6 things I learned from my first wedding to Mr. Wrong

February 16 | Guest post by Sarah
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Warning: Werewolves just might make bad husbands. Photo by Justin Dunham Photography. (This photo features members of a wedding party and is only used for illustration purposes. We're sure this groomsman is very nice under that mask!)

This post comes out of some latent angst over my first "to do," and the guy I "to do"-ed with. The good thing about planning a second wedding is that a lot of people are keeping out of it. Am I saying that I'm an expert? No. I've just got some "been there done that, and I'm avoiding that now at all costs" perspectives to share.

1. The difference between cold feet and absolute dread
Your gut gives good advice. Sometimes, it's best to listen. I realized there were HUGE waving red flags, but I kept saying, "it's stress," "it's work," blah blah blah. The truth is, my ex was abusive and I gave excuses, and after the wedding it only got worse, despite my insistence to myself that it would get better.

Yes, I admit, this one is touchy. But I'm a firm believer (NOW anyway) that one should question those deeply buried emotions and questions. I had strong thoughts of running away before my first wedding and I ignored them and chalked it up to stress. Had I stopped and spent some me time thinking I may have saved myself a painful marriage and avoided getting a divorce.

And NO, I am NOT telling you to run away if your head is spinning and you're freaking out — that happens. I'm saying, stop and ask yourself why you want to run away and be really truly honest about it.

2. On your wedding day things will go wrong
As a matter of fact, during your entire planning, things will go wrong. Don't get hung up on it. One must learn to take a zen approach. Take a deep breath and think of the problem like a puzzle. Flip the problem over and around, look at it backwards, forwards and every way in between. With my first wedding, my dress was too short, every single tux was measured wrong, my mom threatened not to come, most of the guest list was cut in favor of people that didn't show, the lighted flower strand my mom made was kinda tossed into a corner by the venue, I forgot EVERY step to our first dance… and multiple other things.

Learn to wrap your head around things, alter your view, rearrange — without drama. Laugh instead of cry.

3. Put your foot down when its something you really really want
If you let everyone else get what they want, or compromise every detail, you WILL regret it. Make a list of the things MOST important to you and a list of things you are willing to compromise on and a list of "don't cares." I regret so much about my first wedding. It wasn't my wedding for the most part.

4. Don't think you have to spend a fortune to have something nice
Going back to #3 — make sure you are getting what you love. My first time around I didn't want to spend more than $5000 or so, but the wedding ended up costing $24,000. And I look back and feel sick about it. Because, seriously, when it comes down to it, your family and friends are there for you, not a $30-a-plate meal.

5. Your mother (or family or close friends) WILL lose their minds at some point:
Your mom may want you to have the wedding she never had, or want to relive her wedding through yours, or just get all annoyingly giddy. Your family will get all huffy over so-and-so being such-and-such. Your close friends will be mad over not being allowed to bring some dude they just met the week before. The bridesmaids will most likely get pissy over color, or shoes, or whatever they aren't fond of. There will be arguments. There will be huffy guests and family. Remember, you can't make everyone happy, especially when it means you won't be.

6. Sometimes compromise is needed
As much as I've said "it's your day" — and it is — it's also your partner's. My current partner has always dreamed of a real wedding cake. Even though I'd really like cupcakes, it's just not something that matters for me as much as it does for him. Compromise is key, because in the end, you don't want your spouse looking back on your special day and feeling sick about it. A wedding is about two people.

Sometimes it's okay to let mom have her way on something — maybe it would mean the world to her if you wore an old brooch or something. Think of ways to let your mom/family in without letting them take over.

Bottom line
Even if you have to lock yourself in a bathroom and cry for an hour, remember to take a deep breath and put your foot down when you need to. Make lists of your requirements (see #3) and make sure people understand your un-budgables.

  1. Can I add "People Will Come Around to New Ideas"? Caveat: Of course, it's not true all the time and you shouldn't ignore your partner's need as part of the "people will come around" theory.

    But there were a number of things in my wedding that certain people scoffed at because they were nontraditional, but they ended up LOVING it when it came to crunch time. I would have really regretted folding to pressure every time someone didn't understand a new concept. I guess this accompanies #3 – Put Your Foot Down.

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  2. This is so true beyond words. My first wedding was a nightmare and I still regret everything about it. Had I followed #3, I might have some nice memories (even if the marriage didn't work) instead of shuddering with grief every time think of it.

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  3. I could have written this word for word. I'm planning wedding #2 right now and it's been a breeze compared to how stressful #1 was (especially considering how often I thought about bailing on the whole thing).

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  4. I think those of us planning wedding number 2, can totally relate to this on some level or another. Mr. Ex was not a nice man too me, I thought he was going to be, but man was I fooled. Looking back on things, There is a BIG difference of feeling "Cold feet" and feelings of "Dread", I had the dread feelings, but couldn't justify them being wrong until it was to late. For first time brides, please know Cold feet is normal, Dread is not. I know the difference now and have a wonderful partner in life, we dated/lived together for three yrs. and have just been engaged for a little over a month. This will sound silly to some, but others will get it… "This feels like my first wedding", I feel like a bride this time :)

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    • Totally get this. I avoided Wedding #1 after all and look forward to really feeling like a bride someday as you so nicely described.

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    • Coming from someone who also had a terrible first marriage I totally understand the "first wedding" saying. Feels like that to me as well! It's amazing the difference. Do not confuse cold feet and dread! They are not the same thing!

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  5. Oh wow – I have real trouble with the assumption that 'it's your day' – that's just not fair to the groom and gives license to behavior which ends up on bad reality TV.

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    • With respect, I'm confused. Doesn't the article sort of cover that in the same sentence she says "it's your day"? Are you agreeing?

      I actually dislike the phrase "it's your day" for other reasons. Namely that I feel it puts too much pressure on me when it's said to me, and I'd rather not feel like things have to be for us only. Instead, I'm comforted remembering what a blessing it is for us to be able to give a wedding to our families rather than only see my aunts and uncles at funerals. A cousin of mine recently died, and seeing his parents at his funeral talking about our wedding changed my mind about cancelling it and eloping – because the wedding isn't just for us… and in our case, that's helpful to think about. [No pressure on anyone else to care what family thinks, wants or needs – every family is different, and every want or need has its own context for whether its appropriate or not.]

      My (male) partner has had people say "it's your day" to him, just as we've had people say it while addressing both of us. I admit that it's often tied to a broader gendered element of the WIC that focuses on (usually, heterosexual) women to the exclusion of men (and other genders, and others who identify as women but don't conform to a specific idea of what a women should be)… but I don't think all that is actually implicit in the statement "it's your day" always. My partner reads articles on this site, and I think all of this one is good advice for him too, with the possible exclusion of point #5 (because he doesn't really care if the bridesmaids are upset about the colour of the dresses, and regularly reminds me not to care).

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  6. I too…..could have written this. Verbatim. Five years later, I am married to the man of my dreams and planning the DIY wedding of our dreams. :) this posting and all the comments should serve to any brides 1st or 2nd etc timers, that love will find you. :) with the right person.

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  7. I had the DREAD feelings too. Wedding #2 is 4 months away and it is so calm, so wonderful. We both had huge first weddings, with all the works, tons of family and people we didn't know. This time around its about us, our kids, and only people that love us.

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  8. I can so relate to some of this. I'm grateful to be able to plan Wedding #2 and do things I didn't get to do the first time around, although neither time am I getting "the wedding of my dreams". I've got champagne taste and not even a beer budget – it's more like a tap water budget I've decided. But I had feelings before Wedding #1 of "should I even be doing this?" and "I don't think he really loves me like he says he does" and I didn't listen to them because I just wanted to be married like everyone else I saw around me at the time.

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  9. I feel like this whole article could be about my experience with the first wedding and my ex. I had feelings of dread and almost ran out on wedding #1 a few years ago. In looking back it might have been a better idea. I am a few months away from wedding #2 the stress is there but the feelings of dread is not. Love will find you even if you don't expect it.

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  10. Having been through Marriage #1 with a similar spouse, I know exactly what you mean by not mistaking 'dread' for 'cold feet'. After my divorce, friends quietly reminded me of things I forgot I had said before the wedding, and every single one was a red flag that I was marrying the wrong person. (One friend went so far as to add, "It was like a train wreck – we wanted to stop it, but all we could do was watch.")

    I think, after surviving such an experience, we come out knowing ourselves much better and what we want the second time around … and what really matters to us when we want to marry again.

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  11. I can agree so hard with the first point. There were so many times before I married my ex that I thought to myself about running away, and how much happier I would be, but with all the pressure when you're engaged, and paid for wedding stuff like dresses, etc, that you just push it aside. DON'T. PLEASE DON'T. Pre-marriage counseling might have really avoided all that mess I think. :/

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  12. To add to #4 – my husband and I eloped. We went to Vegas and had a really nice ceremony … which may have cost around 280 Dollars give or take. Since it was 110 degrees and we only had a couple of guests, we never had a wedding cake. However, we now order a full-fledged wedding cake each and every single year for our anniversary. Which more than makes up for the one we never had. However, to this day I regret that we don't really have more wedding photos other than the 10 that came with the chapel package. So yes, there are absolutely MUST have's and "ah, maybe later" items. Just depends on each couple's priorities and budget.

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  13. This was me 8 years ago. I put my feelings down to cold feet and went through with the wedding, mainly because i was too afraid to speak up and say "i don't want to do this".
    I was only 22 and i just wasn't ready.
    I had a pretty traditional wedding to keep everyone else happy. That was $20,000 wasted.
    16 months ago i married the man of my dreams and had the wedding to match. Just us two, two witnesses, the celebrant & photographer barefoot on the beach near our home for a grand total of $1000 including everything.
    Some people weren't happy that we did it on our own without everyone there but that was what we wanted.

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  14. I would add that if you think he is agreeing with you just to make you happy or have you shut up, ask him what he really thinks. And put it in writing

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  15. So what does dread feel like versus cold feet? I think my worries are normal- we pass all the pre-marriage tests when we talk about ethics, dreams, kids, lifestyle, etc. He's most certainly a good guy- no red flags- but what if he's not the super wonderful love of my life? I worry about it so much that I do dread the wedding planning- I just feel such crushing expectations that I should be constantly elated that I just end up sad and confused whenever I try to start planning. We're happy with each other, have fun together, and take good care of each other day in and day out, but we're not head over heels insanely in love can't stop smiling happy. I can't imagine myself in one of those relationships. Are they even real?

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    • Personally, I would find some alone time and ask really personal questions of myself…
      1. Can I see myself WITHOUT this person for the rest of my life? How does that make me feel?
      2. Can I see myself WITH this person for the rest of my life? How does THIS make me feel?
      3. How do I imagine the future with this person? in 5 years? 10 years? 50 years?

      I personally think that wedding planning, being as daunting a task as it is, can leave some people feeling a little in shock and disconnected. Its like anything, everyone has a different way of coping with things. Finding alone time to talk with yourself about what YOU want and expect is really just as important as talking with each other about what you need as a couple.

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    • Melanie – your post sums up my thoughts exactly! As someone who is currently experiencing "cold feet", this post, coupled with the recent post from someone who cancelled their wedding (and all the comments on that post), has got me freaking out! I do love the Tribe, but sometimes ill timed posts, dependent on your current mindset can make things worse, not better!
      My partner and I got engaged nearly 5 years ago, and despite pressure from family about setting a date, we put it off as it didn't feel right to get married then. About a year after the engagement, we actually split up, but the split never felt right and after private counselling we decided to get back together. I even spent 3 months overseas to get "space" from him so I could try and clear my head, and everything pointed to being with him being the right thing. Earlier this year we moved back in together and everything felt so right we finally decided to set a date for the wedding. I thought having been through that process and feeling like I had done everything to make sure what I was doing what was right for me, that I would feel really secure, but now everything is booked and much money has been paid out, I am suddenly doubting again. Its not "big" things, like him being abusive, or me feeling unloved – in fact I marvel sometimes at how caring and thoughtful he is when it comes to my deep feelings. But its all the day-to-day stuff, like he can be a grumpy bear sometimes, he spends *way* too long in the bathroom, when he is angry or trying to prove a point he tends to shout a lot and he has strong opinions about certain things that differ vastly from mine. I worry that I won't be able to handle these things "forever" and that maybe there is "someone else" out there who I would never fight with and who would agree with me on every topic. Also, my parents are not supportive of the marriage, but despite this have agreed to come to the wedding, which involves them travelling overseas and spending a lot of money. I think this is making me extremely nervous, as I really want their "investment" to work out long-term and part of me is worried that I am doing this just to try and "prove them wrong". Argh, so many emotions!
      Oh, and now I have written everything down which wasn't my intention…. may as well post it now and see if any Tribes members have any words of wisdom!

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      • Wow Jayme, your story sounds like mine. Prior break-up included.
        Did you get married?

        We were supposed to be married a month ago but nothing fell into place and I was confusing cold feet and stress with actual dread. Essentially, my partner did not help me at all with the wedding, despite being across the country, where HE wanted it. Two months before the wedding he was gone overseas incapable of communication and completely unsupportive.

        I was so stressed out and he did not seem to care or be there for me. I never felt so alone. And I realized that getting married to him means a life being alone. I mean, if I get no help with THIS, the thought of having a family and being alone really filled me with absolute dread. My thoughts of going through the wedding were just me playing my role and being as drunk as possible. That's not the way I should feel about my own wedding.

        The wedding was cancelled since nothing was planned. Easiest wedding ever to cancel. Almost no one was going from my side due to distance… it felt meant to be :(

        He is overseas again and I'm not sure what to do. Officially the wedding is "postponed" but the idea of going through this again just makes me cry. I think after 6 years and already breaking up and so much effort, it might just be too much for me to have any trust in him.

        One thing is certain though – I am 100% glad the wedding didn't happen.

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