What exactly is a “dream wedding?” I know it’s going to be hard to believe, but not every bride’s dream wedding involves six bridesmaids, endless toasts, and everyone she’s ever been friends with in attendance. No really, it’s true. That’s a myth perpetuated by the media. Reality TV shows about weddings wouldn’t be interesting if the brides were all stressed out about 10 guests.

Not every bride wants a Cinderella wedding with a big bridal party (Photo: Rance Elgin)

In fact, there are many brides who dream of an intimate wedding ceremony with only their fiancé, family, and best friends in attendance. These brides don’t aspire to a first dance that involves a flash mob. They want the day to be about their new marriage. It’s not an excuse to be the center of attention at a big party. Some brides really prefer to avoid that.

Let me be clear – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting the big traditional wedding with all the bells and whistles. That’s how I earn a living, planning events that have way too many details for a bride to handle herself. So I like big weddings. But I also have a healthy respect for the brides and grooms who hire me to plan intimate destination wedding weekends for just their very favorite people.

The only time there’s a problem is when one half of the couple wants a big wedding, and the other half does not. You might think it’s exclusively brides who want the whole enchilada – but you’d be wrong! Frequently, it’s brides who tell me they don’t have the time and energy to manage the stress of planning a big wedding. And sometimes they’re freaking out because their fiancé WANTS a big shindig. The problem is that, despite the groom’s enthusiasm for having a big wedding, these brides realize that most of the little tasks associated with pulling together all of the details of their big day will ultimately fall in their own laps. And they were trying to avoid that.

I’ve also realized, through working with lots of different wedding couples, that many times when one partner is pushing the other for a much bigger wedding, sometimes it’s because they think that’s what their fiancé wants, not necessarily that they want a big wedding for their own purposes.

Why the big wedding myth exists

Many couples choose intimate weddings with only their closest family and friends

You see, many men were indoctrinated from an early age to believe that all women want to grow up and be princess brides. Women recognize that isn’t true, and some men “get it” – but society promotes an image of girls as wedding-obsessed. Every celebrity wedding gets mad press, and is posited as being every girl’s “dream wedding.” For many brides, those celebrity weddings look like total nightmares.

Sure, there are some grooms who really enjoy big weddings, and look forward to partying hard at their own reception, just like they did as a guest at their friend’s receptions. But most grooms, when asked, will tell you that their vision of a perfect wedding is whatever their fiancé wants. Literally. And that’s really sweet. But it can be tricky when what the groom THINKS would be the bride’s dream wedding isn’t what she had in mind.

More than one bride has complained to me that she doesn’t want a big wedding, “he does.” And I always cringe when I hear that. There’s going to be lots of compromising for the rest of your lives once you’re married. The wedding is an excellent place to start. And a compromise doesn’t mean doing what one person or the other wants, specifically. It means agreeing on something that fulfills the needs of each of you, without either of you making so many concessions that you feel like you’re doing it all for the other person. Does that make sense?

He says he wants the bride to have HER “dream wedding”

When a bride comes to me and says she really doesn’t want to have a big wedding, but her fiancé keeps saying he wants her to have a “dream wedding,” and to him that means at least 200 people, I tell her not to give in. If the groom is saying he wants her to have HER dream wedding, but he obviously doesn’t know what she pictures in her head when she’s thinking about it, there’s a problem. And unfortunately, he’s probably not a mind reader. If he imagines the bride wants to have a Cinderella-esque day, and she doesn’t tell him otherwise, she may well find herself exiting her wedding ceremony under a cloud of bubbles, blown by a couple hundred people she hadn’t planned to see on her wedding day.

Not everybody likes to be in the spotlight

Lots of brides do not enjoy being the center of attention. It’s hard to avoid that at your wedding – it’s impossible, actually. But those brides frequently opt out of a formal cake cutting and other traditions that require all of the guests to stare at her while a photographer snaps pictures. The same brides might be just fine with all the traditional stuff if the only people in attendance were the couple’s family and best friends.

It’s important to consider your fiancé’s comfort level in front of an audience. And this goes for grooms, as well as brides. Shy people who really don’t like having the spotlight on them are more likely to prefer an intimate gathering for their wedding. But if they know their soon-to-be-spouse is more gregarious, often they’ll be willing face their demons – and a crowd – for the sake of fulfilling wedding dreams. While that’s really thoughtful, it’s also important for the more outgoing half of the couple to recognize that what’s best for them both may be a happy medium that achieves all the fun pictures without making their new spouse fight an anxiety attack all night long.

How to explain your “dream wedding” to your fiancé

Diana and Jayne’s perfect wedding included only their children (Photo: EP Anderson)

So what should you do if you find that you and your fiancé are not on the same page when it comes to your understanding of what is actually a “dream wedding?” Show and tell. Literally. Most men aren’t as well versed in wedding terminology as their brides – and you explaining you want something intimate may mean something entirely different to your fiancé than it means to you. So you need to find pictures of what you’re thinking to help him understand.

Go to Pinterest and Instagram, and clip pics of wedding ceremonies that represent something you think is romantic. Then sit down with your fiancé and tell him that you need to help him understand what you envision when you think about your “dream wedding.” Show him the pictures of a wedding you like, and explain how you would do it for your big day, who would be sitting in those seats, and the general feel you want your festivities to have.

Don’t expect a complete 180 during the conversation – show and tell your fiancé what you really want for your big day, and then let him sleep on it. After he’s had time to process it all, go back and discuss the definition of a “dream wedding” as interpreted by the pair of you. Somewhere in the middle is a sweet compromise that will give you both what you need to fulfil your wedding dreams without making either one of you uncomfortable.

Until next time, happy wedding planning!