Image: One Love Photo


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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

#106: Wedding Day Regrets

When people claim that their wedding day was perfect I don't believe them.

Actually, scratch that. I believe that it *felt* perfect because they married the person they love in front of lots of other people they love, but no wedding day comes without its imperfections. The trick to feeling like the day was perfect despite its imperfections is to let the mini disasters slide off your back, and to prevent a major regret from happening.

But how do you avoid having a major wedding day regret? It's simple really:

1. Be clear on your major goal(s) for the day. I advise you to focus on broad emotional goals (how do you want to feel during various parts of the day?), versus tiny logistical goals or goals regarding how guests will feel (because you can't control people's feelings). Keep your goals to a minimum - maybe 3, tops.

The goals according to my vision board were to A) have a very spiritual/ prayerful/ community-oriented ceremony; B) create a very casual, relaxed atmosphere; and C) have FUN (by dancing my butt off throughout most of the reception).

2. Do everything and anything you can to make sure that these goals are accomplished. This means hiring a coordinator or enlisting a friend whose sole task is to help you with this. It may mean letting go of smaller goals in order to focus on the major ones. And it means having a back-up plan if, during the day, you feel like this goal is not being accomplished.

There were lots of little things that went wrong on my wedding day, most of which I can let slide. But there's one goal of mine that wasn't accomplished, and it seriously killed the whole experience for me: I didn't dance my butt off. And as minor and silly as that goal sounds, I cannot stress how important it  was to me.

In retrospect, it's fine that the caterer ran out of food after 1 hour, and that we ran out of alcohol after 30 minutes. It's fine that I didn't get to take all of the wacky group photos that I hoped for. It's okay that I was running around in my wedding gown trying to set up the reception venue with my guests so that we could start our bbq. And I can deal with the fact that so many people had to leave early. But it's not okay that I didn't have fun. This is no mini misfortune for me - it is a major regret.

Treat your goals the way the president treats his children - assign them your best secret service dudes, make them your priority, take every precaution. If I had done this I would not have taken so many "risks" -- not hiring/ assigning an official DJ, not buying the more expensive sound system with the kick-butt sub woofer, and not reaching out to my husband or best friends during the reception when I realized I was not having a good time (they totally would have crowded around me and danced had I confessed).

Like I said, there's no way you can host a wedding without a hitch, but by focusing your efforts on creating a certain kind of experience for yourself, it is certainly possible for you to have a wedding that feels perfect despite the imperfections.

It's sort of like life; on your death bed you might look back fondly on many wonderful years and have no major regrets, but no one has lived a life without mistakes - things you wish you would have experienced, words left said unsaid, and words you wish hadn't said out loud. However, these mini misfortunes and big (ish) mistakes fade into the background so long as your primary hopes and goals were accomplished. Same goes for your wedding.

Engaged couples: What are your major goals for the wedding? What are you doing to ensure that these are reached?

Married couples: What is your experience with wedding day regrets (or lack thereof)?

Tomorrow I'll talk about how to survive post-wedding blues and major regret. Stay tuned!

Photo credit 


  1. We've found peace in not setting goals, not having any emotional expectations. Whatever the day will be, it will be, and we'll experience it fully without comparing it to what we think it should or what we want it to be. Our wedding day is going to be terribly simple, and that feels fantastic. Well, or it will feel however it feels...I'm looking forward to being surprised. To experiencing.

  2. I feel blessed to say that I don't have any real regrets about our wedding day (and I don't think my hubby does either, at least nothing that pops into mind without asking him).
    There were a couple of minor changes I might have made, I feel like we got the big things we wanted out of the day.
    PS I love the previous comment about surrendering all expectations about what the day "should" be like/feel like

  3. I love this post, such great advice. (I'm a regular reader, not so much a regular commenter)

    Hmm... my goals for our wedding would be:

    1. Relax, enjoy, be present. Achieve this by NOT assigning any tasks to ourselves for the wedding day. (Be a guest at your own wedding! :-)

    2. Make our guests feel welcome by providing them with any info they will need before they arrive and throughout their stay.

    3. Throughout the weekend, spend time with the people we are closest to. Absorb every second.

  4. How weird is it when bloggers seem to be in sync? I just ran a post yesterday about how unlikely it is that a wedding will be perfect. It's like we're all cycling together or something.

    Today, my goal for the wedding is not to be upset by copycats and petty people who turn out to be lousy friends.

    But my actual goals are to make the planning/crafting as much fun as possible, to write a ceremony that is meaningful to us and to our guests, and generally to be as present (both in terms of the look/feel of the wedding and just where my head is that day) as possible.

  5. I have almost no regrets, and the ones I do have are very small. I wish I'd sent invitations to my Dad's side of the family from the USA, not Taiwan, because some got lost in the mail and there are still people who think we purposely snubbed them (we are not so close - in fact I barely know some of them - so it was really hard to explain what had happened and I couldn't get in touch with some of them at all).

    We had an excellent caterer but I wished we'd scaled down what we had in our buffet - the appetizers were all awesome, the food was all really good, but it was not STUPENDOUS (OK, some of it was stupendous, some was good, some merely OK) and I think that was because we asked too much of them and stretched them too thin. I wish I'd been clearer on what I wanted in the veg biriyani to offer vegetarians (there were not nearly enough vegetables - it was basically just rice with a few slivers of veggie and I felt bad feeding carbs to my veggie friends instead of a balanced meal).

    I wish I'd "let go" a bit with the DJ instead of inundating him with music we wanted...we should have done that for the cocktail party and dinner and let him be fairly free with the dance music (except the slow songs. I am very picky about those.) Instead he tried to please us by playing our requests, but the lineup just didn't "work" (this I blame on him - he basically plugged in my USB of songs and hit "play" without paying attention to what would follow which songs well), people didn't dance, so we had him change the music and everybody danced, but in the process he abandoned ALL of our requests and didn't play nearly enough slow music.

    Lesson learned: background music is easy to compile yourself so feel free to take charge of that, but leave the dance-floor music to the pros if you have them. Make a few requests, don't try to dictate it all. Let the DJ do hizzer job. If we'd done that we'd have gotten a dance mix that incorporated what we wanted into more mainstream music and everybody would have been happy.

    I wish we'd done an announced serving line for the tiramisu - some did not get a slice because they were dancing and didn't realize they should go up and get their slice themselves.

    I wish we'd spent more time sourcing bamboo cutlery, mismatched Goodwill dishes etc. and spent FAR less on rentals. Rentals were the biggest expense that I wish we hadn't gone in on. Being abroad was part of the problem, of course.

    Small thing: I wished I'd confirmed the ladder that was supposed to be onsite. Lanterns did not get hung up on the bare wall at the back because the people decorating could not find the ladder that was supposedly there. They got hung up in the windows on the other side (fine) and the wall was left bare. I thought it looked very stark and blank. It's a TINY thing but I did notice. Hardly the most important thing.

    All in all none of this was even remotely a big deal. For the most part I am really ecstatic with how it all turned out: my bridal party stepped up to become my Secret Service of Awesome (lunch just appeared! One of them took my phone so I could get my hair done in peace! They ran out to get lemons and limes without even telling me we'd forgotten them at home! Everything made it to the venue!) and the party got rolling so everyone had so much fun that they stopped focusing on me and asking me to do things: I could dance and socialize because, left to their own devices, everyone else had a great time.

    Oh yeah, and we did a really stellar job with the bar. I could not have asked for a more perfect bar. (I should have told them to keep mixing our signature drink with regular vodka after the special vodka ran out, but whatevs).

  6. Oh, and my goals? Not well defined but basically:

    1.) Work really hard to make everything perfect up until the day before.

    2.) On the day of, let it go and let whatever happens happen.

    3.) Get enough sleep.

    I think I did aight. OK, I didn't get enough sleep and you can tell in at least one of my photos, but I was energetic so it's fine.

  7. I'm one of those brides who did think my wedding day was perfect but you're right - there certainly was imperfection but I was so happy & excited that I chose to look over it & remember the great things!

    My goals were:

    1. Have fun
    This was what we started our wedding planning with. We didn't know a whole lot about what we wanted but we knew that we wanted to have fun & wanted our guests to have fun. This really shaped our wedding & I actually surprised myself in the end by having an absolute blast at my own wedding!

    2. Be present
    We had a housewarming party at our house about 6 months before the wedding and I was absolutely pooped by the end of the night after trying to be the 'good hostess' and speak to everyone. Yet I didn't feel like I had really spoken with anyone because of this. I decided that I didn't want to feel like this at my wedding and was extra conscious about taking it all in and being present in the moment.

    3. Delegate / Don't Stress
    Part of the above, but as an A-type personality I normally find it quite hard to let go of things and become a stress head = no fun. So I made up lists of all of the things that needed to be done day before / day of the wedding and allocated a family member / close friend to an item each and told them that thing was their responsibility. That way it wasn't too much for each person and they were all clear on what they had to do. After I had passed things off the day before the wedding, I didn't want to know anything about it anymore!

  8. I couldn't agree more with your tips. I love Cass's addition of "be present." That can be a big problem...and the main reason why people feel the day just whisks by them.

  9. @ Erika - That's a great perspective. I had a similar one going into the wedding...but unfortunately couldn't stay present through %100 through all the bad stuff. The good stuff, yes, because it's easier to soak that in. The disappointments, however, always get me stuck in my head. Damn.

    @ Steph - That's awesome. I'm so happy that you were satisfied with almost everything. I mean, that's what guests really want anyway - to see the couple happy.

    @ Sarah - I read that copycat thing on your blog! Craziness.

    Your goals sound awesome and totally do-able. Looking forward to see how it all turns out.

    @ Jenna - Your day sounds AWESOME and can't wait get your interview in my inbox! :)

    Also, some of the things that "went wrong" for you (the caterers being overstretched, the hired DJ messing up) were just so unexpected and it just goes to show that even when you prepare like crazy and hire decent vendors, there's still the possibility that you'll be disappointed. And didn't stop you from enjoying your day. That's the great part - about weddings and about life.

  10. My goals for the day:

    1.) Get married

    2.) Have fun, dance my ass off

    3.) Not fight with my mother, not even once the whole day

    4.) Get my friends drunk and dancing like fools (I'm not too worried about this one, they don't need help doing that)

  11. My mother and my one bridesmaid kept saying to me, "I just want today to be perfect for you."

    "It's not going to be perfect."
    "Don't say that!!!"
    "Why not? It won't be!"

    I've done event planning for other, larger and more involved things than a wedding (of course, for those events, I was part of a large team, and this was mostly me and my hubs, with limited help), and I have done it for long enough to know that SHIT WILL GO WRONG. I've also done it for long enough to know that, yes, shit will go wrong, but most people won't notice anyway, because they don't know it's not supposed to be like that.

    Shit that went wrong:
    - The chairs were delivered and dumped on the lawn, in the wrong spot. Hubs had to set the chairs up himself (he did have some help from his nephew and my BM's boyfriend ... while his idiot brothers drank beer and watched ... until, that is, they realized they should probably help, too).
    - Our friends drove the cake to the reception site and didn't keep the car cool enough, so it slid. The chef at the reception site jury-rigged it back together. It still was a bit, um, lopsided.
    - The seamstress screwed up my bustle, and it kept coming undone. This was doubly annoying, as I didn't want a train *at all*, but got talked into a sweep train. (At least it wasn't the semi-cathedral train it was supposed to be!)

    All such minor things. Nothing that would ruin our day, if we didn't let it. And, we didn't.

    "Was it perfect?"
    "No, of course not. But it was awesome."

  12. Oh, and Jenna, Hubs and I were pulling all-nighters from Monday on (our wedding was a Friday) trying to get everything done. Like Kim, I had a couple of projects/ideas I wanted to do that I scrapped last minute because they just weren't going to happen. I DID get all the damned CDs made, though, and THAT was an accomplishment in and of itself. Thursday night I had 3 glasses of wine and 2 beers and wasn't even buzzed because I was so high on adrenaline and lack-of-sleep. I got a decent night's sleep on the night before the wedding, but was still hopped up like I was on speed for a couple days following. :)

  13. Phew. Many regrets.

    I regretted that I didn't eat enough and thus had a hangover the next morning even though I hadn't been actually drunk at any point during the night.

    I regret that the groom had no support network and thus was setting up chairs instead of hanging out and relaxing beforehand like I was.

    I do not regret that I had no part in the decorating. The decorations looked lovely, and I hardly noticed.

    I regret that I failed somehow to communicate to the venue that it was an open bar. My bank account does not regret that at all.

    I regret the really sad things that happened earlier in the summer and made me an emotional wreck going into the late-planning process.

    I do not regret how deeply amazing my friends were in helping me deal with the grief and stress. I do not regret that I'm married now.

  14. This is what Miss Manners had to say recently about the perfect wedding. I think it bears repeating:
    You, out there in Brideland, you sweet thing ... Are you planning your wedding so that it will be perfect in every detail? Do you expect it to be the happiest day of your life? Miss Manners sincerely hopes not.
    Few of those who prattle about that "happiest day" seem to consider the dour expectations this suggests about the marriage from its second day on. They don't realize that a wedding reception is basically a large party, and is therefore not perfectible because there are too many variables, not to mention too many people who one thought would not accept the invitation. At any rate, someone whose idea of ultimate happiness is a day spent at a big party, even spent being the center of attention at a very marvelous big party, is too immature to get married.
    This notion of a wedding persists, often working directly against the purpose of a wedding, which is to create a new family, and not to put cracks and strains in old ones. Miss Manners' advice to young brides is to plan weddings that will be pretty and festive, but not to attempt to make them grand on a scale unrelated to the rest of their lives, and not to expect them to be perfect. Many an otherwise lovely bride has turned ugly attempting to create a "dream" occasion and to make everyone else conform with her conception of their roles in it.
    A warning that one has strayed too far afield is an excessive preoccupation with everything's being done "right". Weddings are rare events in most people's lives, and Miss Manners has no objections to the participants' seeking advice on correct form. She dispenses such advice herself, right and left. But if one needs professional direction -- not just help or advice -- in every aspect of the wedding, it may mean that one hs wondered into completely foreign social territory and should think about heading home. One's wedding should be a heightened version of one's best social life, not an occasion for people to attempt to play grand and unfamiliar roles in a fantasy play.
    Another warning about expecting a perfect day is that this carries a built-in potential for disappointment. (There are adults who go through life expecting other people to make their birthdays perfect for them and if you ever meet one of these, watch out. Nothing will ever be enough for them.)
    What Miss Manners wishes all brides is NOT the happiest days of their lives, but a jolly gathering of family and friends, in which they are the object of general admiration but EVERYONE has a good time. They will then have some happiness left over with which to live happily every after.

  15. I must's comforting to read about all of the stuff that "went wrong" for ya'll. I had moments of thinking: Wait, I'm a wedding blogger and I was feeling bummed for a chunk of time at my own the wedding?? You make me feel normal!

    At some point I have to cut myself some slack about how I felt at the time - getting easily discouraged and caring too much about what others think are 2 of my worst qualities. Happens all the time. So I shouldn't have been surprised that I experienced it at the wedding.

    The good news is that I have a lifetime to shape my memory of the day by focusing on the parts that were amazing. You ladies and your comments are helping me do this. THANK YOU!


Babbling about weddings is so much more fun when people babble back. :)

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