This time last year, I began planning my wedding. We got engaged over 6 years ago, but fibromyalgia put a dent in our plans. It wasn’t until last year that we finally felt like things had stabilized enough that we could take on the chaos that is wedding planning. I wanted to share what I learned about how to plan a wedding that a spoonie bride (or groom!) can not only survive but enjoy.
*Spoonie: A person living with chronic illness, based on the spoon theory
1. Be unconventional – the standard wedding format is not spoonie friendly. You know, getting ready, early afternoon ceremony, pictures, sit-down dinner, speeches, and dancing until late in the night. Add to that the fact that a wedding is an emotional high in itself. Most of us would lose all our spoons before the ceremony was even though! So pick the traditional elements that are most important to you but design the rest of your day within your limits.
In our case we picked a venue where we could have both the ceremony and reception, to limit the travel time – a historic house and gardens in Toronto called Cedar Ridge Creative Centre. We had an afternoon wedding, from 1-5, which was the length of time I thought I could handle. We had a garden ceremony followed by a cocktail style reception inside, with buffet lunch and wine. I gave up on dancing, because it’s not something my body agrees with. Finally, our photographer took mainly candid photos, except for a few posed family ones during the reception. This saved additional time.
I brought a bar chair to sit on during speeches (but still got sore from standing for too long overall). I was lucky that my best friend was an incredible maid of honour, and she did an amazing job at keeping me hydrated and fed and reminding me to take mini-breaks. As the bride, you become very distracted by meeting and greeting all of your guests, so asking someone to help you remember your self-care plan is a key element to you enjoying your special day.
2. Be budget conscious …without too much DIY
Spoonies are often on budgets because of constraints on work and expenses on care, but there is no need to go into debt to have a lovely wedding. We spent approximately $7000. The only additional expense was our choice to have a green wedding – organic flowers, catering and wine is slightly more expensive, but we felt it was worth it.
We rented a municipal property, which was far less expensive then private venues. Cedar Ridge Creative Centre is a historic house preserved by the city as an art gallery with public grounds.
We limited flowers. We only had bridal/bridesmaid bouquets during the ceremony, with the garden flowers standing in for floral arrangements. During the reception we had a few floral arrangements on serving tables but mostly single flowers in vases.
We only served wine rather than having an open bar.
Most significantly we didn’t have a sit down meal but rather a catered buffet lunch.
Our families helped by creating wall hangings (wallpaper on rectangular foam hung like paintings), and favours (seed bombs). My best friend baked a delicious gluten-free vegan cake (yes, it is possible but it took several trial runs!).
The only DIY I did was using rubber stamps on craft paper to make signs for the serving tables.
Finally, we didn’t go away for our honeymoon.
3. Organize brain fog away
Make a spreadsheet or use a planning app. When things randomly occur to you, add them immediately. Set aside time to review your lists when you feel less foggy. Most importantly, have your partner and maid of honour double check regularly. You will forget things and things will go wrong, so try to be accepting that this is part of the process. I became good at delegating, and this was a surprisingly rewarding thing to do, because my friends and family were happy to help this showed their love and affection. Our wedding was better than we had hoped it would be and part of that was the feeling that everyone had pitched in to make it that way. In order to relieve my anxiety that would forget to tell someone something they needed for their task, we made checklist spreadsheets for all our ‘helpers’. It may have seemed a bit OCD but as I’ve said, stress is toxic for spoonies, and since it made me feel better, it was worth it!
4. Plan around tension and keep your boundaries
Oh family. Can’t live with them or without them. I have divorced, remarried parents who are not amicable. A sit down dinner with seating arrangements seemed like a nightmare, so a cocktail party was my solution. We came up with our plan for our day and then told our families, instead of inviting unwanted advice during the planning process.
In my opinion the advice that it’s your day so you can do what you want is unhelpful. It’s your marriage and you can do what you want… But the wedding is a celebration with your nearest and dearest. We compromised on a few things, but then we stuck to our plan. I found the phrase “oh that’s an interesting idea, I will talk to G (my partner) about it” helped so much to show you are listening to your family members, but reserving the right for you and your partner have the final say. Boundaries are important for spoonies as a key way to manage stress and tension in relationships – which can be toxic to our health and well-being.
5. Practice self-care and take it one day at a time
Plan your self care! I asked my doctor for stronger sleeping pills for the days leading up to the wedding, which helped relieve my anxiety that a sleepless night would ruin my day. I put in appointments with my massage therapist, physiotherapist and naturopath. I planned time alone and time alone with my fiance, just to have fun. Still, I did not do this enough and started to resent the wedding for taking up all my available energy, which is limited enough as is. In hindsight I would double the time taken for self-care and to make time NOT spent wedding planning.
My maid of honour carried an ’emergency kit’ throughout the wedding day. In addition to make-up and comb, we put in pain killers, indigestion relievers, and scented calming oils.
Secondly, what I eventually learned was that there is only so much you can organize in one day. At some point you have to let go of what you can’t control and focus on the point of it all – celebrating this love you have found. I learned this by just getting too overwhelmed and having to give up on extra tasks. I wish I had started by taking it one day at a time! But being a bride inevitably takes over for a little while, as any married person can will agree.
6. Finally, don’t read bridal magazines! This is NOT “the landmark taste-making event of your life” or whatever panic inducing nonsense they write. This is about love and family and friendship and fun. It’s A day, a big day true, but not THE day. Spoonies don’t need extra stress! Or extra work! Or hand-dyed organic cotton ribbons to tie around chair backs for a shabby chic effect… Plan this day for you, your love, and your family and friends, not for anyone else!