My wedding was wonderful, but it was far from perfect. In fact, there was a horrifying incident during the reception that I talked about in the “ugly” part of this blog series. Despite the imperfections, I still have the best memories of the day, simply because I got to marry my husband, Joe, surrounded by the people we love the most. I can’t wait to talk about the “good”—all of the things that went well and made our day what it was. But first, this post is about the “bad”: if I had a do-over, what would I do differently?
Weddings are huge undertakings: it’s the most expensive party I’ll ever throw, it took an entire year of planning, everyone has an opinion about this event that they are not planning nor paying for, that isn’t about them even in the slightest. Expectations are high, and the stress is higher. I thought I had planned every little detail and thought of all the possibilities. Of course I hadn’t. That’s okay. Everything turned out fine in the end—but if I got a do-over, these are some of the things I would do better. I hope you can learn from some of these!
Burying My Head in the Sand
I am in a Facebook group called The Bridechilla Community, a wedding planning group based off of a podcast all about helping you ditch wedding stress and plan the wedding you want. A concept from this podcast/group is the Fuck It Bucket:
The f*ck it bucket is where you put all of the jobs and things and things to buy you thought you would get around to doing before your wedding but have run out of time or care. These items and tasks are things you thought would be important at the early stages of planning but now…bye!Bridechilla Episode 286 – The Fuck It Bucket
I leaned way into this concept, and every time I cam across something that I didn’t want to do, or stressed me out to even think about, I told myself and husband-to-be and my MOH and my mother that it was going in the fuck it bucket. And, I was right to do so in most cases: the fuck it bucket is definitely your friend when it comes to ditching traditions or expectations that are not important to you. But when you’re using it as a coping mechanism because you are overwhelmed and don’t want to ask for help like I was, it can keep you from doing things that would make your day better. I did this a few times, as I will mention in the coming paragraphs. If I had a do-over, I would take the things that would have meant a lot to us that stressed me out too much, and I would have asked for help to make them happen instead of haphazardly throwing the stressful idea into the fuck it bucket and burying my head in the sand along with it.
I talked about this a bit when I wrote about Summer’s engagement: my wedding day was one of the most nerve-wracking days of my life. I woke up earlier than everyone else, around 6:45 or so, and could not for the life of me go back to sleep. My stomach was in knots and my heart was racing. I decided to take a bath to try to chill out and relax. It helped… for about 20 minutes. The rest of the girls were waking up slowly, and then my hair and makeup girls showed up and everything became a flutter of activity. I was concerned about everyone else’s feelings, especially because we had to be in hair and makeup starting at 8am, and I felt bad about it because the early morning was my fault. I was so nervous that I almost threw up twice, then cried in the bathroom while my mom calmed me down. I could barely eat, and I couldn’t truly enjoy a mimosa… I could barely manage water. I cried while I was getting my makeup done (bad timing, huh?!) and my hair girl, who I had gotten to know over the many appointments I had with her, reassured me that everything was fine. My nerves stemmed from a place of wanting my wedding day to live up to everybody’s else’s and my own expectations, not out of fear of getting married. It’s a big, stressful day, and I wanted it to be perfect. And I thought it was my responsibility to make sure it was perfect for everyone else.
If I had a do-over, I have no idea how I would calm my nerves. Maybe I needed to drink past the stomach upset until I got a little buzz that made me feel braver. Maybe I needed a hug from Joe to reassure me. Maybe I needed to have a total sobbing meltdown, cry all my nervous tears, let my mom comfort me, and then move on. Maybe I needed to meditate. I definitely needed to stop worrying about everyone else’s feelings and just focus on my own (a most difficult feat for my enneagram 2 soul). I’m not sure what I needed—but I would try a little harder to focus on calming down more, and enjoying my getting ready time in the morning with my girls.
Summer / Kathryn can be bad at directly stating what she wants and/or needs if she thinks it will offended anyone in any way. She had a ton of bridesmaids that would have helped, but it can be overwhelming to have 8 people trying to comfort you especially when you’re trying to make sure they have a good time. I think a little time to #expressyourfeelings early in the day could have chilled her out, even if it didn’t completely eliminate the nerves. In hindsight, some kind of distraction might have helped at least take her mind off how she was feeling, which is pretty hard to do when you are in a hotel room with everyone getting ready all day long. I’m not married, but my advice to brides to be is to #makeshitaboutyourself and do something fun the morning of to get you in a good headspace before the gravity of the day sinks in. /
The Schedule Went Completely Out the Window
This is always going to happen—you will get off schedule. The sooner you accept this inevitability, the better. I let this stress me out way more than I should have. I expected us to get off schedule—but I guess I just expected when we got off, for people to acknowledge that and figure out what it took to get us as close to back-on-schedule as possible. Instead, we had photographers with complete ignorance of the schedule, and apathy about getting back on it. I think they ignored all of mine and my day of coordinator’s pre-wedding emails. If we got I redo, I would make sure we had a phone call with our photographers and day-of coordinator both on the line to make sure they were on board and understood the relative order and importance of items on the schedule.
Our First Look That Barely Was
Joe and I went back and forth about a first look for what felt like AGES. He finally agreed, and I was so happy. It was something I knew would calm my nerves, and we would be able to get more photos out of the way, leaving us more time for partying. Win-win, right? Kind of. Because we were so off schedule, we almost didn’t have time. Remember my nerves? The idea of not doing a first look wasn’t good for them. My photographers had disappeared (what were they doing? I have NO idea), I wasn’t able to leave the room to find them myself, so others went on the wild goose chase to try to find them. It felt like forever, when I was already ready to get this show on the road. Also not good for my nerves.
We finally did our first look, and it was nice, but because of how it was stressful and felt a little thrown together, I don’t feel like it was that special. Our photographers lined up our bridesmaids and groomsmen from each of the balconies overlooking the ceremony space. A drunk groomsman started yelling “you’re ruining it!” from the balcony, because he thought he was funny. (Truth be told, it is a funny story we will tell forever.) Summer made it to the groomsmen balcony faster than any person has ever moved in their life to get the groomsman into shape.
Also, you know how photos from a bride and groom’s first look are really special? I wouldn’t.
Both of our photographers were only taking video during our first look. Let me mention that before we booked them, our photographers told us they would be able to get still photos from any video they took. This was a guarantee I feel like they made to us (but it wasn’t in our contract, which I should have paid more attention to). After 5 actual months of begging my photographer for our first look photos, he told me, and I quote: “I took a look at the video and couldn’t get images from the video clip like I wanted.” Insert eye-roll here.
If I had a do-over, I would make sure my photographers knew how important the first look was to me. I would make sure they knew not to line up our bridesmaids and groomsmen to watch it from the balconies above. And I would make sure that one of them took actual photos while the other shot video.
My Walk Down the Aisle
I had no idea when I was supposed to start walking. I was waiting for a song cue, for it to get to my part of the song (the bridge of Taylor Swift’s “Lover”). I think our DJ was waiting for me to emerge from the double doors before he cut over to my part of the song. I was walking down a staircase that no one else had walked down, since my bridesmaids came through a side door on the ceremony level. My dad and I decided to walk out of the doors and to the top of the steps to cue our DJ that we need to get this show on the road. We thought we had a few seconds, so my dad turned around to shut the doors to the building. Of course, at that moment is when my part of the song came on. So I said “Dad, fuck it! Come on!” and we have this absolutely hilarious moment on video where it looks like my dad is trying to run away from the wedding. All of our guests laughed. It’s a moment I’m glad we have on video. But remember my nerves? This wasn’t good for them! Make sure you know who is giving the cue when you walk down the aisle, be it you or your DJ, and that you can hear them clearly from wherever you are.
My dad walked me down the aisle until we got to the seats, and then my mom joined us from the aisle seat in the back row, and both of my parents finished walking me down the aisle. My dad and I had switched sides from the closing-the-upstairs-door mishap, which my mom handled like a champ by switching aisle seats. But guess what I don’t have any photos of? The 3 of us walking together, from the front. Just a back view. Which is a nice and poetic photo, which I’m glad I have. But why no photos of us from the front?!
The best I have is this photo, which is a screenshot from a video taken by the drunk groomsmen, who was breaking our “unplugged ceremony” rule, but honestly I’m glad he did, because at least I have this video. If I had a redo, I wouldn’t do an unplugged ceremony, because maybe a guest would have gotten the photo I wanted.
Summer / As a strong proponent of the unplugged ceremony, and I 100% think this could have been avoided with better planning on the photographers’ part. Whether you’re doing unplugged or not, make sure your photographers know what to expect and your guests know not to get in their way. /
Time of Ceremony + Position of the Altar
Our ceremony started at 5:30pm. Except, it didn’t. There were at least 30 people who were running late because of the traffic. It was super hot on the deck of our venue, so our day-of coordinator kept people in the reception area until it was time to go up. I felt bad that people had to wait, but at least they didn’t have to wait in the heat and the sun. When the wedding finally started, I noticed that every. Single. Person. Was. Squinting. Yikes! The sun was in the worst possible place it could be—we didn’t even notice this until 2 months before the wedding, during a venue walkthrough. And we did nothing about it. I feel like the sun was coming at us from every side. During the ceremony, half of my brain was paying attention, and the other half was taken over by my nerves. Joe was barely looking at me, so the nerves/paranoid side of my brain thought he was about to BAIL on this ceremony. This is a thought I told him a day or two after the wedding—he informed couldn’t look at me for long, because the sun was behind me and therefore directly in his eyes.
If I could have a redo, I don’t know how I would handle this. Figuring out as early as possible where the sun would be in relation to the time of year, the time of day, and the position of the altar is a good start. We might have changed the altar (which we did consider, but our venue didn’t really have any better option for us if we wanted to keep our ceremony outside on the deck). We might have changed the time of the ceremony (which was too late for us to do at 2 months out when we realized).
A Photo Receiving Line
This is something both Summer and Joe lobbied for, but I didn’t know how to logistically make happen. So I buried my head in the sand and just decided we wouldn’t do it. I didn’t want it to be a huge hassle. As it turns out, when people lined up for dinner, the buffet line wrapped around to be directly in front of our sweetheart table. Joe and I already had our food and had started eating, and our photographers were eating at the vendor table—I definitely wanted them to have a chance to eat and relax. But in that moment, I wished I had asked them to stagger their break time, so we might have gotten photos with people while they were in line for the buffet. We hardly have any photos with our guests; a receiving line might have solved that.
The Photos We Missed Out On
There are so many photos I wish we had that we don’t have.
At the end of our ceremony, our officiant asked for immediate family to stay behind for photos. Joe’s family followed this instruction; my family blatantly ignored it. My entire Dad’s side of the family went down to the reception area, as did about half of my Mom’s side. We took photos with Joe’s family while sending runners down to try and grab all of my family members. Once my family made it back upstairs, we took one big Kathryn’s-side-of-the-family photo, and… that’s it. I wanted to take separate photos with my Dad’s side of the family for my grandparents, as well as a photo with both mine and Joe’s family altogether. But my side of the family wanted to party! Which I don’t blame them for.
If I had a redo, I would tell each one of my family members that I expected to be in after-ceremony photos to stick around. I’d text each one of them before the wedding individually to ensure they understood. And I would make sure the photographer had a plan to get this done as quickly as possible so they could get out of the sun and down to cocktail hour—I recommend starting with the big family photo and removing people as you go along, that way you aren’t constantly “resetting.”
Important Moments & Groups
Despite my photographer bringing the envelope to me while I was getting my hair and makeup done to ask “are these your invitations?”, there is no artsy photo of my invitation suite.
No photos of our first look.
No photo of my face during my surprise first look with my dad.
No photos of me with the groomsmen, or Joe with the bridesmaids.
(I also had to fight my photographer to get the photos of me with my bridesmaids, because his second shooter took them, sent them to him, and he failed to upload them to the gallery for me for over a month.)
There’s no photo of me, Joe, Summer, and Travis together on our wedding day, and this breaks my heart.
No photos of just me and both of my parents, of Joe with both of his parents, or of me and Joe and both of my parents.
No artsy photos of our tables, or the reception area as a whole.
Only 4-5 poses of Joe and I during couple portraits. I love the ones we have, but our photographer asked us if there were any portraits we might have missed. Hello? Isn’t that your job as our photographer, to know what sort of couple’s photos we need? I feel like we could have gotten twice as many portraits as we had.
We made a must-have photo list for our photographer that our coordinator emailed to our photographer before the wedding. I don’t think our photographer ever even looked at the list. We never communicated the list to our photographer, so part of it is on us, but a lot of it is on them. I wish we had chosen more communicative photographers. We booked ours on a major Black Friday deal. If I had a do-over, we would spent more time interviewing photographers to find one we really clicked with. They might have been more expensive but definitely would have been more communicative and in tune with our priorities.
I wasn’t going to do fancy cocktail napkins. When my mom brought it up, I said I would buy “whatever rose gold crap I could find on Amazon.” She urged me to get some custom ones made, but said she’s respect whatever decision I made. This of course left me thinking about custom cocktail napkins for 2 days. And then I decided we needed them after seeing example custom napkins with “fun facts” on them. I ordered 750 napkins, with 5 different fun facts on them. I had such a fun time coming up with the fun facts. I thought they would be great conversation starters for people. The order arrived, with the napkins in 8 smaller boxes. I stored the box at my parent’s house with other bar items, and didn’t give it a second thought.
Here’s where things went awry. For one, we did not need 750 cocktail napkins. I reached that number by thinking that if we served 750 drinks at the wedding (which was a number we worked with when making our alcohol orders), every drink would come with a cocktail napkin. Maybe if we had asked our bartenders to give a cocktail napkin with every drink, this would have happened, and we would have used every cocktail napkin. But this is not what happened, because our bartenders were hired directly by our venue and we never directly talked to any of them even once.
Instead, our bartenders grabbed a box of napkins at random and set them out at both bars. This box happened to contain only fact 3, which were the napkins served. All. Night. I did a lot of work to think of 5 really fun facts, and people only got to see #3. Luckily, I did not find this out until a month after the wedding, so I didn’t wallow in my sadness about people missing out on seeing all of them. I took some pictures of the napkins and put them all on instagram, though, which made me feel a little better.
While we were signing our marriage certificate, a friend yelled to me from across the patio about the cocktail napkins. I yelled back that I couldn’t really hear her and also I’m a little busy at the moment. If I had listened, maybe I would have known about the napkins and been able to tell someone to mix them all up.
Summer / I have to interject here and say, do not bother a bride while she is signing her wedding certificate. Ask the day-of coordinator, the maid of honor, the mother of the bride, literally ANYONE else. /
Whatever you do, don’t you dare order 750 cocktail napkins. You do not need that many. Order 1, maybe 2 napkins per drinking person at your wedding. That’s all you need. And if you want a mix of different napkins to be handed out at your wedding, mix them up yourself in the boxes yourself before the wedding.
The Shooting Scare
I talked about this part in-depth in The Ugly Truth. It’s obviously something I wish didn’t happen if I had a wedding do-over. But if I could have a do-over of our exact wedding night, I wish I hadn’t have spent so much time and emotional energy spiraling about what happened. I wish I could have let it go, at least for the rest of the night, and enjoyed the company of our guests, instead of blaming myself for the risk of their safety that night. It wasn’t my fault and there’s nothing I could have done to prevent it.
Spirt Finger Send-Off
We planned to do a sparkler send-off, but with all of the cops around our venue after the shooting, our venue told us we couldn’t. The truth is that it’s illegal to have sparklers in Dallas County. Our venue allowed sparklers because we’d do them on the sidewalk, which is public property, and technically the venue wouldn’t be liable. I wish I would have known this in advance—if I had, I might have thought of a cheap alternative to have as a back up. Instead, people just did spirit fingers in a row that we walked through.
The resulting pictures are nice, but I really wish I’d been able to have my sparklers. I sold most of them, but saved about 20 or so to have on our first anniversary, and maybe then I’ll get some romantic sparkler photos with Joe.
Getting Us Out Of There
We originally had a limo booked for our send-off, but about 3 weeks before the wedding, the company had to cancel because their limo had been vandalized. Totally understandable, and an awful situation for them. They gave us a few options to call to book instead. The limo cancelling stressed me out so I buried my head in the sand about it and accepted “taking a Lyft to our wedding night hotel” as the best remaining option. Then, on the Wednesday before the wedding, I frantically called all the limo companies recommended, but they were all too expensive or already booked for the weekend. I feel like the limo company who cancelled on us should have worked out a deal with their contacts in the industry to honor our original deal and pricing. But we weren’t under a contract with them, so they weren’t on the hook for anything. Always have a contract with any wedding day vendors.
We stuck with the Lyft plan. I told both of my MOHs about this plan, and about the groomsman that would be the ideal person to call the Lyft and coordinate with the driver to get us out of there. But did we tell that particular groomsman? Of course we didn’t. So after the send-off, when Joe and I doubled back into the venue after the spirit finger send-off, Summer had to try to wrangle the groomsman in question to help call the Lyft and tell them where to go. We should have outlined this Lyft plan to all involved parties before it was time to get us out of there.
Who Takes Home What?
Summer / Since Kat was already gone when this came up, and it is a big concern of mine for my own wedding, I’ll be taking this one over. We were able to leave a lot of stuff at the venue, which we went back to grab the next day, no big deal. However, as I was walking out with my own giant bag full of stuff, the wedding coordinator stopped me to ask who was supposed to take certain things, like the top layer of the wedding cake or the wedding flowers. Almost everyone was gone by this point, and I had no idea. If there are things that cannot stay at your venue that night, make sure you have someone designated to take them and that they are aware the are responsible for that item. If everything needs to leave your venue that night, don’t wait til the last minute to ask your bridal party to help you clean up, or worse, to stay and clean while you leave. /
My wedding wasn’t perfect. If I dwell on the things that didn’t work out, it’s sure to make me sad. That’s why I had to write this blog post up with a glass of wine in hand. But when I’m looking at it as a whole, my wedding was a wonderful day, an outpouring of love from me, from Joe, and from all of our family and friends. I will always look back on my wedding fondly, with happy memories. I hope you are able to take something from this list of things I’d change if we had a do-over. But ultimately, I don’t want a do-over; I’ll take my wedding and my marriage exactly how it is.
Looking for more wedding planning? Check out Something Old, Something New, our blog series about wedding planning from the perspectives of a bride who’s just been through it, and a bride just starting the process!