10 bits of offbeat wedding advice you won’t get from a bridal magazine

Guest post by Edolcourt
His and hers p.1
Photo by Mike L. Photography. See the full wedding here.

I had a lot of surprises on my wedding day, and I thought I’d take those learnings and create a top 10 tips on practical advice. Obviously everyone will have their own experiences and opinions, but without further ado, here are mine, in no particular order (mainly because I’m tired of putting things in order at the moment)…

10. Everyone makes a list of things to pack, but Offbeat Brides should also make a list of things to bring back.

Have you spent hours creating those programmes/fans? Did you create your own photo booth? Have you hand-crafted several ornate decorations that you plan to hang onto for several years? You’d be amazed at what people leave on site and forget to collect, simply because they think someone else has arranged to bring these keepsakes back.

Very often these things aren’t noticed until you come back from honeymoon, in which case the venue may have unwittingly thrown them out. The best way to circumvent this is to not only give your bridal party a list of things you must have back from the venue, but make sure the venue coordinator has a list of this as well. That way, if anything gets lost in the shuffle your venue coordinator will know to hang onto it for you until you get back from honeymoon, or can make other arrangements for delivery.

9. Assign someone you trust to talk to guests about photos before your guests leave the party.

All of us already know that one of the great thing about weddings today is that almost everyone brings their phone. And although many of us also hire professional photographers, we still would like copies of the photos our guests have taken.

The best way to expedite this process is to brief someone who is a trusted friend to be your photo catcher. Their job is to circulate and remind folks of your wedding hashtag or any uploading services you may be using. If you catch people right then and there, you have a much better chance of getting all the images you’d like and without the hassle of chasing them down later.

You’ll probably also have the best luck getting images if your photo catcher is NOT in the wedding party. We asked my dad to take on this role, but as a member of the wedding party he got waylaid with other duties at the time.

8. You may have already been advised to make sure to take some time for your partner during the big day. But try to make some time just for yourself, too.

One of the things I found during the wedding was that from 7am I had no time to myself. There was always someone in my room, always someone who had question, always a well wisher and always someone ready with a camera. It can become difficult to keep energy levels up when you’re “on show” for twelve or more hours at a stretch. I found myself wishing for a few minutes every few hours or so just to be able to go somewhere quiet and collect my thoughts / recharge my batteries / have a glass of water / check my lipstick or just be uninterrupted for a few minutes so I could then enjoy the day more.

7. Which brings me to assigning a poking coordinator…

Having a trusted family member or friend help create space around you can be extremely helpful and allow you to enjoy those hugs…

Yes, you read this right and this is actually the fab suggestion of fellow Offbeat Bride. I’m a very huggy person but really started to get tired of so many people touching me throughout the day. At some point in the day photos started to show me wincing/pulling away from loved ones/turning glassy eyed just because I had reached sensory overload.

Having a trusted family member or friend help create space around you can be extremely helpful and allow you to enjoy those hugs… but to also make sure you don’t OD on being stroked before the end of the day.

6. If you find yourself freaking out a little, do something more “normal.”

Yes, I had my awesome shoes, my awesome dress, my awesome OTHER dress, and every decoration that made me and my future husband smile under the sun. It was most certainly Our Party. However, there were times in the day I felt distant from it all. There were times I still felt disconnected from everything that was happening. I reached a real turning point in the evening when I was tired of feeling like someone other than myself –- comfy clothes and comfy shoes aside. I put down the bubbles and grabbed a beer instead and found an old friend who sat for ten minutes and told me about her life for a while.

I should say that I drink bubbles outside of weddings so swapping champers for beer wasn’t really the issue. But it was such a relief to not talk about me, the wedding or our hopes for the future. Having those ten minutes to sit in the back corner, drink a beer and chatter on about nothing at all really helped me feel more like myself again. If you have a friend who doesn’t feel obligated to only talk about your wedding, spending a little time with them could be a welcome break!

5. Brief your key speakers/celebrants on anything they need to know about your guests.

This probably sounds like an inane comment, but in actuality I found myself briefing both our celebrant and my mom in regarding what our friends and families would need to know.

For example, we really wanted our guests to ask us our vows and to also pronounce us. Our celebrant totally got where we were going with this and was happy to lead everyone in these sections. But we were still worried that our guests would be so surprised to take on this role that it would be so quiet that we’d only hear a tumbleweed go by. We went back to our celebrant and asked her to write a preamble to set everyone’s expectations about their role in the service up front –- and yes, as a result their voices were as loud as we hoped they would be!

Similarly, I didn’t know much about my mom’s speech but I did know she was planning to weave in the Jewish tradition of the breaking of the glass. It suddenly occurred to me that she would expect to produce the glass, have Hubby stomp on it and that everyone would applaud. In actuality, 99% of our guests were Church of England, and I had to advise her that if she wanted everyone to applaud and yell out “Mazel Tov” she needed to tell them in advance. She then amended her speech to include a very short definition of Mazel Tov and her favourite reason for the tradition of the breaking of the glass – and everyone applauded and cheered when it was broken in the first go.

4. Which leads me to: trust your guests.

We absolutely trusted that when people showed up, they would embrace the journey –- and they did.

There are a lot of comments on Offbeat Bride about how friends and family members wig out when something tests their boundaries of what they think a wedding should be. However, we found that our guests were absolutely fascinated by being part of something different. The framework was something recognizable (bride, groom, ceremony, rings) but the details were different enough to keep everyone completely attentive through the entire event. We absolutely trusted that when people showed up, they would embrace the journey –- and they did.

3. Provide a detailed handover to your wedding party earlier than you think you should.

I know this sounds really corporate, to have a hand over meeting. But if you have an offbeat wedding, you may need to pass the reins over to someone else earlier than you think you need to.

In most of our cases we have someone in our lives we can trust and who has been part of the planning process with you every step of the way. In my case, it was my two sisters. However, they were still sort of on the periphery until the day I sat down with them (about two weeks before the wedding) and went through a very detailed, exhaustive document with all my thoughts about how the day would run.

Bless my sisters for printing these documents out, scribbling their notes all over them and delivering the most seamless day an event planner ever could have hoped for. And bless them for also sharing this with the onsite coordinator… and all the ushers. I absolutely know that if I hadn’t given them enough time to own the process on their own, it wouldn’t have worked as well as it did.

2. When it’s all over, remember to thank your vendors… publicly.

If you really love your vendor, one of the greatest gifts you can give them is to… write something that could sway couples to call that company.

Like most Offbeat Brides, I’ve had a little love-in with nearly all my vendors. I simply cannot believe that they’ve taken some sketchy brief and come back with designs, flowers, decorations, etc., that completely surpassed my expectations. After the wedding, I wrote each one an incredibly detailed thank you as I wanted them to be able to use my comments as a testimonial to share with other brides and grooms.

If you really love your vendor, one of the greatest gifts you can give them is not just a letter of profuse thanks, but to also take it upon yourself to find a public site that rates said vendor and write something that could sway couples to call that company. I know it’s not really in our job descriptions to act as their marketing departments. But as so many of them went out of their way for me, I am genuinely moved to want to make a difference for their business.

1. Have a registry? DON’T write thank you letters in advance.

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m a Type A personality. And when I read an online suggestion to write thank you letters in advance as guests start to buy gifts or make donations, I jumped at the idea. So precise, so organized! And I would be able to express my thanks without suffering perhaps quite as much letter fatigue as someone who wrote them all in one go (i.e. after the wedding).

What I found through the planning process is what everyone else here has found. That it is inevitable we will need colossal amounts of help before everything is over. And until it’s all over you really can’t get your head around who has helped you in ways that really need to be acknowledged more than the toaster you may receive.

Right, so that’s my top 10 then! Although I’m now an old married woman, I’m really curious what lessons and advice YOU would give others — every day is a new learning experience.

Oh, you need even MORE than 10? Let’s do this:

Comments on 10 bits of offbeat wedding advice you won’t get from a bridal magazine

  1. All solid bits of advice, except for the last one. Of course you should be writing thank you notes as soon as you receive gifts. If nothing more than to let the giver know you received it. If that same person needs to be thanked for something else, send a second thank you note at a later date. Don’t just let someone who sent you a gift a month before the wedding sit and wonder whether you received it or if something happened and it never arrived.

    That five extra minutes it might take to write a second note is more than worth it to not be rude. Being off beat doesn’t mean we can ignore common courtesy.

    • Of course being offbeat has nothing to do with being rude! I think a lot of brides suffer from “home stretch” fatigue. If you can’t get around to writing a thank you note until after the wedding, I am sure that person will understand. You’ll want to stay organized (this is where my beloved spread sheets come in handy), but I am sure we’re all tired of the boring “thank you for the toaster. It will make a wonderful addition to our kitchen” cards. It might actually be nice to get a “the toaster was great, but we wouldn’t have known what to do without your day-of coordinating. You rock! Thank you for the gift AND your time” note. No two separate thank you letters necessary & you don’t have to fish for compliments. However, this won’t be best for everyone. Whatever works for each bride 🙂

    • Eh, I think either way is fine. But note, the author did say she’s type A. So she’s probably not the kind of person to forget to write the thank you notes for a month after the wedding even if she puts them off. But if you are (like me) then writing them as you receive the gift is more sensible..

      Especially as I think thank you notes are sort of tricky. Personally, b/c thank you notes are expected and required, I’ve never felt really touched receiving one when I’ve given a wedding or shower gift. It’s like ‘okay, whatever’. Similarly, I couldn’t tell you if someone gave me a thank you note or not a year later. BUT if I went out of the way to help someone and they thanked me on the phone even, not necessarily in writing, that I would remember.

      So I think you should write thank you notes for gifts (b/c you’ll offend some people who aren’t me if you don’t, and why offend someone who is generous enough to have given you a gift?) if there’s something beyond that you want to thank someone for, it doesn’t have to be in note form (though there’s nothing wrong with that). You can thank them over the phone, in an email, via facebook, etc.

      • Slightly OT, I would personally prefer NOT to get a thank you card…all such greeting cards end up in a box in the attic, because they’re too nice–and I’m too sentimental–to throw them away, but they just gather dust and take up room upstairs, and I have a *small* house.

        It kinda gives me the sads to think of, after my death, my heirs going through my things and probably throwing out the thank you and other greeting cards anyway. Photographs are the same way. At least with my other effects you could probably pass them down, donate them, or yard sale them, but anything that personal, meaningful only to you and the person who gave it to you…the thought of them ending up in a landfill just makes me sad to think about. Maybe I’ll leave instructions for my heirs to burn them, so the spirit behind them is free…

    • I just got yelled at by an Aunt because I sent a thank you note for a gift she sent before the wedding. Because “Thank You Notes Before The Wedding Are Just Not DONE!” As a result, since I was on the phone with my grandma on the other side of the family later that day, I asked if that was really the custom or just my aunt being herself. Gran was also appalled, as was my mother, and my dad just laughed and said “honey, it’s your funeral.” So apparently to the Over 50 Crowd, your belief is like the rudest thing you can possibly do, second perhaps to the bride not taking the husband’s name.

      Nonetheless, I think a phone call appeases both sides of the argument. Let the person know the gift came in with a verbal thanks, keep nurturing the relationship that is the reason you invited them to the wedding to begin with by asking them what’s going on with them, and in the process you get some wedding stuff done AND a break from it at the same time. Win Win.

  2. Yes to #4.

    I’ll add, too, try not to let other people get you in a tizzy. The most important job of the bridal party/close family is to not make your life harder the day of your wedding … but sometimes they do anyway. 🙂 Walking away from the drama and dealing with what you need to deal with is better than feeding into the drama!

  3. #9 is a great idea!

    What we did, which could be in addition to getting the photos at the wedding, is set up a Flickr account and make little cards to go at each place setting/in each favour box that has the details of how to log in to that Flickr account.

    We actually gave people 3 options for sharing with us: 1) a group on flickr to join if they already had a flickr account; 2) logging into the flickr account we set up; 3) emailing us the link to their account on another photosharing account.

    Here’s what the card looked like:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/schwambell/5060794543/

    • I think that is a wonderful idea, I plan to include that info and the info on our Handfasting Blog in the invites and we will have Alex’s Laptop there to download the photos, I plan to get one of those multi-card readers and we will set up a profile on the computer with just the photos and a photo viewer on it so nothing of his work stuff can get messed up, my Mini laptop is our music source.
      Also I am DIYing so much of our stuff I am glad it is at my Grandmothers house because losing that stuff would be painful

  4. Another thought about taking care of guests: If you have older relatives, friends, etc. attending, it might be nice to take a few moments to make sure they are comfortable, physically and emotionally 🙂 This holds especially true for more offbeat affairs, where tradition-minded elders might not understand the flow of things (of course, this doesn’t always hold true; Great-Grandma Ethel might be hipper than you ever expected!) Making sure they know where they will be sitting, personally introducing them to your friends, explaining unusual details rather than relying on a program, and so forth. Because brides and grooms have enough on their plates without giving one-on-one attention to older guests before a ceremony, perhaps asking a family member or patient friend to assume this support role would be best. Of course, these are just my personal thoughts on the matter 🙂 Whatever works, works!

    • This is a good point! My FH’s parents are in their 70’s and are very hard of hearing (they have hearing aids) and my grandparents are in their 60’s nad are fine. My family loves to party and have a great time where my FH’s family is not the partiers so I know my family will want the music loud and they will be loud themselves. How do I find common ground to make sure everyone is happy and not out of their comfort zone?

      • I’ve read to do the dances and cake ceremony and bouquet ceremony and toast first so people who want to retire earlier can before the dancing begins. I attended a wedding like this. We shut the place down but some older relatives were gone after 90 mins

    • My mom gave them to us on our wedding day! She happened to see them the day before or something and bought them for us.

    • I bought those books for our wedding day. I bought the Don’ts for Husbands as a joke for my husband. They are hilarious books. Thanks Blanche Ebbutt for writing them a million years ago!

      Oh and that’s me and my husband in the photo reading the books I bought. 🙂

  5. Wow, this list was really awesome! I actually got married two weeks ago and wish I had this list before then! ESPECIALLY the stuff about sensory overload. Man, that was way harder than I thought it would be! My cheeks hurt from smiling, I stood for 12 hours straight…In addition to the helper giving you space, I would have wanted some kind of aide, like a politician has: “I’m sorry, but Suzanne is really busy and needs to move on to talk to other people.”

    • I am really taking this one to heart, I have arthritis and tend to get really tired really easily so I am going to schedule some down time between events.
      Part of the way I am doing this is to get stuff well planned then hand it over to my family with details of what each of them need to do, I like the idea of talking to them a week or two in advance with lists. It will be very very hard for me to give up control that much but I must or burn out half way through.

  6. #6 sounds like a great idea! I don’t usually talk about myself or my plans in great detail, so even in the planning process it’s nice to have days or conversations or even just moments where I forget that I’m a bride.
    Regarding #1, something I did was pre-print the envelopes with addresses for thank you cards. This back fired a little for the wedding shower – some people said they’d come and didn’t so I just have this envelope with their name on it. But it also helped me get the thank yous out really quickly.

  7. OMG yes yes yes go over your bridal party and guest list and ONLY invite the people you really trust. I could tell the whole sordid story but I won’t, just my advice is to really think long and hard about who has the best heart and is there for YOU, and who will not let jealousy create a monster that will try to ruin one of the most bestest important days of your life!

    • Ahhhh this is my biggest fear! i’m totally paranoid though so convinced 80% of females in the world want to ruin my life… I like to think though that nobody would DARE mess with the bridezilla!!

  8. #9! its brilliant! We’ll be setting up one of out techie friends with my ipad and the SD card/USB adapter thingy. I was gonna go with a hand out blank cd’s with stamped envelopes but this is such an awesome idea

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