Planning a marriage instead of a wedding

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Jana
Once she announced us Husband and Wife the Zelda Item sound played and Eric's Bestman held up a "You obtained Wife" Sign.
Thanks to Tribe member GeekJen for submitting this Legend of Zelda-themed wedding photo to our Flickr pool.

Unconciously, I have two conflicted self-images: Jana the Bride — prim and proper, lovely and dignified — and Jana the Wife, or as I want to be, "the Wifey" (I believe there is a difference). After years of reading Glamour, The Knot, and Brides.com, Jana the Bride kidnapped Jana the Wifey, tied her up, put duct tape on her, and threw her far into my subconcious. Jana the Bride tried to convince me that Bride and Wife are the same thing. That wedding and marriage are the same thing. Bull shit.

Jana the Wife wanted to wear a great dress, to look into her husband's eyes, claim her love, loyalty, and life to him, then dance the night away with the best food ever, care- free, with the best pictures a girl could dream of.

Jana the Bride, for some reason, wanted embroidered napkins, perfect plates, champagne colored champagne glasses (lol), exquisite decor, a fabulous venue in a far far away, impossible location — one that none of her family could afford. WTF, JANA THE BRIDE!? Are you insane!? YOU can't even really afford that.

My priorities got majorly fuckered up. I have decided now to not throw a wedding. I have decided to throw a marriage. I am no longer going to be a bride in all of its "impossible standards" glory. I am going to be his WIFE. I will throw my wedding HERE. I will have a dress I love, even if it's not pearlized, beaded, strapless, blindingly white, and oh-so-perfect. I will wear a dress that I think I look stunning in, have my auntie make my wedding cheesecake, dance the night away in my husband's arms while the world fades away. If things aren't perfect… well, I'm an artist, imperfections ARE perfect. If the speakers go out, I'll get one of my fifty cowboy cousins to blast music from their pickups. I will have my perfect marriage. And I will set my damn priorities back in order.

I am a changed woman — a wife-to-be instead of a bride-to-be. So ladies, I propose to you to join me, and throw a marriage, and not a wedding.

  1. This.

    Ha, I had about a good two months last summer/fall where I was like "Argh! It's not pretty enough!" And then I facepalmed myself and chided vain me on being vain. Then I revisited my colorful/goofiness and was thus re-satisfied.

  2. Glad to see this on here! Our wedding vows reflect that a wedding and marriage are not the same thing, nor can a wedding make a marriage work (because that's what I thought the first time around).

  3. HELL YEAH!
    Let's start as we mean to go on shall we. Once married I'm not about to freak about the tiniest things like each one will mean the end of the world, why be like that about our weddings?

    Thanks, I've needed this pointed out to me lately between worrying whether my favours will get used, if my food will satisfy my picky family and whether the headpiece I picked will "go" enough with my dress.

  4. Aaaand this is why I visited this website daily when I was planning our wedding- it helped me remember that I was getting MARRIED not just having a wedding. Hooray for perspective!

  5. Why is there a difference? Why is there a Jana the Wife and Jana the Bride? Shouldn't it just be Jana??

    I am planning my wedding by what I think represents me as a person, what represents my fiance as a person, and what represents us as a couple. Why is bride vs wife vs self even different?

    When you get married, just because you are a wife doesn't mean you are going to be a different person. And just because you are walking down the isle doesn't mean you are going to be a different person either. You are still you and you and your significant other are still the same couple.

    You are just you and decisions should be made on that… not what metaphorical hat you choose to wear.

    • Soooo you haven't had a crazy bride moment yet? Or felt the pressure of what people expect? Or wanted far more than you really need? The point of this is finding the sanity and strength to realise that to set ourselves straight.

      • I've been planning this wedding for over a year and have 3 months left… and I can honestly say I have never had a crazy bride moment. I have just been me and done things based on who I am and who my fiance is. I am not different people in different situations… I am only me.

        I think I see the point of this article but I don't like the solution to the problem. You still shouldn't make decisions based on wife you… that's still just another hat. You should make decisions on just plain, ol' you.

        • I think it's just terminology. I'm pretty sure you could replace Jana-the-Wife with Jana-being-herself-how-she-wants-to-be and Jana-the-Bride with Jana-under-the-influence-of-WIC.
          Resisting fashions, expectations, and keeping-up-with-the-joneses don't come easily to everyone.

          • That's kinda exactly my point, thank you! Jana-the-bride is like playing dress up, I WILL however be his wifey, it IS who I am, and who I will be and I'm revamping the wedding accordingly 😀

        • You still have 3 months to go. Give it a little more time. The crazy holy-crap-how-will-i-get-everything-done-in-time and the overwhelmed this-isn't-how-i-planned-it part of you will show up soon enough. I didn't even know I had that kind of person in me. We didn't even really plan; just let things kind of fall into place. But with a month to go, that crazy organizer inside me peeked her little head out and reminded me that not everything is in place yet.

          Fortunately, I'm marrying the most wonderful man in the world and have the absolutely most amazing mom who both reminded me that it's not my job to make everyone happy at our marriage ceremony. And in the end we will be married and that's the whole point.

          Now if I can just remind him that getting engraved Klingon phoenix knives for groomsmen's gifts is not required either, we'd be good to go 🙂

          • Considering that 90% of my wedding is planned and ready… I am pretty sure that bridezilla moment will never happen.

            Sure there is always stress when there is something big but I have never lost sight of who I am or the big picture. I am me no matter if I am single, engaged, or married.

            I just get tired of women on wedding blogs across the internetz identifying themselves by who they are with or their status in life.

            Like I said before, I see the point but I don't agree with her solution. Concentrating on being a wife is just shifting the focus of the obsession instead of rising above it.

  6. I've heard this exact advice before – from my grandmother. It was probably the best wedding/marriage advice I've ever gotten.

    • Grandmas/Nanas/Mawmaws in general are AWESOME. I knew my honey was the one when my Nana started calling him my hubby on the first day lol

  7. I thought that was the point? And both my in-laws (who are wonderfully ponying up for the whole shebang) and my mom think I'm mad for it. My only bridezilla moment is my dress cause damn it, I'm designing and sewing it and I can only get angry at my own failures. I don't care about napkins, tablecloths, or guest lists. It's all over-blown and my side will be incredibly outnumbered no matter what. I just want it to be over with so I can spend the rest of my life with my man.

  8. Wow, I didn't realize how much I needed this. There hasn't been one of these types of posts in a while here – I guess it's been too long. I've been getting all stressed about the big day, even though I'm also about to change jobs and states, and this has really been just in time for me to calm down about the wedding, and just be excited about it as something to look forward to, like a holiday, where I'm going to be with my husband and be all happy and relaxed and who cares if we don't get all the amazing food we want, etc. 🙂 Thanks!

    • To be honest I didn't realize how much I needed it until I wrote it after a particularly painful day at a wedding dress shop, realizing I was trying to force myself into the 'bride' image… you should see my dress NOW!!!

    • I read this and thought to myself: 'Oh. Yes. A wedding IS a happy event, isn't it?'.
      THAT is how much I needed to read this.
      A million thanks.

  9. Well Said! And a great wake-up-call for many, myself included, I'm sure! I care about the details and everyone having fun but in the end it's not about them, it's a bout getting married, showing our love for each other, and having fun doing it
    Thank you Jana 😀

    • Exactly! Fun is just a juicy by-product! If my priorities are: Husband, Dress, Food, Photos and I get those, then awesome! But all the details on top of that are like 80 bonuses!!! Couldn't be any sweeter!!! Especially with a cheese-wedding-cake smothered in blackberries 😉

  10. I had a marriage instead of a wedding, just the two of us with our two witnesses, our celebrant and photographer on the beach. The whole thing cost about $1000, we had no stress and the result is the same as if we'd spent $50000. We are married. That is all we wanted. Hang in there!

  11. Yes! It's so easy to get caught up in the razzle-dazzle wedding spirit, but after that it's a whole life of marriage. Glad to see this post!

  12. So glad to read this. I don't know what I have been planning but it sure hasn't been a marriage. I am going tomorrow to cancel my $1500 wedding dress that I got talked into because, "you only get married once" and "the dress is the most important thing". That was 1/4 of my established budget! When that engagement ring got put on my finger it obviously did something to me reasoning skills. And the unengaged me would kick the bride-to-be me's ass.

    • I totally know what you mean (but that's a huge cancellation, maybe take a few days?) I was going to do the whole crazy elaborate (ie expensive) dress that I'd have to diet for months and months and months to squeeze in to, in a shape I wouldn't really be able to dance to or sit in, so the day I wrote this post I decided to go with a knock off of this beauty (that I was in love with but it didn't "fit" my bridal vision (which it so does)) http://www.weddingsunveiledmagazine.com/Blog/Fashion/LZ3018.jpg
      If I lose weight, great! If not who cares! Can I dance? Till I turn blue! Can I sit? How about swing from the chandeliers in married bliss joy!

      • Jana! Thank you SO much for this amazing post! You are so right! My fiance keeps reminding me that the "I Do" and our marriage together is the most important thing. Everything else is just details. I'm absolutely awful at making decisions — and my fiance keeps encouraging me to embrace this wedding planning business as MY CHANCE to get EXACTLY what I want. Not what my lovely, but wedding-crazed mother wants — not what my sister or future mother-in-law wants — but what I want.

        I agree with your comments and those by Englyn — Jana-the-wifey is simply focusing on what's truly important and not losing perspective!

        BTW – your dress is BEAUTIFUL! Rock it — your MARRIAGE will be glorious! 🙂

        • I tell it to my honey all the time, there IS a difference between wanted, "needed" (ie convenient or nice to have), and NEEDED. Like do we need a washing machine, I'd say YES that's a NEEDED, but do we need a dryer, uh not really, it's nice to have, hella convenient, but we don't really NEED it, we just got one after getting along just fine for nearly 3 years without one. I think a lot of brides confuse the three, what we want (great food), what's nice to have (a 15 tiered cake), and what we actually need (like the groom, liscense), there was a point where I actually wrote on my wallet when I was trying to save money "Do I want this, need this, or "need" this" and I saved a hella ton of money!
          And thank you!!! I can't wait for him to see me in it!!!

  13. Great article! This is a wonderful point of view and I'm definitely sharing this with my fiance. I'm personally turned off by the ridiculous wedding expenses – I'd rather spend a fortune on our honeymoon!

    • I definitely agree, we are going to NEW ORLEANS for the honeymoon!!! I will be so curvy when I get back!!! I figure if I'm going to spend a year and a half "eating healthily" (I don't diet) then I deserve a honeymoon with some of the BEST FOOD IN THE WORLD. Word.

    • *smiling back* I'm very very touched to see all the wonderful comments, I'd much rather thank you all! (And keep the comments coming! they make my day!)

  14. Thank you!!

    I've been obsessing over stationery, "needing" it to be perfect, and my fiance has been trying to tell me to calm down, as it's not the be-all end-all.

    This is just the kick in the butt that I needed. Thank you for this.

  15. Jana,
    were you in my head for the past year when I was wondering if I wanted to get fucking married. Now I know how to plan out my wedding…..but our marriage in the next 3 months.

    • WOW!!! That's quick! Let me know if you need anything at all, I'm great with ideas and what not 🙂 BTW Your brain was quite warm and squishy, I rather enjoyed it 😉

  16. Thanks for this, Jana! I'm trying to keep this in mind as well, but I think I read a few too many WIC-influenced blogs, and they sometimes make me start to worry about my Thursday-night-potluck wedding being shabby. But it's going to be AWESOME. And then we're going to be married!

    • If you are on OBT you should email me for some pics that'll look really awesome with a potluck wedding 🙂 either way it'll look freaking awesome I'm sure!!!

  17. Once I let go of all the details and hussel and bussel of a wedding go… and just let our village assist us, what came out was beyond beautiful and perfect (as imperfect as the heat was… the light was amazing for photos). A marriage is far better than a wedding any day.

    <3 You bring tears back to my eyes as I remember the love that surrounded us and how everything just fell into place.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely point of view. It is so easy to get lost in wedding perfection and flawlessness that the media puts out that we NEED on our day. The only thing we really NEED is each other and love.

    • That's the kind of Marriage day I want to have, that ten years from now I will tear up thinking of how amazing it was to do my first dance with my husband, with a song performed by our spiritual mentors (Piano and violin, I hope they say yes!!!), I don't want to look back and think the silk screen printing on the napkins were 1cm off center, and the cake wasn't perfect… thank you for your words, I'll keep them close 🙂

  18. I think this is a great idea! Definitely some much needed perspective.

    For me, it's a little tougher, though, because I'm planning to marry my girlfriend of 10 years, and our MARRIAGE will not be legal in my state at the time of our WEDDING.

    Because of that, I spend most of my time being even more stressed about making the WEDDING Just That Perfect In All Ways, primarily because no one else in my family or my neighborhood will respect it as a MARRIAGE.

    Marriage/Wedding is a hugely meaningful dichotomy for me. I guess I'm still trying to figure it out in a way that doesn't drive me (or everyone else) crazy.

    • It's a crying shame that a lack of legality will keep those in your family/neighborhood from regarding your marriage as legitimate. In my mind the legal institution of marriage and the spiritual institution are two separate things that just happen to usually coincide.

    • To me, marriage is two PEOPLE who love each other, care for each other, in sickness and in health, and want to be together the rest of their lives. People. Not man & woman, and I am a full blown Christian, and I full heartedly support and hope that every one of every sexuality gets their rights EVERYWHERE in the immediate future. I know that won't happen, but I support you. And I believe no matter if it's a paper you sign or what (draw one up, doesn't have to be "legal") you love her, she loves you, you are saying vows, committing to each other, you WILL be MARRIED in my opinion, in my heart of hearts. I hope and wish nothing but infinite love and happiness for the both of you (did you see Facebook now has "In a civil union" and "In a domestic partnership" for relationship status? It's about damn time)

  19. Jana, thanks for writing this article (and darn tootin' am on board with you)!!!

    It really is true — the minute your future husband puts the engagement ring on your finger, it seems that you split into two personas. The thrilled soon to be spouse…and the detail-obsessive bride. It's really crazy…and it is scary how easy it is to lose yourself.

    The whole point of a wedding is to celebrate a marriage…it's about your husband and you finally becoming your own family. And like my fiance kept saying to keep me sane:

    "…hun, i don't care if the day isn't going to be in the next issue of Martha Stewart. I'm marrying YOU. And whatever happens, we'll start day as two seperate people…but ending the day the way WE wanted for so long — as husband and wife."

  20. Cajun/Mexican/Edgar Allan Poe has a love child with Alice in Wonderland-style wedding – sounds INCREDIBLE!

    sounds like you will be one heluva therapist!
    it's a shame that more people don't figure out that it's all about the marriage.

    • Dude. You just made my day… at 3:30 am… my early day LOL, it will involve LOTS of black glitter, smokey quarts candelabras and chandeliers, black glittered bird cages and tree branches, and one hell of a pimped out dessert table. 🙂 Thank you!!!

  21. Finally someone has written about this. I am so excited to be married, not about the party, not about inviting lots of people, simple ceremony for family but mostly it's about us. A marriage not a wedding is what I want.

  22. This post is brilliantly honest. I'm so pleased someone said it. And I've been saying for a while now that wedding planning makes me feel as though I have a split personality and this is exactly why! The wifey-will and the bridey-will are totally not in line with each other!

    Thanks so much. 🙂

  23. I've been engaged a week. A week! And I've already found myself on this slippery slope. Thank you so much for this post. You saved my (and my future-husband's) sanity.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    I think I might even print this out. 🙂

  24. My mom had all those freak outs and worries for me. I planned things calmly, according to what me and my guy could afford and what we liked and didn't like. It was my mom who must have gotten a dozen new grey hairs, telling me how a certain person should be invited even if we didn't want to, certain things should be done to please others, etc etc. I guess that as usual seeing her totally lose it on those things had a calming effect on me.
    Fortunately, it was one of those rare occasions where mommy wasn't right, we did it our way and most of our guests still say to this day it was the most fun wedding ever.

  25. I am so very happy you realized this!! It's the greatest thing I did during my wedding planning! And the best part is you didn't have something horrible happen to get you there! I find sooo many women seem to learn by having something awful happen before they have this moment where they decide wedding doesn't matter you and him there healthy and starting your marriage is what matters! Personally it took me unable to function so sick I got myself an overnight hospital trip to stop caring about the wedding and focus on the marriage.

  26. Marriage planning all the way. My wedding ideas are basically "what can we use later?" Skip all the fancy schmacy impractical stuff and is just going to go in a box forever (except my dress that I got for under $200, and I love because I don't ever dress up and it's the most expensive clothing I have ever bought). I was even thinking of buying all the dishes so that we would have our dishware set for when we get our own place (we are having a very small wedding so it's not like getting stuck with 300+ plates). I can even see our cake topper sitting on our own mantel or bookshelf one day.

  27. Thanks for this, I've been letting Sarawk-the-Bride overshadow Sarawk. I do want a pretty-princess wedding, but more importantly, I want to marry my best friend. <3

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