Posted in January 2016

Confessions of a Perfectionist Wedding Planner

This post is inspired by my dear (dare I say old?  We’ve known each other since we were 2!) friend over at Lunges, Laundry and Lipgloss who recently posted about her own struggles with anxiety and perfectionism.  So here goes, I have OCD.  And not just the “I like a tidy” house kind, or even, to take that a step further, the “I like everything in it’s place which really means papers stacked with the corners aligning, parallel and 2 inches from the edge of the desk – are you sure you measured that? kind”.  While never clinically diagnosed as a child or young adult, in the age of self-help gurus such as Dr. Phil, I easily diagnosed myself.  And after being officially diagnosed with Postpartum OCD/Anxiety (the red-headed stepchild of Postpartum Depression) after giving birth to my first child, it all clicked.

As a child, I remember having to twist a doorknob three times to the right each time I went through until it just “felt right”.  Or as a grade-schooler, I remember washing my desk over and over again until the teacher gently told me that my desk was probably clean enough and I might hurt the wood by washing it again.  Oops.  As I grew older these compulsive behaviors lessened, only to be replaced by obsessive thoughts.  In my early twenties, I remember thinking of each day as a page in a book.  And I couldn’t start the next day/page without making sure the page of the previous day was written “just-so” in my head.  And if it wasn’t, and I had to go to work or some other obligation, I would obsess about the pages in the book until, again, it just “felt right”.  Sounds crazy, huh?  Since these are not just thoughts, but a type of feelings as well, it’s hard to really describe these symptoms to someone who has never experienced them.

Now as an adult, these obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviors have largely faded.  (My husband probably has the “crazy laugh” right now if he’s reading this as he thinks about what it’s like to try and hang a picture on the wall with me).  But why am I telling you all of this?  Because while there are a lot of downsides to OCD characteristics, the upside is that it makes me an excellent wedding planner.  OCD is nothing if not attention to detail.  Obsessive compulsive attention to detail, but still…and wedding planning is all about attention to detail.  What bride doesn’t want their wedding planner to be as obsessed with the details of their wedding as they are?

One of the leading forms of therapy for OCD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  Replacing the obsessive, unhealthy thoughts and behaviors with new, healthy ones – essentially, changing your perspective.  (Easier said than done for people struggling with true OCD, and by no means am I minimizing those struggles by saying all you have to do is “change your perspective.”  If you are struggling with serious OCD, please contact your health professional for help).  But a recent article by in the February/March 2016 issue of Brides Magazine (on newsstands now) got me thinking.


In her article Happily Ever Before, the author Amy Spencer, writes, “But what no one saw behind my smile that day was six month’s worth of wedding-planning bumps, bruises and a few old-fashioned breakdowns.  We had so many small disasters that by the time our wedding day arrived, I’d become an expert in learning how to look at things from a brighter and larger perspective.  I’d figured out what plenty of been-there-done-that brides had before me: that it’s not just what happens during your wedding planning that matters, it’s how you react to it that makes the difference between a year of feeling ‘zilla or totally chilla.”

I have to admit, I’m probably more on the ‘zilla side of things (which also makes me a great wedding planner because I can relate to brides who feel the same way.  Give me a high-maintenance bride any day and I will tame the beast). But for those of us struggling with perfectionism and anxiety, Amy offers several great tips on how to make sure your memory of your wedding day is perfect, even if all the details aren’t.

  1. Turn a setback into a leap forward – In her article, Amy reminisces on how her wedding invitations didn’t arrive until after her honeymoon.  Two months before the wedding, in panic, she sent postcards overnight that read “Our invites never arrived….but we hope you still can!”  Not only was this genius, but it set the tone as fun and easygoing for her guests.
  2. Give your wedding a “Vibe-Theme” – Amy also talks about picking a “vibe-theme”, deciding how you want everyone to feel throughout the day.  So when something goes wrong (which inevitably it will, the cardinal rule of event planning is to “expect the unexpected”, see previous post here) refer back to your “vibe-theme” to help you decide how you want to react.
  3. Remember that your guests won’t know what their missing – Amy writes, “It’s easy to get so attached to a picture in your mind that if it changes, you circle down the depression drain: But that wasn’t the plan [sniffle, sniffle].”  Oh yeah – been there, done that.  On a daily basis.  But it’s the job of a good wedding and event planner to make sure things still go smoothly for your guests, even if that means making a few last minute changes on the fly.  But as Amy tells it, “If you were a guest at my wedding….you might have thought it all went perfectly according to plan.” And really, that’s all that matters, is that everyone (especially you!) has a good time.
  4. Run the small details past your future 10th-wedding-anniversary self – admittedly, this can be a hard one to remember in the moment when your heart is pumping adrenaline and the blood is rushing to your head.  But if you can do it, the things you will likely remember won’t be the ones you are obsessing over right now.
  5. The things that go wrong will become your favorite stories – Who doesn’t love someone who can be vulnerable and open about their own weaknesses and foibles?  As the saying goes, if you are going to be able to laugh about it later, you might as well laugh about it now.
  6. Relish the surprises – As Amy tells it, there are bound to be things you simply couldn’t have foreseen.  (See #2 “expect the unexpected”).  For Amy, this was when their wedding planner failed to mention there would be other guests dining at tables next to theirs at the reception.  But after seeing how much fun her guests were having, she decided that a few random strangers just made it more of a fiesta (see #2 again, choose a “vibe-them”.)

Moral of the story?  As Amy puts it, “The most magical moments of your day will be the ones you probably didn’t plan.”  Good advice for the bride, but as the wedding planner, I think I’ll stick to the plan.  🙂

Note: I do not know Amy Spencer personally, nor was I paid a fee to promote her books or articles.



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