There’s a point in everyone’s life where all of a sudden, everyone you know is getting married. It happens at different ages depending on who you hang out with, but for me it was this year. Not only did I get married, but nearly every weekend since March someone I know has gotten married. I’m told that this marriage flood lasts a few years until it gives way to a flood of babies.
Having survived the wedding process, I have some tips to pass along to my recently engaged friends:
Avoid [most] wedding websites at all costs
I’m not even going to mention them by name, because you might be tempted to visit them. Wedding websites are these monstrosities of consumerism created by the wedding industry. They exist soely to get you to buy more stuff for your wedding. Also, the people on them tend to be just awful.
“But wait!” you say, “I need them for a checklist. How else will I know when to mail my save the dates? How will I make sure I’ve done everything I need to?”
Bridal magazines. Every bridal magazine I have ever seen contains a checklist/schedule with guidelines for when to do the big stuff (mailing invitations, dress fittings). Buy one, or better yet take one from a recently married friend. I saw a look of genuine joy on my father-in-law’s face when he handed over the stack of bridal magazines they’d accumulated during his daughter’s engagement.
There is one notable exception, I really like offbeat bride. It’s basically a wedding porn site, full of fun photos of weddings that range from unusual to downright silly.
The only thing you have to do is get married.
The wedding industry has amassed an amazing list of things you’re supposed to do at or before a wedding/reception. Engagement photos, bridal showers, special bridesmaid’s dresses,veils, bouquets, receiving lines, first dances, drunken toasts, the list goes on. It turns out, all of these things are entirely optional. Skip any of the parts you aren’t into, though you should keep in any of your family’s wacky traditions in the interest of keeping the peace.
Guest lists are hard. When in doubt, invite.
At first I wanted our wedding to be on the smaller side, because I tend to have anxiety in big groups, but by the time we added our close friends to our Irish Catholic families we were already a medium-sized wedding. There were a handful of friends who weren’t quite “close” friends, but still people we talk to regularly, who we ended up not inviting largely because I was still holding onto this idea that we were having a “small” wedding. This was despite the guest list being twice as long as originally planned. In retrospect, an extra table of friends wouldn’t have been any more stressful, and I wish I’d invited them.
Also, making a wedding guest list is stressful no matter what. Even if your wedding is huge, at some point you have to draw lines across your group of friends and it sucks.
Spend your wedding budget on the things you actually care about
For most couples, the wedding itself is pretty inexpensive. The reception on the other hand can get expensive fast, even if you’re doing things DIY. You can absolutely get away with spending less on the stuff you don’t care about to free up cash for the things you do.
We addressed the invitations ourselves, despite warnings from wedding websites that this would be a horrible process (it wasn’t), I bought my dress online for $100, and I wore a felt flower in my hair instead of a veil.
Not dropping thousands of dollars on a dress I don’t care about freed up cash for an awesome venue, and the money we saved on the calligrapher went straight into an all-you-can-eat ice cream bar. Because if there’s one thing a wedding needs, it’s ice cream.
I’m sure it’s fine.
I did a lot of stressing about little details. Whether the caterer would get everyone’s meal order right. What if it rains. What if it snows. What if I trip and fall during the ceremony. About a week before the wedding I was crying to my friend about how the seams of my dress wouldn’t lay flat and it was too late to fix. All of these things turned out fine.
Things did go wrong: I forgot how to do the sign of the cross (despite coming from a Catholic family I was raised Episcopalian), and thus just flailed my hands in front of me during the ceremony. Chris and I forgot to kiss at the end. One of our groomsmen was missing entirely (due to illness), leaving one lucky guy to lead two ladies down the aisle. None of these things bothered our friends/family, because they were there to celebrate with us, not critique us.
During the reception, one thing did go very wrong: the projector for Rock Band broke. There was a loud pop, and then the distinct smell of burning plastic, and that was that. And just as my Bridal Panic set in, some of our friends hopped in their car, drove to Staples, and picked up a new projector. Everything worked out fine.
So try to enjoy the wedding planning process; it’s actually pretty fun if you can manage not to freak out (I couldn’t). At the end of the day, you’re celebrating your marriage with people who care about you, and you’ll probably have a good time no matter what.