We are in peak wedding-planning season, and I know from the forums and from my in-box that the anxiety around this special occasion in one’s life can be overwhelming. So many things to think about and keep track of! So many ways to unintentionally offend! So little time to actually enjoy the reason you’re in this boat in the first place (you found someone you want to spend your life with – hooray, congrats!). After the jump, we hear from a few women who have some words of advice for you to help this process go more smoothly and be more enjoyable, from the initial planning stages to the big day itself.
While You’re Planning
“If you have loved ones who are very keen to be very involved, pick the things you care less about and let them take charge of those. For me that was decor. If I’d been 100% in charge, we’d have gotten married in the room as it was, but my mom and MIL thought this was the tragedy of the century, so they were sent on their way with Google/Amazon/Etsy and sorted out backdrops and flowers and ribbon and confetti, and it was lovely. It meant they felt involved and listened to, and I could put my foot down about the things I cared more about (“no, no one is giving me away,” “yes, I am walking down the aisle with both my parents,” “no, we aren’t sleeping separately the night before – we live together, that ship has sailed!”). I’m even very grateful for the decor they chose: it was really beautiful.
(This probably only applies if you spend your own money. I paid for the stuff I cared about, and when family wanted extras, they could go to town, but they paid for them, which was lovely and generous and prevented me from either being frustrated by spending money on things I didn’t need, or arguing endlessly with family about a party. If they’d been spending my money recklessly, it might have been a lot less effective.)” — Emily, newlywed
Think Outside the Box
“I couldn’t stand the idea that I was putting on some standard production that everyone else has done. For my second wedding we had pinatas (for kids and adults), wine/beer tasting games, and a round of trivia.
Also, you can have a really nice wedding for less than $5000. Even that is a LOT of money. Yes, the guest list has to be small (food/drinks will be your biggest expense), but don’t spend tons of money on clothes or accessories or decorations. No one will remember those, least of all you.” — Liz A., newlywed, second marriage
Keep It Simple and Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
“Eloping or a small city hall ceremony is ALWAYS an option. Remember, this is about you and your future spouse, not about napkins, your in-laws, the perfect dress, or any of that. You are making this memory together. You can always celebrate with family and friends at a casual party after the fact.” — Liz, married a second time for three years
“I would say: relax! Weddings have been made into such a big deal, but the focus should be on being as prepared as possible for all the days that come after the wedding. A lot of people act like getting married is crossing a finish line, when really it’s just the beginning! Don’t sweat the small stuff; have an enjoyable day with the people you love. My husband and I have been married for ten years and we had a really small wedding. At the time, I was sure we’d have a bigger ceremony a few years later. And now? I can’t imagine spending that much money on one day. Our small wedding was perfect.
Also, make sure that you’re marrying the right person, and that you have the same expectations for what married life will be like. Wendy has posted lists of things people need to discuss before they get married — everyone should read those posts and take her advice! ” — Jenny, married ten years
“My advice: Elope. 🙂 It’s the marriage that matters, not the wedding. But if you insist, then keep it simple, simple, simple. Only invite the people YOU and your partner want there. It’s YOUR celebration and you should get to enjoy it and eat the food and spend time with the people you want (and actually know). Keep it FUN. My cousin offered beef or chicken on the response cards and served burgers and grilled chicken clubs; it was awesome. Do NOT blow out your finances to do the thing – build a LIFE not an event.” — Katherine, married eight years
Get Lots of Candid Photos
“You’re going to end up cherishing your candid photos so much more than your posed professional ones. Set up some way for people to share their photos with you. Maybe even go super old school and put disposable cameras on each table. And unless you have to for family obligation reasons, don’t waste your precious time taking dozens of staged, posed photos. Concentrate on your significant other and your love for them and let that shine through in the pictures. Those are the ones you’ll keep coming back to.” — Kate, married a second the for five years
Know What You Want and Stick to It
“My advice would be to have a solid understanding of what you want, what your future spouse wants, and finding a way to meld those things together. People say a wedding will bring out the crazy in family members, and it will. But knowing what each of you wants and sticking to it makes it easier to tell those outside sources no. You’ll hear from people opinions on things even when you don’t ask. Let them slide off your back. Your wedding is about celebrating the love between you and your future spouse.” — Jennifer, engaged to be married in June
Know How You Feel
“There are tons of people (and a whole industry!) telling you what you should be feeling right now. Make sure to pay attention to how you actually do feel. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and find yourself swept down the road wondering how you got there (whether that has to do with the wedding, the marriage, or any number of things)!” — Megan, divorced and currently single
Sign a Prenup
“Seriously consider a prenup. It is not just for the wealthy. I was fairly broke when I got married, I have had some modest career success, and my divorce was financially devastating.
I know no one wants to think about divorce, but as more women become breadwinners or at least equal earners, more men are receiving spousal support. Mine was voluntarily unemployed, perfectly capable of making a living wage, and yet I still had to fight tooth and nail to avoid paying alimony.” — A.W., divorced
It’s the Big Day!
Spend the night Before With Your Betrothed
“If you already live with your partner, stay together the night before so you can get ready together in the morning. It’s fun and giddy. My husband and I drove to the wedding location together in our car (it happened to be at his parents’ house 20 minutes away), with our dogs in the backseat. ” — Liz A., newlywed, second marriage
Start the Day Slowly
“It’s going to be a long day, so greet it slowly. Do some yoga or stretching, eat something nourishing, and take some time with yourself.” — Katherine, married a second time for eight years
“One of my bridesmaids dubbed me “bridechilla” because I was so go-with-the-flow that day. I figured that I had done all the planning I could, and if something went wrong, it was going to anyway. I wanted to enjoy the morning with my closest friends and look forward to seeing Bryan. I feel [that attitude] helped me remember more special moments from that day, and I really enjoy the party I spent months planning instead of dwelling on the minor hiccups like the cake showing up late or one of the groomsmen being too drunk to take a good picture.” — Emily F., married 2-1/2 months before being widowed