I’ve received a lot of requests for this post over the last year, and figured our first anniversary would be a good time to answer those questions. Here are my top 5 tips for enjoying your wedding day despite a chronic illness.
- Make time for yourself.
The morning of our wedding was absolutely gorgeous. I spent some time alone in the morning before everyone arrived at the house doing yoga, sipping on a cup of coffee and writing a letter to my soon to be husband. (Instead of sand or candles, we decided to write each other a letter and to put it in a box together to open on our first anniversary. Every anniversary after we will write another letter and open the one from the year before.) I watched the sun rise over the river, wrote in my journal a bit and basically gave myself a few moments to just be.
I knew that if this short hour to myself would likely be my only alone time, and I savored those moments and gave my body some well deserved self care and relaxation. It really helped me get present for the rest of the day and to make sure I was focusing on what really mattered. This step is important throughout the wedding planning process also. It can be so challenging not to get wrapped up in the pinterest boards and the details and trying to make everyone else happy that you forget about yourself and to pay attention to what you need. When you’re fighting against your body, you have to listen to what it says while it is whispering instead of waiting until it is screaming at you to stop and make a change. Make it a habit to make time for yourself.
2. Surround yourself with people who lift you up.
Ain’t nobody got time for negativity. I’m so blessed to have the most amazing tribe of girlfriends who all bring their own unique character traits to the table. My girls balanced me, kept me grounded, supported me and kept me smiling. My husband’s guys kept me laughing and everyone was troupers as it started to rain moments before we were about to walk down the aisle.
My family that day was amazing. My dad particularly went above and beyond to make sure everything was as it should be and that everyone was having a great time. We were overwhelmed by the love and generosity by every guest and were surrounded by love all day.
I know that not everyone has this type of environment or support systems. If this is the case, consider who you really want to be surrounded with when you make the biggest promise of your life. What kind of energy do you want to bring to your day? Physical energy is flaky with autoimmune disease, and I find that when I’m surrounded by people who are at a lower vibration (or who don’t enjoy life), I lose zest.
Invite the people who bring light in your life. Make them a part of it. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t invite your coworkers dog-sitter or your mom’s cousin’s kids that you haven’t met, ever. This is about you and your husband and who you love, and who loves you best. You won’t regret surrounding yourself with awesome people, you might regret inviting Debbie Downer.
3. Put someone else in charge on the day of.
Whether you hire someone, loop in a friend or family member, or get the DJ to take over, get someone to take the lead on the big day.
My best friend from high school was my hostess with the mostess, and even while pregnant she took charge and smiled the whole time. My cousins were in charge of pouring champagne, and my stepsister served drinks with the help of her friend. My in-laws were in charge of clean up the next day. “People want to help you, and you should let them,” was the persistent advice of my future mother in law.
This was probably the hardest advice that I had to take. I’m big on “No thanks, I’m good,” and can handle everything on my own. I know I can handle it, but sometimes you just shouldn’t have to. Particularly on days like today where the celebration is about you. Pass the torch and let someone else take over making sure the centerpieces are all set and that the guys have their boutonnieres and to make the decision on whether to continue the ceremony in the rain or take an hour to move everyone inside. This is your time to enjoy all the things you created, not to think or stress.
Breathe. And be grateful.
Not everything is going to go exactly as you planned.
And those moments are the best ones. Let go of expectation, and just enjoy every moment for what it’s worth. We had the most relaxing morning at my home getting ready, and all of a sudden I was supposed to meet my future husband for our first look in 15 minutes and my makeup wasn’t done and I wasn’t dressed and we had taken zero bridal party pictures and everyone was asking if I was okay. I felt myself rushing and getting tied up in freaking out for a minute and then took a breath and remembered that the show can’t start without us. We’ll have plenty of opportunities for pictures, for everything little. We’re getting married today. I’m alive. Nothing else really matters. So I took a deep breath, let it go, and went back to enjoying myself.
Things are going to happen that you don’t expect or maybe didn’t want to happen. But in the end, these moments will be the best and you’ll look back on them again and again throughout the years.
You might cut your foot open 5 minutes after wearing your shoes and have to change into flip flops right before you walk down the aisle, but at least you’re comfortable.
It might be sunny until the moment you have to walk down the aisle and then it may decide to rain. But you’ll get the greatest picture with your dad in an umbrella.
You might not get all of the pinterest-worthy golden hour photos you anticipated, but you’ll have some hilarious moments with the bridal party as you are stuck in an old ice cream parlor.
The best man might swear in his speech and it may go on for a while, but you will laugh and it will be one of your favorite memories and something that will be talked about forever.
The flower girl and ring bearer might not want to walk down the aisle. But they are absolutely adorable so it doesn’t matter.
The dog might follow you everywhere all night and even interrupt the daddy-daughter dance, but you’d rather have him there with you than not at all.
Those unplanned, unintentional moments are the best.
5. Pay attention to your hands.
Weird advice, I know, but hear me out.
You will look at your hands every day of the rest of your life. Likely they’ll now have a ring on the left hand to help you remember this day, but if you focus on your hands, you’ll remember more of the moments.
With chronic illness, our hands often go through a lot. They are constantly being washed to prevent infection, sometimes they are being poked with an IV for medications, and sometimes they are squeezing or clenching in pain. Our hands hold a lot of memories. Having good ones when you have to go through something tough can make it a little easier. Here are some of my favorite memories:
I think about the mimosa I held and the piece of turkey my future cousin-in law handed me while my makeup was getting done.
My hand tapped on my future husband’s shoulder when we met for our first look.
My hand gripped by bouquet that was made by my cousin, wrapped with my great grandmothers brooch she wore to her wedding. My fingers touched my necklace that was made from diamonds from my other great grandmothers ring.
My hand linked through my dad’s arm as he walked me down the aisle.
My hands met my husbands as we stood in rain, looked into each others eyes and stated our vows.
My hands were lifted as we were married and ran together down the aisle out of the rain.
My hands wrapped around my friends and family as we laughed and took pictures.
My hand was covered with my husbands as we cut our cake.
My hand held a glass of champagne as we said cheers, and held the hands of others as we prayed.
My hands wiped away tears as both sets of my grandparents danced as they shared the dance for the “longest married couple.”
My hands held more hands as we all danced and laughed and danced.
And most importantly, my hands were held, by my best friend, my forever partner in life
and were promised they’d always have another to hold.