I intended to devote today's post to wedding day regrets and post-wedding blues of the would've/could've/should've kind. But I noticed a few patterns in the comments from yesterday's post, patterns that I'd like to chat about and get your input on.
The first is the intention of many smart and grounded couples to have zero expectations of their wedding day (aside from ending up with a spouse by the end). I like this idea. It's a terrific attitude; no expectations means a smaller chance of disappointment. No expectations increases the likelihood that you will be present and enjoy each moment.
But I don't think that having expectations is a bad thing. Unreasonable expectations, however, are another story. The difference? Well, hoping that I'd have fun and that our bbq reception would be relaxed and casual? Reasonable. Hoping that all of my DIY plans would play out without a hitch and that all of my guests would have the time of their lives? Unreasonable.
Even those who try not to have any expectations are likely to have a few. A sincere intention or strong hope can be an expectation.
How can you tell what your expectations are? Here are 2 prompts that will uncover them:
- When you close your eyes and imagine a scene at your wedding, what do you envision? (Who is there? What are they doing? How are they feeling? What are YOU doing and feeling?)
- What did you spend the most money and/or time on? What service was worth shelling out the money for? What DIY project did you want to get just right? All of this will point to what you find most important, where your hope lies, and yes, the expectations of your heart.
But even when you have realistic expectations you could still run into a problem - if your reaction to the unmet expectations ruins your entire experience. (Ahem...take it from me!) This has less to do with having expectations and more to do with how you typically respond when you don't get what you hoped for.
So assuming that you do have some subtle expectations (umm, trust me, you do), and assuming that they're pretty realistic (they probably are because I can tell that ya'll are smart and striving for wisdom), how have you responded to disappointment in the past? How long does it typically take you to accept that what you hoped for/ what you deserved isn't going to happen? For how long do you usually sulk/ kick/ scream/ cry? This will give you a hint as to how you *might* respond when (yes, WHEN) imperfections unfold throughout your wedding day.
You won't necessarily respond to set backs at your wedding the way you typically do at work or at home - the joy of the day could change your perspective during those hours. But just be aware that you could possibly be your usual self at your wedding - a mix of your best self and your worst self. You should also be aware that you could be an exaggerated version of yourself at your wedding (the good, the bad, and the ugly), because hello...you're at YOUR WEDDING! But. The thing is, your personality squared is not a bad thing. It's just...a thing. A thing to be aware of. A realistic expectation.
If you think you're going to be a Zen master at you're wedding because that's how you usually are, well, believe it or not, that could be an unrealistic expectation. So is the idea that you'll magically be a Zen master on your wedding day when you typically are anything but. In other words, when the day arrives you just might surprise yourself. However you end up being, you are simply being you. Honor and accept whoever you turn out to be. And don't judge yourself too harshly.
And now for the second topic I noticed in yesterday's comments. People want to feel present and "in the moment" at their wedding. They want to soak it all in. They want to enjoy what they spent so much time planning. They want to make amazing memories. This what married couples suggest, it's what recent brides write about, and it's what so many of the self-help and spiritual books on our bookshelves encourage us to do.
Yeah, that's nice and all, but how does one do this? How do we put theory into practice? How can you be present when the 5 hours you paid for are flying by with every tick of the clock; when you're juggling socialization, dancing, and wedding traditions; and when you're saying "Hi!" and "Bye!" and "Thank you!" and "Cheeeese!" and "Oh crap, we ran out?" and "Can someone ask ____ to ____ for me, please?" all day?
Well. Here are a few things that I do when I'm successfully being present, divided by whether I'm experiencing something pleasant or unpleasant. The techniques under each category are not that much different from each other, but depending on the situation I have different intentions when I use them.
Pleasant (In other words, when I want to hold on to a moment.)
- I focus on my breath. Paying attention to inhaling and exhaling helps me recognize the present moment. I focus on where I am physically as opposed to where my crazy thoughts are.
- This sounds kind of new age-y, but I imagine that I'm outside of my body looking down at the situation. It helps me see the beauty of the big picture.
- I start saying "Thank you" inside, or I start praying.
- I think about how I won't experience this exact moment ever again. I look around at everything and just smile.
- Again, I focus on my breath. It tell myself that I'm still alive and okay even though I'm in a terrible mess.
- I start praying, but mostly asking for help and strength.
- I talk about it with someone. (This always helps more than I expect it to.)
- Positive thinking. Okay, I'm lying, I'm NOT very good at this. But I like to do the bullet point above with those who are good at positive thinking, like my huzzzband. :)
Now...did I actually use all of these techniques on my wedding day? Well. I'm no Zen master, I'll tell ya that. I was pretty successful at being present during the pleasant moments (which was most of the day, actually), but I didn't use any techniques during the unpleasant parts.
If your wedding day is coming up, I suggest practicing the above techniques in everyday life during both pleasant and unpleasant moments. It'll help you achieve that elusive and highly desired "being in the moment" wedding experience that people always talk about. Take it down from it's pedestal and put it into practice! Or that's what I'm trying (struggling?) to do anyway. Plus, it'll help all of us with so many aspects of our lives beyond the big day. (Let's not forget that there's life beyond the wedding!)