Between roughly the ages of 26 and 36, google calendars light up all speckled like the 4th of July fireworks. Invitations arrive wrapped neatly in twine. Dresses are purchased. Hitchcock-esque Holiday Inns are located. Tears are shed. Confetti is thrown. As we enter our collective salad years (not to be taken literally, obviously, you want that cake) the decade of weddings begins. At the start of this summer, I had lunch with a group of friends, who in the course of conversation, all tried to outdo each other with how many weddings they were going to between June and September. I think the winner had twelve (for the record I had two this summer and they were both absolutely lovely thank you very much). Anyway, I think I do love weddings so much more now that I had one of my own. I appreciate the effort that goes into them, all the ridiculous and beautiful minutia. When I see the bride or groom walking towards their bride or groom, I remember standing outside a door over a year ago, hearing this song start up, holding my dads arm. It takes me back and fills me with wonder that we still all want to do this mad and crazy and totally boots to the wind thing. True love, bbs. It's still where it's at.
Anyway, another beautiful summer of weddings got me thinking about what I wish I'd known when planning mine, so I decided to write ten unsolicited but very much heartfelt pieces of advice for prospective brides and those who love them. Veni, vidi, vici.
1) Brace yourself. I'm going straight to the hard part. At least one close friend or family member, perhaps both, perhaps just one, perhaps several, will completely lose their minds and behave strangely or badly before, during or after your nuptials. It may be as minor as a family tiff over dinner, it may be as serious as losing a friend. This is all part of the process I'm afraid, darlings. You see, weddings aren't just milestones in the lives of the bride and groom, but for your close friends and family too (that commonly heard platitude- "it's your day", nope, not true, more on this to come). With our modern lives no longer mapped out by social seasons- trips to the races or the proms or a weekly unloading of alms, weddings, with their "Save the Dates" and dress codes and gift registries are among what remain. Whether it's a too-small outfit someone bought especially to fit into by that date, an estranged spouse he/she wants to impress or a friend who is suddenly overcome by the fact that they absolutely hate your future husband/wife or just life generally, for a few of your guests, walking through that door, there is something hinging on that wedding that isn't at all to do with you, but is terribly meaningful to them. This is what makes weddings so incredibly beautiful (all that emotional energy! all that expectation! all this freshness and newness and love! weeps!) but also what can make certain people become irrationally emotional and demanding. Also, on a side note, don't expect divorced parents, broken up couples or perennially nutty people to suddenly be on their best behavior. Accommodate them accordingly, it's part of the process. And when someone does become tedious, and someone will, at least one, try not to sweat it. Also cry and drink wine.
2) You will be told as a bride to be variants of two sides of the coin, and they are both wrong. They go like this:
a) The first rule of thought is that your wedding should be filled with 'musts''. You must have a bouquet 'toss'. You must have the rabbi/pastor/Wiccan druid that has married all of your other family members. You must spend 2000 dollars on 'favour' pencils in Pantone colors stamped with your initials (soon to be trodden on during a serious throw down to the Beastie Boys). This is all mental and i encourage you strongly to ignore any pressure. There are no musts. UNLESS, CAVEAT, they are ultimately minor and coming from a person contributing a substantial amount of money to your wedding. You shouldn't be bullied by anyone, but if it's something small, just let it go and do it. Even Mariah Carey has to be told no sometimes.
b)The second thing you're told is that you should just do it your way. Do what you want. IT'S YOUR DAY. This sounds lovely, but the immutable fact is, it's just not your day unless a) you paid for it in it's entirety (go you!) or b) no one else is there- therein lies the joy of eloping. If an elopement isn't for you, you've got to actually think about your guests and tailor your plans to them, and, truly, that doesn't have to be too much of a drag. The reason why they're there is to share in your love and happiness, and that's a beautiful thing, so give them special love and enjoy that planning process. Will all 100 of your wedding guests enjoy a bar that only serves Brooklyn IPA and/or red wine? Does everyone enjoy a mariachi band or techno DJ? Will everyone be keen on camping? If the answer is no, and in these examples it is, it really is, reconsider. Make sure you've got the gin and tonics for your Grandpa, the dependable hip hop classics for the girls to grind to, soft drinks for non-drinkers, a roof over the head and hairdryer to hand for your very indoorsy mother. It's really easy to make everyone happy, whatever your budget- lots to drink, good music, tasty food, a back up in case of rain. If you've planned a birthday party, you can plan a wedding. But think about it like this- if you had a color-themed birthday party four hours away by car with not enough beers, an hour long speech in full sun and only a string quartet, everyone, even if they loved you dearly, would assume you were losing it or just being a bit of a tosser. See what I mean?
3) So many things will go wrong. So many. Flights will be missed. Guests will bail last minute. Flowers will wilt prematurely. The only thing you can intrinsically depend on is that absolutely no one will notice.
4) Tell your vendors it's a party. Only use the word "wedding" if you absolutely have to, because it immediately adds about 20 per cent to the price. I realized this was happening very early in the game and played it accordingly. The guys that strung my string lights claimed to have never seen so many flowers at a bar mitzvah. I smiled wryly and spent the 400 bucks I saved on mani pedis for my bridesmaids. Shabbat Shalom y'all!
5) Make loads of decisions really fast as soon as you get engaged. You need six months to plan a wedding, absolute max. One of my dear friends planned her beautiful wedding in six weeks. All you're doing in that time is procrastinating. We figured out a date, booked our venue and decided on a caterer within a week of being engaged, all three probably the biggest and best decisions we made. The rest was mainly just me wrenching my hair at over-ambitious Pinterest boards and being consistently paranoid I had forgotten something (I hadn't).
6) Real talk: unless you just swapped out your promise ring you are not going to be having sex on your wedding night. You will in the morning. It's FINE. It will also be pretty much the same, just better in the eyes of God, I guess, if you believe in that sort of thing. Or if you spent your formative years in some sort of very strict and austere Catholic school and then I'm guessing it's kind of kinky and awesome.
7) It's a good idea to do the posed photos. When I first got engaged, and was feeling utterly clueless about weddings (I had attended precisely four before my own) I profiled all the cool chicks I knew who were married and asked them what they felt was the best thing they had done. I also asked them, whether, if they could do it again, they might have changed something. Every single person said that either the best thing they had done was getting a great photographer or the worst thing they had done was not getting a good enough one. Guys, I know it's anathema to those who never really thought about weddings before and aren't necessarily into the pomp and ceremony of it (I definitely fell into this category) but the posed shots really matter, because a cheap venue photog/distant mate who is quite arty on Instagram and also a guest (by the way, a person should either be a guest or a vendor- never both) and has had at least four glasses of prosecco by his tenth click of the shutter doesn't know who your best friends are or why it's really important to get a shot of you with your Grandma. One friend confided in me, woefully, that most of her wedding photos consisted of a bunch of photos of her new husband's friends dancing. She'd wanted a carefree unposed vibe and had asked a friend of a friend to do photographs for cheap. That meant she ended up without a single photo that she could put in a frame on the mantelpiece. Whatever the budget, whether you've spent three grand or three hundo or three pints, just take an hour with you and your photographer and your new spouse and your families and besties. You really want those shots. Do them. Do them!
8) Accept that you will end up feeling absolutely mental in the run up to the big day (you will read on smug blogs that certain brides never panic-know that they are either straight up lying or filthy rich with ten wedding planners wearing Britney-in-concert-headsets or both). My own sporadic but terrifying mania manifested itself in obsessively checking the weather, primal screaming in the bathroom and just generally channeling Angie in "Girl, Interrupted". Make sure to apologize profusely to your loving besties who are forced to ride along with you on your one way ticket to cray-town. I'd say you've got 72 hours before it's okay for someone to give you a clout around the head (FYI I'm pretty sure I overstepped this deadline).
9) If the dance floor starts to lag at any point, immediately play "Ignition" by R. Kelly.
10) Here is the secret nobody knows. The wedding, how ever you choose to hold it, is so minor in the grand scheme of things. I crack up now when I think about how seriously and QUIZZICALLY i thought about table settings, like I was Marie bloody Curie staring into a petri dish, rather than a formally carefree but always over anxious 20-something finding herself irrationally stumped by table cloths. It's almost like that thing that I've heard so many new mums say, seemingly nonsensically, fresh from their terrifying and agonizing 72 hour labour, a-flush with love, holding their sweet babes in their arms while sitting casually on a giant bag of frozen peas- "I don't even remember the pain." Suddenly, the wedding's over, and then, duh, you get it. What matters is you got married, and being married is heaven. The joy that you get walking down the aisle? Massive. The joy that you get when your beloved first casually refers to you as his wife in the supermarket checkout line? Just as massive. And it stays that massive. No one tells you that. Except me, just now.