How Wedding Culture Almost Ruined My Wedding

By Elise Wantling

My now-fiancé and I began discussing the possibility of getting engaged in early January of this year, and that was when the problem started. Dreaming of my wedding day was never really my thing until I realized a wedding was in my near future. In an attempt to catch up, I started consuming any wedding-related material I could get my hands on. I created a board on Pinterest, I picked up copies of the national and regional variants of The Knot Magazine, I bought a wedding planning book recommended by my cousin…. And then the trouble started.

My fiancé and his family are very simple, no-nonsense people. Though I tend to be a little more flashy, I’m a pretty humble person myself, this is part of why my fiancé and I get along so well. About a month after our Valentine’s Day engagement my fiancé and I sat down with our parents and drafted a budget. We settled on a modest budget, significantly less than the national average cost of $32,641 (as reported by The Knot). I was perfectly happy with this, and so was my fiancé. We discussed getting married on his family’s property, or at a small lodge on the military base in Fort Leavenworth. We envisioned a simple wedding, perhaps in the early fall, with a rustic theme, and sunflowers as the main motif. It sounded perfect for us!

Everything was fine until wedding fever set in. The more I read wedding magazines, scrolled through Pinterest, or talked to my other engaged friends, the more insecure I became. While looking at Facebook marketplace and wedding dress resale websites, David’s Bridal was emailing me almost daily encouraging me to look at their newly released lines or check out their sales. Wedding magazines were advertising “how to wedding plan on a budget” with suggestions that were nearly double what we had designated for each area. The Knot was emailing me weekly countdowns to our tentative date, with suggestions of vendors they recommended to check items off my “to-plan list”. It all quickly became overwhelming. While I had started the process with a clear vision of what my fiancé and I wanted (something affordable and simple), suddenly my thoughts were inundated with all these new ideas, themes, and standards of what was a must-have or a must-do.

The wedding I was mentally planning started to become bigger and bigger. I got my fiancé to agree to change our wedding from a $300 venue to a $1,500 venue, then I started working on convincing him we needed to look into an all-inclusive venue that had decorations and catering arrangements as part of the package instead of trying to plan everything ourselves. We started making plans to tour country clubs and mansions, and he tried to figure out how he could save up over the next few months in order to contribute more to our wedding and increase our budget. I was stressed, he was stressed, and still I felt like I needed to keep thinking bigger. After all, your wedding is supposed to be the best day of your life, right?

Then one night, everything came crashing down. I started discussing wedding details with my fiancé, then suddenly broke down crying. I couldn’t handle the stress of it anymore. I didn’t know what I was planning, because it didn’t really feel like my wedding anymore, it felt like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I expressed all this to my fiancé and he listened patiently, then gently suggested maybe I needed to scrap everything and start over, but this time without the help of the magazines, the Internet, and my friends. This time I just needed to sit down with him and figure out what we wanted, instead of everyone else.

We went back to square one, and now we are planning our wedding, not a wedding built on unrealistic expectations. Looking back, I realize I got too caught up in the standards of the wedding industry. I became invested in the culture of the wedding and focused on that, instead of the reason for the occasion. Sometimes, as a young person growing up in the age of social media, it becomes so easy to listen to the voices on the Internet, or focus on the pictures in the magazines, that they drown out our own thoughts and feelings. Wedding culture encourages us to think large, go grand… but sometimes that’s not what is needed. We have to remember magazines like The Knot or places like Pinterest aren’t actually our friend, they’re just tools used by businesses to sell their products.

I’m looking forward to my wedding now, and I feel like a lot of the pressure is off. We are doing a low cost event with our families and closest friends, and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s going to be casual and fun, just like us, and I look forward to having the wedding of my dreams and not one built on expectations. I feel like I learned an important lesson applicable to all areas of my life which is this: Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by the expectations of others. Always stay true to you.