It’s been two weeks of newlywed bliss: lots of snuggles, thank you note-writing and referring to each other as “husband” and “wife, ” just to hear it out loud. Now that the dust has settled, I reflect on the 10 months of planning, and I find myself lingering on bits of wisdom gained over the last several months, wisdom that I never heard from any friends, family or bridal blogs (though I’d read plenty). Now on the other side of the most important day of my life, I can officially say that you will face some surprises, but hopefully this will help cut down on them quite a bit.
1. Don’t worry about having the “perfect bride body.” Here’s the thing: we live in an age of body positivity, of loving your curves and embracing your imperfections. Despite this, just about every wedding magazine and website will tout their magical wedding diet. Gyms offer bridal discounts to work out and get toned up. Facebook ads start to catch on and shove even more diet pills or weight loss drinks on your feed. It’s never ending, and it can be stressful. So, ignore it! Who says you have to look a certain way or be miserable trying to lose X number of pounds? Tune out the haters – you do you.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If working out or having a goal helps control the stress, by all means, go for it. Personally, I oscillated often between satisfaction at my weight loss efforts and panic that despite my work, I wouldn’t look like a magazine model by my wedding day. So, three weeks before my vows, I decided that I didn’t care. My dress fit, and I try to live a fairly healthy lifestyle anyway, but I was going to stop obsessing over getting the perfect toned arms or losing the last five pounds before saying “I Do.” Planning for your wedding and getting ready as it gets closer should be joyful. Hectic, sure – but joyful. If dieting and working out and trying to get fit or lose weight is stressful, forget about it!
2. Check that your most important guests got their invitations. Until you have to send out 200-odd wedding invitations, you will not understand the frustration that the U.S. Postal Service can bring into your life. My MOH never got her invitation, so we sent a second one. Both of which she received one week before the wedding. “Return to Sender” invitations made their ways into our mailbox, nearly six weeks after we sent them out and as late as four days before the big day. The week before the wedding, we scrambled as we realized certain friends and family members never received invitations. If you haven’t gotten an RSVP from an important someone, give them a call to make sure they received it. It’s better to be a little forward and ensure they actually know they’re invited than to assume they just don’t know how to mail an RSVP card.
3. Related: Be ready to guess how many guests. Despite the fact that we included pre-addressed and pre-stamped RSVP cards to encourage as many responses as possible, we only received about two-thirds back by the wedding date (and several of those within the final week or two before). People get busy, envelopes get buried on desks and – as we’ve established – the mailman may lose it entirely. We were convinced that we would have an immaculate RSVP record; this only led to more exasperation and stress as the time came closer and we tried to ascertain who was and was not attending. So, before you start, take a breath and realize your final headcount may likely be an educated guess. Once you accept that, I guarantee it’ll be much less frustrating.
4. If you get bridal portraits, ask to peek during the shoot. My bridal shoot was surprisingly fun for a chick who doesn’t like being the center of attention, and I absolutely love the way they came out. (Shout out to Brad Puckett of BP Photography for an incredible day!) However, if I had peeked at a few of the photos on his camera, I would have known to pull my shoulders back and tilt my chin down a bit. Granted, your photographer will be a pro at directing you and making you look like a supermodel (if I can do it, anyone can), but looking at a few photos throughout the shoot will help you nail down what you don’t like that others may not notice. Regardless, your photos will be stunning, and you will tear up finally seeing yourself as a full-fledged bride.
5. On that note, get bridal portraits. Most photographers probably have a package that includes bridals or will add them on for a fee. If you can swing them, get them. You’ll only look like a bride for a few hours, and it will be worth it to have some professional quality images of just you in your dress that you spent weeks picking out, with that perfect hairstyle and the heirloom jewelry you will probably never wear again. It gives you a chance to feel pampered, to feel beautiful and bridal for a few extra hours before your big day. Even if you’re camera shy, take the leap and go for it. Not only that, but it gives you a chance to meet your photographer in person before getting married. You’ll get to know their style, how they direct you and work with you.
6. Plan a buffer day between your wedding day and your honeymoon. We booked a cruise for our honeymoon, and we chose one departing the Monday after our Saturday wedding, giving us essentially two full days to travel. If you have the option to keep some buffer time in between, opt for it. You will be exhausted after your wedding – mingling with friends and family, familiar and non, will really take it out of you – and you won’t want to feel rushed. And when it comes to scheduled departures like planes and ships, they most likely won’t wait for you if you’re running behind. Who needs that extra hassle? Book a hotel room in town that night, and make plans to set out on your journey the next day or even two days later. I can’t imagine having to catch a plane within a few hours of exchanging vows! We’re both so glad we didn’t feel the need to sprint to Tampa for our departure.
7. It’s your day…but it’s also not. Everyone wants to congratulate the happy couple. And you want to thank everyone! This often means that you and your groom will be pulled in so many directions your head will be spinning. (Luckily, you picked a dress that looks great with a twirl!) As you go to greet one guest, another touches your arm. On the way to the buffet, your uncle waves you over. You may not even see your new husband for a while, as he’s probably dealing with the same chaos. So, if you can remember that today is your special day, but it’s also about pleasing the masses, you’ll be grand. And if everything becomes overwhelming, take a breath and remember that the honeymoon will make it all worth it.
8. Be present. Be focused. The day will fly by so quickly; if you don’t concentrate and be present in each moment, you’ll look back later and realize that everything is a blur. While I remember the day being quick, I remember so many wonderful moments so clearly: my bridesmaids walking with me to take photos, peeking through the blinds to watch guests file in, turning my head to see my groom for the first time that day, walking out to my absolute favorite song in the world, running around taking photos and hugging family and greeting guests. Don’t let your wedding day become a blur. Take a breath every now and again. Focus. Commit this day to your memory, and reflect on it often so those memories remain sharp. You’ll be glad you did.