The Smart Couple's Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams: Planning Together for Less Stress and More Joyby Judith Sherven, James Sniechowski
Written with both the bride and the groom in mind, The Smart Couple’s Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams offers hands-on practical and sound steps for the couple to take together. Filled with first hand accounts, exercises, and helpful evaluation points, The Smart Couple’s Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams offers romantic, yet reasonable, advice about how readers can “debut their style as a couple” and at the same time honor their family and religious traditions to set the stage for a loving, happy, and long marriage.
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The Smart Couple's Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams
Planning Together for Less Stress and More Joy
By Judith Sherven, James Sniechowski
New World LibraryCopyright © 2005 Judith Sherven and James Sniechowski
All rights reserved.
When It's All about the Two of You
My husband and I planned everything together, down to the tiniest detail, and we discussed everything. By making sure we kept our love front and center, we had an awesome time doing it all! Later we realized it was invaluable practice for planning the rest of our life together.
— Laurie Stevens, high school teacher, Idaho
What's most important to you — impressing your guests, outdoing your cousin, or falling in love with each other again and again before and all through your wedding day and honeymoon? While the answer might seem simple, even obvious, many elements of the traditional wedding could prevent your love from being at the very top of your priority list.
Traditionally, the bride was expected to join with her mother to plan and make all preparations for the wedding day. While this practice might have made sense historically (as we will discuss later), it denies the deep meaning of modern-day marriage between two freely consenting adults. How? By establishing very different roles and responsibilities for the bride and groom, keeping the groom on the outskirts of his own important transition, setting a poor precedent for how the couple will relate to each other once the hoopla is over.
Art, now happily married after a ceremony he designed with his new wife, Pat, speaks not only for millions of grooms who were left out of planning their own weddings, but also for countless brides who missed sharing the experience with the men they loved: "The first time I married, I felt like I was in the way.... Everything up to and including the wedding had nothing to do with support for the marriage we were committing to. In fact, our relationship — the whole point — was never even mentioned as the centerpiece of the event. Instead, the topics were how large a wedding [to have], what kinds of details were necessary to make it impressive, the social status of our choice of honeymoon location, and so on."
Such stories illustrate why we are encouraged to see more and more couples breaking free from automatic expectations about weddings. By claiming authority to create their weddings on their own terms, they are turning the entire process into a loving adventure.
We're delighted that you are claiming your readiness to jointly discover the elements that will make your wedding your own. You can design your wedding to be truly perfect, and that is precisely what we want for you. And that is what we are dedicated to helping you do.
The Perfect Wedding
The words perfect and wedding just seem to go together, don't they? It's almost as if they are a natural pair. After all, when the two of you say "I do" and commit yourselves to each other, you will be fulfilling an intrinsic and necessary biological drive. You also will be following the spiritual inspiration that draws a man and woman to unite for the purpose of their growth and development as human beings. That is not to be taken lightly. In fact, a moment of such enormous significance should be perfect.
However, the word perfect, rather than suggesting the radiance and wonder of the wedding promise, often pressures a bride to suffer more stress, more worry, more fear, and more aggressive competition with other brides than she would if she wasn't obsessed with perfection. She feels more of a need to control and is anxious about losing control, which sabotages her enjoyment of the wedding day and the planning that leads up to it. Finally, on what might be the only day of its kind in her life, she's exhausted. As one bride, Maureen, told us, "I couldn't wait to have it all over with. I just wanted to kick off my shoes and soak in a hot bath."
What's the purpose of all that effort? Shouldn't it be your transformation into husband and wife? Isn't that the meaning of marriage and the reason that you're calling everyone together to join in celebration?
Rather than fret over what might be "perfect" pew decorations, reception centerpieces, or favors for your guests, focus on expressing the love you share. That's the deep inspiration for what you are doing; that's what the moment of marriage is all about. Rather than losing yourselves in the impulse to outdo or copy what everyone else is doing, listen to your hearts. Listen to your most private yearnings. Confide in each other — what you're thinking, what you're feeling, what you're afraid of, and what delights you. Discuss your highest vision of your marriage and everything preceding it. The perfection you're looking for will emerge when you share your deepest truths.
Perfection suggests completion. However, the experience of completion will mean something different to each of you. During the busy time leading up to the big day, it's essential that you share not only the details of how you want your ceremony and reception to look and feel, but also the details of how you want to honor the love you share. By opening yourselves you can move beyond the obvious to discover the type of wedding you truly desire, and you will be establishing your readiness for married life.
Talk about your impressions, your intuitions, and your dreams for your wedding day. It doesn't matter how specific or vague, how seemingly petty or grandiose, your thoughts might be. What matters is that you both make space for a jointly created understanding of all that your wedding means to you. Allow a picture of your perfect wedding to emerge, an image that takes its shape from the input you each contribute, an image that will change and evolve as you proceed together. That most privately held image is your richest and best source of inspiration as you determine the "perfect" wedding for the two of you.
For Jeff and Diane, the perfect wedding was, as Diane wrote to us, "actually very funny. Jeff is a stand-up comedian, and I had just written a popcorn cookbook, For Popcorn Lovers Only (see www.GritsBits.com). So the whole affair centered around a surprise popcorn wedding ring, a three-tiered popcorn wedding cake that I made, and a popcorn wedding bouquet, and the guests threw ... popcorn. I made a three-tiered replacement cake to show on Regis & Kathie Lee later that year." Jeff and Diane honored the humor that is so important to them by making it the inspiration for their perfect wedding.
Brian Garcia and his bride, Melanie Hodge, created their event together as an important part of their image of perfection. Like many men and women we talked with, Brian was pleased that grooms are finally getting attention as active and dedicated wedding partners. He said, "It's about time we men got a little press." Although the stereotype that men aren't interested in things such as wedding planning endures, countless grooms and husbands gave us evidence to the contrary. James Rocknowski wrote, "All the pressure that's put on the couple (or the couple puts on each other) to plan a 'perfect' wedding to mainly benefit those who attend takes away from the spirituality, the true meaning, and the magical moments of the wedding ceremony. Couples get too wrapped up in all the details and miss the soulfulness of the event."
The Payoffs of Doing It Together
During your wedding journey, and especially on the day of your wedding, you don't want to be worried and frazzled about last-minute details. You want to feel confident in the choices you've made — that you've selected the right location, the right style of wedding and reception, and the right support team to take care of you. You want to know that your wedding is everything you dreamed it would be. And you want to know that it is a true expression of you as a couple.
When you join together right from the beginning and commit to using your love as the guiding light for all that you do, you will know that your wedding is for the two of you — not your families or friends or anyone else. You will have the strength to reject the unnecessary and sometimes illness-causing tension that has been a notorious part of weddings.
Rick shared the tension-filled turf war that erupted when he and his fiancée argued about who would be in their wedding party:
BRIDE: "This is my wedding!"
GROOM: "Don't you mean our wedding?"
BRIDE: "No! It's my wedding!"
Although Rick and his wife are still married, millions of people who lost sight of their relationships over similar issues are not.
Engaged in the Process
If you've already announced your engagement, you probably discovered that you were immediately pressured to plan and prepare for your wedding. But what will support you as a couple through the many months of planning and preparation to come?
For your engagement to hold its meaning beyond the moment — beyond "Will you marry me?" and "Yes!" — you must keep in mind that you are forging a partnership that will ground your life together. Your commitment, then, has to be made visible through your attitude and actions, not only to your family and friends but to each other. Your engagement is not merely the ring and the announcement; it is the first step in the process that allows you to progressively marry each other all along the way.
Sincere partnership will transform your wedding journey into a time of mutual discovery. You'll find out new information about yourselves and about each other, and you'll discover how well equipped you are to actually work together. That will mean that you will both be changed by the process. After all, through your dedication to bettering your relationship, you will each influence the other. Change will be inevitable. Part of the deep satisfaction of a relationship that succeeds into marriage is finding ways to extend yourself beyond mere tolerance of the differences between you and to broaden your capacity to delight in who you each are. You'll learn to understand your partner's point of view as you recognize, acknowledge, and treasure the magic of your differences.
When you open yourself to the adventure of emotional and spiritual romance with each other, your discoveries will be ongoing. Your teamwork will open the door to a wedding journey filled with fun, joy, and even the wonder of silliness. And, when things get frazzled, your partner will be there with comfort and relief. Through it all, you'll balance each other, setting the tone and style for your married life.
A True Initiation
We humans do not truly understand something, be it an idea, a feeling, a situation, or another person, until we actually have experienced it. Only through experience can we be transformed. Experience gives us an appreciation that cannot be had otherwise. The same is true of your wedding journey. The decisions you make and the manner in which you make them reveal the rich significance of your choice of each other, initiating you into a new way of life. For example, Todd's ideas about family, as he told us, were transformed significantly after he became involved with Wendy:
I come from a highly dysfunctional family — psychological traumas waited around every turn. Years ago, I decided that I had to distance myself from these destructive patterns, so I broke off all contact with my relatives.
Then came marriage. All of a sudden, I found myself with a family for the first time in over a decade. On a rational level, I knew that not all families are a constant source of pain, but all I had to draw on was my experience. I am sure that, on some unconscious level, I was terrified during our wedding journey. Going from zero relatives to a few dozen in eight minutes flat was a little scary, especially when, for me, relatives equaled trauma. It's been quite an amazing transition.
Holly and Rob had lived with each other for five years and shared two children. Yet, when they decided to marry, as Rob told us, "Suddenly we found ourselves examining aspects of our relationship — with each other, with our kids, and even with our families. And we realized that we needed to change in many areas in order to fit our ideas of what we wanted from a formal marriage."
How has your engagement launched you into a new way of life, a new way of viewing yourselves? If you haven't thought about it, spend time over dinner, take a walk, or make a special date to discuss the changes you're experiencing. Talk about how deepening the bond you share influences you for the better. Notice that you are strengthened to speak up for yourselves or that you're learning to laugh and joke when you take yourselves too seriously or that you are sharing and encouraging each other to take risks that will make your wedding truly special.
By living out your commitment as a couple throughout the planning process, you will experience new possibilities and new levels of awareness. That is precisely the purpose and result of a true initiation.
The Value of Reality
The atmosphere surrounding the traditional wedding, right from the engagement onward, is typically steeped in fantasy. He is her knight in shining armor. She is a princess. With the bride and her mother arranging everything and her parents footing the bill, all too often money is no object, even in families that can hardly afford expensive weddings. The details, from the never-ending guest list to the seating arrangement for the reception, take on momentous importance, casting a burdensome shadow over what is supposed to be a joyously sacred time. And, once the special day is over, friends, marriage counselors, therapists, and the clergy are left to handle the shock of unmet expectations and the heartache of fantasies unfulfilled.
It is very important to the success of your wedding and your married life that you both remain grounded in the reality of your circumstances. By doing so, you'll affirm your acceptance of who you are, whether you're wealthy or of modest means, and that acceptance is a sign of self-love. You won't reject yourselves or try to become someone you're not. You are free to tell the truth of who you are, as that truth is the basis of real romance — a romance you can trust, a romance that will grow with you throughout your life together.
This doesn't mean that you are stuck in your current circumstances. It means that you are building your life on a foundation of honesty, integrity, self-regard, confidence, and character. As you grow and change, so will your circumstances, and, as they do, you can appreciate and express them with the same openness and sincerity. To focus on and trust in the reality of your relationship is a sign that you have the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual maturity you need to make your marriage a success.
When Paige and JC Keeler were married, her father had the means to give her as glamorous a wedding as she wanted. And he did. (Later in the book, Paige describes just what their wedding was like in chapter 14.) However, no matter what they could afford, their relationship and, as a result, their wedding were grounded in an appreciation of what they meant to each other, a connection that was simple and down to earth. Paige said:
One of my favorite memories from the wedding was something that we shared about ourselves with the group. For an appetizer at our formal wedding dinner, we chose individual chicken potpies. JC and I stood to explain to everyone why chicken potpies were on the menu.
Before JC and I started dating, we were very good friends. And at one point we were discussing relationships and sharing our relationship woes, as friends often do. JC said he was holding out for his "chicken potpie girl." When I inquired what that meant, he told me that he was looking for someone who would make a chicken potpie dinner in front of a rented movie as special an occasion as a fancy dinner and theater tickets. He meant that he was waiting for the real thing.
A year went by before we started dating. One night, after we had been seeing each other for about two months, we were out for a walk and JC told me that he had found her. When I asked who he'd found, he told me he'd found his chicken potpie girl and that I was that person. I had totally forgotten about the conversation until that night. Needless to say, I was floored.
Another year went by and we were engaged, and then another year [passed] before we were married. We often talked about having our first chicken potpie date but never got around to it. So, as we were planning the wedding, we decided that we would make the first course of the reception dinner our first official chicken potpie date and that everyone there who meant so much to us would share in something so dear. We told our guests, "Every time we eat chicken potpie in the future, we will think of you and this special night."
Since the wedding we've had many chicken potpie dates, and we always spend the time talking about the wedding. We also enjoy the emails we receive from people after they have had chicken potpie, letting us know that they were thinking of us and our wedding.
Excerpted from The Smart Couple's Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams by Judith Sherven, James Sniechowski. Copyright © 2005 Judith Sherven and James Sniechowski. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Husband-and-wife psychologists Judith Sherven, PhD, and Jim Sniechowski, PhD, are best known for their pioneering work in examining the positive role of differences in relationships. Judith, a clinical psychologist, has worked with hundreds of men and women in her twenty-two years of private practice. Jim holds a doctorate in Human Behavior and is the co-founder of The Men's Health Network in Washington, D.C. Over the last sixteen years they have worked with nearly 100,000 singles and couples in our relationship trainings, workshops, seminars, and lectures as well as corporate consultation nationally and internationally. They have appeared as guest experts on more than 800 television and talk-radio shows including Oprah, The O'Reilly Factor, The View, 48 Hours, and Canada AM. They have hosted their own radio shows for KYPA (Los Angeles), WRIP (Windham, NY), and the Wisdom Radio Network as well as being called often by Cosmopolitan and other women's magazines. They are columnists for Today's Black Woman magazine and they are the national spokes couple for the Society of American Florists. They live in New York. Their websites are www.themagicofdifferences.com and www.thenewintimacy.com.
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