PHOTO BY ROBERT RADIFERA
Kelly and Andrew Sankowski pray before a statue of Mary during their wedding last August at the chapel at the University of Virginia. They are graduates of the university and met there. Kelly Sankowski, a reporter for the Catholic Standard, is also a graduate of Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda and Our Lady of Mercy School in Potomac.
PHOTO BY ROBERT RADIFERA Kelly and Andrew Sankowski pray before a statue of Mary during their wedding last August at the chapel at the University of Virginia. They are graduates of the university and met there. Kelly Sankowski, a reporter for the Catholic Standard, is also a graduate of Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda and Our Lady of Mercy School in Potomac.
When I got married in August, my wedding day was filled with joy. Eight months later, I am happy to report that the joy has only continued and multiplied since that day.

But I’ll be honest – wedding planning was not my favorite activity, to say the least. As Pope Francis describes, the details of wedding planning “tend to drain not only the budget but energy and joy as well” (Amoris Laetitia, 212).

Indeed, the planning did not bring out the best in me. While my wedding day was wonderful, there are a few things I wish I had known when we first got engaged that could have made the planning process a lot more joyful.

Less is more

When I went dress shopping about six months before my wedding date, I thought I would have plenty of time. But then I found out that it actually takes six months for most wedding dresses to be made, and then I would need to come in for three dress fittings before the wedding date. As a result, the last month of our engagement was spent frantically scheduling fitting appointments and worrying whether it would get done on time.

Then, on the actual wedding date, while I loved the way my dress looked, at least half of my anxiety the morning of the wedding was worrying about tripping while I walked, Andrew stepping on the dress during our first dance, or the dress falling down despite it being somewhat difficult to breathe in.

If I had known how much of a hassle the process of making a classic, big wedding dress was and how much I would be worrying about it during the wedding, I would have just bought a more simple dress off of a rack and then taken it to a tailor to alter it.

While it is true that there may only be one chance in your life to wear an elaborate wedding dress, there is also only one chance in your life to walk down the aisle and to have your first dance as husband and wife, which should be savored with as few worries as possible. Buying a simpler wedding dress is just one way to cut down on worries – and on the budget – and create more freedom to enjoy what is important.

Spiritual health is important

Many brides, including myself, want to make sure they look their best on their wedding day. This usually involves time-consuming workout regimens and strict diets, which might make us even more cranky and tired than we already were from the late nights of e-mailing wedding vendors.

My upcoming wedding motivated me to exercise more regularly than I ever had before, but about halfway through my engagement I realized that despite my increasing physical health, my spiritual health was waning.

With so much on my plate, I was dedicating less time to prayer. While I knew in theory that prayer was a good thing to do during our engagement, I had never thought about it as a need as urgent as being physically healthy.

Nevertheless, just as the effects are visible in my body and energy level if I go a long period of time without working out, the effects are tangible in my mood and actions if I go too long without quality prayer time. I get frustrated more easily and have a harder time discerning the right thing to do, which is not helpful when planning a wedding.

I believe that if I had set a prayer regimen as strict as my workout regimen, my growing spiritual health would have helped me make some of the decisions that I wish I had made, and I probably would have been a much more amiable person in the process.

You are not perfect and that is okay

As I think about things I should have done differently, I also now see that my shortcomings as a bride were not due to a lack of good intention or effort.

From the outset I had hoped to follow Pope Francis’ advice to “have the courage to be different” by “opting for a more modest and simple celebration in which love takes precedence over everything else” (Amoris Laetitia, 212). But that is harder than it sounds, and from my own experience, as well from what I have heard from other engaged friends, I have learned that most of the time we just don’t anticipate how complicated things are going to end up being.

I think part of what made wedding planning so difficult for me is that I was simultaneously holding myself to two high standards – planning a perfect wedding worthy of being in wedding magazines, and planning a perfect Catholic wedding worthy of Pope Francis’s approval.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the bride who didn’t ask too much of anyone, who didn’t need the most expensive things, and who didn’t care if the details didn’t turn out perfectly. And when I failed at any or all of those things, it wasn’t just my wedding that I felt wasn’t turning out as I had hoped, it was also my vision of the person who I wanted to be that was faltering.

Thankfully, our God is a merciful one. And just as God still loves us when we fall short of His expectations, we need to love ourselves even if we don’t completely live up to Pope Francis’s levels of humility and simplicity.

If I had given myself a little more slack rather than expecting myself to be the perfect bride – either by societal or by Pope Francis standards – I probably would have enjoyed the process a lot more. After all, wedding planning really should be fun, and as long as the wedding celebrates love, honors God, and results in a faithful marriage, the rest can fall into place around those things.