De-stressing wedding planning by changing my wedding party expectations

Guest post by Melanny Eva Henson
De-stressing wedding planning by changing my wedding party expectations
A happy wedding party at Liz and Adam's wedding | Photos by Chaz Cruz Photography

There are a number of wedding traditions that soon translate into serious expectations when planning a wedding. Essentially, family members and the wedding party are expected to step up and donate time, energy, and most importantly–money, to help the new couple launch their lives together.

When I first got engaged, I knew many of those traditions would be flying out the window as the differences in incomes were significant between ourselves and many in our wedding party, particularly on my side. But as I navigated those financial waters, I uncovered a pleasant surprise: my tailored approach had resulted in a drastic reduction in stress and conflict.

Here's how I de-stressed my wedding planning by changing my wedding party expectations…

De-stressing wedding planning by changing my wedding party expectations
Good Vibes Only Banner from MailboxHappiness

During my eleven month engagement, there were:

  • zero arguments about bridesmaids dresses,
  • zero conflicts about any other part of the wedding,
  • zero hurt feelings and/or misunderstandings,
  • …and most importantly: zero hesitation to be happy, rally, and muster genuine excitement about the wedding!

So how did I do it?

It was simple, really: I removed expectations. It cost me approximately $2000 more than it would have of our $25k budget to cover at least some of the expenses for our wedding party. And it was worth every penny. I showered my bridesmaids with perks and gifts. Our wedding party was surprised, grateful, and excited to join. By offering to cover either attire or a room cost, we sent a clear message: we want you here with us so much, and we don't want your attendance to be a burden for you. You are valuable and important to us.

I think couples should consider taking a more critical approach to their position during the planning phase. The way we have approached weddings traditionally has set us up for conflict.

Think about it: haven't you already won? You have a person willing to make a lifetime commitment to you (and in today's market, that's a rare find). You already have a day where you and your happiness will be the focus. It can be a tough pill to swallow for people who are single, in unhappy relationships, or struggling financially. Agreeing to be part of your wedding sometimes only creates stress and demands on them to make your life even more awesome than it already is. It's the perfect breeding environment for resentment.

We've groomed our culture into empty catch phrases about “this day is all about you” and “it's your day.” Though that may still be true to some extent, it creates a weird temporary hierarchy among you and your loved ones, and that's guaranteed to drive wedges in your interactions during the planning phase, through the wedding, and beyond. Acts of generosity will establish you as a thoughtful friend, and take the edge off of their own struggles as they stand and support you. Nothing says relax and have fun like “free.”

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Comments on De-stressing wedding planning by changing my wedding party expectations

  1. All of this is so important!

    I am paying for bridal party dresses and suits, doing all the alterations myself, housing my out of town bridal party folks at my house (and believe me, the concept of “wedding night” is so much less important to a queer kinky sex positive person than seeing friends from out of state), and I even helped with some of the travel expenses.

    I firmly believe that my wedding shouldn’t cost my friends much. I wish I could afford to cover 100% of the travel expenses, even! I know I’ll be planning family style meals (like our at-home rehearsal dinner) and it’s so exciting and feels warm and homey, not stressful and icky.

    I hope everyone planning a wedding reads this amd take this to heart. When your wedding is a team and not a press gang it makes a HUGE energy difference!

    • I feel you on that!

      All three of my bridesfolk were from out-of-state, and unfortunately we couldn’t afford to pay for their travel or lodging (we had a $5k budget for the entire wedding), but we did everything we could to keep costs down for them. Rather than expecting them to buy matching outfits, we just gave them a general aesthetic for the wedding and let them pick their own attire, and made it clear that if they were looking for an excuse to splurge on something snazzy and new that was cool, but they were more than welcome to wear something they already owned. Apart from one groomsman whose fiancé was really excited for him to have a new kilt, I think everyone wore clothes they already owned. We helped point the out of towners toward decent cheap lodging (they ended up going in together on a really awesome AirBNB, and split 6 ways between them and their SOs it was less than $100 per person for three nights), we all did our own / each other’s hair and makeup, and as we got close to the day of we had room in the budget so I was able to pay for a rental minivan for them.

      Our photographer was also a dear friend, and as a recent grad our brokest out-of-state guest. It meant a lot to us to have her there and be the one to do our photos, so we put her up in our hotel suite, drove her around, and made sure her meals were covered for the wedding weekend. I absolutely agree on friends from out of state being way more important than a “wedding night”.

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