Ah weddings. That word you hear every once in awhile, until you get down on one knee, and suddenly, months later you speak nothing but that word. It becomes an entire language that means “anxiety, expensive” more than “love, bliss”- it soon becomes that hairy ape on your back, pommeling you awake at midnight as you remember the 403,201th tiny tidbit you forgot about.
Well, it wasn’t easy, but we had one hell of an amazing wedding. I can’t take credit for it- that goes to my lovely wife, her parents and my parents way before it goes to me. But it was pretty damn superlative- and now that I’ve been through it, I’d like to help.
I write this as I’m flying back from my honeymoon, still mulling over that special day, and ready to give a few tips on how to weather that two-month-to-two-year epic preparation for the Biggest of Days, and make sure you survive.
One: It will all be a blur. So chill.
You’ve heard it before from your married friends, but I’ll say it again because it bears repeating. The biggest day of your life is actually the biggest blur of your life. If you’re having a somewhat traditional wedding (as in, not entirely eschewing the ceremony-photographs-reception trifecta) you will probably remember three things from your wedding- a lot of flash photography and posing, a lot of handshaking and smiling, and probably some minor dancing. That’s it. Buried in there you might remember glimpses of your first dance, the cake cutting, hell maybe even the “I Do”. But for the most part, you’re about to have such a massive sensory overload, your brain is probably going to max out and jump into auto pilot.
This isn’t to worry you or depress you, its’ only to highlight one fact. The wedding is technically yours to enjoy, but functionally your friends and family’s to enjoy- so don’t sweat the small stuff! Don’t agonize over the playlist for your band or DJ- you won’t hear or remember ninety percent of it! Don’t flip out about the flower arrangements- they will be a swirl of colors on an already overloaded palette. Don’t treat every appetizer in the cocktail hour as if it’s your dinner- you won’t eat almost any! Don’t get mired in the details. Not only is it not worth it, it’s absolutely ridiculous in retrospect.
Two: Book a reception hall yesterday.
I proposed to my wife with a year and a half to our wedding, thinking that we wouldn’t even let it cross our minds for six months or even a year. When she immediately wanted to start looking at reception halls I laughed. When she insisted, I told her she could drag me to one. We weren’t enamoured of the hall, but when we told the guy that we planned to get married on a Saturday in July eighteen months from now, he told us they were all booked! We went to another reception hall and they only had one Saturday available. Maybe this is just the case in New York or in big cities, but my advice to you is- book the hall, because then you can rest easy for a bit. Once the reception hall is settled, the rest starts falling into place. And on a sidenote, don’t fool yourself into thinking that a backyard wedding will save you tons of money- you’ll still probably have to hire caterers, unless you’re having that tiny wedding that so many of us (me included) pine for… until realizing that we’ve invited 300 people.
Three: Decide Beforehand That You and Your Spouse Will Be Inseparable
All of your friends and family lie in wait in one corner. All of your spouses’ are in the other. The temptation to go and say hi or hang out with the people you know is definitely there- but ultimately the wedding is about you and your very significant other. Before the whole shindig begins, promise your spouse that you’ll try to stick together for the entire day. Sure, it’ll result in a lot of awkward handshakes with her third cousins twice removed, but at the end of the day you’ll want to remember hanging out with your spouse as a single unit. In fact, it might be most of what you remember. This is foundational stuff, so create a strong foundation and set the tone for your married life- stick together.
Four: Thou Shalt Not Feel Guilt
All of your favorite people have come from far and away in your honor- and are gathered under one roof. Not only are you excited to see them, you’re probably amped to spend quality time with every single one. Do the math beforehand and realize how impossible that is. You’ll have about five hours to interact with 100-300 people. And you’re not counting the photographs (which take forever), the first dance, the cake cutting, eating dinner, the boquet and garter, mother/son, father/daughter dances… Face it- you’re just not going to have a lot of time. So absolve yourself of guilt beforehand. Everyone understands how busy you are, everyone will forgive you, no one expects to score a lot of quality time with you tonight. This is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life- don’t mire it (or the day after) with unnecessary guilt.
Five: Do a Receiving Line- Meet Everyone Before the Reception
It is unfortunately your job to shake hands with every single person at your wedding, even if it eats up all your time. Don’t let it take up all of the good, quality moments you might have- get it done during the receiving line after the mass! Give everyone your love and thanks before you step into the reception hall- because once you’re there it’s pandemonium, and very easy to get caught up in the flashing lights. You also want to get at least a small taste of the party you worked so hard to put together. If you want to show some love at the reception, make your rounds during the cocktail hour- it’s still informal, and you can make a lot of progress in a little time. The only downside is that you won’t get to taste the pigs in a blanket and lambchops with jelly.
Six: Grooms- Choose Two Things
We’re famously apathetic when it comes to weddings, and you risk breaking your spouse’s heart when she gathers how little you care about the flower arrangements or wedding colors. My advice is for you to choose two things and either care strongly about them, or pretend to care. She’s the bride, so let her create her dream wedding and don’t get in her way. Just decide on two things, (usually one of them is the band/DJ) and play an active role in deciding on them. Tell her that if these two things are satisfied to your liking, everything else is in her court. That way you don’t come off as apathetic, but you also let her have her way. And if she disagrees with one of the two things you’re “adamant” about, let her win. It’s her day, not yours.
Seven: The Registry Is a B*tch- Be Careful
Choosing hundreds of gifts you want sounds like a game show shopping spree, but be warned- it can be an exhausting, arduous process that seems to stop time. And you don’t want to screw it up. The most important thing is managing your multiple registries and not doubling up on the same item. Make sure you didn’t register for a Cuisinart from Macys, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Crate & Barrel. This is made much easier using the internet. Visit each store once or twice and have fun zapping stuff with the registry gun, and if in doubt- zap it. Once you’re way too familiar with every single item stocked at Bed Bath, you can saunter on home and whittle the list down online. And toss on an item for yourself too (unless you’re a chef- then this might indeed be heaven for you).
Eight: Don’t Be Silly, Wrap Your Willy
You have a tux or dress on, and that’s it- no backpack, no hipster messenger bag, no euro fannie pack. There’s also a good chance you’ll be sleeping in a hotel or somewhere special on your wedding night. And there’s a fairly good chance you’ll be getting lucky. Of all the things you have to keep track of, the one you might forget are good old prophylactics. If you or your lovely bride is on the pill, bravo- done deal. However, if not, this is something you don’t want to forget. Unless you’re feeling old school and want to get to conceiving the very moment it becomes kosher, I suggest you slip some shrink wrap into your tux pocket, or the luggage you might bring to the hotel room beforehand. It’s the easiest thing to forget, and I count three friends who conceived their firstborn on their wedding night “because you can’t get pregnant from one night of condomless sex.” Don’t spend your honeymoon arguing over baby names.
Nine: Wait a Few Days Until Your Honeymoon
The morning after a wedding you’ll feel like you’ve been run over by a garbage truck. Don’t freak out- this isn’t the weight of marital life- that’s damn blissful as newlyweds. It’s utter and complete exhaustion of the kind you never imagined. It will hurt to move, it will hurt even more to smile. This is just a testament to the awesomeness you bore witness to the day before. So when planning your honeymoon, give yourself at least two or three days to recover. You don’t want to waste any of your honeymoon exhausted- that’s not why you spend most of it in bed.
Ten: Create a Wedding Website
Avoid unimaginable amounts of hassle by creating a quick and easy WordPress site. Include travel info to the church and reception hall, hotel info, maps to everything, links to your registry, and maybe even some pics or words about your lovely selves. It really doesn’t take very long, and is way better than having hundreds of people calling you asking for directions or where to find your registries.
In conclusion, have a blast, de-stress, and try your damnedest not to transform into Bridezilla (I have yet to see a Groomzilla, but I’ve heard they exist…) It’s your big day- don’t sweat it- everyone’s gathered to see you happy, so let go of the little things and smile.