11 Wedding Dos and Don’ts

lisa and inge's wedding

On this hump day afternoon, let’s talk about something fun! What advice would you give friends who are planning their weddings? (Mine is to wear waterproof mascara.) Here, newlywed couples share the 11 things they swear by…

lisa and inge's wedding

Break the ice: “During the ceremony, I was pretty nervous. Inge and I wrote our own vows, and when it came time to read hers, she pulled out her sheets of paper and on the side that was facing me, she had written in huge block letters: ‘This is real, Lisa.’ It was such a funny and unexpected thing and immediately calmed me down. Everyone else also laughed. It really broke the ice.” – Lisa (and Inge)

lisa and inge's wedding

Record your ceremony: “At the last minute, I gave my brother-in-law my phone and asked him to use the audio recording feature to record our ceremony. He walked down the aisle with it in his pocket and then sat in the front row so the audio is actually pretty good. We didn’t have a videographer, so capturing our ceremony was important to me. I have to admit, I listen to the recording every so often and it has even made me tear up on the subway.” – Lisa (and Inge)

ashley ford's wedding

Ashley Ford's wedding

Embrace tender moments: “My dad spent 30 years in prison, so he missed every awards ceremony, graduation and birthday party I ever had. After giving me a pre-ceremony pep talk, and walking me down the aisle, he gave a moving speech that left everybody in tears. He thanked my friends and family for caring for me in his absence, but ended the speech by looking right at me and saying, ‘I’m here now, Ashley.’ We were already pretty emotional, but when I looked at my new husband, he was sobbing harder than anyone else! He knew how much it meant to me to hear those words from my dad, and per usual, he was even happier for me than I could be for myself.” – Ashley (and Kelly)

english countryside wedding

Pick a scent: “I live in Russia, but my husband and I got married in the English countryside. I love Jo Malone perfume, and I was so happy when she launched a fragrance collection called ‘English Fields.’ My husband’s name is Vasily, and ‘cornflower’ in Russian sounds like ‘Vasilyok.’ Can you imagine how amazed I was when I discovered the perfume Oat and Cornflower? Oh my gosh, I’m in love with this smell. Now I wear it on very special days, and it’s the scent of memories!” — Alice (and Vasily)

courtney baxter's wedding

Opt for a morning ceremony: “We had our ceremony on Saturday morning and our reception later that night. It was important to us that the ceremony felt like its own worthwhile event, rather than just a quick to-do before cocktails. We gave our guests Saturday afternoon to stroll around our small Ohio town, have a nice meal, and relax. A handful of our relatives were wary of having the ceremony in the morning, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions we made. The ceremony was a truly beautiful, holy experience.” — Courtney (and Phoebe)

naked wedding cakes with wildflowers

The more cake, the merrier: “We got married in rural Wyoming, where we now live. It was so magical to share our favorite place with loved ones from around the world. Wyoming put on a show for us — from dramatic rain immediately after the ceremony to a double rainbow during cocktails. And our amazing community here made the wedding happen. Our dear friend Meagan made 13 cakes in a friend’s kitchen, garnished with wildflowers that friends had gathered. We had 200 guests who are not afraid of dessert, so the cakes went so quickly. Luckily, our wonderful friends kept feeding my husband and me the different flavors while we were on the dance floor.” — Kathryn (and Jake)

basketball wedding photo

Focus on the things you love: “We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge on our wedding day. We’re both former basketball players and collegiate coaches, so basketball is near and dear to our hearts. Then we went on a ‘Volunteer Honeymoon,’ where we joined Jumpball Programme to help run free basketball clinics for kids in Kingston, Jamaica. It was a great way for us to share our love of the sport with the world.” — Erica (and Julie)

pizza at a wedding

Pizza always wins: “We decided to serve pizza, and we made it buffet style so everyone could get what they wanted. It made the night feel relaxed. There was a range of toppings — like grilled chicken pesto pizza with burrata, and sausage pizza with caramelized onions and fontina. One of the groomsmen piled his plate up with a few of each kind — he had like nine slices. We heard a lot of ‘Best wedding food ever!’ and ‘This is exactly what I want to be eating right now!’ Everyone was obsessed with the meal, and the setup took the pressure off. It was also cheaper, ha!” — Alex (and Grant)

Ashley and Greg

Have your friend emcee: “We asked a friend to serve as the emcee and it was one of the best decisions we could’ve made. We had planned to do a short dance before dinner, which quickly turned into a 30-minute dance party. Just when I thought we might dance right through dinner, our emcee entered the room, humming along to the first bars of ‘Seven Nation Army.’ He was able to make the transition from dancing to speeches and dinner seamlessly, without losing an ounce of the energy in the room.” – Ashley (and Greg)

Caitlin Mociun's wedding

Choose your favorite colors: “I wore an orange dress with a print of cameos all over it. Since I’m a jewelry designer, I liked the nod to jewelry there! I also love orange and yellow, and these colors made the dress feel even more special and personal.” — Caitlin (and Tammer)

Rachel and Matt Dorville's wedding

Go for the group shot: “It’s terrible that I can’t recall who told me to do this, but I was SO happy that I asked my wedding photographer to corral all 99 of our guests for a group shot at the cocktail hour. We spread the word like telephone, and in under five minutes, everyone had gathered on the carousel stairs for the photo. Not everyone is looking, some people are mid-sentence and some are standing behind a tall person just barely peeking out. Still, we captured it, and now I have a photo of all my guests at one of the happiest moments of my life.” – Rachel (and Matt)

Thoughts? What advice would you give?

P.S. More wedding advice, including a secret to a happy marriage and did you have sex on your wedding night?

(Lisa’s photos by Anna Caitlin. Ashley’s photo by Honey and Salt. Alice’s photo by Ageev Vitaly. Courtney’s photo by Rouxby. Cake photo by Liz. Ashley and Kelly’s photos by Once Like a Spark. Kathryn’s photos by McCall Burau. Erica’s photo by Alea Lovely. Alex’s photo by Shannen Natasha. Caitlin’s photo by Aya Brackett. Rachel’s photo by Christine Han.)

  1. Sarah says...

    I’m getting married in two weeks time, and something I have surprisingly found very calming is watching the royal wedding footage from the last three royal weddings (Catherine & William, Meghan & Harry, and just recently, Eugenie & Jack). The Royal Family posts the full, non-curated videos on youtube, and it lets you see the beautiful human elements of each wedding – the nerves, the awkward pauses, the unwieldy gown, the wind blowing strands of hair out of place! There isn’t any sappy love song playing over the video, there aren’t any slow motion shots panning over a posed moment. Sometimes the images we see on social media of weddings are so curated and seem so calm because they are still image, and it makes me feel like every other bride is just NATURALLY that calm and perfect and poised. This raw video footage reminds me that even these royal women (who are used to being in the spotlight) are human, too, and that a wedding WILL be a little nerve wracking and awkward at moments, but overall very joyful and gorgeous and picture perfect as well.

  2. Cora says...

    Please do a full feature on Ashley’s wedding. I need all the details!

  3. Lucy says...

    Loving Ashley’s sparkles!!!

  4. Jo says...

    Love that so many of these couples are both women. This makes me very happy :-)

  5. Courtney C Baxter says...

    Hi Jess – it’s not a maternity dress but I found this at Bloomingdales! Tons of great options there that won’t cost you an arm + leg. Great for those pregnant or just curvy, like me!

  6. Jess O. says...

    I know I’m a bit off topic, but is there any way of finding out where Courtney and Phoebe found that beautiful plunging maternity wedding dress?
    I’ve ended up planning my wedding pregnant, and have cried every time I think of myself huge pregnant and bloated on my wedding day taking tacky pictures of the groom kissing my belly. All the maternity dresses I’ve found look so terrible and sad or really dated.
    Or maybe somebody else knows of somewhere to find pregnancy compatible wedding dresses that still feel sexy and fresh?

  7. My advice, if you have your ceremony and reception somewhere else, is to make sure you have a plan for your purse, your phone, etc as you transition between the two places. We didn’t have a wedding planner and neither one of us thought about it!

    We were married in my childhood church and immediately whisked away to a bright yellow vintage convertible to drive to our reception site. However, this vintage car (a loaner from a friend) hadn’t been driven in years, and the gas tank was empty. As we’re driving to our ceremony, neither of us had a wallet, a phone or anything else that we would need if something happened, like if we ran out of gas. We laughed, said a couple prayers and somehow made it to our reception. When we got there, the friend who owned the car laughed and told me the gas gauge was broken and he had filled it up with gas for us.

    But that’s always my advice for others – think about the transition parts of the day and if you need to bring anything important with you, and make plans ahead of time for who will have that stuff and who will make sure it gets where it needs to go!

  8. L says...

    I don’t love being the center of attention and also had a lot of heartburn re: the cost of a wedding. I considered eloping but I distinctly remember looking around at all of my friends and family together on my wedding day and thinking that it was probably the only time all the people I care about most in the world would ever come together, except maybe at my funeral. Having said that, if you need to reign in your guest list my advice is to start by thinking about who you’ll invite to your rehearsal dinner. Those are probably your nearest and dearest and maybe you should just stop there.

  9. Maddy C. says...

    I love these. I wore Jo Malone’s “BlackBerry & Bay” on our wedding day and through the honeymoon. Now, I wear it for special occasions. Any time my husband smells it, it reminds him of Jamaica (where we honeymooned).

    I’ll also add… Don’t book your flight for 6am the next morning! We danced with our guests until 11:30 pm, then had to travel 2 hours to get to the airport. It didn’t make sense to get a hotel for two hours (and we were worried if we went to sleep, we wouldn’t wake up!), so we spent our wedding night in the cold airport waiting on the employees to show up so we could check in. I also remember being freezing! It was December and snowing, but I was dressed and ready for Jamaica!

  10. I didn’t see any “dont’s” on the list. Generally, the only thing I’ve seen derail a wedding (and therefore should be a solid don’t) is “don’t spring a prenup on your bride the day before the wedding, just before the welcome dinner.” What didn’t make sense was why they waited until so close to the wedding? Apparently, they had discussed it, but nothing formal was done. From my law practice, I knew that the prenup would likely not be valid if signed so close to the wedding – a Court could consider the timing a form of duress because of all wedding costs are essentially sunk costs at that point, and there would be a stigma or embarrassment to stop the wedding. It’s possible a court might not uphold it. Best practice is to have the prenup signed before the invitations go out.

  11. Sara C says...

    Thanks for including diverse couples. ???

  12. JulieB says...

    I love these. We did a couple of these at our wedding. I’m English and love Jo Malone perfumes and chose their classic Red Roses. My mum knew I had bought the perfume to use and as a gift the night before the wedding presented me with the bath oil, shower gel and lotion which really accentuated the scent. All day people were commenting on how lovely I smelt. I always ensure I have a bottle now and often if I wear it and see someone who was at my wedding they will remember it.

    We didn’t do pizza but as we are from a traditional English seaside town instead of a buffet in the evening we had fish and chips which were served in newspaper with wooden forks. Everyone loved it.

    I think people put so much pressure on their wedding day to be perfect but it’s true what people say it is just one day and years from now (hopefully) it will be one small part of your many memories together.

  13. Michelle says...

    My best advice came from my mom: A wedding is a beginning, not an end (despite what so many rom coms would have us believe).

    Also, a band is great! We wanted a party, and that’s just what we got. We actually had to kick people out at the end because everyone wanted to keep dancing. When my husband and I went to thank the band after, they ended up thanking us! They said they hadn’t had so much fun at a wedding in a long time.

  14. Megan says...

    We did a group shot right after the ceremony because our wedding was in an amphitheater so you could more or less see everyone. It was so fun. Right after we kissed, my husband turned around and yelled to everyone “we’re taking a picture and you’re in it!” It’s hanging in our hallway and makes me so happy every day. My mom also hired a local burger truck to come by at about 10pm after a 3 pm wedding with dinner at 6 and many many people tell me that was their favorite part.

  15. Cooper says...

    We rented a bouncy castle for outside the venue during our fall wedding. The kids had a blast, and my favorite wedding photo is of me and my husband having a post-ceremony bounce :)

  16. Bren says...

    We had a 6 week engagement, and so naturally there were a lot of details that I sort of forgot about! At our wedding rehearsal I realized that we needed a person to tell each person when to go down the aisle! We didn’t have a wedding planner but this was really the one thing we needed some help on! I turned to my bossiest friend (she’s 15 years older than me, very petite, and a total spitfire) and I said “Is there any way you can just tell everyone when to go down the aisle?? And maybe just keep an eye on the clock so we know when to cut the cake?!” She was so pumped I put her in charge and she told me years later “Being in charge at your wedding was my favorite thing I ever did in all my years of living in Atlanta!” How fun is that?Not to mention cheaper! Everyone go find your bossy friend and put her in charge – she’ll be so excited! :)

  17. Leah says...

    Our wedding venue suggested that all their couples spend 15 mins alone, after the ceremony and before the reception, in a private room together. The whole day was a whirlwind that just whizzed by, and I can’t tell you how much we loved that short time of quite reflection alone together over a glass of champagne, after we’d just made it official and before we got to celebrate with all our family and friends. By forcing us to take a moment, it really allowed time to slow down for a second so we could just be in it together for awhile. I always tell friends who are wedding planning to do the same.