I imagine you have an overabundant supply of horror stories, but I thought I would contribute - for catharsis, if nothing else. I realize it might be way too long. If you decide to publish it, please keep it anonymous.
I consider my engagement and wedding to be the worst year of my life. It was cosmically bad.
Starting with my engagement, my husband proposed during one of the worst, most chaotic times of my life. I was finishing up a bunch of requirements for my degree (which mean lots of exams) and planning to present a paper at a conference in Europe for the first time. Stress compounded by more stress. I was working constantly and getting sick from the amount of stress, plus we were in a long distance relationship. He proposes because he is sweet and loves me. I am shocked and too stressed out to respond with the proper amount of happiness and excitement, even though I knew I wanted to marry him. I don't have time or energy to call people and tell them the news, so our engagement begins not with a bang but a whimper. I call my bf and have her tell my friends. Pathetic, but not for someone running on four hours of sleep each night. We are in a long-distance, cross-country relationship so we have to spend the first few months of our engagement 1000 miles apart - which is not fun - until I can move to where he is, my hometown. It's hard to be excited or even to feign excitement when a colleague notices the ring on my finger.
Then it gets really bad. Everyone expects me to start planning the wedding - my FH, my family, his family, my friends, are all asking questions. My FH and I are paying for the wedding with some help and have a budget under $10,000 (maxing out my possible student loans) but a guest list of 150 - which is doable if you plan it well and do everything yourself. There is not the possibility of hiring a wedding planner. My husband is a sweet-heart, but not up to the challenge of planning, booking, and organizing a large event. My mom is controlling and we have the opposite taste in everything, so she cannot be trusted with decisions. She also makes everything more difficult that it has to be - she could discuss table settings for weeks, when I need to make fast decisions without a lot of effort. She insists on stupid traditions, like having the table linens be the same shade as my dress - when we can't even afford table linens. (Do people actually do that shit?) I'm living 1000 miles from all my friends that could help and they are also pursuing degrees that make them equally busy. Despite these facts, everyone is asking me questions about the date, the venue, the decor, my colors, the bridesmaid dresses, themes, and other crap that I could not care less about because I am focusing on my education and career. When I respond with frustration, it is awkward. I'm engaged - shouldn't I be happily planning and chatting about how great the wedding flowers and my hair will be? My mom is furious at me that I'm not "including" her, even though I am not planning the wedding until I finish my degree requirements. My FH is texting me questions that I don't want to respond to, which creates friction and makes me look like a bitch… I tell everyone that no one is allowed to talk to me about the wedding until I am ready to plan it. I'm the worst bride-to-be ever.
Then I complete my work and move back to be with my FH and my family. I move from the South where it is 90 degrees and humid to the North where it is 40 degrees and rainy, after completing three exams and pushing myself to finish a major project. I am so stressed out, which combined with the major climate change makes me very, very sick. Sicker than I have ever been. I have to go to the doctor multiple times a week for a month. I have a weakened immune system that will not revive itself. I essentially become sick in every way possible. My skin breaks out in rashes, I have multiple infections, I cannot stay awake, and I cannot digest anything. I feel so sick, I want to die. This goes on for months as I try to plan a DIY wedding on a budget in a tiny studio apartment. I try to have my mom help, but she questions my every decision and makes me feel bad that I cannot afford nice linens or big floral centerpieces or to have our entire huge-ass extended family attend the wedding. I have to cut her out so I don't lose my mind. None of my friends live in my hometown, so I can't have them help. I give my husband tasks that he can complete, but he isn't going to be able to do the invitation calligraphy or make centerpieces, so I do it alone while I'm sick and barely able to stay awake for ten hours at a time. Everyone wants to talk about weddings with me, unaware of how much I have begun to loathe weddings. Oh, and I somehow managed to sew over my finger with a sewing machine the week before the wedding when I was trying to sew table squares while dictating a letter to my MOH. Yes, my finger was completely impaled by a sewing needle and it was gross. I had to use the hand wheel to pull the needle out of my own finger. Luckily my MOH was a med student and not phased at all.
Oh yeah, and the week before the wedding, my husband and I had to pack up all our belongings to prepare for a cross-country move for my work - so we had the stress of the wedding and moving at once. We were both cranky and over-worked leading up to the wedding.
The wedding finally arrives and I am healthy! I have been practicing yoga and following a strict gluten-free, sugar-free diet to regain my health. The wedding is a disaster. First of all, I either did everything myself or hired someone who was clueless (which happens when you try to go cheap). Every time I tried to delegate work, it ended up being MORE work because the person would check back with me 5+ times even though I insisted that I did not care and that I trusted his or her best judgment. Or the person ended up complaining about the work, even though it was miniscule compared to what I was doing. (Who are these DIY brides who have friends and family that are willing to help without complaining!?) My mom continued to vocally protest every decision that I made EVEN on the wedding day. I had made detailed instructions for the bridal party and photographers, but no one payed attention and would either disappear or ask me what they were supposed to be doing. A week before I had emailed the photographer a list of shots that I had put together and coordinated with what shots family members wanted. The photographer did not have the list at the actual wedding and expected me to remember them all. My face was twitching during the photos because I felt so overwhelmed by trying to organize the chaos of my own wedding. One of my friends stepped in and helped manage everyone, so I could survive the ceremony. And of course my mom said something very rude to that friend, which made me cringe all over. She not only insulted me, but had to insult the person who was trying to help the most. Perfect.
I was excited for the reception, which was at a different location (we did a church wedding). Everyone at the reception hall had detailed instructions and I met with the staff multiple times before the wedding. They seemed very capable. I was confident that everything would be beautiful and go smoothly. It did not. A lot of the decor was not set up - which is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but matters on a personal level if you made it by hand and had to forgo other things to spend money on it. The centerpieces looked awful - really awful! - because they had been half set up and so they looked pitifully small and weird. The staff had also sprinkled silica gel on tables because they didn't realize the little packets marked "toxic" were to make sure the dried flowers stayed dry. Silica gel is dangerous if consumed and is most definitely not glitter. We ran out of wine early at the reception, because we anticipated that more people would drink beer since it was summer, but that was not the case. An uncle also berated me about our wine selection, which was disappointing since we had invested a lot of time in picking out the wine and money in having an open bar. Also, I had designated a friend to be in charge at the reception so no one would bother me, but the staff still came to me with every question. Everyone that I had hired for the wedding seemed capable before the event, and helplessly confused during it. I still have no idea how this happened. Luckily I got two glasses of wine before we ran out!
I thought things would improve when the dancing started, but no. We had chosen to set up an iPod instead of getting a D.J. to save money. I've been to receptions that use an iPod instead of a DJ, and they have been awesome rock-your-socks-off dance fests. For some reason, it did not work for us. The music and chemistry of the crowd did not jive. People were not happy with the music we chose and kept making requests, which meant everyone was nagging my husband and me to change the music to a different song while we were trying to enjoy our reception. The venue was not conducive towards dancing either. It was not dim enough for our friends to feel comfortable dancing in view of my Quaker-like relatives that looked on with cold stares - and I had placed my these austere relatives right next to the dance floor, which was a horrible decision. Eventually the dance floor got going, but then the reception had to end. Leaving the reception with my husband was our favorite part!
On top of having a somewhat disappointing wedding, my mom continues to criticize my wedding and all the decisions I made, and it happened over a year ago! Every time she attends a wedding she has to tell me how they did things better. This annoys my husband too. We're thinking of having a "no one is allowed to talk about our wedding ever again" rule. I limited contact with my mother because I was hurt by so many things she had said during the engagement and wedding, as well as afterwards. I needed time to recover.
Even if circumstances had been friendlier or at least less unfortunate, my husband and I were somewhat doomed from the start. I have never enjoyed dressing up or being the center-of-attention. I also despise being treated like a princess -- which is the default way to treat a bride, at least in my experience. My husband hates planning and is also an introvert, so he found the wedding stressful even though he was excited to get married. We did not really look forward to or enjoy our wedding that much, which is sad. Part of me wants to say that we should have eloped or "Damn familial obligations and social expectations!" But I can't quite say that. There was something really amazing about seeing how excited people were for us at our wedding. There was genuine, contagious joy, even in the chaos. So I'm happy that we included our family and friends in our wedding, even with all the stress. And now I have 1000 pictures of myself in case I want to become obsessed with my appearance!