By Sabrina Piper
I am busy. Sometimes, while trying to balance time between classes, family, friends, jobs, and student org activities, it feels like my life is running me instead of me running my life. However, I know classmates who have even more demands on their time. In addition to all the standard law school obligations, they also planned (or are planning) a wedding.
These people attend class, have fulfilling internships, and sometime, between all the school and career demands, find a way to plan beautiful weddings. They do it with efficiency, grace, and poise. I can’t help but marvel at how they keep it all under control. To reveal the mystery behind being a put-together law student and a dutifully betrothed, I put another demand on their time and asked them to share their advice.
It is possible to plan a wedding during law school without destroying your GPA. As 3L student Tania Bakar, who is getting married this March put it, “It is all about time management.” You need to determine the amount of time between now and your wedding day and allocate accordingly. Motions Editor, Nico Weiss who proposed to 3L student Annie Su last summer, suggests treating it as you would any other spare time from law school. “For me,” he said, “it means a little bit less videogames and Netflix…but that’s okay.”
We all have lives outside of law school. Wedding planning while in law school just means reprioritizing those things or creating a time line that will work with your school demands. Annie Su and 3L student, Samantha Yarman-Patterson (whose wedding will be May 2014) each said their long engagement has helped them stay focused on
their studies. “My fiancé and I have a 15 month engagement,” Samantha explained. “It may sound long, but really goes by quickly.”
Longer engagements have other perks, like being able to utilize winter and summer breaks to take care of a lot of wedding details at once. Emily Little, who was married just after her 1L year, says that would be her number one tip to anyone planning a wedding during law school. “Do as much work as you can over school breaks and then do your best to relegate all wedding planning to one day or night per week.” By using weekends, breaks, and sticking to a schedule, you can plan the wedding a little bit at time without becoming overly burdened.
Scheduling your wedding planning for breaks and weekends eliminates the distractions while you are trying to study, but also keeps you on track for the big day. However, one thing that every student interviewed agreed on, was that you should avoid any wedding related planning or activities during finals. Your final exams should take priority over your wedding plans and because your fiancé (hopefully) knows how important law school is, they should understand the need to set wedding matters aside for a few weeks.
All the interviewees also agreed that you should not rearrange your class schedule to have more time for wedding matters. Kristi Hubbard, who was married during her 2L summer, said, “You don’t want to lighten your load so much that you will end up burdening your other semesters (particularly your last one). I just made sure to take classes I was really interested in so that studying for them wouldn’t be so hard.” If you have accumulated extra units from summer school and can afford a lighter class load the semester before your wedding, you will certainly utilize and enjoy the extra time, but it isn’t necessary. Most interviewees said that if you follow the advice of planning early and scheduling a day or evening per week to manage wedding details you won’t feel the need to take a lighter class load. While wedding planning can be distracting, most law students are focused enough on their studies and graduating on time that they find other ways to manage the demands.
To alleviate stress, a helpful family member, friend, or wedding planner can go a long way. “A generous, patient, and caring maid-of-honor or best man is 100% required for the day of the wedding. You need to be surrounded by people who completely understand you, and will put up with your anxiety.” Said Kristi. For Samantha, her fiancé’s mom has been a huge help with picking out details and physically going to stores and vendors during the semester. Tania emphasized the importance of a support system as she discussed the help she has received from her mom, “She is able to attend to things that I can’t because of school or work. No matter who it is that is helping you, make sure it is someone who has the same style and vision as you – it makes your life a lot easier.” Although many of our interviewees did not have a professional, full-time wedding planner, they all had someone to support them in the process, a best friend, a family member, a day-of-coordinator, and most importantly, their fiancé and his or her family.
In a professional environment where name recognition can mean a lot, the question of whether to change your name once married comes up often. Do you change your name and lose name recognition from your prior work, awards, or network? Or, do you keep your name and have to explain why you have a different last name than your partner and/or future kids? The answers varied, as did the reasons, but everyone agreed that it was a personal decision you had to be comfortable with. Emily struck a compromise, “I changed my last name, but kept my maiden name as a middle name.” Annie, whose wedding date is after graduation, struck a different compromise, “I’m changing my name, but I’ll probably still work under my maiden name, Su.” This compromise has Nico’s enthusiastic support “As a professor pointed out, Su is the perfect name for a lawyer!”
Not as personal, but just as important, is the issue of budgeting. “Everything will cost way more than you think it should and you are right, it is overpriced.” said Nico. With the costs of law school tuition, books, and limited time to work during this semester, managing the costs of a wedding are even more important than it is for non-law student weddings. “Decide on your budget early in the wedding planning process and do everything you can to stay within.” Advised law student Qiva Dinuri who has utilized do-it-yourself craft projects for things like centerpieces and favors to keep costs down. Planning ahead of time can also equal cost savings. Samantha’s bridesmaids pitched in with their creativity, “We had time for everyone to come together to help with decorations. It saved money, helped me stay sane, and was a great bonding experience for everyone.” In short, the wedding planning process is expensive and involves a lot of decisions, but it’s not all bad.
At the end of the day, the wedding is all about celebrating love. Kellen Hassold, who was married during her 2L summer explained, “The point of the wedding is to get married. Once that happens, you only care about celebrating with your friends and family. Not whether the napkins on the tables are the right shade of purple.” Kristi agreed, “Keep the wedding fun. It’s a party and no one wants to go to a party that is not fun.” All the interviewees said that reserving time to enjoy your relationship was one of the most important things to keep stress at bay. Emily, Qiva, Nico, a
Law school is demanding and planning a wedding involves stressful, sometimes expensive decisions. But it does not have to involve sacrifice. If you manage your time and remember that the wedding is about celebrating your love, you can have your law degree and eat your cake too! Special thanks to all our interviewees and congratulations on your engagements and weddings!nd Samantha all emphasized the importance of a date-night. “We have a night once a week that is devoted to spending time together without talking about the wedding, school, or work. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, something as simple as cooking a nice dinner at home and cuddling on the couch works,” said Qiva. “The relationship shouldn’t be all about the wedding. In the grand scheme of things, it is just one day. The most important thing that has gotten you this point with your fiancé is the friendship and love you have for one another.” Tania explained.