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. One thing I am really happy about regarding #8 is that my job has trained me to do just that: I often teach 8-hour seminars, sometimes even 2 day deals at 12 or 16 hours and am “on display” for the entire time. After getting used to 2 days of 8 hours of SHOWTIME, one day of being “on”, even from waking up to going to bed at 2am, was really fairly easy to manage.

    Because I think my background as a corporate trainer helped in this way as well as with vows, toasts, walking down the aisle etc. (I had no stage fright whatsoever) I would recommend that every bride who is nervous about this aspect of a long/big/huggy wedding to take, at least, a class in public speaking. It’ll train you in coping techniques when you have to be “on” for longer than you’d like, and it’s a skill with far more applications than just your (hopefully) one wedding day!

    • age fright is not an issue with me but I actually dislike being hugged a lot, it is a weird thing with me because I am a very outgoing and friendly person and so people think I am really into hugging. I have no problem talking to people, one on one or in groups but the idea of 50 people wanting to hug me makes me uncomfortable BUT that being said I would rather deal with momentary discomfort about the hugs from friends and family then look back and wonder if I hurt their feelings.
      Sometimes you really just have to buck up and do what needs to be done, in my case I would rather feel good for years about the day then have silly regrets over not having hugged my aunts and cousins

      • I’m the same! Very outgoing and friendly but find hugging people really uncomfortable…. I guess I just don’t like too many people in my bubble!!

        But i agree – I’d rather just grit my teeth & bear it than risk hurting anyones feelings!

      • Yay!!! So happy to know I am not alone. Outside of limited hugs from immediate family and my closest circle of friends, I really don’t like for people to hug me. I like folks to stay out of my phone both. =)

  2. Totally agree with having a list of stuff to bring back. My mom picked us up from the airport after the honeymoon and told us about all the stuff that was left at the venue by accident. She even said that while she was walking through the main room before leaving she saw our slideshow dvd in the trash can! It’s a good thing she was walking by because I didn’t even get to see the whole thing. Definitely could have been avoided had we a list

  3. I purchased the little book the groom is reading in the photo for my fiancé over three years ago while studying abroad in London! I wrote little notes throughout the entire book for him – he still has it!

  4. I really like the idea of the list of what to do’s.. I just helped decorate for my friends wedding and there were a few momentary freak out’s on my part because all these decorations were in a box.. and I had a rough idea of where most things went, but she never sat me down to explain what went where so here I was running around like a man woman wondering if the LED lights go IN the pumpkin, or if they were supposed to go in the vace.. or did the vases go on the floor in front of the head table, or on the ends of the table.. or there were 2 sets of twig branches.. did she want both kinds in each vase, or was one kind supposed to go somewhere else she hadn’t mentioned.. A list of notes from her on where she wanted things would have saved me a lot of stress lol

    • I’m REALLY GLAD to hear that. I’ve got a list of “set-up by zone” which is basically: “Photobooth table: Large green tablecloth, dry erase boards, props, two pictureframes with these signs, this tray for drinks, both laptops” (but in bullet points). We also put together our tabletops and took pictures that will be printed on this list so people can see the layout–which was also VERY helpful with my concern that we didn’t have enough decor pieces that were “just fun” instead of also being functional, because once I saw my tabletops put together it was like “No, adding anything to this would just make it busy” and also let my partner see what “the decision we made 6 months ago, and that other decision we made that week, and this idea that I had” all looked like together since he is a very visual person.

      I mentioned to my DOC that my OCD wanted me to put together reusable shopping bags with “this stuff goes on that table, this stuff goes on this other table” but I was instead using this list and sending it all as a batch. She said that she’s had people do both and it WAS actually kind of nice with DIY weddings to have those bags made up ahead of time, and so if it made me feel better it was definitely NOT a waste of time. I did realize afterward though that between stuff coming from our house, the mister’s work, and being rented, there was no way for me to legitimately put those bags together. So I’m printing out the list with each zone and a picture on its own page, and my set-up crew can disburse them.

      I also have a list of what each Thing is that needs to go to the venue, where it comes from, and so far I don’t have a single thing that doesn’t go back to wherever it came from, so it’s the same list. I am however going to separate the “goes back to Us” list into “HAS TO BE PACKED FOR WEDDING #2” which means going on a flight 36 hours later, so that 90% of it will hopefully already be in the same spot to pack up the next day. I assume we will still need to track down some items from the other box, but hopefully it should be easier than sorting it ALL the next day. Speaking of which I should probably schedule someone to come over and help with that sorting & packing process.

  5. One of my key tips is try on your jewelry, especially if it’s made from a non precious metal, to check you have not got an allergy to any of the components used in making the jewelry! Get your bridesmaids to do the same, you don’t want hives on the day.

  6. “When it’s all over, remember to thank your vendors… publicly.”

    Thank you for this one. One of the things that surprised (and bummed me out) most as a wedding photographer was that a lot of brides never both to say thank you — and human nature is such that vendors will go the extra mile for brides who genuinely appreciate them.

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

    I put it right in the questionnaire I send my couples to tell me about their families and guests, what expectations the families and guests might have for the ceremony, if and how they want to involve the family and guests in the ceremony, and if there are any pressing familial, cultural, or religious issues. This way we can hammer out the problem spots, and when I draw up the “script” for the wedding, I can advise the couple to share it with anyone who’s going to be involved with the ceremony, so they’re not surprised when I call on them to do something.

  8. Yes and yes to taking time for yourself and to doing something normal. When I needed alone time, I’d usually just go sit in the bathroom for a few minutes and chilled out. I also have a very fond memory last night of being alone with my meal for the first time when my husband went to the restroom and I just chair danced and ate my food and was just in heaven being me. My “normal” thing came during downtime after being ready and the photographer being done with pre wedding shots of me and my girls. We played a game that was really active and fun, I think called Head’s Up (an app) and even the photographer played along. He also ended up whipping his camera back out to take pictures of us just being us, so it worked out nicely there too.

Read more comments

Comments are closed.