The second I announced to the world that I was in a serious relationship, people stopped asking me “Why are you still single?” and started asking me “When are you two going to get married?”
Along with that question came one that I never had a good answer for: “What kind of wedding do you want?”
I usually took a deep breath and made up a lie. A big wedding with tons of flowers! Maybe just a mini ceremony at the courthouse! Probably a destination wedding in the south of France! The last one sounded the most fancy and left the person who asked the question stunned.
I was never the person who’s dreamed of her wedding since she was a child. I never flipped through bridal magazines or took notes while watching a ’90s rom-com featuring Julia Roberts. The lack of an idea about my future wedding became even more complicated when I found myself front and center in the wedding business with my own company, Bridesmaid for Hire, a service that allows brides all over the world to essentially hire a stranger to be their bridesmaid for the day.
In the five years since starting my company, I’ve been to over 100 weddings and seen it all: 400-person weddings that cost over $500,000, cozy weddings in backyards, weddings on remote islands and weddings inside local courthouses ― even a few Vegas weddings officiated by Elvis impersonators.
“I was never the person who’s dreamed of her wedding since she was a child. I never flipped through bridal magazines or took notes while watching a ’90s rom-com featuring Julia Roberts.”
Because of what I’ve seen both in wedding planning and wedding drama (missing grooms, lots of cold feet, friend or family chaos that made the wedding anything but a happy day), the idea of having to make wedding decisions of my own freaked me out. After all I’d witnessed, I wasn’t even sure I wanted a wedding.
That’s why, hours after I got engaged, I had a panic attack. There I was, after the champagne bottles were popped and the engagement dinner ended, sitting awake at 2 a.m. with five spreadsheets and over 20 tabs open on my browser, trying to piece together the initial direction of what my wedding would look like. It felt impossible.
Even though I had been to more weddings than the average person, it didn’t mean all of that knowledge would be end up being helpful. In my case, it felt more like a curse than a blessing.
Plus, after getting engaged, it started to feel like anyone who laid their eyes on my ring (from co-workers to strangers at the nail salon) had an opinion about the kind of wedding I should have. As the weeks went by, every interaction I had turned into someone giving me an earful of what their hopes, dreams and desires were for my wedding.
“Even though I had been to more weddings than the average person, it didn’t mean all of that knowledge would be end up being helpful.”
When I’d talk about wedding plans with my fiance, Adam, he seemed to be in the same boat. He didn’t have a list of things he wanted or cared about but instead was getting infiltrated by other people’s wedding must-haves. Together, our heads were filled with advice we didn’t ask for and plans of our own we couldn’t think about because we were too overwhelmed.
Here’s something nobody tells you when you get engaged: Everyone has advice on how your wedding should be, and if you don’t have an opinion of your own, then it gets really foggy and frustrating.
One night, during a 2 a.m. wedding brainstorming session (because I couldn’t sleep), I decided to give up. Instead of mining my brain and collaborating with Adam to plan something together, I thought perhaps it would be easier to turn every decision inside out and leave it in the hands of strangers.
Without telling anyone (not even Adam), I created the website Finally The Bride and put up a list of over 22 questions that anyone, anywhere, can vote on. Anything was fair game. I put up questions like: When should we get married? Where should we get married? Should we elope or throw a giant wedding? How much should we spend on the wedding? Where should I go on my solo bachelorette party?
When the website was live, I felt relieved. I was excited to see what people would vote for and I no longer felt the need to spend all of my free time and headspace planning my own wedding. The only thing I was nervous about was that they’d vote on having no pizza at the wedding, something I always saw as nonnegotiable since it’s my favorite food.
The next day, I showed Adam. He reacted just as I thought he would, with a giant smile and a nod of approval. Ever since I’ve known my fiance, he’s enjoyed living a nontraditional life, just like me (he’s been an entrepreneur since he was a kid, and for two years, we packed up and lived in a new city every month together). Adam didn’t have any big plans for how we saw our wedding, so he thought leaving decisions up to strangers was a great idea.
Within a week of launching the site and sharing it on social media, over 30,000 votes flew in. We made quick decisions when the votes swung heavily toward one side (people voted for us not to elope and to have an open bar ― no matter what).
“When the website was live, I felt relieved. I was excited to see what people would vote for and I no longer felt the need to spend all of my free time and headspace planning my own wedding.”
One of the polls that made me the most nervous was how much money I should spend on the wedding. While I put some options up for price ranges I could afford, others were well over our budget. We included them to see if voters really thought having an expensive wedding mattered.
If one of those options had been picked, we’d have to get creative about how to raise money for a more expensive wedding. But luckily, the poll closed last week, and over 75% of people voted for us to spend $15,000 to $30,000 — which was in the range we had hoped for.
Other votes, such as where I should have my bachelorette party or what wedding tradition I should keep, haven’t closed yet. Every week, as new wedding decisions have to be made, new polls go live. I plan to keep this going until the day of our wedding by posting questions about the little details that pop up that morning.
A lot of people want to know how my family feels, and the truth is, they have been supportive from day one. When I told them there was a place where people can share their opinions and vote on my wedding in an organized way, they found that to be their new go-to place to send people who were now calling them with advice for my wedding. They have said again and again that it doesn’t matter where I get married or what color my flowers are. What matters the most is that I’m marrying the right person for me.
“Weddings shouldn’t feel so one-size-fits-all, and to make that happen, sometimes you need to be crafty about how you plan your big day.”
When people hear that I’m gamifying and crowdsourcing my wedding planning, they laugh and are certain this has to be some kind of joke. But then I show them the website I set up and the number of people voting every single day. I show them how it’s taken the pressure and stress off Adam and me to plan a day that we’re very nonchalant about. Some people understand and others share that they would never do it this way.
That’s the thing with wedding planning: It’s personal. Weddings shouldn’t feel so one-size-fits-all, and to make that happen, sometimes you need to be crafty about how you plan your big day.
I do realize this kind of experiment isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a bride or groom in the planning process and there are decisions giving you massive headaches, try polling your friends, family members or those who follow you on social media. You might feel a major burden lifted off your shoulders when those around you get involved to help in an organized way.
Adam and I are a month into the Finally the Bride project and we both agree that this is the right direction for us. The polls that have closed so far have allowed us to lay the foundation for our wedding (things like the budget, writing our own vows, having an open bar and needing to save for that now), and on a monthly basis, we’re closing more polls and planning more things (like the wedding date, location and whether I should hire my own bridesmaids).
By the end of November, we’ll know our wedding date and location. It’s up to you if we get married in the south of France, by the way. But New York City would be just fine, too!
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