Wedding advice: Twelve things we did right

Without getting into specifics from my own situation (e.g., picking the right groomsmaids or best reverend/master of ceremonies or.... oh, yeah, the bride), here are some general things that we did right and maybe you can use in planning your own wedding(s) someday.  In no particular order:

Two events, one location.  Putting the ceremony and the reception under the same roof worked for a couple reasons.  The first was the sheer convenience of it all.  Shortly before planning our wedding, we had attended one in which the ceremony and reception were ten miles and two hours apart.  Many folks came to the ceremony but never made it to the reception.  Many didn't make it to the ceremony, just the reception.  It was a logistical mess.  Once we factored in all the props involved in our case (e.g., multimedia set-up, guitar/amp, etc.), it would have been incredibly time-consuming to get things where we needed them across two separate locations.  We also didn't want to make 150 guests travel from one location to the next and wait in the meantime.  The other reason this worked?  I didn't realize it until after the fact, but no matter where you're talking about, it's almost certainly cheaper to rent one venue for all day than any two for part of one.

Portraits before the ceremony.  Even though it's supposedly "bad luck" to see the bride in her dress beforehand*, cramming a portrait session between the ceremony and the reception just makes the guests wait around when that's time you really should be spending visiting with them.  We did our portrait shots immediately before the ceremony when we looked our freshest, then didn't have to worry about slipping away during the reception to take them.

*I don't know if this holds in our case because I don't know any other groom who designed the dress and directed the seamstress through several fittings.

There's nothing wrong with Sunday.  I don't know why weddings are typically on Saturdays when there's nothing wrong with Sunday except that religious types will be busy.  No, wait.  That's a good thing!  Whatever few church-going folks were in attendance at our wedding had already visited with their imaginary friend by that afternoon, and the ceremony wasn't remotely religious anyway.  Trust me, no one felt like they had been to church twice.  And so what if you have to work the next day?  We didn't go late into the evening with it.  Most venues charge lower rates on Sundays as well.  I don't know if that was true in our case, but it was for most other places we considered.

No trick; it was a treat.  While June is the traditional month for weddings, I'm not a fan of the weather in Texas around that time of year.  The temperature and humidity are bad enough, but then you have to worry about being pranked by the always-unpredictable summer showers.  Not so in October.  The heat and rain are apparently away on their honeymoon so everyone was comfortable enough in their formal wear to sit through several rounds of portraits outdoors.

Party time.  Rather than cramming a late night of bachelor/bachelorette partying in right before everything else went down on Sunday, we moved it up to a Friday night.  We used the rest of the weekend to visit with family and friends, have a rehearsal and dinner with the extended family, and to do final preps before we had the ceremony.  With so much to do at the last minute, I think if we had gotten married on a Saturday, I probably would have moved the partying up to the weekend before.

Who needs professional invitations?  Rather than going with samples from an invitation supplier, I designed them myself and got exactly what I wanted.  What I got especially right was taking them to a printer.  The cost was considerably lower in spite of how many more options were available to us.  My friend Dom did hers on her computer's printer, then customized them with rubber stamps appropriate to the wedding's Japanese theme.

A roof over our heads.  As romantic a scene as outdoor weddings present on the surface, they're fraught with problems.  Unless you have the good sense to have your wedding in October or southern California, you have to hope the weather isn't too hot, too cold, too humid, too windy, etc.  If it's at the beach, then you're walking on sand, so you need the right shoes.  Then you have to contend with the noise from the wind, the surf, traffic, boats, planes, etc. all while you're trying to listen to the ceremony.  Unless you have a venue with outlets nearby (or you invest in a few hundred feet of extension cords), you really can't have music or microphones, so your carefully-composed vows come off kind of flat.  I'm sure you could do it right if you had the right place and everything lined up just so, but what are the odds?  It's just a bad idea.  We opted for indoors and had absolute control over the lighting, climate, and acoustics (i.e., we used a small PA for voices and a laptop through a stereo for music and tested all the levels beforehand).

Two shooters.  We made certain the photographer brought a second shooter.  Not only is this more coverage of the events; you also get better and more interesting pictures.  The primary photographer tends to focus on portrait-style images, very posed shots.  A second, by necessity, will stay back out of the way and thus will get wider shots (i.e., full scenes) and more candids: guests' reactions, the kids playing at the reception, etc.  In other words, the stuff you won't have time to notice because the first photographer is in your face the whole day.

Recorded music.  I had originally planned on using a string quartet for the ceremony music, but then we went to another friends' wedding a couple months before our own and saw what a disaster that could be.  Granted, with proper rehearsal or better musicians, this could have turned out better, but the players were irritatingly out of tune with one another and, even more awkwardly, they ran out of music.  Twice.  The bride was only midway down the aisle when they got to end of the piece.  So they started up again.  And ran out again.  Yeah, really, really bad.  (And this was just Canon in D, something you can cycle back through the last eight bars of endlessly!)  Even though I was a novice at the start of the process, I edited down all the pieces I wanted to use and had the principle players do several run-throughs during the rehearsal so we were comfortable with the pacing.  It sounded great and it came off great.  The guests were surprised, but not in a bad way.

Variety in the venue.  This is maybe too specific to our situation to be general advice on the surface, but we had the ceremony and reception in a museum.  Why?  The space was interesting.  Museums are decorated with eye-catching pieces.  They're usually designed to be something other than a blank canvas the way most rental spaces are.  That is, it wasn't simply four walls.  The gallery in which the reception was held was a single large room, but one that wasn't simply linear and boring.  It encouraged movement to see what was around the corner here and what was on that wall over there.  Many other places we considered felt sterile by comparison.  The lack of eye candy demanded work on our parts to dress them up, something we didn't have time to do with everything else we planned.  We would have had to pay a hundred times the budget of the whole affair to put on the walls what we got with the basic cost of the space.

We did it our way.  Rather than going with what was expected, we did as much as we could to be different and original.  People still tell us the wedding was the most fun and memorable one they've been to precisely because of all the personalized bits we threw into it (e.g., there were lightsabers in the ceremony; top that!).  You can have a beautiful wedding if you stick with tradition.  It just won't be as memorable, and if that's the case, why bother?

I never took "impossible" as a final answer.  Dani said the invitations would be impossible to pull off with the fold-over "special effect" I wanted.  I didn't listen.  Several seamstresses said my design for the wedding dress was impossible.  I took my business elsewhere.  I had no idea if it was possible to seamlessly edit orchestral music to fit the time constraints and cues of the ceremony.  That didn't stop me from trying, and it worked!  If you have a vision in mind for something you want to do, you should push ahead through the nay-saying and make it happen anyway.

Copyright 2009 Alexplorer.
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