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Getting Real with a New Bride as She Starts Wedding Planning

Read on for a Real Bride that’s actually relatable.

engagement photo chicago

engagement photo chicago

Photo: Abby Clem

I caught up with my brilliant, beautiful, funny and very real pal Katie, who just got engaged to her wonderful Jeff before the holidays (yay!). Katie, who works in communications for a university in Chicago, agreed to share some of the stuff of wedding planning that most Real Brides leave out—the pressures of fitting into that perfect bride ideal, the stress of trying to make planning a 50/50 effort between her and her fiancé, the anxiety of choosing big day nail art that is bae without being extra. Read on for a Real Bride that’s actually relatable.

Lauren:Hey Katie!

Katie: Hiiii!

Lauren: First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to you and Jeff! It only seems appropriate to start off our chat with a little background on your engagement! How did you guys know it was time to take that step? I assume it was discussed and not totally out of the blue? But when he actually asked, was it a total surprise, or did you sorta know it was coming?

Katie: OK, so, Jeff and I have been together for almost five years and our marriage talks have always been a bit awkward—I'm the type to throw myself into things wildly fast, and he's always been more cautious than me in terms of the big milestones like saying I LOVE YOU and all that wonderful stuff.

After he was ready to really consider marriage, we talked about timing, since both of us are going to or are already getting our Masters degrees. That was the big push for the engagement to happen in 2016. So, I knew it would be coming, but I had no idea when/where/etc. Around Thanksgiving I started getting antsy, like: This guy has one month left of the year, WHAT IS HAPPENING! Little did I know, his plan had been to propose when Cleveland won the World Series (but they didn't) and then when Hillary Clinton won the election (but she didn't). So after that, he was just waiting until I was less of a basketcase to ask me!

The happy ending: Since I am a Christmas freak, his final idea was to propose one day while we were decorating our tree. It ended up being the PERFECT time, since it was our first big snow here in Chicago and we spent all day running errands and then being cozy watching Christmas movies.

Lauren: Whew, the emotions! But, yay! And now that you've been engaged for a couple months--how are you feeling about the actual wedding? So excited? More overwhelmed than anything? 50/50? What elements have you locked in so far?

Katie: So far I am like, 50% excited, 40% nervous, and 10% I don’t give an F, let's just cancel it all and elope!

Lauren: Haha, sounds about right!

Katie: We've been lucky in terms of finding our venue super early/easily, and the same with our DJ and photographer. But all of that was just deadline-driven nerves, now I am really freakin' about the—I dunno, more delicate stuff. Like, do I invite this college friend who did XYZ back in the day but I still am friends with her? And the family nonsense is so weird, like I do not want all these weird-ass uncles popping off about Lord knows what, but they gotta be invited ya know?

Lauren: Girl yes, I KNOW—specifically about uncles. So, you have a date, then! (For the wedding, not to the wedding. I imagine you’re bringing Jeff.)

Katie: Yessss! December 2! Haha, OMG, my date is hopefully actually gonna be Idris Elba. And then the three of us will have our first dance together!

Lauren: Oh, showstopper! Wee, a winter date! I admire winter weddings, they are so special!

Katie: So, yeah, the winter wedding was actually a pretty big deal for us, as two incredibly sweaty people. We want to be as comfortable as possible and for us, that's when it's like 40 degrees outside, so the December thing was important. It also helped out a bit with costs, since getting married in Chicago is incredibly expensive! So we got a nice off-season discount for the venue, and I think a bit of a discount for the photographer as well.

Lauren: That’s EXCELLENT. Such a good strategy. And December is such a celebratory time, so people are going to be so ready to party! What’s the venue like?

Katie: The venue is amazing! It's like, a weird combination of like… a sophisticated casual restaurant/bar, but also, there are bowling lanes and indoor bocce ball courts.

Lauren: I’m sensing a lot of good photo ops!

Katie: The private event space is on the bottom floor, and overlooks the Chicago river, which is pretty awesome. There are three little bocce courts outside the dinner space, so we rented those too because, why not! So as you can probably imagine, our wedding "vibe" is as chill as possible without losing some of the importance of the day.

Lauren: That sounds so COOL—and unique—and very much you guys.

Katie: Aw thanks! Our wedding day is something we are taking seriously, without being serious people, so that's kind of where I'm at with it. But some of my nerves are definitely like, "Oh my God, what if everyone thinks [insert idea here] is the STUPIDEST idea!"

For example, we're not doing a formal ceremony, and are instead doing a small private thing with immediate family beforehand, but we picture the reception taking on some of the sentimentality of the service. So, I think I want to read a poem before dinner, and maybe Jeff will say a few words to everyone on our behalf, just so people don't travel and show up for "just a party.”

Lauren: This sounds so personal! I really like where you guys are going with it, it also sounds like you’ve done tons of thinking about it together, which, I will admit, was NOT the case with me and Joe, and I don't think is super common among other couples! Does Jeff have a lot of opinions, or is he mostly letting you lead, or is it 50/50?

Katie: Actually, it's SO hard, and it sounds like you had the same problem a bit (maybe most women do) where these dudes straight up do not care what happens on the wedding day or how it looks! Jeff's only thing having it be less traditional, which I agreed with. We're informal people, and we both want to feel comfortable on the day of.

Lauren: Yep, yep.

Katie: But otherwise, I'm doing a lot of the heavy lifting—we just had a discussion about this the other day, about division of labor and how much time and energy this all takes, and kind of came to an agreement that he'll take whatever instructions I have for him and go with it. It has been a bit stressful from my end though, as I am terrible at delegating!

Lauren: You're so smart to have that talk early on and nip it in the bud! I think you'll naturally end up doing more (women always do!) but just having him weigh in, make calls, send emails, feel the pressure, make the choices, etc., etc., is just so important so that he's in that with you along the way. That way that you can both look at one another and LOL about it when times get tough, instead of him looking at you being like, "This is taking over your LIFE!"

Katie: Ugh, yes. Which it sloooowly feels like it is, but I'm kind of running with it. I just told a friend the other day, that it feels weird to be planning something that feels so frivolous when there are so many huge issues being hashed out in our country right now?

Lauren: I totally remember that feeling! There were so many times while I was planning and stopped to think, "God, this is so self-centered!" But, don’t let that eat away at you! Everyone is rooting for you guys and are so happy to be celebrating you at this time in your lives. And while this wedding is about you, also it's a gift to you family and friends! Because they all get to be together, which is so rare, for a super-special, nonstop-happy day!

Katie: Right! And that's how I am trying to frame it, in my head. This will be something so special and so communal, I hope. What I am looking forward to the most is seeing all of these important people in our lives all TOGETHER and DRUNK, eating cake!

Lauren: It's a magical experience and literally worth all the stress and work in the world! But, on the flipside—are there any parts specifically that you’re dreading about planning?

Katie: I'm super nervous about the dress shopping and stuff. As you know, I have a complicated relationship with my body. That has gotten better over time, but is still a bit of a mess. Bridal sizing is insanity, and to make matters worse, I'm so short, so nothing that I try on will likely look totally right until I get it super-altered. I've gone to one appointment so far, with my parents and sister, and that was great because I love them and they know all of my issues. It was David's Bridal, and I wasn’t sure I’d find what I wanted there, so it turned out more fun than anything else!

Lauren: Dress shopping is an emotional rollercoaster! But you’re doing it right by going with people you love and who get you. And I will say that the women who fit you, especially at shops that are a little more intimate, are actual genius experts and find ways to make a sample fit even if it’s too long, or straps are cray, or whatever! They are sorceresses and have WAYS!

Katie: So true!!! I'm excited for my appointment at BHLDN next week. A bunch of my girlfriends are joining after work, and I know BHLDN gives you canned champagne, so it's gonna be a great time.

Lauren: Overall, one thing people don't talk a lot about regarding weddings is that for the bride, it might be the most introspective she will ever be about her own appearance and body.

Katie: Yes! It's super disappointing to me that I haven't seen a ton of...I dunno, more honest bridal stuff?

Lauren: I had a really hard time during some parts of planning, because I had to think a lot about, like, everyone looking at me, etc., and having to look the best I’ve ever looked—it’s hard! But, again, you get the benefit of being surrounded by only the people you like most in the world on that day, so… it turns out everyone thinks you look spectacular.

Katie: I am hoping for that, man! I love our photographer, but I am also nervous about how photos turn out. I am expressive to a point where 90% of the time I'm in a candid, my mouth is wide open and I've got crazy eyes. Which is very on-brand for me (haha), but I want to make sure she gets some of me being like, not a total freak.

Lauren: I get it! Photos were another thing I was also freaked about—but you loved your engagement photos right? (They were so lovely!)

Katie: I did! And thank you! We had a friend take them, and I think that got us warmed up in terms of, like, this is what it's like posing, and this is how your face looks when you do that weird thing, but, still—the whole thing is just super weird. Did I mention weddings are SO WEIRD?

Lauren: Yes! Ha! But wedding photogs (like bridal gown stylists!) just know what they’re doing and, first of all, they take about 1,000,000 photos on your wedding day, and only show you maybe 300. And those 300 are the absolute best, and they are all insanely gorgeous! I have the most insane face, and somehow I loved all but like two of my wedding pics. Case in point: PROFESSIONALS GET IT! You have to just trust these weirdos, and trust in your own innate beauty and light! (And filters, too!)

Katie: That is true! YES, filters are a blessing. Yeah, the trust thing is what I am working up to, like: Here's all the money I have, let's just effing do this thing!

Lauren: And it feels insane to put this much trust in a wedding vendor, especially since you’re like, "How can you care about me this much to do a good job for me, when u have 10,000 other weddings in addition to mine?" BUT THEY DO! It’s crazy how these people work—they are so personal. Even my random like, drapery person treated me like a QUEEN! It’s just their dang jobs to give you a great wedding day!

Katie: That is SO nice to hear, and I am definitely impressed by the folks i've met so far. I was willing to pay a bit more for vendors who seem to really, really be into their jobs, even if they come off a little nutso. Like, our DJ loves to talk shop, and I'm like, “Whoa, bruh!” But, I trust that's a good thing because he's gonna give us a freaking SHOW!

Lauren: People like him are the people who are gonna work their butts off so you can work less that big day, ideally!

Katie: Right! And party MORE.

Lauren: OK, let’s see. Last Q: What part of planning are most into—are you psyched about flowers? Picking stationery? Shopping with your maids? CAKE? Putting Jeff in a suit? Walling your dog Fergie down the aisle?

Katie: I am psyched to like… make a wedding playlist with the DJ! I'm also excited to find all my little bridal details. The dress (or jumpsuit!) will be a big moment, but I'm an accessories gal at heart. So I am excited to wear some real nontraditional jewelry and make the whole thing “A Look.” Big gold earrings are what I am hoping I can pull off with whatever I end up wearing.

Lauren: YES! Your accessories will be so GOOD. Ah, I can’t wait! Will you do a headpiece?

Katie: Jury is still out on that. I'm trying not to get too attached to anything I see, just in case it really would clash with the winning outfit. But I've found some insane reworked vintage hairpieces that I'm prettyyy into. OMG—I totally forgot to mention my press-on nail obsession! My favorite thing to look at right now is custom nail sets on Etsy. I want these so bad!

Lauren: OK, emergency, I didn’t know these existed? They are amazing! I’m so psyched that you are picking out wedding nails right now.

Katie: Yes, custom press-on nails are THE detail I'm obsessing over. For some reason, all of the Etsy sites that do them are British, so I am kiiind of hoping it's like a wonderful “Big Fat Gypsy Wedding”-type situation that I am buying from.

Lauren: These—SOMETHING BLUE!!!

Katie: OMG, with the glitter. So GOOD. I am going to order a test set just so I can see the quality and stuff. I will keep you hella posted!

I’m going to touch base with Katie in a few months to see where she and Jeff are at with planning, and we’ll continue to keep you hella posted on her press-on nail selection and dreamy Chicago winter wedding-in-the-works!