**This is a post written by Meagan Brandt, a good friend of mine.
Dear Future Brides,
We are all know how important weddings are to the bride and are arguably the most important day to date of her young life. Every bride talks about how magical she wants her special day to be, but let’s be honest with ourselves, shall we? Weddings are a bitch. There’s no tip toeing around it. They are stressful and irritating, time consuming and expensive. As a recent bride, I’ve experienced all the joys and pains of wedding planning. I’m thrilled that it happened, but I’m also thrilled that it’s over. Going forward, I can enjoy the fact that Ben and I are married and had an incredible wedding day to kickoff our new life together. Now that the dust has settled, I’ve had some time to reflect on my big day and have realized some hard wedding realities that I believe every future bride should know.
Choosing Your Bridal Party
One of the first things most brides do is to select their bridal party. This can be a fun but stressful exercise in true friendship. You will find out who is really there for you and… who’s not. Enjoy the process but choose wisely!
· Maid of Honor: Other than you, your MOH is your queen bitch. It’s her duty to keep everyone in line, plan your bachelorette party, and keep you calm on your wedding day. She will be your anchor and your lifeline. Don’t let family politics or friend drama make your decision for you. You want to make sure your maid of honor has a cool head and knows you inside and out. Mine was my little sister. She was a rockstar on my wedding day and never faltered. Not once. Make sure your maid of honor is the queen bitch you would trust with your life.
· Bridesmaids: In the past, bridesmaids were called “attendants” because that’s exactly what they did- “attend the bride”. That doesn’t mean they are a gaggle of girl slaves to do your bidding, but weeeellllllll…… Make sure you select girls that will put you first on your big day. Girls that will rise to the occasion and do everything in their power to ensure your wedding day goes smoothly. Girls that won’t cause drama, demand attention, or bring negativity to your bridal party. They don’t all have to like each other, but they all need to be bonded by their mutual love for you. It sounds self-centered, I know, but it’s your day, and they need to understand that. Don’t be afraid to have a smaller bridal party of quality girls who are there for you, over a large conglomeration of divas who want their five minutes in the sun.
· Being in the bridal party is expensive and time consuming. Many bridesmaids focus on their elevated status in the bridal party, rather than on the duty they are there to perform. And believe me, it’s a duty! I’ve been a bridesmaid several times, and while it is a huge honor, I was selected for a reason- to get shit done. It’s also expensive. Be sensitive to these costs and make reasonable choices. Give plenty of notice so your ladies can budget accordingly. Most bridesmaids have to pay for their own dresses, hair, makeup, and shoes. Your bridesmaids are subjected to outfits they would rather not wear in public, and forced to wear hairstyles they would never have chosen for themselves. That’s all part of the deal. Make sure your ladies are ready and able to take on both the responsibility and financial requirements of being a bridesmaid. You are rewarding them with the honor of being a part of your day. Believe me, they can get their revenge when it’s their turn to ask you to be one of their bridesmaids!
· There will be ladies whose feelings are hurt that they were not selected to be a part of the bridal party. If this happens, there are ways you can smooth those ruffled feathers. One idea is to appoint some ladies as event coordinators for the day, or the guest book attendant. These roles also come with a great deal of honor, provide the girls with a purpose in your wedding, and are essential functions for your reception.
Choosing Your Venue
More and more brides are seeking a unique venue to host their wedding. While hotel ballrooms and country clubs are a classic, turnkey choice, there are a variety of other venues that can make your day spectacular.
· My favorite venue would be the Victorian Era bed and breakfast. Ben and I were married in a turn of the century mansion that had been converted to a bed and breakfast. The ambiance was incredible and very romantic!
· A few of my friends have recently gotten married in old barns that have been converted to event centers. This venue allows for a casual, rustic flair that was cost effective and unique.
· While they can be expensive, many museums and historic sites are now offering wedding packages. Imagine getting married next to a piece of American History or a pre-historic T-Rex skeleton!
· Keep in mind, if you choose a location outside of the standard wedding venues, they may not have an in-house caterer or alcohol supplier. You may need to do a bit more leg work to coordinate your vendors, but in the end, it’s definitely worth it! If the budget allows, hire a professional wedding coordinator to do it for you!
Paint Outside the Lines
Some of the best advice I received while planning my wedding, was to stop worrying about tradition. If something felt right to Ben and I, then I should go with it. As a result, I was able to map out a wedding that was unique to our style.
· Consider having a first reveal photo shoot. Traditionally, photos of the bride/groom and wedding party are taken immediately following the ceremony. Guests are shuffled to a cocktail reception for a few hours to kill time until dinner. Meanwhile, the bride and groom are scrambling to get as many photos as possible, without the opportunity to enjoy the fact that they just got married. With a first reveal shoot, photos begin as soon as the bride and groom are ready, usually a few hours before the ceremony. Ben and I had a private moment where we could see each other in our wedding regalia. The photographers captured those moments perfectly and it helped relieve a lot of my nerves before the ceremony. We then completed all of our couple, group, and family photographs well in advance and at our leisure. With this out of the way, we were able to enjoy our entire wedding from start to finish. The only shots the photographers took after the ceremony were candid ones.
· Take a few moments to sneak away with your groom. Weddings, no matter how big or small, can be overwhelming. Ben and I snuck away several times to talk, dance quietly in a dark corner, or stand in front of the AC unit to cool off. We were able to absorb and enjoy the fact that we just joined our lives together.
· Don’t go on your honeymoon right after the wedding! Take a “mini-moon” instead. This was advice given to us by our friends who said that the first three days of their honeymoon was spent unraveling their stress from the wedding. By the time they were able to relax and enjoy their vacation, they had to come back home. Ben and I spent an inexpensive couple of days in Traverse City right after the wedding. It allowed us to relax, enjoy the fact that the wedding was over, and mentally prepare us to return to the real world. We will be taking our true honeymoon in a few months when we can fully enjoy our time in Paris.
Weddings are Expensive
Well… duh! Short of buying a house, your wedding can be the single most expensive endeavor you will pay for in your young life. It’s important to set a budget and stick to it! Avoid taking loans or putting massive amounts on credit cards. You don’t want to be stressing about how you’re going to pay off the wedding, when you’re supposed to be enjoying it. In addition, there are some traps you should definitely avoid falling into when watching that ever so important budget.
· While it’s nice to have a little something to give your guests, don’t spend a ton of money on tchotchkes. Think back, how many of those wedding take-aways do you still have today? Chances are guests will feel the same way about yours. Consider something practical like wine stoppers or candy. Websites like Nice Price Favors offer little gifts that guests will actually use and won’t break the bank.
· Don’t go crazy on personalizing items for the wedding. You can spend a lot of money very quickly to get a cute monogram on your cocktail napkins but think about it, nobody saves a napkin as a keepsake.
· Flowers are pretty but aren’t essential. You can spend thousands on floral centerpieces that no one will remember. Consider single bud vases or candle arrangements instead. Your wallet will thank you.
· When choosing your reception menu, don’t be afraid to limit the options. Often, brides will offer a variety of culinary choices in hopes of satisfying everyone’s pallet and dietary needs. Venues know this and will exploit it for every penny they can. The more options you have, the more expensive the cost per person. Choose two options- a red and a white meat, and then let guests know that special dietary needs are available by request. Most caterers will allow for a vegetarian or allergy free meal on an as-needed basis. Wait until guests request special needs, and go from there. You’ll save yourself a bunch of money and your guests will still eat happy.
· Careful going all out on a wedding cake. Remember- you will be eating this cake and at some point, shoving globs of frosting goodness all over your husband’s face. Extravagant cakes can cost upwards of $1000. Don’t do it! You can have a fabulous cake for a fraction of the price if you are practical. For our cake, we asked our florist to reserve some flowers and make a small floral cake topper. This cost us a less than $50. Then we had our baker whip together some pearlized rose gold frosting, decorate with the flowers, and voila! a stunning cake that tasted amazing and didn’t bust the budget. Fancy colored frosting and a few flowers can feel expensive while being very cost effective.
· Every bride wants to look stunning on her wedding day, and she deserves to! However, you don’t need to buy a couture or designer gown from an expensive boutique. Spending thousands of dollars on a dress you’ll wear one time is an easy way to spend too much . Frankly, most guests won’t know the difference between designer and box store. Bridal shops like David’s Bridal offer stunning dresses and you won’t cross the $1000 barrier. Make sure you love your dress, but remember that looking beautiful on your wedding day is more about the joy in your eyes and the smile you radiate, than the price tag on your gown.
Don’t Be Afraid to have a DIY Wedding
You can save a ton of money if you are bold enough to create some of the details yourself. Better yet, it adds a personal touch that propels your wedding from cookie cutter to memorable.
· Centerpieces are one of the easiest ways to DIY. Consider buying inexpensive vases from a dollar shop and spruce them up with jeweled decals from a craft store. My mom and I made our centerpieces for next to no money, but people raved about how stunning they were. We even have a list of folks who want to borrow them for their future weddings! You don’t need to spend tons of money on flowers to have great centerpieces!
· Create your own wedding programs and dinner menus using Microsoft Word or Publisher. Then take them to a printer and have them professionally printed on nice card stock for cheap! You can spend hundreds using online printing tools or a graphic designer and while these look nice, nobody other than the bride and her family will be saving them. If you don’t have a creative flair, download a template online and go to town using your personal computer. The best part, no one will know you didn’t have these professionally designed!
Don’t Cut Corners on the Essentials
While there are many ways to save a lot of money for your wedding, there are a few areas you absolutely don’t want to skimp on.
· The DJ: Nothing is worse than a poor music selection. Make sure you work with your DJ well in advance to have a hopping playlist. The more people dance at your wedding, the more memorable it will be. Music during dinner is also an added bonus. Make sure your playlist has a healthy mix of modern and classic dance tunes so every guest has something to rock out to. Don’t fall into the trap of having too many party anthems and not a lot of slow songs. You and your guests will appreciate the occasional romantic hymn to cool down to- not to mention it gives you some added smooching time with your new hubby.
· The Photographer: You want to remember your day for the rest of your life and beautifully taken photos are the best way to do it. Hiring a cheap photographer will yield cheap photos. Take the time to research their websites and ask for samples of weddings they have done before. If you do want to save money, you don’t have to buy their wedding albums or a ton of prints. Most quality photographers will offer you the option of a flash drive with your top photos that you can either print yourself or take to be printed at a later date. A team of photographers can be a great way to get lots of photos from a variety of angles without you feeling like you are posing all day. Depending on the photographer, it may not cost much more to have their assistant with them.
· The Invitations: I tried to be a fiscally responsible bride and make my own invitations. Ultimately, I failed. It ended up costing almost as much in ink and more in frustration. If you don’t want to explode your budget on invites, consider a happy medium between DIY and professional design. Wedding Paper Divas.com is a great way to pick from thousands of templates in a variety of colors to make unique, personalized invitations that will wow. I tried Wedding Paper Divas from a recommendation from my neighbor. The invitations were stunning! I saved some money by ordering only the invites and then adding them to fancy envelopes I ordered wholesale from a printer. The end result was semi-DIY with a personal yet fabulous flair!
· The Bridal Party Gifts: Your bridal party has spent some serious time and money to be a part of your day. Make sure you reward them accordingly. Etsy can be a great website to get unique, high quality gifts for these special people. I ordered real satin robes with my bridesmaids’ initials, covered the cost of their jewelry, and even gave them bottles of wine. Thoughtful gifts can go a long way to show how much you appreciate your bridal party.
Some Rookie Mistakes to Avoid
While planning my wedding, I made several rookie mistakes that I wish I would have been warned about in advance.
· Hiring family or friends to provide services to the wedding can be a major headache. God bless our loved ones who offer to help but arguably this can cause more problems than they’re worth. It’s harder to be direct with those we care about. Plus, being picky with family can ultimately make you look like a bridezilla. If you have a family member or friend you trust to follow your instructions to a “T”, then go for it. Ben and I lucked out with his uncle serving as our DJ but this is a rare scenario. Let your loved ones know that you greatly appreciate their offer but would rather have them enjoy themselves at the wedding, than work during it.
· Don’t try to make your own bouquets or elaborate floral centerpieces. While DIY projects are a great way to save money, going all out with floral arrangements (when you’re not a florist) can be disastrous. We ordered our flowers from a wholesaler and when they arrived three days before the wedding, were wilted and ruined. I had to scramble to find new flowers. I could have saved a lot of heartache if I had opted out of the cheap route.
· If you are planning a destination wedding, make sure you have enough room blocks well in advance. Consider having two to three hotel options blocked to suit everyone’s budget. Provide this information to guests in your invitation. Nothing is more stressful to a bride a week before the wedding than having guests call her to ask where they should stay.
· Make sure to involve your family and friends in the planning. Getting their buy-in before your special day is critical and will dramatically decrease your stress the day of. Ben and I planned and paid for everything ourselves, but the day of the wedding, it was up to our friends and family to make sure our plans went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, they didn’t know our plans and had to constantly check in with us, almost right until I had to walk down the aisle! It was stressful for everyone involved, although we were able to have a good laugh about it afterwards.
Bride vs. Bridezilla
A recent icon of modern weddings is the Bridezilla. Some brides wear this designation as a badge of honor, while others avoid this stereotype like the plague. Guests look down on bridezillas and the media pokes fun at them. The truth of the matter is, there is a vast difference between a nervous bride and a bridezilla. You won’t act like yourself, no matter what you say. Embrace it. However, you can own the image you present on your wedding day by following a few tips.
· You can be particular about the details, and even picky. It’s your day. Dammit, it’s the most important day of your life so far! Don’t be afraid to throw your weight around to get what you want, just make sure you are humane about it. Wanting a perfect wedding, doesn’t make you a bridezilla by any stretch of the imagination.
· If something isn’t the way you want it, say something! We are so paranoid to be labeled a bridezilla that many brides stay quiet and come to regret it later. It’s your day! I can’t emphasize that enough. Thank goodness I had my sister to remind me of this fact. My hairstylist originally did my hair in a way I didn’t love, but I was too afraid to say anything. My sister whipped me into shape and told me to speak up. My stylist wasn’t offended, in fact she was relieved, and did my hair in a way I did love. Remember to ask for what you want but don’t demand it.
· Never call people names, make personal attacks, or get violent. (I assume this last point is probably a no brainer for most ladies but I’m from Detroit and girls can get pretty crazy there!) You can be upset, you can get frustrated, but don’t take it out on the people who are there to support you.
· It might be a good idea to prep your bridesmaids and groom for a possible freak out. You have no idea how stressed you will be until your big day actually arrives. No matter how calm you are normally, no matter how much you have mentally prepared yourself, you will inevitably have a moment… or two…. or three…. I prepped my ladies and future husband that I wouldn’t be myself in the days leading up to the wedding. I asked them for their patience and support, and promised I would apologize afterwards. This conversation did wonders and they were all very understanding when I did eventually morph into a schizophrenic witch lady.
Haters’ Gonna Hate
Every bride I’ve ever spoken to has expressed frustration over the negative comments people have made either during or after her wedding day. This is normal. It happens. And it’s awful. But it will happen, so be prepared.
· If your wedding is a destination wedding or requires folks to stay overnight, you will have people complain about the cost or the distance. All you can do is ensure you have a reasonable hotel block reserved and clear directions to the venue. If you choose to get married in a location far from your home base, expect that many people you would love to be at your wedding, may not attend. Don’t assume it’s because they don’t care. They do. But it may not be the right financial decision for them. For my wedding, our guests had a 9 hour drive and I listened to folks complain for months about how “inconvenient” my wedding was for them. Finally, I had enough. I shared that I would love for them to attend, but if they couldn’t, I would understand. The only required attendees were Ben, the minister, and I, and I would greatly appreciate them not clouding my excitement by hearing them complain about my special day. Gently remind guests that the day is about you and your husband. Where you choose to get married is your business. They can keep their bitching to themselves.
· No matter how you behave on your wedding day, there will be people who say you were a bridezilla or you were “FREAKING out, man!”. They can go to hell. Seriously. While most aren’t being malicious, it still hurts all the same. Most of the time, these people will be female, unmarried, and future prospects of marriage a long way off. They have no concept of the amount of planning that goes into a wedding, the emotions invested in having it go off without a hitch, or the stress that occurs the day of the wedding. They are clueless commentators and we can only feel sorry that they will have to wait a while until they can have an amazing day like yours.
· Inevitably, there will be ladies who make comments about what they will do differently during their wedding. They may share what they didn’t like about yours and how theirs will be soooooo much less stressful. Good for them. Please refer to the comment above.
Everyone talks about how things will go wrong with the wedding and how they’re no big deal… until they actually happen to you on the day of your wedding. I don’t have enough space to write about all the things that went wrong but the highlights include: a groomsman’s tuxedo was sent to the wrong state, the flowers were ruined days before the wedding, our wedding cake took a nose dive halfway through dinner, three hair stylists cancelled on me, my mother in law was admitted to the emergency room right before the rehearsal, I completely forgot to have champagne ordered for a toast, I tripped walking up to the altar, it was so hot my makeup started melting, and the list goes on and on…. Here are some tips to weather the inevitable mishaps that will occur on your big day.
· Everyone will tell you that no one will know if something doesn’t go right- and that’s true. But let’s face it, you will know and sometimes that’s all that matters. As you find things going wrong, ask yourself, will this ruin my day, and I mean actually ruin my day? If not, roll with the punches. My family kept making changes to reception seating, and it drove me nuts! However, it turned out beautiful even if it wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to be.
· If you need to freak out, do it. I’m normally a pretty laid back person but the day of wedding, I turned into a whole new monster. Trying to remain calm only made it worse, so I allowed myself some moments to panic. These moments were private with just my sister and I huddled in a bathroom with a bottle of moscato, but they definitely helped. There’s no shame in it. Embrace the freak out!
· Even if there are mistakes made that guests will notice, these mishaps only make your wedding more memorable. Truly! Our venue, as wonderful as it was, forgot to put the beer on ice. It was a 94 degree day and the beer was warm as urine. Our guests thought it was hilarious and began putting their beer in glasses of ice. They joked that it was the civilized way to enjoy a brewski. Folks will remember this negative aspect of our wedding in a positive light!
· Mother Nature is a bitch. Pure and simple. I’ve wanted an outdoor wedding since I was a little girl. The day of our wedding, we had an epic thunderstorm. I prayed with every fiber of my bridal being for the weather to clear and lo! it did. By the time of our ceremony, the sun was shining brightly, the ground had dried, and birds were singing beautifully. The only problem was it was now 94 degrees and 90% humidity. To make matters even worse, the air conditioning in the reception hall died. Mother Nature must have had a divorce at some point in her life, because she seems bound and determined to mess with brides on their special day. Be prepared for her jealously! Have a Plan B and if possible, a Plan C for inclement weather. For my wedding, we ended up spending most of our time on the rooftop and on the patio. It ended up being extremely romantic and memorable, and much better than being cramped indoors for the reception.
· Just remember to find the humor in these mishaps. It may be hard while they are happening, but afterwards, laugh about it. If you do, it will help you to focus on the positives of your big day, rather than on the things that went wrong.
Remember that it’s all about the marriage, not the wedding. Details are just that- details. They are the punctuation marks on the beautiful poem that is your new life with your new husband. Wedding mistakes and drama will not make or break your marriage; how you laugh and triumph over them will. It will set a precedence for how the two of you will weather greater issues in the future. The best advice I can give is to enjoy your day. It will be over before you know it. Laugh, love, and celebrate this amazing journey you are about to embark on. I wish all of you future brides the beautiful wedding of your dreams, but more importantly, a lifetime of happiness with your spouse.