My friend Shaun and I have a spreadsheet listing every wedding we have attended, both together and separately. The current tally is 46 for me and 40 for him. There are 17 weddings we both went to.
To some, these are incredibly high numbers, and to others this is just normal when you grow up in a church or cultural community. Either way, it’s a lot of weddings and a lot of canapes.
Don’t let your big day be ruined, avoid some common mistakes.Credit:iStock
So with all that experience, here is my advice for couples about the things you should and should not do on your big day.
First of all, the legal stuff. Official wording, saying the vows, signing the form, getting the witnesses. They’re the only things you have to do. Everything else is up to you.
DO: Arrange your wedding to show what makes the two of you great as a couple. The best weddings showcase the personalities of the people involved. If you love tradition, go with it. If you don’t, make it about what makes your love special.
DON’T: Spend an incredible amount of money on things you think you should have because that’s what other weddings have had. These days cost a ridiculous amount, so be practical about what you actually think will be necessary to make the day fun.
DO: Come up with a plan for what people will do between the ceremony and the reception. If they’re in different places, how are people going to get between them? Will they be drinking? Do you need buses? If the gap is more than three hours, think about where people should go. This is a classic mistake too many weddings make.
DON’T: Leave the day completely to chance. Have a low-key, low-stress rehearsal and make sure your photographer (and videographer if you have one) are there too. They’ll be able to spot the best photo opportunities.
DO: Think about how long the ceremony is going to go for. Some people rip through their vows and it’s all done and dusted in 15 minutes, which feels a bit short. I’ve also sat through some lengthy sermons from pastors and priests determined to use the full church pews as a chance to evangelise, and that is a bit much too. Pick a midpoint.
DON’T: Leave people to their own devices with the speeches. I cannot stress this enough. You only really need four supporting speeches: best man, maid of honour, parents of bride, parents of groom (please chop and change depending on the gender of participants). Then the happy couple can do a joint speech at the end. Wedding crowds are the easiest crowds to win over: they’ve had some wine and they want to laugh. But the worst thing is some joker determined to embarrass a bride or a groom with stories that should not be revealed to a crowd of their nearest and dearest. Enforce some strict content controls – especially if the best man is a known idiot. And keep the speeches fairly tight for time. Assign someone in the bridal parties to time the speeches beforehand if you can’t trust a verbose dad, for instance.
Vet the speeches in case someone decides to embarrass the happy couple and make the wedding memorable for the wrong reasons.Credit:iStock
DO: Get lovely video messages from people overseas, but don’t let them prattle on too long. Give them 20 to 30 seconds each, and make sure they’re speaking close to the microphone in a quiet spot inside a house (not outdoors in the wind or inexplicably standing next to a rushing train. You’d be surprised).
DON’T: Overschedule the reception. Leave plenty of breathing space for people to relax into the party. Some receptions cram too much in, and it feels like you’re always watching, listening or shovelling food into your face and don’t get to mingle. You’ve got a room full of people that like each other, or will at least pretend to for your sake. Give them the best lighting, drinks and music, and it’ll largely take care of itself.
DO: Be clear about the food situation. If it’s canapes, tell people. If it’s a sit-down, tell people. If you are barely going to have enough food to feed your guests, tell people. Weddings are long days and when people realise they’re not going to be fed until hours after they would normally eat, they get cranky.
DON’T: Have your buck’s night or hen’s night the night before the wedding. This has fallen out of fashion these days, but some people haven’t learned. And coupled with this, watch your alcohol consumption throughout the day, especially if the bride and groom aren’t eating. There is plenty of time to get messily drunk if you wish at the end, but save it for later in the day rather than when the cameras are clicking.
DO: Get a good MC. I’ve done maybe five or six weddings as MC, and in that job you are the point person from the moment the ceremony ends until everyone leaves the reception venue. Did the bus leave early without taking enough guests? It’s your job to find out how to call it back. Did someone block the toilets? You’ll hear about it first. Is no one dancing? It’s your job to find an elderly aunty who likes to boogie and get the dancefloor going. The MC should also make sure the band is fed during the speeches. A hungry band will wrap up the night early, and no one wants that.
A FINAL DO: Stop to have moments for yourself as a couple. Weddings are like being at the biggest birthday party you’ve ever had, and everyone wants to come up and shower you with attention and happiness. It makes the day go incredibly quickly because everyone is so engaged with you. Get a moment or two to yourselves, say something meaningful that you will remember, and keep that just between the two of you. It might be the only point of a special day that doesn’t eventually fade into a happy blur.
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