|Salvatore Cincotta Photography|
Let’s face it: every bride wants to be perfect. Even I - a gal who hadn’t thought much about bridalhood until I got engaged - experienced moments when it felt like effortless wedded perfection was the ultimate goal.
To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started planning my large, summer wedding in downtown Chicago. After all, for many of us brides, our first jaunt down the aisle is also our first experience organizing such a momentous event. And even for those brides who have taken the wedding-planning plunge before, every wedding is different. With so little practice under our belts (or, you know, our Spanx) it’s no wonder the pressure to be a perfect bride can start to feel overwhelming.
I was not your model bride – not while I was planning my wedding, nor during the events that led up to my wedding day and not even on the big day itself. What I was, was myself: messy and awkward, a little nervous, occasionally overwhelmed and definitely not always fresh-faced. Sometimes I even forgot to shave my legs (see: dress fitting).
Being a bride is not always easy, and that voice in our heads telling us we have to be perfect is not easy to silence either. But if we can let go of the idea of perfection, we might just end up with something even better: a wedding that is uniquely our own. Other brides are bound to make some of the mistakes I did. The key is learning how to turn those mistakes into some irreplaceable memories.
Mistake: I Said Yes… To Everyone
We’ve all seen those adorable wedding announcements: a couple getting cozy beneath an artsy sign proclaiming “She said Yes!” In my case, after I said yes to my future groom, I also said yes to just about everyone else. When my mother called with planning questions: This venue? Yes! Those linens? Yes! When Great Aunt Beverly wanted to invite that second cousin I’d never met? Sure! When my bridal consultant asked if I was “saying yes to the dress”? Absolutely! When my fiancé wanted to open our reception with the Chicago Blackhawks theme song? Go for it! While these weren’t necessarily my “dream wedding” elements, including other people in the decision-making took some pressure off me – and gave others the opportunity to help create such a memorable day.
Mistake: I Bought the First Dress I Tried On
…Sort of. It was the fifth. But as far as my mother and the gal-pals cozied up outside my dressing room were concerned, it might as well have been the first. These ladies came prepped for the long-haul – purses full of chocolate kisses, pads of paper for note taking, a folder of clipped bridal advertisements. I selected my dress before they’d had time to uncap their pens and unwrap their kisses. Now, if you’re a bride who adores oohing and aahing over fabric and sequins for hours, you go for it girl! But if you’re like me, and dress number one (or five) looks like it’ll do the trick, don’t sweat it. You - your uniquely beautiful self - is what makes your dress. The dress does not make you. You may repeat this quietly to yourself while facing the three-sided mirror if you want.
Mistake: I Registered for All of the Things
I’m just going to be honest here – that handheld barcode reader is a dangerous thing. It’s also kind of awesome. It enables you to shop without spending money. It makes gifts appear. It beeps! I spent a phenomenal afternoon running around my favorite big box store, scanning everything in sight. After the wedding, I had an equally good time making a hefty Crockpot and dinnerware donation to the home goods section of the Salvation Army store. Learn from this experience as you see fit.
Mistake: I Invited Guests at the Last Minute
I also skipped right over making a seating chart, which only further enabled me to invite guests at the last minute; two wedding faux pas I highly recommend. Some of us brides are opting for pretty long engagements these days – I’ve seen many a wedding countdown exceeding 500 days. I was one such bride. How was I to possibly know how many new friends I would make in all that time? (Chicago is pretty much the friendliest city on Earth, don’t you know?) My last-minute guests didn’t seem to care that their invitations were delivered via my simply asking them if they wanted to come, and every single one of them made the day more fun.
Mistake: I Celebrated A Little Too Much at the Rehearsal Dinner
Okay, a lot too much. Went-to-sleep-as-the-sun-was-rising-on-my-wedding-day too much. This behavior is not going to come highly recommended by anyone. Many a bridal advice column advise against it. Let me just stand apart from these sage words of wisdom for a moment and say that I am a champion of the rehearsal dinner. I think it is the most unfairly underrated of all the getting-married events. I mean, you’re gathered together with the people who are probably your closest and most favored in the world, for no other reason than to celebrate you. Furthermore, you haven’t put on the fancy dress yet, so no one is really taking pictures. It’s the perfect time to overindulge! Save your dignity for the wedding day! The rehearsal dinner is where it’s at.
Mistake: I Slept In
As a direct consequence of the aforementioned mistake, let’s just say I was not my freshest, most blushing of selves at wedding o’clock in the morning. Despite my Pinterest-ing the heck out of softly curled and braided updos, it was all I could do to stand beneath a blow dryer and run a comb through my hair. So that’s all I did. I gifted the assigned hair-doer to my notably better rested bridesmaids and walked down the aisle with my hair tangled and wild like it is every other day of my life. I ended up looking pretty great, if I do say so myself.
Mistake: I Took a Wedding Break
Here’s a little secret about your wedding day – you’re going to smile, both sincerely and politely, more than you think is possible. Your face will eventually start to hurt and then become a little numb. On my wedding day it was at this point that I decided to enjoy something I like to call “the wedding break.” If your reception venue has a bridal room or suite this is what that room is for. In my case, this meant loosening my dress, lying on the floor, and frowning a little, just to make sure I still could. I stayed on the floor for the better part of an hour. Was this behavior a little rude to my guests? Probably. But it also turned out to be one of my favorite memories of the day. My mom, my best girlfriends and two of my favorite Aunties all took off their shoes and gathered on the floor with me to take a deep breath…and pretend we weren’t gossiping about some of my more uniquely loveable guests.
Mistake: I Was the Last Person to Leave the Reception
In the world of Miss Manners this is an egregious error of etiquette. I didn’t know this. Apparently, following the cutting of the cake (or in my case, the distributing of rainbow cake pops) the bride and groom are supposed to whisk themselves away from the celebration, fashionably leaving their guests to close down the party on their own. Instead my new husband and I were the last ones to leave the festivities. I’m really glad we were. It was one of the most romantic moments of the evening. As the remaining gifts were being put into the car, we were alone for the first time that day. Arm in arm on a rooftop, overlooking the Chicago skyline and starry Lake Michigan, we were simultaneously exuberant over the same two thoughts: “We’re MARRIED!” and “Oh, thank goodness it’s finally quiet again.”
When it comes to the business of getting married, every bride is trying to find her own style of bridal bliss and we all make some mistakes along the way. The good news is, in my experience, not only do those mistakes not have to ruin your wedding, sometimes they make the entire day better than you expected. After all, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be yourself.