What I wish I had known before my wedding day

The first time my best friend of five (now almost 10) years told me he loved me was right after he kissed me for the first time, before we were even a couple.

It was around 3 a.m., and we were sitting on the end of the huge red sectional couch in the living room of the house he was renting with two roommates. We’d been going back and forth about our feelings for a couple of weeks, and it was at that point he finally kissed me. I told him he had no idea how long I’d been wanting him to do that—neither did I, to be honest—and then he did it again. At that moment, I knew the rest of my life wouldn’t be complete without him. It was John Lennon’s 70th birthday. I was wearing an Abbey Road T-shirt by total coincidence.

October 9, 2010 was the best day of my life, at least so far. Which means the day I married that best friend, four years later, was not.

And don’t get me wrong: My wedding day was absolutely in the top five best days of my life. But I feel like claiming it was the best day of my life would be a lie, and only play into the idea that we, as women, are taught from a very young age that it should be or we have failed. For many people, it is the best day—and that’s really awesome. A huge part of me wishes it was for me too, and I felt guilty for a while after realizing it wasn’t. I asked, “What went wrong? Should we have even gotten married? Is our relationship doomed? WHY DID I NOT FEEL LIKE THE QUEEN OF THE WORLD EVERY SECOND OF THAT DAY!?”

But I don’t ask myself these things anymore, because I managed to remember that love (and even more so, life in general) doesn’t need to fit a particular mold. A wedding-day experience is allowed to vary from person to person without meaning they have failed in some way if it isn’t exactly what they envisioned—and for women like me who have been building this day up since before they even knew exactly what committing to a person for the rest of your life entailed, it was a tall order to fill from the get-go. I suspect many women have the same expectations and might be set up for the same realization.

And even though I’m now OK with not placing the gold medal in the Days of Jen’s Life Olympics around the neck of my wedding day, I do wish I’d taken some wedding-planning advice seriously. Here’s what I wish I had known before my wedding day.

Try to resist planning every single tiny detail

I’m one of the most type-A people you will ever meet, so this tip would’ve been a biggie for me to listen to. I gave out multiple printed packets to the people in my wedding, and while I can see the pros of having done that, I am also less offended by the eye rolls I saw under the surface now than I was then. Luckily, I have some awesome friends and family who expected it and were supportive. But can you think of another event in your life that you have amazing anecdotal memories from that you planned every second of? Of course not. All our best experiences come from letting things happen naturally. Don’t decide how the day is supposed to be before it gets here! That takes all the fun out of it.

Stay true to yourself, and remember who you are

You know what sucks for an introverted person? Being stared at by 90 people at once, even if they’re all people you know. Now I can’t speak for every introverted person, but for me, that experience was heavy. I was OK and able to function and had a blast, but there’s a LOT of pressure about how to walk, what to say, how to dance, even what you’re drinking when all eyes are on you!

A wedding day doesn’t automatically mean your personality changes to fit the event, so remember that when you’re planning. Don’t like 100 people staring at you at once? Maybe have a smaller ceremony and a big party afterwards, or do a first look like my husband and I did to make sure you have that moment with your significant other where it’s just the two of you! Don’t like cake and prefer pie? Have pie. Why not? If you’re spending time and money to throw a party, make it yours!

The parts of the day that don’t go as planned might become your favorite moments

There were so many things I just knew would be part of my wedding day. One of those things was seeing my husband for the first time on our wedding day when I was walking down the aisle. We ended up doing a first look instead because we wanted to get outdoor pictures when there was still light out and not have to rent uplighting, since the earliest the venue allowed us to have the ceremony was at sunset.

I was crushed at first. But you know what? Our first look ended up being our favorite part of the day, for both of us. We read letters we’d written to each other, and we wouldn’t have had a moment to do that otherwise. Also, that moment of seeing my husband at the end of the aisle? Not as momentous as I’d pictured it, since I was more focused on not tripping because my dad was stepping on my dress during the entire walk down the aisle. Gotta love him!

You don’t have to invite everyone you’ve ever known

Granted, like I mentioned, I had under 100 guests at my wedding and I did have to make some hard calls, but if I could go back I’d probably cut it down even more – not that I don’t love every single person who attended, but I also know they love me enough to have been OK with seeing pictures and congratulating my husband and me via a card or phone call too.

If you’re getting married and having a wedding you’ve dreamed about since you were little, CONGRATS! But trust me: At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is go with it and live in the moment. If I could go back to my wedding day, I’d try harder to do that. Life is too short not to.

[Image courtesy Universal Pictures]

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