1. Weddings at one location
Get to the house – find somewhere to park, leave the house, drive to the church- find somewhere to park, leave the church, drive to the reception, loose map, loose temper, get caught in traffic, see other guests going in opposite direction, arrive eventually – find somewhere to park.
Is there any more to say?
With one location weddings you and your guests turn up, chill out and, well, thatâ€™s it isnâ€™t it? You loose a little bit of the fun of traveling and you donâ€™t get a ride in the back of a Roller, but if you want a laid back easy day, one location weddings at a hotel or similar are very relaxed.
2. Friday weddings
There are some excellent reasons for a Friday wedding.
Firstly, if you are like most of us, you may not have left enough time to plan the big day. The most popular venues get booked very much in advance. Often the Fridays will still be available and may even cost less (yippee!!). Of course, the same applies to every other supplier you want to book for your day.
Everyone you invite will be in a good mood. You will have forced them to take a day off work and come to a great big party, followed by a weekend. Result! (May not work quite so well with teachers during term time unless they have a very accommodating head teacher!.)
3. Watch some wedding movies
Four Weddings and a Funeral, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Bridezillas etc. Theyâ€™re all great fun and can provide a bit of inspiration.
4. The number one complaint -photo time!!
I hear this one from 95% of the couples who see me.
It goes like this. “We recently went to the wedding of Xrelative in Soandsotown and after the service the photographer took 2 hours/ ages/ too long/ three years to take the photographs. Everyone was tired, hot, thirsty and fed up and he was lucky to get away with his life. He was bossy and discourteous. The photographs were so ordinary, was it worth all the waiting?”
Recently I went to two weddings as a guest, and both were exactly like that! So what is the solution to this endemic problem?
Well, the obvious answer is to not have loads of group and formal pictures. Many photographers nowadays, myself included, specialise in reportage or informal photography where lots of shots are taken of the day as it unfolds without interruption. There is a great deal to be said for it in terms of the lively shots youâ€™ll end up with and the fact that your day will definitely not be disrupted.
However, if you do give the photographer a huge list of group photographs to take, he has no choice. My default set of groups consists of bridal party, parents x 2and families x2 – it takes about 10-15 minutes and covers all the important attendees.
I prefer to stay during the reception and photograph bridal portraits late in the day when the light is low and warm. Then, all parties are relaxed and relieved and can release the loving emotions of the day that have been previously hidden by stress.
You do not need to have any group photographs if you do not want them. Do not let your photographer dictate the program. Let him or her follow your lead, not the other way around. It is your day!
5. Provide a good map
It is not enough to say ’14th on the right after the pet shop’. Imagine the irritation that turns to worry as someone fails to appear at the reception due to inadequate directions. Similarly, there is frustration felt by guests who arrive late at the church for the same reason.
Why not print your map on the back cover of the order of service? Its neat, it saves paper, it will give everyone something to read during the signing of the register and you are guaranteed that every party will have more than one copy in their vehicle.
The secret of great comedy, according to Rowan Atkinson, is timing. It is also the secret of a great wedding. Getting the timing right can make the difference between a relaxed, confident day and a hectic rush from one missed deadline to another.
Things inevitably take longer than you expect so build extra time or ‘buffer zones’ into the events that are flexible. Some things are absolutes, such as the time of the service. This is the deadline to which every other time must relate, but other things like drinks receptions can be flexible in length and expand or contract a little.
Work backwards and build buffer zones into your morning preparations, especially the bride. Let us say that I am coming to photograph at the bride’s home at 12am before a 1.30pm wedding. Expect to take an hour for make up, dressing and the placement of your head-dress, so that needs to start at 11am. Therefore, you will need to be leaving the Hairdresser’s at 10am if you have any distance to travel and want a sit down when you get home. The hair appointment may take a further hour, so you could be at the hairdressers for 9am. And so on.
Already you have built in a string of buffer zones. If the hair appointment goes over time, just have a shorter sit down.
So plan ahead. You can never have too much time on your wedding morning (well, within reason â€“ donâ€™t plan to get up at 4am for example). After the service begins, events will sweep you along and the day will fly.
After the service, you may want to allow half an hour for photography, perhaps half an hour traveling and parking time to the reception, then another half an hour welcome drinks and powdering the nose time, perhaps 20 minutes to half an hour receiving line and then the wedding breakfast. For a 3pm service lasting around 40 minutes (ask the minister exactly how long this will be), it would be unwise to arrange for the reception to begin before 5.30pm.
The timing is generous, but that is exactly the point. Weddings always take longer than you think!
The number of guests and the distances to be traveled will make a difference. The times above are for an average (not that there is such a thing) and fairly traditional wedding. They are ‘good guesses’, but the principle is thoroughly proven and sound.
If you know that the timings are well planned then you will not need to clock watch and you will not need to hurry. You have built in adequate overruns. So relax, let buffer zones save the day.
7. Have a dry-run (before the glue goes on)
When I was a child, my Father and I used to spend many hours assembling plastic construction kits, ‘Airfix’ kits. I would squander my pocket money and assemble some choice fighter plane. I was frequently disappointed with the untidy results until my Father taught me the secret of the dry run. He would say, “Make sure it all fits together and that the parts match before you put the glue on, because then it will be too late and if it does not fit you will be powerless to make changes.”
In the same way, try everything out beforehand. Rehearse the service, walk the routes, try on the dress and then try it on again. Then let the Bride try it on too. Taste the food, ride in the car. Check it all out first, then relax.
8. People at home
There is plenty to do before you leave for the wedding, whether you are staying at home, at your parentâ€™s place or in a room at a hotel. Playing the host for well meaning relatives as well could be a bit too much. Not everybody can cope with additional pressure like this. Be diplomatic, but if you know that you will need space on the morning of your most important day, let it be known or ask a parent or friend to tell them for you.
9. Outside agencies
In the week or two leading up to the big day, telephone all the professionals and friends involved. Remind them of what you expect of them. Confirm the timings. Tell them of any changes (the sooner the better) and reassure yourself that they will be there for you.
10. Is confetti allowed?
One church local to us charges a £45 fee if confetti is thrown in the grounds. This is to employ a gardener to clean up and to pay for the upkeep of the Vicarâ€™s Porsche, second wife and 7 illegitimate children in Brazil. Allegedly it is therefore fiscally and politically wise to discover the minister’s requirements regarding confetti. If necessary, print a warning message in the order of service.
If the weather is damp, quickly remove the brightly coloured paper confetti from your dress. It can run and stain.
11. Photos during the ceremony
There are two questions here. Do you want them and are they allowed? Photographers should never disrupt or disturb a ceremony but pictures of the exchanging of rings and the first kiss can be beautiful. Find out if your minister or celebrant would allow a discrete cameraman to view of the altar. Flash is absolutely out of the question. The main thing is to let your photographer know and seek his opinion too. Shots taken from a distance can still capture the special intimacy of the wedding ceremony.
12. Beware of cowboys
Videos, more than any other area, are open to cowboy operators. Few people can buy a Roller and set up a wedding car business ‘just to see what happens’. But anyone can do exactly that with a camcorder! Be very careful of bargain deals and ask to see samples of work as I am sure you will. Ask if the videographer himself will be at your wedding, or will he send someone else? Is the videographer a member of a professional organisation and is he qualified? Does he use broadcast quality equipment, DV Cam or other high quality format? Try and find someone whose work has been recommended to you by a friend or another professional whose judgment you value.
13. The receiving line – longer than you think
If you have 100 guests and spend 20 seconds receiving each one, the line will take 34 minutes to pass through. The following advice was given to us by our minister. Although your local friends will be the people you find it easiest to talk to, they can see you at any time, so pass them through with a quick ‘hallo’. They will understand. Then you can spend more time greeting and thanking the relatives who have traveled miles to be there and whom you rarely see. Be polite but brief and they will all thank you for it.
To avoid queuing, use two rooms. One, in which the guests are served drinks, can serve as a waiting area before being welcomed through to their seats next door. On fine days, the first â€˜room’ can be the great outdoors.
Here is a novel idea (not mine) for an alternative receiving line. Station the bride and groom, the parents, the bridesmaid and best man around the room in different corners. They stand still and the guests then have half an hour to move around and greet them all. Only works if you have someone with a loud voice or a PA system to make sure everyone understand what is supposed to be going on..
14. Two receptions
Many couples have an evening party with extra people attending, but friends who need to travel and are not invited to the afternoon reception then face a long wait after the service. We were able to use the church hall. After the photographs at church, we provided a buffet for all 220 guests. Those we could not invite to the evening still had an hour to be sociable, speak to us and be refreshed. We felt that we were able to make them feel special even though we could not give them a full meal. Everybody benefited.
15. Babies in the service
If you have guests with small children, try to establish if there is a place in the church or hotel where they can go to change nappies or just to escape if their child is distressed and disturbing the service. Many churches have an ante-room or office that has an extension PA speaker. The parents will still be able to hear the service and so will the people still in church!
16. Live band or disco?
Need you ask?! There is nothing that can touch a great live band. They are not cheap (5 guys have to make a living out of it for goodness sakes!) but the atmosphere compared to a disco in a small venue can be so much better.
17. The dirt problem
Everyone wants to arrive in a spotless dress. However, to be practical, a wedding dress rarely remains immaculate. The material can show every mark. Grass and leaves cling athletically to the train. To keep the dress spotless is not easy, but encouragingly, nobody notices the odd mark. They are too bowled over with the radiance of the bride and the overall impact of her appearance.
So, to save stressing out, do your best to protect and look after the dress, but do not be surprised if it picks up the odd blemish during the day. Do not allow it to spoil your enjoyment of the occasion.
18. Risque speeches
There have been many comedy sketches based on the wedding speech and, of course, that famous British wedding film with a lot of swearing in it. We all laugh at the embarrassment of the guests as the best man (Hughie baby) produces a string of double entendres. Excellent entertainment, but not if it happens at your wedding.
Tolerance and levels of acceptability vary. You will know what you and your friends find acceptable and where your parents stand. They may be more conservative. For the sake of a few jokes that you may later regret in any case, do not take the risk of offending your family. Brief the best man thoroughly – a little extra effort could avoid much regret.
19. Write it out
If you are worried about your speech and will be nervous, write it out. If your mind goes blank and you dry up, at least you can read what is in front of you, (unless your mind goes completely blank, in which case you’ll probably fall over as well).
Assuming that you are still conscious, you should soon find your stride again. Notice how many famous speakers, especially politicians, simply read everything Even the Queen rarely speaks ‘off the cuff’.
If you are more confident, plain postcards that can be discretely held in the hand make useful prompts with bold keywords to guide you from one section of the speech to the next. Alternatively, rent an auto cue. For more ideas, there are plenty of excellent books available on public speaking.
Wedding rules and etiquette can be daunting. Provided you get the main details correct the rest can come naturally. If you want to be absolutely correct check out Amazon for books about it.
21. Don’t drink before the speech
If you are worried about your speech, too much drink beforehand may make it feel better for you but could make things infinitely worse for the listeners!
22. The order of service
If you are having your Order of Services printed, why not stamp your personality upon them also? On the back cover you can print the map of how to get to the reception. On the inside, you can list the people who you wish to thank. You can include photos and the story of how you met. Give the guests something to read while you sign the register. (Or for during the sermon)
23. Have a fitting close to the day.
If you have been under stress or perhaps dieting before the big day, make sure you arrange a proper dress fitting just before your wedding. A friend of mine who is a dress specialist tells a story of arriving at a bride’s home and finding that the Bride had changed from a size 10 to an 8 in the 3 months since her last fitting. Lucky old Bride.
24. Between two receptions
It is usual for a reception meal with speeches to last two hours or more. If there is to be an evening reception or dance, make sure you leave enough time. If you think it might be tight, make sure there is a place for evening arrivals to wait if the speeches over run. The bar, for instance.
25. The most important part
Strip away the cars, the glamour, the dress and the suits, the food and the speeches to reveal the core of the wedding, its raison d’Ãªtre. Weddings are about marriage. Two people who are in love committing themselves before witnesses to put the other person first and themselves second. For life. No matter what maturity reveals about the other party and no matter how hard things get.
26. The first night
Here are two hints. Firstly, if you have friends inclined to practical jokes, tell nobody where you will be spending your first night. After all the rush and excitement of the day, you will need to crash out in a safe place. Interruptions or pressure of any kind will not be appreciated.
Secondly, don’t expect too much from each other on your wedding night, or even the first few days of the honeymoon. You will be physically and emotionally worn out by the wedding and its preparations. You will need time to reflect and recover. You will now be looking at each other in a new light and, what is more, you will probably be in a strange location. Give each other time and space and take it easy, which after all is the whole point of a honeymoon.
27. Decorating the car
It is fine to laugh at the couple’s car festooned with toilet roll, shaving foam and balloons fluttering in the wind as they drive off into the sunset. It can be less amusing when it is your own car and you discover that the foam has damaged the paint and one of the cans tied to the bumper has bounced up and chipped the bodywork. Not to mention the smell of a dead fish in the heater that can take years to fade.
Instruct your best man (upon threat of his life) exactly how far you wish the decoration to go. Keep the keys in your pocket. Alternatively, leave the reception in a taxi or hired car.
28. Dealing with nerves
Most people are apprehensive about their wedding, but it is a pity to let nerves ruin your enjoyment of the day. It is, after all, your greatest celebration.
Brides can appear more nervous than grooms, probably because the male of the species is less inclined to let any worry show. He needs to appear calm and collected and to be a rock upon whom his partner can lean. So it should be.
Ask yourself why you are nervous and you will probably have two answers. One will be the event, the other will be the magnitude of the commitment that you are about to make.
Although you have never walked an aisle in front of 100 people before and although you may have never made a speech to a sea of faces, rest assured that the faces are friendly. The congregation are present because they are on your side. They will be with you all the way. They are not the enemy and they do not have to be frightening.
There is no way around the second answer. Marriage is a huge decision and one that has to be right. Take comfort that most couples find things difficult in the weeks leading up the wedding. Both parties are busier than they normally are, sometimes frenetic. The bride is especially busy and is often the one who needs most reassurance and stability.
It is for these reasons than there can be last minute confusion about the correctness of your decision. The whole issue can become overwhelming and you may just want to hide away until it all passes you by.
Be encouraged that you are not the first to go through this trauma. Remember that you reasoned and thought hard about the proposal when it was put to you months before. You were not overawed, overtired and overworked then. You thought clearly and considered the choice. You decided yes. If little has changed in your relationship since that time except for the burden of arranging the wedding, perhaps it is simply pressure that is causing the problem.
29. Have a rehearsal
Just in case you have not got the message by now, make sure that you rehearse the service with all parties present. The bridesmaids need to know what they are going to be doing, where they will stand and for how long. You will need to practice processing down the aisle to reach the altar at precisely the moment the music ends. The entry to the church will not appear so daunting if you have done it once already.
30. Small bridesmaids and pageboys
Don’t expect too much from them. They will tire easily and may have inexplicable bad moods all day. Small people are like that. They will lift their dresses and not look at the camera. Head dresses will go flying along with matching slippers. They will rip their trousers and scuff their patent shoes. Their flowers will be dropped in the pond and they will get ice cream on the smocking.
Despite all this, they will love every minute and will do their best for you. They will want you to be pleased. Make sure you both tell them that you are, no matter what happens. Then be grateful that you chose to have plenty of informal photographs taken. At least then you will have some pictures of them smiling and creating their delightful mischief.
31. Wedding organisers
Like the temperature of the world, there has been a slow but inexorable rise of Wedding Organisers in the last few years. And a good wedding organiser is great! Theyâ€™ll prevent you forgetting anything, theyâ€™ll always have that last minute phone number you need (theyâ€™ll even dial it for you if you ask nicely), they will take the load from you and do a great job because they do a great job every week, theyâ€™ll be your friend too.
Find one that you like, who youâ€™d get on well with even if you were not employing them, and do make sure they do their stuff. Think about this though â€“ if they end up driving you nuts, how easy would it be to separate the relationship and not screw up the wedding arrangements too? Be wise when you choose, thatâ€™s all Iâ€™m saying..
32. Marquee weddings
The cool wind in your hair, the fresh air and the blue sky.. Having a marquee reception is the nearest you can get to a wedding road-trip movie in a 1950â€™s yankee convertible. Its Thelma and Louise all over again, except one of you is a bloke and youâ€™ve got 80 of your best mates on the back seat enjoying the ride. Well, thatâ€™s what it feels like to me any how.
Marquees these days are not the rickety old canvas enterprises that even a slight wind will shift to the next county. They donâ€™t absorb the rain and leave you shivering in a soggy box. Even in the winter they come with gas central heating and luxury lavatories decorated with original artwork by 19th century French Impressionists.
No one else will be in the marquee unless you invited them or they are working for you. Its your show! Wave irritating hotel rules and regulations behind – a marquee can be shaped, sized, decorated, staffed and populated pretty much as you choose. What could be better than that? (Well, a free house, obviously, but apart from that.)
Marquee weddings are especially good when taken in large doses along with..
33. The Reception in the garden
Not all of us are in the privileged position of having a garden or having parents with a garden or either, but if you have got space â€“ well, a marquee in the garden gives you the joys of control taken to the ultimate. You get to choose not only every detail of the layout of the place but the caterers too. Be Basil Fawlty for a day! You also get the joy of 200 guests tramping through your living room and parking their 4×4â€™s on your azaleas, but thatâ€™s a small price to pay.
I can honestly say that some of the best weddings I have been too were in tents in the back garden. One family with 2 daughters and a barely adequate garden were so taken with the idea that they filled in the pond so it could be included under the white canvas awning without fear of a late night reveler getting an unexpected dunking on the way back from the cloakroom.
If you can do it â€“ then do do it!