I asked a bunch of my married friends and family to reflect on what they loved most about their nuptials, or what they wish they'd done differently. From the logistical to the sentimental, I love hearing people's honest thoughts and advice after the fact—weeks, months, or years later.
Being present is difficult
“Overall I feel like our wedding was everything we planned it to be. I'm so glad we held out for a venue we really liked and were stubborn about picking a date we wanted. People aren't shy about their opinions and telling you how your wedding will potentially inconvenience them, but it reached a point where we said "then just don't come!" I'd say there were a few things, looking back, that I might have changed. I found it hard to be in the moment. There are just so many people to talk to, so many emotions, and SO many expectations, that just being present was difficult. I wish I could have found a way to manage that part better, though I'm not sure how it would have been done. We were also trying to save money in every little way, and unfortunately didn't get the kind of photos we would have hoped for. It's hard to know what to look for in a photographer other than pretty photos. I didn't want a ton of posed photos, so I took the non-planning approach and told him to just use his creative judgement. But knowing what I know now I would have outlined more of the moments I wanted captured, especially since I did find it hard to be really present during the day. I had such high hopes for when the photos came, and it was utterly disappointing when there was only one of me walking down the aisle, yet 10 of table settings... not the memories I needed documented!”
We used the same venue where we got engaged for my bridal shower
“I was really torn on whether or not to do the first look or wait until the ceremony. I reached out to a few brides on advice and I got a mixed bag of reviews; some were adamant that the first time he sees you should be as you walk down the aisle, others said their ‘first look’ was just as special. In the end, we chose to do the first look to allow for a more intimate setting when we first saw each other, give us more time to take pictures beforehand, and enjoy the cocktail hour with our guests. I don’t regret it and would do it all over again! We also did a slideshow during our first dances, so guests got to see family pictures and memorable moments in our lives. It made the first dance more interactive and they were able to watch us dance along with go back in time with us when we were tiny tots. We also used the same venue where we got engaged for my bridal shower. Since then both of my sisters have had their bridal showers there as well and it has been a beautiful thing keeping it in the family. I also went to a seamstress who made the ‘bustling’ process so easy for my maid of honor (it was color coded! And she attached a calming stone underneath my train). In terms of what I’d do differently, I would’ve picked a color for the bridesmaids dresses and let them pick whichever dress they felt comfortable in. I chose 2 colors and 1 dress, which turned out lovely – but if I could do it again, I would do that to give the bridesmaids more freedom to choose their own style. I also would have allowed more time between the wedding and the honeymoon. I felt so rushed after the wedding to pack and head to vacation. It would’ve been nice to just take a few days prior to the honeymoon.”
A small courthouse wedding
“So we had a very small "Courthouse Wedding" in Manhattan and had seven people there in total. Afterwards we went to a nice restaurant for lunch where we treated everyone. Later on, everyone ended up coming over to my apartment and having an impromptu "party" but it was a Tuesday and we all had work the next day, so it wasn't so crazy. I also got to feel like I had a "real" wedding because my awesome friends in Rochester threw me the best surprise bachelorette party and I felt so, so special, and like a bride :) If I could go back and change anything, I'd try to make sure that my mom was there. We didn't actually want anyone there (because then we'd have to have everyone there, or some people would feel left out). My brothers ended up flying down and surprising us so it was great, but it was such short notice my mom couldn't come. In NYC, it’s walk-ins only, so we couldn't say a time or even day that the ceremony would definitely happen. We could only go in and hope we were called. I'm really glad that it was small because 1) we didn't have much money to do anything big, and 2) we didn't want to have something bigger because both sides of the family wouldn't be able to attend. It would be unfair to one side. So our plan was to have the small ceremony to get it on paper so that we could live together in the same country, and then later on when we have more money and can figure out a feasible plan to bring the U.S., Trinidad, Switzerland, and Germany together, we'll have a big ceremony. The problem with our plan is that it might never happen because it can keep getting delayed (financial reasons, kids, our friends' & families' schedules and financials), but we still think it's the best plan for us. I'll make sure it happens :)”
A weekend-of coordinator
“Overall, my husband and I both really enjoyed the wedding planning process. It definitely got overwhelming at times, but we just stuck to the philosophy of "if there's a flower pot missing from table 12, we will still be married at the end of the day!" That attitude kept us focused on the meaning of the day and kept things relatively low stress. I was REALLY glad we had a "weekend-of coordinator.” We still had freedom and creativity in the planning process (in terms of choosing vendors and decor) but she totally rallied everyone, created a schedule, and made sure everything ran smoothly throughout the weekend. I can't say I regret anything about our day because we were just SO happy! I did feel very overwhelmed and rushed during family photos and photos with my bridesmaids. I felt like the spacing was off or our faces weren't ready in a lot of the pictures just because we were being rushed through. I think having a lot of conversations with your photographer is really important. My husband and I absolutely love our photos together, though, and I guess that's most important! Lastly, I think my biggest stressor was the guest list. I was really overwhelmed with the idea of having "too many" people at the ceremony. The reception? A big party! Didn't bother me. But, I was nervous about standing in front of so many people during the part of our wedding day that we were most looking forward to and that meant the most to us. Now that it has come and gone, I wouldn't have changed it for the world! We felt SO loved by everyone who was there for our ceremony and it was easy to focus in on each other and feel the intimacy we had hoped for. In summary: Someone ELSE (besides yourself, family, MOH, etc.) to run the show is a must! And a thought out process for family and bridal photos with someone to assist with positioning everyone would be extremely helpful. Don't worry about the guest list... anyone who is there is there because they want to be and because being there means something to them!”
“I liked having a table for just the two of us so that bridesmaids and groomsmen could sit with their dates, picking out every single song that was to be played, writing our own vows, maximizing our friends and limiting guests that we weren’t so close to, and making sure there was a ton of good food and lots of booze. If I could do anything differently, I would have liked to know that our difficult harpist wouldn’t perform if it was sprinkling outside, and I would have made sure that we had microphones or something else so that people could hear us easier during the ceremony.”
Writing our own vows
“My favorite part of our wedding was writing our own vows. This was something I hadn't intended on doing because I felt our wedding was just going to be this quick thing attended by all of our kids. Short and sweet. I also felt it might be odd to profess my love in front of my kids to a man who isn't their father. Thanks to my daughter, I saw the light and the importance of this moment to both my now husband and I, as well as the kids. Hearing his vows to me was so awesome and I know he loved hearing mine. I think they both touched all of the kids, as well. This truly made the day so much more special than it would have been had we just listened to what the justice had to say.”
Having our friend marry us
“One thing I absolutely loved about our wedding was having our good friend marry us. I couldn't imagine anything more sentimental or moving than having someone who was involved in some phase of our relationship help us unite in the most formal and committed of bonds. I knew that Dylan would come up with something personal and memorable, and it meant A LOT that he took the time and effort to come up with something to say on our behalf. I also loved that my mom saved a ton of money by buying chargers (really, just large plates) and napkins from the Salvation Army. She spent all summer gathering this stuff and it cost less than half of what it would have to rent plain white plates and napkins. And it looked so personal! We let guests who liked their plates take them home. And now I have 100 really cool, unique plates and cloth napkins from my wedding. And I use them every day! I wouldn't change anything about the day, but there are moments about it that make me cringe. Moments that I couldn't really control. Also, they were moments that I couldn't anticipate! Like the DJ playing the hora for too long. Or my grandma saying something insensitive, and my insensitive response in return. Also, like, nobody noticed these things except me.”
And lastly, an honest list of suggestions:
“1. Take a laxative/stool softener two nights before the wedding! I get really backed up when I get nervous and that bloating does not feel great in a dress that's tailored to your body.
2. Remind the groom to smile when he is waiting for the bride to walk down the aisle. Everyone will be looking at him and taking pictures, and asking questions if he is doing anything other than smiling...
3. Don't spend too much money on the little details (or big ones)—no one will notice and then you will be poor.
4. Even though everyone thinks you look beautiful on your wedding day and the event will be amazing, you will be your biggest critic and may feel uncomfortable asking your vendors to change things. You will want your bridal party to speak up for you, so make sure you tell them ahead of time when they should say something, such as what you are looking for in terms of your "look" for the day (hair, makeup, etc.).
5. If you are okay with seeing your husband before you walk down the aisle, do a "first look" and take pictures before the wedding. Then, you can enjoy the cocktail hour between the wedding and reception—this is when you can talk to a lot of people.
6. Practice your first kiss. Practice your first dance. Otherwise, everyone suffers.
7. Take time to eat during your wedding. You will feel better and it will slow down the night because you have to sit down and take everything in. Otherwise, you will feel that the night went by in a flash. Also, you spent the time planning all the food, so enjoy it!
8. Remember, the wedding is about you, but it is also about your family. Let your family be involved, but don't waver on the things that are most important to you.
9. Go away for a few days after the wedding together - even if it is just for a mini-moon. It'll be the only time you are brand new newlyweds and you deserve to relax after all of that planning. It's nice to spend alone time with your spouse because you probably weren't spending too much time together the few days before.”
What do you think?? I'd love to know.
PS: Thank you to everyone who contributed a thought!