We just celebrated our one year anniversary! Let me tell you, it still seems so weird to say that. Married life has been mostly the same as pre-married life, but with a few new pieces of pretty jewelry, and a lot of people asking, “How’s married life treating you?”
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.
The number 18 has great significance in Judaism, so without further ado, here are numbers 1-9 of the 18 things I wish I could tell my wedding-planning self…
1. Set the adjectives that will (and won’t!) describe your wedding
One of the very first things you should do in the planning process is to determine what sort of feel you want for your wedding. However, it’s equally important to know what you don’t want. There is not a soul on Earth who would describe my wedding as “elegant,” and that was by design. I didn’t want tears at my wedding; I wanted laughter. I wanted boisterous, not intimate. Silly, not classy. Fun, not fussy.
What you want from your wedding will obviously be unique to you. But once you know the tone you want to set, you’ll have a much easier time making every other decision in the planning process.
2. Wedding planning makes everybody crazy
I don’t know why this is, but it’s a universal truth as far as I can tell. At least one person you thought was levelheaded and reasonable will go completely batshit in the course of planning your wedding. It might be a parent, a close friend, a sibling… it might even be you. You will find yourself bashing your head against a wall over the stupidity and stubbornness of someone you thought would have your back.
Find allies. Find people who will listen to you rant, who will talk you back down from the edge. Find people who will make the popcorn as the spectacle of drama unfolds. And try, as much as possible, to remember that the people who are going batshit are doing so because they care. They want your day to be a success. They may just have a different idea of “success” from yours.
3. Understand the consequences of your decisions
Some of your decisions are going to make people unhappy. If you choose not to invite Great-Aunt Sally, that might cause a lot of bad blood in the family. You can absolutely still choose not to invite Great-Aunt Sally. What you can’t do is complain about the bad blood.
When you make a decision you know will be controversial, understand what the consequences of that decision will be and accept them. If you don’t accept them, make a different decision.
4. Own the process, but delegate the day
It is impossible to do everything yourself on your wedding day. Let me say that again, because it’s important: it is impossible to do everything yourself on your wedding day. No matter how much of a type-A planner you are, no matter how much you hate to give up control, you will have to. You can’t be setting up the flowers, doing your own make-up, playing the music, cooking the food, taking the pictures, and walking down the aisle all at the same time. Unless you’ve got a few doppelgangers hiding in the wings, it’s physically impossible.
Take as much control of the wedding planning process as you can, but when it comes to the day of the wedding, have a trusted team in place to pick up the reins. This team might include your vendors and your coordinator, but might equally include friends and family members. Make sure they understand their jobs, and let them do it.
Also note: “Jobs” include more than you might think. Someone’s job might be to help Grandma up the stairs or to take home the envelope box. You want to offload your brain as much as you can on your wedding day so you can focus on the main event: getting married.
5. Budget extra
Things will cost more than you anticipated. There will be unexpected expenses. You will have no idea what they are until you stumble across them and moan, “Why didn’t I realize the invitations would require double postage?!” or, “What do you mean, framing the ketubah costs $400?!”
Set aside 10% of your budget for the “unknown unknown” expenses, and you will thank yourself later.
6. Everyone takes their tone from you
Throughout the planning process, and especially on wedding day itself, everyone will be looking at you to set the tone for the day. Are you anxious or copacetic? Fretting or calm? If you’re nervous, people will be nervous around you. If you’re stressed, people will pick up on that. If, on the other hand, you’re happy and smiling, people will smile along with you.
You can make a deliberate choice to be happy on your wedding day, no matter what happens, and everyone will follow your lead. Choose happiness.
7. Make sure you have a quiet place to escape
In case no one told you (ha!), weddings can be stressful. No matter how outgoing and extroverted you are, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to be alone at least a few times over the course of the day. Figure out beforehand where you’ll go.
You get extra points if you find “bouncers” (i.e. trusted friends or family members) who will make sure that no one disturbs you while you’re having your private time.
8. If you really want something to happen, recruit ringers
If you’re doing something a little off-the-wall, most people will have no idea what’s going on. Do you want guests to roll a die to get you and your spouse to kiss instead of clinking glasses? Do you want people to burst into “spontaneous” song? Want to get lifted up on a chair during your hora? Want people to blow bubbles, throw streamers, or make arts and crafts for your guest book? Find people before your wedding, and get them to promise to do it — visibly, publicly. Get them to promise to show people what they’re doing, and encourage them to join in. Make sure you include both friends and family members.
Your wedding shenanigans are not something you want to leave to chance, unless you’re willing to accept that they might not happen.
9. A wedding is about the couple, but for the family and friends
This was a lesson that got driven home to me very early in the planning process. Sure, your wedding is about you and your spouse. But it’s for the guests. It’s a chance for people to come together, wish you well, wish each other well, and celebrate. It’s for the two families coming together. It’s for people who may not have seen each other in years getting to reunite for a joyous occasion.
Keep your guests in mind when making your decisions. It’s not your job to make everyone happy, but it is your job to set things up as best you can so that people will be able to relax and have a good time.
Be sure to read Part 2…