My handsome hubby and I are coming up on our 12th anniversary next month. A dozen years, wow! Recently, we’ve been spending a lot of time with young engaged couples, and they have eagerly asked our advice — not just for marriage — but also for the wedding itself. I’ve had a lot of thoughts rummaging around in my head, thinking about what we did back then that I would change, if I knew then what I know now.
So I thought it would be fun to write about what I would do differently if I could do the wedding over again, and tell my 20-year-old self the wisdom that my 32-year-old mind has accumulated.
So here’s my advice to past-me:
1. It’s only one day.
It’s supposed to be the biggest and greatest day of your life, blah, blah, blah. It’s not. It’s a stressful day full of moving pieces, timetables, lost items, etc. Yes, you are entering a life-changing commitment. Believe me, I do not take that lightly. But I don’t think any celebration is worth going into debt for. And there will be bigger and better days in your life — like becoming a parent, visiting that place on your bucket list that you’ve always dreamed of, retiring together, sending the last kid off to college, and countless other experiences you will have in your lives together. So why start it with a party you can’t afford?! According to theknot.com, the average wedding in 2017 will cost $31,213. If a friend told you they spent that much on a birthday party, you would think they were nuts, right? So why spend it on a wedding?
2. Be careful who you choose to be a part of it.
I was so concerned about ‘even numbers’ and making sure the groomsmen + bridesmaids matched up perfectly. The problem? I didn’t have that many girlfriends, and my husband had a LOT of close guy friends. I ended up with a wedding party that A) wouldn’t even help me get ready for my wedding, so I got dressed and spent most of the day alone and B) 2 of the 4 bridesmaids tried to stop the wedding!
That wouldn’t have happened if I had cared less about what people would think and how things would look.
3. Avoid buying things with “wedding” in the title.
Add the word “wedding” to anything, and the price quadruples. The 60 billion dollar wedding industry in the United States will attest to this fact. I could have saved so much money by getting a nice white dress from a department store, shoes at Payless, decorations from Walmart, and a million other small things I bought because I thought I had to. So many of the traditions we did because we were expected to do them, not because we wanted to do them or because they meant anything to us. I also would have chosen reasonably priced cocktail dresses for the bridesmaids (like, under $40) instead of David’s Bridal dresses ($200), and I would have paid for them myself. I feel sick knowing that I forced people to spend money on my wedding, just because “etiquette dictated that was the custom”.
4. Don’t hire a photographer or DJ.
I absolutely hated our DJ & photographer. Maybe I got a bad batch, but the DJ was cheesey and crass. He played music I hated and he was loud and boisterous. The photographer was unprofessional and overpriced. We could have saved ourselves thousands of dollars and put a playlist of our favorite songs on an ipod. And my favorite photos from the wedding were the ones the guests took with their own cameras and emailed us!
5. Don’t do a long photography session between the ceremony & reception.
I deeply regret this. Not only did it take far too long, but I didn’t even care about those photos! In every wedding album I’ve ever seen, there are countless pictures: the bride and her family… now one with the groom and the bride’s family… now the groom and the groomsmen… how about the bride with grandma… Even with all of these “important” photos, I’ve never seen one displayed in someone’s home. Perhaps one of the bride and groom, but not all of the extra family shots.
On top of all this, some of our guests had to leave the reception early, so we missed seeing them. We actually passed them leaving when we were on the way there, and I was very upset. If we hadn’t made our guests wait around for us while we took meaningless photos, that wouldn’t have happened.
6. Put your foot down.
I was sort of the opposite of a bridezilla — a total pushover. I let the expectations of everyone else involved dictate what the wedding should be like. I wanted a smaller guest list. I didn’t want to wear makeup. I wanted no alcohol. I wanted it to be more romantic and less party. I certainly did not want the getaway car to be decorated with disgusting adult paraphernalia. I would tell young me to put my foot down and forget about making everyone else happy!
Like I said before — this is my own opinion based on my own experience. What mattered (or didn’t) to me may not be the same things that matter to you. Knowing what I know now, I’m convinced I could have my ideal wedding for under $500 ~ instead of the embarrassingly expensive (around $8-10k?) party that was not anything like I wanted.
But you know one thing I wouldn’t change? The groom. He’s pretty amazing. At least I got one thing right!