Flying Solo by Hilary Elliot: How an Air Force Spouse Coped with Wedding Planning While Her Fiancé Was Deployed

When I first got engaged, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what wedding planning entailed. I was ready for the venue scouting, flower picking, and dress shopping. What I wasn’t ready for was planning long distance while my future husband was deployed to a new duty station halfway across the country. For an already indecisive bride, this was not an ideal arrangement. I wanted my future husband here to bounce ideas off of, help with the endless DIY projects, and budgeting; he wanted to be here for the cake tasting.

Since my fiancé and I couldn’t be together for most of our year-long engagement, we tried to stay in touch the best we could to go over details. It was hard, so very hard! But keeping that connection, even if it wasn’t consistent, was essential to our relationship. If we could do long distance for a year, we knew we could tackle anything.

If I knew then what I knew now about planning while separated, I wouldn’t have hounded my husband to go over every minute detail. Even though we were separated through the process, it was still a memorable year spent with the family and friends who could take part in the planning process with me. These few tips below saved us a lot of time and brought us closer together in the planning process:

Determine how you will best communicate. With so many platforms, you don’t want your ideas floating among multiple platforms and then a miscommunication arise because someone missed something you sent on Facebook messenger, something pinned on Pinterest, or an email sent. Keep your communications consistent among one or two platforms. We found our groove with FaceTime/Skype calls and messaging. I would screenshot my ideas and send them along in a message or wait until our video chats to gauge his reaction to an idea. Once things were ironed out, I kept all our paperwork in a shared online folder for us to examine on our own time and make edits to as necessary. This helped immensely when establishing a guest list, getting addresses, and keeping track of our wedding budget.

Establish a budget and stick to it. Outlining a clear budget ahead of time, perhaps in a shared file, helps keep everyone on the same page so there is no confusion. If you feel you must go outside the predetermined budget, contact your significant other first, but don’t expect an immediate response if they are deployed. They will get back to you when they can, so be prepared to stick within your budget anyway. If you absolutely can’t stick to your budget, be prepared to budget more for another vendor or idea you want to implement.

Be confident and trust your judgement- this one was hard for me. I wanted to review every major decision with my fiancée before committing, but this was difficult to convey online and hard to organize with the time difference. For your deployed spouse who wants to be as involved as possible, this may be harder. Specifically for us, I had to trust my judgement many times to seal a vendor in a timely fashion, as dates for certain vendors go quickly! It will be easier if you have discussed your expectations, like vendors, ahead of time. By establishing some limits, you can both rest easy knowing your day will be just what you want.

*Share your experience
Find your tribe! This is essential. If you can’t share all those moments with your significant other, find some friends, family members, co-workers etc. who can come along for the ride! Even if it’s just for the little things such as picking out place settings, flowers, or creating a playlist for your DJ; finding your tribe helps you enjoy the process along the way. Feel free to throw some surprises in there too (if your S/O is okay with that!). I made sure to add a few small details that I knew my future husband would love, and chose to leave them as a surprise for the big day!

*Capturing the Details
Document what you can! Your future husband or wife wants to be a part of your life and even though they can’t physically be there to experience the highs and lows of wedding planning, capture those moments for them so they can feel included. I documented as many pictures as possible of the venue, food tasting, cake tasting, dress shopping (but don’t show them THE dress!), flowers, and music to help my fiancé feel connected to the planning process. We connected more throughout the process too with my fiancé looking forward to the photos or videos I would send to lift his spirits while he was away.

More than anything, know that you don’t need a big, fancy wedding to get married. Ultimately, you and your future spouse will find the perfect way to celebrate your love: big or small, lavish or simple, it is the love you both have for each other that matters most.

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