In most of the wedding planning world, "styling" your day means deciding what you want everything to look like and then buying all the stuff you'll need to make it look like that.
(There's also storing, packing, hauling, unpacking, setting up, tearing down, re-packing, re-hauling and disposing of said stuff, but oddly enough those steps don't tend to get as much attention.)
It's all fun and games at first, but eventually the whole decor choosing process can start to feel a bit out of control.
Still, you want to create a coherent experience for your guests, to share with them a sense of what they are witnessing and how special and important it is. What to do?
Here Are 5 Steps to Shift Your Perspective on Planning Your Wedding
STEP 1: RETHINK YOUR ADJECTIVES.
Most wedding inspiration is full of visual descriptors: rustic, vintage, elegant, whimsical, modern, boho, glam... Latch onto one, and you can explain your wedding plans to everyone who asks, from nosy relatives to potential vendors.
Trouble is, this approach uses what your wedding will LOOK like as shorthand for what it will BE like, and those are not the same thing!
To break out of the mold, choose adjectives that describe feelings instead: joyful, exuberant, contemplative, cheerful, serene, purposeful, lighthearted...
Start describing your wedding in terms of its emotional tone rather than its visual style, and soon enough your whole planning experience will be coming from a different place.
STEP 2: ARTICULATE THE MESSAGE BEHIND THE OBJECT.
When you see a design element you love, pause for a moment to ask yourself why. What message, exactly, does that particular object convey? When your guests see it, what will they think or feel?
This might seem like a lot of thought to give to a single aisle marker or centerpiece, but there's a reason why a particular decor idea appeals to you.
Maybe it draws attention to an aspect of your personality, your relationship, or your approach to marriage. Maybe it aligns with a feeling that you're trying to create for your guests.
If you can take the time to put words to that message, you'll be infinitely better equipped to make empowered choices about what you need and don't need for your day.
STEP 3: LEAN ON YOUR CEREMONY.
Now that you've articulated the message you want to send with your wedding style, realize that you can also send that message by literally saying it, in words, to your guests.
During your ceremony, everyone will be in the same place, fully focused and listening to what you have to say. Take advantage of their undivided attention by including readings, songs or rituals that speak to you.
If you're writing part or all of your ceremony from scratch, take your time and feel free to give your officiant plenty to say.
The more of your message you can convey directly with your ceremony wording, the less you have to worry about whether turquoise or cerulean more perfectly represents you as a couple.
(Plus, words have the advantage of costing exactly zero dollars and taking up no space!)
STEP 4: VISUALIZE INDIVIDUAL GUESTS.
As you think through the different parts of your wedding day, it's easy to start picturing a faceless group of people arriving at a styled event, looking around, and deciding right then and there whether the whole thing is good enough or not.
When you find yourself freaking out about "what everyone will think", remember: These aren't generic wedding guests, they're real individual people who know and love you.
Visualize them one at a time, smiling, hugging you, and chatting with each other.
Think of the things they'll hear and experience throughout the day. Which parts will make this friend laugh or that family member cry?
Keep picturing them one by one, and that panicky feeling of needing to please a whole crowd at once will fade away.
STEP 5: BE AS GENTLE WITH YOURSELF AS YOU CAN.
Take a deep breath. Everything's going to be okay.
Styling your wedding can definitely be fun, but if it's not? It's okay to take it easy.
You don't have to convince your guests that something important is happening by making things look all fancy and coordinated.
Just by being at your wedding, the people who love you will be primed to feel joy.
You and your partner are entering into a marriage, and it takes an incredible amount of trust, love and hope to do that. Weddings have a special magic to them no matter what, and everyone will feel it.
You can't get this wrong, so cut yourself some slack. Try to be as nice to yourself as you would be to your very best friend.
BONUS STEP: DEAL WITH PINTEREST OVERWHELM.
So there you are, feeling grounded and confident about your wedding planning, and the next thing you know you're on Pinterest for five minutes and WHAM. You're spiraling into a black hole of anxiety and/or raging consumerist need.
Not to worry! Here's something you can try: Pin a bunch of things to your wedding boards that can't be bought with money.
Landscapes, architecture, wildlife, favorite quotes or song lyrics... even photos of your family and friends.
Mixing things you want with things that aren't for sale will help keep you grounded, reminding you that you're looking at an inspiration board, not a shopping list.
With that, happy planning! Your wedding is going to feel amazing no matter what it looks like. Hang in there, and have fun!
Sarah Beth Shiplett is the violinist for Atlantis: A 21st Century String Duo. They perform modern violin + cello music for weddings in Atlantic Canada, specializing in pop covers and custom song requests for joyful, intentional ceremonies. Now available on iTunes and Google Play, their debut album 'Modern Wedding Songs, Vol. 1' includes instrumental covers of Thinking Out Loud, All of Me, First Day of My Life, and 7 more modern song choices.