Last Wednesday, I celebrated my 8 year wedding anniversary. Since Memorial Day Weekend seems to mark the start of wedding season, I thought I would take the occasion to offer a little advice to newly engaged couples who find themselves in the thick of wedding planning. Now that I’m 8 years removed from the experience of planning a wedding, I can look back on it with some fondness, but boy did it feel stressful at the time. I have both planned a wedding (with some significant budget concerns), been a maid of honor, a bridesmaid, and a guest at many a wedding at this point, so please trust that these insights have been well researched.
1. Try not to get too caught up in details.
Weddings are memorable at the macro level. There’s an overall feeling of love and joy that is captured in a good wedding, and while the little details may help contribute to that feeling, they aren’t as important as they seem when you are in the process of choosing between all the little ways to make your wedding feel extra special. Don’t get too stressed out about choosing your color scheme, or flowers, or having the most delicious cake anyone has ever tasted. I have been to LOTS of weddings, and I promise you that I don’t remember what the flowers were at any of them. Not a single one. I can’t tell you who had large centerpieces and who had small ones. I don’t remember anyone’s bouquet, or if they had flowers decorating the ceremony. I went to two weddings last fall, which is not that long ago, and if you put a gun to my head I still wouldn’t be able to tell you what the flowers were at either of those events. Do you want to know what people will think about your wedding cake? That it tasted like cake. Have I ever eaten a chocolate wedding cake? I don’t know. Maybe? I don’t remember. All cake tastes like cake in a person’s memory. The only wedding cake I remember at all sticks in my mind because it had green frosting. But I still couldn’t tell you what the flavor was. If you need to cut cost, and save yourself some stress, do so by winnowing down these smaller items. If you are trying to choose between two different place settings, go with the cheaper one. Decision made. No one will know the difference. No one will remember them at all. These little things all mesh together in people’s minds overtime and just become “wedding things” rather than specific elements of any one particular wedding. I have had people compliment me on how delicious the cake was at my wedding. That’s pretty weird, because I didn’t have a cake. Don’t sweat the details, they really don’t matter.
2. Focus on what makes your relationship special.
Your wedding is a celebration of your relationship, your union. Make it about you. By that I do not mean become completely obsessed with yourselves and make outrageous demands on your friends and family, but rather use your wedding as an opportunity for everyone to get to know you better as a couple. There may be a specific formula your ceremony has to follow, especially if you’re going with a more traditional, religious service, but try to find ways to incorporate private stories and little known anecdotes into the official proceedings. When I got married, our rabbi did not know either of us ahead of time. She asked each of us to write her a letter about the other person that she would then use when putting together the ceremony. We both wrote very personal letters that included stories about each other and our relationship that were not really widely public knowledge. She ended up reading each letter in its entirety during the ceremony. At first I was horrified, but I have to admit that it gave our ceremony a wonderfully personal quality, and made our wedding feeling deeply meaningful and poignant. Find small ways to open your relationship up to your guests and give everyone a peek at what you two mean to each other, without any reservations or sense of guarding. Be vulnerable and your wedding will feel more meaningful, and memorable. Those are the details that are worth spending your energy on, and coming up with them together will be a nice reminder of why you decided to get married in the first place.
3. Make time to talk about anything but the wedding.
Wedding planning can be very all consuming. Pick a week each month where you don’t do any planning. Take a break and just enjoy each other’s company as you did before you had to plan a major event with far too many moving parts. It’s important to step back from the wedding part of things and nurture the parts of your relationship that got you to this point. There are two things that are true of every wedding I’ve ever been a part of: no matter how well you plan, you’ll be rushing around to get things done on the weekend of the wedding, and it all will come together in the end. So don’t worry about taking some time away from your planning each month.
4. You can’t please everyone.
Some people are sure to gripe that the date you picked is inconvenient for them. Some people might not like where they are seated at your wedding, or complain that they couldn’t hear the ceremony. Others might be unimpressed by your food choices. Some people will piss and moan that the bartender won’t let them order shots. Some people just love to be sour about everything, and you’re never going to please them no matter how hard you try. Let it go. Most people will have a good time at your wedding because it’s a party and most people enjoy parties. If you have fun and feel happy, most of your guests will join you in that feeling. If you find out either in person or through the grapevine that one of your guests wasn’t especially pleased with the festivities, oh well. Thank them for coming and for the lovely new blender they got you, and then move on with your life.
5. Keep the comparisons to a minimum.
I was the first of my friends to get married, which was sort of a blessing and a curse. I didn’t really know what I was doing and didn’t have other weddings to look to for guidance, but I also didn’t have a bunch of other weddings to compare my planning to. There will be things you love from other people’s weddings. Incorporate those elements into yours if you want, or if you can, but don’t feel pressured to make your wedding live up to anyone else’s. It’s your event, your budget, your priorities. Do what makes the most sense for you, and remember, in the long run, no one will really remember all of the little differences between your wedding and all of the other ones they’ve been to anyway!