I love weddings. Weddings are the soul of my work as a photographer. But they're also the foundation of a multi-billion dollar industry rife with questionable traditions and irrational expenses. Before you dive into wedding planning, here are five myths you need to identify -- and dismiss! -- the moment they show their ugly faces.
1.) It's the bride's day.
This is absurd for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that many weddings don't even HAVE a bride. What if neither of you is a bride? What if both of you are brides? What if the word "bride" makes you want to punch babies? Whose day is it then?
Gender sensitivity aside, the notion that ONE person is the primary focus of the wedding day is ridiculous. Your wedding day belongs to both you and your partner, and to your loved ones who have gathered to celebrate. Don't be selfish. And don't let anyone put selfishness upon you, as if "it's MY day" is an honorable and precious sentiment. It's not. The only thing honorable and precious at a wedding is the love.
Here is your new mantra: "It's OUR day." Because it is. And together, you can do anything.
2.) Your guests need favors.
If you hang around at a wedding after the newlyweds have left, you'll see the cleaning staff swarm the room, tossing baggies of monogrammed candies and sachets of loose-leaf tea into the garbage. Before you drop money on landfill fodder, ask yourself one question: Will my guests actually use these favors? Shocking though it may be, once your guests have enjoyed an adult beverage (or three), they're not going home to plant a tree with that packet of elm seeds you adorned with a ribbon and presented in the center of their dinner plate.
If giving small gifts to people is one of your great joys in life, then make sure the gifts are thoughtful. My favorite wedding favors of 2013 were vintage records taken from the groom's personal collection. Each guest's place setting was marked with an album hand-picked by the couple to celebrate that guest's presence. Not a single record was left behind.
3.) You shouldn't see your spouse-to-be until the ceremony.
I realized how ingrained this ritual has become when one couple told me they wouldn't see one another until their ceremony because, "Isn't that in the Bible somewhere?" (No, it isn't.)
You already know you won't spend much time with your guests on your wedding day. But many couples don't consider how little time they'll get to spend with each other. Between all the meeting, greeting, drinking, and dancing, if you don't see your partner until the ceremony, it's likely that you'll spend more time with your photographer than with the love of your life. To me, that's just crazy talk.
What are your alternatives? Connect over brunch on the morning of your wedding; take a walk together before the chaos sets in; or (yes, I'll say it) get ready together. Just be in the same space while makeup is applied and ties are tied. Your wedding day belongs to both of you. Share as much of it as you possibly can.
4.) You must have a wedding party.
I was flipping through a friend's wedding album when she began pointing out her bridesmaids. "We aren't really friends anymore... We lost touch after a few years... I only asked her to be a bridesmaid because I didn't want to offend her..." Out of eight bridesmaids, only three of them were still involved in my friend's life in any meaningful way.
Sadly, many couples feel pressured to have a large wedding party, even when their relationships with those individuals aren't especially strong. And the social stigma of refusing this "terrific honor" often traps the attendants-to-be into spending money they don't have on weddings they don't care about.
Before you ask your friends to drop a week's income on outfits they will not wear again (I don't care what the salesperson told you), put serious thought into who you truly want by your side at your wedding. Maybe it's your mom or your grandfather. Maybe it's that one close friend you've known since grade school. Maybe it's... nobody. No choice is the wrong choice, as long as it's your choice.
5.) This is the most important day of your life.
Don't make me cry. If your wedding day is the most important day of your life, you are bound for a future of insignificance and monotony.
Yes, your wedding day marks the start of a new journey, the establishment of a new family. But it is just one important day in your life.
You will have other parties. You will make new friends. Your family will grow with the addition of cats and dogs and maybe even real human children. You will buy a house, travel to amazing places, get your dream job.
Your life will be full of so many wonderful, terrible, important days, that eventually your wedding will fade to a sweet haze of a memory, with only your photographs to recall your dad's mismatched socks or your cake with the very definite lean to the left.
When you find yourself panicking because your invitations look more purple than eggplant, it's time to stop, take a deep breath, and remember that this isn't the most important day. Your wedding day is one very important day in a series of important days that will make up all the days of your very full, very rich, very wonderful life.