All it takes is a simple scroll through Instagram or Facebook to feel the familiar chills when friends and family begin to post about the dreaded “Mercury Retrograde.” But, what does that even mean? Why is it so terrible, when does it happen, and — most importantly — how should you adjust your wedding planning when it’s in effect? Consider this your official planetary primer on Mercury, Mercury Retrograde, and which wedding planning tasks you definitely need to forgo during this period.

Read on to learn about Mercury Retrograde and which wedding tasks you should avoid during this time.

What does Mercury Retrograde mean, really?

Ok, so, it’s pretty simple. Mercury is a planet in our solar system, and, just like earth, it rotates around our sun. Compared to earth, it’s a speedy planet, taking only about 88 days to rotate the sun, therefore passing earth a few times a year in its orbit. As it passes, it stations direct, i.e.  briefly pauses, next to our planet and appears to spin backwards on its axis. This backward spin is called retrograde and astrologers believe it activates some of the more negative personality traits of Mercury.

2018 has three periods of Mercury Retrograde:

  • March 23-April 15, 2018
  • July 26-Aug. 19, 2018
  • Nov. 17-Dec. 6, 2018

2019 will also have three periods:

  • March 5-28, 2019
  • July 7-31, 2019
  • Oct. 31-Nov. 20, 2019

Why fear Mercury?

The smallest planet in our solar system was named for the Roman trickster, messenger god of communication. (He was known as Hermes by the Greeks.) If you think it’s weird that the same person tasked with delivering important messages was also prone to pranks, you might be starting to see how Mercury Retrograde works.

Astrologers see Mercury as a key influence over our ability to communicate, think, and relate to information. When this planet is doing one of its regular backward spins, all things related to relaying messages, reasoning skills, and critical thinking abilities are subject to the trickster’s effects, which could result in messages being delayed, lost altogether, misconstrued, or totally taken out of context. It could also mean we become less rational and less able to reason, thereby assuming the worst of those around us.

How can Mercury Retrograde affect wedding planning?

It’s safe to say that the fear around Mercury’s backward cycles is normally unwarranted. It’s not an inherently negative time period, but it’s not the time to do some crucial wedding planning tasks. Here are a few to avoid or proceed with caution.

Popping the question. When you’ve found the one, it’s not so much a matter of getting a “no” that’s the worry. It’s fear that you’ve sent the proposal photographer the wrong address, and therefore you’ll have no snaps of the event. Or, the risk that your partner’s buddy who you’ve enlisted to help has the wrong day, and doesn’t show up. Avoid the potential for a major communications snafu by waiting a few days to propose.

Meeting the in-laws for the first time. If you’ve met your future MIL and FIL before, don’t cancel a dinner because Mercury is retrograde. However, if it would be the first introduction to any of your future spouse’s close family members, you might want to rethink the date. In addition to basic messages being a challenge during this time, you, your partner, or their family might feel pricklier than usual about any number of dinner conversation topics. Leave this sensitive balancing act for a later date.

Signing contracts. You’ll have a written agreement with all of your wedding vendors that outlines what they’ll do, how much you’ll pay them, and when the money’s due. While fairly straightforward, wedding contracts are just as binding as any other legal document, and you always want to make sure you, your partner, and anyone else fronting the money are clear on terms. If possible, ask for a few days to read over a contract if you’re given one toward the end of Mercury Retrograde. If you need to sign a contract and won’t have time to wait, make sure you grab a couple extra pairs of eyes to read over it and prevent hiccups.

Bach planning decisions. Deciding where to celebrate your bachelor or bachelorette party, or what to do when you get there isn’t something you want to tackle during this heady period. Planning major bachelor or bachelorette party decisions can be fraught with emotion on the best of days, so when astrological transits are causing communication hurdles, it’s more likely that you or your crew won’t feel heard, leaving room for resentment to bubble. More mundane planning can proceed as usual.