Weddings are strange things because, when you have one, you sort of become an expert at doing something you’ll (hopefully) never have to do again. Before the wedding, you spend months and months prepping and stressing and learning about the whole wedding process, and then the wedding is over and poof!—you don’t need that knowledge anymore (again, hopefully!). I think this is why people who’ve just gotten married feel the compulsive need to give advice about wedding planning—because their brains are full of random bits of wedding-related information that has no where else to go.
This is my way of announcing that I am here to exorcise my own compulsive need to give wedding advice by passing on my hard-earned wisdom to you, my dear comrades. There is already a ton of useful information about prepping for your wedding out there—from advice about how to shop for a dress to how to plan a whole wedding in one week—but here are a few things I learned during my own wedding saga. If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of advice, it would be this: Chill the hell out. It’ll all be OK. (And then I would kick myself for wasting my one time-traveling opportunity on visiting my pre-wedding self. Why didn’t I go to Woodstock? Or at least visit my 1995 self and tell her to invest in Apple stock? Why?)
1. Don’t get hung up on tradition
If there are certain traditions that don’t mean anything to you, don’t go through with them just because some guests might expect it. Throw them out! My husband and I did not care about having a big wedding cake, so we didn’t have one. Instead, we baked cookies in the weeks leading up to the wedding and froze them until the big day. We saved lots of money, and the cookies were a hit.
2. If there are people you want to invite but aren’t sure you should, invite them
One of the only things I regret about my wedding is that there were certain people whom I wanted to invite but didn’t. I felt insecure about whether they’d want to go or whether the invitation might seem inappropriate. Essentially, I was worried about feeling awkward, so I didn’t go with my gut. When the wedding finally rolled around, I wished I had been braver. (That’s not to say that you should invite every single person you know—that’s stupid expensive—but don’t be shy about inviting the people you want to invite).
3. The wedding will seem insanely expensive, no matter what your budget is
Whether your budget is high or low, somehow, some way, the cost of the wedding will push your limits. This is simply an inescapable fact.
4. The wedding will be cheaper and easier if your venue is a place that frequently hosts weddings
Getting married on a ranch, or at a vineyard, or in your backyard can make for a spectacular and unique wedding. But remember: If your place doesn’t already have a wedding venue, then you have to make one. That means you have to think about such exciting and romantic things as renting tents, and port-o-potties, and a kitchen for your caterer (which you will also have to construct!); renting generators, and lighting, and a dance floor, and a bar, and on and on and on and on. Things get complicated and crazy expensive very fast.
5. Decide what really matters
It’s helpful to divide wedding issues into three categories:
- Absolutely Essential: the wedding license, having an officiant, having bathrooms available for guests
- Pretty Darned Important: good food, good booze, good music, photography
- Not That Important If I Really Think About It: pretty much all the other things.
Being able to put things in perspective can make things just slightly less stressful.
6. Remember that you’re throwing a party, not a state dinner
When planning a wedding, it is so easy to get bogged down in minutia. When you find yourself hysterically crying about centerpieces, remind yourself, nobody cares about the centerpieces. You’re throwing a party, and the most important thing (other than the marriage ceremony, obvs) is that you and your guests have fun. So prioritize the things that make a party fun (good food, decent booze, dance-able music), and try not to worry so much about the décor. If you’re guests are joyfully dancing their asses off all night, that’sthe part they’ll remember the most.