The past two weekends of my life have been a whirlwind of celebration, elation, and a slight amount of inebriation. I danced, laughed, smiled, sweated, posed, ate, drank, spoke, and danced some more all in the name of love. Cheesy, right? The two weddings I attended (one in Savannah, GA and the other here in Philadelphia) were for two of my life long friends. And even though in separate cities, with different parties, and of different sizes, the core elements of a memorable occasion were readily evident to all in attendance. And since I too will be heading down this path of marital bliss in just a few more months, next November to be exact, I couldn’t help but contemplate some necessary dos and don’ts for my own (and my fiancée's) special day. And so, without further adieu, I’d like to introduce for the first time Patrick Edmonds’ Guide to a Successful Wedding!
1. Bridal Parties - Keep Them Happy!
Plain and simple. Now each bridal party is different and will have different needs. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that the average bridesmaid and groomsman enjoys alcohol and food, much like the average American. So be sure to be in ample supply of both items. In Savannah, we had a cooler filled with high quality beers to enjoy before the ceremony. And for the Philadelphia experience, we were treated to both beer and hoagies ahead of time and more beer and champagne afterwards on the ride to the reception. Remember that these friends of yours that you’ve honored enough to ask them to spend $160 for a tux for one day and probably $200-300 for a dress that will never be worn again are doing you a favor, so be kind to them.
2. Pictures - Be Prepared. They’re inevitable.
You’ve spent anywhere from $2000-5000 on them, so you want to get your money's worth. However, as it applies to your bridal party and nuclear family, you want to muster every ounce of Boy Scout in you and BE PREPARED! Don’t take formal pictures on the fly. Your photographer should have a fairly solid game plan in mind before the wedding even begins. This is your wedding, not theirs and certainly not an opportunity for them to discover their artistic talent. Have them scout out the area of the reception, church, and/or ceremony location ahead of time, so they know exactly what they want. Referring back to rule number one, Keep Them Happy, nothing will agitate a bridal party more than unnecessary amounts of impromptu pictures and bossy photographers.
3. Cake Cutting, Dances, and Speeches - Timing Is Everything.
Most wedding receptions necessitate certain customs that have the ability to make or break a wedding depending on their incorporation into the festivities. Every couple will cut a cake, many daughters and some sons will have a special dance with their father and mother respectively, and most Bestmen and Maids of Honor will make a speech. However, all of these events can take up a great deal of time, and if they are improperly spaced out, can reek havoc on the flow of the night. There is no set-in-stone way to manage these sideshows, because it really depends on what the bride and groom want out of them. For instance, maybe you don’t care if 100-200 people watch you awkwardly cut a cake for the first and last time together, so it is okay if that tradition is performed later, as long as you don’t expect people to stop dancing, drinking, or talking. As far as individualized dances go, it’s usually best to get them out of the way right after the speeches, but before the dance floor has really swung into full gear. Nothing is worse than when everyone is ripping up the dance floor and then forced to abruptly halt, so the bride can dance with their father or the groom with their mother to some played out Norah Jones or Frank Sinatra song. Finally, speeches are best delivered toward the end of dinner, after people have had some time to eat and are relaxed and focused. However, for more on suggested speech etiquette, read rule number four.
4. Speeches - Short & Sweet or Funny & Focused.
Since I actually performed the best man speech in Savannah, I have some insider advice that could help future speakers avoid the pitfalls of rambling, inappropriateness, and overall failure as a best man or maid of honor. Similar to rule number two, Pictures, the speaker must be prepared. If you know you don’t speak well in front of an audience, then keep it short. Throw in a few “love yous” and “look beautifuls”, and you should be fine. Now, for the more practiced speaker, just because you are articulate or some people find you funny on occasion, doesn’t mean these skills will transition well into your speech. If you’re going to speak for 5 minutes or more, make sure there’s a point, please! This isn’t your chance to prove to everyone that you are the groom or bride’s best friend through obscure, irrelevant anecdotes that only you really care about. Practice it ahead of time and you should be fine. The bride and groom should also lay down some ground rules ahead of time for their speakers and feel free to let them know what they desire.
5. DJ - Variety & No Requests
Remember that the wedding is most likely attended by a wide age range. Although you love Beyonce and Rihanna, there are some older people who probably don’t believe these names are real and have never heard any of their music. If you really want everyone on the dance floor, then your DJ must mix up the music. The DJ should be told to adapt to the feel of the crowd and not just press play on his or her ipod. Variety is key here for success. As far as requests go, don’t allow them. The music should appeal to the largest percentage of people, not to one or two individuals who have an unhealthy penchant for Green Day or Ace of Base, because it was popular when they were in grade school.
6. Bar - Five Hours Means Five Hours
I know every wedding contract is different, but the standard contract I encountered in my months of shopping around for the best deal was five hours open bar, usually one hour for cocktail hour and four hours for the reception. However, having been to numerous weddings in the past two years, I’ve unfortunately attended some that do not adhere to this policy and actually shut the bar down for dinner or the speeches. The weddings of the past two weekends did not make this colossal error, so there were no problems. Basically, the advice here is to know your contract. If the reception hall plans on shutting down the bar for an hour, 20 minutes or ten seconds, make sure you didn’t pay for it and be certain to warn your guests. They can at least double or triple fist on beers and cocktails.
7. Final Tip - Be Selfless, Not Selfish
So I know it’s your special day, and all eyes will be on you. But the reality is a great wedding is not how you look or what you want, but rather how others remember it. And what they’ll remember most is the food, music, dancing, and alcohol, and if they’re happy, you’ll be all the more satisfied!
Essentially, this is it. If you take into consideration the above suggestions and follow my advice, I can assure you that your wedding will be a smashing success and a memorable experience for everyone in attendance.