Goin' to the chapel...
May 1, 2010 10:21 AM   Subscribe

What helped you most when you were getting married -- or helping someone else get married?

It's that time of year again: it seems like everyone's getting engaged, and several of my friends are beginning to freak out about their newly announced and / or quickly upcoming weddings. How can I help them?

I've seen this question, but it's a couple of years old and I wonder if there's anything else to be added. As the always-a-bridesmaid [for now], I've been the go-to girl for many of my friends the past few years and as such have picked up a few tricks, but what can you recommend? Was there a particular book or website or piece of advice that stuck with you?

For instance, I swear that a book of Serious Things To Talk About Before You Get Married/Engaged has been recommended a couple of times on the green, but can't for the life of me find it. I almost feel like this question is a little too vague, but with multiple friends in multiple stages of planning, any and all advice can probably be applied to at least one of them.

posted by alynnk to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Make sure that the bride doesn't forget to eat on the big day. It's easy never to feel hungry, but low blood sugar doesn't make for the greatest day in the world, and it's a long day!
posted by kch at 10:25 AM on May 1, 2010

Humor. As we nervously waited in our separate rooms to walk down the aisle, my fiancé's groomsmen took advantage of a nearby whiteboard to lay out a football-style "play" that was a diagram of the wedding party's movements. Meanwhile, one of my bridesmaids kept me calm by repeatedly whispering in my ear: "www.clownpenis.fart"
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:27 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine, at her hair appointment that morning, started crying because she wasn't sure she wanted to go through with things. I asked her if she loved him and if he loved her because the rest of things didn't really matter.

Also, I learned that I don't want to have a wedding. Being a bridesmaid is really expensive. Bring safety pins and other emergency supplies. Getting presents from one location to another is a pain and you always forget about it. Something will go wrong at some point. Cell phones are useful. Someone is going to get pissed off about something.

When you choose dates for things, check the calendar a couple of times - you might not be remembering that there is a national/religious holiday on the day.

Snacks are a good thing.
posted by sciencegeek at 10:36 AM on May 1, 2010

My husband and I realized we were much less stressed when we separated out getting married from having a wedding. Two separate but related stressors, but it's all too easy let them spill into one another.

Also, Etsy > "wedding vendors," for both price and options. I got some great custom thank you notes that made it very easy to communicate the lack of name changes we had going on to friends & family.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:44 AM on May 1, 2010

If you are not using a professional planner, make lots of lists. Pack all the wedding stuff in big tubs to take to the venue so you don't forget anything. Don't leave ANYTHING to the last minute. It's surprising how hard it is to find little flower girl shoes at the last minute. If your wedding party can't be in one place to get shoes etc, then pick something that they can find at a big chain like Macys or Dillards.

Have a written schedule for each person in the wedding party for the big day. Be specific, be here at this time, bring this, this, and this.
posted by tamitang at 10:58 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

My mom gave me one of her Xanaxes the day before my wedding. That was very helpful.
posted by HotToddy at 11:13 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had it easy. I waited till college day of graduation, showered, put on academic regalia. Attended event. After, to a nearby friend's backyard where the Bride, having just graduated same place, met me for the service. One shower for each of us. Two events back to back. Her mother and father though were happier about her graduation than her marriage. Now, 26 years later, and with two grandchildren, the Bride's parents are content.
posted by Postroad at 11:19 AM on May 1, 2010

First, for planning: Bride and Groom should pick three things that they care about, and pour their energy into making sure those things are the best they can be. Everything else can be "good enough." For me and the mister, the three things were the music, the ceremony (my husband wrote the whole thing tip to toe), and my dress. Those things we spent a lot of time on. But everything else? We went to a local bakery, picked a simple cake out of their book, and told them it needed to serve 120. I left swatches of my dress fabric with the local florist and told them I liked tulips. We hired a venue that had an in-house caterer and told them we wanted a buffet for not more than $20 per person. It made life so very much easier -- and the wedding was awesome! Everything we left up to our vendors, we got rave compliments on.

For the big day itself, everyone's gotta eat. This is so unbelievably essential that you should probably have one member of the wedding party whose sole job it is to make sure that everyone is adequately fed. Also, particularly for larger and more complicated weddings, you really need a "wedding bitch;" someone who is not a member of the wedding party, who doesn't have to be anywhere for hair or makeup or pictures or anything and can instead run around looking for anti-static spray or tiny safety pins or more pomegranate juice or whatever. A good person for this job is the spouse or partner of a wedding party member, because they'll already be there. This is a kind of a thankless job, so be sure to have a spa certificate or an arcade pass or whatever the person would enjoy on hand for a thank you.

Last but not least, remember that it's a wedding, not a play or a concert. If, at the end of the day, the bride and groom are married and nobody got hurt, it was a success. Things like the flower girl suddenly sitting down in the middle of the aisle and announcing that she needs the potty, or the bride's veil slipping during the vows and needing to be picked up and held out of the way by the MOH, or whatnot? Those just become part of the story.
posted by KathrynT at 11:23 AM on May 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm sure these words will fall on deaf ears of the women who've always pictured a Princess Diana-type wedding for themselves, but as an old, cranky person I'm here to say STOP and seriously soberly think about what you want and why. OK, your beau has proposed, you've accepted and now you're engaged. If you want to spend thousands of dollars on a fairy princess wedding dress that you'll only wear once for a few hours (and don't give me that "I can hand it down to my daughter" BS - I've been in too many bridal parties where the bride-to-be has shunned her mother's wedding dress as "eeewww, too old-fashioned) then do it. But don't spend needless dollars on customized napkins, matchbooks, and other bric-a-brac. Those embossed napkins get THROWN AWAY. Those personalized matchbooks and party favor bags? They get THROWN AWAY. Again, this is the advice of an old (but married for 16 years) fogey, but why not save money on unnecessary (and unappreciated) frills and furbelows and instead use that money to pay for a honeymoon trip or a down payment on a house?
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:24 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well you can't do this for them but avoid every book, every planner, every everything. The list book I got was useful as a joke book.

Take the bride out, treat her like she is a human being who thinks about and does other stuff, that's about it.

Oh and never say "BUT YOU'RE ENGAAAAGED!!!!" or, later, "but you're MARRIED!!!"

I have friends who did this every time I would bitch about being engaged, make the mildest complaints about my partner, be uninterested in wedding planning, etc. Just don't do it man.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:04 PM on May 1, 2010

The number one thing that has helped me with the three weddings that I have officiated, and most at my brothers', was having a flask of whiskey that could be surreptitiously circulated to whomever was freaking out at the moment. A few drags of decent rye, scotch or bourbon is an excuse to call time-out and let go of all of the symbolism and bullshit and remember that we're all regular people, not roles, and that we're all there by choice.

Plus you get a decent buzz.
posted by klangklangston at 12:43 PM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, particularly for larger and more complicated weddings, you really need a "wedding bitch"

YES! If you want to help your friends, be there the days leading up to the wedding to do all the little, random stuff they'll need help with (picking up stuff, organizing things for transport, fittings, etc). If they're not horrible people, it might even be fun.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:57 PM on May 1, 2010

I'm planning my wedding. I hate weddings. I threatened not to have one but it turns out I'm an infallible human and I want pictures to show my kids. So we're having a wedding. A casual, small, affordable wedding. The books Altared, A More Perfect Union, The Conscious Bride and One Perfect Day and the blogs A Practical Wedding and Offbeat Bride have been very useful.

One big piece of advice: if you don't want to pay for it, and you don't want to DIY, just skip it. No one will notice. I don't want to DIY anything, and I won't let anyone DIY something that I won't do--and I don't want to spend a lot of money. So no foofy favors or monogrammed napkins or any of that crap. Food and people, that's the whole point. And pictures, of course.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:27 PM on May 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

The only thing that kept me sane during the planning and on the day of my wedding was to recognize that it wasn't the wedding that was important, the marriage was the important thing. And I also got some very good advice from my beloved aunt: if people are judging you for what's happening or not happening at your wedding, that's their problem. Do what you want to do and what makes you happy.
posted by cooker girl at 1:40 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

The thing we didn't do and wish we had - a list of photos. The thing we did and wish we didn't - cave on invites and for me, wearing heels. It's a really really long day and I spent a lot of it barefoot in stockings. I actually took them off during the ceremony and shoved them under the altar.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:12 PM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

The one thing that I try to remind my friends when they are getting stressed about finding the perfect invites, dress, cake, etc. is that it is really just a big party with everyone who loves them in the same room. The most important thing is that they end up married.

If it is a good party, no one will remember what color the napkins were.
posted by elvissa at 4:52 PM on May 1, 2010

In my capacity as a minister, I've used the Getting Ready for Marriage Workbook with couples, with good results. Covers all the things you need to talk about together, but in a helpful and fairly non-intimidating way. It amazes me still how many people decide to marry and have never asked the other person even basic things like how many kids, if any, they would like to have.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:08 PM on May 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

When we were getting married, we found the book How to Have the Wedding You Want (Not the One Everybody Else Wants You to Have) very helpful.

Nthing "pick two or three things to focus on". For us it was the food and the photos.

If the phrase "because that's what you do at weddings!" is uttered, consider that a red flag to stop and consciously consider whether the thing in question is really necessary. It may be cultural programming popping up and not something you really want or need.

I try to reassure engaged friends: In my experience, being married is ever so much better than getting married.
posted by Lexica at 5:52 PM on May 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

MeFi's own John Scalzi has addressed this on his blog; he intended it for folks entering into same-sex marriages, but it's pretty sound advice all around.

On the Occasion of Same-Sex Marriage in California
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:56 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Remind them that it's not about the wedding, it's about making a commitment to spend the rest of forever with someone. Everything else is just expensive fluff.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:09 PM on May 1, 2010

A wedding coordinator who runs the show during the actual event. Keeps everything on time, deals with the photographer, the caterer, the band, etc., deals with any disasters/emergencies/last-minute changes. The schedule is prepared ahead of time and agreed upon.

Have a safe place to put purses, cameras, pdas, etc. Presents too.

A list of photos to take.

Napkins or handkerchief because I don't know about you, but I was sweating like a maniac.

Food and drink available for the couple pre-ceremony and during the reception.

A clearly-communicated list of things for that parent or sibling (you know who I mean) to NOT SAY during his/her speech.
posted by callmejay at 6:10 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Having just done this two weeks ago, let me add to the excellent advice above (mostly regarding eating and drinking--really, a plate of food and a big ol' tumbler of whiskey make things seem much brighter) with the most useful skill you can acquire in advance of the big day:

Telling your future in-laws to fuck off, in a tactful enough way not to wound any egos.

You will get many bits of unsolicited advice and many proposals for Shit To Buy That You Don't Want, with the tempo increasing furiously as the wedding draws nearer. If they're paying for it, you're contractually obligated to listen. Even if they're not, you'll still be inundated. If you can learn to brush these little tidbits off without letting it get under your skin, your wedding day will be lovely.
posted by Mayor West at 5:08 AM on May 3, 2010

I heartily recommend going to the justice of the peace.
posted by onepot at 2:16 PM on May 3, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everyone!
posted by alynnk at 12:00 PM on May 4, 2010

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