Lessons in Wedding Planning: It's Never the End of the World

Because the last three weeks have seen me in wedding-planning "go mode," and because nearly every waking minute spent outside of work has been spent thinking, planning and preparing for this shindig, and because as soon as the calendar switched over to 2013 I went into hyper panic mode, I wanted to share with you all a little life lesson I've learned about wedding planning.

It's never the end of the world.

As I mentioned above, almost as soon as the clock struck midnight on January 1st, 2013 (I say "almost" because on New Year's Eve I certainly fell asleep by 11:30pm, never to see midnight), a wave of "holy cats the wedding is this year and, oh my gosh, I still have 4,500 things to do" struck me like a sack of overpriced flowers. I had spent the last, oh, eight months in blissful, engaged relaxation.... not really doing any of the "big" things... pinning to my heart's content, visualizing everything in my head. Lots of dreaming, not much doing. But then 2013 happened and suddenly my wedding was taking place in nearly four months. Gulp. Yikes. Oh no.

I logged on to my Martha Stewart Wedding month-by-month checklist and was greeted by about 10 big, scary, bright-orange exclamation marks (the dreaded "task overdue!" signifier). Well, perhaps I should get to work, I thought. (Except that thought was more like OMG WE ARE PROBABLY NOT GOING TO HAVE A WEDDING BECAUSE SOME GENERIC ONLINE TOOL TELLS ME I AM BEHIND IN SHOPPING AROUND FOR FLORISTS!!!!!!)

And so, the panic set in.

Number one on the list was "find a rehearsal dinner space." I was sure we had plenty of time, but when I inquired around to a few places, I was met with shock over two things: 1) Rehearsal dinners cost how much??? and 2) Places had already been booked solid on our date.... five months in advance.

So what was my reaction? Panic, obviously. Well, I guess we're going to have our rehearsal dinner at the local McDonalds! That's it, everything is horrible and we should probably just cancel the whole thing now!

After three days of scrambling to find another venue and asking around to half a dozen restaurants in the general vicinity of where we wanted this thing to take place, I was met with a reassuring "Oh sure we've got availability that day!" Upon checking out their menu and prices, I was floored when I discovered everything was perfect. It was the exact style food we had thought of in the exact part of town we wanted and a very cool space that we were hoping for from the get-go. Throw in the fact that it is reasonably priced and it's pretty much the perfect scenario. After a week of panic and getting all wound up about nothing, we secured the date with The Wicked Hop in Milwaukee's Third Ward and walked away happier than we probably would have been at any of the top three places we'd originally thought of.

The world didn't end.

The next glaring exclamation point screaming in my face was shopping around for and securing a florist. This is something I had put off for quite some time because it's one of the details I've never been too concerned/excited about. I have plenty of decor that I will be making myself... flowers are just an afterthought when compared to those. But I knew I was pushing the limits, so in the past week and a half I've met is a couple of different florists and have gotten proposals.

Here's the first thing that sent me into a rush of panic: Flowers are G.D. EXPENSIVE. I mean, you've got to be kidding me was kind of my mantra for about five days... The initial budget for flowers I had ignorantly dreamed up in my head a year ago, after seeing the proposals from each florist, was laughable. Like, roll-on-the-ground-in-hysterics laughable. For everything I wanted, it turned out, would cost me more than double that initial price in my head I'd just grabbed out of thin air. It was a hard pill to swallow. And, you guys, I'm not even having a formal, fancy wedding.... I don't even want to know how much people spend on flowers alone for many of the fancy-ish weddings I've been to. For something that dies. For something you'll enjoy for only a few hours. Good grief, people.

So then, of course, I freaked out about flowers. Can I afford flowers for the reception space?  Maybe I should just buy everything in bulk and do it all myself! Am I going to have to go out and pull weeds to throw in vases on each table?? On Saturday morning I e-mailed the florist I was most likely to work with and sent a long, rambling e-mail about how overwhelmed I was and that we would have to make some drastic cuts and that I have no idea what I'm doing and, here we go again, I guess we should just call everything off because without flowers there's no way we can possibly get married.

My florist responded, offering to come to my house to check out all the vessels my mom had collected to use on the reception tables so we could see what we're working with and figure out how many flowers we would need for the space.... and this is before I even signed a contract. Once at my house, he told me he read about two (of the eight) paragraphs I'd written in my panic-laden e-mail and knew I needed a little talking-off-the-cliff.

So, as Mr. Pancakes circled around our feet, we did some brainstorming and the florist left me feeling calm, relaxed and actually excited about our proposed plan. I thanked him profusely for playing therapist for the morning, and two days later he came back to me with a revised proposal that knocked my socks off. It was right on budget, and none of the bridesmaid bouquets or my own bouquet had to be compromised.... and it included all the peonies (my favorite flower) I wanted. 

So, after wasting a week pulling out my hair over flowers, I signed the contract with Jaimer's Floral (and, as a bonus, I'm keeping it hyper local, as he lives just blocks from my house/the reception space). And I'm more relaxed and excited than I'd ever thought I would be regarding flowers at the wedding.

Even in the midst of my days-long freak out, the world certainly continued to turn.

So if you haven't caught on to the main theme of this post, of my long-winded, possibly TMI rant over the silliness that is planning a wedding, here it is: Unless you're the world's most laid-back person (which, at one point, I had foolishly thought myself to be), you're going to get hyper about your wedding. You're going to think nothing is going to work out, you're going to panic about not having everything exactly the way you dreamed up in your head (that's why it's called dreaming, ladies). You might even think, for one rage-blinding moment that the wedding altogether has fallen apart. But it doesn't. It won't. It's not going to. 

Things have a way of working themselves out. Closing doors and opening windows and whatnot. Even if your reception venue suddenly closes five days before your wedding, the world will not end. You will get married. You will have the best day of your life. Because although it is the most important day you'll experience in life so far, your world won't end if you have to cut peonies from your bouquet, or hold your reception space at a pizza parlor or ride to your ceremony in a broken-down jalopy or hire some hobo off the street to scratch a few notes on a violin during your processional.

Weddings are a big deal. But freaking out over them is silly. Stop. Breathe. And start dreaming up Plan B. Because even if things don't go exactly the way you dreamed, you're still going to end up married. And that's the most important part of all the planning in the first place.*

*(Please remind me off this when I inevitably throw myself to the ground in angst over not finding the perfect bridal veil).


  1. I love it!
    For my wedding, i think i was calm. Maybe my sister would say otherwise. My dress never showed up. I got the same one i wanted off the rack at a shop that was an hour away. And then the day of the wedding my cake never came. The caterer organized getting cakes that day and everything worked out in the end!

    1. Elizabeth, I remember hearing about your dress and your cake! Seriously, I am *so* impressed with your ability to keep a calm head about that... especially the dress! You were probably the best bride in the world. I can't imagine anyone else staying so cool about that! And though things certainly go as planned for your day, you still got married, right?! Had the best day ever? So it really is Never the end of the world!

  2. I love it!
    For my wedding, i think i was calm. Maybe my sister would say otherwise. My dress never showed up. I got the same one i wanted off the rack at a shop that was an hour away. And then the day of the wedding my cake never came. The caterer organized getting cakes that day and everything worked out in the end!

  3. So nice to read! I have been panicked since NY day and I had been proud of myself thus far for being chill and on target time-wise. Thanks for the candid reminder to breathe. I may need a few more before 6.22!

  4. how did you end up fitting the budget AND not have to compromise on what flowers/bouquets/etc you wanted?!
    lol im not getting married anytime soon but never too early to start gathering tips IMO lol

  5. Just curious - I'm getting married at South Shore Park next May (maybe - my mother HATES it), and I'm worried about the setup. And clean up. How are you handling that? The price is right, but maybe not if I'm going to be spending hours putting out centerpieces and putting up Christmas lights myself the day of the wedding. :/ Who are you using as a caterer?

    Sorry - I'm being really nosy, but I'm definitely in panic mode now. My mom hates South Shore and reminds me of it every chance she gets. She's full of horror stories from people she knows who went to weddings there - someone had to clean the bathroom, someone else spent hours decorating beforehand, someone else had random people wandering into the wedding, etc etc etc. Ugh.

    1. Hi Jess - I understand how frustrating it can be when someone voices opinions about your wedding (especially your venue) that aren't glowing.

      As for set up, we have rented the Pavilion the Friday afternoon before our wedding for three hours. We are going to do the majority of the set up within that time frame. that way, we won't have to be running around setting everything up the day before. The pavilion has allowed us to keep our decorations there overnight. For clean up, thankfully I'm enlisting the help of some very gracious volunteers. We'll have a group of people packing things up and trying to get out the door as fast as possible.

      As for the Christmas lights, you may want to check a couple weeks before the wedding - the parks manager told me they just keep the lights up, and they will remain up at the Pavilion unless someone, for whatever reason, takes them down.

      I've had my concerns about the space too (the bathrooms, the openness to the public), but in the long run, it's a wedding - nothing is going to be perfect. If your guests turn their noses up at the bathroom, it's not your fault! That's the last thing you should be worrying about on your big day. I do plan to leave some nice amenities in the bathroom and try to make them a little nicer than they are in their regular state, but there's only so much you can do.

      If you love the space, book it! If you worry it's going to provide added stress, I'd recommend finding some place else. The closer the wedding gets, I do get concerned that I will have to do everything myself - decorating, coordinating with vendors, etc - but the space means a lot to us and I know it will be a blast. Good luck with your planning, and let me know if you have any other questions!

      P.S. I DEFINITELY recommend hiring a day-of coordinator if you'll be booking at South Shore. Mine is Jami from All Dressed Up events... so far she has been incredible (and her services are offered for an EXTREMELY reasonable price). She is going to be coordinating the decorating, working with all my vendors the day of, making a wedding weekend timeline, etc. I have a feeling she will alleviate a lot of stress that weekend!

    2. Rachel - I meant to reply to this weeks ago, it got away from me. Thank you so much for all the tips! I hadn't thought of a day-of coordinator, that's a great idea and I'll definitely look into it. I'm feeling better about renting it anyway, since we live about three blocks away from the park and I'm really excited to share the neighborhood we love with our out of town guests. It'll all come together, it will reflect us, and that's what matters more than someone using a napkin who wasn't invited. Right?

      Aaaaand I think I may have just run into you after your rehearsal? I was walking a puppy. I don't remember your wedding date, but if that was you, have a BEAUTIFUL day tomorrow!

    3. Hi Jess! I do remember you with the puppy after the rehearsal! We live about four blocks from the pavilion, as well, so that was our thought - we wanted it there to share the neighborhood we love with our friends and family! I am going to post an update about the wedding shortly, but I honestly couldn't have asked for a more perfect experience. It's a little worrisome when you know you're basically coordinating everything yourself, but the day couldn't have gone smoother. We had a ton of help, which was amazing, and the weather actually turned out perfectly! I didn't notice anyone just walking in and crashing, and there were no hiccups or anything in regards to the wedding ceremony space or reception. South Shore Pavilion is such an incredible blank slate to work with as far as decorations go - everyone said they couldn't believe how we transformed it! Good luck in your planning! :)

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