My Advice to Brides

March 18, 2010

Everyone from the stranger in your aerobics class to your family to random people at bridal fairs will try to give you advice throughout your engagement. Take ALL of it with a grain of salt. Everyone’s situation is different, everyone has different price points, everyone’s tastes vary, so here are some tips that worked for ME. If they help you in your planning, awesome. If not, you’ll soon develop your own thoughts!


1) Keep the elements that you CAN control simple. There are a ton of things you have no control over. Like the length of time trying to get a guest list out of the families. Or having RSVPs up until the final week before the event. To simplify things we could control, we didn’t have a bridal party. It meant less expense (bouquets, hotel rooms, gifts, etc.) and less decisions (their attire) and less people to coordinate to get together at a set time or place. Our lack of a wedding party didn’t mean any less support, though. My amazing friend Amanda did SO much for us over our wedding weekend. From helping ceremony setup to helping me get dressed in the morning and about a billion things inbetween. She did it all without complaint and merely because she loves us, not because she had a “title.” Likewise, my sister Patty threw me a shower in Arizona without having a “maid of honor” badge. And my brother-in-law Carl controlled the laptop dj simply because we asked. When people scoffed at my lack of bridesmaids, (“but you haaaaave to have witnesses!!”) I would calmly tell them that our mothers would be signing our marriage certificate and then they’d pause for a second and leave me alone.


2) Stop wasting so much time worrying. I didn’t take this advice at all, but looking back over the last year, if I cut out some of the time worrying about things and just enjoying life, it would be a better use of my time. We ended up having more than enough money in our budget, so all the nights that visions of dollar signs kept me awake were pretty lame. Guests that backed out at the last minute were replaced with random people who weren’t even invited, so no plates were wasted and we weren’t charged extra. I’m not saying DON’T worry at all, but just catch yourself way before the part when you’re crying, or before the stress headaches. It WILL work out. It may not be the way you imagined, but it will work out and be wonderful.


3) Things won’t go as planned. Our reception ended WAY early. Like two hours early. People started leaving without saying goodbye, or leaving to change clothes and I was extremely upset. Thank goodness there are no photos of Bobby and my sister talking me off my self-imposed wedge. What DID happen afterward though is that we got to hit the wig shop before it closed for our fabulous/creepy wig photos, we got extra time for portraits after the reception and the event came across as so “laid back” that our guests complemented us on the lack of planned activities (dancing, etc.) which enabled them to stroll around town, take a nap or just visit with friends for the rest of the afternoon. I feel foolish for crying!


4) Prepare prepare prepare if you’re DIY. I wrote EVERYTHING out that needed to get done for the weekend. Parents and guests received schedules, I sorted reception space tasks into boxes and wrote out how to set up and take down each section and pasted it inside the boxes. Each box was also labeled on the outside about its contents. I didn’t do this so people would read the instructions or cherish a crazy-person’s manic scheduling, I did it so that I knew what to tell people during set up time and could rest easy that I actually told our families about the time for our brief rehearsal. People WILL make fun of you for being so organized and seeming totally overplanned, but nothing got left behind. The horror stories that would freak me OUT from people’s recaps were always along the lines of “I spent two weeks tying bows on ____ and then we forgot them at home.” My gawd. I can think of nothing worse than my DIY time totally wasted. Take ownership of your OWN projects and make sure everyone knows what you’re thinking. If you expect people to read your mind about ceremony music order or where to hang tissue paper balls, you have only yourself to blame for your disappointment. The night before the wedding, I calmly handed someone a box, told them what to do with the contents and before I knew it, everything was up like the vision in my head, almost magical like I had fairies. THANK YOU to our cousins Liz, Sabrina, Dave, Joey, friends Amanda, Kevin, Nancy, Linda and my sister Patty for all their help in setup.


5) Stick to your instincts, you know your wedding better than others. People repeatedly tried to talk me out of making all of our cupcakes. But I knew we couldn’t afford 150 cupcakes in 6 different flavors from a bakery. Plus, I wanted a gluten-free variety for a couple special guests. Once I had a plan together to finish them (I froze them over a few days, you could freeze them up to a month if you have the room), it was pretty painless. And the time spent frosting them with my aunts, mom, sister and Amanda are some of the funniest and fun memories from the entire weekend. It was a way to include others without completely delegating. Plus, I don’t think a bakery could produce something as endearingly tacky as the end product.


6) Look at the places you love as possible venue options. When we started looking at venues, nothing seemed quite right until we really thought about where we love to be. We have so many fond memories of The Hotel Congress that it should have been obvious to start there instead of looking elsewhere. I never understand why people get married at places they want to “completely transform.” If you love your venue, your venue will love you back. Deborah, Elizabeth and the staff at the Copper Room put so much extra effort we didn’t even plan that enhanced the event. Their staff wore cowboy bandanas, our biscuit baskets had vintage linens, the corn pudding was brought to each table in cast iron skillets collected from the staff’s kitchens and Elizabeth brought in her vintage collection of gravy boats. Anywhere else, these extras would have affected our bottom line, but we showed them love and we got it back in spades. Think about where you and your spouse feel “at home” and figure out a way to make it work. You’ll receive more than you expect.


7) If you’re dong something untraditional, just make sure your guests feel special. We were met with little resistance about doing a wedding that was offbeat. Sure, there were controversies that we weren’t getting married in the church, but everyone came around in the end. We made sure that everyone felt a part of the day, no matter how strange they thought it was. I knew if we were going to get married on stage at a rock club with limited seating, the very least we could do was make sure our family would have reserved seats. And if we couldn’t afford an open bar, we could spoil them with candy and cookies and a delicious spread of food. And if they made the trip all the way to Arizona, maybe they’d get a kick out of seeing their response card hung up like art. The little touches do matter if you’re doing them to enhance your guests experience, not so much if you just want things to match or look cute.

8 ) Grab a shoebox and fill it with tools. No one WANTS to be hot-gluing boutonnieres back together the night before their wedding, but it happens. I packed a shoebox full of scissors, glue, tape, glue gun, extra glue, safety pins, sticky tack, wrapping paper, etc. It helped with last-minute fixes because stuff WILL break.


9) Pay for it yourself. This won’t work for everyone, but I am soooooooooooooo happy we did it this way. We not only had complete reign over how to spend our money (more on food, none on booze, way more than expected on invites, etc.) but we learned valuable skills along the way. After spending so much time stashing away money each month, we live leaner and simpler now. We downgraded our cable and plan grocery lists and never see movies for full price. The tricks we learned throughout saving for the wedding empowered us to keep on a limited living budget after the wedding and set us up for a great future as marrieds. It also proved that we are totally capable of saving for a big goal (something we were shocked to learn, after being terrible savers.)


10) But it’s also ok to ask for help in specific areas. We picked a major element for each set of parents to help us financially. By picking something specific, it meant they couldn’t control the flower or food situation, only their part. Bobby’s parents paid for the wedding photos (we paid for the engagement shoot) and they turned out beyond beautiful and wonderful. My parents threw us a big shower and GIANT reception in Indiana for all the relatives and family friends who weren’t able to attend, and they also bought my dress. Bobby’s parents also threw us a very fun BBQ in California a few months after the wedding. Letting parents help with finances won’t diminish what you’re trying to accomplish, but having them pay for EVERYTHING will be an uphill battle to accomplish the event you’re ultimately seeking.

I hope these tips have helped! It feels so strange to be putting a cap on my experience, but now I can move onto bigger, brighter, MARRIED things! 🙂


Leave a Reply