The bride's guide to surviving the holidays
by Maria MacNamara

Ah, the holidays. All is merry and bright...and for the bride-to-be, often expensive, chaotic, and filled with calories. Have no fear, ladies - today's post will guide you through the season and make sure that your budget/sanity/waistline stays intact. (And let you have some fun along the way. Promise!)

1. Food

The holidays are filled with savory delights and sweet treats...which is all well and good if you don't have regular dress fittings for the next six months. If you're trying to be mindful of your diet, there are plenty of ways to indulge and not get too far off track. The key is moderation and a positive mindset. If you want a cookie, please have a cookie - enjoy it! Just don't eat ten of them. See, moderation. Here are a few tips and tricks for sticking to a healthy routine over the holidays.

  • Stick to a regular workout routine. This can be easier said than done as Christmas parties and family dinners crowd your calendar, but it's so important to take that time for yourself. Not only does it keep you healthy physically, but it can be a huge stress-reliever over the holidays. If getting to the gym is proving to be impossible, set your alarm early and go for a 30-minute walk or try to squeeze one in on your lunch hour. Your body (and mind) will thank you.
  • I'm not really one for sweets, but I have a serious weakness for cheese. Everyone has their comfort foods, but you don't have to give them up completely. I know that if I see cheese and crackers, I'll be thinking about them all night until I have some; the more I deny myself, the more frantically I'm shoving them in my face later. Here's where moderation comes in: pick your treat, select a small portion, and fill the rest of your plate with fruit, veggies, and dips like hummus and salsa. That way, you still get to have your favorite things, but they're balanced with food that's good for you. If you're able to eat a wholesome and filling dinner before you head to the party, this will also cut down on unhealthy decisions later.
  • Don't be afraid to say no. Aunts and grandmas mean well, but they are quick to forcefeed cake after cookie after pie into your mouth at any given opportunity. If you're watching your diet, it's ok to share that with people; if you prefer to keep it to yourself, it's also ok to tell a little white lie and say you're full.
  • And don't be afraid to say yes. This is a happy time – celebrate it! If you want a second glass of wine or a giant cookie, go for it. Life is short, and a couple nights of indulgence won't ruin months of healthy eating and hard work at the gym. You can eat better at the next party or put in some time on the treadmill later.

2. Family

Family – can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. Anytime you have a mix of personalities in a room, there’s bound to be a little tension now and again, no matter how close you are. The holidays can amplify sibling rivalries and parental conflict, causing you to resort back to your sixteen-year old self. (I’d be lying if I said I haven’t slammed a door in recent years.) The main thing is that you love each other – and let’s face it, the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without them. When all else fails, keep the following in mind:

  • If you haven’t seen your family in a while, they’re bound to be curious about your wedding plans …and probably have a few opinions of their own. I’ll tell you this right now – weddings and babies are the two subjects people will gladly offer unsolicited advice on, so there’s no use fighting it. Smile, nod, and know that whatever you decide (or have already decided) for your wedding is just perfect – no need to change anything, no matter how strongly Auntie feels about fancy chair covers or party favors. And you never know, you might get a great idea from someone to incorporate into your big day!
  • Spending consecutive days with the same people can be overwhelming at times, especially with hectic schedules and no sense of a normal routine. I look at it this way – the older you get, the harder it is for everyone to get together, especially as people move away, have kids, and get further into their careers. When you get married, you’ll have a whole other family to take into account, as well as the family you and your partner create, so the time you have with your family pre-wedding is really special. Embrace the chaos, ignore the drama, and enjoy the days you have together. If all else fails, go for a long walk. A very long walk.
  • Schedule some alone time for you and your significant other. We’ve started doing this over the past few years, and I can’t tell you what a difference it makes. It gives you time to decompress, slow things down, and savor the little moments over the holidays that are so often forgotten about in the hustle and bustle of the season. Your partner will be a great sounding board if things get stressful, as well as a happy companion to all the fun you’ll have with family and friends along the way.

3. Finances

Tis’ the season for giving…yet tis’ the time for sticking to a serious wedding budget. The good thing is that you can still treat the ones you love without breaking the bank. A few ideas on how to spend and save:

  • First and foremost, set a budget for the season. No matter how small (Secret Santa at work) or how big (your parents, your partner), add it to the list. Be realistic about what you can afford – people truly appreciate thoughtful gifts, no matter the cost, and no one would want you to spend outside your means on their behalf.
  • Once you know who you need to buy for and what you’re able to spend, create a plan of attack. We’re talking mall strategy here, people. If you don’t know exactly what you want to buy, narrow down your options by choosing a couple of stores for each person as process of elimination – if it’s a good fit, you’ll most likely find something suitable at one of these places. Going in organized will help you stay on track and prevent overspending on last-minute gifts.
  • Save those coupons! I receive so many holiday offers in the mail alone, not to mention email promotions and text alerts. With most stores offering free shipping with no minimum around the holidays, you can also save big on items online – and have them delivered directly to recipients out of town. (No additional mailing costs, woohoo!)
  • Finally, create new traditions with friends and family. Maybe instead of exchanging gifts, you all go out for a great meal together. It becomes more about the experience, and with life as busy as it is, it’s the perfect time to catch up. Or, instead of exchanging gifts, you all donate to a favorite charity. A few years back, my family started doing this, and it makes the holidays even more meaningful. Remember, people understand that you’re on a budget and that’s the case for many of us these days, not just those planning a wedding. It’s really about celebrating the holidays together, no (purse) strings attached.

Would love to hear your best tips for celebrating (and surviving) the holiday season! Send me a note at the style letters, Twitter (@styleletters), or Facebook, and follow my wedding inspirations on Pinterest.


About Maria: With over ten years’ experience in the fashion industry, Maria MacNamara has styled women all over the world, from Jimmy Choo and Brown Thomas in Ireland to J.Crew and kate spade new york in the United States. An accomplished writer and editor, she has been featured in ELLE, Redbook, and InStyle. As editor of the style letters, she has worked with major brands,she has worked with major brands, as well as local designers and boutiques. Follow Maria's style adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!