In June, our daughter Courtney celebrated her first year of marriage with Adam and roughly a month later, Carl and I toasted to 33 years.
Anniversaries and the summer wedding season has me thinking about what I learned from both experiences. One wedding is fresh in my memory and the other may be fading, I am listing some wisdom and tidbits of what I gleaned from two big days in my life.
- Breathe. I promise you, everything will be alright.
- Remember, there is no such thing as perfection. There is only a perfect experience for you. For the couple and those in attendance, strive for a joyous occasion filled with perfect moments.
Even though Instagram may cause us to believe otherwise, the illusion of perfection keeps others at a distance and this precious day is when you want arms extended and lingering embraces.
- The funny, unplanned or unanticipated moments will be the stories shared for years to come. I wore a tea length dress and during the pre-wedding photos in the church rose garden, my heels literally became golf tees pressed into the grass. I will never forget my dad running to the store for white shoe polish to cover the inch of dirt circling my heels. Or my mom’s faux scolding the groomsmen for eating the majority of the honey roasted peanuts for the reception.
One of Adam’s groomsmen serenaded us with Frank Sinatra songs after dinner and was an unexpected delight. How can I forget my three children dancing together to a favorite song? You can plan EVERY SINGLE DETAIL and CHECK EVERY BOX but the spontaneous moments are the confetti.
- There will always be another wedding. Now I am not suggesting round two for you and your beloved. Perhaps I should say, there will be weddings which come after yours. I recall a few weeks after our wedding, a friend who had been in attendance raving about an amazing wedding she had just witnessed. It’s silly now but it stung as I was still getting birdseed out of my hair! A wedding will never be as special to anyone else but you and your spouse, as it should be. My parents still refer to Carl and my wedding as our wedding. I love this and believe every parent feels this way.
- Don’t get lost in Pinterest. If you can believe, there were only a few bridal magazines when we planned our wedding. I depended on catalogs arriving in the mail to choose invitations, napkins, etc. Now there are endless choices online. It is easy to get lost in the visuals. We know our phones hear us and even when not looking, ads pop up shouting other possibilities. It can definitely create decision overload and fatigue. Settle on what you like and make your special day resemble all of you and not what is pinned on a screen. I guarantee your photos will stand the test of time and not a fad.
- Ask for help. I know my mom had her tribe of friends who lent a hand. I will never forget the friends who walked our venue and dreamed with Courtney and me. Or the ones who drove miles to blow up huge mylar balloons and transformed the bar area without hesitation, marking the celebration. It’s easier for me to help than ask for it. I realized late in the game how much friends want to help even if they aren’t on the guest list.
- Breathe. It will be alright. No, I didn’t forget to edit. If I counted all the sleepless nights during wedding planning, I would have repeated this word instead of rehearsing the what if’s and lamenting the never-ending lists. It all gets done and what doesn’t wasn’t meant to be. It’s truly impossible to forget the most important details.
- You will worry about details which NO ONE will notice. Don’t be consumed with decorating EVERYTHING. For this most recent wedding, our one detail related to plates and glasses, it took up precious real estate in our minds for weeks. On the day,I remember eating on plates, toasting with vessels and being really happy, the once seemingly big deal ceased to exist or matter. If anyone had clucked their tongue at this or any other detail, their attention clearly landed in the wrong place. No cake for them!
- You won’t see or (and in some cases) remember everything.
Be grateful for the professional and amateur photographers. One whispered promise I made myself was to dance a lot at Courtney and Adam’s wedding. They had a very long engagement and we were all ready to kick up our heels, which I did happily. Yet days later, I had no recollection of dancing with Carl. How was that possible? Thankfully, my parents sent us video and sure enough among the footage, I was dancing with handsome Carl. Not to be outdone by the bonus video of my aunt and uncle dancing to “The Cupid Shuffle” while my dad sung along as he filmed. Priceless.
- You may be unable to invite everyone. My parents used to tease me about how many wallet-sized senior pictures I wanted to order when I graduated from high school. Back in the day, we used to exchange photos. It was many years before I could express to them that it wasn’t about having scores of friends. It stemmed from finding the thought unbearable of not having enough if someone asked for one of mine. The guest list was undoubtedly one of the hardest parts of the whole shebang. You don’t realize how many people are in your life until you began to compile the names from so many facets of living.
It could be related to expense, the couple’s wish for a small gathering, the limits of a venue or any number of factors which create a guest list. My advice is to be upfront with loved ones who may feel left out to help alleviate awkward misunderstanding. I wish I had navigated this area better,please learn from my mistakes if this is an area where you might struggle.
- The month, day and year soon to be etched on your life forever may not work for everyone. The people you can’t imagine not being in attendance may not be able to make it work. Adam’s grandparents were not able to fly from Florida to attend. We did the next best thing and a family member live streamed the ceremony and his grandparents gathered their friends and made a celebration from afar. Once you enter into the big day, there may be absences but somehow the collection of celebrants assembled is a tender mercy and gift.
- Pause and ask yourself if (fill in the blank)is necessary. If it’s not, edit or eliminate. Courtney and I dreamed a lot. However, there is also the reality of execution. Neither one of us excels at shooting holes in great ideas. Every so often, I would ask, Do you want to “x”? Can we actually do “x”? Will you regret if we don’t do “x”? Will we feel less stress if we just say great idea, but no? It was a great check-in to decrease the clutter of the litany of possibilities.
- You will never look at a wedding the same again. You will never take for granted the importance of RSVP’ing early and you will find extra doses of joy to be a guest not the main attraction. Count on it.
- It’s all about you and not all about you. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be generous. Be considerate. Be grateful. Be loving. Be aware. Be chill. There are plenty of reality shows which spell out the opposite of the “be’s” I have listed. A couple establishes the tone and the atmosphere absorbs and embodies it.
I could write a list simply of all the ways Courtney and Adam were all of the above. I hope my parents could do the same. People will remember your wedding but I think how you made them feel will be written in indelible ink over their minds and hearts forever.
- The most important piece of advice is to remember there is a marriage at the end of a wedding. Make sure you take time to plan for the years to come as much as for those quick steps down an aisle.
If you are planning a special day, I hope these words are helpful. The most precious aspect of a wedding is the joining of two lives and how love is multiplied by all the extensions from the union. May your wedding memories be filled with joy beyond measure.
- Addendum: After the above words, how could I still have more to add? Don’t forget the mother or father of the groom. It’s easy to be solely focused on the bride and her side of the family. Make sure you include the joining family in your preparations. I have heard it is easy to feel left out on the groom’s side. Make every effort not to let this happen. Everyone is a part of the celebration.
Send updates to one another about plans and the happenings and ask for input and what aspects are important to their family. Err on the side of oversharing!
If you have been on either end of this experience, any words of advice or wisdom you would add? Kindly leave a comment.