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

Guest post by Sarah
6 things I learned from my first wedding to Mr Wrong

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 it's 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.

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

  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.

  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.

  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).

  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 🙂

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

    • 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!

  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.

    • 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).

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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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