You've been to more than a few weddings in your lifetime, and you've probably heard far more than your fair share of advice about the obvious wedding pitfalls. But there are a few more subtle wedding miscalculations—we can't really call them disasters—that even the most well-organized, well-meaning brides and grooms can fall prey to.
These are not the kinds of things that ruin a wedding day forever, but they are things that you may find yourself mulling over a few days after the nuptials. It was great, you may find yourself thinking, and it would have been just perfect, if only…
"If only we hadn't stayed until the last guests were climbing into their cars."
Yes, it's true. Even the bride and groom can overstay their welcome. Most polite guests will feel as though they should wait for the two of you to leave before they take off themselves. So to keep them from feeling weird about departing before you do—and to avoid seeing the sad image of the vacant, post-party reception site—leave the boozy dancing, the doling out of floral centerpieces, and the collecting of stray purses to your mother, your friends, or your wedding consultant. Go to your hotel room and relive every moment of the day with each other. Or whatever. Just be sure to leave with a group of your biggest fans cheering in the distance.
"If only we hadn't spent the cocktail hour having our portraits taken."
Yup, you have to have those posed photos. However, there is something disappointing about wasting that post-ceremony joy standing in front of a camera for an hour while your guests are waiting eagerly for the VIPs to arrive.
You have a couple of options. One is to keep the number of portraits very small. Ask your photographer what can be accomplished in half an hour. Be sure that he or she has the portrait site set up before the ceremony, that the backdrop and the lighting are all set. Then, keep things quick. If you have a wedding consultant, she or he can usher the immediate family and wedding party right into the portrait area after the ceremony.
The other, and usually the more efficient, option is to take all or most of the posed photos before the ceremony. Definitely do all the shots that involve only one of you (like the groom with his parents and wedding party, and the bride with hers) before the ceremony. That leaves fewer shots for the photographer to take after the wedding. It also means that you must be ready at least an hour before the ceremony.
It is becoming much more common these days, however, for the bride and groom to drop tradition and do all of their wedding portraits before the wedding ceremony. Brides and grooms who have done this do not report that their wedding ceremony was a letdown in any way. No groom has ever stood at the bottom of the aisle, watching the bride walk toward him, thinking, Oh, that old dress again.
"If only the rehearsal dinner had been a bit different from the wedding."
Have you been to a weekend wedding where the festivities start out with a fabulous rehearsal celebration? We're talking four-course meal, disc jockey, the works.
The next night is the wedding: a great four-course meal and dancing, along with the cake-cutting and a decked-out bride and groom. But there's something a little bit old about this. We all just did almost the same thing yesterday. It was fun, it was elegant. But it was just yesterday.
Lesson: Vary the style of your events. The purpose of the rehearsal is to put all of the close family and friends of the bride and groom at ease with one another. It should leave them psyched for the wedding the next day and make them all feel sort of like distant relatives. If your wedding will be a formal ballroom affair, have a barbecue rehearsal dinner, for example. It may be a catered barbecue party. But guests should show up in shorts and sandals. They should drink colorful drinks with umbrellas and dance to mariachi music or something equally fun—as long as it's different. And if you are having an evening tent-wedding, then your in-laws should throw you a rehearsal dinner at a funky Mexican restaurant or a dude ranch or a similarly offbeat venue.
Sometimes, what's going on is a subtle desire by the groom's parents to show off just a little bit. They might want to throw the wedding, really. They might wish they were the bride's parents. They mean well, because they want to give you something lovely, even if you already have it. But you need to get the message across that you want only one wedding. Help them think of creative rehearsal-dinner ideas that may inspire them. But don't compete with your own party. Your wedding day deserves to shine on its own.
"If only we hadn't had to re-enact every major event for the photographer."
You know this scene. The bride and groom are about to cut their wedding cake. Their hands are entwined on the knife handle, they're looking at each other and giggling, the guests are standing around grinning. Then, a photographer runs over. "Stop," he says. "Put her hand over yours. Look in this direction. Okay, chin up a bit, shoulders closer. Turn the knife a little to the right. Lower your left eyebrow. Perfect. Now smile!" The moment may look great on film, but the magic of the moment is long gone.
Of course, the photographer will need to occasionally request some help or you won't get any reasonable pictures. For example, when cutting the cake, he might shoot several shots of the two of you giggling with each other, and then call for you to look at him for a moment. But if you ask for candids—as many couples do now—you're telling the photographer that you're not expecting "perfect" pictures. You are asking for images that reflect the reality of that day, confident that reality is really quite picturesque enough without all that adjusting, thanks.
"If only we'd had a minute or two together at the wedding reception!"
It's ironic, really. You exchange your vows at the ceremony, completely focused on each other. And then you walk back up the aisle and are whisked away to take a few photos, and then to a wedding reception where a hundred or so guests are eager to talk to you. There are dances with parents, and special toasts from friends. You will sit next to each other to eat, but you won't have a chance for more than a few words. All evening long, you will grab an occasional kiss, exchange a brief expression of appreciation, and then be swept apart again by the tides of your party.
At the end of the night, you will be reunited, of course. But wouldn't it be nice to have spent at least a few minutes in private celebration? These days, more and more wedding consultants are encouraging couples to steal a few minutes after the ceremony, to be alone and happy.
In fact, Jewish tradition dictates that immediately after the ceremony, the couple spend some time very much alone. Savvy brides and grooms of all backgrounds know a good thing when they see it and have adopted the custom themselves.
After the I do's, head off to a quiet room (preferably with a lock on the door so you won't be interrupted by Aunt Jane looking for her purse) at the ceremony site. After about 15 minutes, you can re-emerge to greet your adoring public.
"If only I had prepared a speech or a toast."
Ever been to a wedding where the best man makes a nice toast, and that inspires the maid of honor to make one, too? Then her toast moves the groom to stand up, or maybe the bride does. But he or she doesn't actually have anything prepared, so the speech goes on, and rambles over eight topics, and the jokes fall flat. Not a shining moment.
Always prepare your toast. If you don't plan on toasting each other and your parents and wedding party at the rehearsal, then do so at the wedding. But never, ever wing it.
"If only I hadn't spent the night before the wedding writing out 200 place cards and baking my own wedding cake."
Martha Stewart madness tends to set in early in the wedding plans. You see these fabulous weddings in her magazine and think I could do that! I love to bake, and I own a glue gun. Determined either to save a few bucks or to add that personal touch to your wedding (or both), you take on the enormous project of creating something that you know must be just perfect because you only have one wedding day. The pressure, needless to say, is intense.
Here's the lecture: a wedding cake should only be created by someone who has studied the craft and who has created many other cakes before yours. It should also be created by someone other than a stressed-out bride who is worried about her hair, about the flower arrangements, and about her gown alterations. Wedding cake specialists all have stories of frantic phone calls on the wedding morning in regard to homemade cakes that taste awful, that flopped over, that simply are not working out. And very few bakers can supply a cake on such short notice.
Martha Stewart can go ahead and bake a wedding cake for herself, and she can make it look easy. But you probably can't. You want to arrive at the wedding ceremony serene and lovely, not sweaty and frantic because you couldn't get the fondant to roll properly.