I have met thousands of engaged women in the eight years I’ve been editing Brides. I’ve shared champagne with them, helped them in to wedding dresses, advised them on cakes, flowers, underwear and just about everything in between. I’ve eaves dropped on secret live marriage proposals and seen firsthand what happens when it doesn’t go the way they hoped. I’ve sat front row at more bridal fashion shows than I could possibly count, attended the wedding days of perfect strangers and chatted to thousands of brides-to-be at our events. Now, looking back, this is the advice I want to share in the hope it will help you navigate your way to your wedding day . . .
Just because the Americans are doing it . . .
Doesn’t mean you should. Barely a week goes by at Brides HQ when someone doesn’t suggest a story on the latest wedding trend coming out of the US. Recently we’ve had brides who are so determined to differentiate their look from ceremony to reception that they have a hair stylist on standby for a cut and restyle between the two same-day events. Then there’s the trend for a finger piercing to replace the engagement ring or sending out a ‘you’re not invited’ card to explain why those not on the guest list didn’t make the cut. If you think these things are going to wildly enhance your wedding day, then crack on. I would suggest they’re not.
The words ‘no thank you’ are so hard to say
Most of the questions I get asked are along the lines of ‘how can I tell my mother-in-law I don’t want her to make the cake?’ or ‘how do I explain to my florist I can’t afford her designs?’ It’s quite simple really, just don’t say yes in the first place. We could probably all do with being a bit more assertive but when it comes to your wedding day, arm yourself with some quick one liners to politely bat away all unwelcome offers and then, crucially, use them.
You make me look lazy
The level of planning that goes in to your average wedding day still astounds me. Spreadsheets, timelines, mood boards, wedding websites, planning apps, whatever it is you use, most women seem to enjoy an elevated level of organization at this point in their lives. I once met a bride who scheduled her entire wedding minute by minute, allotting strict times for everything from walking the aisle to eating dessert. This is not advisable for those of us who can’t handle an unforeseen problem like a tipi taking flight in bad weather – yes, I’ve seen it happen!
Whisper it . . . your wedding will bore you
The moment a woman’s wedding starts to bore her typically happens about six months in to the planning when a lot of the big decisions have been made – venue booked, photographer hired – but it’s too soon to get stuck in to the detail – sampling cake flavors, designing cocktails. This also seems to coincide with her having a gut’s full of all her friends and family forgetting there is a person under all that wedding planning – one who use to talk about lots of other things but now only ever gets asked whether she’s chosen her dress yet. Combat this by not having too long an engagement if you can or master the art of changing the subject; remembering of course that you’ll be going through all this again when and if you ever get pregnant.
Find a way to love the limelight
Most brides I meet are not that comfortable with this at the beginning. The idea that the moment they set foot into the ceremony, all eyes will slowly turn to look at them and remain in that direction for the duration of the day. You can’t have a wedding day without being stared at, I’m afraid. So, if the idea is really abhorrent to you, schedule the day accordingly – find a venue with a shorter aisle; don’t have a top table but place yourself among the crowd banqueting style; give the first dance a miss. In short, do what is comfortable for you.
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Your worst mistake is forgetting your mum
Her role has changed so much over recent years. For lots of brides-to-be, she’s less intrinsic to the process now, replaced by virtual planners and Instagram favourites. I interviewed a mum this year who told me she felt like a stranger at her own daughter’s wedding because she’d had so little involvement. I also remember telling my own mum that she wasn’t allowed to cry at my wedding because she would set me off. It wasn’t until years later it dawned on me quite how selfish that was. Now I have my own daughters, I see it very clearly from the other side. There may be much bigger reasons why you don’t want your mum involved in your day but if she’s part of your life, I say include her. And while you’ll no doubt want to ingratiate yourself on your future mother-in-law, just think about how that might also make your own lovely mum feel.
Accept you’ll never have enough money
Much like buying house when the one you fall for is always over budget, so there will always be a bigger cake, more far flung honeymoon, the bespoke heels. But most women, unless you are incredibly fortunate, can’t have it all. Most brides today decide on the one thing they won’t compromise on – for me it was the flowers – and give that the lion share of the budget. I was very happy to have a DIY wedding cake from M&S to counteract the overspend on florals but for you, the cake may be everything but you’ll be happy to do your own make-up. Welcome to the world of compromise!
It’s a beginning – but also an ending
And it’s OK to feel a bit sad about that. Your wedding day might mean swapping your family name for your partner’s; leaving the home you’ve got comfortable in or simply feeling like you are leaving the less mature you and your identity behind. That’s all quite big life stuff and it may make you feel reflective on how far – or not – you’ve come. But as one recent bride said to me ‘More than anything, you have to remember that everyone’s still going to love you’ which is probably the best advice of all.
Jade Beer is the Editor of Condé Nast Brides and author of What I Didn't Say. Below, a tantalising excerpt from her latest novel.
"Everyone is pretending to be someone they’re not. There’s Betsy, the happily engaged twenty-something whose eyes should be all over her wedding plans but are all over another man instead. Her mother Helen, playing the part of the ecstatic mother-of-the-bride, while keeping her own secret love affair under wraps. Nat, who lies for a living and is questioning how much longer she can keep it up. And Jenny - full of love, desperate to be loved back and about to tell one tiny fib that will spark a hundred more."
Honeymoon Book Club