We’ve all heard it before… “Your wedding will be the best day of your life!”
Those few little words are enough to put immense pressure on any bride, but for those battling chronic illness, the effects can be devastating. While stress alone doesn’t cause Crohn’s Disease or colitis, it’s anecdotally reported to be the main trigger of flare-ups and relapse. But there’s good news: It’s 100% avoidable!
And no, not by staying single…
On April 13, 2018, I married my best friend. The tofu bacon to my eggs, the bees to my knees, the tea to my crumpet (because he’s British, duh.) Need I go on? I guess I dig him. He is the father of my baby after all… But this past year has been anything but easy. Within the last 365 days, we collectively: found out we were pregnant, changed jobs, moved 100 miles, bought a fixer-upper, fixed it up, had a baby, all while planning a wedding. In a year. While managing a chronic illness. And I stayed in remission through it all! If that doesn’t call for a hallelujah, I don’t know what does.
Weddings are stressful. Managing a chronic illness is stressful. Put the two together and you may have a recipe for disaster — unless you’re prepared. If you have IBD, you know the importance of a solid plan, as well as back-up plans A, B, and C… and maybe even a D. You can’t “wing it,” because symptoms have their way of popping up when they are least appreciated. But your wedding day is your wedding day and the last thing you should be worried about is not passing out from the pain. With that in mind, here are my top ten tips for organizing a low-stress, IBD-friendly wedding:
1) Make a list. Check it twice.
Every good event starts with a good list. Things you need to do, things you need to book, stuff to buy and whom to invite. Those with IBD have a few extra items to consider as you embark on your wedding journey. A few things to keep in mind:
- Dietary restrictions: Check your reception menu to ensure there are foods that you can enjoy. Pasta makes you nauseous? Skip the Italian menu. Avoiding meat? Don’t go to a steakhouse. Now is your time to be selfish, so pick the foods that won’t kill you. Your guests will survive with whatever makes you happy.
- Honeymoon details: As you’re deciding on a destination, take extra consideration for food, emergency services, hotel amenities (if your medication needs to be refrigerated, etc.). Personally, we were considering a week-long stay in Mexico, but after hearing numerous horror stories of food poisoning and parasitic water, we thought, “Let’s not poke the bear…” and decided to stay somewhere a bit safer.
- Stay in contact with your doctor: It’s a good idea to pre-emptively schedule a few appointments to check-in over the next few months, as well as ensure you have all your prescriptions stocked for the month of your wedding/honeymoon. The last thing you want to do is run to the pharmacy the night before your wedding…
2) Pick your venue accordingly.
The backdrop for your wedding and more than likely, the first step in planning your special day. Looking to cut stress? Find an ALL-INCLUSIVE VENUE. When I started my search, I scouted the local wedding websites (knot.com, weddingwire.com, etc.) and searched for those magical all-inclusive words. What does this mean? It means you pay one price, and the venue includes many (if not all) the key components to your day. I scored a gorgeous venue that included the ceremony and reception space, tables, chairs, table linens, catering, florals, cake, dozens of decor items, open bar, DJ and day-of coordinator. They provided a list of who to contact and when, and I just had to schedule the appointments to customize. Bonus: It also ended up being a mere fraction of the cost than paying for each individually. Save time. Save money. Save stress. Go all-inclusive.
3) Plan ahead.
Think it’s too early to pick your colors or go dress shopping? There’s literally no such thing for any aspect of your wedding (except for the marriage license. Check your county for requirements). The more you get out of the way now, the less you have to do later when your head is spinning from last minute items. Want to lose 10lbs before you decide on a dress? Pick one now and wait to do alterations. Still not sure on a color palette? Meet with your florist and bring your 10,000 Pinterest pins. They will help you decide.
4) Make an emergency kit.
Most brides will pack items like thread, safety pins, tampons, etc. While those are important, take a moment to think about your common symptoms and how you manage them. Gut-friendly snacks, Loperamide, Simethicone and portable heating pads (like Thermacare) were in my emergency bag. Glamourous? No. But you know what’s worse? A real-life Bridesmaids movie situation. Be prepared kids! Luckily, I didn’t need them, but it gave me peace-of-mind knowing they were there if needed.
5) Focus on what matters.
The process of wedding planning often involves a degree of compromise and the realization that it won’t be “perfect” and that’s completely okay. Talk to your spouse-to-be about what’s really going to make your day extra special. James loves Star Wars, so we made sure that was incorporated. Roses are really significant to my family, so I spoke with our florist about making those the main flower in our arrangements. Having these key components organized ahead of time will lessen your stress as the day approaches so you can let go of the other small mishaps that may occur along the way. Which leads me to our next point…
6) Let it go
The day won’t be perfect, but honestly, who cares? What matters is that you and your spouse are starting a beautiful new life together. If your table clothes are ivory instead of white, or your Aunt Margie has a bit too much to drink, let it go. Chances are you’re the only one who will notice and if not, it’ll give you something to laugh about when you’re old and grey.
You know that old saying, “You are the company you keep”? Choose your company accordingly. This is one of the biggest days of your life, and you want people around you who will keep you calm and support you in every possible way. This goes for the planning process too. Don’t feel obligated to ask certain people to be part of your day if you know they aren’t going to truly be there for you.
Speaking of the company you keep, let that company HELP YOU! That’s why they’re there! Brides often feel like they have to do it all themselves. Whether you’re a control freak, a perfectionist, or you just don’t want to feel like you’re burdening anyone – don’t. I guarantee your mother, aunt, sister, best friend, etc., would be elated to assist you if you ask politely. And if they’re not, please see #7…
9) Self care
The truth is, you don’t know how you’ll feel the day-of. That’s the ugly side of this disease. One day, everything is perfect, but the next, you’re bed-ridden and writhing in pain. Take the weeks leading up to your wedding as an opportunity to really take care of yourself. Eat well, hydrate, get a massage, read a good book. New goal: Before you go to bed every night, do one thing that will help you relax. Do some light stretches, invest in an adult coloring book, have a glass of wine. A little bit every night will make a big difference during crunch time.
10) Enjoy yourself
If there’s one thing I’ve heard from every single bride I’ve ever met, it’s that the day flies by. Don’t spend a second of your day worrying about small details. Let someone else handle it (ahem… #8). Take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the day with your new spouse. You only get this day once (if you’re lucky) so make it count!