A Question About Grace

I got this question from reader Amy, and I thought it was such a good one that I had to throw it out to you all (especially you wedding graduates). Also, the title of this post was the title of her email, which made me sit up and pay attention.

How are you planning on managing the hosting responsibilities along with the marriage and wedding and events? I’m so excited to see my family and his family and our dear friends… everyone is traveling great distances to be there for us and I want to make sure they’re comfortable, happy and I want to visit with them (not just pass by in a whirl of disconnected and distracted activity). We’ve planned activities and time to spend with everyone, but I’m nervous about feeling split. I’m nervous that I’ll get so caught up with everyone else’s moments that mine will slip by.

So my personal answer is this: we’ve scheduled time to see people, and then we’ve been very strict about scheduling time that is JUST for us. The first day that I have off work is mine, I’ll sleep, I’ll hang out around the apartment, I’ll do whatever I need to do personally to get ready. I’ve warned all and sundry about that time, and will stick to it. We’ve scheduled other moments like that through out the weekend. Our time to leave our welcome picnic even has a enforcer… someone has been assigned to forcibly throw me out of the party. I think this is key, especially in a wedding planning world where you are expected to be available 24/7… after party, after-after party and all. Then, we’ve also scheduled time that is together time – a picnic, for just hanging out and chilling, a cocktail hour post wedding that we plan to BE at (Eff taking extra pictures).

So that’s my super organized type-A way of handling it. But in a less organized, more free flowing way, I think just being aware of the issue is 50% of the battle. What about you Team Practical, what are you doing?

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  • I was worried for the same thing since 70% of our guests were from out of town, many of whom I hadn't seen in years. I started out with plans, set times etc. Then, when push came to shove, I shoved all those plans right out the window. We had a fun wedding. We were relaxed all day, and partying into the night – schedules and timelines did not fit in. Instead we made a conscious effort to make every moment with our guests truly count. If it was only a moment of talking, it wasn't a polite hug and predictable pleasantries, it was a bear hug and honest exchange of thoughts and laughs. (and we threw an after party and a day after brunch to max out the time with all our peeps!) :)

  • My husband's from Texas and I'm from Oregon, but we got married in California, so we had this problem in droves. One of the coolest things that worked out for us though, was that most of our really close friends, like those in our wedding party, came in town a few days early. I've never had so much fun as hanging with my best girls in the days before my wedding. The day of, I even took most of my girls to go help my girlfriend who was doing our flowers, only returning to the hotel room to do a few final primps and slip on The Dress. Being surrounded by my best friends and letting them help me with our very low-budget self-done wedding helped me feel more at ease and cared-for than if I had insisted on time alone to do it all myself. No matter what you choose though, it's a great day… you're marrying the love of your life, after all!

  • I am not getting married (just an upcoming best lady doing her research), so please feel free to take these comments with a grain of salt.

    I am such an extrovert, that a strict predetermined schedule of alone time vs. social time would stress me out even more. As Meg said, being aware is half the battle. And I think that carries through the week(end) of festivities. Listen to what your mind and body are telling you, and don't second guess yourself/feel guilty if you need to run away from the party and chill out on your own for a while.

    I think being aware of your own needs, first and foremost, will help you find balance and grace. Secondly, peace out at the first sign of stress and fatigue.

    And on your way out the door grab that beloved friend/cousin/uncle with whom you haven't yet had a chance to talk, and catch a few quiet moments with them on the car ride home.

    Good luck! All of you inspire me so much!

  • my fiance and i were just talking about this issue last night. i'm from iowa, he's from texas, and we're getting married in philadelphia (where, admittedly, most of my family now lives). to save money, we're DIT-ing a lot of stuff, so we're trying to figure out a way to welcome people, give them ways to help out (because his family, especially, will feel most comfortable if they can feel useful!), and enjoy the moments. We're planning to have a wedding-morning breakfast for our families, probably just at a local diner.

    Meg, I've been reading your blog since I got engaged in February, and it's been a lovely source of balance and perspective. Thank you for hosting such a wonderful forum for sensible, creative, practical wedding wisdom. A whole lot of us are in your debt and watch eagerly as you anticipate your big day. You've got a whole community of joyful well-wishers out here!!

  • This is such a good question because I am so worried about this too! I don't have an answer except that I am trying to schedule some downtime for myself and the mister–we'll be better at being "on" if we have time to re-centre ourselves. We'll see if it works.

  • I think most of us worry about this balance.

    We are having a casual bbq type post rehearsal gathering, instead of a formal rehearsal dinner. Most of our out of town friends, as well as family, will be there at that point and I am hoping that will give us time to see people we don't get visit with as often as we like before the wedding.

    I am intent on my hubby to be and I having some time right after our ceremony to absorb the moment before we hit the reception. I believe this is a Jewish tradition, according to a close friend who made the recommendation. But from the beginning, I knew that was something we needed and deserved.

    I love the idea of having someone delegated to push us out the door in the end, though. I think we will start having too much fun and I worry we'll stay too late at our own party and regret it the next day. :-)

  • K

    I really like the idea of having someone designated push you out the door. (I had someone designated to make sure I ate leading up to the wedding, which sounds like a no brainer but was actually useful.)

    We took pictures before the wedding, and I loved having that time with TH. Many people recommend setting aside a few moments with the groom and just taking it all in together. We didn't have a chance to do that, but I can imagine how amazing that must be.

    There's a Jewish tradition (Meg, help me out?!) where the bride and groom spend a few moments alone together after the ceremony, and I thought that was pretty amazing when I witnessed that at a friend's wedding.

    Allowing family and friends to help you prepare, be it putting on your make up or helping to decorate the reception site, also gives you (and your loved ones) moments to remember aside from the actual wedding day. My grandma still talks about the days leading up to the wedding, and how much she enjoyed spending that time with us.

    Think of it the same way you think of the wedding; yes, it's a day, but it's about the marriage. So you want to be present with your family and friends during the wedding, but there are so many other moments surrounding that day that will get to be enjoyed as well.

    Sorry I was so longwinded on this one!

  • For me it means everything on my to-do list is done one week before the wedding, except the wedding license because we both won't be in the state we're getting married until two days before the wedding.

    So that leaves us with that last week to see people, relax, and see people. I won't be stressing that week and day of trying to get those last minute things done because I'll already have done all that stress the week before.

    We'll see how well I can stick to that plan.

  • K

    Another aspect that I hadn't even thought about pre-wedding was the post-wedding recaps I got to hear from our guests. It was amazing to hear how others perceived the wedding and enjoyed their trips to NYC. I wasn't prepared for how much I loved hearing all the little details of everyone else's experiences that day.

  • Meg

    It's called a Yichud, ladies. Immediately after the ceremony (no receiving lines) the couple goes away to spend a few minutes in private together and eat their first food together as a married couple. One of the cool details of it (and worth borrowing) is that the door to the Yichud is supposed to be guarded so that no one disturbs this sacred moment between the two of you. It is apparently a very high honor to ask someone to guard your yichud, and you are supposed to ask someone who you want to help protect your marriage to do the honor.

    As a super extrovert, I know I'm going to want to spend all my time talking and hugging and chatting. But I also know that I'd be doing a disservice to myself if I didn't set aside time alone to ground myself, and time together to experience our new marriage, and not just our awesome party. And I know I'll need help doing that…

    For me, I guess it all comes back to paying attention, and allowing myself to have space to pay attention.

  • I'm having a Jewish wedding and I was super stoked when I read about the "Yichud" (thanks Meg for recommending "The New Jewish Wedding". I'm actually a little more surprised more non-Jews do not incorporate this 20 min into their wedding day. I can't possibly imagine my wedding without this time to connect with my new husband and ground myself before partying for the rest of the night.

  • Anonymous


    Most non-Jewish people don't incorprate a Yichud into their wedding because they don't know about it.

    I vaguely remember reading something about Jewish weddings having an alone time, but until reading these comments I never read it in detail.

  • We're having family come from New Zealand, Singapore, Canada and Mexico for our Nov. wedding….

    Needless to say this is a big trip to America for so many people! We decided to postpone our honeymoon until December… when I have time off from school and so we can hang out with the fam and guests after all the craziness of the "big day" has died down and the pressure is off.

    When December rolls around we've allowed almost three weeks for our honeymoon. I think it will be worth the wait! And we get to spend quality time with our guests.

  • Anonymous

    I had this concern, as the majority of our guests were family and friends coming from out of town. I often feel torn in too many directions when hosting any kind of event, let along a wedding. In the end, though, I got into a very zen place that weekend where I truly felt connected during each interaction I had with people. Whether it was a longer conversation (hard to do) or a shorter one, I found something clicked into place and I was able to live in the moment. I truly appreciated every moment I got to share with our guests. We got married on a Sunday, so we had a couple of days to spend with out-of-towners before the wedding and those were some of my best memories of the weekend. That, and standing with my husband to be married, surrounded by so much love. Not to say there weren't stresful moments to the weekend and the wedding itself, but somehow I found that grace I feared would be overcome by stress and wedding details.

  • Love the Yichud idea. In the land of morning-after-brunch and after-party and all that, it seems especially important. GO GRACE.

  • I didn't want any me time, I only had 2 days to see my friends and family and Josh and I agreed that we'd have plenty of alone time together for the rest of our lives that we'd sort of blitz during the wedding weekend and I'd soak up as much as I could.

    That said, we did take a few minutes after 'I do' to say our own private I do's.

    Once everyone left the day after we ordered pizza, sunk into the couch and relaxed and I'd never been so happy to be alone.

  • I had a fairly specific schedule for when everyone should be where and when we'd all have a chance to hang out and everyone I sent it to either ignored it, forgot about it, or half heartedly played along.

    And while we didn't get any special alone time with a photographer snapping pictures of us, we did get some alone time with just us before the ceremony taking a breather and trading stories on all the cute things kids did.

  • I used to think pre-wedding traditions like a shower were really silly, until I had my own a few weeks ago, and I loved it. I loved it because all these amazing women who meant the world to me were in one room, but it was also a really useful view into what the wedding will be like- all the people I love will be in one place, and I won't get to spend a lot of quality time with any of them.

    To solve that, I think there are a few options. One really important one is to try to schedule lunch, dinner, or a long phone call BEFORE the wedding with the people that you really haven't seen in a long time, to catch up on what is going on in their lives, and to spend a little bit of time with just them. That way, when you do see them at your wedding, you won't be as frustrated by not being able to have a long conversation, and you'll be able to appreciate them being there with you even more.

    The other advice I got from one of my wedding graduate friends is that people, and older people especially, want to be touched- they want that grounded, personal reminder that you're there and you're happy to see them. So touch people! Give them giant bear hugs, squeeze their shoulders when you go from table to table, hold their hand on the dance floor- whatever works for you. People come to weddings because they are happy occasions, full of hope for two more people who are going to give life a shot, and you should spread that happiness and hope as much as possible.

    Your guests know that you'll be busy, but if you make the moments you do have with them as meaningful and personal as you can, you'll both walk away satisfied and happy. That's my plan, anyway :)

  • My wusband and I were worried about the same thing — she's super concerned about how everyone's doing and enjoying themselves in everyday life, and was even more so for the wedding. But the one thing that made us both feel better is that neither of us had ever been to a wedding where we were annoyed with the bride for not spending enough time with us. What makes your guests happy is to see you having a great time.

    That said, we also made a lot of plans. We had these events: a casual bbq rehearsal, the reception, a bonfire after the reception, and a brunch the morning after the wedding. Since our families wouldn't hang out late at the wedding but were coming to everything, we spent the most time with them at the rehearsal. During cocktail hour and the early part of dinner and the reception, we visited with folks who were just coming for the wedding and would most likely not be hanging out much past dessert. We spent time with our best friends on the dance floor and the after-party. The brunch was very relaxing because there were few people we hadn't yet spent time with.

    The thing I'm most thankful we did was to spend the entire reception at each other's sides.

  • I didn't have a problem with this, primarily because we had a small guest list of only 44 people, which is a very magageable number of people to spend quality time with over the course of 4 days.

    One very important thing we did to ensure that we had time to ourselves leading up to the wedding was say that NO ONE could stay at our place with us while in town for the wedding. We had to have a refuge.

  • Cate Subrosa

    Excellent title :)

    We're lucky to have most of of friends and family close, so this wasn't such a big worry. However, knowing as I do that I tend to get a bit frazzled if I don't get my alone time, I still had to work this issue out.

    I approached it in a similar way to you, Meg, but making a clear plan and sticking to it. I included my loved ones in little ways, but made it clear that they weren't to hang around! e.g. "this three-hour slot is for you to go home, eat and make yourself beautiful" so that they knew not to hang around too much! Then of course we booked in the important bits with those people… preparations, dinners, after party etc.

    Good luck!

  • Anna

    I'm getting married in the morning and the ceremony is going to be really small with our closest family and friends. Right after is a picnic with everyone who attended, so I get to pay attention to those who I am closest with. Then we have the afternoon to ourselves to do whatever we want whether it's hang out, run around town taking pictures, or take a nap, and then at 7 is the big reception for everyone from the ceremony and more distant relatives and friends to go to. So then we get to visit with friends some more and dance.

  • ah meg… you have the best readers. :)

    thanks for posting this and a huge thank you to everyone who has commented.

    i think i've done some good work in getting most everything on my 'to-do' list done, so am trying to focus on creating a sense of calm to go into the weekend with. just hearing about how others have found the flow and the zen, and made time for themselves, for their partners (love the Yichud) and making sure to be fully present for all interactions.

    I think i'm going to be okay. :) making eye contact, touching and hugging (the bear-kind of hug) and simply letting people know how much they mean to me throughout the weekend will mean a lot.

    and we have lots of wedding elves helping with the set-up, clean-up, etc., and am hoping that i'll have some time to chat as we work together.

    thank you again… i feel a great sense of calm and confidence settling over me. y'all kick some serious ass!


  • sam

    We are getting married on Friday evening. After all the official wedding activities end we've planned a post-reception cocktail hour which we plan to use an an opportunity to relax and enjoy our own party. Hopefully this will be a time to simply sit and chat with our guests.
    We're also waiting to leave for our honeymoon until Sunday afternoon. Since the wedding's on Friday most of our out-of-town guests are staying for the weekend. His parents are hosting a brunch and mine an afternoon luncheon. I'm really looking forward to that time as it's after the wedding day and we'll get a chance to spend some meaningful time with those who have traveled to see us.

  • I really think this works itself out. Everyone wants to talk to you at your wedding and celebrate with you, so making sure everyone has a good time is easy. Finding down time in the festivities is a matter of planning. If they're rational, this time alone is not something any of your guests will begrudge you.

  • Meg

    No, Ivy, I don't think any one will begrudge you down time. But if your a super-extrovert like me, you have to plan to GIVE yourself downtime. Because I know myself and I need it. But David always says that "big group's of people are Meg's crack" and it's true. When I'm around people I turn ON and can't stop. So I have to plan to stop. And then get an enforcer, because there is NO WAY I'll follow my own plan.

    Perhaps you are less easily swayed by the lure of the crowd then I… perhaps you didn't start life as an actress… ;)

  • One of my (many) favorite things about our wedding weekend is that my kinda-sorta-not really bridesmaids threw a bachelorette party for me on Friday afternoon/evening. As in, the day before the wedding. We'd hosted a welcome dinner for our outta towners the evening before, and the to-do list was complete, so Friday was wide open.

    Some people thought I was crazy to have a bachelorette party the night before the wedding, but it worked out great. I got to spend good, quality time with all of my favorite girlfriends and get really, really excited about the wedding (for which there was immediate pay off, since it was the next DAY rather than 2 months later, as is often the case with bachelorette parties).

  • April

    Bless Amy for her thoughtful, timely email to you Meg. And thanks for the answer! I've been wondering this myself, since at me and my boy's wedding, 90% of the guest list is out of town and I'm worried about greeting everyone, catching up with friends we haven't seen in 7 years. EEEPS!

    I'm also worried about the actual wedding DAY. I want to be next to my boy… but we're both very social and talkative and will probably wander around separately, mixing it up, dancing and chatting with various people.

    *sigh* I'm scared the weekend is going to fly by and I won't be full "present" for it, and then we'll wake up on Monday morning and give each other a "WTF just happened and was I there for it?" look.

  • We had our wedding here in Costa Rica, a place where my husband and I have lived for nearly two years but have had few friends come and visit. So when the people started coming, friends, family, more friends, things started getting really hectic. We were shuttling people around, finding time to hang out, and felt really split between our duties to our families and our desire to just hang out and have a good time.

    One of the things my future father in law scheduled for the day before the wedding was an all-day catamaran trip along the coast. This was perfect because being on that boat for 8 uninterrupted hours gave us ample opportunity to hang out with everyone (it also, unfortunately, gave this stressed out bride too much time for sipping beer and wine… I was almost hungover on my wedding day!)

    We also had something like a "Yichud" although we didn't know there was such a thing. After the ceremony we went back to our room and just exhaled (and cried a little). It was important for us to just be like WTF just happened?!? before we went back out to the cocktail hour. We also had our portraits beforehand, so that allowed us to just hop into the party and start having a well-deserved great time.

  • Meg

    I kind of like calling the Yichud the "WTF just happened?" time.

    Because seriously, getting married must feel a little surreal… a little out of body… Or I think it might. We'll see….

  • For immediate family time: we all got together for dinner the night before the rehearsal dinner and took photos together pre-ceremony off-site from the wedding
    For time just the two of us: we took some moments together alone while guests filed out of the sanctuary
    For time with guests: we had an informal receiving line on the lawn, while people milled about after the ceremony & before going to the cocktail hour (or some of them went to grab a cocktail and then hang out on the lawn). It was just the two of us, so there were no awkward greetings between bridesmaids and old uncle harry or whoever; and no more than two groups waiting in line so little pressure to "wrap up" the conversation.
    The ancillary events also divided groups among natural lines — our friends came to the informal afterparty and our families attended the brunch the next morning. So, those little gatherings all aided in having quality time with people.
    Oh, and we extended the reception to make sure that we could dance with everyone and, when guests left, they were exhausted ;)

  • This was something that we put a lot of thought into before the wedding, and I think that's the key– there is no right or wrong, you just need to kind of think through the time you will have and who you want to spend it with, and how much you need to carve out for yourself or the two of you.

    We had a weekend filled with events where we had a chance to actually visit with guests– we had a welcome supper on Friday night that everyone was invited to, which most of our out of town guests attended. I got a lot of the "hi how are you's" with my in-laws' friends there, so I didn't feel like I had to spend much time talking to them at the reception, which was great! I specifically carved out time to spend with my dad and stepmom (we took a walk and had breakfast one morning), I knew my mother would bulldoze her way into the weekend no matter what, but I wanted to make sure I got some quality time with them. They told me later how much they appreciated this. After talking about it with my husband, we didn't carve out alone time for just us, we had a ton of out of town guests we wanted to visit with and we figured we had our whole honeymoon to be alone together (although we did plan to skip the wedding after-party and enjoyed some alone time– talk with your FI about this in advance so you're not fighting about it when you're tired after the reception!).

    My husband went golfing with his favorite people the morning of the wedding, and my sisters-in-law hosted a bridal brunch for me that morning to which I invited my favorite girls, including college and law school friends, close family, and a few other friends. It was really a special time just to get to really talk to and be loved by those girls, especially the ones from far away.

    One of the best pieces of advice a recent wedding graduate gave me was to think about who I wanted around me as I was getting ready– who would be supportive, not make me crazy, and appoint a "bouncer" to keep others away who might try to drop by and visit. My bouncer sister mostly kept my mom and her friends under control and out of my hair, which worked well.By the time the wedding came around, I was just relaxed and happy.

    Good luck!