I, however, have at least a dozen lists going at all times, and getting married doubled that fairly conservative figure. There was the list of whom we’d invited to our wedding, their addresses, and whether they’d RSVPed. There was the “show flow,” a list of all the tasks (with those that were dirty or difficult in bold) that had to be completed the day of the wedding, by whom, and at what time. There was a list of how much money we spent on booze, wedding bands, and hair removal (okay, only I spent money on that), and which flowers would be in season in June.
Normally more of a Microsoft Word gal, I kept them all in Google Docs so my husband could view them—and occasionally, if I was feeling generous—edit them too. I love that years later, I can still access “rehearsaldinner_version3.doc” if an engaged friend wants to know how many people we gathered together to eat pasta and ice cream sandwiches the night before I had to wear Spanx for 12 hours.
My two sisters were my bridesmaids. They not only didn’t help, they were extra work. I had to order them dresses from Rent the Runway and keep a straight face when one of them told me she didn’t pack underwear for the wedding. They were young, not even of drinking age, and therefore broke and immature; I can’t blame them.
Thank God I have lovely friends who acted as my de facto wedding party. One, a Jersey girl who could turn a shipping container into a nightclub if given 30 minutes and a jar of glitter, waited hours for the tent to show up and helped me do the extraordinarily complex math of figuring out how many bistro tables we needed to rent. Another brought cherries and pretzels for my sisters and me to snack on while we were getting ready, while a third filmed the wedding on her iPhone so my dad could watch it later.
My best friend was our officiant.
My girlfriends plunked themselves down in my tiny kitchen and helped me wrap little bundles of plastic utensils in baker’s twine, planned my bachelorette party, and zipped me into my dress. Neither my now-husband nor I had family in town, but we had friends who acted like family, and without them, I probably wouldn’t have had the audacity to plan a DIY wedding.
Now all of them are married, and many of them have just had or are about to have a baby, which is like a wedding except the gown opens in the front and nobody’s invited. I work from home, so my only officemate is my dog, but I still use Google Docs to keep track of naps, and I still run, though I’m slower now. And I went back on birth control at my six-week post-baby check-up, because while part of me loved wedding planning (mainly the cupcake tasting) and all of me loves the result of four hours of pushing, I don’t need to repeat either ordeal ever again.