by Hazel Bowman, Publisher, Prescott

Welcome to one of the most wonderful, strange, fabulous and weird stages of your life – your engagement. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it can be the best of times, and it can be the worst of times.

You’re ready to start your happily forever after, and yet you still have to make it through this not-yet-spouses limbo period. That means anywhere from six to 12 months or more of planning, preparation, fighting, crying and dealing with family dynamics. Sounds awful? Not if you follow our advice. We say, “Go ahead, enjoy your engagement. We dare you!”

If planning your wedding is consuming your every waking thought, you could jeopardize your relationship, friendships or work. If you’re obsessing over the napkin colors or the filling flavor of your wedding cake, it’s time to slow down, take a deep breath and relax. Here are some ways to help you maintain your perspective.

  • Don’t feel you have to take everyone’s advice. Be gracious when someone offers unsolicited advice, but don’t commit. Instead of saying “no” and getting into a heated discussion, just cock your head slightly, raise your eyebrow and say, “Hmm, that’s a thought. It sounds like a good idea. I’ll have to think about it.” Then, go ahead and do what you were planning to do anyway.
  • Surround yourself with positive energy. Call your best girlfriend for an impromptu lunch or night out. Have a rule of “no wedding talk.” On the other hand, should you be having problems with a demanding bridesmaid, steer clear of her for a while.
  • Pick your battles. It’s the best way to limit outside stress. Agonizing over every little detail puts you under too much stress.
  • Don’t be a superwoman. Take on less as your wedding day approaches. If you can afford it, hire a cleaning service for your home and order take-out meals. Why worry about dust balls when you have place cards to tackle?
  • Get plenty of exercise. Aside from other benefits, exercise is one of the best ways to shift a stressed-out mind. Instead of running away, enjoy a brisk jog. Imagine yourself literally sweating out your stress.
  • Set aside together time with your fiancé. Have a once-a-week date. He could be starting to feel neglected or that the wedding means more to you than he does. Reassure him that he’s still No. 1 in your life.
  • Plan in spurts. Feeling energetic? Get tons of planning tasks and errands done in one action-packed planning weekend, then take a couple of weeks off.
  • Don’t jeopardize your job. Research vendors through their websites when you’re at home, not at work. Have vendors reply to your email inquiries to your personal email. If you call, leave a detailed phone message, and ask that they call you back on your cell or at home.
  • Don’t do everything during your lunch hour. Arrange vendor meetings on weekends or after work.
  • Don’t investigate every wedding planning option out there. Are you planning to call all those people for appointments or price quotes? Waste of time! Be choosy. Ask two to five recently married women who their top pros were and call those.
  • Take one friend bridesmaid-dress shopping on a series of initial dress-shopping forays. The rest of the crew can come on a final buying trip. This is not to say that you should become a bridal diva – do give them a couple of options in an acceptable range. Everyone will be happier.
  • Get ready in relative solitude. Perhaps you’ve imagined a host of helpers when you get dressed. Save the sorority soiree for the dance floor. Very likely, this will be the only quiet time of the day you will have. Pick and choose who you want near you at this critical time.