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Swipe This! How do I keep my wedding from looking like a disaster on Instagram?

JasonCPhoto/Shutterstock (Licensed) Remix by Jason Reed

Take control by letting go.

“Swipe This!” is an advice column about how to navigate human relationships and connections in an age when we depend so heavily on technology. Have a question? Email [email protected]

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Dear Swipe This!

I recently got engaged and now the realities of planning a wedding (and all the sticky problems that come with it) are setting in. Aside from dealing with latent family drama, I’ve found myself feeling the added pressure of social media. Was I supposed to announce my engagement? And how do I make my wedding look cool on someone’s feed? (I know, barf!)

I didn’t post a pic when my partner and I got engaged; in fact, we were so wrapped up in celebrating, we didn’t take any except one blurry drunken photo in the cab ride home. No pick of a ring, no sobbing face, no nothing. I was perfectly happy with everyone not immediately knowing, but recently it does feel like it never happened or is fake because it wasn’t posted online. People’s reactions to the news are usually first “Oh, I didn’t see that on my feed, did I miss it?” and when I explain we didn’t post it, they usually are still happy for us, but also slightly confused or even slightly betrayed.  I can’t tell. But it’s definitely weird.

And now the expectations for my wedding feel unmanageable. There’s this egotistical desire to have a wedding that is super fun and beautiful because after all, even if you invite just your closest friends and family, everyone in the world will end up seeing it. I’ve seen friends’ weddings in my feed and I’m pretty darn sure mine won’t stack up. This day is supposed to be a private special ceremony, but it’s spiraled into a competitive sport.  

Even though I personally don’t care about social media, I think it plays on my deep subconscious issues of not feeling special or important. I hope to have a decent wedding, but generally speaking, it’s already a mess. I’m not excited for it. And I feel like broadcasting this shitshow will be embarrassing. It’s all complicated and frustrating and also all fake! It’s embarrassing that I’m this worked up about it!

How can I navigate these ridiculous wedding waters and stay grounded?

Sincerely,

Burnt-Out Bride To Be

. . .

Dear Burnt-Out Bride To Be,

First of all, congratulations! It sounds like you are about to marry someone you truly adore, and that’s very exciting news. I hope, amidst all the chaos of planning your wedding, you haven’t lost sight of the fact that you’ve got something really special: a partner who lives in the present, who takes time to celebrate your partnership, and—perhaps most thrillingly—doesn’t reach for their phone when you’re having a special moment! This person sounds great, and they want to spend the rest of their life with you!

You express some regret about not posting your engagement to social media, but it sounds to me like it all went perfectly. Because it was just you and your partner sharing a tender, joyous moment. You seem to treasure intimacy and privacy, so I can understand why the follow up to your engagement—a day you share with your partner, your friends, and each of your extended families, not to mention anyone with access to an attendee’s Instagram feed—is making you anxious.

Weddings are cesspools of anxiety, stress, and people-pleasing. It’s perfectly normal that dipping a toe in these swampy waters has set your stomach turning. Please know that your fears are extremely common. To some degree, they will be part of your day, or at least the days leading up to it. But just because they’re there, that doesn’t mean they get to run the show. They will if you let them. But they don’t have to.

When I feel overwhelmed, I try to Marie Kondo my thoughts to a more manageable size. This isn’t always easy, but if I look at my thoughts honestly, most of the things I’m worried about are distractions or clutter. So I toss my useless thoughts and shift focus to one or two simple things. I don’t make myself fix anything or make any decisions; I just give myself permission to focus on one or two lovely thoughts for a minute or five, or however long I need. And I breathe.

This can be tough with weddings because so much goes into planning your big day. But when you whittle it down, a wedding is really just about love and cake, which honestly, is a fantastic mantra. Love and cake. Love and cake. Wow, I feel better already.

But back to your wedding. What a beautiful, special day. You love someone so much that you gather your friends and family and say, “Hey, I love this person so much that I’m going to eat cake with them! And I’m going to cut a slice for you, too! Cake for everyone!”

The problem is, you may not be in control of your guest list. Heck, maybe you aren’t even in control of the cake. You allude to family drama in your letter and I’m sure that’s making you feel pretty powerless over a very significant day in your life. I’m sorry that you aren’t receiving the support or the patience you would like. Or that someone is running this day as if it’s about them and not you. That can’t feel very nice.

On the other hand, your letter hints at the idea that you’ve already surrendered the idea of control to some degree. And I think you should continue down that path and consider for a moment what it would feel like to really let go. Because in your letter there is more than a hint of resentment. You call your wedding a “shitshow” and “ridiculous” and embedded in those statements is the belief that your wedding is already something it shouldn’t be. No wonder you’re terrified that it will look bad on Instagram. How can you expect others to receive it lovingly when you’re shitting all over it? You’re bad-mouthing your own big day. You’re shaming yourself for this event before it even happens!

The fact is, no matter how your wedding turns out, it will be yours. And for that reason, I think you owe it to yourself to tend to the details of this day with love and care. And if there are large portions of it you can’t control, do your best to let them go, but please don’t devalue your own wedding day. It’s special because it’s yours, and you deserve your own support and affection as you navigate this very challenging planning period.

The other thing that stood out to me in your letter is the notion of having a wedding that is “cool.” Cool isn’t necessarily the same as popular or trendy, and I have a feeling you are someone who likes to march to her own beat. That can be a tough thing to do when we are fed so many images of what’s acceptable, not just in terms of weddings, but in life. I think the coolest people I know are the ones who are the most authentically themselves, and the ones who show the world what they love without shame. Whether it’s music or clothing or hair, cool people are in touch with what excites them, and they aren’t afraid to show it. So stop worrying about how your day will “look” and start getting in touch with how you want it to feel. What is the music that makes your heart sing? How does your hair fall in a fantasy? What colors delight you? You’re already cool, and if you get in touch with the things that make you feel great, your wedding will absolutely show it.

Now, let’s consider your wedding’s social media policy. And yes, I believe you should have one.

When it comes to social media, there are no hard and fast rules for wedding etiquette. Many couples choose personal hashtags and encourage their guests to post. If this is your idea of fun, go for it! But it sounds like you’d hate that. So I am going to go ahead and give your permission to do the complete opposite. You can tell guests that this wedding is a social-media-free zone. Heck, you can ask them to put their phones in a basket. That may feel extreme to you, but I think you have every right to dictate the terms that make you feel comfortable. As you point out, weddings are a deeply personal and private matter. And if I went to a wedding where guests were asked to put away their devices I wouldn’t be put off, I’d be impressed! Like, damn, who are these elegant, classy people who don’t allow phones at weddings?

If you do choose to opt for a no phones policy, I’d consider giving guest some fun photography options that keep them grounded in the present.

You can purchase instant cameras—if you aren’t choosy about colors, you can get them for as little as $40 bucks a pop, and value packs of film—and set them at each table to for guests to use. You can set up a display wall where guests can “post” their photos throughout the event. Another fun photography option is to rent out a Halo Auragraphic photo pod, or book Radiant Human, and invite guests to take colorful instant portraits of their auras. The photos will be unique memories, not of your wedding and how perfect or imperfect it was, but of your guests and how they felt being there.

Perhaps having mulled through your options, you discover social media isn’t really such a big deal and you opt for a goofy hashtag that makes you and your partner laugh at the absurdity of it all. Whatever you decide, please know that you are not as powerless as you feel. You can surrender to the chaos, or channel your inner bridezilla. Either way, it’s your choice. So do what you need to do to feel a sense of calm and security about your big day. And if anyone gets in your way, you have my permission to breathe a little fire their way, or cut them a slice of cake. Your choice.

Nayomi Reghay

Nayomi Reghay

Nayomi Reghay is a frequent contributor to the Daily Dot, covering body positivity, feminism, sex, relationships, and gender. She is also the author of the advice column “Swipe This!” A former New York Teaching Fellow, her writing has been featured in Reductress, Rolling Stone, Mic, Someecards, and more.