Avoid wedding day memory loss: How to slow down and actually remember your wedding

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A quick cuddle!
Photo by Grant Thistle

Everyone tells you to make sure to “slow down and take everything in” on your wedding day — but no one says how to actually accomplish it!

How can I make sure I take a minute to stop and smell the roses on the day of my wedding? 100 guests, all those decorations, all that shit to do…

How can I make sure I take a second to slow down?

I have this cockamamie theory about memories: when you're in a state of continual non-stop stimulus, you brain doesn't have time to file any moments away for you to remember. As I said in the Offbeat Bride book:

So many brides report having foggy memories of their wedding days, and it's no surprise — with all the stimulation and people and excitement it's hard for your brain to slow down long enough to process and store any memories. If you make yourself step away for a moment or two, you'll give your mind the opportunity to imprint at least a few memories of your wedding day — these memories will be more valuable to you than any photograph or video. It's actually worth asking a trusted friend to remind you to do this several times during your wedding day.

So, now that you understand the reason why you really truly NEED to slow down on your wedding day, the next question is: HOW THE FUCK to do that when there are guests and logistics and food and music and so much stuff competing for your attention?

Here are a few of my suggestions for creating anti-memory loss moments:

Preparatory sacred snack-time

Have a snack in your Oh-Shit Kit, and wherever you're getting ready for your wedding, find a little corner where you can sit quietly by yourself to nibble some food and collect your thoughts.

Being overstimulated often results in forgetting to eat, so this kills two birds with one stone: you get a little snack AND can take a special, perhaps even sacred, moment to reflect on what's about to happen.

Pre-ceremony solitude

If you're doing the traditional “one of you at the altar/one of you walks down the aisle” set-up, then only one of you will get this pre-entrance quiet moment… but I feel like there's a real value in the two of you being together for a moment of quiet before the ceremony.

At my wedding, we walked down the aisle together, so we were able to sit together holding hands “backstage” (which was actually behind some trees) while our officiant was getting everyone calmed down and opening the ceremony. I think it's important for BOTH halves of the couple to have some solitude before the ceremony.

Ceremonial collective deep breath

Ask your officiant to include a moment in the ceremony when everyone (guests included!) stop for a moment and take five collective deep breaths. This could be tied into setting the intention, calling in the directions, offering a silent prayer, or whatever else fits your belief system or ceremonial style.

Just make sure everyone (you and your partner included!) stops for five breaths to quietly breathe, to listen, and be quiet for a minute. You'll all need it, and chances are that someone will get the shivers from the power of the moment.

Post-ceremony walk

Yichud walkInspired by the Jewish tradition of Yichud, Andreas and I took a 15 minute walk alone together after our ceremony. Sure, we were tailed by our photographer, but she mostly just lurked behind us while we walked and chatted and held hands and were like HOLY SHIT DID THAT JUST HAPPEN WE'RE MARRIED NOW? It not only acted as a very solid dividing point between ceremony and reception, but also gave us some really important quiet time to just be together.

First married meal

So many couples forget to eat food at their own wedding reception, so ask someone to make sure you each get a plate of food, and then have them literally stand guard and allow the two of you five minutes (JUST FIVE MINUTES!) to eat quietly together. You could even have fun with it and have your wedding party stand around with their backs to you, visibly blocking you off from the rest of the reception. Give them secret service sunglasses. But seriously, just for five minutes: eat together and breathe. Chew. Swallow. WHEW.

Transition moments

Regardless of how you structure your wedding day, there are going to be transition moments: in between getting prepared and doing photos; in between the photos and the ceremony starting; after eating, but before dancing. Ask your wedding party (or family, or friends, or EVERYONE!) to remind you during these transition moments to step aside and take a couple moments to breathe.

Deep Breath Cards

…Heck, you could even give some wedding party members or
choice guests “Deep Breath Cards” to have on-hand, with instructions to hand one to you throughout your wedding day. Then their job would be to “stand guard” and fend off other guests while you take 60 seconds for your deep breath.

someecards.com - Step aside and take a deep breath. (Otherwise you won't remember shit about today.)


We liked this idea so much that we actually made free printable wedding cards for you:


Obviously, my ideas won't work for everyone — you'll need to find methods that feel like a good fit with your wedding style and day-of flow. That said, I'd suggest scheduling in at LEAST one very clearly defined anti-memory loss moment, and baking it into your wedding day plan. (And when I say “bake it in,” I mean ask someone to help you enforce it!)

I'd love to hear from our married Offbeat wives: how did you schedule anti-memory loss moments into your wedding day, and how did you enforce those quiet moments?

Comments on Avoid wedding day memory loss: How to slow down and actually remember your wedding

  1. My maid of honor is a chef and said she’d like to make me wedding-day breakfast before our 10:30 AM ceremony. So my husband and I, my maid of honor, the best man and their spouses had a nice breakfast of omelets and coffee, seated on the floor while watching Saturday morning cartoons. A good breakfast gave us all energy and perk, and it was a great “calm before the show” moment for us all.

  2. How about just telling a person who might be in mid-story mode, or coming in for a hug, or otherwise engaging your attention…”hold on for just a second. I want to make sure to remember this moment” Who wouldn’t find that totally endearing???

  3. I love the Take a Deep Breathe cards! I will definitely need these at my wedding. I’m sure I’ll be waaaay to distracted to even think about breathing!

  4. I tried to go off for a few minutes with my new hubby, we drove around the parking lot. Then, dinner got started without us, and everything went to hell, and I mean everything. The DJ started the dance music for dinner, causing me to miss my favorite songs. I was unable to have our entrance music that led up to me thanking everyone for coming or helping, causing me to lose a few friends because they thought I was being a selfish bridezilla for “forgetting” to thank them till the next day. BE VERY CLEAR THAT NOTHING CAN HAPPEN WHILE YOU ARE GONE IF YOU LEAVE TO HAVE PRIVATE TIME!

    • Yeah, I think the key is to have time *scheduled* and ideally have someone (wedding coordinator, attendant, appointed family friend, whoever) managing the time. When we took our post-ceremony walk, our officiant made sure everyone knew what came next, and after the ceremony was over, a couple friends gently herded guests toward the buffet. We may have left the wedding for a few minutes, but there was never any doubt for guests about what to do or what came next.

      • It was scheduled. We didn’t have a coordinator, but the DJ, kitchen staff, and my parents who were doing the work of a coordinator all knew we were going to do it, they just didn’t care enough to wait for us on our wedding day.

    • Friends you lost through this type of circumstance may have been worth losing.

  5. This is what I did when I wanted to BE IN THE MOMENT:

    I would physically stop where ever I was, and breathe for 10 seconds. Sometimes I would slowly turn in a circle to see everything around me. And in my head I would be like, “This. Is. Amazing.”

    Of course this didn’t work for things like, preparing to walk down the aisle (for that I said, “Hang on one sec” looked at both of my parents, took a deep breath and a nice big sigh and then said, “Okay! let’s do this!”

    Also, as cheesey as it sounds…just looking into my new husband’s eyes helped me out. It was great to fixate on him and be purely in the moment. Also, sitting back and just watching people for a second. Sometimes people would ask me if I was okay…and I just said, “No I’m perfect…just enjoying this.”

    Although if you’re like me, and don’t have an appetite when you’re excited…don’t worry too much about eating. Drink lots of water at least, and nibble throughout the day. That’s what breakfast is for the next day!

    • I spent more time on my wedding day preparing myself to be fully present and experiencing every moment. I don’t remember all of it (3 years later), but I do remember the emotion and connection of the day.

  6. I am going to need this advice soon! I have scheduled pre-ceremony nap-time and that may be our quiet moment together, if the day does not get taken over with last minute details.

  7. At one wedding I attended, the bride had mentioned at dinner that she was worried she would forget details. They had guest book pages at each plate for people to fill out advice and such, so her brother, the best man (and my fiance) wrote down details he thought she might forget. I believe the bride did the same as well. I haven’t asked her if it helped though.

  8. Such good advice! I think it was somebody on the Tribe who suggested it, but I can’t remember who…hiding in plain sight. Like, using a slow dance with the hubs as a way to have a little time in peace…most people will just let the newlyweds have a dance without interruption. I’m going to pick a few songs, and ask the DJ to play one per hour…and that’ll be my cue to find the hubs and spend a couple minutes turning slowly and mindlessly in a circle, get some QT with my man and survey the scene.

  9. I remember all of the wedding pretty vividly. I definitely made sure to mentally prepare to remember – I thought about having to remember beforehand, and how I would make sure that I valued my time in that way. And I second the “eat something” and “drink water” recommendations!

    Having some time to ourselves at the beginning and end of the day really helped. At the beginning of the day, we made a nice meal together – pancakes, French toast, and bacon while we watched an episode of the Simpsons. It was very comforting and familiar. Then after we got home and finished with the consummating, we cuddled on the couch and watched a couple more episodes of the Simpsons (a quote from said show was also read at the wedding).

    I also tried to take mental pictures of things that were happening. Quite often throughout the day, I thought to myself “you are so happy now, this is such a wonderful day in your life, look at what is happening and remember it.”

    Looking at the Facebook pictures the night of and the day after also helped to crystallize some parts of the day.

    • Your pre- and post-festivities Simpsons watching sounds so fantastic! Both of us are big Simpsons fans. Can I ask what quote you used during the wedding?

  10. We didn’t plan moments to catch our breaths, but they did happen. I think it helped that I had several friends prepped ahead of time as the go-to people for last minute questions about things like food, decorations, schedule, etc, so I didn’t have to field a lot of questions. I just had to show up and smile, LOL. We also sent the guests ahead of us to the reception while we took some coupley photos at the wedding site, then sent the photogs ahead and had some quiet time in the car driving to the reception. We joked about just jetting out of there and skipping the reception….

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