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The Best Laid Plans...
By Laura Leon

Fear not, your wedding will be divine—but heed these cautions from people who wish they had done one thing differently

Most everybody dreams of their wedding day. This may be especially true of little girls, but I suspect that even some men wonder what the big day will be like. From storybooks to movies, the idea is usually the same—this is your day and, unless you’re a screwball comedy, everything will go beautifully. There will never be another bride as lovely or another bridegroom as dashing. The scenery throbs with meaning and beauty, the promises made are just this side of Shakespearian. . . .

Dino Petrocelli

And then the big day actually arrives, and you realize that you didn’t spend enough time with the caterer ensuring that your favorite tidbits were served, or that the concept of an outdoor wedding in April is fraught with danger, and perhaps you should have made alternate—i.e., indoor—plans.

Don’t worry—in all likelihood, your wedding will be wonderful—but there probably will be at least one or two things that, looking back on it over the years, you wish you had planned differently. My sister Pam and I have identical regrets for both of our ceremonies. The two events (seven years apart) were carefully planned affairs from beginning to end, and yet, we both blew one important detail. Candid shots had come to be favored over the stylized, deer-in-the-headlights wedding photography of a previous era, and so we neglected to think much about what kinds of photographs we’d like to look back on or to hand down to our children. As a result, Pam’s and my wedding albums are filled with candid, “messy” shots of people dancing and drinking, looking sweaty and flushed. Now I wish I had more traditional shots of those all-important memories: daughter and dad; wedding couple with parents; entire bridal party; etc., and fewer photos of my husband’s then-coworkers.

Margaret, an attorney, also says she didn’t give enough thought before her wedding to the “old” traditions. For one thing, she wishes it had included a formal dance with her now-deceased father. She also wishes she had planned her wedding for a date other than Mother’s Day weekend, since her anniversary is now tied to that event and, as a mother, she gets “shortchanged.” Other people I’ve spoken to agree that hitching their weddings to, say, Christmas or New Year’s wasn’t the best idea, since the festivities of those holidays tend to interfere with any attempts to celebrate their anniversaries in a meaningful way.

Sandy, a public relations director, absolutely loved her wedding. “It was a very happy, fun day, and I was the last person to leave!” But even when you have a great time, there could still be one thing you’d change; in her case, she wishes she’d allowed more people to help her. “I organized everything, from the flowers to making the dresses, and at the end, I was really wiped out. I think there is something to be said for letting professionals step in to do their job.”

I have to agree with Sandy: Determined to prove that I could easily organize my entire wedding and save money to boot, I did just about everything. So with an hour to go before my nuptials, I was decorating tables. Don’t make this mistake—hiring a wedding planner to help you with these details is money well spent and ensures that you are more relaxed and happy.

Often, bridal couples get caught up in other people’s (namely, Mom’s) expectations for the big event. Reesa felt uncomfortable being the center of attention at her wedding, particularly with respect to the videographer who followed her every step. In retrospect, she says, “I wish we had had a much more laid-back wedding, perhaps in a big old house, with gardens, with people relaxed and milling around, and great music in the background.” Sherri also wishes she had gone a little less formal: “At this point, I might have gone with a less formal reception. The cost of receptions these days, especially, is so outrageous, it becomes a financial burden to a couple just starting life together.”

Even if all the aspects of the planning fall nicely into place, you sometimes feel shortchanged during the actual ceremony. Patty, an executive assistant, observes that “time gets away from you so quickly with all the formalities of the wedding. I wish we had taken the time to visit every table to let our guests know how grateful we were that they were there.”

Sherri stresses the importance of enjoying the day more. “It’s always up to the bride and groom to make all the arrangements and make sure everything goes smoothly; the actual day is more of a blur. You spend so much time planning and making decisions and ensuring everyone else is enjoying themselves, that the bridal couple doesn’t always enjoy the wedding reception.”

Stephen also cautions against losing valuable time at the wedding due to formalities. “I can’t stress enough the importance of taking care of all the financial details prior to the wedding,” he states, “so that you don’t lose an entire hour of your reception haggling over details with the catering manager.”

Sometimes, including family members in the intimate details of your wedding can backfire. Jacquiline, who works in health affairs for a professional association, regrets that she had a cousin perform her ceremony. “He was a born-again Christian, which is fine, and the pastor of his own church. He babbled on and on during the ceremony, and I just kind of tranced out and don’t remember anything about the actual ceremony. To make matters worse, he forgot to sign our marriage certificate, so we had to take the next day to drive all the way to his home to get him to sign it. What a nightmare!”

Weirdly enough, my mother, who never has much good to say about weddings, has absolutely no regrets about her 1942 wedding to my father. “It was a great year, we were married in the evening of a beautiful summer’s day, in a gorgeous courthouse, and I loved what I wore and he looked pretty good, too. Simple, no fuss, just perfect.”

With careful planning, your wedding can be perfect too. And remember, if one or two little things don’t go quite right, “almost perfect” still makes for a wonderful, memorable day.

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