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For today, let’s write a how-to guide in the second person.
Remember: These prompts are just starting points; you have the freedom to go wherever your flash of inspiration takes you.
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Here’s my attempt at a how-to:
How to Get Married
First, get engaged. This is the easy part.
Within five seconds of being engaged, people will ask, “Have you set a date, yet?” Learn to field this question with a polite smile and a one-armed shrug. “Not yet” is not the answer they want to hear.
Realize quickly that the wedding industry is a money-sucking monster that will only be satisfied when you’ve hit your limit on all your credit cards. Be very clear with your partner that you will not be doing that.
Your partner will shrug apathetically and say, “Whatever you want.” Understand that this will be the only input you get from them until after you’re married.
Stay up for three days straight learning how to plan a wedding yourself. Read every budgeting blog, DIY article, and wedding website you can find. Create a reasonable budget and show it to your partner. “We can only have about 150 people in total for this budget to work,” you say. Accept their shrug as acquiesce.
Research venues within your budget. Try to look for ones within 10 miles of your home. Expand it to 20. Expand that to 50. Mark a few down. Your partner will drive you to each one, and you will find a few you like. Quickly realize that there are hundreds of hidden fees everywhere, and that very few places are actually within your budget. Take deep breaths. Research, visit, repeat.
Find a venue you like and can afford. Put the down payment on it. Field the first parental freak out—your partner’s mother wants to invite all 15 of her third cousins, which your partner hasn’t seen since they were four. Explain to your partner why this is an unreasonable ask when you have people you actually know and see that need to be on the list. Watch your partner coerce their mother into a calmer state. Watch them concede that 5 of the third cousins can come.
Drink a lot of wine.
Make hundreds of spreadsheets (to track the budget and spending) and checklists (for everything from attire to decorations to photography poses). The more that you do, the more there seems to be to get done. Only allow yourself to cry about it one time, when you realize that you’ve spent too long dithering about the food to get either of the caterers you wanted. Allow your partner to make some phone calls and then hug them so hard their ribs creak when they come through with a caterer in your price range that is available on your date.
Become a DIY master in the few hours between work and bed. Buy everything for very little cost at Jo-Ann’s or Walmart or eBay. Then spend hours and hours crafting centerpieces and signs and little random touches that will make your ceremony and reception Stand Out.
Fall into bed so exhausted every night that you don’t even have time to say goodnight to your partner. Take deep breaths when your bridal party is catty or your parents are rude or your partner doesn’t seem as invested in this whole rigamarole as you are. Remind yourself that it will all be worth it.
When you wake up the Morning Of, check your phone. Find a text from your partner: See you on the other side, baby. Allow yourself some tears of relief, of joy, of absolute bewilderment that you both made it this far.
Dry your face and get to work.
Your photographer will be late; the single vegetarian will complain about the food; someone’s plus-one will get too drunk and need to be escorted off the premises by your greasy, Italian uncles.
But when you catch your partner’s goofy grin from the other side of the dance floor, it will all have been worth it.