It happened: this chick finally got hitched! After writing about weddings for a few years and planning one for 15 long, stressful months, I am a married woman. So today, fresh from the trenches, I want to share with you the lessons I learned – what I loved about my wedding, what I’d do differently and what surprised the hell out of me.
Plan to spend about 30 percent more money than you think you’ll need (and then know you’ll still spend more than that). When I want to have a good laugh, I pull out the original wedding budget my now wife and I created shortly after we got engaged. We had no clue. And I write about weddings and had been reading bridal magazines for years like it was my job (it is). People who work in the wedding industry are very smart because people who are getting married cannot make rational financial decisions. Things you never thought would matter to you suddenly become huge. My otherwise levelheaded wife actually developed an opinion about which color wood and shape of leg our wedding tables should have. In real life, she is oblivious to these matters, but wedding planning is not real life. Together, we developed a solid argument for why we must have the more expensive tables in the exact right shade of distressed gray and with the pretty carved wooden legs. Here’s a picture of our tables. They were beautiful, but I doubt any of our guests would have noticed if we had gone with the cheaper option.
That is just one example of how I ended up spending almost twice as much as I planned on my wedding. Your wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you want it to be perfect, so blowing the budget becomes very easy. That’s why my advice to anyone planning a wedding is to pad your budget by 30 percent. On the upside, I don’t regret a single penny I spent on my wedding even though it means I’ll be pinching pennies for a few months. Ramen noodles don’t taste so bad when eaten with your true love.
Have some pre-wedding celebrations. I had a glorious time at my wedding. I savored every bite of the delicious food. I shared meaningful conversations with my family and friends and sentimental moments with new wife. I relaxed and soaked up all the love that surrounded me.
Hahahahahahaha. Yeah, right. Here’s what really happened: When the curtains were opened for me to walk down the aisle, I temporarily went completely deaf and partially blind. I spent a month choosing a string quartet to play during my ceremony and another month torturing them with questions about which note they would begin on and what at what tempo the violinist would play. When I walked down the aisle, I didn’t even hear the freaking song. After dinner I actually asked one of my bridesmaids if the string quartet had, in fact, been there. The passed appetizers I had so carefully chosen? I ate one single bite that someone basically shoved into my mouth on my way to the bathroom in between photographs. After our first dance, I didn’t see my wife again until the end of the night. I never finished a single conversation without being pulled into another one or grabbed for a picture. Don’t get me wrong – my wedding was wonderful and I wouldn’t change a thing.
But, a wedding is such a crazy whirlwind. It goes by so fast that you barely have a moment to take it all in. That is why I am a big fan of the pre-wedding celebration. My wife and I had an engagement party, two showers, one bachelorette party each and a big rehearsal dinner. In the year leading up to my wedding, it felt like we were asking our friends and family to celebrate us nearly every other month (we were). But in retrospect, I’m so glad that we had all of those pre-nuptial parties because they gave me more time to catch up with friends and relatives and to actually enjoy the fact that I was getting married – two things I wasn’t able to do much of at my actual wedding. Another unexpected benefit of all of those pre-wedding celebrations is that they gave the most important people in our lives a chance to get to know one another. By the time the big day rolled around, everybody was old pals, which I suspect made the wedding more enjoyable for our guests.
Spend (at least) five minutes alone with your wife. My wife is Jewish, so we had a mostly traditional Jewish wedding ceremony. When we were finalizing the timeline with our wedding planner, she asked if we were going to “Yichud,” a Jewish custom in which the newly married couple spends a few minutes alone together before joining their wedding reception. I have a serious case of FOMO that is incommensurate with my age. So my initial response to the suggestion that I would miss a moment of the party I’d worked so hard to plan was basically, “Hell no.” It’s not that I didn’t want quality time alone with my wife, but I reasoned that we’d have plenty of opportunities for that (i.e., the rest of our lives) and that we’d only have a few precious hours to spend with all of the people we’d invited to our wedding. My planner and my wife ganged up on me and a five-minute Yichud was scheduled. I can’t thank them enough. My wedding was such a flurry of hugs and camera flashes and toasts and constant smiling (see above) that if I hadn’t planned those few minutes alone with my wife, I may not have seen her at all. Even if you’re not Jewish, I highly recommend adopting this one beautiful custom.
Take care of the things that are most important to you sooner rather than later. As you may have gleaned if you’ve ever read this column before is that I was what you might call a “hands-on” bride. I took the business of wedding planning very seriously. For every element, I considered all of my options before carefully selecting the exact right one. This painstaking process usually involved an Excel spreadsheet. When January rolled around and my wedding was mere weeks away, that all changed. I started outsourcing things without first giving detailed instructions. I became uncharacteristically decisive. A few times, I even uttered words I am sure my wife never thought she’d hear come out of my mouth: “You choose.”
The weeks just before a wedding are so chaotic. People are constantly calling or emailing you. There are a million details to finalize, contracts to sign and checks to send. So my advice is to deal with the things that are most important to you at the beginning of the wedding planning process. If you really care about wedding favors, don’t assemble them the week of your wedding. If you want the perfect shoes, buy them a few months in advance. If you’re writing your own vows, don’t procrastinate. The point is, you don’t want to be making important decisions right before your wedding because, trust me, you won’t be thinking clearly. This is me and my wife reading our Ketubah (Jewish wedding contract) during our ceremony. This was my way of incorporating vows into my Jewish wedding. Writing our Ketubah was the most important assignment of my life and I’m so glad I didn’t procrastinate (like I do on all other assignments).
Promise yourself you won’t freak out when something goes wrong. Because something will most certainly go wrong. No matter how much you plan and double check and micromanage, at least one thing will go wrong. It’s like the Murphy’s Law of weddings. The caterer messes up your order, the florist has the wrong address, the DJ is late, someone you care about doesn’t show up, someone you don’t care about gets drunk, someone you barely know says something rude. It’s just inevitable. Like every bride before me, I thought my wedding would be the exception to the rule. I foolishly believed that because I had agonized over every single detail and also hired the world’s most amazing wedding planner that nothing could possibly go wrong. Well, something did. And I let it upset me for a good 30 minutes – which is a short period of time on a normal day, but is a significant chunk of a six-hour wedding. I wish I had planned for something to go wrong at my wedding so that when I did I could just laugh to myself and say, “OK, this is my one thing that will go wrong. Now it’s over.” I wish that I could have those 30 minutes back. But I can’t. Here’s the only thing that can actually ruin your wedding: The person you’re supposed to marry doesn’t show up. So unless that happens, just relax and enjoy your day. I promise that any other mishaps will seem insignificant about 48 hours after your wedding. Here are my amazing bridesmaids helping me get dressed on the big day. They are also the people who kept me calm and happy all day long – even when things didn’t go exactly as planned.
Go on a honeymoon. My wife tells me she likes her wife a lot more than her fiancée. I don’t blame her. I was a lunatic, and planning a wedding didn’t leave us a lot of time for dates or romance. After several months of dedicating our nights and weekends to meeting with wedding vendors, writing thank you notes, managing guest lists and creating seating charts, it was so amazing to get away together – no cell phones, no family drama, no to do lists, no pre-wedding workouts. It was just us, a beach and a never-ending supply of rum cocktails. My wife and I laughed so much on our honeymoon. We had adventures we’ll never forget, and we had 12 uninterrupted days to reconnect. I think that’s a great way to start off a marriage. Weddings are so expensive that most of us don’t have much money leftover for a honeymoon. That is why my advice is to build the cost of your honeymoon into your wedding budget and plan it in advance. So, when you’re deciding between the more expensive orchids or the affordable tea roses, you’ll be more likely to save some cash for your honeymoon.
Marry someone who you’d marry without a wedding. I’ll be the first to admit that weddings are fun. You get to be the center of attention. Everyone you love is in one place. You’re dressed to the nines. There are diamonds! It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of being a bride or a broom. Anyone can catch the wedding bug and convince himself or herself they should tie the knot because their best friend did or because they have the perfect dress in mind. I get it. I loved being a bride. I look at my wedding pictures every day. I may or may not try on my wedding dress every three days. But here’s the thing – even if there was no dream dress, no sparkling diamond ring, no live band playing our special song, no amazing Caribbean honeymoon, I’d still want to be married to my wife. This is her.
Every time that smiling face walks through our back door after work, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I would have married her wearing jeans in a courthouse – and that is how I know I chose the right person. Our beautiful, perfect wedding was just buttercream icing on our delicious red velvet cake.
Just married? What’s your best wedding advice for brides to be?