Wedding guests are like elephants—they never forget.

Last month I did a column about what I thought were good and bad ways to save money on a wedding, and the responses (here and on my site) were as varied as they should be—clearly everyone has different priorities. For example, some people thought the ideas I hated (like a foam-rubber wedding cake) were perfectly reasonable. And some thought the things I would never give up at my own wedding (like fresh flowers) were a ridiculous extravagance.

But there was one comment in particular that really got me thinking:

"My husband's cousin did the 'fake cake' thing at her wedding. There was one real layer in the elaborately decorated tower of Styrofoam, and that was served to the bridal party. Everyone else got tiny squares of what was obviously cheap grocery store sheet cake with plain frosting out of a can. They bothered to rent out a museum and hire a string quartet, but cheaped out with the tacky Styrofoam cake—and guess what people talk about when her wedding comes up in conversation?"

Reading that comment was a revelation. Up until that moment it had never really occurred to me that you aren't just creating your own memories when you plan a wedding. So you may fondly recall the moment you and your new husband cut into that layer of real cake, but all your guests are going to remember is that you're a tacky cheap-ass who served them supermarket sheet cake while collecting their checks. Wedding guests are like elephants—they never forget.

I've been to a lot of weddings. I've been in the bridal parties of a few. Hell, I've even had a couple. And when I look back on them all, some experiences immediately come to mind as being truly exceptional. To a one, those memories were created by brides who did grand things for the people they love.

And I'm not talking about spending money. It doesn't matter what favors are on the tables if you never stop to say hello to your guests; and your bridesmaids won't care about Tiffany key chains if you've been on full-throttle Midol alert for six weeks. I'm talking about thinking about others, and doing meaningful things to ensure lasting memories for everyone. It's a concept that's hard to keep in mind when everyone keeps insisting that it's "all about you."

As an example, one bride I knew did something very generous for her bridesmaids, and it didn't cost her a thing: She chose a simple black and white color scheme, and allowed her attendants to buy little black dresses of their own choosing. Since the color scheme was so classic, uniformity of style wasn't an issue. Each bridesmaid was able to get a dress she felt good in and could wear again and again. And when was the last time you saw a wedding party in which all the women clearly felt beautiful?

As much as I appreciated that gesture—and the fact that I got to wear sleeves—there's one wedding memory that I treasure more than any other, courtesy of the most exceptional bride I've ever known.

When I was 10 years old, my eldest sister got married. I was extremely excited because I'd never been to a wedding—not to mention the fact that my sister, who really was my idol, had given me the honor of being a bridesmaid.

April Winchell
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