I’m not very traditional when it comes to weddings. My favorite weddings to go to are those meaningful to the couple themselves. I love the ones that are unique. When the couple is having fun, I’m having fun. When the couple has their favorite wedding cake and pizza, it’s a blast. With music. Without music. Flowers. No flowers. Wedding coordinator. No wedding coordinator.
I’ve been to a wedding hosted in Carmel, California at an old mission that was absolutely gorgeous. From there, wedding participants headed to the reception in Pebble Beach, where there was an open bar. The place was packed. The food was divine. And the total price tag on this particular wedding was more than $150,000 — more than most people make in a year. And while it was lovely and fun, it wasn’t meaningful to the couple. Ahead of time, the bride confessed it was what her mom wanted. It was a nearly all-day affair. It was even tedious. Everyone was dressed to the nines. And because there was a flu going around, many people were sick … including the bride.
My own wedding was on the other end of that spectrum. My husband and I eloped in Las Vegas at a Star Trek theme warehouse … because everyone in Las Vegas does Elvis. My husband and I wanted to spend as little as possible while having fun. When we got back, we hosted a reception and exchanged vows in front of friends and our parents. A family friend re-married us. The buffet was three different types of pizza and a bar open for beer. My stepmom and mother-in-law brought other types of food, including a cake. In fact, the wedding cake was a big sheet cake with a picture of the Enterprise drawn on. (It was delicious!) The total price tag of that party and my Star Trek themed wedding was probably about $5,000 total. Hey, we got a deal on a hotel room and airline tickets! That was my favorite wedding. It was meaningful to us. We drank beer. We were alone to enjoy our marriage, but also partied with friends. We did something fun and silly. We also did something more meaningful with friends who had a good time.
Along the lines of our themed wedding, my cousin hosted a space-oriented wedding party. They encouraged guests to participate in the fun. My husband got a star suit for the occasion. I found a cute space dress for my daughter. I even located a stary skirt for the occasion. It was silly. There were puzzles that everyone had to solve. The couple had a wonderful time, probably for less than $5,000. And all their friends had fun, too. The newlyweds also had fun songs with my uncle, her dad, as the DJ. (He’s a professional DJ and professor in real life.)
So when thinking about weddings, here’s my advice:
Don’t worry about what others want, worry about what you want. Trust me, your guests will have fun. Doing something unique that’s special to you will ensure everyone has a good time.
Something will go wrong at your wedding. Take everything in stride. Again, the main point of this affair is for you to have fun. If it’s incredibly stressful planning it, maybe it’s time to rethink what you want.
Focus on wedding customization — a cake you love, a photographer you enjoy, a meal you think is awesome, music that is so you, etc.
Avoid going into debt thinking you want a wedding you’ll remember forever. That Carmel wedding, where the couple spent more than $100,000? That couple is now divorced. It’s your wedding. Trust me, it’ll be memorable whether you spend $5,000 or $500,000.
Consider a fun party favor that families can take home, such as an edible party favor. For my wedding, my husband and I made beer with our own personal label as a way to say thanks. A wedding we attended, we all got miniature skateboards. Making something personal for your friends is really all they expect.
Rely on friends, but if you pay them, ask them to meet specific standards before the wedding. My husband and I asked a friend, who’d just started up a DJ business, to play music. He loved techno music and played that …. All. Night. Long. My father-in-law and I headed to him, asking … no begging him to play something else. He didn’t. We still paid him the money we said we would because he was a friend.
You’ll miss a lot of fun moments. Even if you pay a photographer, don’t overlook photo booths and even asking friends to send pictures. You’ll see what you missed that night.
Ask friends and family to help you host the party, if you can. Meaning, people don’t always have to go to you when they need their gluten-free option, they’re still thirsty, they want to know where the bathroom is, etc.
Use a reception line where you thank people and then send them a note after your wedding. Instead of running around your party thanking people, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself more.
Play whatever music you want. I ran into a DJ once and asked, “Don’t you get tired of playing ‘YMCA’ and all the other classics?” He laughed politely and then said he never plays those songs at home. But, he confessed, he loves when people have a good time and even said he likes seeing the older relatives — the one who never get up and dance — throwing their hands up in the air in a big “Y.” What a great DJ!
There are so few times in life when you get to be number one. This is one of them! Relax. Embrace being the center of attention for less than one day. Sure, there will be a relative who’s appalled you chose black as one of your wedding colors or you want a special dress to show off your tattoo, but that relative isn’t getting married. You are! Your wedding coordinator, if you have one, should understand and support that. So should all of your wedding vendors — from your baker providing you a cake to your wedding coordinator making sure everything is running smoothly.