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De-stress your wedding day

Don't let the details bedevil one of the biggest days of your life

Don't let the details bedevil one of the biggest days of your life

February 04, 2003|by KEVIN CLAPP

kevinc@herald-mail.com

Taupe linen napkins will not lord over Pat Faust, not this weekend. No way, no how.

She's throwing a party on Saturday at the Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway in Hagerstown and had to specially order the linens.

But the Greencastle, Pa., woman doesn't want to be bothered with picking them up.

Which is understandable, considering how big a week this is for her.

On Monday, she celebrates her 63rd birthday. Then, on Saturday, Faust has a date with destiny.

She's goin' to a chapel, and, yes, she's gonna get married.

And she refuses to be beholden to taupe linen napkins.

Enter Heather Slatoff.

Faust's neighbor and a professional bridal consultant, Slatoff was hired by the bride-to-be to handle every last detail this weekend, from her Friday night rehearsal through Saturday's reception at the Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway in Hagerstown.

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"I need someone to check it out for me and do the little things that need to be done," Faust says. "That way I feel I can relax and enjoy the day."

THE BIGGEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE. No stress there. 'Course not.

Last Monday, the Fox television network aired "Bridezillas," an hourlong look at eight blushing brides-to-be, each turned exquisite shades of red for all the wrong reasons.

Labeled obsessive, controlling and neurotic, cameras followed these women, among the 2.4 million couples who say "I do" each year, throughout their nuptial planning, catching fits of impatience and irritation during ill-timed dress fittings and disastrous floral arrangements.

And, really, who's been married that can't relate? Even the most smoothly sailing wedding production hits choppy water.

A bridesmaid misses her connecting flight into town. Tux pants aren't long enough. The guest book is lost at the church.

"For most people this is the biggest event they have to organize," says Albany, N.Y., author Kate Cohen. "The only event they'll ever have catered, certainly the only event you'll have clothes made for. Except for the Oscars."

After all, according to statistics at The Knot, a wedding resources Web site (www.theknot.com), $72 million is spent each year on weddings in the United States. The average wedding budget? $20,000.

Resulting stress is palpable, easier to predict than fireworks on the Fourth of July.

But preparing for The Big Day doesn't need to create high anxiety.

"I think that if you concentrate on the meaning of the day, try not to lose sight of that, you would be less tempted to create stress," Slatoff says. "You want it to be the most meaningful, special day of your life, and I think we may tend to concentrate too much on the things that surround it.

"Always keeping that meaning in mind, you'll be happier in the planning."

A widow whose first marriage took place a lifetime ago, in 1958, Faust immersed herself in wedding plans after her September engagement to George L. Baker, 71, of Hagerstown. Retired, she had time to make arrangements.

So many years had passed since she had planned a wedding, there were occasions when Faust wasn't sure she was accomplishing all that needed to be done.

And, since she's a stickler for detail, waiting for RSVPs proved stressful, mostly because she couldn't finalize reception and other plans without a final guest count.

Mostly, though, details fell into place. Until she began thinking about all of the little details sure to crop up on her wedding day.

"It was giving me a lot of stress because a lot of things I didn't know how am I going to do this, how am I going to do that," Faust says. "It was impossible for me to take care of all those things."

More importantly, she didn't want to. So, in mid-January, she brought in Slatoff to ensure her Saturday wedding comes off without a hitch.

Like wedding gifts, wedding stress comes in all shapes and sizes. Some, like Faust, fret over day-of details. Others become overwhelmed immediately following the engagement when a date is set and all other details are blank.

"You have, growing up, a picture in your mind what that day is going to be, and you have to figure out who is going to make it happen for you," Slatoff says. "Your heart is set on a certain location, certain day, certain church. What happens if they don't match? You have to make compromises along the way."

Therein lies the key to stress-free wedding preparation. Flexibility, coupled with advance planning, cures many a marriage scheduling headache.

But that perfect picture, Cohen says, may be hard to shake.

Author of "A Walk Down the Aisle: Notes on a Modern Wedding," Cohen was puzzled when preparing her 1997 wedding by how difficult letting go of tradition became.

"I think of myself as an independent thinker, so it was somewhat of a shock I didn't consider wearing a color other than white," she says. "You go into some weird trance, even if you're guarding against it."

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