by Nneka Gerstle

It was a stunning Amsale gown. I walked out of the dressing room, and everyone sighed wistfully. This was the wedding dress of my dreams.

Did I mention it was $8,000?

But so what? A wedding is supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime affair. Every girl deserves to feel like a princess on her special day. So, of course it’s justifiable to spend a fortune on flowers that wither, food that…well we know where that all ends up, and most importantly, who can put a price on the dress?

I gushed about the dress to my fiancé. He looked at me with a heart full of love, a brain full of crunching numbers, and very calmly told me “no”. I must shamefacedly admit that my response was less than Christ-like. I pitched a huge fuss, which led to miscommunications and disagreements. Not a great way to begin the journey to “Happily Ever After.”

Finally we were forced to face the ridiculousness of the situation. We were shocked at how easily what should have been the beginning to a beautiful partnership had very quickly morphed into a self-centered power struggle. After years of investing in a solid relationship, we had unconsciously shifted focus, placing the priority on the wedding, instead of our marriage.

Say Yes to the Marriage // @KindredGrace

Gratefully, with the help of solid friends, we worked through it. Here are some of the things we learned:

1. Pick your battles.

After the wedding dress disaster, we decided to adopt an eternal perspective on our wedding. Of course disagreements arose here and there, but we became selective about what battles were worth fighting. We were careful that our choices were not merely focused on having one successful event, but on having the best marriage possible.

2. Don’t underestimate premarital counsel.

For us, premarital counseling was priceless. It positioned us to gain invaluable, practical wisdom from people who were already walking the walk successfully.

3. Prefer one another.

I like a clean classy look, while my fiancé prefers a more colorful, random look. Different tastes, neither is better than the other. Instead of each of us insisting on our own way, we compromised and combined. Appreciating and including each other’s tastes only made things better.

4. It takes a village.

My fiancé and I were very set on having our families and friends as involved as possible. So we decided to seek their advice, respect their opinions, ask for help, and not be divas. The result was amazing. We were supported with wisdom, guidance, help, talent and enthusiasm all the way around. The process brought us closer to family and friends, and we forged deeper relationships with new friends. We realize more than ever how blessed we are with amazing community and how worth it is to keep investing in that.

5. Have the heart of servant.

One of the reasons we decided to have a reception was to show appreciation to our friends and family who had supported us thus far and who would continue to do so. Based on this, we decided to offer our guests the most generous reception that we could reasonably afford. We didn’t serve champagne and caviar, but with a lot of help, we did have crepes, wine, lots of love, smiles and the most energetic, fun, dancing crowd I’ve ever experienced at any wedding EVER!

In case you’re wondering, I did not get the Amsale dress. Instead, I wore an elegant J. Crew gown. And I like to think I didn’t look too shabby.

Nneka Gerstle is a writer/storyteller who is passionate about young-people.