My life changed forever on March 25, 2000, on a bench at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. It was an overcast afternoon and a light rain had just started to fall. With prettily wrapped French pastries in hand, I was looking for a place to sit and enjoy my treat. My traveling companion suggested an uncovered bench next to a small reflecting pool. I suggested a well-covered bench about 10 feet away. Much to my chagrin, my companion forced me to the uncovered bench. After sitting down, I quickly opened our treats. When I turned back to face my companion, he was not on the bench; rather, he was on one knee in front of me holding a Claddagh ring—the Irish wedding band.
After Jeff, my traveling companion and boyfriend of three years, asked me to marry him, I was speechless. I was so drawn into the beauty of the moment that it took me a few seconds to respond. But, after much hugging and kissing, I said, "Yes."
Jeff and I set our wedding date for Aug. 11, 2001. That meant that I would have less than a year and a half to plan a wedding, keep everything in order and enjoy the moment. From that moment on, every childhood fantasy of my wedding day was coming at me at lightning speed. I knew then that I would need to do something to stay organized and to remember every moment of the most wonderful time in my life. That's when I turned to a wedding journal.
My Planner's Log
When I tried to keep journals in the past, I would just use a notebook or loose paper, only to find that a month later I had either abandoned the notebook or lost the sheets of paper. So, this time I decided to take a different route when a friend gave me To Have and to Hold, A Wedding Journal. Ironically, but appropriately, the guided journal is published by the My Chaotic Life division of Walter Foster Publishing. I soon found out that chaos is the catchphrase when you are planning a wedding. I enjoyed using a guided journal for discipline, but using a journal that is blank inside is just as helpful. I know because I kept one of those, too.
The guided journal helped to keep me focused but I soon discovered that there were things missing that I really wanted to include. For example, Jeff and I decided to write a short piece that we would read to each other after we exchanged our vows. There wasn't a space in the guided journal for me to jot down thoughts or ideas for this "untraditional" element, so I added notes on this into the pages of my personal wedding journal. Having space to explore my ideas helped me to write those special words.
As I continued to write in my wedding journals, I discovered that my writing was serving many different, but equally important, purposes. The first thing that a wedding journal does is act as a keepsake of memories. From the day I got engaged up to the big day itself, many things happened that I wanted to remember. For instance, I was able to record and chronicle the events of my engagement, my bachelorette party, my many shopping trips and even my small disagreements with Jeff over wedding plans. The journals provided a great place for me to track everything that happened. I even recorded how, on the day of my wedding just minutes before I was about to walk down the aisle, I started stepping on the hem of my dress and stumbling. Thankfully, my bridesmaids found some scissors and safety pins, and began to cut the netting and fabric below my dress to keep me from falling flat on my face. That was a memory I never wanted to forget—so I wrote it down.
A wedding journal also acts as an organizational tool. Whether you use a guided journal or make your own from a book of your choosing, a wedding journal is a great place to keep lists, phone numbers, head counts and photographs. Helpful hint: Consider using a notebook or binder that provides pocket folders, or create your own pockets on the inside of your journal by taping on a paper flap.
In the wedding journals I used, the two most useful things were the checklists and the folders. I used the checklists—several provided by the guided journal, others cut from bridal magazines and pasted into my personal journal—to make sure that I wasn't forgetting something important. I used the pockets to hold pictures of different dresses, hair styles, flower arrangements, centerpieces and tuxedos. I carried the journals with me whenever I went shopping or to place an order. That way, I could just mark something off of the checklist once it was accomplished, or I could pull out pictures when I was trying to explain an essential item I wanted to purchase.
A Pleasant Distraction
Finally, a wedding journal provides you with the most important part of wedding planning—a fun distraction. What was nice about the guided journal I kept is that it provided fun little pages to take my mind off of the impending date. One section allows you to mark off the household duties you and your husband should share, and then it provides a section where you can mark the duties as they will really be. I kept a variety of other fun distractions in my personal journal including comic strips that people gave me about marriage, marriage "horror" stories clipped from magazines, pictures of things I would never have in my wedding even though Martha Stewart raved about them. Anything that you can slip into your journal to make you laugh during the planning process is something that every bride or groom should do—trust me, you'll need it.
Committing to the Time
As is the case with most weddings, finding time for yourself is a very difficult thing to do, especially if, like me, you work full time. However, I knew that I needed to make time to write in the journals as things happened, otherwise I would forget. So, I made a promise to myself to carry the journals with me at all times. That meant keeping them with me at work, in the car, on shopping trips and at home. In addition, I also decided that I would write something in at least one of my journals every time I completed a new task or at least made some type of progress.
I also scheduled time every Sunday evening to write something down. Even if I hadn't accomplished anything that day, I was always feeling a different emotion, and I wanted to make sure I remembered how I was feeling. It was amazing how one week I would be bursting with joy, and the next I was crying at the drop of that hat because I didn't think I'd be able to pull off the planning. That scheduled time on Sunday evening from 9-9:30 was very important to me because it helped me focus my energies, reflect on my emotions and set a game plan for the next week.
Once you have used your wedding journal to help you plan and remember the events leading up to your wedding day, don't forget to keep writing. The day of the wedding can be one of, if not, the most important and hectic days of your life. That doesn't mean though that you should neglect your journal. Jeff and I weren't getting married until 2 p.m., so I made some time in the morning to write. Like most brides, I was experiencing a lot of different emotions that day—everything from excitement to fear to calm. I wanted to remember each of these emotions, so I took 15 minutes to write about them. I jotted down a few quick notes, then prepared for the big day.
As I stepped through the open doors of the church, stared down the long aisle before me and clutched my dad's arm, I saw my future standing before me. I knew that this would be just one of many days that I wanted to remember and share with my husband—and I could, all because I chose to keep a wedding journal.
This article appeared in the June 2002 issue of Personal Journaling.