There’s a lot of wedding advice floating around the Internet. Problem is, a lot of it is useless fluff dreamed up by a) relatively well-heeled editors contractually obligated to spend their days inventing absurd nonsense to fill pages surrounded by advertisements b) people who’ve never planned a wedding/mistakenly think their very specific experience can be extrapolated. Or both!
Sure, those mason jars wrapped in polka-dotted ribbon are a cute idea on Pinterest, but it’s a good way to wind up sobbing in the middle of your local Michael’s two weeks before the big day. And all that money-saving advice? Yeah, the buffet’s going to save you $10 per person, tops.
Maybe you’re planning to tie the knot at a 50-person backyard barbecue. Or maybe you’re hosting 350 friends, family and business associates to some Gilded Age castle. Whatever. A month out from my own wedding, here are a few pieces of real-talk wedding advice that you can actually use.
1. Maybe pay someone to do that. Are you supremely artistic and experienced in the ways of crafting? Is your great aunt Martha Stewart? Unless the answer to one of these questions is yes, think very carefully about any D.I.Y. projects. Examine your own abilities with a critical eye. For instance, I once tried to complete a “Cosmos manicure” and ended up looking like I’d let a four-year-old paint my nails. Face the music: Despite what Pinterest would have you believe, some of us are just shit at art. And your wedding is probably not the time to learn that lesson. It’ll only be more expensive when you have to replace everything at the last minute.
2. Not everyone gets a date, and that’s fine. Look, lots of us wanted everyone we’ve ever known and loved at the ceremony. But that’s just not feasible unless your daddy is a robber baron. You’ll want to invite as many significant others as possible, of course, and if someone is flying from Shanghai to Cleveland for your reception, you’d better allow them a date. But at some point, it’s time to hitch the caboose to the gravy train, and once you do, stick 100 percent to your guns. Consider preparing an email in advance for anyone who truly does not understand that money doesn’t grow on trees.
3. You are not the Lone Ranger. Perhaps you want to be the Stanley Kubrick of weddings, strictly controlling every single aspect of the entire production. But that way lies The Shining, my friend. When someone graciously offers to help, come up with some very specific detail they’re well-equipped to handle. (If you’ve got it covered or this person is an absolute incompetent, politely decline, but I urge you to consider the offer, even if it’s as simple as logging RSVPs.)
Also, on a more specific note, unless you’re wearing that $100 H&M dress, seriously consider having more than one bridesmaid. If I’d known how much work getting my girdle on was going to be, I’d have a bridal party of eight or nine really strapping gals.
4. Write thank-you notes as gifts come in. Do not get behind, unless you want to spend your honeymoon crafting odes to the lovely Waterford from Aunt Mildred.
5. Be ready to show some backbone. I’m willing to bet that most readers of this blog are very, very committed to not being a power-drunk nightmare-person Bridezilla during their planning process—and that’s great! Never, ever be nasty. But know that it’s perfectly okay to say no, no thanks, not gonna to happen when your florist tries to talk you into expensive hot-pink table overlays.
Now, a corollary: Pick your battles and save your emotional energy for the big stuff. Maybe you hate your cousin’s formal kilt, or your bridesmaid’s spray tan, or the best man’s habit of wearing lime-green socks with dress shoes. For God’s sake, just let it ride. Save your fury in case the limo never shows.
6. All you need is Google Docs. I’ve got a binder, a website, several notebooks and pieces of wedding-related paper lying all over my apartment. But the only tool I really needed to get through this without rending my garments and running screaming into the night was Google Docs. Sure, maybe your dad still hasn’t gotten the hang of the Internet. But that’s what the export to PDF function is for!
7. If you must give favors, give food. Don’t give your guests something they’re just going to throw away. No one in the history of party planning has ever gone wrong with a light snack. Definitely do not D.I.Y. anything. (See above.)
8. Limit your options. I couldn’t have any old thing that flitted into my brain, because I am a reporter and not the third employee of Google. A lot of things were simply out of budget. But honestly? THANK GOD. There are too damn many options out there, and limitations are your friend. The name of the game in wedding planning is eliminating as many possibilities as fast as possible. If you’re pretty sure you don’t want to get married in a barn, put your blinders on and stop looking at barns.
And for the love of God, do not let yourself get bogged down in any single decision. I spent weeks scouring New York City for wedding shoes and a hair comb. My mistake was ever considering more than five options in the first place.
9. Ask (politely!) for discounts. Hey, it can’t hurt.
10. Treat thy bridesmaids as thou would like to be treated. I’m not talking no diet commands and no haircut lectures. That’s table stakes. I mean don’t pick a bridesmaid dress that would look good on you but not them. There are more body types than stars in the sky; maybe give them a choice of five dresses and let each pick her fave. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t match. Don’t ask them to spend a fortune on something they’ll never wear again, and give them some sort of thank you at the end.
11. Stop trying to be so damn unique. Look, weddings are not original. They are a template, a form letter drawn up hundreds of years before we were born. No matter how much money you throw at the planning process, your wedding is not going to be one of a kind. You don’t need a special, hand-crafted symbol of your cosmic love on every escort card. Chill.
12. There is no perfect dress. You’re probably not a paragon, and you’re not marrying one, either. We live in the world of reality, not Platonic ideals. So do yourself a favor and pick a gown that’s beautiful and within budget. Don’t let the dress shopping drag on until the entire experience curdles.
13. Ask yourself: Who actually cares? Agonizing over whether to have a champagne toast, or pay for chiavari chairs, or (god forbid) shell out for peonies? Here’s a question you should seriously ask yourself: Are my guests really going to care? Because this is technically a celebration of you, but REALLY it’s an enormous party that you’re throwing for your friends and family. This is not your fifth birthday party at McDonalds. You are hosting these people that you love. Every decision should come down to whether the guests like it, appreciate it, or notice it at all.
Remind yourself (as others have reminded me) that people care about the dancing, the food and whether a good time was had by all. They don’t care about how much painstaking effort you put into the hand-aged programs and the very firm email you wrote to get the perfect amount of greenery in the centerpieces. You’re better off focusing on the broad strokes that best facilitate the party than bothering overmuch with piddly shit.
14. Have fun. Unless you are Olivia Pope and thrive on details and chaos, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. (Yes, even if your plan is simply to order 25 pizzas and surprise all your buds at a bar, you still have to write the ceremony, write up the invites, etc., etc.) But this is fun! It’s a happy occasion! Go forth and drink until you can’t feel your face! And remember, as long as you’re married at the end of the night, it was a success.