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.
- 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.