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Tamara Shayne Kagel Headshot

A Guide to Modern Wedding Planning

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It has only been a few months since I have been inducted into the exclusive club of people who are loved or that is to say, people who get to plan a wedding. But I have learned so much in that time that I thought some advice might help all those, who like me, thought weddings were about your family and friends. Silly me.

In the modern era, planning a wedding is all about reflecting who your fiancé and you really are as a couple. If you thought the focus would be on providing a good time for guests and meeting the needs of a large diverse group, you would be flat out wrong. You see, you only get once special day in your whole entire life to tell all your friends and family who you really are and what interests you want to define you, so passing up this opportunity by doing something traditional is like saying you might as well be a carbon copy of some old dead people.

Firstly, the venue is an opportunity to reflect a couple's mutual interest. Here in Los Angles, my fiancé and I had to decide, did we want to seem romantic and carefree and like we spent a lot of time surfing? That would mean picking a hotel on the beach, so we could get married barefoot, throwing tradition to the wind and reflecting our bobo spirits. But if we wanted to appear intellectual and tasteful, we should pick a museum that would tell you how cultured we are. If we went with a Malibu estate, you would know how unique we are, because almost no one else could have their wedding there. A zoo would tell you we're fun-loving types, unafraid to be in formal wear near a giraffe, while a destination wedding would show you how much we value travel, but a country club lets you know that the groom likes golf while the bride likes lunches. The venue really sets the stage not just for the wedding but for what label you want other people to use to describe you.

The food of course should project your foodie preferences: sliders mean you are serious about food, a cake made out of cheese says you are full of whimsy, while a special cocktail in your honor says you prefer restaurants with mixologists. If the dessert matches the colors of your wedding, everyone will acknowledge your great eye for design. And if your cake tastes especially good, the guests know that even after the honeymoon, you will continue to spend your Sundays at your cute little undiscovered neighborhood bakery on your picture perfect weekend strolls.

The band can be very complicated because you have to choose not just what kind of band to have but what songs they should sing. The band must be able to sing special songs that mean something to you and your fiancé so that everyone knows you have good taste in music, but also play crowd pleasers to show that you care about the guests having a good time. A band with an African-American female lead singer can show everyone how progressive you are even if she's the only black face at your wedding. The band should sing songs that serve as private jokes from drunken nights but also love songs which remind us that when a couple like you is so in love, nothing is cheesy.

Searching for the perfect dress and tux/suit is really about looking for something that will make you prettier than your friends and family actually think you are. But keep in mind, the groom's shoes should either be Toms to show that he's a hipster who cares about the world or Converse to show that he doesn't care about anything, while the bride is looking for a bright color to peer our from underneath her white dress to remind you how much fun she is having, lest you momentarily forget. (Blue says you're a tomboy who will still get dirty, pink says you're a wife that still loves to be girly, red says yours will not be a sexless marriage, and orange says you're unique.)

The photographs are not meant to simply capture a visual image to show your children one day. The photographer is going to give you a chance to be the star of your own movie so you must plan the genre and mood. The photos will tell us a story about how the groom is always looking at the bride's face when she doesn't notice him and how the bride is always laughing and happy whenever the groom is near by. Often, the photos say the couple spends a lot of time outdoors and that hopping, skipping, jumping, and dirty dancing type lifts come easy to them. Other standard poses will communicate that it is always sunset in your lives and you are getting married in the most beautiful spot known to man and you both know how to dance a waltz in perfect ¾ tempo. Close-ups of shoes, macaroons, groom's socks, and centerpieces will capture the style of the couple without declaring a theme.

Most importantly, the vows show us how your love is the best love. How even though we all have the same chance of failing, your marriage is truly going to be one of the ones that makes it. How you are perfect for each other, and today was meant to be, and how you will both always and forever make the right choices. Also, it should be funny so we know you are clever. Also, if you can hint at having a healthy sex life without being crude you get bonus points but this is rarely achieved.

With all this in mind, you will be able to create a day that completely ignores the needs and desires of everyone else but clearly gives them a sense of how cool, smart, and special you and your fiancé are. You only get this one chance in your whole life, so use it wisely and make everyone believe that the two of you are the best couple in the history of coupling.