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Wedding Graduate: Me


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Before I start telling you small stories about our wedding,* I wanted to give you my wedding graduate post. This is, simply, my best wedding advice. I’m sure I’ll chatter about these subjects more at some point, but there is something to be said for boiling advice down to its essence. These are the the tips I’d give any friend who asked. I hope it makes a few of you feel a little more free, or a little more sane:

  • When people ask you if “you might regret such and such a choice…” say no. And move on. Because if you make a choice that is authentic to who you and your partner are, I can emphatically tell you that you won’t regret it. Period.
  • Gut-check. By the week before the wedding, I was making all my decisions by instantaneous gut-check, “What seems right for us? Ok, done,” no second guessing. It’s easy to loose track of this during the planning process, but if you’re not sure about something, check your gut, and then go with it. I think your gut is where your heart lives.
  • Keeping people on a need-to-know basis is fine sometimes. It’s not just that it’s easier to apologize than to ask permission, but that people will be so caught up in the joy of your wedding day that little things that might worry them before hand won’t bother them at all on the day of.
  • Learn how to kindly but firmly say no. If you know deep down that something is just not right for you, be kind but firm, it will save you endless heartache in the end. Maybe you learn this in wedding planning because its the single best preparation for adult life that there is.
  • It’s ok to cry. I wasn’t always explicit about this on the blog, but I found wedding planning to be a difficult at times. It was also one of the great learning experiences of my life, but frankly, learning sort of blows sometimes. The thing about weddings is they are this complex mix of families, friendship, faith, values, aesthetics, cultural assumptions, other peoples expectations, and oh yeah, love. So while weddings often bring out the best in people, sometimes they bring out the worst. I can admit now that I spent more than one night in the planning process crying myself to sleep. And I wasn’t crying because my flowers didn’t match my linens, I was crying because of Big Life Issues the wedding brought up. So if Big Life Issues come up when your planning, let yourself cry and work through them. Its not silly, it means that you’re grappling with important things in a major life transition.
  • Share it with your partner. Saying, “It’s your partner’s day too,” has become cliche in progressive wedding circles, but it’s true. But let me say this: your partner might not care about or think about the wedding in the same way you do, and that’s a good thing. This is probably one of the first really huge projects you take on with your partner, so work on modeling the same collaboration and respect that you’d like to see when you take on other projects together, like say, raising children or buying a house. And yes, if you are fiery like we are, you’ll yell at each other a bit too, which is So. Normal.
  • Find a way to keep yourself grounded. One of the things I wish I’d realized going into wedding weekend is that your wedding is not a totally free pass. Family tensions will still be family tensions, someone will get stressed and yell, and that person who always acts a little weird at parties may act a little weird. But the bottom line is, for one weekend none of it is your problem. Let it go, move on, stay grounded. For me this was one biggest challenges of the weekend, but also the most spiritually rewarding.
  • Focus on the Ceremony. Sometimes the ceremony gets lost in the shuffle, because it’s not pretty, or because it’s emotionally complicated. But this is why everyone is there, this is how it all starts, and this is what changes you forever. No matter how traditional or non-traditional you want your ceremony to be, think about it, talk about it, and make sure it feels like it’s yours. Make sure you both feel like you can live inside it, as your truest selves.
  • Show Up. When the ceremony starts, you need to be THERE. Even if it makes you sob, even if it makes you laugh, even if someone just yelled at you, even if something major just went wrong. Be fully present, because you only get to live this once.
  • Lead your guests by your example. (This is the single best piece of wedding advice I have): When you’re planning, you spend a lot of time worrying about which choices will matter, and which choices will not. Well, it turns out that the thing that will shape your wedding day the most is free: your attitude. If you are joyful, present, and relaxed your guests will follow your lead.
  • Get. A. Wedding. Stage Manager. You can’t be in charge the day of the wedding, no, no, no. Get someone else to be in charge of the organizational details, even if they just take your cell phone from you as you walk up the courthouse steps. Lots of people will tell you that this means you need to hire someone to run the day of, but you don’t. Having a friend manage our weekend made us able to bliss out, and it filled the day with a depth of care and joy that we could never have bought.
  • Honeymoon (right after the wedding), if you can. By honeymoon, I mean find a way to get away from your regular life for a bit, which could mean a staycation or a big trip. I firmly believe that a inexpensive honeymoon right away is more important then saving for something lavish later. Honeymoons are magic things, and you have the rest of your lives for great vacations. Honeymoons give you and your partner some time to absorb the enormity of what happened, to replenish yourself, and to just be in a giddy bubble of joy together. And do what you want. We went on a big adventure, when everyone thought we should lie on the beach. Trust me, you’ll be able to bliss out *anywhere* afterwards.
  • And finally, remember the FUN. About 80% of wedding media, both online and in print focuses on aesthetics. And caring about aesthetics is great, up to a point. Make things authentic, make sure they feel like you… and then think about having fun. No one has ever left a wedding saying, “That party was so fun! Did you see the hand lettering on the favors??” No. At a great party, no one even notices the favors because they are so busy dancing/drinking/chatting/catching up/feeling overjoyed for the wedding couple/laughing/eating/telling stories/making memories. And remember, having fun isn’t complicated (We’re playing twister! We’re doing a scavenger hunt!) It’s easy. It’s good people, good conversation, maybe some good food and wine, maybe some music, and two people who love each other joining their lives together. I know our wedding was successful because I keep accidentally referring to our reception as ‘the party.’ Remember when we danced to that song at the party? Remember that joke someone made at the party? And you know what? It was the best party I’ve ever been to.Wedding Graduate: Me | A Practical Wedding
  • And, finally, the one thing I can tell you from the other side: the party will be wonderful, it will be joyful, it will be what you need it to be. But the real secret? The other side is better. The other side is something you’ve never quite felt before. The other side is worth it.

*I’m kind of thinking some of the stories need pictures, so it will be a few more weeks. Hang tight.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12435697594154408096 jessica lynn

    amen. amen. amen. could not have said it better myself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10441798371617926431 kaitlin

    So. Much. Awesome.

    Thanks, Meg :)

    I'm totally grinning, ear to ear.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18408591913666810654 Paloma

    YES! YES! YES! YES!

    Thank you.

  • Mandyrosy

    Good advice! And we're two weeks out, so I totally need it now!
    On having a non-professional day-of coordinator: how up-to-speed do they really need to be? My fiancĂŠ and I are doing all the planning ourselves, and while I love my MOH and my mom, neither one of them is the most organized/responsible individual in the world. How do you delegate those day-of responsibilities, and what exactly are they?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11992936167176055067 Alexson

    Meg, you are so articulate, it makes my head swim. Thank you so much for writing this post.

    Can’t wait to see pictures!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Mandy-
    My two cents: it can't be your Mom or your MOH, they are just as involved in the day as you are. Think of it (only in this sense) like a play – you are all actors, and actors can't stage manage because they need to act.

    I'll write more about having a Stage Manager later, but ours (hi Kate!) was *very very* up to speed. David and I are a former director/producer team, so we knew we were not going to be able to relax unless we knew someone was totally on it. Kate ran our band-o-helpers, knew what had to be set up and torn down, drove an enormous van all weekend and was in charge of all hauling,* dealt will all the vendors (wedding elves) we had on site (not very many), laid out flowers, and called cues during the reception, and hauled everything back to our apartment at the end. Hence all bliss, no worries. Clearly she is a goddess. But you probably know a goddess, just think hard about who it might be. Weddings make you discover all your friends secret super hero powers. And also? You don't need to be as organized as we were. That's just sort of how I run things, always.

    Meg

    *So, so much hauling at weddings. So few inspirations boards. Wedding planning doesn't prepare you for that bit.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10908566905361778751 Laura

    I kind of cried a little…love this!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09849138896837937189 Marya

    This post couldn't have come at a better time for me. We have just over a month left until our wedding and I definitely needed to be reminded of some of the things you brought up! Sometimes wedding blog land makes you feel like everyone else is having a much easier go of it, it's nice to be reassured that it's normal.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05750659066802561501 Erika

    Well, you've outdone yourself. And it's so obvious that you're speaking from your head and your heart.

  • Kirst

    OH yes! Fantastic advice on every front. Le sigh.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18209861350905135093 LPC

    Congratulations. Remarkable.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14293878985713331425 Jasmine

    Wedding in two weeks, this was perfect, thank you.

  • http://accordionsandlace.wordpress.com/ accordionsandlace

    Meg, sometimes you kind of creep me out, because I feel like you may have sneakily crashed my wedding or something, otherwise I don't know how it's possible that you wrote so many Perfect, Exactly Right things. Were you secretly there?

    On gut-checks: yes. It was so liberating in the last minute craziness to stop the navel-gazing and just run on gut-checks, which were always correct.

    On crying: Yes. Well obviously yes.

    On using it to build your partnership: Yes, we are so much stronger for having truly negotiated all this crap as a team.

    On fun: Yes. All our "details" that made our wedding "unique" (God I am so over the word unique) were centred around the guests have an awesome time. Like our band. I am so proud of this.

    On not getting a pass: Yes. Weddings happen in real life, not fairy life where all the people who stress you out in the world suddenly become angels. All we can control is our ability to deal, or to just say, "it's my wedding, stop bugging me, deal with it yourself" (which is what I did, and which felt awesome).

    Ok, I need to stop babbling, but let me just say an emphatic "yes" to every other point. Loved this post.

  • http://budgetbeautiful.wordpress.com/ budgetbeautiful

    Meg, thanks so much for this insightful post. Our wedding is three weeks from Saturday and this post helped calm my nerves considerably.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01486225394488484467 Jessica

    Thank you sooo much for this post! I am 3 weeks away and I have gone through a bunch of crap that I thought I was alone on. While I am looking forward to the wedding there have been a few nights of crying that have made me think that having a wedding (should we have eloped?) was not a good idea, but I believe in my gut that it is the right thing and your advise espcially for the day of will definitly help me to have an amazing day! Thank you again!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06272654565469914998 sam

    "Honeymoons are magic things, and you have the rest of your lives for great vacations."

    I want to print that out and frame it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10441798371617926431 kaitlin

    Weddings make you discover all your friends secret super hero powers.

    Darn right they are! Yeah. I was so amazed at how much our friends helped. And so, so thankful!

  • http://whythulc.wordpress.com Deanna

    This post is awesome. It's exactly what I needed to hear. It's really nice to hear someone be up-front, honest, and authentic about what goes on underneath fretting about flowers!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15899239356088557995 Amanda

    "The other side is better. The other side is something you've never quite felt before. The other side is worth it."

    Happy Meggy.

  • Laura

    Thank you. I'm 6 weeks away from our wedding and once again you've helped me re-ground myself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00174894872050076618 Marie-Ève

    Great post. You did it, you've come full circle, yay!

  • Stephanie

    So very true, Meg. Particularly the wedding stage manager (which is exactly what they are). You cannot be present and having a wonderful time, if you don't have someone designated to handle everything. Ours was amazing and one of the reasons our wedding was so much fun.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04229456115818198176 A Fortunate Bride

    Meg you are a wise [married] woman. Thank you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00789923342219095425 rockonsara

    Meg,

    I am a regular follower of your blog, getting married in a month, and was all geared up to have a breakdown over everything weddingish as soon as I got home from work today. That is, until I read this post on my lunch break.

    Thank you so much for your encouraging words.

    Nail.
    Head.
    Hit.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09148000224621590075 Nikki

    Thank you. Genuinely, this is exactly what I need to hear right now as I am directly in the middle of planning an interfaith wedding which has already caused me to cry on several occasions.

    I am just hoping that fighting for the wedding we want is like performing cardio and that it will make us that much stronger for our marriage. After all, a strong marriage is what it is all about anyway.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10933407474487393296 The Broke-Ass Bride

    So wise. So well said. So well loved :)

  • Noelle

    Thank you thank you thank you!

    Our wedding is just under 10 months away, but just last night I was already having a bit of a wedding breakdown. As many other comments reflect, you have been a godsend to many brides-to-be! :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14859458958764675110 Event Girl

    Can't emphasize 'Lead Your Guests by Example' more.
    Nobody wants to see a pouty face. You really do set the tone of the party. There's a reason that they say 'All eyes will be on you!'
    So – live it up!

    Sounds like your wedding was stellar, and full of joy, not drama.

    Congratulations to you both.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15102193924484233803 courtney

    Great post Meg.

    I completely agree about the "other side." We're coming up to our first anniversary in just a few short months and I still can't find the words to eloquently express just how wonderful the other side is :)

    I'm so happy for you!

    And sorry about deleting the first post… apparently I didn't proofread it first!

  • Sally

    Thanks for this. The stage manager part about having someone to take your cellphone is an excellent idea.

  • Anonymous

    I think even the most laid back brides end up crying at least once during the planning.

    There are too many conflicting family emotions and opinions to negotiate in addition to planning what will probably be the biggest event most people ever plan in their lifetime.

    Who wouldn't crack a few times?

    Meg is right, sometimes it's best to keep things on a need-to-know basis so fewer people will even have a chance to form an opinion. Too much leisure time before the wedding for them find fault with things that wouldn't even phase them on the actual wedding day.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08170120825583173366 Geezees Custom Canvas Art

    so well said!! I think most people forget to have fun…
    :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16294864366284434807 Rosalie

    I don't really know what to say apart from yes yes and yes. Particular highlights for me it's ok to cry and yell! It doesn't make you a crazy bridezilla, it makes you human. Focus on the ceremony, I am so glad we made it so personal. The friends' secret powers, I'm still thinking about all these today. My friends and family were caterers, florists, and decorators, so amazing! I just don't know how to thank them. And as for the honeymoon, we're half on it now and totally on it next week and I can't wait!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15100174748499629835 Jenny

    yes. Yes. YES. Every word you said is true. I am immediately forwarding this on to my engaged friends because you said it better than I ever could.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07273495404035054849 Roxanne

    These are very very very true. Wonderful job articulating them Meg!! Showing up to the ceremony, mentally, to be able to remember everything is soo important.

    And I hadn't even thought about it until I read this, but the guests really do follow your example!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08842191847941847564 Bride in Exile

    "Lead your guests by example" is such a wonderful piece of advice, Meg. Someone told me and Econo Boy something similar — that if we were on the dance floor having a great time, everyone else would be too. And darned if it didn't work!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12669256908862614726 Beth

    I love this post. One month to the day til my wedding. Congratulations to you and thank you, thank you!

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    Clever lady. Wise lady.

  • Jess

    Oh wow, after having the WORST. DAY. EVER. of this whole wedding planning thing, you have made me feel so much better and ok with crying because of these Big Life Issues. (P.S. I have been lurking from Australia for the last year. Yours is the one blog I return to repeatedly for inspiration and calm; you have made the whole process so much easier, I really can't thank you enough!)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05098729708314853961 MWK

    Am not sure I can say "YES!" in any way that hasn't really been said, but: OUI! So right. So smart. Congrats again.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04151848025569897213 marnieleigh

    that was SO good. Good as in I immediately sent it to my fiance. Thanks Meg! And congrats!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00508934904920770681 Cassie

    OMG thank you so much for this.I am only just starting to plan my wedding and i am about to cancel the whole thing cause i cant stand the stress!!!!!

  • Meghan

    Meg,

    I have been reading and leaning on you (virtually) for awhile and never commented. I got married a few weeks ago (and still stalk wedding blogs- oh well can't go cold turkey) and I just want to tell you that you are right on, that it is so wonderful on the other side. The MARRIED (holy shit) side. I had a lot of things go "wrong", first the florist showing up after the ceremony started and ending with my husband and I partying like wedding crashers at our own wedding (2 day hangover included). I would not trade any of it for the world. My man and I did it all together, from the second we were engaged our already strong teamwork became stronger. We did it our way and were lucky to have our families be game for it. People commented that it was clear that the wedding was our vision (hora and first corinthians included) and that they were somehow charmed by that. I am just so damned happy that your "perfect" day happended for you two. Keep it up becuase I will likely stalk for a little longer!!

    Meghan

  • http://www.topweddingsites.com Top Wedding Sites

    Refreshing advice from a totally grounded, intelligent and self-assured bride. Kudos on your focus.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02329381801379166829 Traveling bride

    yes yes yes. Life lessons can sometimes suck, I really wasn't ready for some of them, I admit some have been a blessing and made me better for them. Some have just made me sad, I think I couldn't have done without seeing the in friends, makes me sad.

    My two cents: An engagement party is a good practice run/eye opener for letting everything go and making you realize what you want for the wedding.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12633056996927758780 Amanda

    Ahhhh! Meg! I was in stitches waiting for this post!

    And you are dead on with the family tension thing. I love my family, and for the most part they were on their best behavior for my wedding, but there were still moments when I had to just smile and go refill my vodka lemonade.

    I can't wait to see more pictures!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05912070142797760057 88highburycorner

    Congratulations and perfectly explained.

    The "Stage Manager" for the day is key. Never underestimate the power of the bride. Everyone will come to you for answers and you need someone to pass them off to so that you can enjoy yourself.

    Also, don't let small hiccups ruin your day, everything will work out. Pass any potential problems onto your stage manager and then forget about it. Our caterer told us our cake hadn't arrived when we got to our reception venue. I was so excited/ happy/ nervous at that point I thought oh well, no cake and shrugged it off. Thankfully I did because there was no need to worry it was eventually delivered and it was delicious.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    "Smile and go refill my vodka lemonade"

    Exactly.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01231935776543007555 Amanda

    My wedding was 3 months ago, and I've been giving almost identical advice to friends in the planning stage ever since!

    Our ceremony was simple, lovely and meant so much to us. The reception was a whirlwind of fun, but I kept getting pulled away from my husband to dance, drink and chat. Even though everyone was watching us at the ceremony, we were focused on each other, and it was so special.

    And all your weird family issues ARE very much present on the day, you just have to choose how to deal with them. When my mom got snappy because I was late getting ready I just smiled and said "Well, it's not like they can start without me!"

    Don't spend time worrying about the worriers. If true disaster strikes, someone will help you deal with it. Otherwise, it's not your problem. You've done all the hard work. Relax and enjoy it.

    Congrats, Meg!

  • irene

    So you're turning this blog into a book , right? Because I need to have your amazing words of wisdom on my bookshelf for years to come sometimes. What you described doesn't just apply to a weddings – it's a life mantra. Thank you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07035803170380742703 Juicy Clouds

    I am getting married tomorrow, and accidentally stumbled on your post via Snippet & Ink, and I absolutely ate up all your advice. Thank you for this much needed serendipitous moment.

    Nicole

  • Cate Subrosa

    You did it! Yessity yes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11201255794654011712 Polka Dot Bride

    Authenticity. Being present. Stage coordinator. Amen Amen Amen!

  • April

    Awesome – just AWESOME!

    I'm printing all that out. For serious.

    With 36 days till "We do", I need some practical, sane reminders right now so that I don't run out and hire an event designer to pipe and drape the room we've chosen.

    It'll be filled with lovely, dear friends. What more could we need?

    Thanks, Meg!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07805072324014325320 Kris

    Yes! This!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03694166409949836145 caramia1500

    Thank you. We need to be reminded about what is really important, what the day is about after all.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826856044690823004 iheartkiwi

    yay! you're a wedding grad. can't wait to see more photos. congrats to you and your mister.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17896310881368841785 Bells

    Thank you
    thank you
    thank you

    You rock!

  • http://www.brideslittlewhitebook.blogspot.com courtney

    Amen. It is about so much more than inspiration boards and a lot about hauling. Speaking from the perspective of a professional "stage manager." Congratulations Meg! xo

  • Caroline

    This is the single best collection of wedding advice I’ve ever read. I’m in the middle of all of it as we speak and just THIS evening I experienced 5 instances in which I would have been better prepared had I known this existed. I’ve cried, fought with my fiance, fought with my mother, pursued a new idea about ceremony and made up with my fiance all in one night. This has made me feel a lot better. Thank you.

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  • Neysha

    Dear Meg,

    Thank you sooo much for this wonderful post! I must say this has been everything I’ve been wishing to hear for the last few weeks, despite of lack of pictures which become unnecessary when what you say is already powerful.
    I just recently got engaged, and I’m drowning in information, tips, inspirational sites, budget warnings and to-do-lists that grow by the minute. All I really wanted on this quest so far is the psychology of this important process which amounts to a single day in my life, and the most important yet.
    It’s easy to pick a dress and venue, flowers and such, but is so important to be reminded, like you’ve done here, that you must stay grounded, follow your heart and understand that you are planning so many things for a few hours of a day just to perform one of the greatest acts of love side by side with your life partner.

    Just had to say it.

    Thank you,
    Neysha

  • Sonya

    This made me cry. Thank you so much.

  • Debby

    As a mother of TWO brides in the next 6 months, I would like to thank you for this. Wonderful advice very well stated. I’m hoping they will both read, absorb and benefit from your experience… since it’s not coming from mom, they probably will. :-)

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