The Lilac Pages bridal rulebook

Summer is soon upon us, the perfect season for weddings, romance, amazing parties, love shared with friends and family, you get the gist. If you're getting married this Summer, congratulations! I'm assuming it's your first time at this so you might want to read on... See, no matter how many bridal magazines you read, my personal experience is that you'll only get more confused, especially about the dress, so it's nice to have a checklist.

I got married in August 2007, and planned from London most of the event. Being quite particular about what I like, I refused all kinds of planner intervention and worked at it all myself, with the help of my two loyal and ever so patient assistants, a.k.a my parents. It ended up being quite a production, as the picture below attests (that's me making quite an entrance with caftan number 1 complete with lots of real diamonds bling...!)

We did everything, from researching the venues to tasting the food to finding a print font that would look like Arabic but still be readable by all guests for the table plan, but also arranging for a special discount at one of the larger hotels in Marrakech, organising minibuses to run throughout the night to take people back after the party...

I've also been a wedding guests many times over, so, whilst I'm no expert, here are a few things I've learned along the way, from being a bride, and being a guest.

1) This is not the time for last minute:
Your guests are likely to have to book up a whole week-end for your wedding, so give plenty of notice, especially if you are asking people to travel far. In fact, there should be a rule that you give at least one month notice by flight hour the majority of your guests will have to clock in to celebrate your big day. The bare minimum should be two months. By the way, don't make two guest lists: nobody will believe, in this day and age, that you just decided to get married two weeks ago, and yet managed to a do at the Central Park Boat House, you'll just offend the friends who, in reality, didn't make your first guest list and were invited when others declined. These days a lot of weddings seem to involve some degree of international travel, so make people's lives easier with a leaflet with the invite explaining travel and hotel options, and visa requirements if any! Alternatively, a website is a great way to put everything in one easy-to-access place. The more information you give guests ahead of time, the less calls you'll get when you're trying to get your hair done on the big day (yes, people will call you on your mobile to ask directions etc.)

2) Nor is this the time to experiment:
Ok, you've sent the invites, now is the time to turn your attention to a key part of the day. The venue? No, silly, your dress. Or, in my case, dresses: in Morocco it's not uncommon for a bride to change seven times during her wedding day, so by changing "only" three times I was a bit of a small time player. Anyways, on the dress... Unless you're going for a traditional dress, my advice is stick to what looks good on you, and a style that is close to what you like wearing to black tie events. Why? Because noone wants to look at wedding pictures thinking "What was I thinking?" Bottom line, choose a shape you're used to, and if you really want something extraordinary, go crazy on the material, embellishments... 

3) This is not the place for control freaks:
Ok, so you may have in your head the image of your ideal wedding, complete with perfect roses, a strict dress code and bridesmaids in soft chiffon strapless dresses. That's wonderful. Just remember everyone is here to have a good time and celebrate your decision to move to the next step in your life, not to follow a protocol that should belong at the court of the Habsbourgs. It's fine to try for perfect, but what's more important than the perfect picture is the happy memories you'll have from this day, so chillax, it's ok if the roses are raspberry pink rather than cranberry pink, what's not ok is for the bride to throw a tantrum about flowers the morning of her wedding. And if your favourite uncle doesn't like wearing a black tie well who cares, what's important is he'll be there.

4) When in doubt, make it personal:
If you really want to focus your attention on something, I suggest it being making your wedding personal. Two reasons. One, this is the most personal event you will ever throw so making it unique and a reflection of your relationship is key. Two, it's likely your guests will have been to numerous weddings before so the special touches are what will make yours stand out in their memories. An example: I find the ubiquitous photo slideshow a bit tacky and boring, so instead I made massive collages of pictures of Hubby Dearest for the door of men toilets, whilst on the ladies door we put collages of my pictures: if you must wait for the bathroom, you might as well laugh at my grunge years outfits!

5) You want to look your best, not your faintest:
I for one am all for a little detox or diet if you feel sluggish, but everything in moderation. Extreme dieting prior to your wedding will leave you dehydrated, your skin will be sallow and you'll feel faint by the time you want to exchange your vows (not just because of nerves). Not a good look... Instead, try switching to healthier snack and meal choices in the run-up and remember nothing will give you sculpted arms like daily reverse curls...

6) You also want to look yourself:
On the topic of appearance, I look at my own wedding pictures and have one big regret: I wish I had not given in to the pressure to use a make-up artist, as I ended up far too heavily made-up for my taste... Similarly I wish I had insisted on the low bun I wanted initially, rather than the elaborate up-do I ended up with. If you think about this in advance (something I somewhat forgot to do, even though I planned most things, down to the dancing play list...) it's less likely you'll end up looking like someone else completely.

7) Guests should be well-fed and agreeably drunk:
From personal experience, let me tell you there are few bridal faux-pas like making your guests wait with no drinks or food whilst your photographer takes endless pictures... Trust me, it happened to me once. Feeding guests at the right time (eg. nibbles during cocktail hour to ensure they are not ravenous come dinner but also that the alcohol to blood ratio stays low) and ensuring they have a drink they enjoy at all times is absolutely key at a wedding, no matter what people tell you. On this topic, try thinking about how much people will enjoy each other's company when putting together the seating table, and please don't make a singles table, that's beyond embarrassing for all those involved. Grumpy and uncomfortable guests do not make for a very good party. Be careful though, there is a line between tipsy and drunk and it's also up to you how close to that line people will get...

8) Give people options when it comes to gifts:
I personally think that household goods, books, wine and charity donations are the best gifts for newly-weds, and really dislike when people ask you to wire them hard cash, it's so cold and transactional... Ultimately however your wedding list should also reflect who you are, so if you have no interest in formal dinnerware yet have a passion for first editions, that's fine by me. Just remember to give options which are in line with the spending power of your friends and family, and don't be too offended when someone chooses to buy you one coffee spoon at £25, you'll hopefully be able to retribute their kindness for their own wedding!

9) Party time:
By the time our wedding happened, I was slightly extenuated from all the last minute planning and was more ready for a long nap than all-night dancing, but I did stay on the dance floor past three in the morning and I had a blast. That's the time when a bride gets to let go (within limits ladies, a Grease inspired routine with your girlfriends is fun, but flashing your garter to everyone? Not so much) and enjoys partying with her friends and brand-new hubby.

10) Talking about brand-new hubby, remember to enjoy each-other's company!
Of course you're having fun with all your guests and you're trying to ensure things run smoothly, but throughout the day, it's important you take some time to spend minutes together as a couple, a dance or two, a little moment around a glass of champagne... Enjoy the special day. 


Bourbon & Pearls said...

Look at you, that's utterly fabulous!

Mia Thomas said...

You look so beautiful!

Cheers to you for the sensible and straight forward common sense points on weddings.

Some brides and grooms should have a good look at this list and realize - the wedding is just one day but the marriage is to last a lifetime. At the end of the wedding, you'll have pictures and (hopefully) happy memories fro you and your guests.

Anonymous said...

you look amazing!!!

Judith said...

I may forward your tips to some friends!

And by the way, you're so beautiful on the picture, you look like a queen :)

LittleS said...

Thank you ladies for your lovely comments, it was a special day... I got to wear lots and lots of bling and get carried from one place to the other. Quite surreal!