Practical Tips for Planning a Wedding with Mental Illness

This is going to be a very different blog than I usually post. On this date, I've been married for just over six weeks. The craziness of the wedding is quickly fading. So my plan is to make a list and add to it over the course of a month or so, until I think I've remembered most of what I thought about right after the wedding was over. 

However, first you need to know a few things about me:

- I am 54 years old and was engaged to a 52-year-old man who had a full-time 8-5 office job.

- When we were dating, I lived with my elderly parents; he had a roommate. Even while sharing expenses in each of our living situations, we barely lived paycheck to paycheck.

- Every part of this wedding would be paid for solely by us.

- Every part of this wedding would be planned and 95% carried out by me. 

(Note that these are in no particular order.)

1 - KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)...

 When I first started planning, I knew I should keep it simple. I knew how important that was because I was doing it almost exclusively by myself. But, as I tend to do, the ideas started flowing. The end result was FAR from simple. 

I loved my wedding. It had so many very cool parts. But the stress the week before and especially during the set-up and rehearsal was pretty extreme. I do wish that I had left out some of the parts that weren't quite as important to me to keep it a little less stressful.

If I knew then what I know now... I would have constantly evaluated my stress level and when it was getting too high, I would have acted on it by making something, anything simpler.

2 - Make lists, but keep them organized.

I had so many lists - regular lists for things I needed to do for work or around the house; lists for when we moved my stuff around so that we could move him in; lists for what we needed to buy - and what we needed to sell; lists for guests - both those who we'd invite to the ceremony and those who could access the Livestream; lists of songs to use; lists of parts of the ceremony we wanted to include... so many.

I put most of these lists in Google Docs so that I could access them no matter where I was. Occasionally, I would back them up to show a progression from getting engaged to getting married. 

My issue with that was that I didn't always put the old list in a separate file - and I didn't date it. There were times that either my mania or my depression made it difficult to keep track of what was what - and I would go to an old list instead of the latest one. 

If I knew then what I know now...  I would have tried my best to keep better track of what was old and what was current. It would've been worth taking a few minutes at the end of planning session to organize all I had done.

3 - Don't get ahead of yourself.

Being a freelancer, I never know what my schedule will look like from week to week. It could be that I have almost nothing to get done one day - and be slammed for the next three or four. 

So if I had one of those days with nothing pressing work-wise, wedding planning was my top priority. 

The problem was that sometimes I would work on things ahead of time - and then they had to be redone when something changed closer to the wedding. 

For example, about a month before the wedding, I had some time and I thought I had the guest list confirmed, so I printed the name plates for the seats. Then about a week after they were all printed and checked off my list, I found out about a change. I made another. Then another week later, another change.

If I had just waited until really close to the wedding, it wouldn't have taken that long to print them and overall I would have spent much less time on the task.

If I knew then what I know now... I would have waited until the last week to do anything that could possibly change. Then after that point, if a change needed to be made, I would fix it the easiest way possible, even if it's not the "best" way (like hand-write a seating card instead of printing one).

4 - Be very aware of impulse decisions.

One of my last-minute ideas involved folders for those who were part of the set-up, tear-down and/or rehearsal. But noooooo, I can't simply get matching folders and put the same contents in each - I had to have folders that matched the personality of each person and had personalized notes in each. 

Once I bought them, I was married to the idea (pun intended) and felt I had to use them.

This idea sounded good at the time - until something again changed during that last week. Going through all of those folders and finding the ones that needed to be fixed was a pain. If all of the folders had been the same and had the same contents, it would have been MUCH easier to update them.

If I knew then what I know now... Up until the literal last couple of days before the wedding, it would have been better to wait a day or two before acting on a new idea. There was time even though it didn't feel like it.

5 - Enough is enough.

Kind of like "All cute ideas are not equal," this point is about the amount of cute and special aspects of your wedding. Let me list just some of mine...

- The cakes were made from Little Debbie snack cakes.

- The cake toppers were Legos... two photographers that represented us, knights (the main cake was in the shape of a castle), a moat monster (Randall from Monsters, Inc), and a baseball player (the groom's cake was us shooting a baseball player at bat).

- We had two wooden hands that had articulated joints so we could shape them into "ILY" signs. That would have been cool by itself, but it looked a little weird with the joints showing so I got flesh-colored gloves, put cheap wedding rings and our grandparents' watches on them, and my mother-in-law made cuffs.

I just realized that I could go on and on... I could literally write pages of all of the fun and unusual ideas I had. But that's not the point of this post.

The point is, all of those amazing ideas took a lot of thought, time, and energy to pull off. I loved having them in there, but as the wedding date approached, I kept adding more. Some of my early ideas I didn't love as much as the later ones, but I wouldn't give any up.

If I knew then what I know now... I would have quickly re-evaluated all of the old ideas every time I had a new one - and would have only kept the best ones instead of all of them.

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