A Bride’s Guide for the Anxious, Awkward, and Broke

22 May


photo wedding

This bride probably can’t focus because her mind is heavy with the burden of debt, social acceptance, and the to-the-minute schedule for the reception. Illustration by janwillemsen on flickr.

I want to talk about weddings for a minute. 


Mostly, I think I want to put my stance on weddings in one place so that when people continually ask me about my and Dave’s future, I can hand them a business card that sends them to it. Something like theJackieblog.com/whyarentyoumarriedwhatsgoingonthereitstotallymybusiness 


The Dave and I have been together for a long time. A very long time. Friends have had several full relationships within the cycle of our forever love – some have even gotten married and had children. There are a variety of factors that have contributed to this that really aren’t anyone’s business, but a large part of it has been both of our desires to do what we want in our own time. Stunning concept, I know.

But we’re coming up against that natural desire to send carbon copies of ourselves out into the earth, and when I combine my that with the need to simplify health insurance, income taxes, and a variety of other administrative hassles, it appears it’s time to throw in the towel and get married. So now we have to deal with all of that malarkey.

I’ve never really been the kind of girl to sit around and dream up what my future wedding will be. I’ve dabbled from time to time – had a private Pinterest board or two – but mid-pinning I’m reminded of everything that comes with a wedding and I’m overcome with a sense of dread.  So let’s talk about those things, shall we? Because nowhere, in the piles and aisles of ‘how-tos’ for brides, have I found a single book on “how to get married when you’re anxious, awkward, and broke.”

Some Crappy Things that Come With a Wedding

Thing 1 – The Attention: This has always been an issue, but with more social media apps than I can keep up with, it’s reached new woeful heights. There’s the engagement announcement, the wedding announcement, the constant questions about both. We can post it on Facebook casually or come up with some clever picture. Then do we roll it out across several platforms for the folks who are only on one? What about the people who aren’t on social media at all? Should we call them first or after? What if I need to do breathing exercises to talk on the phone? Then, I have to deal with people actually responding. Imagine how many clever jokes there are for a couple who has waited as long as us.

Work announced I got a promotion and six weeks later people are still exclaiming excitedly to me in person about it, which makes me want to tear off my skin and run away every time. If that’s a miniature test, the backlash from wedding-related announcements is going to make me self-implode. I’m already tired. People are already mad; I can feel it. Which is a shame, because we haven’t even gotten to:

Thing 2: The Invitation List: This is where it all goes way downhill. Even if I’ve done a proper job of announcing it and people were generally cool and I didn’t spontaneously combust from stress and anxiety, I still have to figure out this part: who gets to come? Are they the people who should come or the people who I want to come? Do Dave and I just figure out how much money we have (none) and how many people it can feed (none), divide that in half (zero) and then invite that many people (yes)? I guess I’m supposed to make rules for how guests get filtered through the decision-making and then extend the rules consistently and fairly throughout the process, but the rule I want to make is that they get to come if we want them in the room. That’s never actually how it happens. Even if we would be lucky enough to be the first couple in the history of all weddings to only invite the people we actually want to come, it means there will absolutely be more of:

Thing 3: The Drama: Even if a parallel Disney universe porthole opens up and sends me tiny magical mice to help me deep-breathe through the spotlight that comes with announcing, and even if some of those magical mice are deployed throughout the earth to explain to some people why they weren’t invited and others why they were, and even if no one has anything negative to say about that process (hilarious), there’s still going to be drama. Beyond the topic of who is supposed to come, people are going to have feelings about where it is, when it is, how long it is, what it’s like, where they sit, what the music is, if the favors are good enough, whether the food was good, and whether we chose the appropriate types and number of socially awkward wedding traditions. I have to say, I’m not really a traditional kind of gal. That part where single women scramble for the flowers publicly? That part where men go after the garter that’s been up the bride’s thigh? That part where a random man puts his hands up a random gal’s thigh in celebration of them being the two lucky catches? Has totally grossed me out forever. The dollar dance? Super weird. The part where the audience has to watch a bunch of different traditional dances take place? The cake in the face or maybe not in the face? The speeches, the toasts, the terror. The bachelorette and bachelor parties, the wedding shower. I have a lot of not awesome feelings about these sometimes requirements. Don’t get me wrong: folks should do what they want at their own weddings; it’s just that people seem to think I should also have to do what they want at mine. The only one I’ve been a fan of to date is a cookie table. I feel like a lot of people can really get behind that. Though I have to admit that’s a bit at odds with my issues surrounding:

Thing 4: The Work: Man, that’s a lot of work already and I haven’t event organized the event yet. I have to find a venue, probably think about making sure it looks all right, invite the people I argued about coming, track which ones will come and which ones won’t and guess on the rest, book and confirm and coordinate, make sure people know what to do and where to go, find some food and drink for them, probably get a cake and some entertainment or something… and then there’s all the worrying. That will probably be the most work of all. The amount of worrying that I will do and the time I will spend talking about all that worrying instead of doing something much more productive: that’s the heavy load right there. Speaking of heavy loads, it’s about time we address the elephant in the post:

Thing 5: The Money: This is the core of it, isn’t it? How insane is the money situation with weddings? Sure, someone will say something about how I can make it as expensive as I want or something. Or someone will offer to pay or help. Or I’ll be encouraged to put more work in to save more money – as if there isn’t enough work already. Yeah – I could try to figure out how to get a free or near-free venue. I could force a pot luck on everyone and tell them that because of our near-free venue, I probably won’t have a way to keep anything hot or cold so good luck. I could throw a pig in the ground with fire and say vegetarians be damned because I don’t have the money for pasta salads on the side (sorry gluten free folk). I could borrow everything possible and I’ll still end up paying a nice sum of money to make all of this happen or to at least make it happen in a way that’s worth all the work. And remember, people are going to have opinions on spending their money, taking off work, and driving some place to eat lukewarm food in the middle of the woods while a bunch of people just hang out.

As many times as I run through everything in my head, sometimes I still get to the place where I wonder if I just have to do it anyway because that’s what people do. What if I can get the money together? Then should I just do it?

But every time I come back to these three things that are definitely better than a wedding.

Three Things that Are Better than a Wedding

Thing 1: Starting a Foundation

I’m not even kidding. You can start a foundation with 5-10K – which, let’s be honest, is what we’re talking about. And that’s optimistic. Wouldn’t it be awesome if, when Dave and I got married, we celebrated by starting a philanthropic fund? Instead of all that money going into a one-time event, it can go toward something constant and sustainable that lets us fondly reflect on the spirit of giving every time we gift it.

Thing 2: Getting a House

So I recognize that this is something that I aspire to mostly because I’ve waited long enough in life to actually think it’s more practical to have a house than to have a party. But really. If I have to have a ceremony, I should just have it in whatever is my house-to-be. Anyone who wants to help pay can go in on that down payment with us. We can get celebrate in the back yard, have a proper potluck, and sleep for the first evening in our home together. If folks feel hellbent on wedding gifts, they can be focused on the housewarming celebration, which also takes the pressure off to have traditional wedding events and dances. 

Thing 3: Other people take us out to celebrate

I think this is in the realm of my million dollar idea series (along with Puppy Amusement Parks). We send invitations out to people to let them know we’re getting married. To celebrate, we welcome them to give us a call or email us to set up a date to go out together and celebrate. If that’s too intimate for them, then I guess we aren’t close enough to warrant a special celebration. And if they don’t want to or can’t pay for it – then I’m sure they can empathize with the fact that I feel the same way.


So there you have it: I’m adding to the bridal guide canon with this completely free how-to thinkguide support piece thing. No need to thank me, anxious dwellers of the earth. …Just don’t hold it against me if I fall privy to the trap of weddings and have to eat my blog post soon in shame. Don’t worry, if I change my mind you’ll know – I’ll feel pressured to make sure you get an invitation. 


25 Responses to “A Bride’s Guide for the Anxious, Awkward, and Broke”

  1. knotrune May 23, 2017 at 4:20 am #

    Seriously, do you absolutely have to have a big wedding? Can you not just sneak off and get married quietly in a registry office, or one of those places in Vegas with Elvis or something? You don’t even have to tell people if you don’t want to! Or just casually mention it if they ask what you did on holiday. I think the house idea makes a lot of sense. It is your life after all, what are the repercussions if you don’t have a big wedding? I suppose if your parents would disown you then that is a good reason to submit, but other than, just resist the social pressure!


    • Jackie May 24, 2017 at 9:08 am #

      Eloping sounds like the best option, for sure. Is it still eloping if we don’t go anywhere and just keep the secret/surprise part?


  2. Ice_Badger May 23, 2017 at 5:19 am #

    Go away and get married on a mountain / beach / etc and take a couple of people…

    I solved the wedding planning problem by getting my mum to do it… I was doing my PGCE and thus busy tryign to be a teacher so I basically got rung up every now and again and answered questions which went a bit like this
    Mum “what colours do you like?
    Me “um black?”
    Mum “no”
    Me “mark likes blue lets have that”

    It led to me having a wedding that was completely different to what I would do now if I thought about it but my desire not to organise it was stronger…

    And I have never had opinions about weddings until I decided to have one…


    • Jackie May 24, 2017 at 9:09 am #

      I think a big part of the issue for me is that any wedding at all is problematic. The moment I invite even one person it because dramatic. Perhaps I’ll do it in the stealth of night 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ice_Badger May 24, 2017 at 9:12 am #

        my brother in law and his wife eloped… properly eloped they went to gretna green (the only place you can get married on short notice in the UK as far as I know) and got married.
        They told noone, no family no friends noone until it was done. they used people off the street or possibly people who worked at gretna green as witnesses and didn’t tell anyone until it was done! Probably a much better way to do it…


        • pegoleg May 24, 2017 at 11:47 am #

          Wow, I didn’t know people still did that – Gretna Green is still an elopement destination? Do they get married over the anvil in a blacksmith shop?

          I love, love Jane Austen and her sister-in-Regency-romances, Georgette Heyer. They always had their misbehaving heroines flying off the Gretna Green.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ice_Badger May 24, 2017 at 11:49 am #

            yes, that seems to be exactly what they do!!

            I wasn’t there (obviously) but I have seen the pictures and it looks just like that!

            Apparently you can’t just turn up now but only because they get busy…


      • Ice_Badger May 24, 2017 at 9:14 am #

        another friend of mine is going on holiday to get married, noone else is invited, just her and her fiance 😀 i say do that!


        • Jackie May 24, 2017 at 9:20 am #

          Both of these sound better than anything else I can think of. I guess in the back of my mind I’m worried I’ll be sad that day. I don’t think I will be; it feels like when people say you should go to prom just to go since it’s once in a lifetime. I would have been fine without prom. The pressure was ridiculous. There’s just know way to know until you’re through it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ice_Badger May 24, 2017 at 9:27 am #

            People say things like that because they place a huge importance on the day its self. Like spending 1000s on a dress and the “right” flowers / doves to fly out of a hat or whatever … they love to be centre of attention.
            For me, I don’t think I would miss the day if I hadn’t had it, the bit I remember is the meal in the evening (we didn’t have a disco we sent everyone home) with my family and my close friends… which could have happened anytime.
            The important thing to me was the marriage, not the wedding…

            Liked by 1 person

          • Lori Reeder (@lorification) May 29, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

            The beauty of eloping (either locally or taking a holiday) is that you can still celebrate with friends and family later, in any way that you deem fit. Coffee dates with some, a potluck with others, double dates with others, and so on. Each occasion can be a mini-reception 😉

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Katie Robles May 23, 2017 at 8:36 am #

    Two of my cousins have had tiny weddings. They invited who they wanted, got hitched, then announced it after the fact (or their handful of attendees did). I’m talking four people at one at a courthouse and maybe ten at the other at a winery. Pick your spot (top of a mountain? Local pub? Water park slide?) and do it! I love your Thing 3 idea. At a traditional wedding, you don’t really get to talk to the guests anyway. Maybe you could send out an announcement that asks in place of gifts that they donate towards the house and makes the offer of getting together personally to celebrate. by the way, congratulations on your engagement! Am I allowed to say that? 🙂


    • Jackie May 24, 2017 at 9:11 am #

      If I decide to have a small one maybe I can combine it with the double date invitations so that folks still feel included and we still ride out the celebratory part. Thanks for reading 🙂


  4. pegoleg May 23, 2017 at 1:22 pm #

    Congratulations! Er, that is, not to imply that there was anything wrong BEFORE with not being married. And I realize that I am reinforcing traditional stereotypes by suggesting that making the commitment to marry is somehow superior to not doing so – perish the thought. So…OK, sorry?

    Why not concentrate on buying a house? Then get married in a small ceremony in church, if that’s how you do, or courthouse, and have your reception be a lovely cookout in your new backyard. What’s wrong with that? You don’t have to do all that crap – the important thing is you and Dave making that commitment and asking the people you care about to celebrate the event with you.

    I would definitely keep the wedding shower idea, though. You get lots of nice, practical swag at those.

    Oh, and as soon as you get done with the wedding, better start working on your next post:


    • Jackie May 24, 2017 at 9:14 am #

      House, justice of the peace, housewarming/reception might do the trick! And ugh to the baby questions. You’re right. Why must the entirety of society push people into the next phases of things and not just enjoy wherever we are? Or butt out entirely? We all need to zen, man. Don’t wedding showers always come with toilet paper games and stuff? Totally not worth it 😉


      • pegoleg May 24, 2017 at 11:41 am #

        I went to a shower just last weekend and they only did lunch and presents.

        I kinda felt cheated because there was no present bingo or toilet paper games. I kick butt on that stuff and rely on those games to replenish my Bath & Body Works hand lotion and Yankee Candle supplies.


  5. Samantha May 24, 2017 at 3:19 am #

    I almost could have written this. It’s really nice to know I’m not alone in anxious, awkward, broke land 🙂 BF and I have been together for almost eight years and it’s just so daunting thinking of putting together a ceremony.


    • Jackie May 24, 2017 at 9:15 am #

      Yes. Nine years here so I hear you. Daunting indeed! And everyone feels connected to us since we’ve been together so long and Facebook has existed for all of it. We don’t necessarily feel connected to them good luck keeping the wedding monsters at bay!


  6. Cindy B June 1, 2017 at 12:19 am #

    2 offers: 1. our side yard (we hosted a wedding reception for Peter’s godson several years ago in our yard, about 100 people. The couple rented a tent and a portajohn! Franktuary catered). 2. Peter bakes lovely wedding cakes.


  7. Joanne Sisco July 11, 2017 at 7:35 am #

    Yup. You pretty well summed up what my son and his partner are going through since they announced their engagement and wedding date for next year. Each of the points you made has been fodder for discussion … and a huge dollop of angst.

    Good luck navigating all the wedding land mines. I hope you maintain your sense of humour through the entire process 🙂


    • Jackie Baker July 15, 2017 at 6:49 pm #

      Best wishes to your son as he navigates the several circles of wedding hell. I hope you’re taking the pressure off and emphasizing that you have absolutely no opinions whatsoever that do not perfectly match his 😉 Thanks for reading 🙂


      • Joanne Sisco July 16, 2017 at 7:13 am #


        Ooooh … you meant that seriously … 😉


  8. Cindy B July 12, 2017 at 6:21 pm #

    2 thoughts:

    1 Pop-up wedding (see Pop-up Pittsburgh Weddings). Maggie went to the first one this company did in Pittsburgh – at the Pump House in the Waterfront – and enjoyed it.
    2. Young House Love did wedding in backyard of their then-new house for $4,000. Money that would have gone to renting a venue went towards home improvements . See http://www.younghouselove.com/our-backyard-wedding/


    • Jackie July 15, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

      I think that if my arm is ultimately twisted into a celebration, we’ll try to line it up with a housewarming so that at least the money that is (let’s face it: gifted), goes toward something that builds value and not just for a one-day thing…which is where most of the silliness lies for me. Thanks for the note about Pop up weddings!


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