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Taylor Stuck and Will Vance met at Marshall University, so they took some engagement photos on campus.

It took about six months before the novelty of wedding planning wore off.

On Valentine’s Day 2019, after a steak dinner in our living room and with a Marshall men’s basketball game on the TV, Will got down on one knee and asked me to become his wife.

The high of being engaged is a beautiful feeling. I was frequently told I was glowing. I got to work on the planning. I set the date and asked my bridal party. I chose a venue, photographer, DJ and my dress. I picked out table decorations and decided on favors.

Then I hit a wall.

I now understand why people choose to hire a wedding planner. You have to make so many phone calls. I hate making phone calls.

On top of the phone calls are the decisions. The decisions I made up front were exciting. Nerve-wracking, sure, but still fun. Picking flowers? Blah. Cake design? Meh. Do not even get me started on invitations. (How can something I care so little about cause me so much stress?)

Simmering below all the decision-making stress, however, has been the fear of the impending life change.

That’s what no one really warns you about. People say things change after you get married, but I was never super clear on what that meant. How much would my life really change? We already live together. We have three cats. We share our resources and make decisions together.

The holidays really revealed the change. This was the first Christmas in my life that I wasn’t with my family. In the past, Will and I chose to do holidays apart. He spent it with his family in Charleston and I with mine in Brooke County. However, this year, now engaged, we wanted to be together on Christmas Day and the timing of the holiday meant we wouldn’t be able to travel up north.

It was hard. Once we reached Thanksgiving, dread had set in. I was afraid the time we would get with my family wouldn’t have any magic. I was afraid I would never capture the magic of Christmas again, honestly. (Cues “Where Are You Christmas” from Ron Howards’ “The Grinch.”)

This Christmas was weird for more than one reason. My grandmother had a stroke this year and just got out of the hospital from a setback. My mom, for the first time in maybe 50 years, didn’t go to her mom’s house for Christmas. It was the first Christmas without my fiance’s grandmother.

By comparison, my dread seemed inconsequential, but it was there all the same. Change is scary. Growing up is scary. I was lucky enough to grow up in a home with such beloved traditions that it is now hard to look to the future.

Something else no one tells you about is how hard it is to blend families. Will and I both have wonderful families. Our parents are both still together, so we aren’t navigating those dynamics that can add more stress. But still, it’s hard to both get used to another family and to feel out what your new family will be like.

I was discussing this with a friend recently who said her husband’s family speaks a language she just does not speak.

Each family has a language, and even the most hospitable family can still leave outsiders behind unintentionally. I am still learning his family’s language, and I am sure he is still learning mine. We also have yet to design our own language, which will be a mixture of the two.

I have a lot to look forward to. Building my own traditions with Will. Dancing to (song yet to be determined) on our wedding day.

As I make these final decisions, like tulips versus calla lilies, and begin to wrangle RSVPs from my guests, I’m keeping in mind why I wanted a big wedding in the first place: I wanted everyone I love most in one room. I cannot wait to show off this city to my family, and I cannot wait to mix everyone in my life together.

As you head into planning, remember this day will lay the foundation for a new life. It’s a little bit scary, and that’s OK. You already found someone to hold your hand through the scary parts of life.

Taylor Stuck covers health and state government for The Herald-Dispatch.

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