These are all the things we nailed and want to share advice from or failed and may have done differently if we could hit the rewind button.
Above All Else, You're Getting Married!
Most importantly, as our Celebrant made very clear and continued to remind us, is the fact we got married! That might sound obvious, but it was such a good reminder and the key to staying grounded. All the other details and plans don't matter as much in the grand scheme of why everyone is coming — to celebrate your marriage. Some things will go wrong, so remembering what's important is key.
Be True to Yourselves
It should go without saying, but can be easy to forget — getting married is all about you, so do what you want! We quickly discovered there are limitless ways to do every aspect of a wedding and literally hundreds of choices to make throughout the planning process. Add on tradition, meaningful ideas and advice from everyone around you, and it can easily become overwhelming.
It goes fast — lightning fast. Everyone told us it would go fast and we tried consciously to savor every moment. Overall, I wasn't prepared to zone out as much as I did throughout the day. I tried to stay in the moment as much as possible, but it was admittedly a challenge not to get lost in the excitement and moving parts. When I see photos, I just want to go back and do it again, more slowly, more presently. I think this may be an impossible thing for the central couple, so savor the moments as best you can.
Great example — during the ceremony, I distinctly remember this moment when our eyes were closed and I felt a gust of wind pass right into us:
I was so thrilled when I realized our photographer caught a shot of this moment, since it was one that I was truly present for.
Tim and I planned out every last detail of the wedding and I was so eager to see it all play out. What I forgot to realize was that I couldn't be in all places at all times. I feel like I missed out on so many little elements we planned so hard for — like the music, the guests arriving, the procession, even seeing the guys get ready.
This is what made looking at our final photos from the day so much fun! We never saw the need for video, but I understand now where it would have been really amazing to capture all those unseen moments we'd so carefully planned for in real time so I could go back and watch it with a different point of view and clearer, more present, frame of mind. We don't regret forgoing a videographer, but definitely recommend some form of professional documentation if it's in your budget.
Give Yourself A LOT of Time
I majorly underestimated the "getting ready" timeline for the morning and afternoon leading up to the ceremony. Our ceremony was set for a 5pm sharp start, so I figured arriving onsite at 2pm (3 hours to spare) to set up final decorations and get ready would be plenty of time. Since we were getting hair and makeup done onsite, this took up the majority of the 3 hours, easily.
Everything else we had planned during that timeframe felt a little rushed. For instance, I ended up haphazardly handing each of my bridesmaids their gifts (earrings to wear) on the fly at the same time I was getting hair and makeup done instead of being able to take a moment, making it a meaningful experience. We also didn't end up having time to get any posed shots of the girls before the ceremony like the guys did. It all worked out, as we got plenty of photos after the ceremony, but I definitely felt a sense of being rushed and stress that we wouldn't be ready in time. So! While all the rush and excitement made for fun memories from the day, the takeaway here is — if you are able, add about 2 extra hours padded into your timeline before the ceremony, it's something I absolutely would have done differently if we could go back in time.
Tip! Kids in the Wedding
My sister's family (Teller, Ben and their 3 children) were all prominent parts of our wedding:
They hired a babysitter for all day Friday and Saturday, which turned out to be such a great idea. If this is in your budget, it's an amazing option. Teller was my Maid of Honor and the babysitter was able to be at the house early to allow Teller more time to get ready and leave ahead of time to come hang out with us girls. The babysitter brought the children to and from the rehearsal on Friday and wedding ceremony Saturday, then stuck around to help play with and supervise the kids while the rest of us attended to the wedding. She was also able to take the children home early after the rehearsal and ceremony so Teller and Ben could hang out late — the kids thought they were in heaven when they heard they got to go home early for pizza and playtime with Tori, their 2nd favorite babysitter (next to Gran of course), pictured below.
Above images by Tori Watson
While we're talking about tips for kids, a couple other things worked in our favor. First, we decided on a bow-tie instead of a necktie for our 2 year old nephew, Benjamin:
He barely remembered it was there after we got it on him, which probably saved us from lots of fidgeting down the road. Second, I brought a bunch of big bubble wands with me before the ceremony and gave them to the babysitter when she arrived. After the kids walked down the aisle during the ceremony, Tori took them into an adjacent garden where they could play and be boisterous without worry from anyone. I think it made it more fun for the kids too:
I realize this is more of a luxury and not all circumstances will allow for a babysitter or letting the children go play during the wedding, but this was one thing that really worked well for us.
We weren't sure we'd want a traditional hour for toasting upon arriving at the reception, so we planned to pass champagne midway through the ceremony, say a few words of our own and cut the cake — letting the whole toasting idea flow organically.
My dad planned and gave a toast during this time and it was such a joy to hear everyone chime in — it was such a fun way to get everyone laughing and surprisingly closer together. So! For those that want to toast the happy couple, we say encourage it!
Bride & Groom Food To-Go Boxes
One of our greatest mistakes was in not asking the restaurant to pack a couple to-go boxes filled with a little of everything that was served that day and two giant slices of our wedding cake. In all the excitement from the party, there were a bunch of things we missed out on eating and I had been jittery enough that day that I wasn't very hungry. We'd put so much planning into the menu and were thrilled at how much everyone loved the food, but it wasn't until the next day while on our road trip to the honeymoon where my appetite came back with vengeance. I looked over at Tim and said, "man I wish I had a great big to-go box with one of everything to try from the party right now!" This especially goes for the cake — we both wanted another piece of cake the next day. Tim's parents did end up saving and freezing the top for us, but it would have been so fun to be able to eat a great big piece the next day on our honeymoon.
Don't sweat the small stuff...
This list is filled with all those little things that don't really matter in the scheme of things, but we thought might be interesting to mention for those curious.
Unnecessary Meltdowns Happen
I'm not proud of it, but I did have a couple day-of melt down moments. I was actually very calm throughout the entire process and it's funny to think back on these 2 bridezilla moments now, which give us great laughs.
1. Miscommunication — At one point during the "getting ready" process, I spoke to Tim via the cell phone and he told me they had basically laid down to take a nap (guys need a lot less time to get ready). Not processing the fact that he meant they'd just stretched out in the outbuilding of the Poe Museum, I automatically assumed all they guys had gone back to our house and weren't going to make it back in time for the ceremony. I can't remember what I said, but I think it was snippy and I wish I could take it back. We still laugh about it today.
2. Windy Photos — We'd planned for a final Trolley to take the wedding party up to a historic and picturesque Richmond overlook, Libby Hill, directly after the ceremony to get another round of portraits. After getting some initial (amazing) photos, the wind started to really kick in and we were eager to join the reception. We ended up heading over to the restaurant a little sooner than planned, which worked out great in the end. Plus, we have great photos from this moment, like this one below that have easily become some of our favorites:
Because we planned everything, there wasn't much left for everyone else to do. Sometimes my "do it yourself" personality gets the best of me and I forgot that family and friends genuinely wanted to lend a hand and take on wedding responsibilities. Case in point, I wasn't expecting everyone to help put all our flowers together the day before the wedding, but it turned out to be such a fun group activity and one of my favorite memories from the day.
I could have done a better job of accepting help when offered overall, but hindsight is always 20/20 and I have the rest of my life to get better at this particular takeaway.
We planned to head straight to the beach the morning after the wedding, so we had everything packed up and ready to go. Because of some timing restrictions, all the "getting ready essentials" for the wedding were quickly packed away before the ceremony into our friends' cars to be picked up after the honeymoon. This left me without some of my daily essentials throughout the honeymoon like regular makeup and such. If I'd planned better, I would have had a special bag designated to make it into our getaway car or would have just bought duplicates of my everyday favorites to pack in the honeymoon suitcase. I realize this was more just a lack of planning on my part but thought it might be worth mentioning since it's something that slipped my mind.
Know Where to Save and When to Splurge
Some elements of the wedding seemed super important, enough so that I felt like I would have regretted not getting exactly what I wanted for that detail of the wedding. Other things I found myself not really caring about at all, which was kind of funny. For me, the dress was a major splurge, but I made the veil myself for under $10 and found shoes that fit what I needed for under $30. In the end, I knew I had the dress of my dreams and felt like I'd scored a deal on those other elements — a win win in my book.
These were the 2 biggest surprises that came from the wedding.
You will learn things about your family you never knew:
Throughout the engagement and planning process, I was so delighted to hear lots of stories about past family weddings. As questions would come up, I'd phone my mom, dad, or soon to be mother-in-law to ask what they had done in their weddings. All those little details I never knew before suddenly became so relevant and fascinating. I even learned things about my family I never knew. For instance, neither my maternal nor my paternal sets of grandparents had traditional weddings.
To give a little backstory on how this came to light, I thought it might be nice to incorporate framed photos from both sets of our grandparents' weddings at our reception along with other mementos, but couldn't actually remember ever seeing photos of either sides' big days.
When I asked my dad if he had any photos of Granny and Grandaddy's actual wedding day, he told me he thinks they basically eloped. I'm sure there are several stories as to what may have happened but he told me he thinks they went off together one day with Granny's mother (as the witness) and got married before coming back to tell his own family the big news. In the end, they had 8 children and lived to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and beyond. This was the set of grandparents from which our wedding cake toppers came from.
When I later asked my mom if she had photos of Nanny and Grandpa's wedding day, thinking it would be a matter of swiping them from an album, to my surprise she told me they had a very very small wedding — maybe 5 people at the most (all family) and Nanny wore a blue suit. Now that caught my attention, how cutting edge! They too, lived to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and this was the grandmother who carried the excerpt of the french poem we had read during our ceremony.
I was never once nervous before the wedding, outside of getting minor jitters just before walking down the aisle in front of a big crowd. All my family and friends kept telling me how surprised they were at just how calm I was throughout the planning process and right up through the wedding. For some reason, I just wasn't nervous. I was ready. I was happy. It was finally our time.
What I didn't expect (and what nobody prepared me for), were the post-wedding nerves. Many people talk about pre-wedding jitters, but mine actually came in immediately following the days after the wedding. We'd been in a serious relationship for almost 9 years before getting married, so I felt like nothing would change or feel different — but it did. All of a sudden things did feel heavier, more serious, binding and very real. Tim will admit the same. Maybe we're in the minority on this one, but the feeling was significant enough I felt like it might be worth putting out there.
The crow's nest from our honeymoon cottage
I'm not sure if it was all the stress of pulling off the wedding running it's final course through each of us, but we both had a hard time winding down the days after the wedding. It took a few solid days before we began to start to feel normal again, but we did. Just getting back into our normal routine once we were back home helped calm all those feelings of anxiety.
Biggest Takeaway Now...
If you've made it this far in the post, you deserve a wedding planning medal! Now that we've listed out all the bigger and little takeaways from the day — we saved the biggest for last. After all the longterm planning and attention that went into the big event, we both have a new appreciation for being a guest at other weddings. I now get just how much work, stress and time goes into every last detail and feel like it makes it that much more fun to see what others choose, having the chance to celebrate with them.
And once again remember, in the words of our wise Celebrant, at the end of the day you will ultimately be married — which is most important.