Marriage—as its veterans know well—is the continuous process of getting used to things you hadn’t expected.
Modern weddings force ordinary people to become professional event planners. Couples who have never thrown a dinner party suddenly find themselves wondering whether a flamenco guitarist is “tacky” when compared with a string quartet. What happened to cake and punch on the church lawn?
Every couple wants a memorable celebration, a comfortable day, and a warm afterglow. Not everyone wants to shell out a few thousand dollars for a wedding coordinator. Here are some tips that will make the planning process, and the party, a lot more fun:
Don’t lose sleep over raised eyebrows.
Within reason—and budgetary constraints—have the wedding you want. Say you’d like to have someone make balloon hats, but you’re worried Aunt Myrtle won’t approve. Ten years from now, she’ll barely remember that she attended, but you may still be bummed about your balloon-less wedding.
Assuming you’re not counting on Aunt Myrtle’s estate to put you through graduate school, plan a celebration to suit your tastes. Self-censor ideas that are likely to offend. You want to wear a red dress? Go for it. You’d prefer pizza to chicken medallions? Sure. You’re considering a nudist ceremony? That’s where you wanna rein it in.
Move every deadline up by a week.
Bridal magazines say this will give you more time to relax and visit as friends arrive in town. Actually, it will give you time to rent a tent when the weather turns, buy the groom a new suit when the tailor hems his pant legs three inches too short, and find rooms for fifty guests because the hotel double-booked your room block.
Have a point person.
“Why is it so hot in here?” “Who’s going to tell the bartender to stop serving Uncle Bob?” “The cake fell over—should we call someone?” Don’t spend your wedding day answering these questions. Most wedding consultants offer a reasonable one-day package. If you can afford it, that’s the sanest plan. If not, designate a responsible friend who’s not in the wedding party. That way you can lead the conga line, and he can figure out how to work the thermostat.
Plot a wedding-day schedule.
Figure out an approximate time when you’d like to cut the cake, have the first dance, toss the bouquet, and so on. Write everything down, and ask your point person to keep things on schedule. It’s also helpful to print a timeline for your vendors and bridal party so your maid of honor doesn’t show up half an hour into the pre-ceremony photos.
Don’t forget the photo list.
Your photographer isn’t psychic. Make a note of the photos you can’t live without—you, Grandma, and Mom; a portrait with each of your groomsmen—and go over your list with the photographer. Give the best man a copy, so he can help coordinate. There’s nothing worse than getting your photos back and realizing that the only one you really wanted is missing.
Put guest comfort first.
A toiletry basket for the bathroom is an essential detail. It tells guests that you made an extra effort to be a thoughtful host and makes them comfortable for the duration of the celebration. Include mints, aerosol deodorant, hand cream, bobby pins, hair bands, combs, small bandages for blisters, Q-tips, and anything else that might prove useful. I’d draw the line at condoms, but you’re the one with the open bar.
Give your guests something to do besides watching you. Sparklers, noisemakers, a selection of temporary tattoos, all of these things help guests participate. More importantly, they give people something to talk about besides your drunk Uncle Bob. If kids are invited, set up a small table for them with crayons and paper, or provide a television in a side room where you can screen cartoons.
Arrange to have food waiting in your hotel room.
You threw a $30,000 party, kissed 200 cheeks, danced for hours, and had a few tequila shots with the bridesmaids. You’re gonna need a sandwich. Arrange to have a late-night snack and the next morning’s breakfast waiting at the hotel. You can bring it yourself, have the caterer pack you something, or ask a member of the wedding party to leave takeout in your room.
Give yourselves a day or two to regroup before leaving on your honeymoon.
Talking about your wedding the next day with friends can be one of the best parts of the celebration. Besides, you’ll need some time to collapse in an exhausted heap before you brave the airport.