Advice from an Amateur Bride

I got married a little over two weeks ago now. It was a civil ceremony, kind of a mish-mash of traditional and non-traditional elements, and without a doubt one of the very happiest days of my life. I have photographic evidence of this—I was grinning my head off for the entire day. It was also exhausting, it’s taken about two weeks to recover, and I feel like I’m only now getting enough distance from the event itself to put it into some context.

Lewis (who has elected to be known by his actual name on my blog going forwards, because being called ‘partner’ made him feel uncomfortably like he was being cast as a cowboy) took on an equal share of the planning, which was a huge relief to me. We also didn’t have a huge ceremony; fifty guests for the day, maybe another ten or so in the evening, and the whole thing was held at one venue where they had a team to manage a lot of the logistics. Even so, it was by far the biggest thing we/I had organised, and weddings are widely considered to be kind of a Big Deal, so there was a not insignificant amount of stress associated with it. And then, just when you feel like you’re getting the hang of the wedding planning thing, the event happens and it’s over and you (hopefully?) never do it again! It’s bizarre.

I don’t imagine there’s any advice we could have been given that would have made wedding planning a stress-free experience, but there was some advice that helped, and also some things that we picked up along the way which I wish, in hindsight, we’d known or worked out earlier. So (in case you hadn’t already worked out where I was going with this), in today’s blog post I want to pull some of that advice together, in case it’s useful to anybody else about to embark on this bizarre project.

All the usual caveats apply; marriage is deeply personal and every couple will have their own approach to planning. If you’re having a religious wedding that might limit the flexibility around some things and make some of this irrelevant. If you’re having a tiny four-person wedding, or an enormous four hundred guest event, some of my experience won’t apply. I just hope some of this is useful to somebody, or, at the very least, interesting.

For the Planning

The things that matter to you are, probably, going to be the easiest bits of the planning. The difficult part for us turned out to be the myriad things we didn’t have strong opinions on, because decisions still have to be made about each and every one of those things. We ended up putting off a lot of the decisions we weren’t fussed about until as late as possible, hoping we’d end up finding some feelings one way or another, but I wouldn’t recommend that. If you’re asked about something, and you don’t really care, make a decision on it sooner rather than later. The chances of you regretting any of those choices on the day are almost nil, but you’d be surprised how quickly decision fatigue sets in when you’ve left all these insignificant choices until the week before.

As a kind of part two to that advice, we found real value in looking to tradition for things that we didn’t have a strong opinion on. Is there a formal meal? If so, who sits where? Who makes speeches, and in what order? What’s the order of events in the evening? Weddings are a pretty established phenomenon, and there are a lot of people who’ll be happy enough to tell you how the day “should” look in whatever cultural context you belong to. We were lucky in that the people we worked with at the venue took any alterations to that in their stride—I decided I wanted my bridesmaids to walk down the aisle before me, which is apparently the American way of doing it, but nobody made a thing of it once I’d said that was what I preferred—but if you don’t have a particular desire to buck tradition, that gives you a lot of easy default options.

Delegate Responsibilities

This can apply before and on the day: you’re going to need people who can be in charge of things so you don’t have to manage everything. You need to pick these people carefully though. We had some absolutely fab people on the day who really took over making sure everything ran smoothly, so Lewis and I could focus on chatting with people and enjoying ourselves. In my experience, rather than going for the friends and family who are the most generally organised, you want to go for the people with the greatest emotional investment in your enjoyment of the day—but your mileage may vary.

On the Day

Everything goes so fast. We spent about a year and a half planning our wedding, that’s almost 550 days of planning for an event lasting just one day. Combine that with the fact that there are loads of people there that you want to talk to (I assume, maybe you’re inviting people you hate?) and you can quite easily go the whole day without really seeing the person you’ve just married.

We’d been advised to take some time for just us on the day, so at one point early in the evening Lewis and I went for a little walk, found a park bench to sit on, and just spent ten minutes or so hanging out together and wondering how it was that we’d been allowed to do something as grown-up as get married. In a day full of moments that I loved, this was one of my favourites, and I highly recommend that any newly married couples find a moment to sneak off on their wedding day.

It’s hard to feel like you’ve spent time with everybody you’ve invited, although this is obviously pretty dependent on the number of people you’ve got there. We kept things reasonably compact, but I still felt like there were a bunch of people I didn’t get to talk to as much as I’d have liked. I don’t actually know if there’s a better way to deal with this, I just spent the day frantically flitting from group to group, but I will say that guests at weddings seem pretty understanding of the fact that your time is likely to be spread thin. So just don’t worry about it, I guess?

You’re not supposed to take pictures while the actual register-signing happens, so there are lots of pictures of us laughing at each other while we pretend to sign the register as a photo op.

Photographs and Filming

Some people want to film the whole day. Some people don’t want anything filmed. How much of the day should the photographer be around for? All decisions to be made. We opted for no filming at all when first planning, but literally the day before the wedding suddenly decided we wanted the speeches filmed. My mum dug out a video camera and my maid of honour stepped up to be our camera woman for the speeches, and I’m so glad now that we have those.

Looking back, I’m not sure whether I regret choosing not to have the ceremony filmed. I was worried I would have felt self-conscious, and I wanted everybody there to be able to be in the moment with us rather than worrying about capturing it properly, and I still agree with that reasoning. On the other hand, I kind of wish I could watch us giving our vows, partly because I now don’t remember what the celebrant had us promise before we got to our own bit. I’m sure it was lovely, and I almost cried at one point so I know I was deeply invested in what I was saying, but I’ve retained very little of the ceremony as a clear memory. I couldn’t say whether you should have your ceremony filmed or not, but I think on balance I’d rather have it to watch again if I could.

Good luck!

So, there are a few of my post-wedding thoughts/reflections/pieces of advice. I’d love to hear about different approaches people have taken to their own weddings, or advice they’d offer to others about to start planning. Please, share any tips or favourite memories in the comments!

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