Staying Mindful While Planning a Wedding

By Aly Murphy

One of the ways I teach mindfulness in my classroom is by lighting a candle and passing it around the circle, instructing my students to take a deep breath in and slowly blow onto the flame, but being mindful about not blowing the flame out. We want to make the candle dance but not lose its light. Planning my wedding over the past 7 months has felt a little like I am both the flame trying to keep my balance and the breath trying to maintain its control.

As a bridesmaid in almost a dozen weddings, I was already well aware of the ups and downs of wedding planning. I’ve had a front seat to the drama that can come from the guest list and the stress of going over budget. It’s almost enough to make you consider eloping until you remember the tears you helped your best friend conceal after her father’s first look or goosebumps you got while two soulmates recited their own vows.  

In order to make all our wedding dreams come true, but not burn the fuel in both our fires, my fiancé and I have had to come up with a few guidelines to help us both be more mindful of our own and of each other’s expectations.

The first thing we both did was add or increase exercise to our routines. This has little to do with vanity and more to do with maintaining the heightened emotions and stress that come along with planning a wedding. As Elle Woods said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.”

The next thing we did was decide upon a budget. We both felt it to be a little archaic to expect the bride’s parents to foot the entire bill so we agreed upon a financial contribution to the wedding that felt fair. Since not every mother and daughter will agree on sit down versus stations or the font size for the pamphlets, the choice to finically contribute also feels like the freedom to have a little more say in a day that sometimes can end up being about everything and everyone except the bride and groom.

We also wanted to be mindful of our guests and their needs. For us, that means no more than two showers and for me no bachelorette party. Yes, it’s true. In my 20s I was excited to cram 10 or 15 girls into a house and act like I could afford bottle service or it wasn’t embarrassing to watch a waiter try to split dinner 12 ways, but in your 30’s something shifts. Bottle service is cut early by a bridesmaid’s need to pump and dump and until I can personally foot the bill for dinner and drinks for 12 people, I don’t feel comfortable asking anyone to spend much more than that on a weekend of drinking and eating around someone else’s schedule.

As someone who teaches manners and mindfulness in the public arena I’ve spent some time worrying about if our wedding will be critiqued by people who expect it to fall within their opinion of wedding etiquette. Will it offend someone if I ask for RSVPs online or add a few experiences on the registry? Thanks to Megan Markel and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” I think my desire to give a speech at the wedding will be more accepted, but what about having a first look? It feels a bit paradoxical that while trying to follow the rules of civility, mindfulness (being intentionally aware of the present moment without judgment) can sadly become marginalized.

What I’ve learned from wedding planning so far, is that there are going to be hundreds of decisions to make and not every choice is going to please everyone. It becomes crucial to set boundaries and expectations early on so that when the candle gets to you, you have the control to make it dance.

Alyson Murphy received a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications from the University of South Carolina and holds certifications in professional etiquette and advanced behavior analysis from the Charleston School of Protocol and the Nonverbal Group in Manhattan. She is the author of “The Manners Contract” and “The Manatee Who Finds Mindfulness” and teaches manners and mindfulness classes in number of Charleston County schools and recreation departments.