Flick through most bridal magazines and you’ll find 95% of the features are about wedding planning, around 5% focusing on issues surrounding the big day itself and pretty much zero said about the bit after – the bit where you learn to live together FOREVER! Working in the wedding industry myself [ed’s note: Olivia is the founder of alternative gift list patchworkit.com], I meet the most amazing creative businesspeople, and this summer I was invited to be on an expert panel to discuss exactly what makes a “thoroughly modern marriage”. It was an interesting conversation, in particular because we all realised that being industry experts gave us no advantage when it came to our real-life experiences of married life. To keep the conversation going and share what we’ve learned as wedding professionals, brides and wives, I’ve asked a few industry friends to share their best advice to help you plan your wedding, enjoy your big day and prepare for married life – happily ever after. Hope you enjoy!
Before the Big Day: What You Need to Know
Don’t get hung up on wedding trends. Be confident in your own style. If styling is key to you, you’ll find tons of inspiration in industry magazines, blogs and events. But founder of A Most Curious Wedding Fair, Becky Hoh-Hale, says, “It’s also a good idea to look beyond. Check out department stores, cool restaurants, cafes and boutiques as their visual merchandising, set and prop design will be really on point and creative. I often found these places to be hugely inspirational when thinking about the look and details of our wedding day.”
Agree your budget upfront and stick to it. Before getting lost on Pinterest, Event Planner Susie Young from Knot & Pop says, “Make sure you have a grasp of the purse strings. Set a budget and sense-check that the costs you’re apportioning are in fact realistic. A lot of wedding stress can be attributed to mounting costs so the quicker you have a handle on the budget the better.
Ask friends and family to help. If you’re planning a DIY wedding, don’t feel you literally have to Do It Yourself. If you need some help, use a platform like Patchwork to ask guests to give their time or skills as a wedding present – with people choosing to make cakes, help with decorations or do a DJ set. Involving friends and family in the preparations is a practical way to share the load, keep costs down and is also a really nice way for people to show their love.
Forget crash diets. Work at being a fit bride. First up, remember your partner wants to marry you as you are now. But if you do want to get in shape for your wedding day, founder of Frame gym Pip Black says start early. “Start thinking about how you want your body to look at least 6 months out to prevent last minute crash diets and burn out. You want to be looking AND feeling 100% on your big day and if you haven’t eaten for 2 months, you’ll be feeling utterly miserable, not full of life. Regular classes, running or a gym routine are all great ways to get rid of stress and anxiety, that even the most chilled brides are likely to suffer from, and exercise releases endorphins.” So start early and stick to a regular workout and you’ll be a fit and happy bride.
Dedicate time together away from the wed-min. Wedding planning is inevitably stressful at times and it’s OK to admit this. Nova Reid, life coach and wedding blogger at Nu Bride, says, “Don’t underestimate the emotional aspects of planning a wedding – from family politics and the opinions of others to financial pressures and personal insecurities. Navigating all of these emotions alongside never ending to-do lists can be overwhelming. Anticipate that, accept that it’s OK and find ways to look after yourself (and each other) mentally and physically.”
Enjoy the search for your dream dress. Don’t be intimidated. Try everything on! Wedding dress shopping is supposed to be fun. But it can be a daunting experience, especially if you’re not exactly sure what you want. Wedding dress designer Kate Halfpenny of Halfpenny London says don’t be intimidated. “Find multi-brand stores that have a variety of designers you would like to try as well as cherry picking your favourite designer boutiques. And make sure you try some styles that take you out of your comfort zone. You never know how a dress will make you feel till you try it. And if it’s not right, it’ll reaffirm your favourite.”
Make sure you photograph your wedding day in the best light. Laura from Babb Photo can’t say it enough, “Light, light, light!” Whichever photographer you choose, make sure you are both aware of the wedding schedule in advance and how the light at your venue will change throughout the day. Laura says, “Plan your special moments around the light if you can as it will make such a huge difference to your wedding pictures. And if you can escape for a few portraits for the last twenty minutes of golden hour, you won’t regret it.”
Avoid the post-wedding comedown. Kick off married life with an adventure honeymoon. It’s common for couples to feel a bit bluesy after the excitement of the big day has faded away. And the best way to avoid this is to plan an amazing honeymoon. Carolyn Addison from Black Tomato says, “It’s nice to go somewhere neither of you has ever been before so you can both experience it for the first time, and also to mix up romance and relaxation with some activities you can enjoy together – like a safari and a beach honeymoon, or a city and wine country combination.”
The Wedding: How to Have the Best Day Ever
It’s your day. Do it your way. Of her own big day, Susie says, “We love music and wanted to make the soundtrack to our wedding really personal so we asked friends to share their amazing record collections to rock the dance floor. I also got behind the decks to do a bit of a dirty RnB session which was a surprise for all the guests and one of the moments of the day I’ll never forget.
Leave organisation at the door the day before. Pip says, “What’s not done on the day can’t be changed now, and realistically no one else is going to be aware of what isn’t quite perfect in your eyes. As long as everyone has food and booze they’ll be happy.”
Be present. Feel the love. Nova says, “Your wedding day is one of the few moments in life where you can be truly in the present moment. All the important people in your life are (hopefully) in one room. Take advantage of that wonderful energy and atmosphere. Enjoy it.”
Go with the flow. Becky says, “Accept that your wedding day might not unfold exactly as you planned it moment by moment. Which is lucky because it’s the unexpected and spontaneous bits you’ll love the most.”
Take time to take stock. Laura says, “Time really does fly by – everyone tells you that but it’s true. So make sure you schedule some time just to be together, even if it’s just for five minutes. You’ll find you spend a surprisingly little amount of time with the person you’ve just married otherwise.”
Don’t worry about things ‘going wrong’. They might. But it’s ok. Our wedding bus broke down so we were late to our own party. But actually it was cool. Not only is it totally typical for me to be late, but by the time we arrived, everyone had enjoyed an extra half hour drinking champagne so it was a brilliantly raucous and whoop-y welcome. Things might go ‘wrong’. They do in life. It’s how you handle those moments that matters. Just remember what’s important, stick together and enjoy the journey – bumps and all.
Know that you are beautiful. Your partner knows who they’re marrying so just be yourself. Albeit a gorgeous and polished version of yourself. Trust in your decision of your dress and know that you look and feel great in it. They’ll just be so bowled over by that smile as you walk down the aisle and the rest will be history.
Spend five minutes with the aunt who travelled from Australia. Carolyn says, “I got married 11 years ago and while we had an incredible time on our wedding day, it still niggles at me that I didn’t spend enough time with a few people who had travelled from really far away. I wish I’d sat down the week before with the guest list and mapped out who I needed to make a special effort for, either because they were coming from afar or wouldn’t know a lot of other guests.”
On Marriage: Advice for Your Happy Ever After
Get out of the house. The key to a healthy marriage is making time together. But this has to be quality time. Carolyn says, “Staying in doesn’t count because there’s always laundry to be folded or paperwork to get through. Whether it’s a weekend away or just brunch, leaving the drudgery and stress of ordinary life behind allows you to focus on each other.”
Switch off your phones. Take time to communicate. Nova says, “Life gets busy and it’s easy to take each other for granted. So make sure you dedicate quality time for one another. Be present. Turn off your mobiles and see what happens.”
Appreciate your differences. Susie says, “Marriage isn’t like the bliss of the wedding day. It’s the living together forever bit. It’s important to accept one another’s differences and understand that how you like to receive love often differs from how you need to give love to your partner, in terms of their needs. And vice versa.”
Marriage is like a job you love. You get out what you put in. Kate says, “Problems will arise that will push your boundaries. Just remember there is no other person to be with in these predicaments than the person you walked down the aisle with. I find my husband and I switch roles at times. Sometimes he’s the strong one and other times it’s me. That’s the same with all the roles in our marriage. It’s about finding the perfect balance.”
Don’t lose your independence. You’re two people who’ve decided to share a life together. But that doesn’t mean living the same life. It’s important to enjoy time apart doing the things you love, seeing friends and experiencing new things. Retaining your individuality and independence is good for you and your relationship. It keeps you interested and interesting to each other.
Be bezzies. Remember to keep talking and laughing. Becky says, “Don’t forget in-jokes, the private observations only you guys have about the world and those in it. Chat late into the night, share knowing looks, little smiles and raised eyebrows at all the absurdity of life. Because really that’s what marriage is all about, through thick and thin, you’ve got each other.”
Keep building for the future. Accept that marriage is bound to be tricky at times. Laura says, “Even if your relationship never has a rough patch, your life inevitably will. Keep building upon your foundation of respect for each other that brought you together in the first place. Most of all be kind to each other.”