Monday, June 08, 2009

The Wide Lawns Wedding Guide - Part 5: The Rest


I believe very strongly that no matter how fancy or how simple the wedding, that the food is of great importance. It has to be good. If it doesn't taste good you have wasted your money. I've been to far too many weddings where the food sucked. I've had better meals on American Airlines Coach than I have at most weddings and I always think - Jeez, these people really wasted their money on this crap. One of the fanciest weddings I've ever been to (it had a full fireworks display people) had the most disgusting plated dinner. Such a disappointment. In general, I'm not usually a plated, sit down dinner fan. I love the buffet. That way guests can pick and choose what they want and how much they want. Of the two best wedding meals I've had one was very expensive and elegant and the other was potluck in a church fellowship hall. The fancy one was elegant in its simplicity. The bride's family were cattle ranchers who raised a special kind of cow for expensive steakhouses. They served their own steak and potatoes and some grilled vegetables. I wanted a second plate. The potluck wedding was exceptional because the bride's family was part Italian and thus everyone brought massive casserole pans of pasta and cheese and meatballs and it was sick good. Remember the wedding with the really good cake where all they had was cake, punch and spinach dip? That spinach dip kicked ass. So it doesn't matter how much food you have or how expensive it is. It just needs to taste good. Another wedding that stands out for me was a wedding I attended a few years ago where they had a baked potato bar. I thought they were going to have to ask me to leave. The passion I showed for that baked potato bar was shameful. At my own wedding, the macaroni and cheese bar will go down in history. I highly recommend this. The idea arose from my desire to serve our favorite foods in an eclectic buffet at our reception. The good thing about the mac and cheese bar is that it would work for any kind of party, even a dinner party at your house. Just make a plain mac and cheese and serve it with all kinds of stuff that would go in it that people might like. It's genius. I swear it.


One of the rules I live by is to not mess excessively with your hair or it will look awful by the time you're done. This is especially apparent at weddings where so many young women seem to think that their locks must be lacquered into shiny, flat, crunchy sculptures. I'd like to begin a movement to end this practice. A few years ago I found myself a bridesmaid in my cousin's wedding. All the other bridesmaids were gelling themselves into elaborate updos. My hair will not updo. It is stick straight and heavy. To quote Elizabeth Gilbert (who created a heroine who is the spitting image of me in Stern Men) "you could sew a button" with a single strand of my hair. It's like wire. Were I to attempt a dramatic hairstyle it would immediately fall down. Much time and money would need to be spent to get my hair to do anything and I had neither. I decided to do something completely radicalized. I did nothing to my hair except brush it and wear it down. No one had ever done something like this in the history of all Millpond weddings. It was highly shocking behavior. And I received more compliments that day than I had in years. For my own wedding I wore my hair loosely up, but by the middle of the reception it had all fallen down and I looked like a wild woman, but this was perfectly ok, as that is me and that is how I look.


I was ten pounds heavier at my wedding than I am now. At the time of my wedding I knew that after Christmas I was to have treatment on my thyroid tumor. In order to have the treatment I had to not take my thyroid medication and instead take other medications that did not alter my thyroid at all but eased the symptoms it caused (don't ask, it was complicated). The medicine made me gain weight. I knew it was only temporary. At the same time my mother was fretting about losing weight in time for the wedding too. I decided to ban members of my wedding party from dieting for my wedding. This is not fun behavior. There's nothing wrong with wanting to get healthy and look good but at the same time it's not healthy to obsess and worry and starve and crash diet to lose a couple pounds for a party. I told my mother that everyone already knows what we look like anyway. No one has ever ever ever gone to a wedding and come home to say "Gosh, the wedding was nice and all but we would have had a much better time if only the bride had been skinnier."


I adore flowers. I really love them, but they can also be a waste of money. I had lots of flowers at my wedding because they were in my budget and I really love looking at the pictures of them now. I also encouraged all the guests to take them home at the end of the reception. But here's the deal. I didn't plan the flowers. I went to a florist a friend recommended and said essentially: "I don't care what you do. This is how much money to spend. I'd like an Autumn-ish theme as it is Thanksgiving weekend, but other than that you do whatever you want. You are the florist, not me." The whole thing took less than ten minutes. On the day of the wedding the flowers arrived and were magnificent. My bouquet ended up being a surprise and I loved what the florist did. There was one small glitch. The florist accidentally sent (I think the wrong) bridesmaid's bouquets which did not match the rest of the flowers. I think perhaps some orders got mixed up. My bridesmaids ended up with bright, tropical bouquets entirely, noticeably different from all the other flowers. Bella was aghast. She was afraid I was going to be terribly upset and immediately began damage control. This was entirely unnecessary because I decided the new bouquets were also pretty in their own right because ALL FLOWERS ARE PRETTY. Remember that as you plan your own weddings. All flowers are pretty. They don't really matter that much. No matter what your flowers will be pretty.

Bridal Party

This section will be brief. Follow this one rule. Do not make any members of your bridal party spend a lot of money on anything related to your wedding.

Then, let them wear whatever shoes are the most comfortable for them, as people with hurty feet will not have a good time.


Take tons of pictures. If you want to splurge on anything it should be the pictures. I recommend making a video of your wedding too. Our wedding video has brought a lot of joy to a lot of people, especially because a few of the people in it are no longer with us and we now have video of them very much alive and having a good time. Encourage people to take pictures and provide them with lots of disposable cameras. We bought them in bulk at Costco and put them on all the tables with instructions to go crazy and turn them in at the end of the night. I loved getting them all developed. It was hilarious. Also, our friend Hollye is the best wedding photographer I have ever seen. She did not photograph our wedding as she was in it and we didn't want her to work, but just to have fun at a wedding for once. Still, she and her then boyfriend now husband, took a lot of pictures for us and we cherish them. Hollye will fly all over for weddings too if you want her. At the very least check out her work on her website. Link is in the sidebar.

People Acting Like Total Assholes and Other Wedding Disasters

It's probably going to happen. Something will probably go wrong in some way. I've seen it all. None of it has really mattered in the long run. Most of the glitches no one ever noticed. Many of them make the best funny stories to tell people for years. Laugh at them all.

Inevitably, someone at your wedding may act like a total asshole in some way. Bad behavior takes many forms. Often it involves disrespect, jealousy, deep dark family drama kinds of resentments that brew up at gatherings or just bad nerves. Alcohol can also often be a factor. Unless someone is being destructive and really causing a major scene, ignore everything. Remember, your relatives acting like jackasses do not reflect on you. People's bad behavior only reflects on them.

And yes, if you're wondering, some people acted like total assholes at our wedding. We ignored them. In fact, we laughed at them and so did everyone else because the people who acted like assholes at our wedding made total fools of themselves and became laughingstocks. Their bad behavior had nothing to do with us and our celebration. It was only a reflection of their own bad characters and still is.


Wedding registry makes me uncomfortable. The very idea of going into a store and deciding which things you'd like other people to buy for you skeezes me out. I felt like a bad person when we did it and we did it because so many people bugged us to do it. We decided to register at Target because it is affordable for most people and because Target has a lot of good stuff. Then some relatives requested that we register somewhere nicer, so I did. I was babysitting my friend's eleven year old daughter at the time and I took her with me and let her pick out stuff she thought we should have. She did an excellent job. I still felt like a bad person. On the flip side, when I am the guest, I love gift registries because I always know exactly what to get. It makes my life easier. When it comes to gift registry, be modest, humble and practical. Don't make people feel like they have to spend a fortune on you. Don't ever ask for something that might make someone feel badly about themselves because they can't afford to get it for you.

I have a little story I'd like to share with you. A few years ago a long time male friend of mine married a horse-faced heiress in a foreign country that I was not about to spend several thousand dollars to visit. The friend became very pretentious and went a bit nuts with his newfound social standing. The couple then registered at places so expensive that I had never heard of them and repeatedly emailed me his registry and asked over and over again if I had checked it out. He was hinting that they hadn't received a gift from me. This is because I couldn't afford anything they registered for. Two months after their lavish foreign wedding I had occasion to visit the city where the newlyweds lived. I decided to go to one of the stores from their registry to see if I could pick up a little gift pre-dinner with them. It was Christofle. I went in and looked at the registry again. Again, nothing in my budget. I looked around the store for something tiny. Still, nothing I could afford. I became so disgusted that I vowed not to get them anything. That night at dinner the horse-faced bride made a comment about how all her parents' friends were such suckers, buying them all the expensive Rosle gadgets they'd registered for, like a fifty dollar pizza cutter. I really hated this girl for this. I was so glad I hadn't bought them anything. I had never seen such an ingracious couple. Because of this, I am no longer friends with this person, who I had known since childhood and we are only superficially friends on Facebook now. Never ever be like these people.

In Conclusion

This is all the best wedding advice I have for you. I think I've remembered everything but if I've left something out, feel free to email me or leave a question for me in the comments section. I hope that my wedding guide has helped some of you planning your own celebrations.


TK said...

If the whole world could just be as generally sane and level headed as you are, as evidenced even in your very down to earth, reasonable and wise wedding advice, we probably would no longer have wars, gang violence, and general criminal behavior. Instead it seems too many people are more like the guy friend and his horseface; supreme egotists.

This series should be made into a pamphlet on how to get married, it's brilliant!

MtnMama said...

Fabulous advice. And yes, anyone who expects someone else to buy them stuff along the lines of a $45 garlic press is all kinds of pretentious.

I loved your ideas about the food, too.

And I'll have you know that because of you, I watched some Bridzilla this past weekend, and that is 20 minutes of my life I'm never going to get back!
Such train-wrecks of excuses for human beings. Awful.

Consultant Calamities said...

awesome. :-) I decided to NOT register for our wedding, which sent my family and friends into utter shock.

But guess what? they survived. Each of them put THOUGHT into our gifts, and we got some really good, unique gifts. The whole gifting/registry thing made me uncomfortable, but we did get some very nice, thoughtful and unique things from people WITHOUT the registry.

Living in Muddy Waters said...

Oh Oh...if you write a book, can I write the opening paragraph for each chapter? Each chapter could start with a real life wedding fiasco to match the chapter?!!

Erica said...

I just had the exact same conversation regarding flowers with my former roommate who is in the throws of planning her wedding. The girl who I met with to do my flowers got married the same weekend I did, and when I went to pick up the flowers, they were nothing like the color scheme I had asked for. But they were still gorgeous, and so what if they didn't quite match the bridesmaid's? My sister got her pink flower so she was happy, even if they contrasted sharply with the yellows and reds of everything else :)

Jean said...

MtnMama -- the worst part of Bridezillas is those nasty evil people get a trip out of being nasty and evil on TV.

This is why I hate reality TV. They reward bad behavior.

Regarding disposable cameras -- a really nice coworker had them at her wedding, and the people were into partying and the kids got hold of them.... the groom got them developed and put all the photos into an album and brought them to work. The bride looked through the album first and went into hysterics!

She was laughing so hard, tears were running down her face and she could hardly talk...

All the kids pictures were adult butts and tummies. And the groom had filed them in with the person's other normal pictures.

So you'd get a picture of Aunt Evelyn standing with the bride and smiling and then get a picture of Aunt Evelyn's backside as she's sitting down, smoothing her dress down with Visible Panty Line. Or see through or sagging slip...

It was very funny, and very them...

I agree with it being hard to register -- I've never done it, because where I was from in our set it just wasn't done. But I am glad people do it now...

Student/Teacher said...

For a funny story about people being assholes at weddings, check this shit out:

Gina said...

I had (HAD) a friend who I wish read this advice. She was basically pretty cheap - never spent much on anything, but when she got engaged, she had to have the fanciest of everything - shower at a local golf club, etc.

And when she registered, she picked the most expensive stuff there. Stuff she NEVER would have bought herself. $350 place settings, $150 photo frames, $50 towels (and this was 12 years ago). I literally couldn't find anything on her registry that I could afford, even if I didn't already spend a fortune to be a 7-mo pregnant nightmare in pink chiffon.

kerry said...

Awesome! Just fantastic.

I can't remember if we did a registry; I don't think we did. We'd already lived together for 7 years, so how much stuff do we really need? Not much.

$45 garlic press? Wow. I think I'd feel like an asshole owning such a thing.

Anonymous said...

WL, I have been reading for years, and this is my first comment. I just wanted to say "Hallelujah!".

This is pretty much my wedding philosophy. I have been to too many over the top, bridezilla-fests. And the marriages don't always work. I agree - more time on marriage, less on wedding.

My boyfriend and I so damn sensible that we are doing our pre-marriage counselling as pre-engagement counselling, and we decided on the weekend that our wedding cake would be an icecream cake, because we both (before we knew each other) had icecream cakes for our 21st birthdays, and we like icecream. It would also make more sense to freeze the top tier of an icecream cake!

My hairdo for my sister's wedding was up, but simple. My hair does not curl. Yes, it looks like it is curling as you're doing, stupid hairdresser, but the first curls will be straight before you finish it. At one point, the loud, blonde, ditzy hairdresser announced (when I asked what was going on as it was just supposed to be a french roll) that she was trying out "a basket weave" and it "looked really cool". No. No, no, no, no.

So, thank you. Please spam as many people as you can with your wedding guide. The world has gone mad. Don't even get me started on red-flowing liquid fountains under pink wedding cakes surrounded by a huge arch made of plastic, decorated with butterflies, or stands at wedding expos with fake or stuffed doves in the birdcages advertising dove releases for your ceremony. Sheesh. Nothing says romance like a stuffed dove.

Thinking Out Loud said...

On the train of photos, my friend and his now wife put together a phot-guest book. Aseveryone entered, they took a picture of them so they had a visual record of everyone who came. And we all signed, of course! It made me wish I hadn't just gotten married the month before so that I could implement it at my own wedding!

Angela said...

I absolutely love this. I'm getting married in September and everything you are saying is everything I have been saying all along. Of course, that is the one plus to no longer having parents, everything is my way, and there is no one for me to please with my wedding but myself and my future husband.

We're doing it all relaxed and our way.

nandy said...

I definitely agree with your comment about the photographer. My sister had a blow-out wedding...St. Patrick's Cathedral, reception at The Plaza hotel...but for some reason, they decided to skip the professional photographer. They thought, all their friends would be taking photos, so they'd just ask for copies. Their one concession to my mother on this was to hire a friend of my brother to take a few formal shots. But he wasn't a professional and his camera broke and ruined most of the film.

All that glamour and expense, and we only have a very few, grainy photos of it all.

Anonymous said...

GREAT advice - I absolutely LOVE just about everything you had to say and I'm going to have my daughter (who's soon to be engaged) read this!

I didn't register for my wedding - I thought it was tacky, and felt like it would be shamelessly asking for gifts. Was I sorry! We got really weird gifts, nothing matched, color choices were strange, and nothing we could have used or really and truly needed. Because hadn't lived together until we were married and had virtually NOTHING to start our lives together, we could have really used sheets, bath towels, cooking utensils and kitchen stuff, dinner plates, etc. As it turned out, we had to buy all that stuff for ourselves - a strapped for cash, young, married couple! It was really expensive. It's funny now years later, when I receive an invitation to a wedding, the first thing I want to know is where the couple is registered!


JoeinVegas said...

Thanks you for the advice. Unfortunately all of the weddings I will be part of are done already.

Aleta said...

I loved this particular post. So many things to think about, but nothing to fret over or go all bridezilla about. Things happens, even at weddings. For me, candle wax spilled on my wedding gown and rain threatened to take down the tent where our vows were said. We laughed and felt loved by all the guests. I wouldn't have changed anything that happened and we walked away ~ with not one dime of debt from the gathering - which also included a professional photographer and videographer. It was simple but had what we wanted and what family could enjoy....I think that's what you're coming across with in your posts - enjoy it, but don't become engrossed in it so much that you look at all the details and forget the reason. Enjoyed!

Kelly Hudgins said...

Maybe this is just a Southern thing, but people tend to have lunchy type parties on the day of the wedding to "honor out-of-town guests." I hate this custom. If I'm an out-of-town guest, I want to rest. When I was the bride, I just wanted to take a Valium and lie down until it was time to get ready.

So here's to elimintating the day-of events!

Anonymous said...

Love it! So much like my own attitude about my wedding, only more and better ideas. My one big idea was taking all of our wedding party pictures BEFORE the wedding b/c I always hate waiting at receptions for the pictures to get done. Yes, we saw each other before the wedding and 15 years later, we're still going strong!

Thank you - wonder if a future DIL would appreciate it if I printed this and saved it to share (the boy is 5, a DIL is a ways off)!

Amy said...


We have many of the same philosophies about weddings, and I went about planning mine with the same attitude -- good food, pretty flowers, laid back atmosphere, and most importantly, love and celebration!

Pickyknitter said...

Don't know that marriage is ever in the future... but I have always liked the idea of a 'gathering' wedding; invite folks over for a bbq and spring the wedding on them, or make it a day where we spend the afternoon as a group getting everything ready, everyone helps cook, then have the wedding in the evening. Simple. Need a life partner first though! Thank you for this 'guide'; it is nice to hear that people are still reasonable and modest.

class-factotum said...

I loved the part about nobody ever wishes for a skinnier bride.

We got married last year, both of us in our 40s. Small, small wedding -- immediate family only. Still, friends asked what they could get us. I told them that if we had had a big deal, we would not only have said, "No gifts" but would have made people take a lamp or set of sheets home with them.

Kelly, I like the idea of a luncheon because out of town people might already be stretching their budgets for travel and hotel costs. It seems like a very generous, gracious thing to do. It's nice for the B&G to be there because it is a chance to actually spend some time with them.

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