Monday, August 17, 2009

Post-wedding wisdom: advice to future brides and grooms

Much of the best advice Econo Boy and I got while planning our wedding came from those who had been there -- whether in person from friends close by, over e-mail or phone from friends far away, or via blogs. So what advice would I personally pass on? Why, I'm glad you asked! (OK, you didn't ask. But I'm going to tell you anyway. It's a habit of mine and a key reason my chosen career is that of "professor.")

3. DOC? Totally worth it.

Our venue was more or less a blank space. We had to bring in everything -- plates, linens, tables, chairs, caterer, alcohol, the works. That's a lot of moving parts to keep track of on a day when 140 people all want to give you a hug and ask how your dissertation's going. It's also a lot of phone calls to make the week before the wedding in order to confirm contracts and delivery times. I also had a few DIY projects that I really wanted out at the reception -- our menu cards, our escort cards, and our table numbers.

Hiring a day-of coordinator ensured that Econo Boy and I didn't have to worry about any of the event-planning stuff on our wedding day. We also didn't have to keep an eye on the time, wondering if it was time for the first dance or whether we'd cut the cake ahead of schedule. Instead, we relied on our DOC to tell us what we were doing and when. Much less stressful!

2. You can't please everyone.
If you throw a Saturday night wedding in the summer and limit your guest list to family and close friends, some people will claim you're being selfish by having a "fancy" wedding at the expense of including more people. If you throw a lunchtime wedding on a Sunday for 300 people, including everyone's dates and roommates and pets, some people will gripe that they barely got to see the bride and groom and wonder why you needed to have so many people there. Hire a live band, and you're sure to hear someone complaining that the "real" songs played by a DJ are more fun. Hire a DJ, and someone will tell you a live band is always better. And if you throw the fanciest Saturday night wedding imaginable for 300 guests, have a ten-hour reception so you can visit with all of them, and you somehow manage to have a DJ and a live band, someone will sniff that you shouldn't have "wasted" all that money.

So accept now that whatever choice you make, someone somewhere on your guest list probably won't like it. Guess what? It doesn't matter. It's your wedding, and you get to set the priorities.

I'm not saying you should jettison guest comfort as a consideration and do something like not rent enough chairs or not feed everyone in order to afford the deluxe limo package and a $10,000 ball gown. Just because it's your wedding doesn't give you the right to treat your guests or your bridal party like peons who are lucky to be in your august presence on Your Special Day.

But here's the thing -- however much the media (I'm looking at you, "Bride Wars" movie trailer) tries to ram the Bridezilla stereotype down our throats, most brides and grooms aren't selfish monsters. Most of them are just trying to throw the best party they can for their loved ones, while honoring what they personally want out of their wedding day. You probably fall in that category. So don't let anyone guilt you into thinking you've committed a crime against humanity by having an outdoor ceremony. Ignore them. At their wedding, they can have an indoor ceremony. Besides, I guarantee you that someone else on your guest list absolutely *loathes* indoor ceremonies and would gripe quietly in the pews if dragged to a church for your nuptials.

Remember that aesthetics are not ethics. You are not a horrible person for having a Sunday afternoon wedding, or a Saturday evening wedding, or a Wednesday morning wedding. You are not a horrible person for choosing a cake with chocolate ganache instead of white buttercream. You are not a horrible person for inviting 50 people, or 150, or 500. And if someone really hates what you've done with your wedding, I humbly suggest that they skip the event. That's what the "Decline" box on the RSVP is for.

1. Trust your gut when it comes to vendors.
I was only disappointed in two of our wedding vendors (the printer who did our invitations and the string quartet), and in both cases, I had a feeling that they weren't going to measure up. The warning signs were poor communication, unhelpful or flat-out unprofessional behavior, or (in the case of the musicians) a condescending "we're the professionals here, sweetie, let us do it our way and stop asking questions" attitude.

So if a vendor gives you attitude or isn't communicating with you, and that vendor is in charge of something you really care about, don't be afraid to look elsewhere, even if you'll forfeit a deposit by switching.* You may hurt some feelings, but you're not running a charity for snotty wedding vendors, you're paying a businessperson to do their job. I found, and I think others have also found, that the way a vendor behaves before the wedding is a pretty good indicator of the kind of job they'll end up doing. And if you're getting bad service, I guarantee you that there are lots of great vendors out there who will be happy to have your business. Everyone else I worked with was helpful, kind, responsive, supportive, and professional, and all of those people did an awesome job.

* As a corollary: DO NOT pay in full, up-front, for ANYTHING. Seriously. Learn from my mistake!


LPC said...

Aesthetics are not ethics. Yes. Well said. In the High WASP community lord knows that's how it gets configured some times.

SG said...

Great advice! Thanks.

Bride in Exile said...

LPC, I can't take credit for that lovely turn of phrase -- that was all A., from Accordions and Lace. But I think it's a wonderful wedding mantra!

anna and the ring said...

Many thanks. Awesome advice!

turtlebird said...

thank you SO much for this! really. it's always such a relief to find your own thoughts and feelings so clearly expressed by a kindred spirit. makes me feel like i'm not alone in this :)

great blog!

A said...

Great advice, however - the bit about not paying for anything in full up front? Impossible. At least where I live, it is.

In EVERY. SINGLE. CONTRACT. I have received - from a small, individually owned business to a large, well-known and established wedding vendor, full payment is a requirement 30 days prior to the wedding. And nearly every single wedding venue will require full payment upon booking.

Bride in Exile said...

A, that's a really good point -- it won't always be possible to split payment, and most vendors require full payment before the wedding.

But even if the final payment comes before the wedding day, I think it's a good idea to pay vendors in two installments, spaced widely apart, if at all possible. Between the first and the second payment, you usually get a good idea of what it's going to be like to work with this person. Some vendors are attentive and wonderful when they're trying to secure your business, but become much less interested in keeping you happy once you've signed a contract! If your post-deposit experience isn't a great one, you still have the option of bailing without losing the entire fee. And even if the contract you're sent asks for payment upon booking, it never hurts to ask if you can split payment. The worst they can say is no!