There was a wedding in our backyard over the weekend and now We Have Advice. After experiencing their own (or their children’s) weddings from engagement to honeymoon, people often believe they are expertly qualified to counsel others in their own nuptial planning. Speaking as the mother of the groom, I believe there is something to this.
The personal experience of planning a wedding changes a person. These are among the things we learned:
- Everyone advises that “when people volunteer to help, let them” but there is something helpful and holy about mundane wedding tasks. Picking up ten gallons of sweet tea can obviously be done by the someone other than the groom’s mom. But I learned that a) when the wedding is at your house, you have no place to retreat and so a car trip feels like a little break. And b) I was thinking about the cultures that encourage people – in times of death – to build their own loved ones’ caskets, wash their own loved ones’ bodies, and dig their own loved ones’ graves. Although marriage is mostly not about loss, it’s incredibly meaningful to do some of the dirty work ourselves in order to process things. We could sit back and direct the work. But schlepping tables and lugging bags of ice makes it real.
- You will always need more ice.
- Don’t assume everybody knows the expectations. What exactly does a best man do? It’s possible that his only point of reference is The Hangover (although for the record, SBC was the perfect Best Man.) If somebody expects X and somebody else expects Y and friction ensues, it’s okay. But if it really matters, have the “this is what I expect of you” talk several weeks/months before the wedding.
- Take into account cultural differences & refrain from all judgement. (e.g. Having a wedding registry in which the couple picks exactly which bowls they’d like is considered unspeakably tacky in many cultures just as paying the bride cash to dance with her at the reception is frowned upon in other cultures.) Embrace diversity.
- Attention all brides, grooms, & parents: Pick the One Thing you care about the most for this wedding. One Thing. Be as specific as possible. Not: “I want everyone to arrive safely.” But: “I really want Aunt Sophie there even though she’s in a body cast.” If the bridal bouquet is The Most Important Thing, then by all means make those perfect flowers happen. Also, make your One Thing known so that others will recognize the centrality of this particular matter.
- Accept the fact that something will disappoint you on or around the wedding day. Then channel your inner Elsa.
- Accept the fact that some random action will unnecessarily mess with the beautiful picture in your head of how everything’s supposed to look. 48 hrs before our backyard wedding, the power company people marked our painstakingly manicured back yard with red spray paint so the tent people wouldn’t cut power lines. These particular spray paint people clearly do not read Martha Stewart Living.
- Invite guests to make music requests when they RSVP. Thank you to the person who requested “We Are the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.”
- Expect very view people to follow RSVP guidelines. I’ve heard this from hosts who included a self-addressed/stamped envelope, an email address, a phone number, & all the above. Most people will not tell you if they are attending. (But thank you, thank you, thank you if you actually RSVP. We salute you.)
- You need one toilet per every 50 people according to the professionals. A bouquet of eucalyptus tied together with a lovely ribbon makes any Port-A-John smell delightful.
- Authentic love is everything. There’s not a photo booth or monarch butterfly release on earth that will make a wedding beautiful if the couple is faking it, whether they realize it or not.
- Get a fearless eleven year old on the dance floor and set him free.
Image of someone’s One Thing. #BSWedding