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The Anxious Bride’s Guide to A Stress Free Wedding

Courthouse wedding in the hall of the Shelby County Courthouse

Okay, let’s all just acknowledge that a “stress free” wedding doesn’t really exist. BUT, a “least stressful” or “relaxed” wedding or elopement day is absolutely possible. And all of us in Club Anxiety need to stick together. Keep in mind that all of these tips are based on the assumption that you have a date picked already, and know your budget. If you have those things and you’re eloping, I have a nifty checklist to help you figure out what you need!

So, without further ado, the Anxious Bride’s Guide to a Stress Free Wedding. Let’s dive in, shall we?

First things first: Planning to be a bride/partner

1. Nerves

You will probably be nervous. This is 100% okay. Nerves are not bad in the slightest– they are there because you care :) So before you read any further, let your body know that at some point, the reality of this life change is going to give you some anxiety. And that’s normal and that’s okay. Change is scary, change is hard, and even if you’re 200% sure about this change, that doesn’t mean your psyche won’t go “woah.”

Check in with your future person. Talking about it and being honest is SO HEALTHY and worth it. It’s like when you attend a group class by yourself and then notice a friend is there too. Then it’s like magnets from the Lord of Lords pull you together, because you’re so relieved you know someone at this thing. It’s a relief.

2. Social and Family Pressures and Expectations as an Anxious Bride

Right now, somewhere on paper, on your phone, on your hand (but transfer to paper before you wash your hands-sanity over hygiene), in a text to yourself, write out your answers to these questions:

  1. Who am I marrying and why am I marrying them?
  2. At the end of the day, is my only goal to be committed to this person for the rest of my life?
  3. When I think about the future– how much of my future has to do with the details of this wedding day?
  4. True or False: This wedding is about your person’s name and me.
  5. What WE want for this day is: (Write out the vendors you do and don’t want, the specific events that YOU want throughout the day, how many people you actually want to attend, etc. Your wedding or elopement vision. Only yours).
  6. How much am I willing to sacrifice so that other people are happy?

Now, anxious bride, repeat after me:

This day is about _____ and me

This day will happen one time, so it should be as big or as little, as busy or as simple, as expensive or as low cost….as I want.

My friends and family are important, but not as important as _____ and I am on this day. Their opinion may or may not be welcomed, and their response to my decisions is not on me.

I’ve said this to a few brides during the planning process, so I’ll say it here: If they’re not getting into bed with you at the end of the wedding day, they don’t get an opinion. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a moment with a bride and groom, and all of the hullabaloo wasn’t actually what they wanted. They’re doing it for family, feel guilt because of monetary gifts…look…if there are strings attached to a gift, I generally don’t want it. And if there’s love in a family, they’ll eventually get over whatever it is that they didn’t like about what you decided. Rule of thumb in the guide to a stress free wedding: if there are strings attached, cut them.

Your parents already got married, so they had their day. And if they didn’t do what they wanted, they definitely don’t need to be forcing their dying dreams on you. No one wants their parents in the bed at the end of the day. Just saying.

All of this is so important to relieve stress when you start planning a wedding.

Heck, if it’s two weeks until your wedding and you’re reading this, start protecting your sanity. The LAST people who should be strung out on stress and anxiety on a wedding day, is the couple. Nope nope nope.

You want to enjoy your wedding! It’s a freaking celebration! And if you’re dreading it because you didn’t want a wedding at all…friend, it’s not too late. But I digress.

A stress free courthouse wedding in the beautiful marble hall at the Shelby County Courthouse.

Wedding Vendors to Book First

Being mostly an intimate wedding and elopement photographer, I only deal with a long list of vendors about 60% of the time. Obviously, there are still so many needs even if you’re having an intimate or micro wedding. If you were, are, or know an anxious bride, then this is my guide to a stress free wedding experience. I myself didn’t do most of the traditional things, and I try to encourage everyone I work with to do what they want for themselves. It’s amazing how stressful it is to make your day about other people :)

Most Important Bookings to Relieve Stress for an Anxious Bride:

Always book the vendor who can’t take on more than one wedding per day first. These may include wedding planner, caterer, photographer, and band/DJ. Check with your vendor if they offer associates or have a team to be able to service multiple weddings in one day or not.

Melanie Sotelo | What Wedding Vendors Should I Book First?

Venue + Photographer

This is my own personal guide to a stress free wedding, so what is most important to you may not be what I think is most important. When you start at the birds eye view of the entire day, the obvious first question is “where?” So answer that first. Depending on when your date is, your options will either be fairly limited, or you’ll have lots of breathing room and venues to contact. Keep in mind that if you’re wanting to plan something in 6 months or less, loosening the grip on any “dream venue” will help keep your planning more stress free. If you’re taking longer, maybe a year or more, you’re more likely to get what you want. The wedding situation right now (2022) is incredibly weird. So many venues are booked through 2023.

Book Your Venue

  • Make a list of your top 5 venues or locations that you’d like to get married, in order of desire.
  • Contact your #1 ASAP— if it’s available, you’ll get their pricing, packages, etc.
  • Contact #2-5 in whatever order.
  • If you’re planning a State Park wedding or elopement, courthouse elopement, or a local park or Botanic Gardens visit, get the information you need on reserving space, any fees, etc. Here are my planning blogs with lots of info, ideas, locations, and planning help!

Book Your Photographer

  • Don’t sleep on this.
  • Think about what kind of style you are wanting: Candid & documentary style, more editorial and moody, light and airy, etc.
  • Search The Knot, Zola, or your planning site of choice.
  • Go go Google and search for “wedding photographers in your city, or destination city
  • Go to Instagram search the hashtag #yourcityweddingphotographer, or #yourcityphotographer, or #destinationcityphotographer
  • I always think that if you find a photographer you love, try to do your best to make room in your budget for them, because you know you’ll love the photos. There are so many amazing photographers out there, so it’s very doable to book someone in your budget without “settling”. But, try try try to book the person who will be best for you. Make sure you get along, they understand what you’re wanting, you love their work, and they have great reviews.
  • Book your photog. Seriously, get that vendor locked in and relieve that stress.

At the end of the day, if there’s nowhere to do it and no one to capture it, did it happen? Only you will know :)

An intimate ceremony in the moody and romantically lit Rathskeller Room at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, KY.
The Rathskeller Room at Louisville’s Seelbach Hilton Hotel

Second Most Important: Wedding Planner/Day of Coordinator, Florist, Caterer

Here’s the thing: Having at least a Day Of coordinator will take a HUGE weight off. But when you book them, make sure they know what you want, what you’re looking for, what you need, how involved you want them, etc. You- as the bride or partner- you should not be having to make decisions, direct people, or make sure things are happening like they need to on your wedding day. This is not a stress free situation. ESPECIALLY if you’re having an actual wedding, intimate or huge bash.

If you’re eloping, see if the photographer can help with a timeline or local details, or has connections with a good day of gal pal. There are TONS of packages if you’re having a destination wedding as well. Florists and caterers, I would at least start the conversation. If you don’t have much time, lots of florists are happy to make one or two bouquets last minute! You just have to ask :)

With catering- something to think about is how much time dinner or cocktail hours take before you’re able to do much else with the guests at your wedding. I’ve seen some really fun hors d’oeuvres and appetizers done for evening weddings before people start to party- no dinner, people just eat before they come!

The Anxious Bride’s Wedding Dress, Hair & M/U, DJ, etc.

To me, these things are not the deciders on if your wedding happens and if you’re able to document it.

Get all the vendors you want booked as soon as you can- just don’t leave yourself with a killer florist and dress, but no photographer. The anxious bride’s guide definitely recommends a photog, planner, and venue for stress free memories :)

Bridal bouquet by a Memphis florist. Florists are an important vendor to book for a stress free wedding!
Bouquet by Heaslett Design Studio in Memphis, TN

Wedding Boundaries + Delegation

This wouldn’t be a proper Anxious Bride’s Guide to A Stress Free Wedding without some serious self care. Boundaries! Delegation! As your day approaches, your hormones and emotions send out some kind of mass email about a collaborative project. It comes in various forms and various names…wedding stress, meltdown, overwhelmed with details, wedding frenzy…. So let’s chat about a few things that are not necessary (sorry mom and dad…)

What you DON’T have to do on your wedding day:

  • You don’t have to wear a white dress
  • You don’t have to have a bridal party
  • You don’t have to wear a garter
    • I have been asked where?, when?, and in what order the garter goes on. And all I have to say is that if this isn’t something you’re psyched about, something you have strong feelings about or know that this is a tradition you like and want to keep…don’t do it? Yes, they’re totally sexy, but that’s it. Why do we wear them now? Why is it a tradition to have your partner take it off in front of everyone?
  • You don’t have to do getting ready photos. If you just want to get dressed in peace, get dressed in peace.
  • You don’t have to cut a cake, have a cake, talk about cake, or even play Cake. I’m not a cake person, I had people bring homemade pies for my reception :)
    • I honestly have never been attached to the cake thing. Is it the first “thing” you do together as a married couple? Is this cake cutting supposed to bring you even closer?
    • Don’t know why we do it and don’t care if you do? Ditch it. I can take a badass cake cutting photo, but I know that’s not the one you’ll keep looking at for the next 100 years :)
  • You don’t have to do all the dances, or any dances. Again, you’ve already been given away, hopefully your parents know you love them even without this dance. If the dancing gives you anxiety, cut it!
  • There shouldn’t be any pressure to have a long reception, a fake exit, a real exit, a typical wedding playlist. If you want that, awesome. If you don’t, don’t do it. You are STILL married if we don’t do the Wobble or nearly light you on fire with sparklers.
  • Assign a family member, friend, or bridal party member who knows your family to make sure everyone is corralled for family photos and can help the photographer with getting them in all the necessary shots.
  • Let your family and bridal party know what you will and will not be welcoming in the weeks leading up to the wedding, as well as the wedding day: No asking if “that’s how you’re doing it?”, no complaining about the lack of Jordan Almonds, nothing. If it’s not encouraging, we don’t want it. This definitely made me an anxious bride.

Four different photos of wedding details, including rings, shoes, perfume, the wedding dress, and jewelry.

Tips for Making Your Wedding or Elopement Timeline As Relaxing As Possible

Just a few things to help with a stress free wedding day for an anxious bride. Even though it’s wild by nature, we can tame it.

  • Get a timeline going well beforehand with your photographer or planner, so you can visualize the flow of the day.
  • Give buffer time for every piece of the day. If you don’t end up needing it, you have time to breathe.
  • Family photos are best right after the ceremony– everyone is already there, no waiting.
  • First look is recommended, because then you can knock out your portraits and not have to think about it. If you’d rather not do one (TOTALLY cool), then keep in mind that your photographer will need the sun after your ceremony if you want anything lit naturally, lit well, and/or outside.
  • If you’re doing all of the traditional reception events, I always recommend going straight into your first dance after being introduced to the room. Then dance with your parents. Then cut the cake. Get those things out of the way so that you can relax! Garter and bouquet throwing, that’s up to you– but I say get the majority of the events done so that you can enjoy your people.
  • If you’re not eloping just the two of you, let everyone in your circle know that on the wedding day, the coordinator and the photographer are in charge. They don’t need other people’s opinions or ideas. You’ve spent a ton of money for their expertise, don’t stress them out by others trying to control it.
  • Have all of the things you want photographed for detail shots in a box or bag together. Whatever you and your photog have decided you want in your detail shots, have it all together for them when they get there.
  • Give yourself about 30 minutes to chill together before the ceremony.
  • Lastly, delegate all the tiny little things to other people. Someone in charge of bouquets, someone in charge of making sure the photographer has all the rings and details, someone to make sure you eat and drink water.

A couple sits together and has some time to relax before their ceremony at the Seelbach Hotel.

And to close: breathe. Make sure you’re breathing, drinking water, listening to music or a podcast. Make sure that the environment around you is what you need to feel relaxed and at ease. If you need to be alone, say something. If you need something, speak up. This is YOUR day and you want to be as present as possible. The Knot has 9 Commandments for a stress free day, and they’re pretty spot on.

It’s okay to be an anxious bride :) What’s not okay is not having people around who support you, not making decisions that are best for you and your partner, and not having the wedding day that you want. I hope hope hope that this Anxious Bride’s Guide to A Stress Free Wedding actually DOES make your process less stressful! You deserve it.

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