What I Wish I Could Tell My Friend About Her Wedding

Your wedding and your marriage are not the same thing

Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

OOne of my best friends is getting married next summer, which means she spends every weekend planning her dream wedding. She’s 38, and both she and her partner are getting married for the first time. They are a great fit, and both are over the moon for each other, so I couldn’t be happier.

But there are a few things I wish I could tell her about wedding planning.

First of all, a wedding and a marriage are two very different things. I’ve been to beautiful weddings where the marriage didn’t last a year, and one of my good friends secretly eloped and has been happily married for more than a decade.

Building a good marriage isn’t about favors or caterers or a signature cocktail. If you are marrying the right person, everything could go wrong at your wedding, and it will just be something you laugh about on your anniversary each year as your hair turns grayer and your wrinkles sink in deeper.

With this in mind, you can stress a little bit less about planning the perfect wedding. If you like designing centerpieces and you can afford it, do it. If you don’t, skip them. If you like chair covers, have them. If you don’t, skip them. Nothing has to be perfect — you should just do what you want to do.

As long as your people have something to eat and a place to go to the bathroom, your wedding will be fine.

Speaking of your people, let’s talk about your guest list. I know it started at 300 and lucky you for having so many friends. But let’s be honest: If your friend that you spent a summer with in New Zealand more than a decade ago is going to travel to visit you, do you really want it to be on your wedding day? Why not invite her to come for a visit when you can spend time together and do fun things?

I know you want to feel the love and warmth of all the people who care about you on your special day, but changing into New Balance sneakers at the reception so you can move quickly enough to thank every person in the room for coming is stressful and will just be a blur that you paid a lot for and can hardly remember.

The people you leave off the list will still love you and care about you if you don’t invite them. Especially if you commit to making time for them at a different point by having dinner together or spending a day skiing. Even me — one of your closest friends. I would much rather get together for an epic night of cooking and wine than have you whiz by my table to tell me your bra is uncomfortable as you slug my glass of champagne.

The most special weddings I’ve been to are ones where the two people getting married are so focused on each other that I almost feel voyeuristic watching them together. They don’t care who is in the crowd, because they are so jazzed to be there together marrying each other.

Which brings me to the last thing I want to say. At this point in my life, I’m a seasoned wedding veteran and although it’s cheesy, I want to bring up the popular Maya Angelou quote that says:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I know she did not say this in reference to wedding ceremonies, but it is still applicable. I’ve been to a few wedding ceremonies where my mind focused on predicting whether there would be light or heavy apps at the reception. But there have been a few that have left me breathless with emotion, feeling like the world is a good place and love can conquer after all.

Two of my friends started their ceremony by taking their wedding bands out of a box and handing them to a person in the audience. They asked for us to pass the bands from person to person, and by the time they said their vows and slipped on the rings, every single one of us had held them and filled them with good wishes and love. It was creative, free, and dammit, it was touching.

Don’t spend tons of money to impress your friends with a big party.

Another couple made all of their coasters and table decorations out of pieces of tree stumps from the Vermont State Park where they had met working as park rangers. Free, cool, and memorable. We have one that we still use as a Christmas tree decoration.

Make your wedding special by finding charming, touching ways to show each other how happy you are to be getting married to each other. Don’t spend tons of money to impress your friends with a big party. Don’t worry — we’ll show up, we’ll eat, and we’ll drink. But we’re not the ones who will be holding your hand when you have to put down your dog or taking a day off from work to put new tires on your car.

Those responsibilities will now fall to your new spouse. So make your day about them, not us. Then invite us over for a cookout later in the summer so we can launch bottle rockets, burn pallets, and skinny dip in the pool. Your wedding will never be more fun than that, no matter how much you spend.

OfOf course, I can’t really tell her these things. I’ve been happily married for more than a decade, and as she’s reminded me several times over the years (over gin and tonics), I don’t know what it’s like to sit by the sidelines and watch everyone else get married. True or not, perception is reality. She feels like it’s her turn, and I’m so happy for her that it is.

So I’ll stand by her side and listen to her vent and perseverate on all of the little details. And I’ll show up in dainty little shoes with a cute dress. And then in a few years, we’ll be talking, and she’ll ask me why I let her spend $900 to rent chair covers.

I’ll just shrug and mix drinks.

Sometimes, you just can’t win.

Big fan of good books, funny looking animals, and great stories. Always ready for the next big thing.

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