weddingbiopic-230x300After my husband proposed I remember feeling blissfully happy; sharing the news, celebrating with friends and family, and walkin’ on clouds, viewing everything through my bling’d out, rose-colored glasses.

What I also remember is being really surprised at what I hadn’t prepared for when it came to actually planning the wedding.

We attend weddings, but don’t see “behind-the-scenes” until it’s our turn. When that curtain cracks open for us and we excitedly peek behind it, out of nowhere – BAM! – we are hit with a giant sandbag swung from the rafters full of financial stress, pressure, and relationship challenges. And when I say ‘relationship challenges’, I’m talking about alllll your relationships: family, friends, business (because get ready, you’ll have lots of contracts to sign), and the postman, who is already a) assuming he’s invited and b) requesting you “don’t seat him in the nosebleeds”.

There were many stages of wedding planning during which it became glaringly obvious to me why people elope. The race to measure up, keep people happy, stay financially stable, and balance all the moving parts can cause a slew of unforeseen obstacles and tricky situations, and most of this will naturally fall on the shoulders of the blushing bride-to-be.

When the wedding planning began I suddenly felt that I’d stepped onto a malfunctioning factory conveyer belt that seemed to get faster as it progressed, operated by individuals who had apparently slugged one too many mimosas. People were standing by at their stations along the assembly line ready to package me up: the dress, the venue, the cake, and the opinions. Oh, the opinions. My head spun. I attended a bridal show, and wondered where the striped tent was above it all because it felt like a circus.

“Take this to lose 40 lbs. before your big day!”

“Register with us and get your free cake-mixer-slash-nose-hair-remover that you surely can’t have a happy ever after without!”

“Your wedding will not be perfect until you get this undergarment designed to help hide all your back-fat! Our must-have wedding day accessory, inspired by Spanx and Satan, will hide away all your – wait, you didn’t know you had back-fat? Well thank goodness you came today so we can save you from looking like a giant sweaty wildebeest spilling out of her dress! You won’t be able to sit down or breathe, but that’s okay, because you will look breathtaking.” (*GUSH*)

And the surprises kept coming.

Suddenly, certain people whom I never thought had it in them were competing and comparing. My ring became an object of scrutiny and silent judgment. Expectations crept in, along with “to-do” lists. If I was the one getting married, why did it feel like I was throwing a wedding for everyone else? I couldn’t believe how overwhelmed I felt!

I was grateful for our wedding, and there was much beauty amongst the chaos. So much beauty, and so much love! But the reality today is that planning a wedding is a pressure-filled, emotional time, and navigating through while keeping your sanity, finances, and relationships intact is like trying to complete a triathlon with no training. You may cross the finish line, but not before collapsing a few times while gasping for air (and maybe losing your wallet along the way).

I thought I might have been better prepared – maybe even done things differently – if someone let me in on the “real deal” of what to expect, and it prompted me to write about my experience. What started as a small article that ran in a local magazine evolved into a book, The Real-Deal Bridal Bible, filled with stories from former brides and grooms, interviews with therapists, hilarious anecdotes and nuggets of wedding and marital wisdom reminding today’s bride to slow down, breathe, remain true to herself, and keep the focus on what it’s really all about: celebrating the decision to spend the rest of your life, with the love of your life. That you can in fact do things your way while remaining happy and keeping your relationships healthy, and that there are plenty of alternatives to side-stepping the faulty conveyor belt.

If you’re planning a wedding you’ll likely encounter some of the obstacles that are inevitable along the way. But at least now you can enter the race with some training under your belt. I’ll be on the sidelines, cheering you on. I’ll hand you a towel and a bottle of water. And I certainly will not try to sell you a god-awful undergarment from hell. Promise.