The MilFam Diaries: Chronicles of a New Milspouse Pt. 6

July 17, 2014

Continued from last week…

We had about four days between our engagement and my fiance’s return to Spain. So I did what any event planner-turned-wedding planner would do — I made appointments with venues. I was in my element.

Rather than have our wedding in Massachusetts (my home state) or California (his), we decided to get married at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. We knew our guests would appreciate the opportunity to see one of our favorite cities and to witness a military wedding at the Naval Academy, and we liked the idea of having the ceremony and reception on “neutral” ground. We opted for October — Columbus Day weekend, to be exact — so our guests would have extra time to travel.

A piece of advice for brides- and grooms-to-be: Don’t get too caught up in what others may think. My biggest mistake during the wedding-planning process was giving too much weight to other people’s opinions (or what I thought their opinions were). Yes, some decisions are made with family, especially when family is helping with the bill, but many elements are — and should be — up to the bride and groom alone. I got caught up in what other people might think, and I wish I hadn’t.

Before Aleksei flew back to Spain, he and I met with the Naval Academy Chapel wedding planner, the Naval Academy Club wedding planner, and a few outside venues. We were immediately convinced that our ceremony would take place in the iconic chapel, but I was nervous about the occupancy limitations of the Naval Academy Club. I come from a huge family and we are all very close — I knew that the large majority would attend. When we discovered that both the chapel and the club were available on our preferred date (a minor miracle), we booked both. Being my neurotic event-planning self, I told my fiance that I wanted to continue looking at reception venues. Still, the date was set: Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013.

He returned to Spain on Jan. 4, and I was on my own planning our wedding (or so I thought).

There is no way to sugarcoat it: Long-distance wedding planning isn’t easy. My wedding-planning experience was not what I imagined, and it was not what I read about in bridal magazines and blogs. This was my military spouse prep course — military life in many ways is not “normal,” and I was learning that quickly. I knew I could sulk about it (and sometimes I did), but most of the time I embraced the experience for what it was: Skype planning and wedding preparation with friends and family (with some more sulking sprinkled in).

With both his family and mine far away, I assumed that I would have to do a lot of the wedding planning by myself. Boy, was I wrong. My girlfriends were with me (physically, mentally, and emotionally) through each step of the process. Yes, I would have liked to have done these things with Aleksei, and yes, I did selfishly cry to him and to my parents about being alone — but when push came to shove, I had the best support system I could have asked for. I love my girlfriends.

Aleksei and I got creative and planned what we could over Skype: the guest list, our wedding registry, seating charts, and menus (all but the tastings). I kept reminding myself that it could be worse — I could have mediocre friends and have to go to appointments solo, he could have been in a war zone or somewhere without reliable Internet access, or (gasp!) we could have never met. The planning rolled on; there was drama (as I assume there is with most weddings), but we got through it, and our efforts made for a better wedding.

To be continued next week …