So, surviving a wedding is hard enough as a guest, but Seraphic has that covered.
Surviving your own wedding? Let’s just say we now understand why second weddings are generally small, tasteful, and low-fuss. The usual hullabaloo is barely worth putting up with once.
Nevertheless, Laura and Brigid made it through, as have countless other women in our social circle and in generations before us. Here are the tips that helped us.
15. Remember that good taste, etiquette, and must-haves are all culturally determined.
The ceremony hasn’t changed in a few centuries, but expectations for attire and the reception vary greatly from one generation to the next. In your grandma’s day, a normal wedding for the middle and lower classes involved cake & punch in the church hall wearing your best dress (which you’d wear again). Etiquette is often presented as “What Has Always Been And Must Always Be”, but that’s not accurate.
The most important thing is to get married and to thank your guests for sharing the day with you. If you can provide a full meal or dancing, that’s lovely. Light refreshments and a time for sharing are more than appropriate as well. And there’s nothing wrong with following the customs of your family today. Just don’t put pressure on yourself about it—especially if you and your fiancé don’t share the same traditions.
14. Do the best you can, and then let it go.
Once you’ve bought your dress, stop shopping. Once you’ve booked a venue, stop browsing. Once you’ve had your wedding, delete the Pinterest boards. The goal isn’t perfection. The goal is good-enough. Once you’ve made a decision, stop trying to optimize it, and move forward.
13. Find someone to talk to about changes relating to marriage.
By which we mean: shared finances, loss of independence, and also sex. A kind, mild-mannered missionary took one bride aside and said, “I wish someone had said this to me before my wedding. Sex doesn’t have to be amazing at first. And if it’s not, call me.” A little awkward to say out loud, but so comforting to hear before a big change.
Also, no matter how regular your cycle used to be, stress has sucky side effects, so you may want to pick up a pretty pair of these.
12. Share the work.
Wedding planning is a great opportunity to practice sharing a life, because a lot of those things will show up in everyday married life. Too long to-do lists? Check. Competing priorities? Check. Limited budget? Check. Opinionated families? Check. It’s good to learn how to be a team. Also, it’s a lot of work, and it shouldn’t fall on one person’s shoulders. Set your priorities and principles together, then divide the work based on skill and availability.
Chances are, you are not the only person to get married in your social circle. Especially since your social circle can now include strangers on the internet. (Hi.) Laura asked women who had 2 or 3 married daughters what their tricks were.
Things people may tell you:
Mary’s daughter just got married and she has 23 cute vases she’s happy to loan out. ABC church has a $X hall rental fee but they get a discount with these caterers. Costco has cheap, tasty sheet cakes. You can totally rent wedding dresses. This florist will help you DIY stuff at a great price. Mention ___ and you’ll get a referral discount. Etc.
10. Use modern resources.
9. Decide what the priorities are.
For Laura & Gabe: photographer, food (as in, how to have amazing food on a budget), and hospitality for our families who both traveled a long way. For Brigid & Anthony: photography, having everything at the church, and that all the guests felt loved.
This means you also know what the priorities are not. Brigid got a cheap dress and felt pretty anyway. The photographer was stellar, but they only booked her for 4 hours. Laura’s table arrangements were decided the Thursday before and she loved them. Both moms made great desserts and cookies and there was no fancy cake. There was not a display of childhood photos or family memories, and the cake topper was ordered last minute from the florist.
Not everything has to be perfect. Not everything can be.
8. When you get stressed out, focus on one thing you’re excited about.
For Laura, it was the flower girls and the music. Seeing the smiles on four girls ecstatic to be in your wedding is super uplifting. And when your groom does stellar arrangements for an invite-only male choir — yeah, we were brought to tears during the rehearsals. Some days all Brigid liked was her shoes & the groom. Eventually she decided she couldn’t elope because she wanted to hear the choir. Wanting to elope is normal, though you do have to get married in an Orthodox church, and Vegas doesn’t have any Orthodox drive-thrus. (How would you do the Dance of Isaiah in a drive-thru?)
7. It isn’t all about you.
It’s not your day. That is a flat lie spread by people trying to sell you things. It’s a day for your families and communities to send you off into matrimony, so you’re pretty important in this process, but it is not Your Day. One priest said, “The wedding is really for the moms, so they can celebrate instead of cry.”
Your families will probably have some sort of stressful response to your nuptials, whether it’s demands, criticism, freak-outs, or excruciating helpfulness. You love them and they love you, weddings are stressful, and people often respond badly to stress. Which will create more stress. All of that stress will land on you and the groom.
Be gentle with yourselves and generous with your loved ones.
6. This is not the Single Most Important Day. It doesn’t have to be the Most Perfect Day Ever.
It’s not a production or a show. It’s a wedding.
Your wedding matters. Your sanity, your health, your spiritual life, and your relationships matter more. You don’t have to make this one day perfect. Most of us can’t make a random Tuesday perfect, add 200 people and a big price tag on top and—forget it, too much pressure. Perfection is not a goal worth striving for.
There will be other fancy events to host, complete with paper invitations & floral centerpieces if you’d like. There will be other beautiful dresses to wear. The wedding matters, but it’s not your only chance to enjoy these things.
5. Ask for help.
Your community loves you. Your wedding is not a burden or an imposition. It’s okay to ask for help. People may say no, and that’s okay too, but in general it’s safe to ask. Especially feel free to reach out to your bridesmaids & groomsmen, your families, and your spiritual support network. They love you.
4. If it’s appearance-related, it doesn’t matter enough to lose sleep over.
This we can guarantee: if it’s about how the tables look, or how the flowers turn out, or even about how you look walking down the aisle, it is not worth agonizing over. How things look is special, but it’s not important. And it will absolutely look dated in three years, much less thirty. Timelessness is a myth, so let your wedding reflect what’s happening now. You are who you are. You are alive and getting married today. That’s worth capturing.
3. Decide in advance what’s worth feeling disappointed over.
As pre-wedding Brigid put it, “I just want the guests to be comfortable. I want people to be happy. (I almost said “I want people to be happy and to leave me alone,” but that’s stress talking.) I would be very upset if we ran out of food. I would be very upset if people complained all night. The centerpieces…just don’t explode or catch on fire and it’ll be fine. I will be upset if I don’t feel pretty, or if anybody makes insulting comments about my appearance, or if people make suggestive comments about the wedding night. I will not be upset if the flowers aren’t quite the varieties chosen, or quite the right feel. I will be upset if someone doesn’t listen to what we said we wanted, but not if there’s a mistake made. If the cake falls, or a kid steals a chunk too early, or the shepherd’s pie is dry, or someone makes an awkward-but-loving toast…it’s okay. As long as everyone feels loved, it’ll all be okay.”
2. Remember that this is reality.
Things will go wrong. This isn’t a movie, a fairy tale, or a stylized inspiration blog post. But good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, you will be married at the end of it. Remember, as things go awry (the timeline gets delayed, someone faints in the heat, the wrong color dance floor gets left by the previous night’s party, a homeless guy wants to be in the posed photos), that this is real life. And in real life, you are marrying the one you love, the one you trust and cherish enough to work out your salvation together. That’s pretty great.
1. You only have to do it once.
And then you get to keep him forever. Hold on to that thought. Hold on to it tight, and make sure this is the guy that you want to stress out with for the rest of your life. It’ll keep you connected to what’s important, and it will prevent any (okay, most) 2am breakdowns over invitation fonts or how-will-I-pay-for___.
Congratulations & best wishes!