Tips for Planning a Wedding while healing your Autoimmune Disease
1. Cut your guest list
This is a hard one because I’m sure there are soooooooo many people you love. It’s a no brainer, though. More people means bigger party, means more money, means more planning, means more stress. Do yourself a favor and cut back.
My husband and I made a rule that NO ONE was invited to our party unless the other had met the person (we had to make an exception for his relatives in Israel and Australia, but that was IT). We likely hurt some people’s feelings, which totally sucks, but if your partner hasn’t met someone, how important are they REALLY in your adult life? Plus, if you haven’t seen someone in over five years, you’re going to want to catch up with them. Weddings aren’t the best place for that because you’re being pulled in a million directions. Trust me, your old pal will likely understand, especially if they’ve planned a wedding before.
2. Don’t go dress shopping in the middle of your elimination phase (unless you plan to be on that diet up until you get married)
OOPS. In January 2017 I started a SIBO diet. That meant no sugar, low carb, and low starch, which caused serious weight loss. I got skinny AF and it just so happened that was the only time my sister could come to Denver and go dress shopping with me. OOPS. We found a beautiful secondhand dress that was a bit over budget, but GORGEOUS… so I bought it. OOPS. Once I was feeling better, I started stress eating a lot of gluten-free food, particularly pizza (I LOVE YOU, PIZZERIA LOCALE). OOPS.
I went to get my dress fitted about 3 months out and it was uncomfortably tight. The friends who came with me told me it looked great, though, so I stuck with it. I assumed I would be able to work out a couple times a week and get the dress to fit comfortably again, so I left it at the seamstress until my next fitting.
Fast forward to two weeks before my wedding. I brought one of my no bullshit friends with me to see the dress. When I walked out of the fitting room, my boobs (which had grown QUITE a bit) were popping out of the dress. The zipper would come undone a little bit when I moved, and I was really uncomfortable. I looked in the mirror and burst into tears saying, “MY DAD CAN’T SEE ME LIKE THIS. LOOK AT MY BOOBS!” My friend looked at me, told the seamstress we were leaving, and drove me to the closest David’s Bridal to try on dresses for the next two hours. I cried the whole way there.
3. Stick to your protocol
Do your best to stick to your protocol while you’re in the midst of planning. Don’t get super stressed, yell out YOLO, and start guzzling down a Costco size pack of M&Ms. Not worth it. Make an effort to eat a well balanced, nutrient-dense diet that will support your body during the upcoming busy, stressful days.
When everyone is in town and you’re celebrating you can let loose a little bit, but do your best to get back on track as quickly as possible. I personally ended up suffering for quite some time (bloating, depression, major fatigue, hemorrhoids) after I binge drank my wedding week away and ate a ton of gluten-free pizza and refined sugar, and hardly slept because of the spike in adrenaline. Did I survive? You betcha. Did I suffer? Much more than I needed to. My advice to you is know your limits and stay within them. If I could do it over again, I would definitely try to adhere to a paleo diet until my wedding night and then immediately after.
If you don’t want to feel like shit, try to plan a paleo wedding. We opted for pizza because we had it on our first date and it has always, always been my favorite food. Most catering companies are willing to create whatever menu you want. You can also plan on having sugar-free mixed drinks and lots of Lacroix or San Pellegrino available. That way, if you can’t drink alcohol, the bartender can still make you a cute little mocktail.
4. Don’t go crazy with decorations and tiny details
The key to planning a wedding with an autoimmune disease is to SIMPLIFY. Consider opting for an outdoor wedding. Scenery is decoration enough so you won’t have to go crazy making the space look beautiful. The only decorations we had at our wedding were a couple signs, table assignments, some bud vases on the main tables and bar, and a little collage of photos we had taken throughout the years. This required WAY less planning, organizing, and ultimately caused less stress. REMEMBER: the majority of the people attending your wedding are NOT going to care how it looks. They just want to spend time with you and celebrate your love. If people judge you, that reflects poorly on their life, not on yours. Eff 'em!
5. ASK/PAY FOR HELP
I guarantee you have friends who are musicians, artists, master crafters, and master organizers. All of those will come in handy as you plan your wedding. Don’t feel weird about asking them to help because chances are they will want to be part of your special day. Here’s what we got help with:
Graphic Design: I am fortunate that one of my best friends in the whole world also happens to be a very talented graphic designer (check her out here). She was a freaking ROCK STAR at putting together programs, menus, hand painting signs and escort cards, and giving me general design direction. She’s brilliant.
Photography: One of my other good friends (Ahlia Photo) took flippin' gorgeous engagement shots and was a second shooter at our wedding (we wanted her to be able to party with us so we asked her not to take photos after the ceremony). It was nice that we didn’t have to stand around awkwardly with a photographer we weren't familiar with and be the center of attention. Since we love her (and she’s one of the most zen people around) she helped keep us calm and relaxed throughout the process.
Music: We used an iPod to DJ our wedding (it guaranteed we wouldn’t have to do the chicken dance or the cupid shuffle and saved us about 1k). Some of our friends helped us pick out songs and pressed “play” for big moments like our first dance (so much pressure!). She nailed it and we are eternally grateful to her that there wasn’t a long silence before we awkwardly danced in front of everyone we love.
Bridesmaid Dresses: In order to make my life easier, I sent my bridesmaids a paint swatch with the color dress I wanted them to wear and they all picked out their own. That took the pressure off me to find a dress that fit everyone’s body and budget. Pro-tip: send this color early and make sure you have a deadline 2 months before you actually want everyone to have their dress.
Wedding Coordinating: We also hired a day-of wedding planner. She helped corral the deliveries, caterers, wait staff, photographers, family, bartenders, handed out tips at the end of the night, packed up all our decorations, etc. (pro-tip, if a coordinator says her assistant will be running your wedding, make sure you meet with that assistant to see if it's a good fit before you sign a contract). She made sure the night ran smoothly so that my husband and I didn’t have to worry about any of that.
I wouldn't recommend the company we used, but if you’re looking for someone fantastic in the Denver area, I recommend Courtney at The Day Of. I’ve worked with her on other events (she was a guest at our wedding so she didn’t do coordinating for us that day) and she is a bundle of professional, organized, joy and really has her shit together (like gives everyone working on your wedding a schedule broken down into 5-15 minute increments so everything runs well).
6. It doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to be yours
Your wedding does not need to be Pinterest perfect. I repeat, your wedding does not need to be Pinterest perfect. Practice letting go of this weird societal pressure to have an elaborate, expensive looking wedding and embrace what’s important… that you and your partner are making vows to love and support each other for the rest of your lives, surrounded by people who have always been there for you. Try to plan something that feels authentic to who you are as a couple because that will make decisions a lot easier.
I strongly suggest you make a list of the things that are most important to you about a wedding. This isn’t a list with “my flowers are gorgeous.” This list should include the spiritual components of your wedding like:
-marrying my best friend
-being surrounded by people I love
-dancing and having fun
Keep this list handy at all times. If you start getting wrapped up in the materialistic components of wedding planning, look at your list. Take some deep breaths. Close your eyes and imagine yourself having a blast doing all the things that are on there. That’s what matters.
7. Before you start planning, get stress reduction action plan together.
Stress can be a huge trigger for many of us with autoimmune disease. Check in with yourself regularly. If you find you’re feeling overwhelmed (which, like 99.9% of you will be at some point during the planning process), follow the action plan you set up for yourself before you start doing anything else. Those actions can include:
-taking a mental health day from work (if you are privileged enough to be able to do that)
-take a bath
-go on a walk
-cook a delicious meal
-hug someone (get their consent first….)
… or anything else that calms you down and brings you joy. Many cities have donation-based yoga and meditation classes if you can’t afford (me!) a regular membership or a $15-$20 drop-in fee.
That’s it! Those are the things I learned from planning my wedding with an autoimmune disease. It’s hard to balance your health and planning for one of the biggest events of your life, but I have the utmost faith that you’ll be able to pull this off. Keep your chin up!