03/23/2012 02:34 EDT | Updated 05/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Wedding Planning: Can it Ever Be Stress-Free?


Planning your wedding. It's supposed to be a once in a life time, happy, special time -- but mostly, it's not. Why isn't it? I've been married for almost a year now and I still look back on the wedding process with a cringe and think of how I'd never want to do it again.

Recently, a friend bemoaned her own wedding planning woes and the impossibility to please everyone, and it got me thinking about wedding planning all over again. Do you need to please everyone? Automatically I think no, but when it's your closest friends or family making the request, some of whom may be contributing financially, it becomes much harder to say no. Also, a lot of people don't take no for an answer.

I know early on in my planning, I adamantly believed I was going to do it my way, no one was going to push me around, and my husband and I would have the wedding we wanted. Truthfully what I really wanted was to be married on a beach somewhere, but then reality starts to set in and things change, concessions happen. Grandparents are too old to travel, no one can afford the fares to fly to the beach for your wedding and you start to make other arrangements.

I should also say that my wedding was certainly one of the happiest days of my life and I never felt so loved or so beautiful in my whole life. Our venue was amazing, our wedding coordinator was top notch and my bridesmaids rallied together to help calm my frazzled pre-wedding nerves. When I think about that day, I want to relive it a million times; the dress (it's really not fair you only get to wear it once!), the flowers, the vows my husband and I wrote ourselves and exchanged, even the little girl who saw us getting photos in the park and called me a princess -- these are things I'd never change.

But it's hard to getting excited for the big day and those moments when you're in the midst of planning. The source of many tears for me personally was money. Paying, in large part, for your own wedding makes it incredibly difficult to spend money and have a life while trying to pay for flowers, cake, suits and dresses, among a million other things. And everyone wants to invite more people; a guest wants to bring her two daughters and her daughter's boyfriend, people want to bring a date when you've explained you're trying to keep the numbers small, and you ask yourself if it's occurred to any of those people what it actually costs to feed everyone.

I consider myself an organized person. Armed with The Knot's book of wedding lists, which basically asks you about any tiny wedding detail you haven't thought of, and my own homemade wedding timeline, I was organized to a fault -- a fact my husband often made fun of. But despite my organization and my very detailed budget, I still found planning so stressful because of other people. My Dad wanted to make sure his "core group of friends" were invited and he helped us to pay for things, so how could I refuse? As a result, we had couples at our wedding that I barely knew and certainly didn't imagine including on my wedding day. That is just one of many, many examples, I assure you.

I often think back to the idea of the beach with just a few friends and an officiate, and I wish it was the path I'd chosen. Some brave people do still choose it, and I can certainly understand the reasons why. But then again, I couldn't imagine having gotten married without my best friends, my maid of honour and my family. When I think about it like that, a few extra people at the wedding seems like a small price to pay.

I guess the bottom line is that your wedding will never be 100 per cent the way you imagine it when you first start planning, unless you're pretty ruthless or financially sound enough to pay for it all yourself and tell everyone else to be quiet. Odds are, you'll have to bend and give in to things, maybe even ridiculous things, and I think that's where the real stress lies. If I could offer any advice to those out there planning their weddings, it's that it's OK to bend for the small things, details you might not even notice on your actual wedding day. But when it comes to the big details and things that are personally very special and important to you, hold your ground. People will understand. Don't shoot down every idea, but don't give in 100 per cent to everything either. You might not make it through planning completely stress-free, but you'll spend your day without worry and concentrate on the marriage and your husband -- the best parts of the day -- rather than worrying over the small things. As for me and the beach, there's always an anniversary vow renewal, so I'm keeping that in mind.

Has anyone made it through wedding planning without any stress? I'd love to hear how you did it!