The Gorilla and I swapped those sacred vows on a beautiful September day, but June is traditionally THE wedding month so I thought I would revisit our Savannah wedding weekend with a few years of perspective. I originally wrote this post about a year after the Big Day, but the sentiments are the same. The day I married The Gorilla was the best day of my life.
Even though I no longer have my tivo set for Platinum Weddings or Bridezillas, I can still talk about weddings for hours. The things I loved about my own or others, the things I should have done differently, the things one should always think about, the surprises, the memories, the priorities. I will probably be one of those wives who forces my husband to have vow renewal ceremonies every once in a while, just so I can throw a fun party again.
Not that a wedding is only about a fun party. Your vows should be the most sacred words you ever express to another, the commitment taken seriously. But I’ll tell you I wasn’t lying in bed night after night pondering my love for The Gorilla. No, my mind swirled with table arrangements and rehearsal dinner outfits and the bow versus no bow conflict. All the important things.
So while my wedding was truly the day of my dreams, there are a few things I would tweak if I could do it all over again. Our wedding was large and was a destination affair, so there was plenty of room for mistakes. Here are ten of the things I did wrong, and how I would do it differently:
1. Assuming my vendors saw my vision. I had a thick binder full of magazine-torn pictures that I toted with me all around Savannah. I used it for reference whenever a question of style came up, which was about every thirty seconds. If I hadn’t thought about what I wanted on the sign-in table, well I could find something among my pictures that would give me inspiration. This was a great tool. Even if you don’t think you have a particular vision on something, nothing clears your focus like seeing what you don’t want, then narrowing it down. My problem arose when, after lengthy chats and descriptions, I got so comfortable with the person that I assumed they knew exactly what I was saying about one centerpiece because they seemed to understand on everything else.
Let me explain: I loved, loved, loved my florist. We hit it off right away and she did a knock-out job. My bouquet was so insane it brought tears to my eyes. It was an exact recreation of a very specific picture I showed her. It was perfect. In fact everything she did was to the letter what I requested. But on the one thing that I merely described – without having a picture – I found we were on completely different pages. She did what I described, but what I meant by “plain green grass centerpieces” for the rehearsal dinner was not at all what she meant. Turns out there are lots of different types of grass and many shades of green. I got lazy by just describing and assuming and so my rehearsal dinner table decorations were not at all what I envisioned. Now my rehearsal dinner was large and casual and I might very well be the only one who remembers what was on the table, but it was a lesson learned. Good thing it wasn’t on anything more crucial.
What was a bit more crucial was my wedding cake. The cake wasn’t a huge deal to me in general, I don’t understand why some people get so worked up over it. But I did eventually come up with an idea that made me excited about the cake design. I described it in detail to the bakery, and I am certain that I described it correctly. But because the idea was a little funky, I believe they decided I didn’t actually mean what I said. What I wanted was a light pink to hot pink ombre (think Gwen Stefani’s wedding gown) but they must have looked at everything else I ordered – prissy and fussy – and thought I didn’t really want hot pink. So what I got was sort of an all-over pale pink. It was fairly uneventful. If I had brought them a picture of Ms. Stefani’s dress, maybe they could have seen what I was going for.
2. Not giving enough attention to the “side” events. Because our wedding was a destination weekend, I felt the need to fill in everyone’s time with events and parties. But what happens is inevitably something falls through the cracks. In my case, it was the welcome picnic. This was sort of planned last minute, and what I really wanted was a meet-and-greet as people got to town, but by calling it a picnic, clearly food is implied. Since I wasn’t diligent about getting rsvp's for this little afternoon shindig, we had no idea how much food we actually needed. Of course what happened is that we were short. By a lot. What a horrible first impression! I still had a good time, and hope that others did too, but it really is the only thing in my whole wedding weekend that I sort of cringe over.
I think this can happen to anyone, be it a luncheon or whatever. Next time I would either eliminate anything extraneous that I couldn’t handle, or I would put someone else in charge of it completely.
3. Making my own assessment on whether or not something is a scheduling conflict. As a good little Oklahoma girl, the Sooner football schedule had a hand in determining our wedding date. We chose a game we thought wouldn’t matter. And, in our defense, it shouldn’t have mattered. It was one of only two games the Sooners lost in the regular season.
So while we provided our Sooner guests a spot to gather and watch the game, many of them had to leave before it was over to get ready for the wedding. I have no idea how we could have combated this. I suppose I wouldn’t feel so irritated by it if we had won the game. I do have to say that one of the best weddings I have ever attended had a similar problem when the Sooners made it (unexpectedly) into the Big XII championship which was held on their big day. They scrambled and used a room attached to the reception hall as the “game room” and outfitted it with several big screens. So their Oklahoma guests could have a bite of shrimp, peek in on the game, dance a song or two, peek in on the game, watch them cut the cake, creep back to the game. It was a wonderful evening!
4. Forgetting about the programs. I realized about two weeks out that I didn’t have a plan for the programs. How something like this slipped by me, I will never know, but all of the options I would have exercised before weren’t available at such short notice. I found a wonderful letterpress company that was able to print them quickly, but by that time I had already left for Savannah and we were communicating almost entirely by email. When they arrived, while the printing was beautiful, the color was fairly off since I hadn’t been able to do a press check. They don’t match any of my other printed materials, although I doubt anyone noticed. If I could do it again, I would probably do something more creative with my programs.
5. Not staging a fitting of my event dresses at the same time as my wedding gown. I had numerous wedding gown fittings, the last one two weeks before the big day. I wish I had taken in my dresses for the other events as well. I bought the dress for my bridesmaid luncheon months before our wedding weekend. It was my standard size – the size I’ve worn for years and years now – and I didn’t think twice about it. But somehow, on the morning of the luncheon it was falling off of me and too late to fix. That kind of thing wouldn’t matter for any other wedding but your own, when you’re in 50,000 photographs in said falling-down dress. It really was not very flattering on me, but could have been saved had I tried it on a few weeks earlier. Thankfully, this was the only outfit that had that problem, but I would advise trying on everything you plan on wearing the entire weekend – shoes, jewelry, and all – two weeks before.
6. Not making a Photo List. We were so set against having formal, posed pictures beyond the barest necessary family shots that we didn’t think of the other groups that we would have liked to have all together. It makes me so sad that there isn’t a shot of all my sorority sisters, or of my husband’s very serious fantasy football league.
7. Racing through the photos to get to the cocktail reception because we could see all the fun. Even though we didn’t want a ton of the posed, formal shots, I did really want a few of us together, newly wedded. But I hadn’t staked out a place to shoot these, so we ended up just shooting them right there in the park, thirty yards away from the boisterous cocktail reception. I was so excited to join in all the fun, that in that moment I didn’t care about taking pictures with my new husband. So we only got a few and not the romantic ones I see on other couple’s walls. This one can be easily solved by stepping away from the guests and the party for a few photos in the first moments of your marriage. I know we would have had a few sweeter moments that we would have cherished had we been away from the party.
8. Leaving for the honeymoon right away. I know it’s tradition to shoo-away on your honeymoon just as soon as you can, which is what we did. The downside was the hundreds (literally) of people who were enjoying Sunday in Savannah. Our honeymoon was so remote that we were without phones or internet and I suddenly felt very isolated from everyone who had just celebrated with us the biggest event of our lives. I wanted to talk about it, relive it, see photos, make sure everyone got home. By the time we landed back in California two weeks later, no one wanted to gush with me about my wedding. It was ancient history in their minds. Even now, I sometimes hear little stories about my wedding weekend that I never knew. If I could do it again, I would leave for the honeymoon on Tuesday. Take a day or two to recover, get everything together, take care of the guests, etc. Then leave for vacation full and with a clear(er) head.
(For the record, my husband doesn’t agree with me on this one. He liked the culture shock of going from loving chaos to loving isolation.)
9. Favors. I was dead set against having party favors that the guests would lose or not have a place to put or just throw away at the hotel anyway. So I was pleased with my decision to have edible party favors at the end of the night in the form of chocolate truffles in little gift boxes. But they were practically a waste of money. They were passed around on trays, so either people didn’t ever see them, or don’t remember them. If I could do it again, I would have them prominently displayed on the way out of the door OR I would have them in people’s hotel rooms as a little nightcap (if you could swing that).
10. Shoes. 100% I poo-pooed the idea of wearing comfortable shoes at the reception. I was in a fabulous dress and was NOT going to wear it with slippers or flip-flops! Plus, I wear heals almost every day anyway, so I was used to it, right? How bad can it be? It was TERRIBLE. I didn’t calculate the fact that you put on your wedding shoes hours and hours before even the ceremony, so by the time you get to the reception, you’ve already hit most of your photo-ops, and your feet are killing you. I also didn’t count on my new pink feather shoes being ridiculously uncomfortable. Luckily, I was able to send someone over to the hotel to retrieve my gold glitter flats I had purchased for the rehearsal, and it saved the rest of the night.
None of these nit-picky details are huge, but all made enough of an impression that I feel compelled to pass along to future blushing brides. If nobody remembering my chocolate truffles was one of the top ten things that went wrong, you can just imagine how much went absolutely right. Stay tuned for that list.
What would you do differently about your Big Day?
all photos by Rob Garland