The bride is the queen bee of her big day, right? Tell that to the the brides-to-be who have to deal with the nitpickers. A mother-of-the-bride who gives every dress her daughter loves the stink eye. An aunt who demands that the wedding vows not be said until 3 p.m. so she doesn’t have to drive in the city in the a.m. The bridesmaid who says she simply can’t wear purple, which happens to be the bride’s favorite color and the dominant color in the wedding color scheme.
Have you experienced it yet? The spoken or unspoken criticism of the decisions a bride-to-be will make while planning her wedding often come as a surprise because she has been told over and over that it’s her day and she probably expects her relatives and loved ones to be polite. *snort* One saying that always makes us laugh is “Weddings bring out the worst in people.” It’s shocking, but it’s often true. Because weddings are such a public affair, it’s not uncommon for those close to the bride- and groom-to-be to assume that their input is welcome, even when not specifically requested or when it’s clear that the couple just wants to share the fun of planning, not have their choices analyzed.
It probably won’t surprise you to read that when brides ask us questions, we’re happy to answer them, but when brides come to us to share what they’re excited about, we say it’s beautiful even when it doesn’t float our boats. Because you know what? It’s not our wedding.
Here’s the truth: No matter what wedding dress you pick or what wedding jewelry you wear on the big day… no matter how you do your hair or what shoes are on your feet as you walk down the aisle, at least one wedding guest, if not more than one, will cringe inwardly at your choices. We hope they do their cringing inwardly, anyway. Someone is going to think your reception chicken is rubbery and they’re going to wonder where you hid the top shelf liquor. While the majority of guests will love your wedding favors – or the fact that you opted not to give out favors – but a few will either hate your wedding favors or think their absence is sign of stinginess.
Whatever. It’s not a reflection of your taste as a bride or the quality of your venue or how beautiful or tasteful your bridal jewelry set is. Really, it’s not. Everyone is a critic, even if they never actually vocally critique your choices. And if they do? The best response is simply to brush it off the way you’d brush off any other casual rudeness from someone close to you. You don’t have to like it, but frankly, acknowledging it gives the critic more power than they deserve. It is, after all, your wedding – and if they don’t care for your choices, they can decline, with or without regrets.
So many bridal guides and wedding planning resources end up feeling more like shopping how-tos – essentially Lucky magazine for the engaged set. Right from the start, wedding planning is framed as being all about what you can buy. Wedding dress shopping! Shopping for a venue! And we’ll admit we’re a little guilty of this cardinal wedding planning sin ourselves. Pearl wedding jewelry? Bridal clutch? Why not?!
But the fact is – and you’ll never hear us disagree with it – that the main matrimonial must-haves for any wedding are the two people saying the vows and in most states, an officiant and witnesses. We say in most states because in a few, couples can act as their own officiants, and in a few others, the officiant is the witness. If you’re having wedding guests, refreshments also fall into the must-have category. Everything else is just pretty gravy. And we do love gravy!
Fact: coordinating table linens at the reception are not a must-have. Matching wedding rings are not a must-have. A sit-down dinner for 100+ wedding guests is not a must-have. Bridesmaids in matching bridesmaids dresses are not a must-have. Wedding favors? Nope. A bridal bouquet? Nope. The father-of-the-bride walking his daughter down the aisle? A mother-son dance? Flowers on the tables? No, no, and nope.
The point is that when you, as you’re planning a wedding, ask yourself “Do I really need…?”, the answer is probably also nope. One way to maximize your budget or just minimize complexity is to prioritize, and when you find yourself asking “Do I really need…? you have just identified areas where you, as the bride-to-be, can do just that. Don’t assume that just because every wedding you’ve ever been to has featured a wedding DJ, a tiered cake, and tulle-wrapped candies that you need to shell out for those things. Conversely, don’t assume that because NO wedding you’ve ever been to has had X, Y, or Z that you can’t.
Like we said, there are very few true must-haves in the wedding planning world. Once you have those squared away, everything else is up to you.
A USABride fan who called herself ChildfreeBee wrote in to ask this question:
We’re fixing to send out our wedding invitations and I’m wondering what to do about babies. Specifically, the young babies of friends on our guest list who just took the parenting plunge. My partner and I aren’t anti-baby but we’re pretty adamant about not wanting our own. So far, everyone has understood that we’re having an adult affair – it’s an evening wedding – but if people have young babies do we need to just accept that they have to bring them along? Can we ask them not to?
Most couples are excited to include children in weddings, whether they’re specifically delighted by colorful flower girl dresses or picking the perfect ring pillow, but we get that kids aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – especially when it comes to late evening dinner parties starting at $50 per plate. In formalwear, no less. Unfortunately for these couples, etiquette is pretty clear on the fact that the only proper way to share the fact that a wedding is adults only is specifically naming only adults on the invitations (vs. something like “The Smith Family”) and having gossipy besties spread the word.
Even more unfortunate is the fact that many invited wedding guests do not understand the significance of the names on a wedding invitation.
But of course, that’s talking specifically about kids. When you’re talking about babies – particularly young babies who might be nursing – it’s going to be a lot harder to convince new moms and dads to find a babysitter, if it’s even possible. As for whether you can just call up parents and announce that babies aren’t invited, the answer is no. At least not politely. What you can do is use your social network to spread the word that this is an adults-only kind of party. And if these new parents contact you to ask outright whether baby is welcome, which is what they ought to be doing anyway, you can at that point feel free to say no. A little courtesy on both sides can do a lot to keep relationships intact. You may find you have a couple more cards in your Declines With Regrets pile, but there won’t be any bad blood because of it.
There are lots of reasons that some of the special people in your life won’t be able to make it to your wedding ceremony and reception – not the least of which is that certain loved ones may have passed away. Many brides and grooms feel driven to memorialize those relatives and friends who have passed with special rituals and wedding accessories. If you want to pay tribute to someone you cared for deeply on your big day, we have four ideas to help you respectfully honor friends and family who will be at your wedding in spirit.
- First, consider incorporating something special that belonged to your loved one into your wedding day look. Heirloom wedding jewelry can become the perfect Something Old, or you can tuck an heirloom hanky into your bodice – perfect for catching stray tears.
- At the wedding ceremony, reserve a chair or two for framed photographs of the people you wish were still alive to see you say your vows. Alternately, you can honor lost loved ones at your reception with a special table of memorial photographs of people special to you and your new spouse.
- A simple mention in the ceremony program can be a touching reminder that there are people missing from your big day festivities. Brides and grooms will often acknowledge a close relationship with a deceased grandparent or parent in this way.
- Bouquet jewelry isn’t the only way to dress up the bride’s flowers. Tiny picture frame charms can be incorporated into your bridal bouquet design and these can be filled with photographs of lost loved ones or the names of the relatives you wish were with you on the big day.
Consider, of course, how much attention you want to draw to your memorial. If honoring a deceased relative or friend feels like a personal matter, bouquet charms are a great way to share your day with someone who passed before the wedding. On the other hand, if you know that your entire family is missing someone close to all of your hearts, publicly acknowledging this person can be a beautiful way share your feelings. The object isn’t to make anyone feel uncomfortable – so if you sense to a big display will interfere with your wedding guests’ joy, consider keeping your tribute on the smaller side.
How about those simple rustic DIY weddings that you can’t get away from if you read any wedding blogs? The brides profiled make their own everything, from hand painted invitations with calligraphy to wedding jewelry crafted after a 6-week jewelry making course to homemade cupcakes. That pallet arch? Oh, the happy couple built it during spare weekend hours. One bride decoupaged her own bridal shoes to reflect her love of comics. Another sewed 200 lavender sachets after work. The groom, meanwhile, was busy making artisanal honey with the bees he keeps. And so on.
On the other end of the DIY wedding spectrum are the kits that couples – or sometimes just the bride – put together after hours, but you don’t hear much about that. Or about the vast majority of brides whose DIY wedding experience begins and ends with addressing envelopes.
The simple DIY wedding? Could actually exist, but if it does, it’s hiding somewhere along with the less expensive DIY wedding or the cheap outdoor wedding for 100+ guests. The fact is that the brides and grooms who commit to DIYing everything from cake to the choreography aren’t signing up for the easy path. And that’s just logical – since when is making something simpler than buying it? Which isn’t to say there’s no value in DIY wedding planning. We love those gorgeous “simple” DIY weddings as much as you probably do.
But that said, we know that DIY does not equal simple. And we know that we wouldn’t have the energy to plan one!
What are you DIYing?
1. Work around something: Have you already found the most amazing wedding shoes or colored wedding jewelry? Use these tiny touches as your inspiration for creating a richer wedding color scheme.
2. Grab some paint chips: These home decorating freebies can be the perfect way to narrow down your wedding color scheme options – particularly the paint chips that show you numerous shades in one color family. Grab bunches and see where your creativity takes you!
3. Use online color tools: There are amazing interactive color tools out there that will show you the complementary and other color combinations so you can choose the colors that harmonize best with your absolute favorite color.
4. Let your venue lead: The dominant colors in your wedding venue can form the basis of your wedding color scheme. This is a particularly good strategy if your chosen venue has a strong established color palette.
5. Make an inspiration board: Pinterest can help you choose a wedding color scheme by giving you easy access to pictures of items, dresses, and color combos that inspire you to create a color scheme that’s everything you’ve ever dreamed of.
6. Consider the mood of your wedding: Will your ceremony and reception be casual? Romantic? Traditional? Raucous? Your wedding colors can help set that mood, so make sure that your colors reflect the tone you want to set.
7. Find inspiration in flowers: The local, in-season flora in your area can help you narrow down a color palette for your wedding decor. Likewise, your favorite flowers – whether in season or not – can form the basis of a color scheme that speak to you.
The reception venue is booked. Your wedding jewelry is nestled in your hope chest along with your wedding shoes and your grandmother’s lace handkerchief. For months, people around you have been admiring the ring on your finger – the ring that says “I’m taken and ready to say ‘I do’.” But the truth is, you’re not feeling ready even though every new day brings you that much closer to speaking those very words in front of 100+ friends and relatives. Frankly, you’re anxious. Unsure.
And that is what we call a classic case of cold feet – a common malady among brides- and grooms-to-be.
There are two ways to address cold feet. Number one is useful when you absolutely know that you’re only really feeling nervous because you’re taking such a big, life-changing step. It’s so simple. You talk to someone. Just talk. It could be your mom or it might be a professional. Some brides-to-be feel actually feel comfortable talking to their SOs about cold feet, but we’d say that’s not the norm. The point is, you find someone to talk to and then find ways to work through your feelings. Again, that’s only when you have a strong intuition that your chilly toesies are just your way of coping with the stress of anticipating a wedding.
Number two is more difficult because it’s the method you use when you’re legitimately unsure. It starts simple – talk to a professional – and then gets complicated – seriously consider delaying or calling off the wedding. We hate to say it, but sometimes getting married isn’t the right decision. People change and the person you’re about to marry may not be the person you fell in love with. Some fiances and fiancees are abusive. It could be that you’re just not ready to get married. But if you feel really, really strongly that saying “I do” isn’t the right decision, you owe it to yourself not to say it, even if that means losing deposits and dealing with negativity from family.
Luckily, most of the time cold feet are just the brain’s way of reminding us to take marriage seriously when so much of wedding planning is totally un-serious. If you suspect that your cold feet may be trying to tell you something more, though, please please please give yourself permission to think critically about where you’re headed.
Theme weddings are a big deal these days, if the wedding planning guides are any indication. Beach theme weddings for the summertime bride – sand not necessary – compete with wonderland themes for the winter weddings. There are steampunk weddings and classic gangster weddings and renaissance weddings and even zombie weddings. Practically anything can become a wedding theme, so we get that there’s an element of fun inherent in theme weddings. But the fact that there are so many theme weddings (and wedding themes) out there is starting to make some brides-to-be wonder if they need a theme to have a wedding.
What’s involved in having a theme wedding? Your wedding theme might dictate everything from your choice of venue to the design of your cake to your wedding jewelry. Almost every wedding planning decision you make will be driven by your theme. This can mean that all of those planning to-dos take twice as long to cross off because you’re searching for, say, bridal accessories and linens that are appropriate for a 1920s flapper wedding. In short, having a theme wedding isn’t always easy, and a theme wedding can actually be a lot more expensive than a traditional wedding.
So as to whether you really need a theme, we think that ‘wedding’ is a perfectly acceptable theme for a ceremony and reception. What does it matter if your guests know that you were inspired by Old Hollywood Glamor as you sketched out your wedding day look? Or if they understand that the table names are all related to library science? You’ll know, and your wedding will be beautiful even if no one gets what you were going for. If you were going for anything at all other than just… wedding!
We may be dating ourselves by saying this, but we remember when the only real wedding must have was one’s betrothed and someone official to take the couple through the vows. Nowadays, if the bridal rags have it right, practically everything related to the wedding is considered a must have by someone.
Part of that is confirmation bias, of course. A wedding DJ will almost always tell you that a wedding DJ is an absolute must have. We tend to look at wedding jewelry as a must have, but at the very least we’re not suggesting every bride drape herself in every possible accessory. The father of the bride typically sees the father-daughter dance as a must have. It makes a lot of sense, if you think about it, for the bride to see her bridal shoes as a wedding must have and for the mother of said bride to see her special day ensemble as a must have. In general, though, the firm must haves have been pretty cut and dry.
Until marketers started turning everything under the sun into a must have. Save-the-dates? Are, in our opinion, a must have only if you’re trying to coordinate a destination wedding. Wedding favors? Lovely if you like them, but entirely unnecessary from an etiquette point of view. Fresh flowers? Plenty of weddings have gone off without a hitch with NO flowers. You get the idea.
One recent must have we’ve seen advertised as absolutely non-negotiable in wedding magazines and on websites is designer reception lighting. Yep, designer lighting costing anywhere between $500 and $5,000. Is it gorgeous? Absolutely, when done right – which means you’re closer to the four-figure side of things than the three-figure side of things. But is it necessary? We’d argue no. Not a must have. This is one of those wedding reception enhancements that we will ooh and ah over when we encounter it at a wedding, but we’re certainly not going to think any less of a wedding budget that doesn’t include designer lighting as a line item.
So if you can’t swing the cost of a lighting designer for your wedding or just don’t think pin lighting or a multi-color display will do much to beautify your venue, then feel free to spend your bridal bucks elsewhere with our expert blessing.
When it comes to designing the perfect wedding cake, brides-to-be are more likely to think about icing flavors and crystal wedding cake toppers than they are about the serving-to-guest ratio. But at our cake loving office, we can’t think of anything sadder than the wedding guest at the reception sitting empty handed while everyone else munches on the wedding cake because the happy couple underestimated the number of slices they’d need to satisfy everyone.
But how much wedding cake does it take to satisfy everyone, anyway? Our wedding planning experts tell us that a good rule of thumb is one slice per guest, with an extra slice added in for every 10 guests. That’s because sometimes extra guests just show up even if it’s terrible etiquette and some people just plain love cake. Before you balk at how much cake that will be, consider that the average piece of wedding cake is a lot smaller than the average piece of birthday cake. Your baker can tell you how big of a wedding cake you’ll ultimately need based on your estimated head count – and that can be adjusted based on how many tiers you want, what shape of cake you want, and whether you’ll have other desserts available.