I’m taking a time-out from describing the monotony of housewife life. And hey, shout out to Martha for her wedding magazines. They have always been my favorite, and her etiquette there is on point. So, since my wedding was pretty kick-ass, I am going to share my best wedding planning advice.
I have being planning imaginary weddings since I was about 12. I have a stack of bridal magazines dating back to 2001 that’s about as tall as I am. I’ve also run a wedding music business for 10 years, which has allowed me to attend and study hundreds of real weddings. I’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly (actually visually ugly). Almost two decades of bridal trends closely followed, closely scrutinized.
My wedding date was basically chosen by my brother. It ended up being the perfect date, so props for him for telling me neither he or his wife could travel in June, July, or August, with their wedding in September, leaving us one long weekend in May to maximize out-of-town travellers. The weekend where any weather is possible, although notoriously poor. But I ran with it. Getting married the day after your birthday, which you share with your husband, made for an epic weekend.
Here’s the most cliché advice ever:
- Give your guests free drinks. We had a “signature drink” that was passed around when guests first arrived (not really our signature, we were offered one extra ingredient to add to the Prosecco), plus wine, plus full open bar all night. Perhaps no one enjoyed this as much as I did.
- Feed your guests food they like. Our bbq buffet was delicious and got everyone fed fast. People raved about the food afterward, except that one guy with the feta allergy I didn’t know about. Can’t please ’em all. I don’t remember the passed hors d’oeuvres (too busy enjoying my signature) but I do remember the cake and cupcakes, and late night buffet of fries, dressing, gravy, and cheese curds. The cheese curds were probably also enjoyed most by me.
- Have awesome live music/ give your guests an enjoyable experience. Having been musicians in our past lives, this was also important to us. Live jazz band at the welcome party, live string quartet for the prelude, live piano and opera singing during the ceremony, and a live dance band for the reception. We cut the things that tend to drag out an experience, like screech-ins, slide shows, and kissing games.
Less cliché, but my top tips on what to do to have an awesome wedding:
- If you’re going to personalize anything, skip the dress hangers, the shot glasses, the cocktail napkins. Personalize your ceremony – the actual act of getting married – so that it’s meaningful to you and your partner. Skip generic readings and generic vows and spend time making the most important part of the day personal.
- We asked guests not to take photos or videos of their own, from any type of device, during the ceremony. This was really important to me. I wanted our team of professionals, literally the best in the biz, to be able to work uninterrupted and unobstructed. Capturing the day like I had asked. It would also let everyone just watch our wedding, be part of the day that matters most and in the actual moment with us. So, dear old uncle, put down your iPad, and enjoy. Almost everyone respected this. Not quite everyone, but few enough that I didn’t transform into bridezilla at the altar.
- Eat alone. No, not by yourself. But just with your spouse. You’re so over the feeling of being on display at that point. (The signature drink will help with that, too.) But you will be hungry, and tired, and tired of talking. So sit just the two of you and eat.
- Have a maid of honour who wears a rain coat with you, and helps you tear down the rented table cloths at the end of the party, and drag out arrangements of branches and peonies during freezing rain in the middle of the night because SAVE THE PEONIES.
- Have a Riley to be your third arm. Who, despite the third wheel and almost-husband jokes, is the best third anything you could have in your life. Someone who can read your mind with one facial expression. Who carries your wedding dress out of the hotel the day after. Saves you from eating dairy the day before. Someone whose intuition and good humour keeps you in good humour.
- Ask people to read at your ceremony who actually read. This matters. Our ceremony was honest and real because they were literate souls who really cared about their readings. Some consulted professional actors, others tested out accents. It was terribly exciting and definitely worth the videography!
But here’s some real, honest advice. The good stuff. The stuff behind the scenes to truly make the day as awesome as mine.
Here’s what not to do to have an awesome wedding:
- Don’t follow traditions that have no meaning to you. Don’t get sucked in. Obviously we cancelled the gross garter search/toss. I didn’t believe in being given away, so I wasn’t. We don’t go to church, so there was no reference to God. I even had *gasp* my brother stand on MY side.
- Don’t make the day miserable for your bridal party, who have dressed themselves and traveled for you already. Remember that you like these people the most. For us, that meant sparing them from the receiving line, from following us around for cheesy posed photos, from fist pumping through an awkward grand entrance, and from having to do the ever-awkward bridal party dance. Just. don’t. do it.
- Don’t have a theme. You’re not at a birthday party. Togas, poodle skirts not required.
- Don’t bore your guests with inside jokes. I learned that both sides of our family were preparing speeches we hadn’t asked to be given. It was handled by people to whom I am forever indebted. Because inside jokes or stories aren’t entertaining for those not part of them, and it’s better when the whole room (/I) can just eat and drink without interruption.
- Don’t just have a best man. Have a Goodman. Mine comes in the form of a 6’2″ sweetheart who checked in with me consistently leading up to the wedding, cheerleading me on from afar. He took charge getting men out the door dressed and pressed. He allowed me to text him all night and all morning reminders of cufflinks and pocket squares. I gave his number to all my vendors because he is a man of military precision and punctuality. We once joked that the two of us could plan and execute a wedding from proposal to vows in just 24 hours #lifedreams.
Here’s how to create drama while planning your wedding:
- Perhaps the most highly debated, contentious part of the guest list: not inviting small children. Sorry kids, today’s not for you. Some day, when you’re bigger and do not cry during once-in-a-lifetime quiet moments, and do not need a high chair or special meals, and do not need to take over a dance floor with your spins and twirls, some day someone else you know will have a wedding and you will get to go it and act bored. It was highly debated, both in front of me and behind me, but people forget small humans can exist on all sides of the family, and our number started growing well into the double digits. Winnebag-no. Which leads me to…
- Remember you’re planning a wedding and not a family reunion. People will always feel they’re entitled to come to your wedding because they can trace back through their bloodline and link themselves to you. They will take interest in you all of a sudden during your engagement, leaving you scratching your head wondering when you last spoke. But you will want people there who know you better. Friends. Colleagues. Teachers. Trivia teams. People you spend your time with, who see you regularly. Wedding invitations do not come with blood tests. It’s okay.
- And ah, yes. The ever infamous “plus one.” We didn’t do them. We stuck to our guns despite the subtle hints and not-so-subtle pleading. We had a tight floor plan, and tight numbers. No strangers allowed is absolutely okay to say on your wedding day.
Here’s how to best prepare yourself for your wedding:
- Stop working out weeks in advance. Do you feel good when exercising regularly and eating healthy? Well, you won’t get to in the weeks immediately leading up to your wedding day, so practice loving your lumpy body, eating processed food, and handling breakouts on your face in advance. I personally gave up exercising 2.5 months beforehand.
- Have a rehearsal. Practice getting married, from start to finish. I felt like I was Maggie Carpenter about to lace up her white runners at my rehearsal. I sweated profusely. I cried. I looked terrified. It was 100% necessary for me to practice getting married. To practice walking while being stared at. (Could have practiced that a little more, I think.) To practice keeping a poker face. To practice acting calm and gracious. These attributes do not come naturally to me.
- Have an officiant you trust. I didn’t want to be married by a stranger. When I look back at wedding photos, I wanted to see the face between mine and the groom’s and not struggle to remember their name. I chose one of my best friends to officiate. He is one of the very few people in my life to always be one step ahead of me, and he was there anticipating every one of my obsessive worries and concerns.
- Have a Kristina. Someone not in your bridal party but there with you. Someone who you trust inherently because they are kind and good and goddamn helpful. Someone who can read a situation quicker than anyone else in it and create the solution before I can verbalize the problem. Someone who is good with names and faces, and making people feel comfortable. Having a Kristina is key. Without one, you are simply sad Meredith.
- Know that while people will say it’s all about you, that it is not. And that’s a good thing. Because too many people staring and doting and constantly checking on you will freak you out. It’s nice to be able to stand in a room and not have to speak. To be able to collect your thoughts because no one is talking to you.
It’s more about people seeing each other for the first time in a long time. Surprise cousins. Surprise haircuts. First time visitors to Newfoundland. Group meals without you. Waking up on your birthday to an empty house. You will appreciate the space. You will appreciate your guests being happy and entertained and occupied. You will want the time to think. Because when they do talk to you, in the precious days before marriage, you will have conversations about how to cook using tinfoil, the worries about the weather forecast, did I know when so-and-so was arriving, where should one park, how is your fiancé’s back. It is so not about you. To the one person who looked at me when she first arrived and said I looked happy and relaxed, I love you. I clung to that for the next four days. (Thanks, Lark.) To the one person who hugged me and said that they were proud of me, I love you. I clung to that for the next 30 hours. (Thanks, Stephanie.) Those moments, as quick and brief as they were, were the most about me leading up to the wedding in the blur that the week had become. And they were all I needed to get through.
- Raid the the miniature section of Shoppers Drug Mart so that you have enough small toothbrushes, deodorants, breath mints, Tums, floss and hair spray to stuff in any sized purse or bag you take with you. This for me became my gym bag, having gone unused for 2.5 months.
Lastly, I can’t decide if this is what to do, or what not to do, but I Googled how to write wedding vows at 2 a.m. on the day of my wedding. Yes, me. I, who typed out guides and itineraries and welcome emails to my guests, waited until the final hours. Even after giving my fiancé a much earlier deadline. And truth be told, it made me focus. Hone in all the crazy emotions from the week. Slow down the rush. Stick to the word count I’d assigned to both of us. Say only what matters. I totally killed it with my vows. They are concise, they are in the now, they are for the future. At 2 a.m. it’s easy to be honest.
I had the best time at my wedding. Despite my husband’s sciatic pain. Despite the unprecedented freezing temperatures. I ate fries and cake and steak, and drank pink Prosecco and gin and red wine with 120 of my favorite people. People say it goes down as one of the best weddings they’ve been to. I stand by my advice and I wouldn’t change a thing. Except my husband’s sciatica. (Edit: Husband)