Relationships

10 Wedding Dos and Don’ts

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

Last fall, we featured brides sharing their wedding advice, and they were so funny and smart, we wanted to do it again. Here, 10 cool women reveal their wedding dos and don’ts….

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

“Since neither José or I practice a particular religion, but we still wanted a traditional ceremony, we asked our officiant to switch out the word “God” for “nature” during the ceremony. After our ceremony and picnic in a park, everyone walked back to our apartment and we had a dance party on our roof ’til 3 a.m.” — Anne (and José)

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

“My advice may be controversial: Even though we had a professional photographer, it was still so great to have our friends snapping cellphone photos throughout the day. Over the next few weeks, before we got the ‘real’ photos, my husband and I must have scrolled through our Instagram hashtag 100 times, reliving the day and seeing our guests’ moments. It’s a personal choice, for sure, and probably the bane of professional photographers, but we loved it!” — Anna (and Nick)

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

“Also, during dinner, before people were dancing at all, my daughter (then 7) pulled my husband onto the dance floor, and so they had the first dance! It was adorable and spontaneous, and such a beautiful way to cement the creation of our new family.” — Anna (and Nick)

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

“My brother Jeff gave an incredibly funny toast. As kids, Jeff was my idol (sort of still is). When I was about 8 and he was about 12, he invented a club he called the ‘Cool Club.’ All his friends were members, and they did awesome stuff I wasn’t privy to as the annoying little sister. I was desperate to join this (non-existent, completely made-up) club, and Jeff would promise me membership if only I would… scoop him a bowl of ice cream. Or, maybe the next day, I could join if only I would… give him the TV remote. It went on and on like this for longer than I care to admit. BUT then! At the wedding, in front of our newly joined families and all our friends, Jeff officially gave me a lifetime membership to the Cool Club! It was unquestionably the funniest, most touching, absurd thing he could’ve done. Nowadays, the certificate of my entry into the Cool Club is the only thing hanging on the wall of my studio.” — Stef (and Mckenzie)

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

“Even though we hired a local DJ, he never actually touched the decks. Our friends kept spinning their own tunes throughout the night instead. The music was so good that no one left the dance floor, and those few who did head back to their rooms to call it a night were back on the dance floor half an hour later because they could ‘hear the amazing tunes from bed and they were just too good to miss!'” — Sandra (and James)

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

“When I walked down the aisle, I felt so nervous to be in front of a room full of people, so the first thing I did when I got to front was throw my arms around Joe for a bear hug! I needed it. The silence in the room broke as everyone started laughing, and I felt much better. Don’t try to be perfect; just be yourself and have fun.” — Jenny (and Joe)

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

“If you don’t have the money to spend, don’t throw a huge, lavish wedding. Do what is within your means. I loved our potluck dessert table — it was very special. We asked our guests to make desserts. It stemmed from a banana cream pie that my friend makes that is so dreamy. Also, instead of the traditional father/daughter walk down the aisle, Josh knocked on the door to the guest house where I was waiting, and we walked together to the ceremony.” — Jen (and Josh)

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

“We had a very impromptu celebration, as our wedding date was, very unromantically, timed by green card regulations. So, we decided to get married the lowest-key way possible and have a real celebration later. My expectations were low, but it was unexpectedly wonderful and fun. My husband had to work that morning, and then we met two friends at City Hall in Manhattan. It was surreal and special. We had Champagne for lunch (our waiter was over the moon when he found out we just tied the knot!), and afterward Matt told me to bid our friends farewell… as we were going skydiving! He even told a story about how getting married was something like jumping out of a plane and trusting you’ll land well. A little tipsy and already high on adrenaline, I thought he was joking! But soon after, we were floating through the air (the freest feeling ever) with the Manhattan skyline in the distance. Never having had a traditional wedding I might not be the right person to give advice, but if I learned anything from our experience, this is it: Prioritize what’s important for you that day and don’t worry about the rest.” — Anne (and Matt)

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

“Right before I walked down the aisle, I kicked my shoes off. That’s the only wedding detail I was sure of when my husband first proposed to me: I knew I’d be barefoot. I walked slowly next to my papi, one foot carefully in front of the other, heel first, then touching down with my toes. I wanted to feel each step under my bare feet. I felt both lifted and grounded. The drums leading me, the sun shining in my face, and the smiles of everyone I loved watching me.” — Paola (and Tyler)

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

“Also, getting ready with the girls was a hoot! We have this thing about our ‘nights out’ where getting ready together is the most fun part of the whole evening. It’s important to think about everyone’s budget in your bridal party. I decided to give them a color scheme and just trust them to pick a dress they felt most comfortable in. Each woman looked absolutely stunning, and letting their personal styles shine was a big win!” — Paola (and Tyler)

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

“The band messed up our first dance song, but in true savior fashion my dad had the song ready on his iPhone just in case. His walking up and plugging in his iTunes to the speakers was hilarious and amazing and such a dad moment — he’s always got my back and that day was no different.” — Elizabeth (and Chris)

Wedding Dos and Don'ts

“We got married in the woods, and a bunch of our guests camped out that night, including Brian’s parents. It was so nice to wake up and have a big group around to cook a campsite breakfast the next day. Honestly, I never thought I’d have a wedding all. I genuinely thought weddings were lame. But it ended up being the best opportunity to have an awesome party with our favorite people. I realized that you can do whatever you want, and that everyone is just coming to have fun. There are no rules, and once I realized that it was really liberating.” — Grace (and Brian)

If you’re married, what at advice would you give to couples planning a wedding?

P.S. Beautiful wedding dresses, and more dos and don’ts.

(Photo of Anna by Kyo Morishima. Photo of Jen by Suzanne Christine Photography and Emily Nathan. All other photos courtesy of the brides and grooms.)

  1. Ah – found this again through the link earlier today, and have gotten married since this was first posted. Thought you might like to hear about our tiny wedding. We got married in a park by the lake in Burlington. Since Vermont in October is the dreamiest, the scenery did the talking. We went small – just our officiant (my boss and one of my favorite people), my parents, our family dog (ring bearer), and our photographer. My husbands family couldn’t make the trip from Brazil, so we wanted it to feel small and intimate and not leave them feeling like they missed something big. But our local crew of friends were so eager to be there that we said sure…you can watch…from the water. So in addition to our little ceremony on the rocks, there were six kayaks and canoes out on the lake keeping an eye on things. We celebrated with popping a few bottles of champagne on the rocks afterwards. It was the best.

  2. julie says...

    someone gave me this super important advice…she said, after the ceremony, during the cocktail hour and dinner, everyone is going to want to talk to you and you’re going to feel yourself getting distracted about what’s happening next, are there any problems you need to resolve, should I touch up my make-up, etc… DON’T SUCCUMB to this monkey mind thinking.

    Be completely in the moment and really LISTEN to all these people tell you how beautiful you are and how happy they are for you. Bask in the moment completely. These people traveling a long time to get to you, they picked out dresses and tuxes for you, they worried whether you would like your present. Do them to honor of being extremely engaged with them.

    I did just that and not only did it make my wedding feel richer, I’m one of the few brides I know who doesn’t feel like her wedding went by in a blink. It felt like a long, glorious day.

    • Sooo true!! This is the BEST advice! Such an important reminder.

  3. Whitney says...

    The best thing we did was the night before our wedding we individually went out with friends and family who had traveled to be with us. We had a small wedding and taking the time to be with each person before the whirlwind of our morning wedding was amazing. So many times you attend a wedding and never spend time with the bride or groom. This gave us the space to enjoy being with everyone and then to celebrate in a big group.

  4. I love that the couple went skydiving! And the other lady went barefoot. Great ideas :)

  5. Gillian says...

    I got a lot of advice when I got married, this is the one thing that I actually truly heeded…

    When you have a second to be still, take a moment at look around at everyone. They are all there celebrating you and your love for someone else. My wedding day in addition to being the happiest day, was the day that I realized how much people in my life loved me. They all took time our of their lives for me (we didn’t have a single person decline). Being able to take that all in was amazing, I’m still riding on that joy.

    Regardless of what happens, the day will be perfect.

  6. Taylor says...

    We were married in Washington, but I grew up in California/Utah and most of my family lives in Australia. On top of that, my husband is the seventh of eight, who are all married and spread pretty far, so events with everyone together are rare! The idea of “hiding out” before the wedding seemed so silly, since everyone had traveled extensively to see us! Kyle and I greeted everyone as the arrived, which was so wonderful. Also, we had my Dad officiate our ceremony so I just walked down the aisle with Kyle! Really helped with nerves :)

  7. Abby says...

    We got married on the front lawn of an inn in a local resort town, and there happened to be an art festival (complete with live music) happening that day. They were supposed to take a break during the ceremony, but right as the pastor started the ring exchange, the band began playing Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”. It was a total coincidence, all our guests laughed, and my husband and I were totally unaware and had to be told after the ceremony what everyone was laughing about! I’ll never be able to hear that song without thinking of our wedding day.

  8. Lee says...

    I got married Sept. 24th so this is all very fresh and long winded. My advice…

    1. Never lost sight of what the whole “wedding” is about. The marriage. Sure there might be a party, or music, etc. But all of that is secondary to making the commitment of marriage with the one you love.

    2. You and your fiance should each pick one thing that is important to you in the wedding festivities. For me it was the photography and for him it was the music. That is where we spent our money and tried to not stress/fret about some of the other details.

    3. Set a date before the wedding where you stop. worrying. about. the. details. ( For me that was Thursday before the wedding on Saturday) There is only so much planning that can happen and you have to enjoy the weekend too!

    It was so great for family and friends to get together for something happy and celebratory. While we got married in my hometown- my husband and I live far away. To have all of our guests travel to celebrate with us was so meaningful. I lost my voice before the rehearsal dinner on Friday and could barely talk all weekend. I was frustrated at first, but it forced me to sit back and enjoy the weekend… to be present in all moments and extremely grateful. But I managed to say my vows!! Whew.

    I wore my mother’s dress to the rehearsal dinner, which I had remade ( or tailored from the 80s to be more modern!) It was so special as she passed away in 2007. To have my Dad see me in her dress and for us to create new happy memories was indescribable. He got remarried in 2010 and I as I walked him down the aisle he said, ” the next time we do this, it will be me walking you.” He reminded me of this that morning, and our I could feel both of our hearts swell. Those last few moments just with my Dad before my wedding will be in my treasury of memories forever.

  9. Rebecca says...

    I’m flying to NYC in 16 days…16 DAYS…to get married with my future hubby and 11 family members and friends. It’s been lovely reading through these comments and words of advice.

  10. Eva says...

    Don’t get dragged into the wedding industrial complex. Skip what’s been deemed as “the perfect wedding” and do what’s meaningful and joyful to you.

    I’d always heard jokes/stories about friends and acquaintances saying they were beyond stressed the day of. As someone with a bit (okay, a lot) of general anxiety myself, I can say my wedding day was happily stress-free. When I try to think why, I recall being more present than I’d ever been in my life—soaking up every moment in the moment. Just reveling in family, friends, how fortunate I’ve felt with what I have. The purpose and meaning of the day isn’t the details, the “look,” or the “perfection.”

    Also: we delayed our honeymoon three months. Best decision ever. One less thing to have to plan at the same time, and after a long weekend being out and about with everyone I loved, it felt so good to just be at home and back to a normal routine. Plus it gave us time to recharge and actually look forward to our trip!

  11. Kristin says...

    The best thing my husband and I did on our wedding day was take a minute in between the ceremony and reception by ourselves, look each other in the eyes and say to each other “wow, we’re married right now!” It gave us a nice reminder to let the stresses of the day fade away (late shuttle buses, last minute guest cancellations, leaving my veil in the hotel room…) and to just appreciate the day. Then we danced the night away and took another minute to look around the room and take mental photos of all of our family and friends having a blast and celebrating us! Don’t let the day get away too quickly, enjoy every second!

  12. Patti says...

    My husband and I did an elopement with only our parents, his sister and nieces. We all travelled out to Portland, OR and spent the week before the wedding hanging out, hiking, whale watching and eating amazing food. The day of our wedding we spent the morning walking around the rose garden and Japanese garden before getting married at the golden hour under the St John’S bridge. We ate an amazing meal afterward and it felt like the most effortless way to get married.

  13. My best tip is to remember to eat! The smartest thing my husband and I did was be very first in line for the buffet line. We actually bee lined there right after the ceremony! We filled up our plates then dashed away to a private room and ate together. We actually got to EAT the food we paid for and spent the sweetest “ohmygoshwejustgotmarried!” moment together before we stepped out into the reception to greet our guests from table to table.

  14. Elise says...

    My advice: don’t even look at Pintrest. Not only will diy’s actually cost you an amazing amount of time (and usually money) but they are all the same! I felt like I couldn’t find any ideas for what I liked and then I realized I didn’t have to see pictures of how someone else did it, I could just do whatever I wanted myself. It’s hard to keep that perspective when all you see is a million different uses for Mason jars.

  15. Laurel says...

    My husband and I got married at City Hall in SF. We had 5 guests! We all rode in pedicabs to the Ferry Building where we had a really lovely 3 hour lunch at The Slanted Door. It was pretty much done at 4pm so we went back to our hotel, got changed and went out to the movies! I still have the ticket stubs. It was so small and low key and the whole time, I just felt relaxed and happy. My dress was a lucky find at Anthropologie that was less than $200.

    We were young (early 20’s) and it was important to us that we pay for most everything ourselves. My dad treated me to getting my hair and makeup professionally done and my mother in law paid for lunch. It really felt like the best way for us to start our married lives together and I wouldn’t change a moment of it.

    Congrats to all brides to be!

    • Louisa says...

      Me, too! SF City Hall on a sunny Tuesday. A short beaded white dress from a department store. A bottle of wine on Arlequin’s patio. Fancy dinner out. It was perfect.

  16. If you are lucky enough to score a wedding venue before they are open/done renovating you can save big money and have bragging rights about being one of the first. At that point they let us choose the caterer, which was awesome and saved us money. We had Indian food and amazing beer/liquor at a brewery. It was perfect, low key with corn hole and hula hoops.

  17. Brittany says...

    As long as you are married at the end of the day, you did everything right. :)

    • Jill says...

      This. This is so good.

    • OH I LOVE THIS SENTIMENT!

      So true!

      I said – I really don’t care about anything but just being married :) Everyone thought i was crazy but I still feel that, to this very day (21.5 years later)

  18. Andrea says...

    Choose what’s important to you. For us, we wanted to have a kick ass liturgy and a good meal. Everything else was less important. No bridal party, but most of our friends and family had roles at the Mass or reception. The goal was for us to be married at the end and to be good hosts for our friends and family.

    That last part is hard. We knew that this was probably one of the largest events we would ever host, and neither of us got to play the princess card/this is my special day card. We were the ones putting on this event, not our families, so we had to suck up when people brought their drama, as they will to big events. Knowing that we defined success as being married at the end of it helped us give up ideas of perfection/Pinterest.

    So, have a sense of the one or two things you’ll need from the day and stick to that.

    • We had the same priorities for our wedding, and I’m so happy with the memories I have of the special event we created for our friends and family.

    • Kacey says...

      An awesome liturgy and great meal were the most important things for us too! I always feel alone when people talk about how the ceremony isn’t important, they just want a party. My friends still talk about our wedding service so I think our plans worked!

  19. Elizabeth Coleman says...

    Paola and her bridesmaids have me all heart-eyed. Wow!

    • Right? They look like they’ve just walked straight out of an amazing vogue shoot… Amazing! #squadgoals

  20. Sharon in Scotland says...

    Paola and her ladies………….amazing! it is so lovely to see brides of all colours

  21. Chelsea says...

    I love this post!! The picture of Paola and her bridesmaids- wow! Stunning!!

    I got married last Fall, and our wedding was my favorite. That’s some good advice in and of itself- make your wedding your favorite wedding. :) I picked 4 main goals I wanted my wedding to be, and centered the ceremony & reception around those! Simple, Christ-centered, joyful, & welcoming. I nixed anything that didn’t fit in those words!

    My favorite thing we did for the reception was to give our officiant a few paragraphs we had written about each other that he read to the crowd before the bride & groom entered. We also had him define marriage for us in that time, as we are both strong in our Christian faith, and wanted our guest to know why we were there that day. We also hadn’t dated a very long time, and it was mostly long-distance, so many of our guests only knew one of us. It was special for them to hear what we had written about each other, and helped them celebrate the day even more fully with us!

  22. Lisa says...

    Oh my goodness. Our wedding was beautiful, but I would have done it so differently. I would have just had immediate family and a couple friends (less than 20 people) and then taken everyone out for a fancy dinner, instead of inviting tons of people. My husband and I both wanted to keep it small, but we deferred to other family members, and we both wish we hadn’t. It would have been so much less expensive, and possibly even more meaningful.

  23. Kirsten says...

    Second on letting your friends DJ! We really didn’t want to hire a DJ for the wedding–my husband and I have sort of offbeat music tastes and we felt like any DJ in our budget wouldn’t be worth the money. We spent FOREVER putting together playlists for different parts of the wedding, but then when the dance floor opened our friends and his cousins took over the iPod IMMEDIATELY and it turned into the best dance party I have ever been to. Everyone was playing their favorite songs and so everyone actually wanted to dance!

    One thing I semi-regret not doing: we didn’t rehearse our ceremony at all. We had one attendant each, and we figured, “eh, people know what to do at weddings, we’ll be fine.” LOL. Figuring out the timing with the music was more complicated than we thought, and we actually couldn’t find his parents right before the ceremony was about to start because they were still greeting people so we started late! And then, when I walked down with both my parents, my mom took a seat after hugging me, and my dad hugged me and then got into line behind my husband’s best man. I wouldn’t really change a thing, because those little oops moments made things so memorable and so “us,” but we did learn that a little practice isn’t the worst thing in the world.

  24. sarah says...

    My husband and I are both writers, and book lovers. As wedding favors, we placed one used book on every place setting at our reception. It was a very last minute thing we thought about doing. Our mothers thought of it!

    Between my mother and my mother-in-law who had boxes of books they were going to donate we managed to scrounge up around 80 books (one for each guest).

    The best part of it was that we had some friends asking us if we chose their particular book just for them because it spoke to them in some way, but we had the wedding coordinator set them randomly on each setting so it was totally by chance! It’s a good conversation starter and people can trade.

    I did a similar thing at my daughter’s 5th birthday party last year. Instead of “goody bags,” each guest left with a used kid’s book.

  25. Mara says...

    We recently were married in a small park with our siblings, parents and grandparents around us. We were married by our best friend who did an amazing job. The park has a street running thru it so the ceremony was hurried so cars could pass, even though one woman passed right thru during our ceremony…lol we all laughed.

    After the ceremony we had dinner and then my favorite part was going back to our apartment before our night out and having our first dance in our living room. I really believe no guest remembers the first dance so we saved this tradition for us only in our home <3 favorite part of the day!

  26. lomagirl says...

    My husband always tells me he wants to marry me again- he so enjoyed our wedding. I planned it since he didn’t want to- in one month- totally low key and super cheap. I knew he was nervous about standing up in front of people, so we had a private ceremony in my friend’s apartment, with just my family and very close friends, and I think he thought I was going to be a meringue- so when I appeared in my simple silk dress around the corner, he was happily surprised. Afterwards we went downstairs and walked together into a room filled with friends and ate food our friends and family had helped prepare and talked and listened to a band. I hired some students to come and play- totally professional quality but much cheaper.
    There were a couple of problems- the photographer was a friend and though semi-professional, not quite prepared enough, and when we went outside to take pictures in the evening light, a lot of the guests thought we had left and left, too.

  27. Sil says...

    The Cool Club story made me weep :’)

  28. Florencia Duran says...

    I loved each and every story, nut my favourite was the Cool Club membership. Lovely post.

    • Florencia Duran says...

      *but

  29. Shira says...

    One big thing left out of this is that sometimes you won’t get exactly the wedding you want! I’m getting married in a little over a month, and I am SO excited, but both mine and my fiance’s parents have opinions and needs that contradict with ours and so a lot of our wedding isn’t exactly what we want.. so i guess my piece of advice would be don’t feel pressured to have the exact wedding you want if circumstances don’t allow it – focus on little things you can do to make the day your own – especially the ceremony! Throughout the whole process.. thinking about the moment where we will be saying our vows and placing rings on each others fingers has made me feel SO excited and helps me gain perspective in moments of stress.

  30. Kristien says...

    All these brides are beautiful, but Paola took my breath away. She’s stunning!

  31. um. HOLY PAOLA! that is all.

  32. These were great! It’s so nice to hear of everyone’s amazing days. I would love for Paola to do a Beauty Uniform. Her shop has the most beautiful patterns I’ve ever seen.

  33. Rebecca says...

    my least favorite part of wedding receptions Is the seated dinner. Instead, for ours we had a buffet of our favorite foods (tacos, chicken & waffles, mac & cheese, shrimp & grits) and enough high tops and round tables for every person to have a spot during dinner time. It made the whole evening feel less formal and more like a really fun cocktail party. I also made sure that our band played all of our favorite cheesy pop songs like Call Me Maybe and All I want for Christmas is you, and ended the night with Teenage Dream. It was the best.

    • NMOHD says...

      I love this!

  34. Bailey says...

    So much of our decisions were influenced by our broken family situation or trying to please our guests. I worried about satisfying opinions and couldn’t figure out how to make all the decisions with SO MUCH varying input. My advice would be to own your decisions and take full responsibility for them. If you decide to serve pie instead of cake (against your mom’s preference), own that. If you decide to have a huge white cake (against your preference) so that your mom is happy with keeping tradition, own that. It keeps bitterness at bay and makes for a happier you (more beautiful bride!)

  35. Loved this! My husband and I got married three times: first a civil wedding in NYC for which I wore a red dress and these huge furry Russian-style boots, then a church wedding with our families, and then another civil wedding in his country of origin where we now live! It’ll be hard to undo a triple knot!

  36. Because music evokes such lovely memories, our ‘something borrowed’ was the wedding songs/first dances of our friends and families played throughout the evening.

    Btw, I love the vibe of Elizabeth Suzann’s clothing and her website!

  37. Amy says...

    Paola and Tyler’s are lovely…and so is every other photo in the bunch. I just loved seeing how different, personal, and joy-infused they all are. Yay, weddings! And yay, happy marriages!

  38. Katherine says...

    One thing I still treasure from our wedding 14 years ago was something I didn’t plan at all but would highly recommend! Our photographer took a series of at least 20 photos of all the guests as they walked out the church doors after the ceremony. We have a number of them in our album as a wonderful record of all who were there and there’s such a narrative that runs through them too, as you track who walked out together, then moved over there to chat to them, there’s old friends together, people from different parts of our lives meeting… hands down beats the big staged group photo where you can barely see any faces anyway. We invited people who mattered to us, and who still do, to share that day and our lives with us, and I just love that there’s this little record of their moments as a part of our day.

  39. Karin says...

    Such lovely photos and great stories!

    In addition to regular wedding photos, my husband and I had photos taken after we returned from our honeymoon. We got back into our wedding clothes, went out into a natural setting with a a photographer and she got amazing B&W shots.

    Our photographer recommended this because “Before the wedding and reception are over you’re super stressed but after it’s all over and you’re married, you’re relaxed and the photos come out better.” Definitely true, plus we were able to do some creative shots without worrying about, say, getting a grass stain on the wedding dress or whatever.

  40. Alena says...

    Jo, I’ve been reading your blog for almost a decade and I never thought I’d get married…but I did last month to the coolest, kindest dude on the face of this great earth.

    My advice would be: do whatever you want, tempered with long-term perspective in mind. I wanted to spend almost no money on anything, except the photos since those will last. Check. I rented my dress because it made me feel beautiful and also smart since I didn’t spend thousands. Check. Our cake was from Walmart of all places, and someone called it “the most delicious cake they have ever put in their mouth.” Check. I was appalled at the cost of flowers, so I bought an armful at Michael’s for under a hundred dollars, and made my own bouquet and all the boutonnieres. Check. We then spontaneously ripped my bouquet apart before the reception to decorate the cake table a little more. Who wants to hold a bouquet all night anyway? Check. Our actual ceremony was in an LDS temple, which was wonderful but, unfortunately, meant a lot of our loved ones couldn’t attend. (Some people flew thousands of miles to support us, even though they weren’t attending the actual ceremony! What kindness they showed us.) We wanted everybody to be a part of our special weekend, so the night before the wedding we gathered our families together for a barefoot, buffet-style dinner and then we did an “exchange of sweet words” on the deck. He and I had both written down some promises and words of love (not “vows,” exactly), and shared them with each other in front of our dearest ones. I cried freely. It was totally us and totally heartfelt. Check.

    Also, average weddings cost about $25,000 in the US, plunging many people into debt. With financial strain as one of the leading causes of divorce, don’t think of it as planning a wedding, but as planning the start of your marriage. I’d rather have a great marriage than a great wedding.

    xoxoxo

    • Kate says...

      That sounds awesome, congrats!

    • Such wise words!! I loved reading this, Alena!

  41. Angela says...

    I am swooning over the photos of Paola’s wedding! How beautiful!

    A random note about my husband prior to our wedding. He told me, very spontaneously one day, that he hoped I wouldn’t do anything crazy with my hair, or at least anything too out of the ordinary. He said he thought I was beautiful the way I normally look and that was the bride he wanted to see walking down the aisle toward him.

    I know that may not be everyone’s jam and I do love to try fun new things with my hair, but I was so touched that he felt that way that I had no problem obliging. 😊

  42. Margaret says...

    I read this and cried. Might just be an emotional time in my life but everything about this was perfect. Thank you for showing how beautiful all weddings are! There truly is no wrong or right way to do it!

  43. Abesha1 says...

    My dad died four years before my wedding, so I asked my brothers to escort me down the aisle. We were laughing and grinning, all three of us! It was great. They accidentally handed me right off to my fiancé, which led to a lot of laughs when they then took me back!

    Do wear comfortable shoes unless your dress is shorter! I wore inexpensive, but lovely, satin slippers (actual slippers!) under my custom-made brocade dress.
    Do have someone pack you a picnic of the food and cake to take with you afterwards. (But don’t forget to actually take it, like we did! )
    If your fiancé doesn’t know much about his cultural wedding traditions, do ask his family so you can incorporate them. We asked his family to make Ethiopian food to add to our American buffet, and the caterer carefully looked the other way.

    It’s a rare chance to have everyone you both love in one place… remember that.

  44. -I enlisted a friend with theater production experience to choreograph the procession and ceremony and actually run the rehearsal. It was simple, she figured it out the day before, but it went great. I’ve been to so many weddings where people stumble on their cues, and it always works out fine, but this was helpful for us.
    -There’s an amazing Jewish tradition called yichud where the bride and groom hide away in a room after the ceremony, eat a meal, and traditionally consummate the marriage (!) We didn’t go all the way (ha ha) but stealing a few moments alone to relax and eat was a great call. And we had our friends guarding the door, which was really sweet.
    -Another great Jewish tradition is, while you’re getting ready, the bride and her friends and female relatives and the groom and his friends and male relatives hang out in separate spaces. They’re supposed to tell jokes, sing songs, drink schnapps, and give you marriage advice. I asked people to prep for this a bit and it was really really lovely.

  45. Oh my gosh I am love the burgundy bridesmaids dresses and the bride whole outfit!!! Not to mention the last bride mid sleeve lace dress on. I love these cute dos and donts. I will keep them in mind. I am so different I know I will be the first to do a lot that is not traditional , starting with ( a trance first dance song) I see strobe lights and glow sticks. Good thing my mom is a raver at heart.

  46. Andrea says...

    I feel bad for the officiant who was told to substitute “nature” for “God” when she’s wearing a stole with crosses in it. Being religious and having ministers as friends, I don’t know that those outside of a faith community realize how potentially awkward that is. it feels like someone wants to rent the trappings, but asks you to leave the reason for those trappings behind.

  47. Ali says...

    I just got married a few months ago and it is still so fresh in my mind!

    My biggest DO is to stay true to you and your future spouse. You will have so many people give you their opinions, and Pinterest and wedding magazines are overwhelming. We are very low key and our day reflected our personalities through and through. My dress was from Etsy, his outfit from Banana Republic. Our ceremony was in front of 20 people at a relative’s house, and afterwards we had a big party at a bar. I made all of the desserts (for 150 people), and we had a taco bar. No speeches, no first dances, nothing like that. It wasn’t us and in the end I am so happy we stuck to what was us.

    With that said, my biggest regrets were going through with what I knew wasn’t right for us, but what I thought we were “supposed” to do. We spent tons of money on the “best” photographer in town, and in the end my favorite pictures were from cell phones and a Fuji Instax. The posed pictures were just so…posed. I also hated the flowers someone insisted I get (I originally wanted to do the bouquets myself it would have been so much better had I just stuck to my initial idea). I hated my hair (again, should have just done it myself).

    Be YOU.

  48. My advice that I always share with brides to be:
    It’s going to be the best day ever and you will forget all the stress that lead up to it. So try not to stress, cause it’s going to be the best day ever! Also, comfortable shoes. That’s the main thing I’d change.

  49. the cool club story made me teary

  50. I’m a wedding planner and *multiple* times have had to use my phone to play the aisle processional song or the first dance song. After it happened the first time, I made sure to always have the songs ready on my phone. And then it kept happening! I think some wedding DJs have so many weddings that they must just start to run together.

  51. Ramona says...

    One sometimes less-fun aspect of planning weddings is the interpersonal stuff–it’s two families coming together for a big occasion, and everyone inevitably brings a lot of baggage to it. I’m generally conflict- and drama-averse, and so whenever I wound up butting heads with family members over wedding planning I just gave in and did it their way. Now, 5 years later and with a kid, I think people have come to expect me to bow to their will and I just can’t let that happen with decisions that pertain to my child. I wish I would have gotten in the practice of saying no to my parents and in-laws at a time when the stakes were lower. In some ways, the period of planning a wedding is a good laboratory for figuring out how you and your spouse operate as a team in the context of your extended family and friends. So my advice would be to approach any disagreements, minor or major, very strategically, and think about what tone you want to set for the future.

  52. Courtney says...

    We had an afternoon wedding in the park and planned to after-party at one of our favorite brewery/bars. But after being up early, doing a lot of set up and clean up ourselves, dancing, playing yard games, we were just beat. We cancelled our after-wedding plans at the very last minute (and made sure we gave out of towners good recommendations in case they still had the energy to have fun) and instead asked everyone to join us for brunch the next morning at a place that sells hot dogs out of an old VW van. People LOVED it, and we helped the hot dog stand set a sales record that day! 😆

  53. Tawni says...

    Before I started reading I was worried it was actually going to be a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ and I would feel guilty about my wedding. What a lovely surprise! I love hearing about other people’s weddings and how unique each one is. Thank you!

  54. Laura M says...

    My best advice: plan your wedding day the same way you would celebrate any life milestone, and don’t even open a wedding magazine. Ours was an outdoor ceremony in a park gazebo with a special lunch for @ 20 in a private room at our favourite restaurant. We sat at one T-shaped table that was decorated with beautiful potted flowers. One for each female guest to take home. Guests came back to the house for drinks in the garden. It was fun, stress free and planned in about 3 weeks. We requested no gifts since we already had double everything. So stress free for the guests as well.

  55. There’s some things I LOVED about our wedding and some I would totally change. I really wish I had gone the Paola route and let my bridesmaids choose dresses in a color scheme…I have no idea why I was so stubborn about that! Also, I let my bridesmaids and friends getting ready with me talk me into having my hair back, which I don’t like because I’m self conscious about my ears that stick out a tad…everyone was oohing and aahing and saying how great my hair looked, but now when I look at photos that have me straight on, all I see are my ears sticking out! That was a big lesson for me….even if everyone else loves it, if I don’t feel comfortable, it’s not worth it!

    I loved a lot of things about our wedding, though…we got married under an oak tree in a nature center here in Southern California, and the whole thing had a rustic vibe, but very romantic, as it was December and had that beautiful California light. We passed out deep red, wool felt hearts to all of our guests to pin on their outfits, and it was such a fun touch and made everyone feel like they were part of the group. Also it’s been fun for years afterward to sometimes come upon those red felt hearts in our guests’ homes!

    Another thing that lots of people comment on about our wedding to this day is that our officiant asked us a few weeks beforehand to send him an email describing the other in 3 words, with a short explanation for each word. Then he shared those words at the ceremony. I know it sounds simple but it was a really sweet, personal way for guests to get a glimpse into our relationship.

    Finally, I have to chime in with everyone else and say I cannot get enough of Paola’s wedding photos!!!

  56. I love this. We are planning a Brooklyn wedding for next June, and I realized in the early planning stages that there appears to be a template for a wedding in which you are supposed to fill in your own details. My partner and I decided we are starting not with a template, but with a blank weekend and will make it our own :)

    Question for the group: Bridal party or no bridal party? Any thoughts or advice is much appreciated!

    • Meghan says...

      Great question as I am wondering the same! To me, a bridal party feels a little cheesy and can often be stressful and expensive for those in it. I would rather have everyone I love just be present and enjoy the wedding and contribute in ways that they are comfortable. But I’m so curious to know what others think!

    • Courtney says...

      My brother was my “man of honor” and my husband’s brother was his best man. It was perfect for us!

    • Amanda says...

      My partner and I are slowly starting to think about our wedding — slow because of the money part– and have only made two decisions. One is that we don’t want to get married in a church (neither of us is at all religious) and the other is that we don’t want to have a wedding party. Neither of us wants to choose a “best” person. He has five sisters and could never choose among them, and I’m an only child with lots of friends and lovely cousins. Also, we feel kind of uncomfortable asking people to put in the time and financial commitment involved in being in a wedding. (That said, I have LOVED being in each wedding I’ve been a part of — but each of those couples was extremely conscientious about budget and expectations.)

    • Michaela says...

      I am so glad I had a wedding party even though I originally thought it was cheesy/old fashioned. It was lovely spending a few moments with my two best friends before the ceremony to ease my nerves and I love seeing their happy faces shining next to mine in the ceremony photos. I left out the things I didn’t like about being a bridesmaid myself – especially the matching dresses/hair styles and pre-wedding events like manicures. Congrats!

    • Jenna says...

      Congratulations! If you have a close friend or group of friends with whom you’d like to get ready or include in other aspects of your wedding or the wedding preparation, it could be nice to formally include them as attendants. I think it can be a way of letting people know how much you value them; I’ve certainly felt honored whenever I was asked. Of course, it doesn’t have to be elaborate. I also asked my brothers to stand up with me along with my sister–and they insisted that they be called bridesmaids. All the best!

    • Brittany says...

      My sister was my Maid of Honor and my husband’s best friend was his best man. It made the whole thing a lot less stressful and complicated for us.

    • Elise says...

      I seriously considered not having a bridal party, for all of the aforementioned reasons (especially feeling like your burdening someone by giving them tasks and responsibilities). However, I am so, so glad that I did end up asking my closest friends to be with me. Their excitement in being asked and all the little ways they were helpful or supportive (and getting ready together!); all those things were so sweet and some of my favorite moments of the whole process. I understand the awkwardness of “picking favorites” but I think that it’s more about not going through such a major transition alone. You need a support system in the time leading up to it, not just the day of.

  57. Pearl says...

    My advice would be to enjoy the planning process and build in fun! Typically people are engaged for a long time and the wedding day goes by so fast. Focus on the 1-2 things that matter most to you and the rest are just details – make a decision and move on :) I love to dance so I wanted to take lessons for our first dance. We turned them into date nights…dancing and a movie, dancing and cocktails, dancing and a long walk. Don’t wish away a months of planning in sacrifice for one day. Enjoy the journey!

    One fun thing we did: we went to a super dive-y bowling alley for an after party. Pitchers and deep-dish pizza for all! There was blacklight in the bowling alley so my dress ended up glowing!

  58. Heather. says...

    My advice: my husband got a really nice tailored suit instead of renting a tux. He got fitted, picked out all of the details, and he looked great. It was expensive, but he has worn that suit SO many times since. Unlike my dress… But at least it was very affordable.

    Also, do what feels right to you. I’m lucky that no one pressured me about what to do, so we didn’t decorate with flowers, we brewed our own beer and had bottles of wine on the table to help yourself. We figured out what we wanted the wedding to feel like (a dance party) and go from there…

  59. Posts like these are why I read A Cup of Jo. Thank you for putting out interesting content that leaves me engaged (no pun intended).

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      aww, that means a lot. thank you so much!

    • Maggie says...

      +1!

  60. Laura says...

    The “aisle” at my wedding was really the path that went through the garden at the restaurant where we got married. I didn’t think about this in advance but it was too narrow for me, my full dress and both my parents. They kept stepping on my dress, which kept causing us all to get tripped up. I have a very clear memory of quietly yelling at my mom through my teeth, “Get off my dress!” In such an important moment, anger is the last emotion you want to feel. They ended up finishing the walk following behind me rather than next to me… So that’s my advice. Take the size of your dress into consideration!

  61. sharon says...

    I just want to girl crush marry that picture of Paola and her bridesmaids. Cannot deal with the gorgeousness. Beauty Uniform PLEASE!

    • Fernanda Abreu says...

      OMG! Yes yes yes!! Beauty uniform and one week style (i forgot the name, sorry) ;)

    • Aya says...

      I know–all those women, especially Paola, took my breath away. Stunning and vivacious!

    • Kim says...

      Yes! Those girls look so amazing and happy and beautiful!!

  62. have a “first look” / see each other before! i had so much excitement and anticipation about seeing my husband, and this took the pressure off walking down the isle. plus, those are still some of my favorite pictures that our photographer took, and giving him a BIG bear hug and kiss alone before everything else made that day so much more special and easy.

  63. Kate says...

    Stick to your damn budget. It’s not worth debt and stress about overspending. If you’re worried about what specific people will think if you’re having a budget wedding, this is a good time to evaluate if the relationship with that person is healthy!

    We passed out slices of Costco cake to guests. We bought two boxes of hydrangeas from Costco for decorations- 60 giant stems for $200 (hot tip to brides! Costco sells a ton of flowers online). We didn’t invest a ton in to decor, but did build our own corn hole set, which was a huge hit. At the end of the day, we wanted people to be relaxed, eat well, and have a great time. People tell us that our wedding was one of the best they’ve ever been to, and always mention specific details- corn hole and the amazing food being the top ones. We made guests comfortable and relaxed, which is way more important than having centerpieces that some girl from your sorority would be impressed by.

  64. Our officiant asked us, the night before the wedding, to write letters to one another to be opened in a year. This May we celebrated our first anniversary. We woke up at an Air B&B in New Orleans. We poured ourselves coffee and headed to the garden to read our letters and write new ones–to be opened next year. It’s a sweet tradition of connection and raw-reality in addition to dates and flowers. :)

    • Megan Cahn says...

      I love this idea. Maybe me and my fiancé will do that!

    • Oh I LOVE this! I am five weeks (!!) away from my own wedding and, while I have always loved the sentiment of exchanging letters on our wedding day, we are already writing our own vows and feel that any letter we would exchange would basically same the same thing. So, this is a lovely solution! What a beautiful tradition to begin.

  65. Anne and José are the loveliest/coolest! I met him through work years ago and the first thing he ever said to me was “So my wife and I just got back from Burning Man…” (of course their wedding was a dance party).

    My biggest do is to not leave each other’s side during the reception. It can get so overwhelming when it’s really just about the two of you. When we did happen to get separated, we’d make sure to meet eyes and mimic taking a picture of each other. It still makes me happy when I think about it.

  66. rebecca says...

    Paola’s dress and her bridesmaids’ dresses!!!! WOAH!!!! That has to be one of the most beautiful bridal parties I have ever seen!

    • Rebecca you are so right!
      That pic is breath taking…
      I hope they all get together every few years and recreate a
      similar photo… just amazing!

    • emily says...

      couldn’t agree more, just the dreamiest dresses on such stunningly happy ladies.

    • Mia says...

      right?! holy crap.

  67. Linsey says...

    My husband and I eloped at SF City Hall this past April. It was just us and our photographer and it was perfect. My husband wore a nice suit, I had a dress and a bouquet and my hair done, we called our folks afterwards and then mailed out pre-addressed wedding announcements, and we ended the night with champagne in bed. It was wonderful! Two months later, we had a backyard party at my father-in-law’s house with friends and family, a cake, another photographer, a playlist that we made, and yard games. We truly got the best of both worlds.

    My advice to newly engaged ladies is to NOT have a “me too” or Pinterest wedding and instead figure out what makes YOU feel like a bride. For me, I didn’t *need* my mom or my BFF or a big ballgown to get married. I bought a short wedding dress that I got to wear for both events, we got an amazing trip to the Bay area, and we spent less than half the cost of a traditional wedding on both of our events combined.

    you DO you and DON’T force yourself (or your spouse) to have a wedding that isn’t you own version of perfect.

  68. Brenna says...

    My advice is to read the book A Practical Wedding by Meg Keene (there’s also a website). I got engaged this summer and was feeling so overwhelmed with the pressure of planning a wedding and this book made it all better. Her motto is basically “Don’t stress. It’s fine. Do whatever you want.” It’s so refreshing!

    • Anne E says...

      THIS! A Practical Wedding has kept me sane throughout our engagement!

  69. KChou says...

    Whatever your budget is, do invest in a great photographer. We got married at City Hall but ended up planning a dinner party at the request of our parents. We decided to splurge on a photographer and it was the best thing decision we ever made. The pictures came out beautiful even though the day was stressful.

  70. Delegating everything was the best thing I did (and was advised to do!) for our wedding. There was nothing I needed to worry about the day of. It was a beautiful picture of people in our church community coming together to make it gorgeous and run smoothly!

  71. Loved all of these, especially the idea of a wedding in the woods, and Paola’s bridesmaids are just gorgeous. Taking note for the future! Also, you have a lot of friends named Anne :)

  72. SN says...

    I just got married five (!!!) weeks ago and instead of give advice, I’ll share some of my favorite parts of our wedding. While well-intended, the constant barrage of advice when you are planning can feel exhausting :-)

    – We gave hand-written notes to all of our guests as place cards, and EVERYONE loved them; it was a lot of work, but such a simple way to show our guests how much their presence meant to us
    – While against tradition, my husband and I stayed in the same hotel room the night before our wedding; I would’ve been a wreck without him, and will always smile, remembering I got to wake up next to him on our wedding day
    – Our moms are crafty so we put them to work – my mom made our invitations, my veil & belt, handmade gifts for the bridal party, embroidered hankies for family, etc. and my mother-in-law baked cookies, packaged up the favors, etc. – sure, you can buy that stuff – but knowing our moms MADE things is so special (and they loved doing it)
    – We did a receiving line after the ceremony – such a great way to see and talk to everyone so you don’t have to stress about it during the reception
    – We did a photo slideshow during the reception (not the rehearsal) – people LOVED it; a lot of work, but it really personalizes it and gives a fun glimpse into your lives
    – We last-minute sprung for one of those photo booths (no props though – I wanted to see our guests’ faces, looking sharp!) and it was seriously the best; it shows everyone letting loose and having fun – I will always treasure the photos
    – We did a DIY wedding video service where you rent handheld videos and can get guest video clips via app; a fun way to get video if your budget just doesn’t allow it
    – We danced like it wasn’t our wedding – and got DOWN; seriously, since we were on the dancefloor the whole night, our guests were too, and the DJ insists it was one of the most fun dance floors he’d ever seen
    – After party at the hotel and brunch the next day – it felt like the party kept going and we really got to talk with our guests, hear stories and just relish in the most amazing weekend
    – Finally, I wore sneakers. Highly recommended.

    Only thing I would’ve done differently? Hire a day-of coordinator. Your brain is jelly out of sheer joy and excitement, so you are certainly not going to be on top of details or issues, should anything come up.

    It’s just a day; relish in it, and then get to the real fun of being married and starting a few chapter with your spouse. (Oh – and the honeymoon 

    • Such awesome ideas! I loved reading through all of them :)

    • My wedding is five weeks away and I love hearing your perspective so soon after your own! Thanks for sharing :)

  73. Anna says...

    Now I want to know more about each and every one of these lovely couples! Great post!!

  74. Christina B says...

    We planned our wedding in a few months. We became engaged in July, started planning in September and ended up getting married on New Year’s Eve at 4pm in a beautiful & historic art gallery surrounded by our parents, siblings, nieces & nephews (13 people total + officiant.) We all went to a lovely dinner at the fanciest place in town then went back to the hotel (a converted mansion that we had to ourselves) and danced, drank champagne, and watched the ball drop in our pyjamas.

    The following summer we invited friends & extended family to stay with us at a lovely vintage hotel near Lake Michigan. We put up a tent and had catered, casual meals all weekend and got to visit with everyone.

    We had everything we wanted – a fancy, glittery night on in the city with our nearest & dearest that we’ll never forget, and a family-reunion style weekend with our favorite people enjoying the beauty of western Michigan. It was all within our budget & we got to feel the happy wedding feels twice! I happily recommend a fancy, intimate ceremony and a big, fun, casual blowout later that you can enjoy!

  75. What exactly are the Do’s and Don’ts of this post? I like it but not sure the title matches the content.

    • haha I actually had the same thought! It was more anecdotal than actual advice/dos/don’ts. Loving the comment section, though!

  76. Anna says...

    Paola and her bridesmaids look like out of a Beyoncé video. STUNNING 💗

    • Janine says...

      I completely agree. Absolutely GORGEOUS!!

    • Right? Like jaw-dropping gorgeousness right here.

    • Laura C. says...

      Beyoncé wishes!
      They are stunning indeed ♡

  77. My biggest regret was that I insisted on my values, which meant a very small, informal wedding. Both times. Yup. It wasn’t until I saw my brother walking his daughter down the aisle and knew that my dad, in hospice, was literally dying to be there, that I understood how important these ceremonies are. The centerpieces, the dresses, the music don’t matter. What matters is that your parents get their chance to be proud, in front of THEIR friends. My dad never walked me down an aisle, and it wasn’t until it was too late that I realized what pain that caused him.

  78. Jenni says...

    My best advice: don’t go for the pretty shoes that aren’t comfortable. That is the only thing I would change about our wedding.

  79. Obsessed with this post! Love how people incorporate original elements into such a traditional thing. Gorgeous photos.

  80. Tabitha H says...

    1. If you’re having your dress altered, make sure you ask about bustling/ adjustments for dancing! We didn’t realize that was separate and I was tripping over my dress all day. ALSO check if they’re supposed to steam the dress before you pick it up! My mom was steaming the dress WHILE I was wearing it the day of because we realized the shop had forgotten to. It was really funny, and hilariously the photographer got photos of me holding up the skirt while my mom steamed the tulle underneath. Not super glamorous! ;)
    2. Two married friends of ours stood next to us at the reception pretending to talk to us so we could eat without being bothered. It was so sweet and smart, since we definitely wouldn’t have been able to eat otherwise.

  81. Nicole says...

    Can I just say, outside of how fun and refreshing these stories are on their own, how awesome it is that you highlighted a huge group of female business owner-badasses here?! Sharing genuine, fun tidbits from really strong successful women is something Cup of Jo continually nails. Bravo ladies!

  82. Please, please do a few sessions of premarital counseling! As a ceremony officiant who is also a couples therapist, I help couples spend just a few hours preparing for the marriage…which is different from getting ready for the wedding! We focus on relationship strengths, talk about ways to grow and learn together, and create a marriage vision that is meaningful and unique. Working with engaged couples is my FAVORITE :)

  83. Anna says...

    Just so good. Paola was jaw dropping.

    • Jackie says...

      Right?!? So beautiful!!

  84. Ramona says...

    We eloped! Ten years later we renewed our vows. Our children walked down the aisle with us. That’s when we had our party! We celebrated 36 years this past Spring. Looking back on it now…I wouldn’t change a thing!

  85. Amy P says...

    Paola’s bridesmaids….damn, girls! Now those are bridesmaids dresses!

    • Tis says...

      What a breathtaking bunch! Looks like a Vogue shoot!

  86. Karen T. says...

    Don’t break the (or your parents’) bank! It all comes down to the marriage not the wedding anyway. Do what you can afford and the love of the day will shine through whether your food budget is $100 or $10,000. We did a dessert table in addition to a small two tier cake with desserts donated (both store bought and homemade) by our family and it was AMAZING.

  87. I’m getting married next fall and we’re planning a no-frills celebration at phoenicia diner in the catskills, with a ceremony outside. we’ve already had some family members question our choice of a diner, rather than a reception hall- but I love planning a wedding that is so unique to us rather than traditional. thanks for the tips.

  88. I love these! Totally shows how every wedding is unique :)

  89. Awhhh this post was so enjoyable to read! I’m not engaged but (I’ll admit!) my biggest guilty pleasure is reading about weddings! I loved what Jenny said – I think I’d have to hug my partner too, all those eyes and all those nerves would only feel settled if I could touch him! Beautiful post!

    Flora
    http://www.createmydreamhome.com

  90. clare says...

    Be yourselves! Have a day that’s ‘you’ not someone else’s idea of how a wedding ‘should’ be. Hubbie and I had a quiet ceremony in a library at an old hotel with 15 guests. Walked to a French bistro for a leisurely lunch across a green. Then bid farewell to our guests and spent the eve in the hotel candlelit spa!

  91. Laura says...

    I wholeheartedly agree with the advice to not overspend, and just generally try not to get caught up in what you think you “have” to do. We thought we had to invite EVERYONE–and then realized we were going to spend a small fortune on a wedding for 300 guests, many of whom we were not that close to. So after we sent out save the dates, we ended up writing a lot of people and basically disinviting them, telling them we’d decided to cut back for budgetary reasons. DON’T DO THAT. Instead, think hard about your guest list and you’ll probably realize that the number of people you feel comfortable declaring your undying love for someone in front of is actually quite limited. I actually still wish I’d spent less on the dress; I loved it, but I really did only wear it once and just got caught up in that whole “it’s your special moment!” craziness.

  92. oh these make me a little teary…the love expressed in each one…boils down to have ALL THE LOVES!

  93. Lauren says...

    My question is, do you have to have bridesmaids? The older I get the more of my friends are already married and moms, so the idea of matching dresses and a bachelorette party in Vegas seems kind of silly. But I also don’t want to be drinking champagne alone when I’m getting ready on the big day! What’s a girl to do?

    • Kat says...

      oh my goodness no!!! invite your best friends to get ready with you/celebrate with you, etc. on your own terms. Have a sleepover one weekend to celebrate (the moms will LOVE that :) ).

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh you totally don’t have to! many of my friends have skipped having bridesmaids, and we’ve still done so much of the same rituals — getting ready together, going wedding dress shopping, sharing a secret wedding pinterest board :) you can do whatever you’d like! :)

    • Well, I’m not from the US, so I don’t understand the tradition completely with bridemaids, but it’s your day, so do whatever feels right for you. Have you girls there, but maybe not in matching dresses? Who cares if they are already married/have children etc.? If you want to have them there on the morning of your day, have them there. Have a girls night out (or whatever you prefer) instead of going to Vegas.

    • Sadie says...

      You definitely don’t have to have bridesmaids if you don’t want, and I promise, you still won’t be getting ready and drinking champagne alone. I had one maid of honor and she basically bailed on me. I got ready with my mom and sister and just invited my girlfriends to stop by. It was great!

      Also, whether or not you have bridesmaids, you definitely don’t have to do matching dresses OR a bachelorette party. In lieu of a bachelorette party, my very pregnant sister came to visit me a few months before and we spent the weekend in a snazzy hotel and went out for Chinese food and mani-pedis. Then, the day before, I went for a massage with a girlfriend (said maid of honor having bailed).

      The point is … you do you … and just invite your friends to join you in whatever you think will be fun!

    • Kristin says...

      I am getting married in April and don’t have any bridesmaids! I will have my sister by my side and my fiancé will have his best friend by his. I live farther away from friends and family, so for me I didn’t want to put people out because if they are coming to my wedding I wanted them to enjoy themselves and not feel strapped for every detail being a bridesmaid entails. Our wedding will be very unique and very us, and we know we’ll have a great time skipping over this tradition.

    • Lauren says...

      thanks y’all, this has sufficiently given me the courage to buck tradition and do it my own way <3

    • cgw says...

      Nope! We neither had bridesmaids, nor groomsmen. Been married 19 years.
      :)

    • Do what you feel! I am in a similar boat — I am the last of my closest friends to be married and having lived/studied in various places over the last decade, my friend group is larger than I’d like my bridal party to be (if I included everyone I’d like to, I’d have 13 bridesmaids — way too many for me!). I have decided to include my oldest friend and my first friend in NYC as maid/matron of honor, and then to delegate special readings and toasts to other close friends. This way, I don’t feel overwhelmed by a million bridesmaids but do still feel that my dearests have meaningful roles in the day.

  94. Michelle says...

    waaaait, I’ve never thought about walking barefoot like Paola, but wow I love that!!! and I’m all in for walking down the aisle together. I love how this post shows the many different ways that a wedding can go “right,” even when things go wrong! no rules, no worries :)

  95. lauren says...

    I’m getting married this weekend. Love this!

    • Congrats!!!

  96. These were so sweet, love it

  97. Sarah Offord says...

    Our Wedding reception turned into a giant pool party! Everyone jumped in fully clothed, even me (the bride), both our parents and aunts and uncles! It was So. Much. Fun! I’ll never forget looking around and seeing everyone laughing, smiling from ear to ear, and acting like kids again, it was the best feeling. The pictures from the pool party are full of laughter and chaos and i would have it no other way.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that sounds amazing!

  98. Carrie says...

    non-matching bridesmaids’ dresses are the best! Seriously, why do brides still make their friends buy expensive dresses that will never get worn again?! I asked my bridesmaids wear a shade of grey and it turned out great. Looking back, I should have allowed more leeway and asked them to wear all light colors, pastels, beige, etc.

  99. Christine says...

    We got married about two weeks ago and it was perfect for us! We had a planned elopement…we told people but it remained just the two of us. We sent out cards so people could write us notes and well wishes for us to open and read on our wedding day. I can’t imagine us doing it any other way. My advice is to stay true to what will make the two of you happy! We stayed in budget, had the perfect wedding, and even went hiking on our wedding day!

  100. Margaret says...

    Love this post! I’m planning my wedding right now and feeling grateful that my family is so supportive of what we want for our day. It’s wonderful to hear these couples reinforce our wish to just be ourselves. I’d love to continue to hear from more newlyweds.

    PS – Echoing others here, but Paola’s photos made my jaw drop!

  101. The professional photographer in me did cringe at the advice of having guests capture the day on their cell phones. I understand the appeal of having instant access to photos from the guests’ perspective, but consider having an “unplugged” ceremony where the hired professional is the only one taking photos.

  102. Savannah says...

    Paola’s stunning photo with her bridesmaids- hot damn! I love it.

  103. cgw says...

    Appoint someone to be your go to person once the wedding begins. I chose my cousin, she knows me well. If there was a problem the wedding coordinator and she would figure it out. That way I wasn’t burdened with any concerning thoughts if any problems should pop up.

  104. I love this!! I was just Maddie last month and my advice is to ignore the outside noise and focus on what you and your partner want!

    Our families are both very religious and traditional, but we are not (*ahem* had 2 babies before the wedding rolled around). I wore a vibrant wedding dress, it was my dream! I knew some members of our families wouldn’t completely approve, but I knew my husband would love seeing me at my happiest on our day. he LOVED it! We also had a small ceremony of 30 people in Paris rather than inviting ALL the family and having it in our home state of MN. Everyone who was there made the day a dream, and I am so grateful we listened to our hearts and didn’t get overwhelmed by the outside voices!

    Xoxo http://www.touchofcurl.com

    • Where did you get married in Paris? And were you legally married in the US before traveling and you celebrated the ceremony in Paris?
      This is literally my dream but whenever I’ve looked into it it seems impossible to get married in France if you are a US citizen!

  105. Hannah says...

    Choose someone to be your Personal Assistant for the day! I thought it was the weirdest tip, but I got it from someone who’d been coordinating weddings for years and it ended up being the best decision. The idea is to choose someone close to you that will not be a bridesmaid, preferably someone who has been through their own wedding day. Bridesmaids are wonderful, but they have their own day-of tasks, and sometimes they just don’t know how to help- or they all try to help at once. Your PA is the go-to for helping you pee, keeping you hydrated, getting that thing you left in the car, and making sure you know where you’re supposed to be when. It sounds a little excessive, but it was the best thing to not have to worry about what I was supposed to be doing next or whether or not my bag would make it to the car.

    • Sarah says...

      I second this! I had a friend who appointed herself to this without being asked. I remember while horking down on a sandwich with onion for lunch in the hotel room i said, “Oh no! I forgot to pack a toothbrush!” She pulled out a duffel bag and said, “Don’t worry. I’ve got one for you in here.”

  106. Erin W says...

    Maybe I’m just feeling emotional today but Stef’s story about the invitation to the “cool club” actually made me tear up. Oh, older brothers.

  107. Jessica E. says...

    We’ve been married for a little over two years now after being engaged a couple years before and then calling off the wedding. We had been planning a wedding that neither of us wanted, with more people than we wanted and more pressure than we could take (mainly from my side of the family). In the end we decided, just the two of us, to elope and not to tell anyone, because that’s what we wanted. We are both very shy and private people and the idea of getting married in front of a bunch of friends and family frankly made both of us horribly anxious. So instead we planned a trip to Hawaii where, unbeknownst to almost everyone except for our two best friends, we would actually be getting hitched (we kept the elopement a secret for over a year!). We ended up telling his mom a couple months beforehand (she was so happy for us and luckily helped me alter my dress) and we told my parents and sister just a week before we left for Hawaii and they were beyond happy for us. Everyone else didn’t find out until shortly after the very quiet, very “us” ceremony (at a 1-bedroom bed and breakfast) overlooking the most beautiful valley and black sand beach on the Big Island. We posted a picture of us Facebook and shared the news. So my advice is, don’t settle for someone else’s idea of what your wedding and your experience should be! Your wedding or lack there of should be 100% you (you and your partner)! A wedding is a celebration and that celebration and commitment can look and feel however you want it to. For us, it was perfectly imperfect and exactly what we wanted and needed.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love this advice!

    • Jackie says...

      Yes! Your wedding day sounds perfect!

    • Danielle says...

      Thanks for sharing this! My fiance and I are eloping in Hawaii in a couple of days! 😬💕

    • Jessica E. says...

      Congrats! How exciting!! I hope you find it as magical and perfect as we did.

  108. Kellie P. says...

    LOVE the idea of walking down the aisle with my soon-to-be husband, wish we would have done that!
    One thing we did do that I am happy about is deciding to have the wedding in our backyard instead of the winery where we initially intended. It saved a ton of money, but it was also way more “us.”

  109. Double and triple check your reservations with your vendors and equipment rentals! We put a deposit on a sound system months in advance and it was never delivered the day of the wedding…STRESSFUL. While I should have been enjoying the first few moments of our reception, I was instead worrying about how we could possibly have the dance party of our dreams with no speakers! Luckily, my dad saved the day by jumping in a Car2Go with our DJ and renting equipment from a nearby Guitar Center (which was closing a minute after they got there!). I have such incredible memories of that day and this story is just one piece of the amazing puzzle that makes up our wedding day, but if I ever have a party like this again I will definitely call to confirm all of our rentals ahead of time! As my best friend always told me: “No matter how much you plan, someone will always be cutting a string off your wedding dress just before you walk down the aisle.”

  110. The best advice I got was from my wedding planner. She told us that, during cocktail hour, we should eat dinner somewhere just the two of us. She reassured us that no one would notice we were missing because they would assume we were having pictures taken or something and that we would appreciate being able to eat dinner. Sure enough, it was true. Plus, after all of the chaos of getting ready for the wedding and the ceremony, it was so nice to just sit down and have a conversation with my new husband before going out and meeting all of our guests. We were able to enjoy the reception and greet everyone as they were eating and then spend the rest of the night dancing. I tell every bride-to-be to make sure to eat dinner with your husband during cocktail hour. It was so special!

    • Andrea says...

      Wow! This is the best advice I have ever read. I definitely didn’t have a chance to eat after our wedding and ended up hangry and tipsy and tired by the end of the night. A meal with my new husband would have been a big game changer. Kudos to your wedding planner. :)

    • Couldn’t agree more! My husband and I did this and it was the best decision we made!

  111. I got married young, which everyone warned me not to do, but I’m glad I got married when I did, and I’m happy with my husband and my life. The marriage part of getting married young was great for me, but the wedding part I definitely would have done differently! My husband and I both wanted to elope, but ended up having a big fancy-with-a-capital-F wedding because that’s what our families wanted and at 24 we didn’t know how to tell them no. It was beautiful and amazing and the most fun night ever, and I regret it a little bit. I barely saw my husband at the reception because we were so busy hosting our big party, and now we don’t even keep in touch with half the people who were there. I didn’t even see him much the next day because we were still hosting! We blew a ridiculous amount of money that could have gone to something else. The lamest part, though, is that nine years later I don’t really think about that day. I had a blast, I looked beautiful, I do love the pictures, but knowing what I know now I would have done something low key that focused more on us and less on the party.

    • Abbie says...

      I completely agree–I think part of this comes from being young (23 when we married). We’ve been married 5 years now, and every year we ask ourselves, why didn’t we just elope?!? We had a special day and all, and it by no means broke the bank, but we would have been just fine eloping at our beautiful city hall and getting a small group of friends and family together afterwards. As a very detail-oriented, budget conscious person, I stressed myself to the max trying to make everyone happy and have “THE BEST TIME EVER.” We look at the pictures every once and a while and think, “Man, that was stressful.” At 23, we just weren’t confident enough to do what we really wanted and deal with our family’s expectations. Thank goodness I’ve now learned how to say no.

  112. Mara says...

    My advice, as a newlywed: if both families have strong opinions, varying expectations, the stress and costs are adding up AND you’re an introvert who didn’t want the darn circus to begin with, consider a destination wedding! My husband and I love to travel, picked a random country in Europe, and had an intimate dream wedding at an 11th century castle. It cost a small fraction of what a wedding in NYC would have cost, and we got plenty of quality time with a small group of family. Then, upon returning home, we had a large, casual party to appease the parents. :-)

    • Lauren E. says...

      This is what I’m doing next week! We rented two big villas in Italy and 24 of our nearest and dearest are flying out to spend the weekend with us. I still got the dress, the flowers, the band… But instead of one single day where you’re in a soulless reception hall with 150 people whose names you can’t even remember, we’re going to actually relax and enjoy our time with our friends and family. In all honesty, I’m still stressed about getting there, making sure everything arrives, etc but once I’m on that plane, there isn’t much more I can do. I can’t wait :)

  113. Clara says...

    To us, it was so important to have a good DJ, or at least good music. And by good music I mean music that is danceable! If having your guests out dancing isn’t important to it, that’s totally okay, but we had been to so many weddings where it was a struggle to get out on the dance floor, and we wanted people to be able to dance!

  114. Heather says...

    I’ve been married for ten years. If I could do it over again…. I would have a very small, intimate ceremony in my parents’ backyard (beautiful country land) and save money for a down payment!

  115. These are beautiful.
    For us, both being introverts, we knew we wanted to keep things small and simple. We had 25 of our closest family and friends. My husband is an illustrator, and he illustrated a little comic of our “story” as our invitation. Since we had such a small invite list, it was nice to be able to manage little touches like this without it feeling overwhelming.
    We’re not religious, and we didn’t want anyone there we didn’t know well and love, so my brother married us in the most hilariously sweet ceremony. It was a Friday morning on a sunny day in late September in the rooftop garden of one of our favorite Chicago restaurants. Afterward, we had brunch, stuffed ourselves to the gills with pie from our favorite bakery, and then we went bowling :)

  116. ahhh i’m headed to a dear friend’s wedding in miami this weekend, and this has me SO EXCITED. perfect timing!

  117. 1. Paola and her wedding party are gorgeous! wow!

    2. I love the idea of walking down the aisle with your about-to-be-spouse. We recently went to a wedding where the couple casually walked in together hand-in-hand, and it was lovely.

    • Kellie P. says...

      I second both thoughts!

    • Anne says...

      Omg seriously, my jaw is on the floor. Those women are stunning.

  118. Libby says...

    My husband and I eloped. And while that’s the BEST advice I could ever give anyone because A) I didn’t have to share my husband on my wedding day with anyone else B) We’ve had FIVE parties since then to celebrate. Truly though HANDS DOWN THE BEST ADVICE I could possibly give a couple that is getting married is this: Set wedding planning dates, save up all your questions, comments, to do lists… and set a date to go out to dinner or breakfast or beers or coffee and do all the of planning then. And once you’re done with your meal or beverage, leave the wedding discussions until your next date. That was you aren’t constantly talking about wedding stuff ALL THE DAMN TIME. It really helped us knowing we only had a certain amount of time to plan. #1 ELOPE #2 Planning Dates.

    • Mara says...

      LOVE this!! Wish I would have done this!

    • I love that you had parties. Do you do one every year for your anniversary?

  119. Rachael says...

    Er, Jo, I don’t think I will be the first to ask for a Beauty Uniform from Paola – her skin, her style, omg!

    xx

    • Yes, please!

    • Yes! Seconded!

    • Clara says...

      Yes!

    • Shannon says...

      She’s gorgeous. And that wedding gown! Yes, please. Beauty uniform is a must.

    • Jennifer says...

      Yes, Yes, YES!

    • Kirsten says...

      Definitely!! Her and her bridesmaids looked STUNNING!

    • Kate says...

      Yep, her wedding look is absolutely stunning — would love to hear more about that too.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      for sure!!! i’m happy to say that megan is already working on it!! :) :) :)

    • Lena says...

      Came down here to say the same thing – all advice and photos are gorgeous but Paola’s photo with her bridesmaids took my breath away.

    • Agree

  120. Amy says...

    Love this post. No rules. Traditional? Go for it. Camping? Go for it. City hall? Yup. Do what works for YOU and have fun.

    • I love the camping idea.

  121. Celeste says...

    YES! to the last bit of advice. I thought my wedding would be teeny tiny but my mom pointed out to me that people wanted to be involved. During my wedding reception, I was so touched at all the people who had shown up from far away or from my childhood. Now I realize that people LOVE TO CELEBRATE other people. It doesn’t have to be a huge group, but there’s something to be said for having your village or tribe surrounding you at big moments in your life.

  122. Julie says...

    I am in LOVE with that pic of Paola and her bridal party. Totally stunning and joyous!

    • Julie says...

      Also, something that worked for us with wedding planning- we focused more on the feeling we wanted to convey than the “look”. For instance, we chose a resort where our family and friends could stay without the hassle of driving, and it ended up being the best long, celebratory weekend. And we knew we wanted good, up on your feet music and a great bar. No one cared about the one bridesmaid in the too-short dress, the groomsman who forgot his tie, or our small center pieces. In the end, all the fun and love still shone through in the pictures!

  123. cooper says...

    Find ways to have fun, whatever that means for you! For us, that meant renting a bouncy castle!!! (My favorite wedding photo comes from jumping in our bouncy castle in our formal wear). We had cotton candy as centerpieces. We also had yummy appetizers, like lots of kabobs, and a mashed potato bar in lieu of a heavy meal – and served DQ Dilly bars instead of cake. Years later, people are still telling me it was the best food and most fun they’d ever had at a wedding (and it was way cheaper :)

    In hindsight, I’m also really glad I chose special songs for special moments, as those songs now have the power to transport me back to that day in the most lovely and magical way!

    • I love the bouncy castle idea. It sounds so cute. If you had children at the wedding, they must’ve loved it.

  124. Lisa says...

    Beautiful!

  125. Christy says...

    Wonderful tribute! Thanks for helping me reminisce about my own day three years ago.

  126. Katherine says...

    I think I might have injured my jaw from how hard it dropped when I saw Paola’s wedding look. SO BANANAS. SHE LOOKS INCREDIBLE.

    • Stephanie says...

      Right?? She looks STUNNING, as does her bridal party. I would love to see the rest of her wedding photos haha. So gorgeous. Of course, all the brides look amazing and glow-y and happy.

    • Amy says...

      Uhhh, yes. I second that. and the bridesmaids? Are they models? Beautiful.

    • Jessica says...

      Seriously! Her and all her bridesmaids are knockouts. And the colors….!!!!

    • Jody says...

      Same here! We must learn more about her!

    • Carrie says...

      I thought the same thing! She has the most beautiful profile ever

    • Erin says...

      Concur! No offense to the other gorgeous brides but her shots look out of Vogue or something.

    • Seriously!! Paola looks INCREDIBLE, as does her wedding party. And I LOVE everything she had to say about her day. I want to know more about her!!

    • Lisa says...

      Same here!
      I’ve been toying with the idea of wearing a golden dress for my wedding… This was inspiring. The whole article is, really. Thank you for all these tipps, and the beau-ti-ful photos :)