Four years ago today, I got engaged on a snowy bridge in Central Park on a Friday evening after work. Five months later, Drew and I were married in a sunny garden in Central Park on a Friday morning surrounded by about 70 of our closest friends and family. I wore a dress I bought on eBay for about a hundred dollars. I did my own makeup and hair. I made my own bouquet. We didn’t have a wedding cake. In fact, there were plenty of things we didn’t have and didn’t do that lots of people, “experts” and concerned citizens alike, proclaim are wedding must-haves. And yet, despite our apparent missteps as planners, we had a beautiful wedding — one that some of our guests still count among their favorites, several years later. For any of you stressing about all the details you’ve been told you have to include in your wedding, here are 20 wedding “must-haves” we happily skipped — or could have skipped — and you can too (if you want! And if you want to include them, that’s perfectly fine, too.).
1. STDs (Save-the-Date cards).
We sent an email to people as soon as we had a date and venue picked out. No one complained that they had one less thing to stick on their fridge or pitch in the garbage after marking it on their calendars, and we saved at least a couple hundred bucks on cards and postage.
2. An Engagement Party.
Because you’re already getting a party with gifts and attention and accolades. It’s called your wedding. And people will already be spending enough time and money to be there for you.
3. A Bridal Shower or bachelor/ette parties.
See #2. Now, if someone in your life wants to throw one of these for you — or, in my case, surprises you with one — enjoy yourself and be genuinely appreciative. But don’t think just because you don’t have these parties that your wedding will be any less special or your marriage any less valid.
4. A wedding band.
Make a playlist on your iPhone — or whatever you use — and hook it up to a portable speaker and be done with it.
5. A wedding website.
Despite what some people may say, a wedding website is not necessary — even for weddings with more than ten guests. You know what people did in the olden days before the internet? They included all necessary information on the invitation and answered the phone when people called with potential questions.
6. A gift registry.
It’s helpful to have one, sure. And creating one does increase the odds of getting stuff you actually want and will use. But you know what will happen if you buck tradition and skip a registry altogether? Your guests will figure something out. They might even use original thought.
7. A wedding party.
Bridesmaids, groomsmen, a Maid-of-Honor, a best man, a ring bearer, flower girl, blah, blah, freaking blah. You know who will be sad if you don’t give a handful of your guests special titles and make them dress in matching outfits? Pretty much no one.
8. A florist.
Go to Youtube and see how easy it is to pick up some flowers at a wholesale market or even a drugstore and make your own bouquet. Boom! That just saved you, like, several hundred bucks.
9. A wedding cake.
Have a wedding pie if you want! Or cupcakes. Or individual flutes of chocolate mousse that people can clink together for a “toast.” Or, if you really want a cake-cake, go to a bakery, order a large sheet cake and have them write your names and wedding date on the top. Boom! That just saved you another several hundred bucks.
10. A white wedding dress.
Or an expensive dress. Or a dress you find after going to a million bridal stores.
11. Wedding favors.
No one’s going to miss not having pastel-clored M&Ms with your initials in a little baggies tied with a ribbons in the color of your wedding placed lovingly on their dinner plates. Promise.
12. Chairs for everyone.
You know who needs a chair for your 20-minute ceremony? Old people, maybe disabled people, and the pregnant ladies. You know who doesn’t? Everyone else. It’s a few minutes. They’ve stood in lines at Disneyland for five times longer.
13. A dance floor.
Anyone who wants to bust a move when Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” starts playing will find a corner or push a few chairs out of the way or climb on top of the table to make that shit happen. Anyone who wishes there was a place for the dollar dance needs to go back to 1987 and finish watching that episode of “Moonlighting” where Bruce Willis said something sexist.
14. A weekend ceremony.
For a variety of reasons, we had our wedding on a Friday. Yes, that meant that most of our guests had to take a day off from work if they wanted to be there. But there are probably worse ways to spend a Friday off in the summer than at Central Park, followed by a delicious — and free — lunch in Manhattan with your family and/or friends. And if there’s not, then people could have sent their regrets and we would have understood.
15. A professional makeup artist.
Personally, I hated the idea of a professional makeup artist. I wanted to look like myself, not like what some stranger thought a bride should look like. If you decide to use a professional makeup artist, have some photos to show the makeup person for inspiration, and make sure you do a practice run beforehand or you may end up looking like a Dolly Parton drag queen in your wedding photos.
16. A guestbook.
It’s fine if you want one, but if you don’t, just skip it. You’ll remember who was at your wedding through photos and cards you’ll save.
17. A rehearsal dinner.
And you don’t need a rehearsal for that matter, either. I think most people can figure out how to walk down an aisle without practicing first.
18. A block of hotel rooms.
If you have only a small number of out-of-town guests, like we did for our wedding, it probably doesn’t make sense to reserve a block of rooms at one hotel. It’s perfectly nice to email those guests a list of, say, 1-3 recommendations of conveniently-located, reasonably-priced, comfortable hotels and let them go from there.
19. Assigned seating.
We had assigned seating, but I’ve been to weddings that didn’t. And while I do think it’s easier — and a little more comfortable — on guests if they don’t have to hustle to find a table where they know someone or where there are enough seats for the people they want to sit with or where they have to save their seats with their purses or cell phones or what have you once they find a spot — you know what will happen if you don’t spend hours making a seating chart? One way or another, guests will find a place to sit. And all will be fine. And you’ll probably have fewer grey hairs to cover up on the big day.
20. A wedding planner.
Everything you need to know, you can find on the internet for free.