Interview by Lisa Schneider, for Beliefnet.com
Laurie Sue Brockway is the author of Wedding Goddess: A Divine Guide To Transforming Wedding Stress into Wedding Bliss, a sort of wedding planner for the soul. Her book offers tips for brides-to-be coping with the period of hectic wedding planning known for its stressful tendency to transform women into neurotic creatures known as "bridezillas." In this interview, Brockway explains how to make the process a calmer and more meaningful journey. [Full disclosure from the interviewer: Rev. Brockway helped me avoid bridezilla-status, and officiated at my wedding].
Lisa Schneider: Why should busy brides-to-be read your book?
Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway: Wedding Goddess is the "stop and smell the flowers" angle on wedding planning. It's not about how to put the whole event together. It is about how to keep yourself together, how to stay close to your groom, how to be loving yet set boundaries with your family, and how to keep a focus that the Big Day is a sacred day. It is not just a party that needs planning--it is a marriage that you are preparing for.
What does it mean to be a "wedding goddess"?
To my mind a wedding goddess is a bride who has an awareness of the realities, stresses, disappointments, and disasters of wedding planning, and yet can hold on to and nurture her vision of how she wants it all to be. She understands that she is bound to hit some bumps along the way, but she has decided she will not be taking the "stress express" to the altar, as so many brides do these days. I like to think of the wedding goddess as the bride who calls upon her own inner divinity to plan her wedding, conquer problems before they begin, and rise to the occasion like a goddess!
Do you offer a spiritual antidote to the obsession with wedding perfection, which can turn some brides into "bridezillas"?
I certainly try to. Bridezillas are made, not born. Some brides are downright demanding but most are nice people, sucked into the vortex of wedding planning stress, and overwhelmed by the pressure and expectations of those around her.
First off, every bride has to realize that there is no such thing as the "perfect wedding" where not one thing goes amiss. The fantasy wedding is, I believe, just that... a fantasy. But your wedding can be perfect, just as it unfolds, if you prepare yourself for the experience and experience it through your spiritual eyes-–which is the opposite of being so stressed about every detail that you begin to lose it.
I am a firm believer that a bride has to include stress management, self-nurturing, and time to chill out as an integral part of her wedding planning process. When you feel the stress building, take time out, go for a walk, slip into a movie, get a massage, go for a manicure, write in a journal, meditate, listen to music, do something un-wedding. You have to love, honor, and cherish yourself if you want to be loved, honored, and cherished by someone else!
What about the opposite: the anti-bride, the not-so-traditional woman who shudders at the thought of a white dress. Where can she find meaning in the whole affair?
The meaning is in the sacredness of your commitment to love, honor, and cherish another human for a lifetime. That's huge. And that is extraordinarily meaningful in itself. The wedding ceremony is just the ritual that establishes and honors the commitment, and makes it legal. And the wedding reception is a way for you to celebrate your commitment with family and friends, to share your joy, and receive their blessings, plus the nice little envelopes they give you to commemorate the occasion. If you are getting married and have decided to plan a wedding, you might as well enjoy it and make it special in your own way. Otherwise, elope.
What is it that brides-to-be should be mindful of in between appointments with the caterer and dress fittings?
This is about you going from being a single woman with a boyfriend to becoming a married woman with a husband. This is about growing up and growing into the kind of commitment you once only dreamed about. It is about taking two complete and whole individuals with their greatness and their flaws and merging into a partnership that is beyond any union you have ever had in your life. It's about stepping up to the plate to say, "I do," and being ready to step up to the plate in marriage. The details of planning and the sometimes blinding stress that comes along with planning, I think, are often a diversion from the feelings related to this commitment. Fear and occasional panic are not uncommon.
Yes, even picking out napkins can be a rite of passage.
Sometimes we bury these by worrying about the color of the napkins and yapping at the bridesmaids about their shoes. What is at the heart of the worry may be, "Whoa, we are really having a wedding here, I am marrying this guy, this is for real. Am I ready? Is he ready? Can we handle it?" So a bride may focus on the details of the external experience rather than the internal. We all do that. Forgive yourself if you get lost there for a while and come back to the inner journey soon as you can.
What are some ways a bride-to-be can make the planning process a rite of passage?
Treat every step of it as sacred. From the day you become engaged to the moment you say "I do," make every moment count as a special occasion to be savored. The first time you try on dresses, the meeting with the caterer, the day you get your license--these are all the small steps you take to the Big Moment. Cherish them. They are just as important in getting you ready for marriage. You need all the things that happen in between the engagement and the wedding day to get your soul ready to be in a committed relationship that will become the foundation of your life.
What are the most important spiritual and emotional issues that brides-to-be need to address?
First off, you want to make sure you are in this for the marriage, and not just the wedding.
Use the wedding planning experience as a study of and exercise in family dynamics, relationships with friends, how you handle stress, and the strengths and weaknesses of your relationship with the man you will marry. There is plenty of fodder for growth! Weddings can be a healing for everyone involved. The journey is different for each of us. For you, it could be owning your power as a woman, and making firm decisions with your mate instead of following everything Mom and Dad want. It could be giving yourself permission to not be perfect and recognizing you are not going to fix all your flaws before marriage--rather, you can decide to blend them into your union and be loved, despite them. It could be strengthening your spirituality and weaving your beliefs into your ceremony and into your marriage.
Can you suggest specific examples of exercises and rituals that can help them address these issues?
I am big on release-and-cleansing rituals. The first chapter of wedding goddess is on letting go of the things that will not serve your marriage. That means everything from the old couch your ex-love and you used to watch TV on, to jewelry and items from relationships past. Even if you have to have tea with an ex-lover to be really, really clear it is over, do it--release and let go and move on from old ties that bind as much as possible before the wedding. I also think bathing in sea salt cures many ills--it really helps reduce stress and spiritually cleanse.
Most people may feel as if they don't have time to do anything beyond the practical/logistical planning of the wedding...
It's a challenge, for sure. Some brides tell me they have nightmares about not getting everything done in time for the wedding. As my colleague Arlene Cronk (founder of the Bridal Survival Club) says, planning a wedding is like a job and most of us already have full time jobs. Time is a stressor but you have to counteract the fear of time running out. It's a must! I recommend beauty rituals for the inner and outer goddess--take care of YOU. Get up early and meditate; it will help you feel more balanced. Do yoga, it will take the kinks out. Take time out from wedding planning just for you, and just for the two of you. Pray. Have a chat with God, Goddess, or your guardian angels. Do things that help connect you to the expansiveness of time and all there is!
Those approaching marriage can become sad about saying goodbye to childhood and independence, or scared of failing at marriage. Do you have advice for women dealing with difficult emotions like these?
Embrace them. Explore them. They are completely normal. There is dying of the old that happens with the creation of the new. It is part of the cycle of life. If you are riddled with anxiety about these passages, seek counseling and spiritual support, or a good friend who can help ground you. Don't sweep your feelings under the rug, but don't make them the reason to not enjoy the journey, either.
Your subtitle is "A divine guide..." and your suggestions are very eclectic (aromatherapy, meditation, astrology). Could people of all faiths benefit from the tips in your book?
Yes, it is completely interfaith, intercultural, and non-denominational. It’s meant for any bride of spirit!
Your book is written for women. Where do the men fit in?
There are five chapters on how to plan the ceremony together and several on how to stay close to your groom, how to turn getting the marriage license into a special ritual and do purification rituals that will serve your married life together. I would NEVER leave out the groom!
You were writing this book and planning your own wedding at the same time. Were you able to remain spiritually grounded?
When it was my time to be a wedding goddess, I realized that I would not be spared all the stresses of wedding planning. I really got to see how hard it is sometimes to stay true to yourself when planning a major life event. I also got to see how important it is to be flexible and open minded, and to pick the things you battle about, and worry about, wisely.