Relationships

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. Julie says...

    My wedding advice:
    -don’t forget to eat.
    -don’t sweat the small stuff, you’re lucky to be marrying your favorite person. Enjoy every minute, the day goes by so fast
    -have amazing wacky friends who will surprise you with an armadillo “bride’s” cake as a nod to Steel Magnolias.

  2. AJ says...

    Caitlin’s orange dress! 😍😍😍

  3. Leah says...

    We did a pizza truck, but we did do rentals for nice plates, tables and chairs. Our pizza company also made beautiful salads and buffalo chicken. The brought local gelato as well.

    For table centerpieces, we had a cake for each table. This cut down on the cost of a wedding cake and floral centerpieces. We ended up spending about $25 a cake.

    People said it was one of the best meals they’ve had at a wedding – and now friends are asking me about it now that they’re planning their own wedding.

    • Em says...

      Genius centerpieces!!

  4. Cait says...

    I am just here for Ashley’s wedding photo – gorgeous!!!!

  5. Angela says...

    Everyone has advice to give when it comes to weddings, but sometimes it is so difficult to apply when it’s your turn! I think you will never regret being considerate of others and staying true to yourself and your partner(which is hard!). With all these wonderful wedding resources comes pressure and expectation; I sometimes joke, “what would the pilgrims think?” That said, my unsolicited advice is if you plan to take a honeymoon right after, wait an extra day before traveling (i.e. Saturday wedding, leave on Monday). Executing a wedding and packing list sent me over the edge!!

  6. Emily says...

    I got married 2 weeks ago! And my sister is getting married in 6 months – so it’s fun to bestow advice to my best gal while it’s still fresh in my mind. What I shared with her:

    1. She won’t have a wedding party, aside from a Best Man and Matron of Honor (me!). I told her not to regret that decision. I love my sis and 3 friends that I asked to be bridesmaids, but at 30 years old with careers and (some) families, it felt like a formality. I had friends that weren’t in my bridal party who really SHOWED UP emotionally for me during my engagement, and I had a bridesmaid or two who had so much going on in their personal lives that they didn’t really have time to do the whole “bridesmaid thing”. I don’t regret having my friends stand up with me at my wedding, but I often felt guilty about the certain “obligations” that I asked of them.

    2. Instead of a typical rehearsal dinner, we had a “welcome party” at our favorite brewery with our favorite food truck. We were getting married in a city where we live, but the majority of our family and friends were coming from the places where we grew up, so it was a “destination” of sorts. Feeding and getting alcohol into 100 people this way was roughly the same budget-wise as a fancy dinner for 30 at a restaurant, but it was so joyous and fun to see everyone as they came into town. I met my fiance’s aunts and uncles, he met my parents’ friends….so at our actual wedding, we didn’t have to do any meet-and-greets, it was just all about enjoying ourselves and having the best time we could with all of our favorite people.

    3. Have the shortest engagement you possibly can. We got married less than 6 months after getting engaged. A friend gave me the best advice: “Whether you set a date in 6 months or a year and 6 months, planning will take over your life, so how long do you really want to be obsessed with a wedding?” The short engagement forced us to be flexible about dates and vendors and silly details and the best part is that we got to be married SOONER!

    4. A girl I work with also gave me fantastic advice: Pay someone else to do as much as you possibly can afford so you don’t have to do it. At her own wedding, she regretted taking on so much DIY stuff to save a few bucks, because it took so much time. While my own wedding budget wasn’t extravagant, I took that advice to heart, and tried to value my TIME the same way I was considering actual money. I own my own business, so I’ve learned the value of hiring someone to do something that they can do better than you. I could’ve done my own flowers, but hiring someone else meant that it was one less thing for me to think about AND she did a way better job. The key here: once you pay someone to do it, you can’t keep trying to do it yourself. Relinquish control.

    My biggest advice, though, is to get married. It’s a really great thing, and I’m so glad I did it. :)

    • maggie says...

      Such wonderful, sweet advice! Thanks for sharing.

    • Cláudia says...

      This is great advice and you sound so happy. Congratulations!

    • Anne says...

      I SO wish I’d done #4 – it’s my ONLY regret! I realized that I am not a DIY person, which is unfortunate considering I’m cheap, haha.

  7. BB says...

    This is wedding advice for the grooms….your bride will most likely be the quarterback of your wedding. She will handle everything: vendors, questions from your moms, opinions from friends, the dreaded plus one question, ALL OF IT. Be nice to her, nicer than you normally are. There is so much pressure being a bride—some good and some bad—and she just wants it to all go well. Even when she is stressed, she still loves you to pieces and can’t’ wait to marry you.

    • Emily says...

      GREAT advice!

    • Rebecca says...

      I am getting married in a few months and just sent this blurb you wrote to my fiance :) This is so true for me. Thanks!

    • kaela d says...

      Perfectly thoughtful advice! :)

  8. Rachel says...

    My wife and I just celebrated the 20th anniversary of marriage ceremony — a wedding without a marriage license since same-sex marriage wasn’t recognized anywhere in the US. But with our marriage vows, ministers officiating and parents and siblings and friends blessing us with their presence (even if some of them weren’t really sure what a “gay wedding” would be like) it was a wedding and for twenty years it has been most certainly a marriage.

    With that as context, what a joy it is to see the multiplicity and diversity of same-sex couples. Thank you Cup of Jo for the ways you live out a welcoming hospitality.

  9. jet says...

    For the sake of the photos, if you drink beer at the reception, pour it into a ice wine glass first. I saw a beautiful bride walking around with a beer can; really, really not a good look. Also, dont get too drunk so you can remember your reception.

  10. After nearly 30 years of marriage, I can still remember almost every detail of an absolutely glorious day. My advice is don’t sweet the small stuff. My garter snapped and broke, my uncle got seriously drunk and flirted with everyone, my bouquet of flowers started to wilt and shed petals half way through the day and to top everything off my dress and bridesmaids dresses were totally hideous ( it was the 80s – big hair, big sleeves, basically big everything). We still laugh over these memories.
    Oh another important tip—- marry the right person!

  11. Cassidy says...

    One piece of advice I pass on to others (that I actually received from a former boss) is to give your mother in-law and mother physical pictures from the wedding. I made a small photo book online of my favortives and thanks to Shutterfly coupons it was nearly $0 to order one for each of them. They both still pull out the books to share with friends and family.

  12. Marti says...

    CAN I JUST SAY…. ASHLEY + KELLY FOREVER!
    I’ve been following Ashley on social media ever since her “Week of Outfits” post and I am so emotional even just thinking about their wedding day. What a lovely couple!
    All these suggestions are so great. Giving yourself permission to do what feels right and good to YOU and your partner is so so important when you’re in the throes of wedding planning. We kept the set-up and order of things pretty traditional, but casual, and stayed away from traditions that felt meaningless to us, like bouquet and garter tossing.
    We had toyed with the idea of eloping but a mentor of mine reminded me that a wedding is one of the only times… possibly the only time EVER in your lifetime when all of your favorite people will be gathered in one place for a joyful reason. We took that thought and ran with it and ended up having the most fun and delightful celebration with friends.

  13. Amanda says...

    I have two pieces of advice I offer for weddings and I say most of the rest of advice can leave you feeling burdened. There’s enough obligation and burden to wedding planning!
    1) If you really love some element of what you are planning, don’t tell people unless you are confident they will support you. Everyone has opinions and frankly you’ll go crazy if you listen to all of them. Do what you love and enjoy it! My mother-in-law was very bothered we were not having a religious ceremony in her church (one my husband has left and I won’t join) but at the wedding she thanked the minister and thought it was lovely that we were friends with a minister. He’s a friend who got ordained online to marry us and she’s none the wiser!
    2) The week before the wedding make sure you go on a real date and remember why you’re going through all of this craziness and family and planning and silliness. You love this person – take time to remember that!

  14. Silver says...

    As an almost-professional bridesmaid I did away with bridesmaids, photographer, car, my father refused (nicely) to walk me down the aisle – he said I’d been independent for a long time, and my life partner was truly that and why wouldn’t we walk down the aisle together (great idea dad – but dad did catch the taxi to the venue with me), we also got married and had the reception in the same venue (my father in law owns an art gallery so that was kind of easy for us)… but I did get something wrong…. I got the dates mixed up and so we got married on a Sunday evening, because I THOUGHT the Monday was a public holiday, but I was wrong, Tuesday was the public holiday. I only realised when people started leaving around midnight/1am (we had the best band) saying “we’ve got work”. Oh weddings are the BEST – just have fun. I read somewhere something along the lines of “sure marriage might be a piece of paper, but it is a piece of paper that says I LOVE YOU”. It is an honour to be invited to someone’s wedding, and share in the social responsibility to do everything you can to help this couple stay in love forever.

  15. Brynna says...

    We had a morning brunch wedding with no dancing (avoided a LOT of awkward first-dancy-ness/family dances) and it was the best!

    Another hot tip: All-inclusive venues can’t be beat for price and convenience. Was hesitant to get married at a hotel, but I would do it again in an instant.

  16. Des says...

    OMG, ASHLEY, YOUR DRESS! THE LOCATION! YOUR DAD’S SPEECH! Please post more about it, I would love to see more pictures and read more about it! (if you’re okay with sharing)

  17. Jenny says...

    I love all of these, but especially Ashley’s post. I’m so glad her dad was there for her.

  18. Bunny says...

    Something that I wish I didn’t have, a band! I felt obligated to dance and sing and enjoy the music but I wish I had something simple that I wouldn’t feel guilty about not listening to. The day went by so quickly–especially the reception. I much rather would have been able to enjoy my guests with some nice back ground music

  19. MARINA says...

    What a cool idea about group picture! I wish I’ve done that.
    I used to love looking over my parents’ wedding album. Back then most pictures were black and white and there were only handful per wedding. So their album had wedding pictures of all of their family and friends’ weddings during the few years’ span. They ALL had group photos done.

  20. Courtney says...

    This is perfect timing! I am getting married in 24 days. We’re have a small, semi-destination wedding in Lake Placid NY with only 25 friends and family. Even though the planning is mostly complete, I am definitely going to do the group photo! Also it’s so reassuring to hear that a lot of the tips that are listed are things we are already doing (not spending a lot on the flowers or dress, but a lot more on the photographer and food). But, if anyone has any tips on what to do in a mountain town if there is an early November snowstorm I’d love to hear :)

  21. em says...

    I love all these anecdotes!!

    Community question: did anyone go without getting makeup professionally done, and if so, how did that go for you? I never wear makeup and barely know how to put on any, which is totally fine by my husband (we did the city hall thing before our upcoming ceremony) as he doesn’t like the made up look. my mom is trying to bully and guilt me into doing it for the pictures, putting your best foot forward, my friends will be there, etc etc :/ her mother would put on a dress and makeup to go grocery shopping, so I understand that we come from different places. I also understand that a lot about weddings is really for others and not for me, but this feels like it should be a personal decision. anyone? :(

    • Emily says...

      I also rarely wear makeup and didn’t wear any for my wedding! I don’t regret it at all, I felt like myself and I look like myself in the pictures. I do kind of wish I had professional help with my hair, since it went a little crazy, but oh well. Good luck!

    • Ev says...

      Uh oh no no! A lot about weddings is all about you two. Definitely not others.

      I got married a month ago and I did me. I wore white birkenstocks and a jeans jacket over my dress & it stressed my mom out a lot the days before our day (what will people think etc.. ). But I felt like me and it was exactly how I pictured our wedding day. Everybody, including my mom, still says how our day really reflected us as a couple.

    • Jennifer says...

      I did my own makeup, which consisted of a little concealer and powder to even out my skin, a little blush, and some light eyeliner and eyeshadow in a neutral tone with slight shimmer. I don’t usually wear much makeup, but I wanted something a little done up without going overboard. About a week before the wedding I went to a makeup counter at a department store and had someone create the simple look I wanted while my mom took notes on how they did it. I think I bought the eyeshadow they used and used the rest of my own cheap makeup. After practicing a few times I was able to get it how I wanted on my own.

    • katie says...

      I definitely don’t like the way I look with too much make-up, so I didn’t have it professionally done… but I do think it’s fair to wear just a liiiittle bit more on than usual since you’ll be looking at these photos for the rest of your life! I opted to wear foundation and eyeliner, which I never ever wear, and lipstick, but I skipped the eye shadow. I think I looked great ;)

      Do you have any girlfriends who are good at makeup? You could ask one to do your makeup – and I recommend doing a dry run or two with her. OR, you could go to Nordstrom/Sephora and ask them to help you figure out what to do. You might need to buy some additional products but hopefully a couple little tricks could do you right!

    • Rachel says...

      I totally feel you on the mom thing. I did my own makeup for my wedding and it went fine. All you really need to make your features pop in the pictures is mascara to define your eyes (and eyeliner if you’re adventurous) and some blush and lipstick so the camera flash doesn’t wash you out. You do you!

    • Rachael says...

      I did not get my makeup professionally done, and it went great! Others do not get to decide your face; it is completely a personal decision. If you want, find some fun lip color that you like (and would want to kiss someone with while on!) and call it a day. Or if you want to do something in between, ask a friend with some skills to help with very simple makeup (e.g. no foundation or anything requiring a YouTube tutorial). Or nothing at all is a-ok!! I also did not get my hair done – it was long at the time, and I found a pretty antique-looking silver clip to put about a third up away from my face. If I had done full professional makeup and hair, no one would have recognized me! Congratulations and hope you have a wonderful time at your wedding :)

    • Natalie says...

      I had my hair done professionally at a salon then went back to the venue and did my own makeup in my room, alone. It was a nice quiet moment before getting dressed and such. I didn’t trust anyone else to do mine – I’ve seen a lot of awkward foundation – and I wanted to use all my own products . But I do wear makeup every day and am very comfortable using it. I’d say do whatever makes you feel best and not let your mom bully you into anything. It is not her day!

      I would add that for pictures you want to wear more a little more makeup than you would in regular life so your features stand out and you don’t look washed out or tired. You don’t have to go full-Kardashian, but lipstick, eyeliner, blush, etc. will go a long way in capturing your expressions in photos, especially from a distance. There are great makeup tutorials out there that show you how to do natural wedding makeup. You might consider finding a makeup artist that specializes in a light, natural look (check out their portfolio) and then doing a trial before the day. Or, you can visit a Sephora and ask one of their makeup artists to help you find the products for the day and then show you how to apply them, which they will do for free. :)

    • Bethany says...

      I am a very makeup-optional sort and prefer a natural look. I went to the makeup counter (Bobbi Brown because Oprah loves her lipstick lol) at a department store, told them I wanted to do my own wedding makeup and wanted to buy a few “must have” items. The makeup salesperson taught me exactly what to do to achieve the look I wanted, step by step. I enjoyed doing my own (simple) makeup on my wedding day, I looked exactly how I wanted, and had makeup to wear in the months to come! On the other hand, I’ve seen photos of completely makeup-free people on their wedding day, and the thing that comes through is the radiance that comes from being comfortable in one’s own skin.

    • Margot says...

      I did my own makeup, and had so many people trying to talk me out of it. I am not a big makeup person – generally stick to bronzer, concealer, and mascara – and I wanted to enjoy the day of the wedding and hang out with my husband and friends and family and not be stuck in a makeup chair. And I wanted to look like myself!!!
      I went to the Bobbi Brown counter at the department store with my mom and a very nice saleslady helped us pick out some new stuff and showed us how to apply it. It was fun.
      Cue to the wedding day and me trying to apply individual false lashes for the first time (I think I got one on lolz), but I had the relaxed day I dreamed of. My close friend did my hair. All of our DIY finest was put to the test when a dramatic thunderstorm downpoured on everyone at the end of the ceremony. I look back at photos and I definitely didn’t look my best ever, and neither did our guests, but there was much laughter, and I kicked off my shoes and didn’t think twice about it for the rest of the night.
      I wouldn’t change a thing except for getting some really good strip false lashes and doing a test-run before the big day :)

    • Silver says...

      I didn’t get my make up done – I always hate the way professional makeup looks – it might be great for photos but I think it ages people, and looks weird in real life. I guess it depends on each person’s idea of what is polished/beautiful, but if you don’t really wear makeup usually I don’t think if you get professional makeup, that you will feel like yourself, that your partner will feel like you are really you, and maybe you won’t feel ‘beautiful’. Perhaps if you’re not totally sure you could buy your own makeup and do it yourself, prioritising on a natural blush and a great lipstick? It’s going to be an amazing day and there is not a bride in the world (well one who wants to be there I am talking about) who hasn’t glowed with the absolute glory of love.

    • Emily says...

      Hi Em – I LOVE makeup and while I don’t always wear a lot because of my job, I love getting to dress up and feel pretty. HOWEVER, for my wedding, I was a little hesitant to have a stranger just slap makeup and fake lashes on me because I wanted to look like myself – today, and for the future when my kids look at my wedding album! My happy medium: I asked a friend who is always well-put-together (and ok, also OBSESSED with makeup) to do my face for me on my wedding day. It looked GREAT and we got to have the cute “getting ready” morning, but it wasn’t the hassle of a professional doing it, and I could say to her “ok, that’s enough eye shadow” without feeling weird. If you have a friend or family member who could fill that role in a very informal capacity, it might make you feel comfortable, as well as appease your mom.

    • Emma says...

      Em, I was a bridesmaid in my best friends wedding this summer and she did not wear makeup although she did her hair done professionally. That worked for her—she absolutely never wears makeup and likes to play around with hair styles (long shiny hair). Everyone in the wedding party could decide… most people got one or the other. I didn’t do either and it was all good… everyone looked great. We also got to choose between wearing flowers in our hair or having flower crowns and that was nice because people chose what worked best for them.

    • diana k. says...

      Don’t do it! Every time I’ve gotten my makeup professionally done I’ve hated it, and I usually do wear makeup daily. If I were you, I would get 1 or 2 products to boost your natural look. If you have fair lashes, get a mascara – then maybe a bronzer or a blush. I only say this because professional photography sometimes uses harsh lighting/flash and tends to wash people out, so a little bit of makeup will really be undetectable but will add some contrast/brightness to your face. Do a test run before the wedding and go out with some friends, take some photos, and see if you like the outcome.

    • Sally says...

      Neither my daughter or I wear make-up often and we both had it done professionally for her wedding. Neither of us looked “made-up,” just finished.

    • cgw says...

      Raising my hand to this group, I did my own makeup!! My mom wasn’t too pleased but she wasn’t upset either. I did a trial run at the MAC counter three weeks before and told the person that I was looking for a Saturday 11 am wedding look (hint hint), and she gave me a dragon lady look. Went home and my then fiance said if I walked down the aisle with that makeup he’d marry me still but would be afraid to kiss me. Hahahahaha!

    • Marnie says...

      Did my own and did not regret it! Actually had someone ask where i found a makeup artist who could pull off such a natural look :) It’s your day, do what you’re comfortable with!

    • Claire S. says...

      I did my own makeup! Piece of cake. I don’t wear much makeup day-to-day, but I do really like to play around with it, so I just spent an hour here and there in the months/weeks leading up to the wedding doing little makeovers at the makeup counter & buying carefully & slowly. I pieced together a great look I’m still happy with 13 years later. I definitely got my hair done professionally though.

    • Irene says...

      Love these comments! And, yes, definitely a personal decision!

      If doing your own sounds stressful, ask a friend! I did a friend’s make-up for her wedding because she similarly was not interested in having professional make-up done and never wore any herself. We were able to practice a few times beforehand (without the $$$$ for make-up trials) and I simply used things I already had (going to a department store make-up counter together would also work depending on if you need different shades). It’s a really sweet memory we have together.

    • Lindsay says...

      I did not have my makeup professionally done and, like you, I had no skills in this area. I did have a friend show me the ropes beforehand so that I would be comfortable doing my own very minimal makeup the day off. No regrets at all.

    • Emily says...

      Don’t do it! I wear minimal makeup and barely know how to do more than apply mascara. I felt like I was SUPPOSED to wear makeup on the day of my wedding but wasn’t super comfortable with anything more than what I wear on a day to day basis. A month before my wedding I made an appointment at my local Sephora for a trial run of having my makeup professionally done and I HATED it. That sealed the deal for me and I just wore my day to day makeup for my wedding which is really just a bit of foundation to hide my blemishes and mascara. I was so happy because I looked like myself in the pictures and most importantly felt comfortable on the day of my wedding. Do what feels natural to you. My mom was the same way before the wedding (she could not get over the fact that I wasn’t going to wear earrings and I was going to wear my glasses), but when the big day came she was just so happy about the wedding and forgot about all her little complaints. I’m sure your mom will do the same :)

    • em says...

      thanks so much for the advice, encouragement, and perspectives, everyone (and if others have thoughts, please chime in :)

    • WT says...

      I did my own as well! I’ve seen too many brides who don’t really look like themselves, which is really sad to me. I chose a signature shade of lipstick from Mac (sushi kiss) and every time I wear it I’m reminded of our wedding day. I felt and looked like myself which was important to me and my now husband.

  22. cgw says...

    Wear your most comfortable pair of undies for the big day. Save the lacies for the honeymoon. Last thing you want is to be dealing with a wedgie while walking down the aisle, taking pictures, or dancing. Also, some things are worth paying for, others not so much, prioritize. For me it was worth the nearly $1000 the dress cost, but not worth the $500 for the accompanying veil. I made my own for under $65 and it was just as pretty. (BTW, these are 1997 prices, lol). We didn’t splurge on fancy wedding invites. I designed them, printed them at a service bureau, then we hand cut and sent out. Nor did we have fancy wedding favors. Bought Costco sized bags of Hershey Hugs, and Kisses, threw one of each into a square of tulle, tied off with a ribbon. Everyone had a sweet treat to eat on their way home after the festivities, no one had to worry about what they were going to do with a little wedding trinket.

    • Natalie says...

      So true – wear boring/comfy nude underwear and have a bra built into your dress by the tailor, if you can. It will save you a whole lot of hassle!

  23. Laura says...

    My advice is to be a guest at your own wedding. Enjoy the fruits of your labor! My husband and I spent most of our cocktail hour taking photos and mingling, but right at the end as the guests were being herded inside for the reception, we made it a point to sit down and listen to the string quartet we had hired. It’s still one of my favorite memories from the day, sitting alone with my new hubby getting a private little concert and really taking it all in.
    My other advice is to be careful about how much you drink. I really wanted all my memories from my wedding day to be crystal clear so I didn’t have any pre-ceremony drinks and stuck to sipping champagne throughout the reception. A nice bonus is that a dainty champagne flute looks lovely in photos… Although once I could tell things were starting to wrap up, I ordered one of our signature bourbon cocktails and it tasted SO good.

    • Haylee says...

      Love this comment about being a guest at your own wedding! I absolutely agree. Between the bustle, the dances, and greeting the guests, there really are few opportunities to do this. I wish I would’ve taken a few more pauses!

  24. ANDREA says...

    I would say–pick your priorities and then plan from there. For us, it was important that 1) we were married at the end of it 2) that the wedding liturgy kicked ass and 3) that the food was delicious. So, we spent a lot of time on those pieces and not on others–no wedding flowers in the church (it was in the Easter season, so there were flowers there already), no wedding party, no set dances like a first dance, etc. People still talk about the amazing food (from a restaurant that serves Italian food, family style) and the great wedding Mass. And we’re still married.

    • Katie says...

      This is exactly the advice I give to everyone too! Most people don’t remember most of the details of your wedding (what your napkins looked like) but they will remember the few things you choose to care about because they will be perfectly you. So just pick a few things and make you get those how you want and everything else doesn’t really matter.

  25. Yes! We got married in the morning and took a huge group photo on the stairs where we are all cheering! We also went for the multiple cakes and desserts. It was a perfect day. Nothing I would ever change 💕

  26. Elise says...

    We got married on a budget so we knew we couldn’t afford to serve dinner but we still wanted to feed people something. We splurged on loaves of artisan bread (check out ibisbakery.com), artisan olive oil and balsamic, and then meat and cheese platters from the grocery store. It was so simple but people loved it because it felt hearty and seemed fancy, but it was so cheap over all!

    For our dessert, every mom who said, “I want to help!” I asked to bring a cake or pie. The result was a smattering of sheet cakes, cookies, pies, frosted cakes, ice cream cakes. . . it was a nice way to let people feel involved, save money (haha), and have a lot of fun variety.

    I know a lot of people have definite ideas on what they want their wedding to look like, but my advice is that you DON’T have to follow a script (don’t want a first dance? Don’t do it. Don’t like being the center of attention? Nix the bouquet toss). Once I became engaged I realized there were a lot of things about weddings that made me uncomfortable, and thankfully before it was too late I realized that I could just choose to leave those things out. And so far my own wedding is still the best one I’ve ever been to!

    • Libbie says...

      I live in KC—Ibis is the best! Sounds like your wedding was perfect, Elise!

    • Elizabeth says...

      Elise – Your last piece of advice about not following a script is PERFECT. To add to it: If you do choose to forgo some traditional details, like a garter toss, band/dj, etc…..the first benefit is that if feels more comfortable to you. The other, lesser known benefit, is that ALL of your guests will say “Oh this is SUCH a thoughtful wedding, it feels SO MUCH LIKE YOU!” No one missed those things, but felt like we’d created a day all about us and our love (for each other AND our people).

  27. Katie Weltner says...

    My wedding advice is to ask someone to record the toasts (a wants-to-be-helpful auntie is great for this!). People say the sweetest, funniest, most thoughtful things in toasts – and on your wedding day you’re so hyped up with adrenaline, it’s hard to remember the specifics. I think about my dad’s toast a lot since he passed away – I don’t have a recording of it and wish so desperately that I did. I do remember how he got the crowd going (he was a Toastmster/amateur speech guy) – laughing, crying. He even did his very first mic drop at the end, at the crowd’s urging. Sigh – what a toast.

  28. Ask your DJ to save the playlist from the night of your wedding. Not only is it fun to have, but it’s like a time capsule of the night – this is when the wine glass broke, this is when I danced like crazy with my friends from college, this is when we snuck away for a kiss… I listen to mine every anniversary and my mind goes through the entire night.

    • alli says...

      this is genius!

  29. Liz says...

    Best advice I got before my wedding ( as a bride who walk down an aisle): right before you walk down the aisle, when the doors open or when you come into view, stop and take a panoramic mental picture. It helps slow down your pulse too and brings the moment into focus. I remember so much of our ceremony because I took a minute to center myself and take it all in before things got going.

    • cgw says...

      This was what was told to me by my wedding coordinator!! I did as he suggested, and honestly, I still remember that pivotal moment when the doors opened and I saw everyone standing there. Then it was a blur until the end when my cheeks hurt too much to smile anymore. That was over 21 years ago.

  30. Elle says...

    Lots of beautiful photos and suggestions. Love the diversity of couples!

    As a pastry cook and former wedding caterer, I will say the one downside to the concept of having 13 different cakes in multiple different flavors is that people will eat way more. If there is one type of cake or dessert most people eat 1 piece (sometimes 2). If there are many types, people will want to try them. So if you’re trying to save money, or just time and fridge space, go with fewer options. This is true across the board with buffet style meals – the more options you have, the more people will eat. I was just a guest at a great wedding that served all different types of pies, and most people (myself included) ate way way too much because they were all so good and a lot were regional specialties we wanted to try. So it’s not a bad concept (I’m always a fan of more dessert), just be prepared to up your numbers.

    I love the group photo idea! I’ve been at a lot of weddings and have never seen that done, but I think it would be my favorite photo too. Years down the line, I can imagine it would be great to be able to look at all the faces and remember everyone who was together on that day.

  31. I always said pizza would have made the best wedding food! One of the moments from my own wedding that I remember most vividly now, almost 10 years later, was walking in after our taxi had left without us, to an almost empty dance floor and finding my cousin and my husband’s college roommate (both grumpy young women and a very unlikely duo) dancing to the Macarena, which was the one song we banned from our wedding. Our DJ looked a little worried but when we started laughing, he shrugged and laughed himself.

    • Alexan says...

      There is something about this story I just love. Thanks for sharing this funny little memory!

  32. Tayler says...

    If you can, get your flowers from Whole Foods! They will do arrangements and delivery for you, just like a regular florist. And their flowers are always beautiful! I probably saved $1,000 doing that.

    • Amy says...

      Also Costco!

  33. Emily says...

    my mantra for planning the reception was “this is not about you,” which i think runs counter to a lot of advice. i thought of it as a big thank you party for all of the people who helped us become perfectly imperfect partners for each other. i think this mindset helped me to not spin out about details that didn’t contribute to our guest’s experience. (the ceremony, of course, was entirely about us, and so much more special than i could even have anticipated).

    i also received the advice “don’t worry about saying hi to everyone, they will come to you.” which was excellent advice that left me feeling completely free to spend the entire night on the dance floor.

    • Alba says...

      I love this! For my husband and I, we wanted to throw a party for all the people we love and it was all about making our guests comfortable. We had copious amounts of delicious food, booze, and an awesome band. We offered transportation to and from the venue and tried to make our guests feel like they were having a wonderful night out! The other details were not as important (to us).

    • Minnie says...

      I 100% agree with this! We always hear -the wedding is just about ‘you two’ i.e. the couple… but the wedding is really about the community around the couple. As Emily says it’s a ‘thank you’ to the people who got you to that point. It is also a ‘please’ to that community to help you stay together in the future. Of course you want your wedding to reflect you and your partner (and your guests want this too) but the idea it is ALL about you is such a self indulgent one, and really misses the point in my opinion.

  34. TC says...

    Don’t go into debt for your wedding. You can have just as magical of a day on a cash budget. Our wedding 30 people and we spent $8,000 ($5,000 on food and drink) and it was the best party ever.

    • B says...

      Great advice! It is much more fun to spend money on a marriage!

  35. Gaby says...

    Love the pizza idea. We had a $600 taco cart for our 100 guests and I often wish I had more excuses to hire that taco cart again.

  36. Jen says...

    Consider another day to get married besides a Saturday. We got married on a Wednesday and saved SO much money. That we used for a down payment.

  37. Martha says...

    Loved Ashley’s wonderful wedding photos. She looked
    beautiful. Would love to read some more from her soon.

    • Stacy says...

      YES. I was crying while following along on her instagram stories that day. THAT DRESS.

  38. Lia says...

    My best advice is that once you get to your actual wedding day, just enjoy it! You’ve spent the weeks before hustling so things will go right, but inevitably, something big or small will go wrong. It will likely be something outside your control. But this is your one wedding day – the day you get to declare your love for your partner surrounded by your community. The day everyone is going to wrap you up in love and support. Push everything else out of your mind and focus on the good stuff, because that’s what matters.

  39. Margaux says...

    Have cocktail hour first while guests arrive so that everyone can catch up and mingle. Its fun and sets the tone. And as the Bride I was there to greet all of my beloved guests. I don’t see the need to hide away while the Groom gets to have all the fun before the ceremony. The whole point of having a wedding is to gather everyone you love to celebrate love, so focus on that! :)

  40. Sarah says...

    I’m getting married next year and while I am looking forward to celebrating with our family and friends, I’m heartbroken that my dad, who passed away a few years ago, won’t be there. I miss him every day but find it especially hard in the happiest of times. He was the best dad! I’m wondering if anyone has some ideas of how to honour my dad without bringing sadness to celebration? For instance, I want my fiancé to dance with his mom if he wants to, but I worry I’ll get emotional missing my dad in those moments. Appreciate any thoughts!

    • Amanda says...

      Hi Sarah. My father passed away 3 years before I was married, and my entire family felt the loss that day. I have a younger brother who walked me down the aisle and had my “parent dance” with him. We picked a song by the Jackson 5 (I’ll Be There, a song and band our dad loved and introduced us to). I also had a locket my aunt and sister gifted me with my dad’s photo in it and tied it to my bouquet. He was in all my photos that way :) We also dedicated a part of our ceremony to honor people who could not be there with us. You can write something meaningful about him and have your officiant work it into the ceremony. I cannot attend a wedding without getting very emotional when I see a father-daughter dance. You and I will never get that chance–but it’s okay and it will be okay. Tuck the memory of him into your day and ENJOY the loved ones around you. Good luck to you and I hope you have a wonderful wedding.

    • Emily says...

      Hi! My dad died when I was little, but I also wanted a big piece of him at our wedding. We ended up making a donation in his memory instead of favors and on the back of every placecard was a picture of me and my dad and an explaination of why we gave where we gave in his memory. It worked well because our placecards also each had a picture of me or my wife (or both of us) with the guest whose placecard it was on the front — so lots of pics and he felt very present. We also had the first song of the fast dancing part as his favorite song, and it really got people to the dance floor! Hope that gives you some inspiration.

    • Anne says...

      I attended a wedding this summer in which the groom’s father had passed away less than a month before the wedding. I’m sure it was very difficult for the groom – I’m not close enough to discuss it with him – but it was handled very gracefully at the wedding. The bride gave a toast to her new husband’s late father, expressing her gratitude for the son he raised. I thought it was lovely that it came from her, and it was an appropriate way for everyone in attendance to express their condolences and honor his memory, while keeping the joy of the day.

    • Jen says...

      My dad died when i was 11 and so i dreaded the wedding day sadness for him not being there since then until my wedding this past June.

      We choose a small (38) wedding in a local old Mill with dinner at a restaurant down the street. I structured the day so the loss would be less apparent/ less like a hole in my heart – by walking down the aisle WITH my groom, no mother son dances etc – and tied his wedding ring into my bouquet. My mom mentioned him in her speech but I knew it’d be too much for me to address verbally in ours, and I also had one hell of a cry about a week before the wedding.

      Good luck! It’s all ok.

    • Tara Sharp says...

      Hi Sarah – my dad died when I was a teenager. I had a framed photo of my mom and dad from their wedding day, and I carried a small silver angel with me (I gave the silver angel trinkets to my brothers too). I asked my brother to do the first dance with me. Which still made my mom cry…so my brothers, mom & I all ended up dancing in a circle. It was really lovely.

    • Courtney says...

      Hi Sarah — Courtney here (the one from the post who suggested getting married in the morning!). My dad died 6 weeks before my wedding. I was worried the ceremony would feel sad or people would pity me. But — the day was truly so joyful that any sadness I felt was buoyed by the love in the room. Like a few other commenters have mentioned, we said a few words during the ceremony as a way to honor him. It was a beautiful and sad and love-filled few weeks — which in the end felt more representative of life and less perfection-filled like some weddings can feel like. I hope you can stay present and soak in the love. I feel for you! xo

    • Sarah says...

      Thank you all for your insightful and wise responses – I can’t tell you how helpful you have been! xoxo

  41. Kate says...

    Yes to the group photo! And to skipping any tradition that seems silly to you (Throwing the bouquet. Or clinking glasses to make you kiss on command: we are human adults, not trained seals)

    One thing I didn’t do, but wish I had — and I say this with love — was designate a friend to buffer me from my own parents. My dad has an extreme fondness for logistical details, no qualms about asking questions, and a terrible memory. Five minutes before my ceremony started, when I was already so anxious it was almost an out-of-body experience, my dad suddenly turned to me and and started grilling me about what the photographer was doing, where the officiant was, did you want that person to sit there, etc. I’m sure it was just a sign of his own nerves but it was, in that moment, almost more than I could handle. Like literally, Dad, unless you asking me if that’s my dress that’s on fire, that’s not a thing I need to deal with rightthisexactminute.

  42. I’d appreciate a Muslim wedding picture in the article. I have some ;)

  43. Chloe says...

    We just got married this month and my husband told me ‘keep family expectations realistic so you don’t play out a non achievable story’. It helped with keeping a level head and taking nothing personal, lets face it families are tough and weddings really can bring up some emotions.

  44. Avalanche Lake says...

    My best wedding advice actually comes from my husband: ask your caterer/food provider to make a doggy bag! Everyone says you won’t eat at the wedding, but we made it a priority because we chose our place for the food. But even with that, you’ll be hungry again hours later after all that laughter, dancing, and fun.

    And: Ashley looks like a straight-up QUEEN. Gorgeous dress. Congrats to her!

    • Natalie says...

      Yes! Or better yet, have them give you a large share of the leftovers. My husband and I had snacks for that night and then food for a couple dinners afterwards (we didn’t leave on our honeymoon for a week).

      Also to embrace the fact that your wedding cake will probably not make it a year in your freezer – we picked away at it very quickly after having a couple pieces the day after. But, we did have the bakery make us a copy of the top tier for our one-year, which was great! (And, fresh, ha)

  45. LInda says...

    I honestly thing the best thing you can do which i did read one other comment on is- do NOT hype this day up as the BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE!
    It builds so much pressure and expectation.
    Was my wedding the best day of my life? No.
    I’m an introvert by nature and the thought of all the guests there for me humbled me but also made me so anxious!

  46. CKG says...

    My recommendation is to get a sparkler photo! Yes, they’re super trendy (and a potential fire hazard) but if you have a photographer you adore and trust, it’s worth the extra effort. We almost ditched the idea because I did NOT want to deal with one last to-do, but I’m so glad we powered through. The photo is simply beautiful – it looks amazing in black and white or color, and the faces of our friends and family look so full of joy as we trotted past!

  47. Jody says...

    The best thing we did early on in planning our wedding was to make a list of the things that we wanted to prioritize in terms of budget and mental energy. We wanted invitations from a specific designer; flowers from a lovely local flower farm; really good food, including my husband’s favorite carrot cake from a local bakery; a photographer whose work and personality we loved; and our own music playlist. These priorities helped inform so many of our decisions along the way, from the size of the guest list (small!) to the venue (courthouse ceremony and dinner at a tiny, cozy, candlelit restaurant that allowed us to bring in flowers, dessert, and our own playlist).

    Also helpful — my best friend of almost 20 years telling me that on her wedding day, every time something got stressful or wasn’t going as planned, she and her husband would turn to each other and shout “It’s perfect!!!” to make each other laugh and relieve the tension. We tried it, and man did it work.

    Making each other laugh during our photos relieved some of the awkwardness of posing, and we ended up with some beautiful shots of us just looking *so happy* together.

    One thing I was not prepared for: the comedown. A couple of days post-wedding, we were both feeling sad and low-energy, which was confusing since we had a wonderful wedding and were so pumped to be married. At 34 years old, I found myself wanting to go home to my parents. I finally fessed up to my mom, who told me about her own similar experience and reassured me that it was all normal. I’ve since talked more openly about it on social media and it turns out a lot of people can relate! I don’t really know how I could have prepared for it, honestly, and I don’t know that it’s avoidable. But just learning that it was normal — and temporary! — was really helpful. Also, having a week between our wedding and very low-key honeymoon was nice. We had something to look forward to, but it wasn’t something so expensive and exotic that we felt bad for being kind of low-energy. :)

    • Sarah says...

      I love your honesty! Thank you for this post. <3

  48. Anne says...

    What a lovely post! I got married this summer and I think the only piece of advice I could share is: do it your way. I think that what is so special about weddings is how individual they are. Our way was to have a small ceremony and dinner at one of our favorite restaurants here in Austin with just our immediate families and later in the summer we threw a bigger party for friends and extended family in my home state of Iowa. My husband is British so we’ll also be celebrating with his extended family & friends in the UK next year (the party never ends!). Two of my favorite moments, one from each:

    In Austin, we made wedding crackers (the traditional party favor at Christmas in the UK) filled with treats, jokes, and crowns. The photos captured of this moment are incredible. The look of anticipation on our faces and the excitement when they all explode. We all wore the paper crowns and laughed at the corny jokes. It was wonderful to sit around one table and feel the joy and love from every corner of that room.

    At our reception in Iowa, my parents surprised us with a rendition of the song Have it All by Jason Mraz as part of their toast. My mom played the ukulele and my dad sang the harmony. It was so beautiful, I feel like tearing up just remembering it. One of the best moments of the night–they got wild applause.

    Whatever you decide to do, do it your way, and you’ll be happy you did :)

  49. D says...

    We wanted to elope, but didn’t want our family to miss our wedding either, so we compromised by renting a house on a remote lake for immediate family/a couple friends only. Though our small ceremony was in the afternoon, I was still stuck on exchanging vows just the two of us. Before sunrise, we took a canoe out to the middle of the lake and said our vows as the sun came up. It is one of my favorite life memories. Our wedding was tiny and fun and exactly what we wanted. My advice: think about how YOU want to celebrate your commitment, and plan accordingly. Weddings are expensive, hyped affairs, but they don’t have to be if that isn’t what you want.

  50. Mary says...

    I realize this is going to be one really out of left-field but hear me out!
    If you get the stressful stomach jitters that can turn into the stressful stomach-getting-sicks, just take the dang Imodium before you walk down the aisle.

    As the maid of honor for two friends, it became the running joke that as we were walking out of the bridal suite, it was the bouquet in one hand and the Imodium in the other!

    • megs283 says...

      this is probably the most useful tip anyone could ever get!!! (fellow nervous stomach over here!)

  51. My advice is to not feel obligated to include anything because you feel like you should. We had a fairly traditional ceremony and reception, but we skipped several things, such as the cake-cutting (we just had cupcakes!), announcing the bridal party (just my husband and I were announced!), and tossing the bouquet (ALWAYS made me feel awkward when I was single)….and I don’t think anyone noticed or really cared!

  52. Ana says...

    Take 5 mins to just be together before making your entry after the cocktail hour. Don’t forget/Insist to plan for a couple of family pics. Our photographer was running late and disappeared to take picture of the decor right after our ceremony and I have not one picture of my whole family and me together, same for my husband. We have pics with one or two family members throughout the night but not one with everybody in it. We only realized it afterwards and it was a bit of a bummer. So I would make sure to allocate 15-20 mins or so to do this because pictures of your decor are great but don’t matter as much as family pictures.

  53. Anne says...

    My mom’s advice was to have the photographer take a picture of each table during dinner because it’s the only way you can be sure you have a photo of every person! The table photos ended up making a fun page in our album, too.

    My advice would be to take an hour during the week following the wedding to write down everything that happened, who you saw, how much you cried, who made you laugh. Those memories fade quickly, but it’s so special to revisit them.

  54. Kate says...

    I didn’t have a bridal party, just my cousin as my maid of honor, and we did our own makeup and got ready in the upstairs of my parent’s house. Things were a little hectic and I told her “when I ask you something, I don’t have time to say please and thank you right now, but just know that I’m thinking it” and she was like “deal!” and we were off! My favorite moment was when I realized I needed deodorant and I told her as much, and two seconds later I turned around and she was there with my deodorant, cap off and twisted up, ready for me to put on, instead of just handing me the stick with the lid on. The tiniest tiniest thing, but I was reaffirmed in my decision that she was the most perfect MOH ever!
    Also, our group shot is one of my most treasured photos, ever. I can’t stress how magical it is to see every single person at once who celebrated with us that day!

  55. Ellen says...

    Oh my gosh at my dear sister-in-law’s wedding they did a group picture at the very END of the reception after everyone had been dancing for hours! It is such a happy (albeit sweaty) photo of the committed stragglers.

  56. Reg says...

    If you are more laid back and don’t care about wedding planning, hand off the task to someone who does.

    I never dreamt of my wedding day and had no desire to have a wedding let alone plan one. My mom and mother in law REALLY wanted one. They’re more traditional. So I let them plan it along with my husband, who cared about stuff like music and food. It was fun and stress free. Weddings are a great excuse for families and good friends to get together in one place. Over time, people are going to forget the decorations/physical stuff. They won’t forget the feeling and good times.

    Just make sure you speak up for yourself on things that are central to your personality. The only thing I refused any input on was the dress. I am a very casual dresser who rarely wears dresses and they wanted me to wear a puffy ballgown princess-y style dress. NO! I wore a simple dress that I liked and felt comfortable dancing in.

  57. Danielle says...

    My twin brother married his partner this weekend and it was hands down the best wedding I’ve been to (so far! that is), the morning of the wedding they invited everyone attending to join them in an outdoor group workout. It was a brisk morning and by the end, we were all covered in sweat, mud, and tears from laughter. It was such a fun experience to be with them and to create memories with other people that love them. It’s something I won’t forget and hope to incorporate into my future wedding plans.

    • Kelly says...

      My twin brother got married 3 years ago and it’s still the best wedding I’ve ever been to! The bridal party did a yoga class that morning along with the moms and it was such a nice way to start the day. I’ll never forget getting to the ceremony and having a moment alone with my tearful brother who was so overcome when he realized all of these people arriving were there because they loved them!

  58. Katie says...

    OMG, Ashley looks stunning in that spectacular dress!

  59. Oh I’ve been meaning to write my own blog post on this!

    1. Spend money on what’s important to you and not on what’s not. We got a great DJ, because dancing was important to me, and hired a photographer with a second shooter as I wanted shots of ALL our guests having fun, not just my husband and me. Then we got our flowers wholesale, my mom and aunts made all our centerpieces, and I picked out cheapish invitations, as flowers and invites I didn’t care much about.

    2. I would have reduced the amount of time we spent taking photos prior to the wedding. It was hours and hours of posing and I was exhausted by the time we were done! Fortunately I got my second wind at the ceremony.

    3. STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY IT. I was able to do this somewhere towards the middle of the reception, but before then I was so worried that people were having a good time, if the music was good enough, if my hair was falling down, etc. I wish I’d worried less, but that’s who I am.

    3. ATTEND THE AFTER PARTY! We had ours in the bar/lobby of the hotel so almost all the guests attended, and it was there when I really stopped worrying what I looked like, whether or not I was drinking too much, whether people were having fun, etc. It was great to be able to relax and just enjoy being around all my friends and family.

  60. Islay says...

    Oh my goodness, what perfect timing! I got engaged 10 days ago and this couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. My fiancee (eeek!!) and I agreed not to talk about wedding planning for a month so we could bask in the engagement glow….but it’s so hard to not think about the day when I come across articles like this. I’m buzzing with excitement! Thank you!!! xoxoxo

  61. grace says...

    I just celebrated my 3 week anniversary!! The best advice we received was to spend the entire night with your new spouse! It’s easy to try to divide and conquer, but it was so fun and special that all our memories are together.

    My personal advice…get married at a summer camp! Best weekend ever!

  62. Allyson says...

    Can’t decide what I love more: Erica & Julie with the basketball on the bridge or Ashley’s hands curled around the lapel of Kelly’s suit jacket. Such beautiful slices of time! My husband and I spent a total of $90 on our wedding (including the marriage certificate). We could never get traction trying to plan a big to-do over our year long engagement…so finally, I was 3 months pregnant and OVER trying to coordinate dates with our big, dysfunctional families, and he left for work on a Friday and asked “do you want to get married when I get off work?” I called my friend who is ordained, called our parents to give them a heads up, and we went to the park and got married. I had a stand up comedy gig afterwards, then I met him for cheeseburgers.

    • Amanda says...

      I love this so much.

  63. Nancy says...

    At some point during the reception take a break and look around the room. Really look. Every person in the world you love is (hopefully) in that room. They came there because they love you and want to honor your marriage. When I realized that all those people got on planes, took time off from work, hired babysitters, and were there because they loved me, my husband, and the two families we were merging it was incredibly moving and humbling. Take a moment to appreciate it. When I think back to my wedding day that feeling of humbling love is what I always feel.
    It’s sort of morbid but the next time that many people you love gather in one place will probably be your funeral. Take a chance to celebrate the love when you can.

    • Liz says...

      Agreed! One of my favorite wedding memories was coming back from the bar with my new husband right as dinner was ending. Everyone was still sitting together, under twinkle lights laughing and have fun. We held hands and looked out at our loved ones and it was so magical. Truly humbling love.

  64. Mallory says...

    While planning a wedding, keep a list of tasks you can delegate. So many people ask if they can help because the genuinely want to help. If you have a list of tasks you can delegate, you can be prepared when people ask to help. I had one person deliver breakfast food to the salon we got ready at. I had one friend teach a small yoga class before we got ready. I had one friend ensure that the cakes were arranged.

  65. JR says...

    not day of advice but planning advice. schedule time to talk with your spouse-to-be about something OTHER than the wedding. especially if you’re the partner that handles most of the emotional labor in the household. for me, it was so easy to get consumed by planning and decisions and deadlines that it felt like all we ever talked about were “wedding chores”. instituting a saturday, an afternoon, or even just a meal as a “non-wedding talk zone” made us remember why we were marrying each other in the first place!

  66. Liz says...

    I’d like to add a caveat! Please only ask your friends to “work” your wedding if they offer (thinking of the emcee comment). Your friends should be able to enjoy your wedding too. Also work is work! It’s great if they offer to do it for free but you should at least offer to compensate them. My boyfriend is a photographer (photojournalist not even a wedding photographer!) and always gets bummed out when his friends ask him to shoot their wedding. It means he can’t enjoy the wedding and it’s really hard work! When close friends/family ask, he feels obligated to say yes.

    • Elspeth says...

      Couldn’t agree more! I’ve been a slave for too many friends’ weddings and have ended up resenting them which is terrible, because I was genuinely happy to help but ended up being relied on too much and exhausting myself. Be sure to thank everyone you possibly can and try to spread the labour evenly or just decide to make things simple/easy OR pay professionals. So your friends don’t feel used. As most people are happy to help, but don’t overdo it. If your friends do something for a living be especially conscious, and don’t try to just get freebies. At the very least get them a nice gift.

  67. Genius! I love Lisa’s breaking the ice! Fun text will do it!

  68. Kelly Drummond says...

    Take the pressure off it being the “best day of your life”! Is my wedding in the top 5 moments of my life, yes! But I think that was because we knew that even if it rained/the food was bad/I ugly cried the whole time/a tornado hit, it is just one day of your whole life! Is it beautiful and special and important? Yes. Will you have other beautiful/important days together? I sure hope so. Letting that expectation go let us have a truly great, enjoyable, even a bit relaxing day.

  69. Maire says...

    My best advice is to not buy into what I like to call the “Wedding-Industrial Complex”. It is literally one day out of your (hopefully) many years of marriage, and no one will remember details, really. They will just remember laughs, smiles, tears, togetherness, and the general feeling of gaiety that surrounds a wedding day.

  70. Katherine says...

    I would give them soooooo much alcohol and offer to be available for any and all venting. Wedding planning can be really difficult and stressful with opinions/ requests/unsolicited advice coming at you from all directions.

  71. Carly says...

    Have a cookie table, in addition to cakes! I’m from Pittsburgh where this is a HUGE thing. Back in the 1930s during the great depression, most families couldn’t afford wedding cakes so they would ask their relatives and friends to bake a batch of cookies to bring for dessert. The tradition stuck, and now it’s commonplace to find an elaborate table of homemade cookies at any Pittsburgh wedding reception. Most of the time, the cookies end up being more of a hit than the cake itself – and it’s a fun way to get your guests involved in your big day :)

  72. themessyheadedmomma says...

    I always ask if I can leave food for the bride & groom in whatever room they are spending their wedding night together. So often, they don’t get to eat so they come back to the room & there is something…cheese & charcuterie, pizza, and always a couple of beers on ice! Every bride has said it was a lifesaver!

  73. Es says...

    Love this a post and the range of non-hetero couples featured. Thank you always for your considerate posts.

    Strangely, I was just lying in bed thinking that I wish CoJ would write some posts on life-partners who have chosen not to get married and spotlight them as there are so many wedding posts on here.

    There is so much pressure on couples to get married – whether they want to or not – that it’d be nice to spotlight couples who decide not to, why they don’t want to get married, how it can feel to deal with the judgement and pressures from society/family/friends.

    It frustrates me that my relationship is often seen as less than my peers who are married (but less intertwined in many senses) than my relationship, and how married couples I know are given more status or treated with more respect because they are married.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s a great idea, es! we would love to do that. thank you so much for your note.

    • Nadege says...

      This is exactly what I was thinking scrolling through these responses. My partner and I have two kids and have zero intention of ever getting married, and it works great for us! I’d love to hear other peoples perspectives on being happily unmarried too.

    • LD says...

      I was thinking this as well. I have been happily unmarried for 13 years, and it can be so difficult for friends/family/coworkers to understand. And there are so many little things people do (perhaps unintentionally) that are so rude (e.g., the “plus one” on invitations when everyone knows who you will bring); and lots of logistical hurdles that married couples don’t need to worry about (e.g.; legal issues). So, it would be nice to see how other couples navigate things!

    • Es says...

      Thank you for your reply, Joanna. I really appreciate it.

      @Nadege and LD: Love the term ‘happily unmarried and both of your comments.

      @LD, agree about the unintentional rude things people do and say. It’s so hard to deal with sometimes, but I feel like people feel that their relationship is superior or more robust (in their eyes) than mine because they’re married, and that they feel entitled to make demeaning comments about the status of my relationship. It’s strange.

  74. Kristian says...

    I love this- as a fellow Wyomingite, it was lovely to see the state get some love (though, I did lol. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to an outdoor wedding here that didn’t have some sort of dramatic weather. Our wedding was in a church for that reason and of course it was perfect weather that day….) . I also especially loved seeing and reading about Ashley Ford’s because of getting to know her through her writing on your blog.

    Wedding tip from my father (a photographer)and my best friend’s dad (a pastor)- Do wedding photos BEFORE the ceremony. Both feel it is really rude to make guests wait as it always feels like a weird lull and awkward. Plus, for the couple, it means more time and (somewhat) less pressure about time. We did this and opted for a “first look” and it was surprisingly intimate and calming. By nature weddings mean connecting with a lot of other people- family, guests who have come to celebrate with you (which, you know, is amazing too), so it was nice to have a quiet moment for the two of us.

  75. Karen says...

    My advice: don’t be in the first trimester of pregnancy during your wedding!

    We went to St Thomas, got engaged, returned home to find out I was pregnant (JOY!). My parents wanted us to get married STAT and I insisted that I not be pregnant at my wedding (champagne! party time!). Baby was born, and wedding was planned for nine months later. Fast-forward to wedding, and I was 3 months pregnant with #2 (JOY!). I fainted at the alter (church, kneeling-kneeling-still kneeling, SoCal Sept heat), and then after the reception, I listed from the sofa, resting/exhausted, as friends whooped it up. Next day we were off to Hawaii for our honeymoon, and I think for five out of the six nights my hubby dined alone b/c I was bed-bound by 7. I didn’t go swimming once, I felt like crap the whole time.
    It’s all good though, we have a make-up honeymoon on the list. And I get to tell my two wonderful little ladies that they were both present for one of the best days of my life. :)

    • Jessica says...

      I was also in my 1st trimester when I got married and it was…..not great. We got engaged in February, planned the wedding for the following March, but in December found out I was pregnant. We had to cancel our Caribbean honeymoon because of zika and instead went to the PNW, which while beautiful, I ended up in bed for the first 4 days because I was sick with a terrible cold. I had read online that I could take Tylenol cold, so I sent my new husband to the pharmacy. The pharmacist told him she would not recommend Tylenol cold for me, and I ended up sobbing because I felt so bad and could not get relief. But we also had special moments, like at our rehearsal dinner when we cut into the gender reveal cake and found out we were having a girl while our families were there. We also have a makeup honeymoon in the works, because we wanted to go to our destination so badly! Our baby is now 1 year old and we are looking forward to going to Cartagena very soon!

  76. As a former banquet server, we always asked a bride wearing white if she’d like to go with white wine instead of red, just in case there were spills on her dress. I never had one bride who didn’t immediately agree to this!! Of course, prosecco and champagne work beautifully for this one!!

  77. Elle says...

    When I got married about 20 years ago, we had a small English country-dance ensemble play at the ceremony. We were in our late 30s and many of our friends and family were older. For the reception, we made a playlist and burned CDs (remember those?) of music we loved, from “The Godfather” theme, which we’d bonded over, to classic rock and old jazz. It wasn’t loud, and most people didn’t dance, but everyone talked and reconnected all night, and for years afterward we kept being told what a great wedding it was because everyone could hear each other.

    That had slipped my mind until recently. We went to a beautiful, thoughtfully designed wedding, where the music seemed kind of loud during the cocktails before the reception, but we just talked louder. During dinner, the DJ cranked the music louder. By the end of dinner, when the dancing started, the music was painful for us, and others. It was literally deafening — so loud it made me feel unwell. (And I couldn’t help thinking about how the CIA tortures prisoners with 24/7 blasting metal. I’m sure it’s effective.) I love to dance but I couldn’t. It didn’t stop plenty of others but I’m aware that raising your heart-rate can cause more hearing damage since more blood is helping the heart pump, which means less blood is filling the tiny vessels that protect the inner ear.

    I have a feeling we all lost a little of our hearing permanently that night. There were friends we wanted to talk to, but couldn’t, without screaming.

    I spent as much time as I could in empty rooms of the club, far from the reception. We left early, apparently before the party REALLY started. We woke up the next morning with sore throats and ringing ears.

    My advice: if you’re planning to have music at high decibel levels, ask yourself why, and whether it’s worth subjecting every guest to hearing damage. And if you still decide that a great plan, provide good-quality earplugs for everyone.

  78. Jordana says...

    I got married last year and one of the best decisions we made was to forgo a bridal party. We still got ready with our friends/family and had our parents and siblings walk down the aisle and sit down, but we saved everyone a lot of money and stress and didn’t have to worry about offending anyone. Our pictures with friends are just as special as they would have been had everyone been wearing matching outfits :)

    My other piece of advice would be to unfollow wedding instagram accounts, blogs etc. once you buy your dress. I loved mine but kept having unnecessary doubts/anxieties when I saw gorgeous pictures of women in different styles. Also- buy a dress that doesn’t require you to suck in your stomach or wear Spanx!

  79. Maggie says...

    These are all great. Ashley dress is beautiful!

    We kinda threw out wedding together in about 2months after finding out about me needing to have surgery for endometriosis. We knew we wanted to have babies asap and we’d been together for 7 years already and engaged for 1.

    But my advice would be to take out all the stuff you really dont want to do. We got married by a creek, in a park, down the road from my parents house in Northern California, then we all (about 60 people) walked up the road to their backyard. I didn’t want to do a grand entrance, so cocktail hour started. Which then led into food, a local mexican restaurant served make your own tacos. No speeches unless someone wanted to, our dear (slightly boozed up) friend, sang us a song. I didn’t want a moment where everyone would watch me dance with my dad and he’s not a real showy guy either, so I stuck his song in our handmade playlist, and when it came on he looked at me and we just got up and danced. Some people watched, some people ate, it as perfect. I didn’t toss anything, or get anything taken off my leg, it was a lot of dancing drinking talking and someone ended up in the pool that night. I was so thankful for our photographer who obliged when I said no staged photos, she just hung out and captured the evening. Couldn’t have been more happy.

    Now if I could just get pregnant, all of this would be perfect! ;)

  80. Lisa says...

    My one regret is that we didn’t have a wedding video. My father in law cobbled something together with short videos friends and family had taken, but I wish we had something better that we can show our children (our toddler is OBSESSED with looking at our wedding album). In France (or at least my husband’s friends and family) it’s very common to have a couple of hours gap between the ceremony and reception. For ours, we spent that time having photos done. I have no idea what our guests were doing or if they liked it, but I did.

    I would LOVE to have another wedding with our children there, but my husband isn’t convinced

  81. Mouse says...

    My first wedding was sort of homemade, in my parents’ beautiful backyard. We had a caterer and a tent for tables and food, but that was all. We did everything else ourselves, and were working hard right up until 2 hours or so before the wedding start time. At that point, we said, whatever happens, happens, and we went and took a nap. Woke up, the rain had cleared and we had a lovely wedding with friends and family. Make a definite point for yourself to STOP WORRYING and just BE THERE.

    Some other things: keep it small. You will be glad you had the fight with your parents about limiting the guest list. Think about limiting music to the dancing, if you want that. Everyone at my wedding commented on the lack of music (and I’m a musician) and how they liked that it led to real conversations and hanging out. There doesn’t have to be background music at every single event; your wedding is not a bar.

    We hired a photojournalist rather than a wedding photog and the photos were fantastic. A real document of the event. We had ad hoc posed photo possibilities for people who wanted to do that, but mostly it was things and people in action. There’s a great photo of my parents’ new puppy stealing meat from the caterer and being chased by the 5 yr old daughter of a friend.

    My second wedding at the age of 55 was with another couple, also older, who wanted to be married for the logistics of it as we all got older. We went to City Hall, got married in about 5 minutes, and went to our favorite restaurant. Basta cosi. Also a great wedding.

  82. Jacki says...

    I whole-heartedly agree with the early ceremony and comfort food tip. We had our wedding in Berlin and most of our guests traveled there so they had the opportunity to sightsee in the afternoon (or just nap – as we did) before the reception in the evening. After the wedding ceremony we served currywurst (local specialty) on the street in front of city hall and everybody went nuts about it.
    The best time of the day though (and I think I got the idea from this blog) was the time that I spend just with my new husband to catch up (gossip) about the day so far. We rented a boat to take us to the evening location and relaxed, talked and enjoyed ourselves – just the two of us. It was magical!

  83. Veronika says...

    Invest in a good photographer!! it was one of the best (most expensive) decision but so worth it. If your budget is bigger – go for a videographer as well.
    I love the idea of a group photo..I cannot believe we didnt do it! damn :-)

  84. Mandi says...

    My advice when planning a reception is: just plan your ideal party. We got married at a friend’s house on the beach. I put out a turn table and stack of records and the guests played music. We put a friend in charge of the low country boil, and served my husband’s home brews. It was simple, laid back, and so fun! Wouldn’t change a single thing!

  85. jeannie says...

    These are all wonderful! And pizza at a wedding – brilliant!

  86. Mina says...

    A friend told me to choose a scent and wear it just around the time of the wedding. I wore it in the days leading up to our wedding, on the day, and on our honeymoon. Now that scent instantly transports me back to that happy time.

    We had a table to ourselves for the first course, but for the second course and dessert, we took our plates with us and joined our friends, sitting for a bit at each table so we had time to talk to everyone. I loved those first few moments to ourselves, sort of between the ceremony and the party, and also the chance to really be with our guests.

    We had great help from friends which made everything more special – my mom’s best friend did my hair, an aunt made my bouquet (which was actually four bouquets held together by a ribbon that I untied just before the toss – so that four of my friends could catch it), my cousin and two friends sang at our ceremony, and my godmother officiated (we were already legally married).

    • Lisa says...

      I did the same! Wore the same perfume for our wedding, honeymoon and a bunch of holidays after. Whenever I feel in need of a lift, I take a whiff and it takes me back to so many happy memories

  87. Nine years later, my husband and I just started a tradition of visiting where we got married (a small jazz club in Cleveland where I’m from) whenever we are in town for a visit (we live in London). Now that our kids are old enough to understand the whole process and having flipped through our wedding album many times, they were in complete awe they ate burgers and chips in the same place where Mommy and Daddy wore fancy dresses/kilts and had a party. It was pretty cool to see how much they appreciated being added into the occasion, even if it was years later.

  88. TOP TIP!

    On the evening of your wedding (or early morning!), when the day is done and you and your husband/wife are finally crashing into bed – grab your phone and really quickly type down all of the little things you want to remember about the mad day you’ve just had that you will probably forget otherwise. I did (and made my husband dictate his to me) and our lists (still saved on my phone) make me laugh/feel teary – there are normal things like “Patrick’s face when I was walking down the aisle trying not to cry” but also little things like “Ned (my husband’s 3 year old godson) changing into his pyjamas at 6pm during the reception”

    I also put a basket full of useful things (chewing gum, deodorant, plasters, tampons, painkillers, sheer tights) in the bathroom of the reception venue and one of my friends laddered her tights, changed into the new ones in the bathroom and was SO pleased she kept drunkenly telling everyone about it. I was amazed that anyone had actually used the tights, but I made a note of that and it still makes me smile at how pleased she was.

    I just got my list out now and found “everyone applauding as we left the reception venue at the end of the night and walked home”. I’d forgotten that.

    It’s nice! Do it.

    Emma

  89. I spent a lot of time considering the food for our wedding day, and swore I would not be one of those brides that didn’t try any of the delicious spread! But that night, I was so in love, so excited and so caught up in speaking to family and friends that I forgot to eat completely. Which leads me to my tip: If you are staying close to the wedding venue, ask for the caterer to make up a plate of food for you and your partner and send it up to your room. There was something so romantic about sharing a midnight feast with my husband after all the excitement of the wedding day x

  90. Laura C. says...

    What a lovely post. I love the stories, dresses (dresses!), cakes, advice, comments, flowers, and the love this post is spilling out. Thank you.

  91. Mara says...

    I never in a million years thought I’d have a destination wedding… but after too many lackluster options stateside, we decided on an intimate wedding in a 13th century courthouse in Tuscany. It was simply magical, down to the beautiful wedding certificate scroll that we now have framed on our wall. Back at home, we had a big party to celebrate! My advice when flying with a wedding dress/suit: go to the check-in desk and tell them what’s up. The wonderful folks at Lufthansa fell over themselves to help us economy flyers! On two seperate flights they allowed us to pre-board and stow our wedding clothing in the full-length first-class closets before heading way to the back. Our clothing certainly traveled in style!

  92. Consider eloping! This advice is not for everyone, of course. But, for us, the dreamiest wedding we could imagine was intimate –
    just us, our pup, and our witnesses/dear friends. We had a lovely, personal ceremony and splashed out on a Chef’s Table-worthy dinner. Our officiant was amazing and our photographer captured the day perfectly. It was stress-free and beautiful. No regrets. (And, since many ask, we are close with our families and love them dearly, but we wanted this day for us, and they were pretty cool with it).

  93. Jeannie says...

    Really smile in the photos! Our wedding was hijacked by our parents, and in some church photos I actually wear a smirk. I regret it now LOL should’ve faked it!

  94. Cara says...

    I was super stressed out about wedding planning until my mom gave me the ok to rent llamas for the reception. We were visiting the venue and talking about what we would put where. I went out on the wooden deck that overlooked the pond and said “Wouldn’t it be nice to just have llamas here to greet everyone and make them feel loved?” I meant it as a joke and thought she would shoot it down for sure, but she laughed and said “If you can find llamas, we can do that.” Needless to say, I found the llamas. $120 for 24-hour rental. Best deal of the wedding. Once we booked the llamas, I stopped stressing about it and felt excited instead. We gave Sochi a bow tie and Rasika a flower wreath. It was amazing and our guests absolutely loved it.

  95. Brooke says...

    It’s okay to not hang out THAT much with your new husband/wife during the reception. We had our closest 55 friends and family come from all over the world and it was so meaningful for both of us to spend time with our favorite people we rarely get to see. I got to dance like crazy with my best friend from college (who lives in Germany) and my husband got to sit down and drink beers with his best friend since preschool (who’s in the army). We got to really cherish our time alone together as husband and wife in Italy for the next two weeks <3

  96. Amanda says...

    I’m not married, but something I’ve filed away in case it happens someday is what my friends did at their wedding: They got married in the morning and served *breakfast tacos* at the reception (the wedding was in Austin, TX, so this is a brilliant move). We all danced and had a good time and then had the rest of our day–I think another friend and I left there, changed clothes, and went to a movie afterwards.

  97. Great ideas, all!
    We went to city hall on Friday, with 20 friends and family, then out to lunch at a little Japanese tea parlor. On Saturday we all went to the mermaid parade in Coney Island. On Sunday night we had dinner for 40 at a favorite restaurant. A lot of the guests were from out of town, so turning it into a weekend affair was perfect.

  98. Kelsey says...

    I’m tearing up reading this as it’s my wedding anniversary today! What wonderful timing. We were both younger siblings with a dozen nieces and nephews, so when we threw a backyard wedding in a small Northern California town, we hired a local Waldorf teacher and some teenagers to take care of everybody’s kids at a neighbor’s house during the reception. Highly recommend this if you’re later in marrying and having babies! The party was super fun and totally relaxed for parents and non-parents alike.

  99. Robin in NoCo says...

    Elope! My daughter had the most beautiful ceremony (I know thanks to Daryl Love Photography) in the snow on Cameron Pass (the bride and groom are both names Cameron!) in Colorado on New Year’s Day. It was so sweet and romantic and perfect for two introverts on a grad student budget.

    • Lydia says...

      It is lovely that you remember your daughter’s wedding with such fondness. So many couples are worried about their parents’ reaction when they elope – thank you for giving one positive perspective!

  100. Olivia says...

    I wish I could see all of the photos from these magical weddings!

  101. Sheila says...

    I love these. We also had our wedding on a Saturday morning with just our families, and then a party that night. Right after the ceremony we all went to dim sum and then everyone went their separate ways . Our families got to explore San Francisco, and we got to relax ;) with each other. My only other advice to newlyweds is to go on that honeymoon right after you get married. We got married right before our “busy season” (we’re in the restaurant business) so we decided to delay our honeymoon. Ugh. It’s a real let down to go back to work 2 days after getting married. We so wanted to just hang out with each other and we couldn’t.

  102. Tracey says...

    If you want to, elope. I promise it will be more romantic and special than you can imagine. Then, if you need to appease the parents, throw a soirée on your return in your backyard with pizza at midnight. If they love you they’ll forgive you the minute they see how happy you are. Well, mine did anyway.

    • Lisa says...

      I’m so happy to see this, Tracey! We will elope in February and basically get married on our honeymoon. We will have been together for exactly 6 years on that date. Our closest family is in on it, and while a little sad they won’t be there, they fully support our decision.
      Afterwards, we plan on having get-togethers with the people in our lives (His friends in his hometown, my grandparents in theirs, and so on) – we hope to be able to trully focus on the individual groups then, without having to face the high expectations people sometimes have when it comes to weddings (or striving to meet expectations that I’d imagine my guests had).

    • Tracey says...

      Lisa, this is exactly what we did. We told our parents a few weeks before we left to give them time to adjust. Then I had announcement postcards made with all the invite stuff on them. I addressed them before I left and left them with my best friend (who also knew) and as we got back to the hotel after our morning wedding I texted her “the eagle has landed”. The next five days were hilarious as people started to receive their mail. We had been together 10 years at this stage and the only reason we weren’t married was because we didn’t want a wedding. In the end I felt if people loved us, they should be horrified that we would abstain from something we wanted because we didn’t want to upset THEM.

      As for the day (I’m writing an essay here!). The secrecy was amazing and so special for us, we felt cocooned in our love. We went dress, suit and ring shopping together before we left. We then flew to NYC (from Australia) through a TYPHOON! (I had visions of being the poster couple for that plane crash “honeymooners among dead in Hong Kong plane disaster”). On the morning I woke early with a tummy full of butterflies, I tried and tried to curl my hair but the curl for the first time in my life it wouldn’t hold. My partner popped out without me knowing to the drug store and came back with hairspray. Cheap, crappy hairspray that did not work but I kept that little tin for years, it was a sweet gesture. Anyway, I gave up on the hair, we got dressed together – which was surreal. Met our photographer in the lobby and hailed a cab for city hall. We sat waiting for our turn amongst many same sex couples which made my heart swell, I was reluctant to marry in Australia because there was not equal rights yet. When our ticket was called we made our way into the little chapel, which is laughably like a conference room with a lectern. A lady with an electric blue mohawk married us. For the two minutes of the ceremony it felt like time had stopped. Then. Ba da bing ba da boom, we were married! All before lunch! We had some photos on the Highline and then ate Italian food under the bridge. In the afternoon we scored some cheap tickets to Matilda on Broadway. I still make the sauce that was served at lunch and it honestly was so intimate, romantic and memorable. I didn’t miss my family at all. For us, our wedding was about each other. We broke all the rules but it was exactly what we needed.

  103. Alexandra says...

    This is great! I’m getting married Sunday in Brooklyn with 40 of our closest family and friends. There are a few things I hadn’t even considered.

  104. Annie says...

    In my family, it’s tradition for the bride and groom to change into clothes for their honeymoon (even if not leaving for the honeymoon anytime soon), and dance a final informal dance with everyone before departing the wedding reception. Change out of your wedding duds and don your sun hat, flip flops, and beach dress! For me it was a lovely transition from “we are at our wedding with our guests” to “we’re about to go on our first adventure as a married couple.”

  105. This thread is making me so happy and nostalgic, especially as I head off to a dear friend’s wedding weekend tomorrow. My advice is to have as much time with your friends and family as possible, since this is likely the only time you’ll have all your favorite people together in one place. After the rehearsal dinner, we hosted a super-informal gathering at our apartment for all our friends and cousins, and it was THE BEST. We planned to make s’mores outside, but it hurricane-rained that night so we just hung out inside. I have such fond memories of seeing, like, forty pairs of shoes piled up outside our door and all our lovely friends hanging out inside. The next morning my husband-to-be continued the trend and went to the beach with all of his friends, before they all got ready in the afternoon for the ceremony. I have to say, I was pretty envious that he got to go to the beach while I got my hair done!

  106. Sherri says...

    If I had a wedding do over, I’d choose Caitlyn’s orange dress and pizza! My advice? Make sure you hydrate and eat before your wedding. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Breathe.

  107. Olivia says...

    This is the most important advice about throwing an actually fun event that others will enjoy, in my opinion. Obviously, there’s much more to it.

    1. The food has to be good. A family we know has every.single.wedding.event at this same venue with HORRIBLE food, and the guests have a terrible time. Think freezer burnt. Doesn’t have to be expensive, just yummy!

    2. Think about your guests when it comes to timeline/location. No one wants a four hour ceremony-reception gap in a town they don’t know dressed in wedding clothes. Ever. (ok, maybe a few people, but not most.) Very few people want to guilt-attend a destination wedding if they can’t afford it (a cousin just spent $6,000 to take her 3 year old and 3 month old to Jamaica for four days. They only did it out of guilt. Yes, you can say no – but it’s hard and can change the friendship).

    3. Logistics matter! Always consider the logistics. Think about how your day will ACTUALLY happen – specifically – to get the outcome you want. Have a timeline for eating, dancing, what ever, or you may find the night escaping with a general lack of sense of direction. If you’re laid back and not particular, no problem!

  108. Christine says...

    I just got my wedding photos! Looking at them I can easily see and remember how happy I was, all day. The sweetest part was my mom and bridesmaid sneakily getting letters from dear friends and family giving well-wishes! I read them all the night before and after that I rewrote my vows, and they poured out so easily. Nothing could have prepared me for feeling that supported, loved, and overjoyed.

  109. Emily says...

    Two things: my wife is Jewish and I’m agnostic, and we knew we wanted a really personal ceremony that reflected both of us. So we asked her cousin and my aunt to co-officiate, and it was one of the best decisions we made. Neither had ever done it before, but they got ordained online and took it SO seriously. They were overwhelmed that we’d asked and just put in so much effort— we had periodic calls with them, but later learned they’d been having regular calls without us to plan and collaborate. They kept much of it secret from us, and were SPECTACULAR on the day. At the beginning of the ceremony, they asked everyone in the room to take a moment to tell the person next to them something they love about them (“if you’re seated next to a stranger, just tell them they look great!”). I’ll never forget looking out and watching everyone we loved do that. It was perfect.

    Second: we did secular premarital counseling (3 sessions) with someone we found on Yelp (really! She was amazing). We wanted to talk through big issues, like finances and family creation as a queer interfaith couple, and have someone feed back to us and ask questions. But it bonded us too— she’d have us make a list of things we appreciate about each other at the end of each session. When we got married, we felt like we’d really cared for the bigness of the decision we were making.

    • Emma says...

      How did you find a good secular premarital counselor ? I feel like this is so important.

  110. -Heather says...

    Don’t forget to eat breakfast!
    The day before my friend got married I dropped off a loaf of banana bread to make sure she had SOMETHING in her belly while all that last minute sh*t needed tending to.

    Also, keeping it small so it was intimate family time was just what we needed, then we had a blow out party with our friends the next weekend. The best of both worlds (and we had money to spend on a super long honeymoon instead of a lavish ceremony and reception.).

  111. Jillian says...

    I’m not married, but have been a bridesmaid at least ten times, and from up close, my two incredibly simple pieces of advice:
    1) give your phone to a sister, bridesmaid, mom, aunt, etc.– every person you love will be at the wedding, someone WILL text you annoyingly asking what time the wedding starts or what to wear, and you can read through everyone’s lovely well-wishes the next day. It will alleviate a lot of little stresses.
    2) make–or have a close friend/bridesmaid make– a special playlist for the morning of the wedding as you’re getting ready. With everyone, or you, in hair/makeup (if you choose to do that!), it’s hard to keep up conversation, and you’re often in the same room for a few hours. A playlist full of old favorites, upbeat songs (mine almost always include a lot of The Temptations, Beatles One album, Stevie Wonder, etc.), and any special songs between you and your partner will keep the mood bright and happy in the room (and they’re so fun to listen to and reminisce on the wedding later on!) I still listen to the ‘getting ready’ playlists I’ve made for each of the weddings I’ve been in, and they take me right back to the excitement/anticipation of the day each time.

  112. AJ says...

    We had a super small wedding (under forty) which meant that we were fortunate to be able to ask our photographer to take couple or family shots of everyone there. I love that we have a portrait of everyone we love so much!

  113. Bec says...

    This is the first wedding post on CoJ since I got engaged two weeks ago and I’m super excited! I always loved these posts previously but now they have a special relevance they didn’t before :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      congratulations, bec! how exciting :)

    • Nicola says...

      I love this! Congratulations Bec!

      I admit I am kind of waiting for that, I had a crazy experience last weekend. My mum found a strange calendar invite in my boyfriend’s Google Calendar (which he has forgotten he’s shared with the whole family) then when I asked her what it was she went all quiet and giggly-my mum is terrible at keeping secrets!

      So, one somewhat sub-par explanation later, I now get a bit excited and tingly every time I see the word wedding… (selfishly) I wonder if you have any comments for engagement/the pre-wedding period?!

      Fingers crossed

      Nicola

  114. Amy says...

    A) Ashley’s dress is stunning. I went simple and I loved my dress, but that is a DRESS.

    B) One person made thirteen cakes?!?! Whoa. Hats off to Megan!!

    If I had to do it over again, we would do photos on a separate day. We did the usual ceremony-photos-reception schedule, and it meant that we didn’t get to see much of our out-of-town family and friends, who were all hanging out in between the ceremony and reception with beer in their hands and their feet in my parents’ above-ground pool. For some people the photos are a quiet, intimate moment on a busy day, but for us it was an uncomfortable, awkward hour and a half and we felt like we were missing out.

  115. Shannon says...

    Yes to all of these, especially the emcee and group photo!

  116. hali says...

    My advice is to eventually avoid wedding blogs, pinterest, and magazines. It’s so fun to indulge in them in the early stages, but once you start planning they can become overwhelming. All the wedding material out there makes it hard to stick with a vision! Plus, there’s just too much pressure to look a certain way and spend money on things that might be meaningless to you.
    I didn’t spend a dime on my hair, makeup, or flowers! I got my dress at a sample sale, and only tried it on once at the dry cleaner down the street before she chopped it down to size, tisking at how beautiful it was and shaming that it was 4 sizes too big for me… oops. I refused to stress about my appearance: to make myself look some way I won’t ever look again. That’s just me, though! I also spent a good 20% of my wedding budget on sourcing my favorite bistro glasses from spain, plates from mexico and flatware alibaba… It all becomes about what brings meaning to an event to you and your partner. We wanted a dinner and dance party for the ages. And that’s exactly what we got! Complete with a surprise flash mob to Dancing Queen (arranged for months on facebook by my mother! i had zero idea) and jumping in the ocean at midnight! And as for flowers, we foraged for days around the island we got married on. Those days of making garlands with my girlfriends while our guy friends appeared with truckloads of more greens and ladders to climb around the tent, and my now husband appearing with and beers and pizza for morale- they’re my favorite memories.
    So seriously, I don’t just say it to my friends, I really really recommend it: pick a way you want the evening to feel and look, then deliberately avoid all wedding materials for a year. You’ll have less to compare to and more to look forward to!

    • Monica says...

      Your wedding sounds dream like! Yet, what impresses me most is your self assurance. The ability to be singular about what WE want vs what we are SUPPOSED to what. Bravo girl!

  117. Ann says...

    SO much yes to the group photo and more photos of the guests in general. We have so many lovely photos of us, but I wish we had more taken of our guests.

  118. Angela Baker says...

    Best advice- while everyone is moving from wedding to cocktail hour/reception, our wedding planner had us head to a quiet corner, away from everyone and had champagne and a few small bites for us to snack on, waiting for us. It was the best way to decompress from the ceremony, have a moment to ourselves, realize what just happened, and gear up for the reception. I’ll always be thankful for those 10 mins, right after the wedding, to reflect and have a private moment.

  119. Robin says...

    We did multiple cakes too, stored across the street in a neighbour’s fridge – the procession of sisters and best friends helping my mom carry them in when it came time for dessert was so lovely.

  120. Rebecca says...

    Don’t Bridezilla (it’s not worth the time or stress), but do remember that it’s your and your spouse’s day, and if something isn’t quite what you wanted, you can speak up and change it. My husband hired an old friend to DJ our wedding, and told him we were looking for a 70’s-roller-skating-joint/favorite-90s-hiphop vibe. Somehow he translated that to hardcore rap – and for 20 or 30 minutes I just quietly thought “oh, bummer. Not really what I wanted. Too bad no one’s dancing.” Eventually the lightbulb went off: “it’s our wedding! The DJ will play whatever we ask him to play!” We did, and as the night went on we had epic dancing and so much fun.

    Also, if you are starving after a day of prepping and the ceremony and you get to your reception and you really want one of the mini-slider appetizers, stat, any of your friends will be ON IT.

  121. Allison says...

    We had a group photo too! Even with 135 people, you can see everyone. The key for us was making sure there was a ladder for the photographer to stand on (we got married in art gallery, so luckily there was – though the photographer did have to do some extra paperwork regarding liability with the gallery, so leave time for these details, depending on where you get married).

    But! I didn’t actually want to do the group shot at first – which comes to my real piece of advice: hire an amazing day-of wedding coordinator. We had a vision for how we would seamlessly transition from the ceremony to the cocktail hour in the same space, which the gallery told us was possible. But our day-of coordinator had the best interest of our guests and their experience in mind and realized that while we could do it, it would be chaotic for everyone there. During our walk through, she came up with the idea of a group shot as a way to distract people while their chairs were moved away — and not only did it totally work, it’s one of my favorite shots from our wedding. We got married a year and a half ago and still talk about how phenomenal our day-of coordinator was and how she made the day so stress-free for us.

  122. Bora K. says...

    When I was planning my wedding, a friend told me to hire someone to film the wedding as it was his only regret from his own wedding especially in light of his grandmother passing soon after. I took his words to heart and made sure to budget for a videographer and hired someone to film the wedding. It turned out to be the best decision I made as my own father passed several years later and the wedding video is one of the few moving images I have of him which I still watch all the time to this day. Seeing how joyful he looked celebrating such a momentous occasion in my life is something I will always treasure and one way I will be able to share my father’s memory with my son who was just born this year.

  123. Emilie says...

    Skip the extreme wedding dieting and fitness routines! I was at my plumpest when I got married because I was damn happy. And guess how I look in the photos? Happy. No regrets.

  124. Morgan says...

    Yes to the group shot! It’s a group of your peoples you might never have in one place again.

    Beautiful couples!

  125. t says...

    I feel so far removed from weddings at this point in my life (it’s amazing how kids can do that) but Oh Em Gee, this cracked my heart wide open. And Ashley, you KILLED IT in your dress. You are a divine, sparkly, princess bride!

  126. Mac says...

    Some advice I wish I’d taken—
    My mom offered to use the money I’d spend on a dress on a designer outfit or two. Looking back, I wish I would have taken her up on it. I loved my dress, love my dress, but it’s now sitting pretty preserved in a box. I think it would have been lovely to wear something special that I could rewear and keep using and add layers of good memories.

  127. Leah says...

    My two pieces of advice I give anyone I know who is planning a wedding is
    1. It’s just a day. Something WILL go wrong. It’s okay. Pick maybe 2 things you really care about (and can control) and focus on those things. I really cared about how my hair would look, so I focused on that and didn’t get too worked up about the weather, or the photographer, or that the ceremony started late. My hair looked nice, the day was a success!
    2. If the people you really care about and really want to be at the wedding have kids, don’t have a “child free” wedding. You’re already asking for people’s time, their money in the form of gifts or travel. It might be an undue burden to ask someone to be away from their small child for several hours or even days.

    • joy says...

      I second the advice about “child free” weddings. If you want people with children to attend your wedding, don’t insist that their children be excluded. At this stage of my life, with a toddler and a breastfeeding infant, I simply wouldn’t attend a wedding that required that I find childcare for both of them, especially in a different city. Also, weddings are about bringing together two families to create a new family. The idea of excluding the youngest members of families from a wedding celebration has never quite sat right with me.

    • Amy says...

      Does a children-included wedding wind up costing lots more or is it not that bad since they don’t eat so much? I’ve had friends vent about the child-free weddings they’ve been invited to and a little insulted by. I want to include all the kids when I get married (and this is preemptive because I’m not yet engaged) but now that I’m in my 30s it’s…kind of a lot of kids.

      I guess my hope is: I can invite all the kids, some parents will want a childless date night so they’ll get a sitter, and for everyone else, the more the merrier.

    • Nicola S says...

      I have to disagree, I have children and actually LOVE being invited to child free weddings! Normally when you’re invited to a wedding, someone will be happy to look after your kids so you can attend and have relaxed fun child free time. PS I love my kids, it’s just nice to have a day off every once in a while!!

    • Cece says...

      We had a child-free wedding for several reasons and with with several caveats:

      1. Obviously we didn’t include babies, they need to be with their parents
      2. It was an afternoon/evening wedding and there was no attached accommodation so not ideal for kids
      3. We actually *had* a 17-month-old daughter at the time and she came to the ceremony and then went home to bed with a babysitter because it would have been unfair to keep her up late (and no fun for us).
      4. It wasn’t strict. We said on the invites that it wasn’t a very child-friendly set-up but to get in touch if there were any issues and we’d work something out.

      Actually almost all of our friends had either newborn babies who came, or kids of 2+ who they were frankly thrilled to leave with grandparents for the weekend. We even had some guests travel from the US to London and leave their kids behind to have an adults-only trip, despite making it really clear that we would have welcomed the kids.

      We LOVE kids and we love our friend’s kids, but we were on a really tight budget and London weddings don’t tend to be very kid-friendly, so it was the best choice for all of us. Nobody RSVP’d no because of it, and tbh I think they all treated it as a kid-free mini-break.

    • Megan says...

      Amy, I think it depends on the venue, but when we got married, our venue didn’t charge us for children 5 and below, which definitely helped cut down costs. I have a huge extended family with lots of tiny people in it, and I LOVE kids at weddings. They are so cute and usually make the dance floor even more fun! Having a kid free wedding was never an option for me.

    • LM says...

      YES. It does require some more seating, but you’re right, food-wise. Kid’s under teenage years eat SO LITTLE. And yes, I have been so stressed and cash strapped at weddings of people I love because we have to figure out (1) travel with kids (2) hotel rooms with kids just to (3) find and pay a babysitter we don’t know to stay in said hotel room with kids. It’s like we have to choose between our friends/family and kids. IF you have the cash, we went to a wedding that HIRED a few “babysitters” in a kids room to watch the kids somewhere close to the parents but where there could be a little more of an adult atmosphere. This was the BEST. I KNOW not everyone can do this space wise or time wise. We certainly could not have at our wedding (super budget – morning wedding, light reception in church hall, no photogs, no flowers), but consider it if you have a lot of friends with kids and you have the cash. It’s a huge gesture of “thanks” and makes us feel really loved in a context where having young kids often feels like a huge burden and a bit of a shaming. (I get that it’s not, but just feelings, not reality).

    • raq says...

      while I plan on having children at my wedding (because all of our friends/family have small children now and it will be daytime), in my area (chicago) there are often later night, fancier receptions where children don’t have a lot of fun and are up wayyyy past their bedtime. this means often that parents leave right after dinner which is less fun for everyone. in these situations I can totally see why people have adults-only weddings. Also- some venues charge less for kids meals but also count them in the room capacity, so that makes a big difference

    • megs283 says...

      YES. At least allow nursing infants. I went to two weddings this summer (back to back weekends) where my 9/10 week old wasn’t invited. Trust the moms that they won’t let the kid scream during the ceremony – or reception. It was just so darn stressful and while I TRIED to be gracious about it, my overwhelming emotions from the wedding revolve around how difficult it was for me to attend. (Yes, I could have said no – but not really. There would have been hurt feelings on the part of my relatives.)

    • Irene says...

      We’re doing a “kids room” because we have toddler aged nephews and many friends with children. Our wedding is also during the daytime (noon-5pm) which makes it easier to keep kids entertained and not up past bed times. We’re expecting 8-10 kids under age 5 (older kids will be seated in the reception). Our venue isn’t charging us anything for the small room and I found reasonably priced babysitters in the area. I’m planning to have coloring books, crafts, toys, and maybe a movie going.
      I’m a little worried it will all fall apart the day of … but, hopefully it’s a gesture our friends and family appreciate! :)

  128. Stephanie says...

    My advice is be true to you and your partner! It is a day for the two of you and the ceremony and/or reception should reflect that. It is not the time or place to people-please since you cannot please everyone.

    My husband and I did it all our way (and paid for it ourselves!), and it could not have been any better.

    Rules it is okay to break:
    -Having a wedding party (groomsmen, bridesmaids, etc.) if you don’t want to or can’t afford it or worry you might offend someone then you do not HAVE to have one
    -Dancing (we had a small reception area and neither of us would have been comfortable dancing in front of everyone so we didn’t!)
    -Having someone “give you away”. No one gave me away because I don’t enjoy the outdated notion. Instead my husband met me at the entrance of the room, and we walked to the alter together. We’ve been in it together from the start
    -Any other rules you want to break!

    • Mandi says...

      This sounds a lot like my wedding! 😂 We broke all those rules too, and it was perfect!
      I’d add a couple money saving tips:
      Grocery store flowers saved us hundreds (thousands). Found my dream dress, then searched for it on eBay and got it gently used for less than $200! Only thing we didn’t skimp on was the photographer. No regrets!

    • Cynthia says...

      I walked down the aisle by myself, because my father had passed away 4 years ago, and there was no one like my dad. If I couldn’t have my dad walk me down the aisle, I didn’t want any one else to do it. I wanted the traditional vows, but we left out the part about if anyone objected, to speak now or forever hold their peace. We were afraid my nutty uncle by marriage would say something. Our ring bearer decided at the last minute not to walk down the aisle, but that was ok, as a fake ring was tied to the pillow.

  129. Yes to pizza and dessert! We had a wood-fired pizza company bring their portable oven to my mom’s backyard where our wedding and reception happened. Instead of cutting the cake, we cut a pizza. We did a potluck dessert and had a big table full of delicious treats people had made. I would also say, do what makes you happy — its your day and don’t worry so much about the things you can’t control (and even those you can). It rained two inches the day before our backyard wedding. Our friends helped us spread hay over the muddy patches. Our wedding day weather was perfect but the ground was still pretty wet. I ended up with muddy bare feet and it was great.

    • Becky says...

      We also did pizza! The restaurant we love caters and does their own gf crust. We also did a beer truck. It was like a carnival for adults!

  130. Paige says...

    I just came here to say thank you for the way you wrote “dos and don’ts.” A glorious (and rare) sight to see the apostrophes in the correct places.

    • deanna says...

      AMEN! (Also, I let out an audible gasp when I saw Ashley in that beautiful wedding dress! So pretty!)

    • Karyn says...

      Hahaha, yes! I love that too! I love how smart and conscientious the CoJ team is; writers and editors who appreciate grammar are the best!

  131. Una says...

    A big group photo of everyone is the traditional thing to do in Ireland – and out of the wedding photos from my great grandparents, grandparents, and parents, my favorite photo is the big group shot. It’s so fun to look at the trending clothes (and from my parents’ 80’s wedding – the hair), and see the chaos and smiles and love (complete with pouting baby cousin and uncle turned completely around to crack a joke to someone). My granny points out all the folks in the group shot from her wedding every time I see her, and it brings up such memories and stories. My husband is American and was amused by my insistence of the group shot (and my triple checking with the photographer that it would not be forgotten – ha!). But we both agree it’s the best one from the day, and I can’t wait to chat through my wedding group photo with my own curious kiddos (and grandkids!) someday.

  132. Sisu Garcia says...

    Can i just say, the pizza and multiple cake buffets? GENIUS!

  133. Kat says...

    Thank you so much for including so many queer weddings. It really was a delight to read advice from LGBTQIA+ couples, as well as hetero.

  134. Allegra LaViola says...

    1. Day-of planner saved my butt. Didn’t have the big price tag of the whole wedding planner, but made the whole day easy and I didn’t have to sweat the small stuff.
    2. Something will go wrong. Lean into it. I spent hours and hours doing an elaborate seating chart. As I walked around during dinner I realized the whole thing had been done at random, aside from my table! Didn’t matter. Everyone was chatting and having a ball. Let it go.
    3. Be spontaneous. One of my favorite memories is of my father’s friend, Dr. Charles, who, at my request, performed a magic trick before we cut the cake.
    It hadn’t been planned and I only thought of it when I saw him and remembered all the birthday parties he had done magic tricks at when I was a kid. It was such a fun, sweet silly moment and really set the tone for the rest of the night.

  135. Elizabeth says...

    Remember that post in which the bride was choosing her wedding dress and had about 5 options? Maybe you posted the outcome but I missed it! If so, could you post it again? I want to see if my choice made the cut.

  136. We got married at the courthouse and had a small ceremony (less than 30 people) a year later in our backyard after we purchased our house. A 72-hour tent rental allowed us to have an informal dinner the night before and brunch the next day since nearly everyone was from out of town. My family and friends are the type of people who love to help out, which I would normally not ask for, but they offered and I let them. My Aunt, who is the matriarch of our family and likes telling people what to do, took charge of making sure food stayed stocked and told everyone what to do. One friend put together our flowers. Another friend, who doesn’t have a DIY bone in her body, hot glued something for me and, honest to god, I still get teary eyed to this day just thinking about it. Our wedding celebration wasn’t traditional or perfect in any way, but it was a magical day and I’ll never forget about it. I’ve never felt more beautiful or special.

    A few tips: we slashed cost on nearly everything, but I got a good photographer (found on Instagram), had my hair and makeup done (also found on Instagram), and spent money on local wine and beer (self serve from a wheelbarrow). Flowers delivered from Costco are your best friend if you’re on a budget. The neighborhood Safeway made several delicious, Pinterest worthy cakes – just take a photo and see if yours can do the same. I think they were $15 apiece vs. who knows how much for a local bakery. If you’re doing a DIY wedding, get stuff done ahead of time and COMMUNICATE your plans to someone else. Oh, and hire a cleaning service if you do it at your home or someone else’s for before and after. We didn’t, and that would have made things so much easier.

  137. Sarah says...

    AHH! I’m getting married in April and so many of these ideas spoke to me, particularly the coloured dress suggestion. I have been dreaming of a wild, unforgettable and danceable dress in some vivid, amazing colour. If anyone has any ideas to share with me please post links!!

    Opting out of white has already proven to stir the family pot a bit so any tips for carrying on doing exactly as I please would be helpful too!

    • J. says...

      I love it, Sarah! There are a lot of beautiful ones here: https://www.brides.com/gallery/colored-wedding-dresses-pictures

      As for the family piece, I’d suggest thinking: what will I remember about this day in 50 years? If it’s something important, like the song you dance to, the dress you wear, or your vows, remember that a wedding is fundamentally a celebration of love between two people, with everyone else there to celebrate those two– do whatever is best for you two/your love! If it is something you don’t have too firm of an opinion on (a mother’s dress/outfit, table settings, etc.), but that someone in your family cares a LOT about, and it isn’t too difficult to accommodate, fair enough. Just my two cents– good luck finding a dress!!! I’m sure it will be beautiful.

  138. Lee Ten Hoeve says...

    Invest in your future life together and have a small dinner party instead of a huge blowout. Invite only the most treasured people in your life. I will never regret making this choice. It was such an intimate and slow evening shared with the most wonderful people. My husband and I had real face time with each person and got to bask in the joy they felt for us on that day. It was such a gift.
    We ate family style Italian dishes at our favorite local restaurants that doubles as a vintage and antique shop. We spent the evening in a place full of history, in the company of love stories new and old. The ambiance was perfect and the food was lovingly prepared. Everyone left with full bellies, full hearts and a few even left with a vintage treasures they gave a new life too.

  139. Rebecca says...

    I love these bits of advice…except one.
    As a part-time gig through grad school I worked a schmoozy New England hotel. Families would easily drop $10,000 for the venue, the food, booze, photographer, etc., but skimp on the DJ. On more than one occasion I’ve seen entire receptions head south because a professional wasn’t behind the sound booth: speakers would bust, amps would back fire, or the groom’s college buddy just couldn’t run a tight show.

    All that being said spring for the DJ and save yourself a few books in other places.

  140. Erin says...

    Both my Husband and I are really close to our immediate families, so we decided to do a head table with just them. I got to sit between my Husband and my Dad, feeling so grateful for the family I come from and for the family that I get to be a part of. It was also just so normal: we joked with our siblings, talked about the food, passed around good wine, and our moms made sure everyone was eating enough. There was something so happy about sitting down to a very ordinary family dinner in the middle of this big, extraordinary day.

  141. Julie says...

    Love this! I am getting married in March and am in the thick of planning – I appreciate all of this so much.

  142. Katherine says...

    There is nothing as fun as a good live band! Lots of food and a great band are what I wanted at my wedding :) Everyone had a blast and friends still tell us how fun it was! Things I love at a wedding: a short ceremony, great food, and short speeches and dances (couple, parents, etc). A good band will get everyone on the dance floor asap!

  143. Anne says...

    Love reading these! My husband and I are celebrating our first anniversary next weekend. We held our ceremony outside in DC (on Nationals Park Service land) and walked hand in hand down the aisle to meet our 50 guests.

  144. Kate says...

    Do: Write your own vows! It’s a preference of course, but we set firm rules (They have to be promises, no longer than a minute and a half) to take the pressure off. Now I have the most beautiful words written for me by my husband.

    Don’t: Ugh. Agonize over everything leading up to it. Easier said than done.

    Do: This is more for the planning. But if you’re choosing a first dance song. Spend an evening together somewhere alone with a good sound system and try dancing to every dreamy love song you can.

  145. Carrie says...

    oh my gosh, Ashley’s story. It hit me like a (wonderful) blow to the heart.

    Side note: would LOVE to see more photos of every one of these weddings. What a beautiful collection of days.

  146. rachel says...

    I’m getting married in a little over a year, and these posts are such a godsend. please, everyone – comment your best wedding advice. i need it!!

    • Carrie says...

      Just make sure everyone involved is crystal clear on your vision regarding every aspect of your day.

      Example: I had visualized our first look being just my husband and I and our photographer. We wound up of having a crowd of relatives watching, and I was too overwhelmed to ask them to leave. I realized I should have made my vision clear to begin with.

      My heart hurts to remember that moment, it was totally spoiled for me. I had long imagined this beautiful, serene moment and instead I had my sister off on the side telling me to lower my chin so I wouldn’t look fat in the photos.

    • Amy says...

      Congratulations! Wear comfy shoes!! :-)

    • Christine says...

      Just got married this weekend! When planning, identify the things that matter most to you and work backwards — for us what mattered most was photos, venue and music, so we found ways to save money on flowers, video and food and drink, for example. Also, put effort in to picking your vendors. If you hire good people and feel like you’re in solid hands, you won’t be as stressed. Don’t be afraid to shirk traditions. It’s your day and should reflect the two of you, not everyone else. Similarly, politely ignore the constant stream of outside input as much as you can.

      When it comes to the big day, plan breakfast/lunch for you and your family because otherwise you’ll all be starving by the time cocktail hour arrives. Pick out and buy the lipstick you want to wear so when your makeup artist leaves you can reapply easily. Buy a pair of flats to change in to so you can take your heels off to dance without having to worry about stepping on broken glass in bare feet. Open a joint checking account beforehand because everyone will write “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (even if they have no idea whether you’re changing your name) and those kinds of checks are harder to deposit without a joint account. Take 10 minutes right after the ceremony to be alone with your new hubby, and have your caterer bring you appetizers and drinks. And lastly, know that all the hard work pays off and the day is beautiful and perfect no matter what.

    • Julie says...

      Christine – <3 your advice. Thank you!

    • Rachel says...

      thanks so much everyone!

  147. Nina says...

    I love this. So sweet. Congrats to all the couples. May their lives be long and their love stay strong.

  148. Mags says...

    I have a group photo too and I love it!
    We had the photographer plan to get everyone on the dance floor to take the photo right after the parent dances, and then we had the band play an upbeat happy song right away, so that everyone just stayed on the dance floor from there.
    One funny moment- I hadn’t had a moment to myself so right after my husband finished dancing with his mom, I took the chance to run out to the bathroom. When I came back to the ballroom, there were all my guests saying “cheese!” to the photographer! I yelled “WHAT THE HECK” and pushed up to the front of the group- everyone assumed I was standing with someone else and they had taken the photo without me!

  149. Corinna says...

    This afternoon isn’t blustery, at least in Brooklyn––it’s humid and swampy!?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh man, you’re right, i was sitting in our shared office where the AC was freezing and the trees were moving outside our window — next time i will step outside while writing the intro! (insert face palm emoji here)

  150. Kelly says...

    Ashley!! I loved hearing your musings leading up to the wedding on twitter, and every photo I’ve seen has just radiated such joy. You’re a very special couple and it makes me so happy to see y’all share your love