By Lauren O'Brien
I love my life as a newlywed and adore my new husband, but I didn't know that, after receiving the ring, I'd need to descend into a fiery hell in order to reach this state of euphoria. Planning a wedding is a lady's Hades.
Apparently, watching every romantic comedy churned out by Hollywood is not adequate practice. It does not work this way: he proposes, you say yes, there's a musical montage, and then animated cartoon birds sing and sew as the wedding details fall magically into place.
Instead, after he gets up off bended knee, your life becomes a daily snarl of monetary decisions, vendor meetings and insane questions about embossed invitations, synthetic-blend tablecloths and pewter-colored napkins.
Despite the pain, I'm willing to relive some of my nightmares, so brides preparing to saunter down the aisle can watch out for potholes (especially if you're planning on wearing and returning those shoes you've been eyeing at Nordstrom).
Bargain Shopping. I never pay full price, so I began my wedding voyage in thrift stores. I searched racks hoping to find my vintage, diamond-in-the-rough gown. What I found was poof-sleeved frocks that smelled like Gloria Vanderbilt perfume and failed marriages. Skip the thrifts.
Real Gown Research. Do you know the difference between a trumpet and a mermaid-style dress; an A-line and an emperor waist? I didn't. I finally decided to venture into retail stores for a gown, but purposely avoided bridal boutiques. In haste, I bought the first dress I tried on. It was my white elephant in more ways than one. I then spent six months browsing wedding magazines and glancing into boutiques. Buyer's remorse finally got the best of me. With a month to go, I got "the dress" - with lace, a sweetheart neckline and a drop waist. Sigh.
Big-Cost Items. I have what they call "caviar taste and a sardine budget." Examples: looking at venues, I found a house in Rancho Santa Fe that rents for $423,000. (The President of the United States' annual salary is less.) I got a quote from a photographer: $12,000 for four hours. (My first car was half that price.) We ended up picking a venue and a photog that came with fewer zeroes. Then, there was the cost of booze. Rather than pay per head, we bought the alcohol at Costco and BevMo. Upside: We saved a lot of money. Downside: My fiancé/husband and I got in three separate fights over how much Diet Coke to buy.
Inane Details. Most vendors are accustomed to picky brides. They take pleasure in watching undecided fools like me squirm. I lost sleep wondering if my guests needed 60-inch or 72-inch tables. Decide now if you want napkins rolled or in a tent-like formation. And when it comes to linen colors, there really are 50 shades of grey.
Wedding Planning Websites. Ignore them. According to one site, I should have been researching venues after our first kiss.
Blog Advice. Just as bad as website advice. That couple from Anchorage who had their entire guest list contribute, and all the bride and groom had to do was provide the venison? Oh, deer. These people are the exception; not the rule.
DIY Projects. In retrospect, I love my do-it-yourself customized touches. But there was a point after tying the rough, serrated burlap onto my 50th mason jar that I looked around and thought, "What have I done?" I'd hot-glued my remote to my coffee table, my hands were like sandpaper, and I had so many craft materials in my tiny apartment that Michael's was calling me for supplies.
Conclusion. Elope. But if that's not a reality, hit BevMo early in the planning process, and set aside a couple bottles for yourself.
Lauren O'Brien is a radio personality and stand-up comedian who performs at The Comedy Store in La Jolla, and Downtown's The Mad House and The American Comedy Co., among other venues. Find her on Twitter at @thelaurenobrien.