18 things I wish I could have told my wedding-planning self a year ago (Part 2)

Updated Nov 20 2015
Guest post by Julie
Been there, done that, got the keychain, by Etsy seller DesignsbyMarlayna
Been there, done that, got the keychain, by Etsy seller DesignsbyMarlayna

We just celebrated our one year anniversary! With the benefit of a year of hindsight, I thought I might give some advice to my younger self. Or, failing that — why do we not have time-travel yet?! — I figured I could give some advice to those of you who are still deep in the trenches of planning. Numbers 1-9 are here, but let's do 10-18 now.

The number 18 has great significance in Judaism, so without further ado, here are numbers 10-18 of 18 things I wish I could tell my wedding-planning self…

10. Things will go wrong

I am convinced that there has not been a wedding in the history of the world where everything went exactly right. Even for a wedding like ours, in which almost everything went right, there were hiccups. The parking lot we were promised was filled three hours before our ceremony started. The room changeover took twice as long as anticipated. The dessert table was opened too early and meant no one was looking at my choreographed father-daughter dance. Stuff happens.

If you expect for things to go wrong, you’ll be better able to handle it. Trust your team. Trust yourself. Choose to be happy. And remember, the things that go wrong in the most spectacular fashion make the best stories afterwards.

11. Tell your spouse what to expect

As readers of Offbeat Bride, we have the curse of hearing everyone’s “you’ll seeeeee” stories. People love telling others (especially other brides) all about their own weddings, and warning them about wedding-day realities. You’ve almost certainly had people tell you that you won’t get a chance to eat, that you won’t get a chance to really talk to people, that everything will be a haze, that it will be hard to go to the bathroom.

For those of us who are getting married to partners who don't read wedding websites, we have to understand that the situation is very different for them. My husband had no idea he’d only get to eat a few bites of dinner. He really tried to have deep, meaningful conversations with old friends, and was frustrated when he kept getting pulled away from them. He was devastated that he didn’t get to dance except for a few songs.

Sit down with your spouse-to-be and tell them what to expect, both the good and the bad. They will thank you for it, I promise.

12. A lot of traditions can be safely ignored, but not all

It’s amazing how many things can be cut from your wedding without making waves. That said, some things are gonna raise hackles if they’re skipped, and these will be unique to each couple and their families. We decided to have a traditional Jewish ceremony, which meant a number of traditions that had to be adhered to very closely. We probably would have gotten a lot of flack from family members if we’d cut out all the speeches at the reception.

Know what your deal-breakers are, both for you and for your family. And remember #3: you can choose to ignore a beloved custom, but you don’t get to complain when it makes people angry that you’ve cut it out.

13. Nothing should be a secret from your vendors

Are you planning on choreographing your first dance? Bringing your dogs down the aisle? Throwing cake at your guests instead of each other? Yay! Have a good time! (Maybe don’t throw cake at your guests, though.) It’s a huge thrill to surprise a room of dozens or hundreds of people. You know who shouldn’t be surprised? Your vendors. Your photographer needs to know when and where your “zany escapades” are gonna happen so you can get pictures. Your DJ needs to know when to stop the music or launch into a particular song. Your caterer needs to plan extra time between the appetizers and main course for the impromptu color war.

Whatever you’re planning, go nuts on surprising your guests… but make sure your vendors know what’s coming.

14. No one cares about your painstaking details

Okay, harsh truth time: almost no one cares about the little details you spent hours and hours working on. Sure, they may appreciate the creative centerpieces and hand-crafted bouquet for a minute or two, but most people won’t really notice. That’s not to say to forgo those details entirely. If it makes you happy to be surrounded by a perfect reproduction of the main hall at Hogwarts, or have a recreation of the Enterprise bridge, you rock that thing like a rocker.

Just understand that you don’t have to. No one’s gonna be mad that your centerpieces are some jars with rocks in them and that you picked up your bouquet at the supermarket in the morning. Just knowing that most people won’t care is both highly frustrating and highly liberating.

15. Music and pictures are important

So, knowing that most people aren’t going to care about the little details, what will they care about? In my experience, it came down to food and music. People don’t actually care what they eat so long as they get fed. And they want to have music to dance to. And they want to see you guys get married. Just about everything else is extraneous.

Those are the big things to concentrate on: making sure people are fed, that they see the ceremony, that they have something to do during the reception.

And, for me after the fact? Pictures. I find that even after a year I’m still looking at my pictures on a fairly regular basis.

16. If you end the day married, your wedding has been a success

When in the whirlwind of planning, it’s easy to get caught up in the details. You imagine all sorts of worst-case scenarios. You fret about all the things that can go wrong. (I had so many sleepless nights in the lead-up to the big day.) And you know what? Most of them don't actually matter.

Remember the important thing: if at the end of the day you are married to your spouse, the day has been a success. No matter what else happens, no matter what goes wrong, no matter which of your careful plans didn’t happen the way you intended… the point of the day is to get married. Everything else is window-dressing.

17. Thank people

It is never a mistake to offer thanks. Thank people who do nice things for you. Thank your friends and family. Thank people who showed up. Thank people who gave you gifts. Thank people who helped you set up or listened to you rant. Thank your vendors, and write nice reviews for them. Send pictures to people you think might appreciate them. Let everyone know how much you truly appreciated their help in making your wedding day a reality. Spread the joy and the gratitude.

18. Focus on life beyond the wedding

In the end, remember that your wedding is a single day. An important day, sure, and one that is definitely overhyped and raised up to near-mythic proportions by society and media. But after you’re married, life goes on. You get down to the business of building your lives together. You create your inside jokes, deal with the bad times and the good, and work every day to make things just a little better than the day before.

There are a lot more days of marriage than there are of wedding. Marriages are work, just like weddings are, just spread out over longer time and less visible to the public eye. Work on your marriage. Love your spouse. Enjoy the ride.

Anyone else who's been married for a while have hindsight advice to leave?

  1. Great tips! "Just knowing that most people won’t care is both highly frustrating and highly liberating."

    This is practically my planning mantra. "The little details are only for us, no one will know/ care/ remember if they work or not". Sure, I can make a jillion hand-crafted whatnots, but only if I want to and for me to enjoy making them.

    Also, after being at at least five weddings with booze shortages that sent guests/ wedding party members running all over town mid-reception to re-stock and missing the fun/ collecting money from guests to make it happen, "Have just a bit more than enough."

  2. Thanks for this advice! I found the "tell your spouse what to expect" one especially eye-opening. My fiance really wants to catch up with friends on the wedding day, and maybe I need to be clearer about "that's a great goal and we can try for that BUT…"

    On the topic of what guests care about… I like to joke that I've learned a lot from a TLC wedding show, "Four Weddings." It's a total guilty pleasure, but it drives home the point that what actually makes guests happy is being fed and watered (including boozed), being comfortable (not in the blazing sun or freezing, not standing for hours in a crowded/loud area, etc.), and having a general sense of the schedule. And that as long as you don't have reality show competitors at your wedding, your guests are probably not judging the details.

  3. I don't really agree with the "you don't get to complain".
    Of course you can't please everyone, but i think it shouldn't even be your main concern. As long as you don't act to purposefully hurt people, you can complain if they're unpleasant to you (and should politely tell them to stop).
    Why on earth should their opinion matter more than yours on your own wedding?

    • Obviously you can't be responsible for other people's behavior. My point was more that if you knowingly choose to do something that you know will make people upset, you can't act surprised that people are upset about it. So if, for example, your family is very religious and you decide to have a secular wedding, that's totally a choice you can make. But you can't act surprised that your family is upset that you're not having a religious wedding.

      I think your key point is, "As long as you don't act to purposefully hurt people…". If you're deciding to deliberately ignore a beloved family tradition or ritual, does that count as purposefully hurting? Some might argue that it does, even if you don't personally see it that way.

        • I get your point, but not acting surprised and not getting to complain are two completely different things.
          I suppose you'd have good reasons to skip a ritual or a tradition. Others may not like out and are very welcome not to, but… They don't get to be dicks about it.

  4. Thank you very much for this list!, I am going through the process of trying to find a venue and having panic attacks of whether to do it all myself or hired a planner. than I read the one that said no one cares about your painstaking details! (there were several others but that one drove the nail in) I was like why am I stressing myself out! thanks sooooo much again very eye opener

  5. I love those tips! I'm planning a vintage wedding and I'm so excited. We decided early on not to do traditional we didnt see the point. We care about food we are foodies. The venue we did not want too fancy and thats exactly what we got. We have a vintage to a T venue! We have a great coordinator he so comforting. I was obsessing over decorations dresses for brides maids the bridal showers our invitations.. Everything will come together the way i want it too. If not its not the end of the world like you said its one day. As long as I'm marrying the girl of my dreams that is what matters.

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