I think back to one of the most romantic things my fiance has ever said. We were on one of our earliest dates, and he said it in passing, which was probably a good thing. Said in a situation where feelings weren’t mutual and it could’ve been very awkward.
Over a discussion of far-fetched ideas and inventions, he said ever so casually..."let’s build our empire together”. Whoa. He barely remembers saying it (classic). But those five words said to a woman who’s career ambitions had been minimized and made the enemy by past partners—seemed like the start of a beautiful relationship. Four years later, we've lived up to our word and moved cities together, left jobs together and built businesses together.
While this might sound romantic, the reality is that trying to “building an empire together” can feel anything but romantic. Through taking big career leaps and launching our companies, we’ve learned new things about ourselves and each other through tears, hugs high-fives and lots of IPA. About a year after I launched Burgundy Fox, he dropped another one-liner and without question, I said “yes”.
Throw wedding planning on top of running a business, and you’ve got stress on top of stress, covered in anxiety, sprinkled with a few vivid wedding nightmares for fun. Side note: After comparing notes with friends, it seems these pre-wedding nightmares are totally normal. I’ve had the ‘wedding starts before you’re ready’ nightmare a few times. Anyone else?
Also, I had left a full-time job with a comfortable salary, and Mike was soon to leave his. Can you see the grey hairs yet? I had always envisioned myself with what I considered a stable career when I got married, a nice salary and the ability to spoil everyone close to me, including myself. I was now a new business owner with champagne dreams on a beer budget.
Contrary to popular belief, getting married isn’t only planning a wedding but it’s also bringing together two families and two worlds that were once separate. It’s creating the foundation for the rest of your lives together. It’s a special, once-in-a-lifetime moment that deserved to be savored. Amidst the pressure, constant work and occasional bouts of self-doubt that crawl up as an entrepreneur—one day, I woke up. Was I going to miss this moment, because I was too distracted by work? Self-employed or not--no way.
In no way do I think these stresses are unique. In perspective, we're lucky to have them. We needed to reframe our thinking and approach so that we could enjoy the process, even with a million other things going on. In hopes that I can help you savor your moment despite the busy lives you took on working to build your own empires together. I’ve condensed 12 months of learning into 5 ways we did it.
1. Don’t 'Drive-By' your Wedding Planning
You know when your boss ‘drives by’ at 9am as you’re getting your first coffee and peppers you with questions you aren’t ready to answer? Try not to be that person. Through trial and error, we started planning time to discuss wedding matters, so we could approach the conversation with fewer distractions and ready to check things off our list. This a good way to avoid ‘wedding planning fatigue', too. Bucket your to-do’s into a chunk of time you can do them together.
2. Budget and Don’t Budge It
We agreed on a budget for our wedding up front and stuck to it through the end. This ended up guiding our entire decision making about our wedding and forced us to consider what was important to us. At the end of the day, we can look back and have no regrets about the investment we made to celebrate with family and friends, because it was within our means.
3. Kill Expectations, Create Adventures
Weddings are such a strong part of culture in many societies that it’s no wonder we grow up with stubborn ideals and even fantasies about our wedding day. I pulled out a calculator and came back down to Earth, real quick. During the process of budgeting and throughout the entire process of wedding planning, we had to let go of what we realized wouldn’t matter in the long run. This can be very hard to do, and is completely personal to you. We decided to get married in Thailand after I had always thought I’d get married in San Francisco, where my parents were married and where I met Mike. It took me a little while to realize that I was simply attached to an old identity, an idea that didn’t match my current reality. Not only are we not falling back on the past, but we’re doing something even more memorable, creating an entirely new adventure.
4. Lean on One Another
No matter what expectations you let go of, there will inevitably be familial stress, bridal party stress and a lot of small things that are hyper sensitized because it is arguably the biggest day of your life. My better half did a great job of reminding me that this was about our marriage, not our wedding. So talk to one another over a beverage, share your feelings openly even if something’s hurt or bothered you, listen to your partner, and plan proper dates (bonus for reservations and not wearing sweats) and talk about everything else happening in your lives besides wedding planning.
5. Hire a Wedding Planner
I mean, just saying the words makes me feel lighter. You’re busy doing your own things; the things that probably made you two such a great pair in the first place. Leave this one to the pros and you’ll be thankful to feel like someone else has got it handled and moving along. Planning our wedding in a destination that was more affordable for our budget allowed us to hire a wedding planner. It’s a matter of personal priorities. Personally, I would skimp on other aspect of a wedding for months of mental calm.
I hope these 5 tips have been helpful. Maybe when I walk down the aisle in 2 months, the list maker I am, I’ll have thought of 5 more. Or, I’ll be fully present and enjoying a pivotal moment as we continue building our evolving, adventurous and unique little empire, together.
*Blog article courtesy of Leslie Wong, CEO of Burgundy Fox