[A Practical Wedding was an invaluable source of sanity and encouragement as I planned my wedding, and since Meg and I both live in the Bay Area, we get to have pizza together and gab about weddings and blogs in person.]

If you’re reading this website, chances are very good that you’ve been called a bride for months and months. But here is a newsflash: you’re not a bride. Not yet, anyway.

For most of us, the liminal state of bride-dom lasts for about ten hours. It’s long enough to put on the dress, say the vows, transform yourself from a single person to part of a brand new family, and then party like it’s going out of style. And then it’s over, and that’s a good thing. So the question is, how do we take those ten hours and experience them to their fullest? How do we get what we need out of this liminal state, and move forward with minimal regrets and a lifetime of memories?

In short: you need to really show up emotionally, let go of all the planning you worked so hard on, and embrace imperfection.

That sounds gauzy and hippy-zen and impossible, right? Well, it’s really none of those things. So, without further ado, here are the things you should know about your wedding day that no one will ever tell you. (Except, um, I’m telling you, so you win.)

Your wedding day might not feel like you expect it to feel.

After reading tons of wedding magazines and zillions of wedding blogs, it’s hard not to have an idea of how your wedding day is going to feel. The thing is, that idea might be dead wrong.

First, I think we all hope our wedding day is going to feel pretty and chic. The one problem with this plan is that you can’t feel pretty, because pretty isn’t an emotion. Trouble! As my husband warned me before the wedding, it’s really important to differentiate between how wedding pictures look and how your wedding day will feel. Our wedding pictures look dreamy and beautiful, and for that I’m grateful. Our wedding ceremony, on the other hand, felt really gritty and raw. The ceremony felt intense, but not necessarily happy. And that was ok. There was plenty of time for joy at the party, and in the weeks of bliss to come.

So on the day itself, do everything you can to resist classifying your wedding day emotions as right or wrong. Maybe like me, your life will change hard and fast, in a moment of gritty intensity. Maybe you’ll ride a wave of joy, but just feel like you threw an awesome party, nothing life changing. Maybe you’ll so overwhelmed that you’ll weep for hours. Maybe it will be something totally different, and even more unexpected. Whatever you feel, let yourself feel it. It may not be at all what you expected, and that may be a blessing.

Your family is crazy, and that’s ok.

I know right? You’re sitting here reading this thinking, “My family isn’t crazy, my family is lovely! And besides, it’s my wedding day so they’ll be on their best behavior.” Well, sort of. Your family probably is lovely (mine is), but you know how everyone acts in high stress situations? You know how your mom freaks out on Christmas Day about having the table set just right, and you have the brother who’s super delightful but slightly socially awkward in large groups, and you have the two uncles that don’t really get along that well after the four whiskies they always insist on having? Yeah. That stuff is going to happen on your wedding day, because weddings are stressful. But here is the thing, it doesn’t have to matter.

Being a bride has certain perks, and one of those perks is being given a free pass to not give a sh*t. If your mom starts freaking out while you’re getting ready, have a sister or a best friend who’s tasked with pulling her aside and telling her to breathe. If your uncles start fighting with each other after their fourth glass of whisky, you have permission to just turn around and walk away.

You’re not going to be able to make everyone happy, and that’s fine. For ten hours of your life, your job is to protect your own experience. Your job is to refuse to get emotionally involved when people get stressed, and to just walk away and let it go. It’s tricky, but it only lasts for a few short hours. Tomorrow you can get totally pissed at your mom when she’s acting a fool, but for today, it’s not your problem.

What happens next is so much richer.

Because planning a wedding is a giddy mix of beautiful things, mixed with a serious dose of pain in the *ss, it’s easy to get focused on This One Day We Spent So Much Time And Money Planning. But that day is not the point. Your marriage is the point. So as your wedding day approaches, remember that this too shall pass. And what you’ll be left with is your marriage, which is infinitely more beautiful than the most stunning wedding dress in the world.

My wedding day? It was one of the great joys of my life. But the happiest day of my life? That was probably a lazy honeymoon day with my husband, drinking whiskey and looking at castles. Or maybe it was just any old lazy Sunday, reading the New York Times, lounging around the house… and oh yeah, not planning a wedding.

So congratulations. Not on this beautiful wedding you planned, but on making it to the other side. Welcome.

Photos by One Love Photo.

81 comments posted +add a comment SEE MORE: Guest Blogger
  1. ashiebee

    i’m loving the post. very honest…and thats the reality!

    **hugs**

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  2. Super Burbs

    Fabulous post! As much as I loved planning my wedding, being on the other side is even sweeter :)

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  3. Miss Type A

    Thanks for this post! I never thought about the possibility of my wedding not “feeling” the way I thought it would. Good to know, so that I can just not think about it and just let it be what it is!

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  4. Angela

    YES! GOOD CHOICE FOR A GUEST POSTER, KATHRYN! i have been reading meg for at least a year and she brought the sanity in her posts as i was about to claw my own eyes out during the planning of my wedding.

    MEG IS AWESOME!

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  5. Denise Stock

    Beautiful wise words! Every bride to be should have these printed out and hung up on a wall.
    And if anything does happen to go wrong, LOVE will solve it. You will look absolutely amazing, cause you’re in LOVE. Your family will hold no grudges because they LOVE you. And the meal will taste just fine, because it’s made with LOVE. So there’s absolutely nothing to be worried about!

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  6. Andrea

    Oh I so needed to read this. I’ve been having issues with making peace with the idea that I am going to have a BIG wedding, but also somehow not finding another alternative. But then I read this: “…it’s easy to get focused on This One Day We Spent So Much Time And Money Planning. But that day is not the point. Your marriage is the point.”… and thought to myself: I am going to see the wedding as the big entrance door to my marriage, and that thought made me feel very good.

    Thank you both Kathryn and Meg (I read you both :)!

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  7. btaylor

    thank you for this! i was beginning to think i was crazy for not ‘loving my wedding planning’ like many were saying to me. i am just looking forward to the moment when we say I Do. i’m going to print this out and re read it when i’m feeling a bit stressed- thanks Meg!

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  8. sarah

    This was so refreshing and grounding. Thank you!

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  9. Laura

    Wow.
    This was a really awesome post. I’ve been married for 2and a half years now but I find myself in every word meg wrote. I’ll read it to all of my brides.
    Thank you!

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  10. Michelle

    I’m getting married in 9 days and this blog post has landed on my desktop at the perfect time!
    Whenever things get tense I’m just going to silently chant “free pass to not give a shit, free pass to not give a shit”. :) thank you! a perfect article about the realities of the day, and of marriage.

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  11. Suzanne

    Perfect post for today.

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  12. Annie

    Fantastic advice, Meg. I especially like the point that your wedding day will feel different than you expect. That’s not something I’ve ever heard anyone talk about. Mostly they say “it was all a blur!” I’m glad to go into the event knowing that it’s okay not to feel a particular way. I’m definitely going to keep all of this in mind over the next several months. Thanks so much!

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  13. peanut

    THIS: “Or maybe it was just any old lazy Sunday, reading the New York Times, lounging around the house… and oh yeah, not planning a wedding.”

    wonderful post, Meg!

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  14. Courtnee

    I’m sorry – were you in the car with me last night when I was talking to myself and going crazy? You must have been, thank you for being there and for this commonsense-filled, practical, and warm post! I will be printing it and hanging it everywhere to reread in the coming months!

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  15. claire

    “For ten hours of your life, your job is to protect your own experience.”

    I am going to need to write this somewhere and read it regularly every day until next September. And then pass that scrap of paper on to all my friends. This is the best advice. The best.

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  16. Lisa

    And have I ever told you that you have some of the most beautiful wedding pictures ever?

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  17. Heather

    My favorite part is the “and oh yeah. Not planning a wedding.” I’ve already heard from my MOH (who got married about 2 weeks before we got engaged) that “Yeah, I can do that now that I’ve got ALL SORTS of free time!”

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  18. Chantelle

    I think I AM going to print this up and frame it, and make my wedding party read it so that we’re all on the same page. Maybe I’ll send this to my family to let them know how the day’s going to go down.
    As always, wise words Meg :)

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  19. brindey

    Ohmygosh. My very favorite wedding writer on my very favorite wedding blog. (I’m a sucker for gorgeous pictures, Meg.) I literally twirled in my office swivel chair.

    I love the focus you bring with these words: what matters and what really doesn’t. Explaining what the job will be, in words that aren’t “look beautiful and be a gracious host.”

    Thank you!!!

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    • Meg

      “What the job will be” I like this, and the image of you spinning on your office chair :)

  20. Lerae

    Spot on, as always.

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  21. adria

    Love it!!

    I will need to print this and read it on my wedding day. Especially the part about it feeling pretty.

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  22. Kelly

    Thanks Meg! Great advice, as usual.

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  23. Rebecca Kathyleen

    Thank you for this post. I am a full time student, stressed to the max during finals, with a wedding in 16 days. I have a whole new outlook about my wedding day. From now on I am determined to enjoy the last days before ‘That One Day We Spent So Much Time And Money Planning’ and let someone else freak out for me.

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    • Meg

      That’s right!! Let them freak out for you. I’m thrilled, thrilled that I could help a tiny bit with your outlook.

    • Trudi

      I’m also getting married in 16 days too! Here’s to enjoying our weddings as they unfold

  24. Louba

    Thank you for posting this. Until Monday I was a fairly chilled out bride to be. I woke up on Monday morning thinking sh** I’m getting married in three months and I am so disorganised. Thank you for putting it all back into perspective.

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  25. ddayporter

    well that pretty much sums it up exactly. not that we expected anything else. and I agree 100% with Lisa, your wedding photos make me want to cry and laugh and jump around and frame them for my wall and it’s not even my wedding!

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  26. Abby-Wan Kenobi

    Always with the wise insights, Meg. My wedding day felt like nervous energy all morning, an out-of-body experience in the afternoon and like stepping off a rollercoaster after eating three funnel cakes in the evening. I think that was just about the right speed for me.

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  27. Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

    Yep. Great advice, especially the first point. :)

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  28. jolynn

    LOVE. I’m going to print and frame this, because it’s what I need.

    And totally can’t get past that amazing picture!

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  29. Nini

    So straightforward, Meg. That’s what I love about you.

    I think you hit all the important nails on the head. Especially the crazy family part. Even the most solid people can go a little off centre during wedding planning and the actual day.

    Like a wedding graduate once said to me when I confided in her about my Mama wedding woes, “My mom is a rational woman, really. But when I was getting married she used to call me six times a day to talk about her latest idea for centrepieces, or whatever she just saw on some wedding show she DVR’d. Weddings have this way of making even sane people crazy.”

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  30. camilla

    love this. thank you for speaking the truth!

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  31. Trudi

    I’m getting married soon. Since everything is pretty much ready to go, I’ve been left with my thoughts of how I want to feel and how I want things to look which I’ve been trying not to get too caught up on. This is a great refresher. Thanks, Meg!

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  32. Meghan

    Sage advice, Meg.

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  33. Brigitte

    This is fabulous advice. Agree with every last bit.

    My wedding day featured family drama. I struggled really hard not to bawl during the ceremony. I spilled RED WINE all over my dress.

    And it was the happiest day of my life.

    One thing I would add is that, for me, the day after the wedding was a bit like December 26. After the big party, it’s just the two of you. And while that’s wonderful, it is a sudden change.

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  34. dana

    Thank you for the amazing advice! I’ve heard this many times and I thank you for posting about it. I hope that I can begin the day w/o expectations and allow myself to truly live/feel every minute…good and bad.

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  35. Ms. Bunny

    Great roundup of advice Meg. You hit the nail on the head with this one.

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  36. Jen

    HA! I thought, “Yeah, my family IS crazy!” So I guess I’m in a good place on that one already?

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  37. Candace

    I am planning a wedding now and this post really spoke to me. Great read!

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  38. Shotgun Shirley

    Love it. I’m sending this to the fiance even. :)

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  39. lizzie

    beautiful post…i can’t wait to get to the part after…so much so that we’re having a hard time lately caring about the part before.

    i love the analogy that the day after is like december 26th….

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    • Meg

      To the point that we really just sorted through presents and laid around. We were smart enough to realize there was NO WAY we were going to be able to leave for our honeymoon that day, so we sort of chilled out, and thought about how it all went, and then went to sleep :)

  40. Rhiannon

    I am very grateful for this post.

    We’re 5 months out from our wedding and spending more time thinking and planning for our marriage than our wedding.

    You just countered all the hysterical lists and guidelines that I’ve had my head in my sand about and meanwhile becoming more stressed by my lack of action on the wedding front that I do even less of it.

    It’s going to be ok.

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  41. NC Heather

    Bravo! This guest post is like an APW cheat sheet. I am bookmarking it to re-read in my hours of need.

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  42. irisira

    I found that, because my wedding was somewhere other than the town I lived in, it made it easier to “let go” on the wedding day. If it wasn’t done by Thursday morning when we left (we got married on a Friday), then it wasn’t going to be done and we would have to improvise. We pulled close-to-all-nighters most nights in the days leading up to the wedding to get everything done. Then, we had a leisurely drive to the western part of the State which included a stop at a favorite brewery and a favorite fish fry place. We then had a lovely dinner with my in-laws, and then drinks later with my family.

    The next day, there were hair appointments and other assorted nonsense. I had no choice but to let go.

    This, for me, was great. I am not an event planner by trade, but I’ve done it numerous times and I am good at it. But I didn’t want to play event planner the day of my wedding, because I knew if I did I would let it take over the day.

    OH! And my family is totally batshit, but they actually WERE on their best behavior – better than expected, actually. Be wary, but give them some credit, too: they love you and want you to be happy.

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  43. Katie

    Can I “Exactly!” this post please? As always, a pleasure to read and right on target.

    And now please excuse me…I have to clean my screen off because I tried to make out with your gorg wedding pictures. They are truly dreamy and beautiful.

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  44. ka

    Oh wow. The only problem with your wisdom, Meg, is that there’s so much of it I don’t know what to say to the newly engaged-s around me, except “Go read APW…like all of it.” But now I have the perfect synopsis.

    Now if only a wedding elf somewhere could make a purdy print of this post, and I would have engagement gifts for a lifetime…

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  45. Maria

    Meg, you are so right. I have no pictures of me getting dressed because my mother was a great pain in the ass. But I didn’t cry, I didn’t get upset… you know what? Those are just pictures and I can totally skip myself getting dress. I have dozens of other happy pictures and I am just as happy as if I had taken those.

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  46. Angela

    Great Post! I whole-heartedly agree that its best to resist classifying your wedding day emotions as right or wrong. In fact, it’s good advice everyday!

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  47. fancy

    hands down the best, most helpful wedding post i have ever read. seriously.

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  48. Stacey

    Lovely, Meg. :) Thank you.

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  49. marlo

    Pretty is not an emotion!

    Exactly.

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  50. Rachel

    What a great post Meg! Well said on all points :-)

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  51. caitlindentino

    I just smiled thinking about the memory that when getting ready and my mom went whack-a-doo, that one of my girlfriends took control, and I just got to sit there and enjoy my make-up, sandwich and champagne.

    I know this isn’t what you meant, but I think I am going to try and spend more days like a bride, and let other people deal with sh*t, because it really isn’t mine. Thanks Meg for your (always) great words and (unintentional) reminder!!

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  52. Kaitlin

    Thank you for this. Just, yeah. ThankyouThankyouThankyou.

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  53. Callie

    THANK YOU for this wonderful post. I have just started planning my wedding, and these are wonderful tips to keep in mind throughout the entire process.
    thank you. from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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  54. Aarika

    I don’t know where to begin Meg, you have hit the nail on the head for the millionth time. I haven’t had my wedding yet but I was the MOH/wedding planner for my twin sister’s wedding this October.. and I very clearly remember our father yelling at me because things were getting behind on the ceremony.. and you know what, I’m thrilled that people unloaded on me instead of her, because you’re exactly right people freak out in high stress situations, and well weddings are wonderful but bloody stressful as well. I will try to keep all these mantra’s in mind for my wedding next year =)

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  55. Carolina

    Love, Love, Love this! So true! Great post and Great advice!

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  56. Eli

    Best thing I’ve read since I got engaged.

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  57. Monica

    This was such an encouraging post! :) Thanks so much for the wonderful advice!

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  58. Lisa

    Fantastic. I’m getting married next week and this is just what I needed to read :)

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  59. Sara Gray

    Congratulations, Kathryn! To the queen of weddings, I hope yours is wonderful!

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  60. Kate

    This is such a great post. I need to bookmark this so that I will read it 24 hours before my wedding. Thanks!

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  61. Amy

    Meg + Snippet and Ink??!! My mind just exploded from a mash up of two of my favorite blogs! :-) Great post, Meg!

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  62. A-L

    I got married almost two weeks ago and I’m still processing my emotions of the day. It sort of was what I expected, but sort of not, and it’s something I’m still reflecting on. Glad to know that I’ve got company!

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  63. LC

    Wise words that I read with immense pleasure, as I thought I was the only one sharing them (in my circle of friends anyway). My partner and I are engaged, the happiness I feel is not the one of going madly hyper, trawling wedding fares etc. I feel an amazing feeling of serenity and wholeness, I am happy to know I will be spending the rest of my life with a person I truly love and respect. I don’t even feel the wedding is going to be the best day of my life, I don’t crave it, I hope it will be a day of joy and laughter, lots of joyful laughter actually, with close friends and family. I’d like to think that rather than having one ‘best’ day of my life I will have many of simple, everyday things shared with my other half, which will make life worth living =)

    Thank you for sharing such humbling and down to earth words!

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  64. SM

    I recognize a little bit of my own experiences of my wedding day in everything you said. Being emotionally present for yourself and for your partner is really the most important thing and letting go after all those months of planning was for me a pure joy!
    I found that everyone we surrounded ourselves with on that day acted as wonderfully as they did because they were taking cues from us and we were just having a ball. But what has been the most special part of the whole experience is the indeed the marriage. Three months into it, I may feel as or more elated in the everyday moments we share than I did for those ten hours. Thanks for putting into such a clear perspective!

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  65. kbwb

    First time I’ve ever commented on a wedding blog post. Best wedding blog post I’ve come across. Well done. And thank you.

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  66. Aliza

    This post was such a beautiful relief to read. I’m getting married in May and I sent it along to my friend who’s getting married a few weeks after me.

    ALSO- that picture is amazing- anyone know where that woman got her shoes and dress? So fun!

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  67. kristen ~ k.holly

    This is perfect, and so true! Sharing it with my brides! :)

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  68. Linsey

    Meg-love the first photo of you. Are you flashing your cute bride panties at your new hubby? You sassy thing, you!

    “your job is to protect your own experience” I am cutting this out of the blog, blowing it up and hanging this phrase up in a gazillion places in my life. This doesn’t just apply to weddings: it applies to life. I can only be responsible for me. (Even though I really, really want everyone to function just as I do all the time. Okay, most of the time!)

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  69. the perfect palette

    best wedding blog post ever. this says it all. i believe that you really hit the mark. so important to not let yourself get upset with all that interferes with what your fantasy or idea of what your wedding will look like. In the end, so much will happen on your wedding day that you won’t expect. family drama, friend drama, wedding are intense. It’s important to try to just protect your own experience like you said. But when you’re in the moment, sometimes that’s so difficult because sometimes reality isn’t as “pretty” as an inspiration board :0) And mostly I’m referring to people’s attitudes and the stress that seems to come out during weddings–Never the less…it’s all about the marriage and that’s the key part to remember! Oh, and my best day ever was also on my honeymoon not the wedding!

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  70. Aoife

    What an amazing piece and so accurate! I think it should be compulsory reading for anyone planning a wedding. Thank you so much.

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  71. Liz

    Um, I am OBSESSED with this. As a newlywed I wholeheartedly agree with every word. Bookmarking it and sharing it with any and all brides-to-be I know. THANK YOU!

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  72. Hannah

    I stumbled upon this post, and boy did I need it! I got married 3 weeks ago and like others commenting, I’m still processing all the emotions from the night. It’s a lot to take in. I felt strange on my wedding day- not pretty, a bit awkward, and freaked by all the attention, but no matter what I felt I wanted to be completely present that day. Most likely the day will not feel like what you expect (mine didn’t), but it’s okay- just roll with it. When I look back at pictures- I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so big or so much! I had the time of my life, but I could have easily let all those silly feelings ruin my night. I’m just glad I’m not the only one who felt this way. Thanks so much! I’m passing this on to every bride I know!

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  73. lisa

    As I sit here with my fiance stressing about getting invites out, it was nice to read this with him. We both got emotional.

    Thank you for the reality check!

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  74. Alexandra

    Excellent advice for life, indeed. Great post! Bookmarked.
    (Here via APW!)

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  75. Rachel Peterson

    I agree so much with this post! When I was planning my wedding, I wanted it to be perfect, like everyone else, but I had other experience that helped me be more realistic. I worked at a yacht club and saw a lot of weddings, so I knew that on my wedding day, I kept remembering it wouldn’t be perfect, but what came after it was so much more important.

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  76. Event Coordinator Philippines

    This blog is amazing. It will let the soon-to-be newly weds to know that their wedding must not need to be perfect but it need to be real. This blog would help others realize that if your wedding day came, you just need to be real. You just need to focus to be happy. It doesn’t have to be as perfect as we dream. But it has to be as real as our life. That’s what wedding is. It should make you happy but it also should be real.

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  77. Unique wedding invitations

    I enjoyed reading your post. I hope many Brides-to-be will be able to come across this. Some may need some reminders not to stress out during the wedding planning.

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