So, I've been in the bell jar. No wait, the wedding jar....cake? dress? ....VORTEX. Yes, vortex, wedding vortex. Swirling yards of fabrics in all various whites, flowers, photographers, musicians, decisions, etc.
And it can get daunting. However, there are some things I've learned:
1. Sometimes making decisions can be difficult. Once you go in one direction, all those other directions you were entertaining in your head are shut down. You might worry about all your stockpiled "what if?"s.
THROW THOSE OUT. Once you've made your decision, feel a sense of well-earned confidence and don't look back. There's about a million more decisions coming up, so you don't want to keep stockpiles of "what if?"s in your head. That's precious mental room for keeping cool, planning a honeymoon or just maintaining your sense of self through this process.
On that note: there are MILLIONS of wedding blogs and resources out there. It's really fun to look through them, find ideas you like and tailor them to your own affair. But I strongly suggest that after a certain point, like once you've settled on certain decisions (date and venue, overall look or feel of wedding), you take a break (you can go back to looking if you want to after a break, but don't make yourself nuts). By then, you've probably got yourself a laundry list of possible flower arrangements, invitation ideas, favors, decor. Just take a couple weeks off from the wedding porn (and maybe even talking about wedding stuff with your partner) and just chill. This allows some time for all that information you've absorbed to convalesce. You'll then be able to approach your decisions with fresh eyes and a clear brain, thus making decisions a lot simpler.
2. I'm pretty sure that every engaged couple is met with resistance from well-meaning friends and family at least once during the wedding planning process. The key here is to always remember it is well-meaning! They've been to weddings where they thought something was so fun, it's now a "must have" for them. They are just trying to share that sense of fun with you. What they might be forgetting is that this wedding is yours and your partner's, and will be different from any wedding out there, so the "must haves" for one well-meaning friend/family member might be a "not necessary" or "not wanted" in your case. So, stick to your guns on this, and with a gentle firmness, let them know you're not interested. Sometimes being polite and gracious in the face of all this "help" can be daunting, but it's important to keep things cool while standing firm.
3. Just because you and your partner want something a certain way doesn't make you a bridezilla. I've watched a few episodes of that show, and unless you've turned into some sort of psychotic mega-jerk, intent upon terrorizing anyone within your sight-lines (partner, family, friends, wedding planner, etc), then you're probably not a bridezilla. If you are particular about something, it doesn't make you a bridezilla (unless you start psychologically damaging those trying to help you). Always try to maintain your cool and stand firm in your decisions. Remember that this is supposed to be about you and your partner. Doing things your way is going to make this a very happy event for you guys. And come wedding day, your guests aren't going to care about all the things they didn't even know was on the table at one point or another. Weddings are supposed to be full of all the people who love you best, and they're going to love you weather you have a 10 piece band or an iPod playlist. So, don't be afraid to hold onto what you REALLY want for your wedding. Keeping things about you and your partner never makes you a bridezilla.
4. Wedding magazines, on the whole, SUCK. They are full of over-blown outrageous fantasy weddings (most of which I find garish) and not much in the way of real-world practical information and help. The only one I've found that is actually helpful (and now contains my notes and scribbles in it's margins) is Real Simple's 2010 Weddings issue. Online is more information too. The issue costs more (about $14) but that's because it's not choked with advertisements. There's a really helpful time-line in there, broken down month by month so you know that however many months from your date, such and such should be taken care of. There's info on how to keep things on a budget while being stylish, things to think about, questions answered, etc. Also, it's just one issue so you're not over inundated with information. It's been really helpful.
5. The wedding industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. That's per year. It's insane. Weddings have become a fetishized affair. Advertising for weddings has become really clever at making brides feel that they should pull out all the stops and spend loads of money they don't have on a one-day party. This is not to say this day shouldn't cost something and shouldn't be given a special priority in your life. It should. It's so joyous and amazing to promise to love your partner forever and build a life with them! It's beautiful that you want both of your families and all your friends to bear witness to this momentous event! But these sentiments are intangible, so there's nothing to buy or sell for it. The wedding industry works to make you feel that you need to express these intangible feelings through lots of needless and expensive crap or you're somehow NOT expressing your love enough or NOT providing a good time to your family and friends. THIS IS A LIE. Wedding vendors charge thousands of dollars for something because they know they can. But if more people start demanding that they bring their prices down, the landscape of the industry will change. ($2000-$3000 for flowers? Crazy. Especially when farmer's markets or Whole Foods sells gorgeous flowers for $10 or less per large bouquet. Remember that part of what you're paying for is delivery and expertise, but understand that they're only flowers).
The handmade movement is already pushing for industry changes. There are more and more handmade weddings happening, be them either 100% handmade or incorporating certain hand done elements and ideas. This is usually cheaper (the labor costs fall to you and your willing friends and family) and will definitely be unique to your own day. If you're a designer, who says you can't design your own invites and favors? Who says you even need favors? If you're not artsy, there are plenty of easy and simple DIY project instructions to be found online and Etsy is a huge marketplace for crafty and artsy people who are specializing in making wedding items (dresses, decor, invites, favors, etc). A little research can yield great options that are budget-friendly. Additionally, small local businesses that do wedding stuff can be really flexible about staying in your budget. For example, we recently met with Hana & Posy as a possible florist. They are eco-friendly, local and run by two wonderful women who are about 30 or so. They really listened to what we were saying and are keen to stay in that budget. Additionally, when we asked what their professional opinion was regarding flowers for our reception site (they're familiar with our venue), they didn't try to foist extra goods on us. They agreed that our venue doesn't really need much in the way of extra decor and that a little can go a long way. Additionally, our photographer, Melissa Chinici, was the same way - didn't start talking me into extra hours or options, listened to what we want and how long our day is going to be, and agreed that her least expensive package (starting at under 1K!) is plenty for what we want. So, all in all, there are options for a frugal bride. Stylish, professional and fun options.
So just because the wedding budget gods dictated that (insert wedding vendor service) should cost about (insert percentage of wedding budget here) doesn't mean you have to spend that. There are vendors out there, like photographers and florists, who either start with a reasonable package price or are more than willing to work with you on your budget. So mention your budget (even if it's far below that industry sanctioned percentage) and see what they can do.
6. HAVE FUN. This is a unique time in your lives. Enjoy it. Don't forget to be a couple, as you were pre-engagement. Don't forget to go on dates, romance each other, and take breaks from wedding planning. Don't forget to work on other things, like your hobbies or projects, or other goals you have as a couple. The wedding is one day. The marriage is hopefully forever.