Last year, when my then-boyfriend, Joash, dropped on his knee and asked me to marry him, two very important thoughts came to my mind: Yes, yes, yes! and What should my wedding colours be?

I’ll be honest. While planning my wedding, I went a little overboard. Actually, there were times when I was beyond reason. Yes, you might say I became Bridezilla during those moments – that self-absorbed, obsessive creature so loathsome that people wonder why anyone would willingly marry it. And it’s no wonder people run when they see it coming: Bridezilla is the unnatural combination of terrorizing beast and delicate, blushing bride. It consumes everything in sight and doesn’t stop until it gets what it wants.

Perfectly real

Growing up, I wasn’t one of those girls who fantasized about her wedding day. It wasn’t until I actually began my wedding planning that I felt desires inspired by media kicking in. Wedding magazines showed me pictures of pretty invitations, elaborate cakes and the trendiest party favours. Blemish-free brides wearing designer gowns graced every page, and articles recommended skin-peel treatments and teeth-whitening for that picture-perfect look. Little did they say anything about life after the wedding, being comfortable in your own imperfect skin or saying "I love you" when you don’t really feel like saying it.

Unfortunately, by the fifth or sixth magazine, I was hooked: What I wanted became what I needed. Combined with pre-existing selfish tendencies, popular media quickly turned my earnest desire to celebrate marriage into a party about me.

Yes, weddings by all means ought to be beautiful. They commemorate the passage of a man and woman entering into a sacred union before the eyes of God. But isn’t it strange that aspirations for something so beautiful can turn into something so ugly, that in grasping for perfection, we become the complete opposite?

When we lose sight of God’s intended purpose for marriage, we reduce the lifelong union of two people to one stressful and expensive spectacle. Marriage ends up long forgotten over the selection of roses, bridesmaid dresses and catering companies. And after all that time and money, our planning for a wedding has failed to prepare us for the real thing.

What marriage?

What many couples fail to realize is that how they deal with the conflicts and challenges of wedding planning says a lot about how they will deal with conflict in marriage. Learning to work through failed expectations, conflict of wills and differing values and upbringing is a very real introduction to the conflicts couples will encounter in married life.

When wedding planning results in selfishness and tyrannical behaviour, many couples make the mistake of excusing their loved one’s bouts of Bride- or Groom-zillaness as the outcome of wedding stress. Granted, weddings are stressful, but that’s no excuse for consistent bad behaviour; it may be a sign of things to come. How you handle stress and decision-making with the wedding will most likely be the same in marriage.

Banishing Bridezilla

The months leading up to your wedding are even more important than your courtship. Engagement is a time to reflect on your upcoming marriage, deal with areas of conflict and get to know your future spouse better. Why should relationship building stop just because there’s a wedding to plan?

Of course, weddings are stressful, and you may have your share of Bridezilla moments (like me), but here are some ways you and your fiancé can be intentional about planning for your marriage while planning your wedding:

  • Attend marriage counselling. Meet with your pastor or find a godly married couple to guide you through marriage counselling. Your counsellors, most likely having been through wedding planning before, can help put marriage back into your perspectives. Be sure to address honest, real-life struggles you’ve encountered during your engagement and wedding planning.
  • Seek support. Ask those on your wedding team who are Christians – whether bridesmaids, groomsmen, family or helpers – to pray for you and your fiancé during this time. I asked my bridesmaids to pray that Joash and I would keep our hearts centred on Christ instead of on material things. Since these people will be supporting you with the material details, it fits that they also support you spiritually. Communicating prayer requests with your wedding team will help them know how to specifically encourage you.
  • Don’t forget to go on dates. Whether you’ve got months until the wedding or only a few weeks, be sure to make time to go on dates with your future spouse. Just because you don’t know who will do your hair on your wedding day doesn’t mean you need every single moment to obsess about it. Take time to keep getting to know your fiancé and to just have fun!
  • Let go and ask for help. A lot of brides become fixated on controlling every wedding detail to make sure everything is "perfect." Delegate, delegate, delegate! Ask friends, family and church members to help with the wedding, and let them do it. Most people are honoured and excited to be part of your wedding team. Let’s face it: humbling ourselves by asking others for help can be difficult. But when I finally mustered up the courage to ask for help, I found it such a blessing to let others care for Joash and me.
  • Create new relationships with family. As you’re gearing up to take on new identities as husband and wife, be sure to consider the new relationships being formed between yourselves and your families. It’s important to be intentional about the leaving and cleaving process. At our wedding, we had my dad physically give my hand to Joash; Joash thanked my father and took my hand in his. At the end of the service, both of us gave roses to our new in-laws, thanking them for giving us their son or daughter.
  • Store your treasures in heaven. Although weddings are a special day, you don’t need to break the bank. Whether the wedding is funded by yourselves, your parents or a combination of the two, remember that God calls us to be good stewards of our possessions. It’s a good habit to think of money as belonging to God. This will help you make wise spending choices (and avoid spending half your wedding budget on that diamond necklace you’ve always wanted). In the end, the roses will wilt, the food will disappear and your wedding dress will have been worn once.

Getting ready for a lifetime of marriage

The most valuable preparation for your wedding is getting ready for married life itself, not having the ultimate "Martha Stewart wedding." Striving for a beautiful wedding is fine, but having unrealistic expectations and getting caught up in details can detract from the significance of the life-long commitment you’re about to enter.

Remember, your real-life marriage is not the wedding. And preparation for the wedding must include preparation for your marriage. No shade of green, no type of flowers and no flavour of cake will give you a great marriage, no matter how perfectly "Martha Stewart" your wedding day is.

Matthea Schumpelt was an associate editor at Focus on the Family Canada at the time of publication.

© 2008 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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