What I Learned from My Wedding

Bride & groom making musicA few weeks ago my wife and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. The years have gone fast. The day of my wedding was one of the most wonderful days in my life. The church where we were married hadn’t had a wedding in a long time and they were ready to be able to celebrate a happy event. As the groom-to-be, I let my wife-to-be decide on many of the plans, as it has been said that many women started dreaming of their weddings from during their childhood.

Set a wedding date. My wife did a great job on this. As a musician I play many weddings. My wife picked an off-season date (early November) when we would have better availability of resources and have a honeymoon in an area that was relaxed in the off season.

Listen to advice from friends and family. People were excited over our engagement and readily gave advice. Listen and judge what advice is right for you. One person’s advice was: something will go wrong; expect it and don’t stress over it. Her lovely wedding cake was hidden in a corner with poor visibility and a few years later she was still upset about it. Later she realized there were so many other things that went right that she began to think more about the good parts.

Know where to scrimp and where to spend money. Our finances were tight. As musicians, we felt the ceremony music was very important and we had a huge amount of music with an adult choir, a children’s choir, and various instrumentalists. My dad said it was “quite the production”. Being a seamstress, my wife made her own dress and picked out bridesmaid’s dresses in a design that could be worn again and again instead of for one event. We had a friend who did the floral work, saving us money. We hired a professional photographer but we rented the video equipment. Now my wife wishes we would have hired a videographer. Of the two video cameras we rented, the best video had the sound turned off. Oops. Because the music was so important to us, we would have liked better sound in the video.

Know what things are most important and where you can delegate. Music was extremely important to us. Details about what music was where in the ceremony was carefully planned. We even had a personal touch where my wife sang her original song while she played piano and I played cello. My colleagues said we were crazy to do this in our own wedding but it was meaningful to us. While we decided particular selections for the wedding, we left some prelude music to the choice of the musicians. It is good to decide where your priorities are. Music was important to us while while flowers weren’t as much, so we only had flowers for the wedding party.

Set guidelines for those involved. Is there music you’d like hear? A tune you don’t want to hear? How long should the homily/sermon be? How long should prayers or blessings be? It’s good to let those involved know your expectations so someone in their excitement doesn’t go overboard in length. Remind people of traditions you plan to follow so they know, in case they didn’t remember. For the rehearsal dinner, I assumed people would know they would give speeches. My dad, the groom’s father, declined saying anything, perhaps not realizing he would be asked. I’m sorry I didn’t warn him ahead of time. My father-in-law-to-be gave a brilliant speech.

Plan and be prepared. Complete most of the details so that on your wedding day you don’t have to worry about last-minute issues. It can be a stressful enough day without having to attend to that unfinished detail. On the morning of our wedding I arrived at my wife’s apartment for photographs to find she was still attaching trim to her dress. While she had it done shortly, it had me a little worried. What if something would have gone wrong? While she felt it was under control, it caused me stress.

Be flexible. Our caterer had to back out three weeks before our wedding. We had to scramble to make other arrangements. Because our wedding was off-season we had more options. Roll with the punches and adapt the best you can.

Enjoy the day. Remember it’s your day and it’s a special one. Someone may do something to upset you. It may have been thoughtless and rude, but don’t let it ruin your day. If a groomsman disappears for a few minutes right before the wedding is supposed to start, don’t stress if the ceremony ends up starting a couple minutes late. Remember that you might also irritate someone so try to relax when interacting with others and take a few moments to breathe.

Once again something will probably go wrong. In the scheme of things you will still be married and the day will become memory. During the vows, there was the spider I saw going up my bride’s dress. While I was debating what to do – will she freak out? – the matron of honor leaned over with style and knocked off the spider. Did it ruin the day? No. But it did give us a chuckle later when the matron of honor retold the story. Where did the spider come from? Well, there was the ivy collected from an alley and used in some of the floral decorations.

The day will go fast–way too fast. Our wedding ceremony was an hour and a half with lots of music and liturgy, involving four pastors (two gave homilies, one officiated, and one gave a prayer), and lots of meaning. We were shocked to realize the ceremony lasted that long but yet it went so fast. Wedding guests also said it went fast.

After the wedding. We chose to greet everyone as they exited the sanctuary. It was a packed church. Then it was time for more wedding pictures. My wife thinks it was all perfect, but I would have liked more time at the reception/dinner. By the time we entered the hall guests had eaten and it was time to cut the cake. I would have liked to have had time to go around to each table to greet people. Having played for many weddings, it seems simpler to skip the receiving line and greet the guests by table if you have a wedding with many people. That also avoids the question by the musicians of whether they should keep playing postlude music for the guests waiting for the receiving line or to move to the reception location to perform the music there.

The day is over so cherish the happy memories. You head off to your honeymoon for more memories but the first night you are dead tired. Get some rest, let the joy of the day sink in, and look forward to the fun days ahead on your trip. Your life is ahead of you.