I fervently wish I had paid more attention to the “lessons learned” blog posts on Offbeat Bride when I was planning my wedding.
There were quite a number of posts that, in hindsight, were fonts of wisdom and if I could go back to do it again, I would have printed them out and underlined them.
Alas, I kept thinking “that could never happen to me!” and thus ran into a few problems during the day of my wedding.
I also stumbled across some things that are not regularly discussed (post-wedding shoots? Having a mingling strategy?) and thought I'd share…
If you are hosting any parties or pre-wedding events at home, go ahead and spring for a professional cleaning
We had a casual backyard barbeque for the family meet-and-greet the day before the wedding. I would have had more time to do our actual day-before-the-wedding prep if I could have just scheduled a 2-3 hour pro cleaning either the night before the BBQ, or that morning. As it was, we had to push several very important errands to Wedding Day morning and things got seriously rushed as a result.
Communicate clearly, both pre-wedding and post-wedding events to relatives, out-of-town friends, and each other
Get a calendar and communicate this clearly amongst yourselves. My husband's aunt didn't know we were going to be leaving for the honeymoon immediately following the reception, and made her plans based on the assumption we were sticking around town a couple of nights. I really wanted to make some time to visit with my favorite aunt and uncle, but we accidentally double-booked with his dad (who flew in from Vietnam, which trumped my aunt's trip from California). We miscommunicated a few times about when, exactly, we were supposed to be at which relative's house or what restaurant. Neither of us had smart phones, so a paper-and-pen calendar would have come in super-handy the week of the wedding to keep ourselves and everyone else in the loop.
If you are painting your nails, a shellac manicure is worth the extra money
I chip manicures like cray-cray. I'm tough on my hands even when I'm not at work and I tend to go for jobs where I get my hands get banged up or dirty a lot. Most regular manicures last a day or two if I'm lucky, so I generally skip them. Ladies and gents, it's been two weeks since my shellac mani-pedi and I have only three minor chips — all earned after the wedding. My nail salon charges nearly twice as much for shellac, but I am highly pleased with the result.
Allow an extra fifteen to twenty minutes for each task on your timeline to be accomplished
Things will be delayed, take longer than you think they will, or need to be carefully explained to someone. Someone's car will start acting funky. The best man will forget the catering and have to go back to Whole Foods to get it. A health issue might flare up or a new one might arise. The bride's nervous belly will move its unhappiness to lower parts of the digestive system while she is trying to fluff her petticoat (or as we now call it, the pooty-coat) and dressing will be delayed by the hysterical laughter. Your hair and makeup will take longer than expected. And the groom will forget his good dress shirt at home and someone will need to retrieve it for him.
Even if all the little snafus take less than five minutes to recover and manage per incident, every second adds up.
If you're DIYing your set-up, start at least an hour earlier than planned
I had a specific vision for how I wanted things to be set up, but I had to leave in the middle of everything because I had to get my hair and makeup done. I wish I had allotted more time to be hands-on. We also should have allowed more set-up time so that our helpers could have some breathing space themselves.
If you're DIYing any part of the food…
Delegate someone to keep an eye on the food and know enough about your menu to answer questions. And keep some cheap to-go boxes around just in case.
Seriously, knowing that we were going to run out of lemonade BEFORE it happened was awesome. Having someone around who knew how to cut cake properly was awesome — we made the initial slice, but someone else sliced the rest. Having someone who knew which cookies were vegan, which were gluten-free, and which appetizers had nuts/eggs/nightshades/other allergens was a gift from the gods. I am so glad I made the decision and sent our food person all the relevant info beforehand, and assigned her an assistant.
My one regret is that we should have had some to-go boxes. The friend who made all of our cakes had to leave suddenly and we had no way to make her slice easy to transport! It would have also been nice to have an extra slice or two on the way to our honeymoon.
Organize, and have backups
Having a wedding day binder to hand off to our day-of coordinator was extremely useful. And I did have the foresight to bring my iPod with all our ceremony and reception music on it, when my laptop decided it didn't want to find any of my music files. I wish I had more clearly labeled certain things and put sticky-notes with any instructions or relevant info, e.g. who gets corsages/boutonnières on those boxes, or that this particular bowl is to be used to serve the raspberries at the dessert table.
Even if you think you're sufficiently organized, you're probably not. Get another set of eyes on all your instructions and organizational materials to make sure they can be clearly understood by another person.
Make sure you eat
I kept reading this bit of sage wisdom and thought “Yeah right: nothing could keep me away from my food on my wedding day!”
I learned the hard way that everyone is going to try to pull you in a million directions at once during your wedding, and none if it is towards the buffet line. As a result, I had very little between the two or three donuts I scarfed at 9am for breakfast, and the burger I made my husband get me after we left the venue at 5pm. One slider and one slice of cake is not a sufficient meal, and I really should have asked my maid of honor to both fetch me food and make sure I had ten minutes to eat it.
This seems obvious, but again, it's something that doesn't necessarily cross your mind during all the swirls of people and activity. Make sure you have a glass or bottle of water at all times, and every half hour make sure you drain that sucker. You will talk a lot at your wedding, and though alcohol, soda, or lemonade are pleasant-tasting, they won't wet your whistle like plain water.
Discuss how you're going to “work the room” during your reception
It's impossible to find time at your wedding to say hello to everyone, and if you've got the least bit of social anxiety, it can be a daunting task. We really should have sat down and had a ten-minute conversation about how we were going make sure our guests were greeted and thanked, and what introductions needed to be made when we were planning. I know there were some people on his side of the family with whom I should have chatted more, and there were several on my side he wanted to meet, but we spaced it.
My suggestion is to make a list of out-of-town guests your spouse has to meet, and VIPs (like grandparents, known-them-since-I-was-in-diapers family friends, or old teachers) for whom it's essential your partner and you give a hug and a hello.
If you can swing it, schedule a post-wedding photography shoot
Since we never had an engagement shoot with our photographer, and our package came with one, we scheduled a post-wedding shoot instead. During the time between becoming engaged and getting married, we have really become a family and I wanted something to reflect our everyday life together, as well as some fancy wedding photos. I felt the resulting album would be something our grandchildren could look back on, and understand on a visceral level that this is what marriage looks like.
Budget wisely for the wedding and fuck the budget on the honeymoon
We had planned a three day mini-moon at a local hot springs resort and had budgeted about $1,000 for it. We also received nearly another $600 in cash during our wedding itself, which we used during the honeymoon. We spent every dime of that money and dipped into savings a little, too.
We can always make more money, but we only get one honeymoon. Go a little nuts on your honeymoon, because you deserve it.
More digestion issues? More mingling strategies? Can you think of any other post-wedding tips that we haven't covered yet?