The Perfect Ending

8 Jul

17-7 copy

The goal of this blog has been to provide brides and other participants in the wedding planning process with a few choice words that might allow them to take a deep breath, relax, and survive the experience.  I hope we’ve provided all of you with some wisdom and a dose of reality, but primarily with some laughs.   Despite your efforts to achieve that elusive perfection (totally understandable), your wedding will not be perfect because nothing ever has been.  And that’s OK!  I’ve photographed hundreds of weddings, and I’ve never been to one that failed to have a happy ending.  You’ll get married to someone you love and who feels the same way about you, and quite likely have the time of your life doing it.

What we’ve had in mind for quite some time is a book that reveals what weddings are truly all about, as opposed to that gauzy image of perfection sold by the wedding industrial complex.  If all weddings were perfect, they would be dull and listless affairs that look beautiful but have no soul.  Each one reflects the personalities of those involved, with all their eccentricities and variations.  Real life is much more intriguing and surprising than fantasy.  And so much of what people obsess about are details that have no lasting value or meaning.  Years (or even days) from now, no one will remember the color of the table linens or the look of the place cards.  What they will recall is you, basking in the glow of one of the happiest days of your life.

So we’re off for now to write that book.  It’s actually well underway, with promising responses coming from the publishing world.  We’ll be sure to let you know when it’s, well, perfect.

Thanks for reading, and especially for all your comments.  Stay relaxed, and have fun!  We’ll be back in touch.

Five Kinds of Crazy Brides — Are You One of Them?

5 Jul

Everyone has a personal style when it comes to things like shoes, email signatures or trademark karaoke songs. Granted, some of us spend much less time thinking about, say, our shoes, than other people, but laziness and/or ambivalence still counts as a style (all those kids shopping at Urban Outfitters are paying a whole lot more money for that same impression of ambivalence, after all). But what about when it comes to important life events, like planning a wedding? Style — and personality — make a huge difference in the wedding planning process, and they affect everything from how many guests show up to how many gray hairs the bride has gained by the Big Day. There are as many ways to approach a wedding as there are people in the world, but some are categorically better — or at least healthier — than others.

But hey, if it helps keep you sane, who am I to tell you how to use your chainsaws?

With all the weddings I’ve seen, I’ve noticed a few patterns among brides as they plan for the big event. Plenty of women look at the whole thing with logic and a good sense of humor, which is key when trying not to step on so many toes. But then there are the ones who have a less-than-balanced approach to wedding planning, and those are the ones you really notice. Like I said, there are all kinds of styles of wedding madness, but here are a few repeating types I’ve seen:

  1.  The Overplanner: I don’t want to say control freak, because I think there are many of us out there that just feel better when we think we know exactly what’s happening (or we just never grew out of being the bossy kid in the sandbox). But, this person is a little bit of a control freak. You would want her with you during the zombie apocalypse or a really bad blizzard, because she would come prepared with absolutely everything you could ever need. But while a wedding survival kit is actually a brilliant idea I can’t believe nobody has trademarked yet, you don’t need to worry about every single little detail all the time, or you’ll end up with worry lines to start worrying about on top of everything else. Last-minute things are going to happen, life is going to get in the way, and everything in the end is going to be fine.
  2. The Underplanner: Extremes always have an opposite, right? This is for the chronic procrastinators out there, who firmly believe in leaving everything until the last minute and hoping it will magically resolve itself. While this works fine for midterm tests or scalping tickets, it’s not so fine when those last-minute decisions affect several dozen other people. Underplanning is fine and even fun if you’re eloping, but if you’re expecting other people to actually show up at your wedding, at least send them an invitation ahead of time.
  3. The Outsourcer: What’s the opposite of a mooch? This person. Rather than borrowing from everyone around him or her, this marrying type wants to foist everything off on friends and family, even if the friends and family have no expertise whatsoever in that particular area and haven’t even volunteered to do it. Flowers? Cousin Sara’s responsibility. Cake? Groom’s sister is on it. Venue? Why not have Uncle Jack and his construction buddies go check it out? Granted, outsourcing can save you a lot of time (and all of your sanity) when it comes to wedding planning, but do remember that ultimately the one getting married is you, not you and everyone else you know. A wedding can be as small or large as you want, simple or all kinds of messy, but it is supposed to be about what you think and what you want, not what everyone else wants.
  4. The People Pleaser: Sort of a parallel to #3, the People Pleaser just wants everyone to be happy. While this is a charming and sweet idea, it ignores the basic statistical reality that, in any given group of more than 10 people, someone is going to be relatively less happy (no, I don’t have a citation for this statistic, but I dare you to refute it). The People Pleaser is the one who ends up with 250 wedding guests because she couldn’t say no to anyone; who ends up with a dress she doesn’t love just because everyone else said nice things about it; who agonizes for half a year over the color and style of the bridesmaid dresses because she doesn’t want anyone to be upset about it; who is rearranging table placements the night before the wedding to make sure everyone’s needs are catered to. Again, thinking of others is never a bad quality to have, but remember that most people there will be thinking about you. For once, your happiness really is more important than that of anyone else in the room, and they all know it.
  5. The Paparazzi: Half of the point of having friends is so we can borrow (or cleverly repurpose) their good ideas, advice and examples. This is rarely more true than at weddings — wedding inspiration Pinterest pages are great and all, but it makes a huge difference to see how those images translate to real life. But while taking real, relevant inspiration from friends and family is a great way to do some guerrilla wedding planning, taking that inspiration from the pages of supermarket checkout magazines is another thing entirely. If you have more people on your video and photo team than in your wedding party, your dress has appeared in the pages of both People and US Weekly, or you hired a hairdresser because he once styled Jessica Biel’s hair, you may want to go back and check your influences (and blog reading habits) at the door. As I’ve said before, you are probably not Kim Kardashian (although if you are reading, Kim, we’d love a retweet!) nor Miley Cyrus, so why would you want your wedding to look anything like theirs, real or imagined? In case you haven’t noticed, this blog is a big fan of being realistic about expectations and what’s possible, and while celebrities and especially their weddings give us all a glimpse into a fun fantasy life, they’re not always the wisest role models.

Weddings: the stuff of nightmares.

Do any of these describe the brides you know — or the bride you were or think you might become? Did we forget any wedding day?

My Pinterest and Facebook are great at planning!

DIY Or Professional Help: How Far Are You Willing To Go?

3 Jul
Could your aunt have made this dress?  Not likely.

Could your aunt have made this dress? Not likely.

Unless you belong to the now famous one percent, you are likely intimidated by the cost of your decision to have a wedding rather than taking a cheap flight to Vegas.  The average American wedding carries a price tag of about $28,000, a considerable pill for any but the wealthy to swallow.  However, you can get plenty of advice on bringing down that bottom line by doing things yourself or enlisting the aid of others who will work at unpaid internship rates.

Which begs the question: what parts of your wedding celebration are OK to put in the hands of amateurs, and which functions should be performed by professionals even if it runs up the bill?  Fabulous fellow blogger Elena at Seamless asks one of those critical questions: do you know a seamstress who is skilled and dependable enough to agree to sew a wedding dress for you? Most of us get plenty nervous just looking at gowns — we can’t imagine taking on the pressure of being responsible for how the thing actually looks. (That’s why we choose to stay safely behind the lens, thank you very much.)

And for those of you with a friend planning a wedding, is it wise to perform a volunteer labor of love or should some of these tasks be left to experts?  So let’s pick apart the components and see which might be candidates for the DIY approach, and which should remain in the hands of experienced veterans.

  • Cake.  Professional bakers produce spectacular results, but I’ve seen plenty of charming and delicious amateur productions as well.
  • Printed Material.  Place cards, invitations, save-the-date cards: all of these can have more appeal when hand-made by a person close to you, but they are labor intensive.  If you want to keep this DIY volunteer as a friend, you might want to think twice.
  • Flowers.  Best left to the pros, in my opinion.  They know how to arrange and store them so they will look gorgeous at the wedding, rather than looking as though they would have been beautiful yesterday, before they wilted.
  • Music: I’m a HUGE fan of live bands at the reception and musicians at the ceremony.  There’s just no substitute for real talent on display in person.  But I realize the price tag might lead you to recorded music, and I’ve seen plenty of friends with laptops do a perfectly acceptable job rocking the reception.
  • Video.  Answer honestly: how many times will you watch it?  I know video artists do wonderful work, but if all you want is a record of the fact you got married, an amateur with a decent camera can be an option.
  • Photography.  Sorry, you already know this is where I draw the line.  There is no comparison between photos produced by a talented professional and those snapped by Uncle Ralph with his new digital camera.  This can be the difference between a beautiful set of visual memories you will look at many times over the years and a set of excuses why they didn’t turn out.

Did you have someone you know do any of these for you?  Were those good decisions with happy outcomes, or did some of them lead to disasters?  We’re all ears.

Very cute.  But that's quite a few tiny bows to tie.

Very cute. But that’s quite a few tiny bows to tie.

My Pinterest and Facebook are always professional!

Calm Down. It’s Only The Biggest Day Of Your Life.

1 Jul

OK, that is NOT small stuff.

About fifteen years ago psychologist Richard Carlson published a teeny little book called “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff.  And It’s All Small Stuff.”  It was a sensational success, comprised of teeny little chapters featuring snippets of wisdom that could help anyone navigate the perilous journey through life.  I’m not sure I subscribe completely to his thesis (global climate change, for instance, strikes me as BIG STUFF), but I think he’s got a lot to offer anyone going through the potentially stressful process of getting married.  Here’s a list of ten chapter titles that show he really could have been writing about weddings.   Slow down, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride.

  1. Make peace with imperfection.  It won’t be perfect.  Nothing ever has been, so embrace the reality and roll with it.
  2. Ask yourself the question: “Will this matter a year from now?”  The mishaps and screwups will likely make for great stories, not for heartbreak.
  3. Repeat to yourself: “Life isn’t an emergency”.  I’ve seen flowers delivered to the wrong address, marinara sauce spilled on a wedding gown, and a limousine’s water pump explode.  Everyone got married, and laughed about all of it before the night was over.
  4. Choose your battles wisely.  You can’t win them all, so try to minimize the disagreements.
  5. Turn your melodrama into a Mellow Drama.  It’s the human comedy after all.  You’ll get married, and everyone will have a good time.
  6. Be flexible with changes in your plans.  If it ends up being ninety percent of what you wanted rather than that elusive perfection, is that so bad?
  7. Think of what you have instead of what you want.   What you have is the love of the person who will be your partner for the rest of your lives.  What more could you want?
  8. Cut yourself some slack.   Your happiness is the most important component of the wedding, so be the first one to make yourself feel good about it.
  9. Give up on the idea: “More is better.”  It’s not a competition.  No one is comparing your wedding to anyone else’s.  If they do, they don’t belong there.
  10. Keep asking yourself: “What’s really important?”  Every time there’s a decision to be made or a potential issue to be resolved, take another of those deep breaths and remember to keep it all in perspective.

I’m not for a minute implying that your wedding doesn’t matter on the grand scale.  Of course it does; it’s one of the most important days of your life.  But I’ve been to a few hundred of them, and I’ve never seen one that didn’t have a happy ending.

Let us know if you have a few thoughts and phrases that helped you keep it all cool.

Much better minus the T Rex.

Much more fun without the T Rex.

My Pinterest and Facebook are always stress free!

Magnificent Obsessions: Five Things You Should Let Go Of On The Wedding Day

28 Jun

Most of this blog has been dedicated to the proposition that you should relax and enjoy your wedding, realizing that it won’t be perfect but will be wonderful in its own unique way.  However, I’m not naive enough to think you won’t strive for that elusive perfection, and of course that’s fine as long as you don’t lose your sense of proportion (or your mind).

During the planning process, worrying about almost everything is understandable.  But once you get to the wedding day, you should let go of the details that have occupied so much of your thinking for the past several months.  You’re there, on your big day, and what happens is going to happen.  Based on my attendance at hundreds of weddings, and therefore scenes of hundreds of brides in the hours leading up to their ceremonies, here are some observations about what can grow way beyond their true level of importance, leading to tears, screaming fits, and emotional meltdowns.  Trust me on this; I’ve seen it happen.  They are all items that only you, the bride, would notice, and no one else (not even your mother-in-law-to-be) is keeping score.

  1. The Laces On The Back Of Your Dress.  No one is looking at your back.  Your dress is gorgeous, and someone would need a telescope to see if the laces are perfectly lined up.  I’ve seen a maid of honor reduced to a blubbering mess trying to get them aligned just right, and at least one bride arrived late to her own wedding as a result.  Not worth it.
  2. Colors.  This applies to all your color choices, from flowers to table linens to shoes.  All of these items are by definition nice to look at, and if the color of the roses is not precisely what you requested, or if the napkins are a bit too dark a shade of blue, is anyone going to know the difference?  It’s your wedding day, everything is lovely, and it’s too late to change any of it anyway.  Again, I saw a bride in a howling tantrum over the shade of green in the background of her bouquet.
  3. Place Cards.  These can be so cute and meaningful, but not to the point of exhaustion.  Your guests will notice them for about five seconds, and then go to their seats.  I worked with a bride who was tired on her wedding day because she and her maid of honor were up all night working on the place cards.  The night before.
  4. Makeup.  Less is more, and don’t let the makeup artist tell you that more is better in the photos.  If you look good in person, you will glow in the pictures.  Heavy makeup looks like, well, heavy makeup in photographs.  And that brings us to…
  5. The Photographs.  If you have a good photographer and you’ve told him or her what you would like, that’s all you have to do.  The pictures are his/her job, not yours on the day of your wedding.  Too many brides are still making decisions about a whole variety of things on their wedding day because of how it might look in the pictures.  Let it go.  That’s why you hire a professional.

So remember the goal: to get married to the person you have chosen as your mate for life, and to have a hell of a good time doing it.  Obsess if you want to before the wedding, but on the day itself you should roll with what happens.  Everyone else will think it’s all perfect.

The laces?  They look lovely.

The laces? They look lovely.

Colors?  Glorious!

Colors? Glorious!

Place Cards?  Very cute.  Just don't lose a night's sleep over them.

Place Cards? Very cute. Just don’t lose a night’s sleep over them.

Makeup?  No surprises!

Makeup? No surprises!

The pictures?  You will be beautiful.

The pictures? You will be beautiful.

My Pinterest and Facebook never obsess!

Bye-Bye DOMA: Just What Were They Defending Marriage Against?

26 Jun
Does it matter what gender the people wearing these rings will be?

Does it matter what gender the people wearing these rings will be?

The Supreme Court decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act should (I hope) put an end to quite a few discussions and arguments that just have no basis in logic or reason.  As President Obama tweeted, “LoveIsLove.”  Enough said, but since I’m a wedding professional who has photographed quite a few same sex ceremonies, I can offer some firsthand knowledge for those of you who may not have had that experience, or who might still cling to some outdated rationalizations for creating a separate and unequal class of citizens.  I trust we’ve reached the point where we can just call it marriage, period.  No classes, no divisions, no modifiers.

  1. The love is the same.  I’ve photographed quite a few gay weddings, and I have seen not one iota of difference between these and more “traditional” ceremonies.
  2. Gay people get just as nervous about the same things hetero couples obsess about.  How do I look?  Is the weather going to cooperate?  Is my mother going to behave herself?  Not one of these issues is gender specific.
  3. I have yet to hear of a mixed gender couple disavowing their own marriage because gays are being allowed into the club.  Just hasn’t happened.

If you attend a same sex ceremony for the first time, close your eyes for just a moment and see if you notice anything different.  (Spoiler alert: you won’t.)  These weddings are celebrations of love and commitment equal to any other, with all the joys and disappointments of any serious relationship. After all, if it doesn’t work out, they get divorced too.  It comes with the territory.

The rates of marriage in the US have declined quite a bit over the past decades, and that trend has everything to do with financial meltdowns and societal angst, not gay marriage.  So if Congress really wanted to defend marriage, maybe they should have climbed out of their partisan foxholes and fixed the economy first.

So live and let live, love and let love.  And to paraphrase an old slogan used for another contentious social issue, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t have one.”

Look any different?  I didn't think so.

Look any different? I didn’t think so.

My Pinterest and Facebook love all weddings!

Kim And Kanye: Who Kares? Ten Reasons Why You Don’t.

26 Jun

Look! Now she’s married, now she’s not!

There are literally millions of people who watched the once-in-a-lifetime (ha!) spectacle of Kim Kardashian’s 2011 wedding to….?? (quick, no fair looking it up.  And you NBA fans are NOT eligible for our prize).  Then how is it possible you can’t find one person who will own up to having seen it, or to any interest in whether the rumors of another nuptial extravaganza are true?  Is it the car wreck syndrome, where we say we don’t want to see but we ALWAYS peek as we drive by?  And I know she’s way too easy a target.  (I love the opening of her Wikipedia page: “an American television personality and occasional actress.”)  Everyone picks on the woman who launched a thousand supermarket tabloids.  So why am I contributing to this obsession with someone who has never shown a speck of talent for anything?

Because this time she’s in my wheelhouse, my area of expertise.  If she and Kanye are indeed getting married, it might be a good idea to remember the reasons why their wedding has nothing to do with yours.

  1. They aren’t like you.  They might as well be natives of another planet.  These are not people you will run into at playgroup, and I bet their Lamaze class was pretty sparsely attended.  They make the one percent seem like your Aunt Martha.
  2. You won’t be invited.  I doubt any of you will make the list of a thousand or so of their closest friends, so don’t hold your breath for that little engraved something in the mail.  Not even a “don’t save the date” card.  Good news?  You don’t have to invite them either.
  3. You didn’t make a sex tape that will be playing on the internet at precisely the same time you exchange your vows on live television.
  4. You won’t name your firstborn child after various points on the compass.  If they really had style, she would have been Northbynorth West, and the estate of Alfred Hitchcock could have sued them.  Any publicity is good publicity.
  5. Your wedding album won’t appear exclusively in People magazine before you see it (and after your spouse files for divorce).  Although I guess it would be nice to have someone pay you for your photos instead of the other way around.
  6. No one will accuse you of having your wedding as a publicity stunt.  (See #4, above.)
  7. You can hire one photographer rather than having a bunch of them buzz your ceremony in helicopters.   Rotor wash is such a romantic touch.
  8. Your dress will not be large enough to cover a small midwestern town all by itself.
  9. Your marriage will last longer than your wedding ceremony.
  10. You will live happily ever after.

Am I wrong?  Is she really a defining cultural icon whose importance can’t be overstated?  Let us know.

I’ll treasure it forever, or at least until next week’s issue with the story about Jen and Justin.

My Pinterest and Facebook are always invited!

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