“Can you hear me?”
The FaceTime screen flickered – poor connection. I sighed. After years of long distance, I had enough experience with FaceTime to know there was nothing to do but wait. A few excruciating moments later, my fiance reappeared with an expression of the utmost exasperation. “There you are!” I exclaimed. “Now, where were we? I think we were talking about the flowers -”
“Honey, can we do this later?” He interrupted. “I’ve been up since 4:00 in the morning. I have a check ride tomorrow and I really need to study …”
When I think of my experience wedding planning, I think of this – poorly functioning FaceTime calls, conflicting schedules, and stress. Lots of stress. As a graduate student grappling with the first semester in a new town, I juggled coordinating vendors with passing Statistics. My fiance, in the throes of flight school for the Air Force, worked twelve hour days and tried to muster up the energy for our evening calls with little success. We were hundreds of miles apart from each other, and hundreds of miles away from our wedding venue.
In the military community, our story is not unique. Training, deployments, and the pursuit of education or careers often make long distance a necessity. Yet as challenging as long distance can be, it doesn’t have to be debilitating. I spoke to three different business owners within the military community to find out how they managed the challenge. Here are their suggestions:
Keep a Google Doc
Rachel, Army wife and blogger extraordinaire at Wandering Rae of Sunshine, faced a difficult decision when her fiance received orders for an unaccompanied tour overseas. The couple decided to have a courthouse wedding prior to his departure, and planned a traditional wedding while apart. To keep her husband-to-be in the loop, Rachel created a Google Doc with up to date details on the planning process. “He trusted me to make the appropriate plans, as he was too busy to collaborate in real time. The time difference stunk!” Rachel explained. “I did most of the planning and we kept a Google Document so he could see the progress.”
Prepare for Change
Casey of Haymount Homes got engaged to her military fiance Carl at the beginning of the Iraq conflict. The couple planned their dream wedding with over 300 guests, scheduled after Carl returned from deployment. Six months into the planning process, they received bad news – Carl would not be home in time for the wedding. Recognizing she could not change the situation, Casey handled this new challenge with grace. “I contacted all our vendors, and sent all new “change the date” cards to the invitation list. The original cards featured a picture of a white wedding dress. The replacement cards featured that same dress in a camo print!”
Her advice to other brides-to-be dealing with unexpected change? “I have learned that the only thing you can count on is that something will change. I hope that other spouses can remember to stay calm and preserve their psyche within the context of the military. We owe it to our SO, our families, and ourselves to make this life as stress free as possible. If you expect the unexpected, you will be prepared to react accordingly.”
Remember Your Resources
For all of the challenges associated with military life, it also comes with advantages – including a variety of resources designed to make your life easier. Organizations such as Brides Across America seek to lessen the burden on military couples, while many local vendors offer military discounts and specials. “Don’t forget about the resources and discounts out there for military!” Rachel advised. “My dress was FREE because of Brides Across America. I was able to have a designer wedding gown retailed at a thousand dollars for nothing.”
Managing the logistics of wedding planning while apart requires flexibility and a dash of creativity. Lizann of The Seasoned Spouse blog lived an hour apart from her fiance while planning her wedding, and an additional hour away from her hometown. To manage the distance, the couple split up the wedding tasks. “Some projects we handled together, but others we had to do alone,” Lizann explained. “We visited venues, met the photographer, heard the live band, and did a taste testing at the caterer together. But I handled the groomsmen tux rentals, the florist, and the ceremony details myself.”
Having a traditional Catholic ceremony presented another challenge – the couple was required to attend marriage preparation classes with a priest. To manage the distance, they chose to complete the prep classes at the home of a church couple who lived halfway between the two locations. “In the end, it was a wonderful wedding, and it was worth all the footwork and logistical complications!”
Rely on Your Tribe
When it comes to wedding planning, it doesn’t have to be a solo operation! In all three weddings, the brides knew when to ask for help. Lizann asked her fiance’s friends to borrow swords from their training unit and practice for the sword detail. Rachel’s bridesmaids threw her a surprise bridal shower, even when she insisted it wasn’t necessary. And Casey connected with other military spouses via The Knot, finding others in the community who could relate to her struggle.
If the “poor connection” FaceTime screen has become a staple in your life and you’re struggling to plan your wedding from a distance, Just Married Military can help. Check out our Virtual Wedding Planning Services, or send us your wedding planning questions via the Mailbox.
Have you experienced wedding planning from afar? Comment below with your tips and tricks for managing the distance!