6 Important Wedding Truths To Remember

Things I have realized over the past several months include the fact that weddings are bonkers. I came to this realization mostly because I’ve been planning my own wedding — which, in turn, led to one of the other things I’ve realized over the past several months: Wedding planning is bonkers, too. Which is why I’ve found that that there are certain truths about weddings it’s worth reminding yourself about when the whole planning thing really starts to get to you. Because it will. No matter how even keeled you normally are, sometimes, it will just make you want to scream. And that’s perfectly OK! The trick is not to let it get in the way of the good stuff. You’re not getting married to torture yourself or your partner, right?

My partner and I have been lucky in that our planning process has actually been quite smooth. Part of this is due to the fact that we’ve got help from professionals; having a teeny tiny wedding freed up enough of our budget that we were able to hire some friends of ours who also happened to be crackerjack wedding planners. And honestly, doing so was one of the single best decisions we’ve ever made — we’re getting married in California, where our families live, and planning a wedding from 3,000 miles away is a lot easier when you’ve got people who seriously know what they’re doing on your side.

Sometimes, though, I’ll catch myself thinking all sorts of weird thoughts I wouldn’t otherwise think, or fielding odd and somewhat offensive comments people wouldn’t otherwise say, if it weren’t for the fact that we’re getting married in a few months. It’s times like these — times when you kind of forget the fact that, yes, this is a thing you want to do, because your partner is fabulous, and so are you, and you are awesome together — that it helps to remember a couple of key things. For me, the following six items are those key things; there are probably more, though, so if you can think of others that are helpful to you, go ahead and add ‘em to the list. You will get through this. And regardless as to whether the day goes perfectly or not, it will be fabulous. Just like you and your partner.

1. It’s Just A Party

This was my biggest takeaway from the only wedding planning book I’ve read (for the curious, it was A Practical Wedding, by Meg Keene of the website of the same name): All a wedding reception really is, is a party. So think of it that way, instead of as a Wedding Reception with big, scary capital letters. What kind of parties do you like going to or throwing? What kind of parties do your friends and family like to go to? Have that kind of party. The point is to celebrate the fact that you, a really awesome person, just got married to your partner, another really awesome person, so use the ways you and your loved ones like to celebrate as your touchstone. There’s no right or wrong way to get your shindig on.

On that note:

2. Just Because Things Are Usually Done A Certain Way Doesn’t Mean You Have To Do Them That Way

Weddings these days are an industry. There’s no denying that fact. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that your wedding has to include all the elements that have become the industry standard; indeed, your wedding doesn’t have to have any of the elements that have become the industry standard. It’s your wedding, and it’s celebrating your marriage, so you and your partner get to have whatever kind of ceremony and/or party you want to have.

Furthermore, if anyone you know — relatives, friends, near-strangers who have suddenly developed an opinion about your wedding even though it has absolutely nothing to do with them — gives you grief for not wearing a white dress, or for having a candy bar instead of a cake, or for otherwise deviating from the cultural norm, you are perfectly within your rights to shut them down. Something like, “Well, it’s a good thing this isn’t your wedding, then!” will probably suffice.

And yet another not unrelated point:

3. What’s Considered “Traditional” Isn’t Really All That Traditional

If anyone starts harping at you for going against tradition, here’s a really excellent response to have in your back pocket: Most of today’s wedding “traditions” are actually extraordinarily recent inventions — meaning they aren’t actually all that traditional to begin with. A Practical Wedding has an entire chapter dedicated to “Battling the Myth of Tradition,” and it is both fascinating and wonderfully useful. Things I learned from it include the fact that the most “traditional” wedding of all isn’t a big, huge, expensive to-do with a grand entrance, a sit-down dinner, a ball room, and a wild dance party (although if that's what you'd like your wedding to be, go for it); it’s a small, mostly DIY ceremony taking place in the home, with each person wearing the best outfit they already own and finishing up with the sharing of some cake that was probably baked by a family member. That’s it. All of the other stuff that we associate with the modern wedding didn’t come along until much later.

The bottom line is this: Wedding traditions are really more like trends than anything else — and like all trends, you can ignore the ones you don’t like and run with the ones you do. It’s totally your call.

(Also, for more fun stuff about the history of American weddings, Meg Keene of A Practical Wedding cites All Dressed in White: The Irresistible Rise of the American Wedding , by Carol Wallace. As soon as I can get a hold of a copy, it’s definitely going on my To Read list.)

4. No One Is Going To Remember The Décor

The most significant wedding I’ve been involved with as an adult (besides my own) was my brother’s wedding. You know what I don’t remember about that wedding? I don’t remember the centerpieces on the tables. I don’t remember what the cake looked like. I don’t remember what color the napkins were. I don’t even remember what was in the bridesmaid bouquets, and I was carrying one of them.

What I do remember is how high tide rolled in right before the ceremony, making the outdoor setting as beautiful as it possibly could have been. I remember how the weather couldn’t have been more perfect as my brother and his wife said their “I dos.” I remember the fact that the weather remained gorgeous throughout cocktail hour and the bridal photo shoot — and then started bucketing down rain literally right after we moved indoors for the reception. I remember how lucky we all felt about that, and I remember the sound of the rain on the glass roof of the building as we celebrated together. I remember my sister-in-law — who is as klutzy as I am — accidentally smashing the toasting flutes during the champagne toast, and I remember everyone having an enormous, good-natured laugh about it, because it was just so her. I remember how fantastically in love my brother and his wife were, and still are today.

This, I imagine, is also what is going to happen at my own wedding. I doubt very much anyone will remember what the place settings looked like, or what the bouquet was made of, or what earrings I wore. What they’ll remember will be how it felt, and the things that happened — which is exactly as it should be. Because a wedding ultimately isn’t made up of things; it’s made up of moments.

5. Only One Thing Actually NEEDS To Happen On Your Wedding Day

And that one thing is, you end up legally married to your partner. That’s it. Everything else is just details. If the marriage license gets signed, then you did what you set out to do. Hoorah! Mission accomplished!

The kicker is that even that is negotiable — you might, for example, choose to have a city hall wedding to get all the legal stuff out of the way months before having a wedding-in-the-standard-sense. If that’s the proverbial boat you’re in, then the wedding is really just a party, because the only thing that’s happening at it is some top-notch celebrating.

Either way, though, if you get married, and you have fun, then the whole thing is a success. It’s as simple as that.

6. Your Wedding is Not Your Marriage

Sure, your wedding is probably going to be the event that occurs right at the beginning of your marriage, legally speaking — but a marriage is so much more than a wedding. A marriage is everything that happened before the wedding, and everything that will happen after it. It’s also everything that happens during the wedding, of course, so yes, it does fit in there somewhere; but what we’re really talking about here is your relationship, and relationships aren’t just one particular day. Relationships are all the days — the big ones, the little ones, and the ones in between.

And those are all worth celebrating. All of them. Every single one.

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