Start young. Very young. Long before you've met anyone. Watch children's movies -- particularly the ones from Disney, where the main characters always get married in the end. Pay attention to the fan fare, the perfect Prince Charming, her absurdly tiny waist and perfectly ample bosom. Let that settle into your ever-growing schema as you reenact what you watched with your Barbies, whose waists could rival those princesses any day of the week.
Watch as the older females around you fuss over their own wedding. Scan through the wedding magazines they pile up in your mother's kitchen. Scan through the "inspiration binders" that accidentally get left behind at the frazzled bride tries to get everything together.
Meet the one you are destined to spend your life together with. Meet your life partner. Or meet someone you wouldn't mind marrying and figure you should since you're about that age and you guys have been together for so long anyway. Get engaged. Compare your engagement ring with every single one around you. Feel inadequate when it's not as big or as pretty.
Get bombarded with emails. Sign up for a million wedding websites. Be told that DIY weddings are the best. Feel inadequate when you hire vendors instead. Feel inadequate when you try making crafty things for your wedding, but fall short.
Have absolutely no idea what you want to do. Listen as wedding blogs tell you to go big, go small, go simple, go elegant, go fancy, go retro, go modern. Feel criticism when you forgo a traditional DJ. Feel criticism when you decide you want a traditional DJ. Feel criticism when you hire a live band or a string quartet or both.
Make a guest list. Realize it's too big. Realize it's too small. Feel guilt over those you aren't inviting. Feel guilt over the fact that you're inviting way too many people. Worry about it being too formal or too cozy. Consult the websites and become even more confused.
Try on dresses. Hear about the disdain for strapless a-line gowns. Hear about the disdain for cocktail dresses in lieu of wedding gowns. Bite your lip when dresses hug you wrong, or emphasize all the wrong areas. Pretend that you feel like a princess even if you feel like your waist is going to explode out of the corset, or your chest is a solid foot from the edge of the top of the bodice. Avoid all clichés while still being traditional and living up to this nagging voice in the back of your head telling you that you're falling short of the Perfect Wedding.
Worry over money. Have people invalidate and worsen the worry by telling you that you're spending way too much money on "a stupid party".
Process a million people's varying input at the exact same time. Listen as your mother wishes to invite the people she wants to invite. Listen as your co-worker clicks her tongue over the style and layout of your invitations. Be called extravagant by your cousin. Be called stingy with money by your sister. Take everything in with a smile, even as the corners of your mouth descend downwards.
Stress out. Be told not to stress out. Be told how juvenile weddings are. Be told that you're silly for getting so worked up over one. Watch as they nonchalantly shrug their shoulders and talk about how they won't be falling into the same traps that you are falling into. Be reminded that you're spending way too much money and you could've spent those thousands of dollars on something way more pragmatic.
Pay attention to the magazines, the Pinterest boards, all the wedding shows on premium cable. Have people think less of you because you do. Decide you aren't going to pay attention to them, only to catch a wedding magazine out of the corner of your eye at the drugstore, telling you all the ways you can lose weight for your wedding.
And, above all else: smile! You are the center of attention, if people haven't made that abundantly clear, either genuinely or sardonically. This is supposed to be the best day of your life! This is your happy ending with Prince Charming! Everything just needs to be perfect, and you just need to be nonchalant about every possible screw-up or setback, lest you be called a bridezilla or immature. No big deal or anything.
Hey, why are you crying?