Engagement Journal: Month 4

Phew. It has truly been a whirlwind few months! Since the last time we spoke on the topic of wedding planning in July, we have shared our styled engagement photos, celebrated with family and friends at Boordy Vineyards, looked at a bazillion wedding venue options (local and abroad), and gone through a roller-coaster of emotions. If I'm being totally honest, the past few months have not passed without stress or tears. Before I get into all of the positive and happy things that have happened throughout this wedding planning journey so far, I first want to touch on the hard stuff.  

Thankfully, Sam and I put wedding planning on the back burner until after our engagement party so that we could just enjoy the season before the chaos begun. We dodged the looming question of 'have you picked a date?' over and over, and over again until the party had ended and we decided it was time to get serious. Because I am a major over-thinker, it was difficult even imagining where to begin. My mind went in a million different directions and each direction had even more options. You know that meme with the bubble above the very confused woman's head and the insane calculus equation? That's basically how my everyday life is - with food, blog posts, personal style, etc. - except that for wedding planning, you can basically multiply that by a hundred.

Strangely enough, I never had that Hallmark vision of what my wedding day would look like as a little girl. Truthfully, I thought that I might not get married at all until I met Sam. Even after 6 years of dating and discussing marriage in great depth, I still didn't have a clear picture of what the actual day was supposed to be. 

My experience in the styling realm, and my endless Pinterest 'wedding board' was NOT making it any easier, either. Even though Sam and I have never wanted a big, extravagant, crazy wedding, I felt like I still had to live up to this expectation of what people imagined for our wedding day. I kept thinking that I didn't want to make a "mistake" by going in the wrong direction, or let anyone down with what we decided to do. The venue was the most important element to Sam and I, so making this decision felt overwhelmingly heavy. 

The thing is, like most people, we don't have an unlimited budget for our wedding day. And even if we did, we still wouldn't want to invite 250 people to celebrate our marriage with us just for the sake of having a 'big' wedding. We have always imagined it intimate, beautiful and relaxed. 

But, as these things got into my head for the days following our engagement party, I began to think differently. I started searching for venues that would fit 150 people and pricing that could allow for this monumentous day. I created Excel spreadsheets for 6 different states and 3 countries, up to 25 venues in each category. I began requesting pricing on my favorites and every time I would get a response it felt like a punch to the gut. I would open up my email, look at these numbers, and immediately be on the verge of tears. I would walk away from my computer just to come back and put in requests for more venues - going down my list, from our ideal places to 'eh, this looks fine'. 

The pressure to commit to a venue and a date kept building. I felt selfish if I focused on anything other than nailing this first aspect down. On the top of my to-do list day after day was this highlighted, all capped order, "BOOK A VENUE!!!!"

One day in particular, I remember getting excited about a venue in Virginia that I had found through Instagram, 4 hashtags deep, at 2am the night before. I requested pricing before I fell asleep and I woke up texting my Mom photos of this location saying it was beautiful. By the afternoon, I received a response saying that the food and drink minimum alone was $25,000 (not including the hefty ceremony fee + everything else). I fought back tears while on the phone with my Mom telling her that we needed to take a walk. I confessed that I just didn't know how much more I could do this. It was let-down after let-down, every single day something discouraging making its way into my inbox. 

Getting engaged and planning a wedding is a time to celebrate your love and commitment. But as exciting and meaningful as it is, it’s also stressful. This can be hard to make sense of, especially since so few people are open about how difficult it can be. There’s an expectation that it will be happiest time in your life. And when it’s not, it can be confusing, disappointing, and even a little bit shameful.
— The Every Girl

I kept thinking that being engaged was supposed to be this overwhelmingly blissful time. I was not supposed to be wiping away tears on my lunch break wondering how any sane, working human does this at all. The only thing that I was sure of was that I wanted to marry Sam, and that could be done with $25 at the courthouse. I knew that our marriage was going to be strong and amazing, no matter how we celebrated the actual day. 

During this time, I actually began to feel a bit ashamed. I felt like I needed to hide the fact that wedding planning was proving to be difficult for me - after all, I am a stylist and planner at heart. Why can't I just pull this together like a styled shoot? I kept getting comments from well-meaning friends and family saying "I bet you have every last detail planned and set in stone". Meanwhile I was laughing nervously in the corner nodding and thinking to myself... "Oh girl, if you only knew". I didn't want to tell people that I was feeling overwhelmed or disappointed because I knew that I'm supposed to be the happiest I've ever been. After all, I am marrying the man of my dreams; the sweetest, most supportive, handsome man I've ever met - something I have prayed for for the past 6 years.   

After that minor breakdown at lunch, I decided to give myself a little break from wedding planning. Work stress was beginning to get worse and Sam's job had been semi-permanently relocated to Virginia, so there were a lot of adjustments going on. I knew that it wasn't the time to make this huge decision. After a few weeks of just getting back to normal life and taking care of myself (aka eating meals, taking long walks, sleeping) I felt like I could finally re-enter wedding planning with a fresh mind.

I trashed our extensive Excel Spreadsheets, closed out of the bazillion tabs I had open on my computer and mind, and got back to listening to our hearts and following what we truly wanted. Since Sam and I had been going back and forth between the idea of a local wedding and eloping, I decided to hand write a list of Pro's and Con's for each. 

On one hand, eloping would be beautiful, less costly, less stressful, and more adventurous. But, I had to think about our families and friends, and realistically if we would feel lonely getting ready that morning by ourselves in a foreign country. I had to consider if it would just feel like a styled shoot for the blog and not our meaningful wedding day. On the other hand, having a large local wedding would be more stressful, costly, far-fetched from our personalities, and we would need to compromise on the venue. But, it would be more convenient for everyone and we would have the traditional "big" wedding day moments. The list went on for each side, but I won't bore you with the details. 

Sam came home that Friday and I cancelled our plans for the entire weekend. On Saturday morning we cuddled up together over tea, removed all distractions, and decided once and for all what direction we would go in. We have decided to have an intimate destination wedding! Wooooo! It feels SO good to finally say that and honestly kind of silly that it took us this long to figure out. It had been staring us straight in the face from the very beginning and although it may be less "convenient", we have been reminded that we need to do what makes us happy. After we decided that we wanted to go in this direction, we quickly agreed on the exact location we had both been dreaming of since we got engaged. (I'm going to keep this one a secret - sorry guys!) From that point, it became a million times easier to actually start 'real' wedding planning and get excited about it.

I finally realized that wedding planning didn't need to feel like a chore. It's easy for me to run on 3 hours of sleep when I'm up in the middle of the night doing research, sending emails to potential vendors, and dreaming of our perfect day. I've been on an adrenaline high since we made our decision because the focus is finally clear, and now essentially all we have to do is iron out the details. We can't stop telling friends and family how happy we are and how what we are planning is unconventional, but EXACTLY what we picture for our wedding day. We are getting ready to sign a contract this week and I have been giddy and over the moon excited about it. I'm literally doing my 'happy dance' as I type this. 

As strange as it may sound, I'm thankful for the sleepless nights, the tears, the difficult decisions, and the fact that we didn't rush into a venue simply due to pressure in the weeks following our engagement. I fear that without these things, Sam and I wouldn't have settled on what we truly wanted. 

I wanted to share this (maybe surprising) wedding update with you all because I know that on the surface it may look like we have got it all together. Social media = highlight reel. I know from personal experience that when I see another person get engaged I assume that they've got unlimited funds, help, and time and that everything is going their way. But, in reality that just isn't the case - at least for most of us. I've learned that it's okay to take a step back, to not have it all figured out, and feel a little nutty throughout this process.

It's all part of the fun, right?

Speaking of fun, I received some wonderful wedding news last week when I found out that I won a pair of handmade wedding shoes from Bella Belle Shoes through an Instagram contest! I just got them in the mail and when I tried them on I swear I had a Cinderella moment. They are the most beautiful shoes I could have ever imagined wearing on our special day and I just know that they are going to go perfectly with any dress I choose. 

So that's it for now, loves! I will do another update in a few weeks most likely once I can give more details on where we're at in this whole wedding planning adventure. If you have any questions that you want me to answer in the next post, comment on my Instagram or ask below in this post!

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xo Anna Elizabeth