My sister, Gladys is getting married and her wedding is in less than a month away! Ever since the day of her proposal close to a year ago, we've been chatting on the topic of wedding and marriage almost each time we get together, which is my favourite topic of all time!
A wedding is a beautiful occasion. It is once in a lifetime, a day you will reference to 10, 30, 60 years down the road as "the best day of our lives". So it is a day that you want to go well, with as little regrets as possible. As someone who's married, having attended many weddings over the years, and helped plan and coordinate a few, here are some things that I've learned and observed that I shared with my sister, which I feel might be good to share here with other newlyweds-to-be too.
1. Appreciate every single person
"Nobody owes you a wedding"
Nobody. Absolutely nobody.
I've heard countless accounts of how brides get angry when their friends aren't able to attend their destination wedding, without taking into consideration that maybe their friends simply cannot afford it, how brides become resentful at friends who couldn't be there to help for wedding setup because their mother is in the hospital, and so many more.
Nobody owes you a favour, nobody owes you help, nobody owes you with their attendance, nobody. Everyone who turns up at your wedding, offer favours and volunteer to help is simply because they love you and want to help make your wedding a special day for you. These people take their precious time off their schedules, spend money to dress and doll up, travel all the way just for that few hours of your special day. And they should be appreciated.
Especially those who help you on your wedding day voluntarily- your bridal party, your friends who sing or emcee on your wedding, friends who help with decor and desserts, friends who help to drive your friends and family from one location to another, friends who help bake that cake, friends who help to take the photos, friends who help to coordinate the wedding. For everyone who helps on your wedding day without getting officially paid (like how you would pay for official wedding photographers), you gotta appreciate their help. And no, not just with a sincere thank you, but with a token of appreciation. This should always be budgeted into your wedding planning from the very beginning.
In the Chinese culture, we give angpow (red packets/love gifts) that serve as small tokens of appreciation to all who help with the wedding. An angpow of RM100-150 (just an estimated amount) to a bridesmaid does not justify the amount of time, money and hard work they put into helping your prepare for your big day, but it's a nice gesture to show that "Hey, this little token is to show that I remember all that you've done to help us with this day, and I truly thank you."
Different cultures and different individuals show their appreciation in different ways. Some buy gifts for their bridal party, some treat them to a nice post-wedding meal, it's entirely up to the couple. But just make sure that at the end of the day, the people helping you feel happy and appreciated by the both of you. And it is your responsibility to make them feel that way.
2. Pay, or lower your expectations
This is the brutal truth: If you're planning your wedding on a limited budget, keep your wedding simple, bridal party small, and expectations low.
Many brides expect to have a dream Pinterest-inspired wedding with lots of fresh flowers, scrumptious spread for the dessert table, cute memory tables and photo corners, but they don't have the budget for it. It's not wrong to have a small budget, but it is not right when you have a small budget but still expect your decor team (which is most of the time the bridal party) to put up a dream Pinterest-inspired wedding for you when it is near impossible.
I've seen how bridal parties struggle to get decor with such limited budget given, that they spend sleepless nights trying to DIY every single decor leading up to the big day, slaving away to make everything by hand. Some even delegate roles to the decor team to buy things but scrutinise every little detail, ask them to drive far and wide just to hunt for that item on discount, and get approval for every little thing before they can actually purchase them.
If you know you're a bridezilla, pay someone professional to do it, or do it yourself. Your bridal party is not meant to slave for you, but to journey with you in this celebration. Yes, they're there to offer help, but don't work them to the ground.
Remember, nobody owes you a wedding, what more a Pinterest-inspired wedding!
Now, on to keeping the bridal party small. Why, you may wonder?
It is because for every single bridesmaid and groomsman in your bridal party, you'll need to consider buying or subsidising their dresses and suits, and give them a token of appreciation (angpow or gifts) at the end of the day.
Say, the budget for each bridesmaid dress is RM100 (which is pretty minimal). If you have 10 bridesmaids, you'll need RM1,000 just for bridesmaid dresses. And you still have to take into consideration their bridesmaid bouquets/flower crowns, shoes (if you want everything to be standardised), angpows/gifts, etc. So approximately RM300/bridesmaid all in (including dresses, flowers, angpow), which amounts to RM3,000 just for bridesmaids.
For groomsmen, it's even more expensive to get nice suits and vests, especially in unique colours to match the wedding theme. Most groomsmen wear their own black suits, but for those who don't already own one, they need to purchase one, which doesn't come cheap. On top of that, they need matching ties/bow ties and corsages. Say the budget for each groomsman including outfit subsidy, corsages, ties and angpow is RM300 as well, that's another RM3,000.
So, RM6,000 for the a bridal party of 20 pax, compared to a bridal party of 6 (3x bridesmaid and 3x groomsmen), at RM1,800.
So if you're on a budget, i't's either you achieve your dream wedding theme and keep bridal party small, or have a big bridal party but keep your expectations low. Every additional bridesmaid/groomsman is added joy and fun, but that also means extra budget needed. So take this into consideration when planning for the size of your bridal party.
3. Don't sweat the small stuff
I always advice couples to plan all they can prior to the wedding, but when it comes to the actual day, forget everything and just enjoy themselves. When I say forget everything, I mean forget how the dessert table was supposed to be arranged, how many photo frames were supposed to be displayed, the exact number of roses that are supposed on your bridesmaid bouquet, etc. Because there WILL be something that goes wrong on your wedding day. Why so pessimistic, Careen? Well, I've not seen a perfect wedding that ran smoothly with zero technical glitches, human errors, and hiccups before. Not even the most high budget and lavish of weddings. What can go wrong, will go wrong, remember?
I've seen how a bride is perpetually frowning and distracted throughout her wedding, that when the pastor was speaking at the front and even while praying for the couple on stage, the bride was frowning and signalling something to her maid of honour in frustration. Ahhhh that was an unpleasant sight to witness. Don't forget that your guests are watching! That's their role anyway. To watch and witness your big day! So if you want your guests to enjoy the wedding and remember only the pleasant things, don't display your frustration for all to see. Keep it together, breathe and enjoy the day.
There were lots of things that went wrong on our wedding day. Some we were aware of, some we were kept from by the bridal party. So to us, we had a really beautiful wedding because we were not burdened with the small, petty details. Our bridal party was great in handling all the hiccups for us that we didn't even realise they happened. Which was awesome because even if we knew about them, what could we have done to make the situation better? Nothing.
So do let your wedding planner/coordinator, family and bridal party know not to come to you with every little problem (unless they're too big to be ignored). Otherwise, just give your trusted maid of honor/best man the liberty to handle, make decisions on your behalf. If you're entrusting these decisions to the right person, you won't have to worry. This is when selecting the right maid of honor/best man and bridal party is VERY important. They're not just meant to make your wedding fun and pretty, but also to help you manage situations and solve problems.
On your wedding day, just be blur, act dumb and don't be overly observant. Don't take special note of the small, petty details. Just breathe, smile and enjoy your day.
4. Be in the moment
I know this sounds cliche, but your wedding is when you really want to fully experience everything, because it happens only once in your life. Be in the moment, be present. Take a good look at your bride or groom, hold each other's hands tight, look your guests in the eyes and thank them for celebrating with you, give your parents a good, tight hug that they so deserve, breathe, smile till your face turns numb, laugh your heart out, enjoy being in that beautiful gown or tailored suit, feel every moment.
Many couples get overwhelmed by the constant attention they're receiving from hundreds of guests (which doesn't happen everyday) that they become awkward and tense the whole day. It's okay to be nervous, but remind each other to relax and have fun!
One of the things that a lot of couples unknowingly do is to totally ignore what happens on stage during the wedding reception. You may feel awkward, nervous or even upset at certain things that went wrong, but don't forget about those who are giving you a speech or a song performance on stage. They have taken time and effort to prepare for that few minutes just for you, and to have you ignore them is hurtful. So be sure to give your fullest attention to what happens on stage, and enjoy yourself.
Put your phone aside. Don't be occupied with updating your Snapchat or Instagram Stories all the time. You hired professional photographers and videographers for a reason! No rush in positing photos on Facebook or Instagram either.
Remember, the world can wait, but your wedding will be over before you know it.
So enjoy each other, and enjoy the wedding.
5. The secret to a beautiful wedding?
You know how some weddings are just so beautiful and full of life, that when you leave the reception you can't help but to feel the contagious joy bubbling inside of you? And how some weddings are just so beautiful, even if they're just very simple weddings?
The secret is in the couple.
Yes, that's you! You're the secret to your beautiful wedding. A guest can tell a beautiful wedding when they attend one. It's more than just the beautiful fresh flowers or meaningful photos displayed at the foyer, more than the gorgeous dress you're wearing or breathtaking pre-wedding photos on the slideshow.
It is how you are enjoying your wedding. Your smiles, how you look into each other's eyes, how sincere you both are when you recite your wedding vows, how you give heartfelt speeches to your parents, bridal party, and your new spouse, how you laugh, how to have fun, how you enjoy your guests' company, how you're so happy. These feelings are highly contagious and can be easily felt by your guests.
So you want a beautiful wedding? It's simple, just enjoy your big day :)
If you're reading this and you're on your way in planning your wedding, congrats and remember to smile and have fun! And if you're already married or still single, pass this on to newlyweds-to-be that you know!
Hope this post has helped in one way or another. Will update another note to wedding guests soon ;)
Til' then! x
Follow Gladys' wedding preparation journey on her blog: