My Exact Guide to Wedding SZN: The Q’s Before They Say “I Do.”

Mom, can you pick me up? People are getting married…

The sure-fire way to know you’re a semi-adult? You’re suddenly the one in charge of RSVPing to the elaborate 12 part invitation (with fancy cursive writing that you can’t even read).

I have been in my fair share of weddings:

  • Flower girl: 3
  • Bridesmaid: 5
  • Guest: 1 (bringing this up to 3 by the end of the month)

I also worked at a country club where I was a server at approximately one million weddings every summer. (If you’re wondering if the workers steal cake, you are 100% correct.)

Glamorous, magical, romantic, and all else weddings may be, does anyone really know the “rules” ? There are so many unspoken rules, and they all contradict one another. With all the different topics to consider, each one comes with its own set of questions and answers depending on if you’re the bride, the groom, a guest, in the wedding party, a guest’s plus one, close family, distant cousins, the girlfriend-of-the-step-brother-to-the-groom, or any of the many different types of people on the guest list. Let’s break it down:

Advice for the Bridesmaids

Apparently my eyebrows were not invited to the wedding on the bottom left, but you get the point: I’ve been in a lot of weddings.

So she says yes to him, and you say yes to her, so she can say yes to the dress, and they both can say “I DO”. If you just accepted a sparkly package with some champagne, a bath bomb, and a note asking if you will help walk a friend down the aisle, consider the following:

1. Save. Your. Money.

Engagement party. Bridal shower. Bridal shower gift. Bridesmaids dress. Bachelorette Party. Rehearsal dinner. Wedding gift. Hair and make-up costs. Outfits/food/Ubers/plane tickets/drinks— and if you are anything like me— a new curling iron because you left yours in the bathroom in the bachelorette party air bnb.

THIS IS NOT A DRILL. SAVE IT.

I promise you, you will thank me later. Some people drunk dial their ex, I would call my credit card company after two $25 dollar drinks and let them know “No, nope that charge is correct. My card isn’t stolen, this tequila just convinced me I was rich for a hot second.”

I have been in at least two weddings where the mindset of the group was “It’s the first wedding–we HAVE to go all out!!!!”

…It was in fact NOT my first wedding, and the only thing that is going all out is my SAVINGS ACCOUNT.

Let’s simmer down, or else the girl who gets married last in the group is getting an off-brand tube of toothpaste as a wedding present from me.

Tips For Saving For Wedding Festivities

  • Flights Track your flights early and often. Use apps like Hopper or Skiplagged to see if you’re getting the best deal. Google flights is another great tool to help see if you can get a price cut by adjusting the dates or airports. Life Hack: If you’re tracking flights online, set your browser to private because the FBI guy in your phone keeps track of what flights you keep checking and the prices will go up for you.
  • Avoid Checking a Bag if You Can. This only applies if you’re using an airline that charges for checked bags. One thing to keep in mind is how much you will need to bring. If you get that $90 Spirit flight for your four-day trip with the intention of packing everything into a personal item bag, be prepared to downsize your packing list. I am definitely on someone’s snapchat story being filmed in the Miami airport as I try and pack everything into my parka and personal item bag to avoid a $70 charge. Absolutely 0 shame. However, sometimes it’s worth it to get on an airline that has free checked bags.
  • Air BNB. Air BNB is the BEST. I have yet to have a negative experience and it typically costs way less than a hotel. Whether its for the actual wedding or the bachelorette party, it’s fun to have everyone in the same place. If you aren’t going to be spending a lot of time in the room anyway, get a cheaper one, and spend what you save on alcohol and food.
  • Be the Travel Agent for the Group. Although this is might be a daunting task, if you let someone set up the accommodations for the group who is not as money conscious, or has the whole “we have to go all out” mindset, you are in for a world of hurt when she dictates that the group will be ocean-side at the Ritz in Jamaica.
  • Pack Snacks. If you want to avoid spending a ton of money on overpriced food, snack often so drunk you doesn’t order the $40 mahi mahi at 4PM even though dinner is at 6:30PM. Unless its an incredible meal you’ll remember for the rest of your life- just get the cheapest thing on the menu.
  • Do your Own Hair and Makeup. I’ll touch more on this in my later section.
  • Money Saving Apps. Qapital is an app that lets you set up accounts for things you’re trying to save for, and then you set rules as to how money gets deposited. For example I have an account set up where every time I swipe my debit card, it will round up to $2 and put the extra into my account for later. It’s like putting away loose change. Mint is another great budgeting app that I use. However, make sure you set up your budget categories from the beginning because then it won’t accurately show how you spend your money.
  • Find Another Poor Bridesmaid. Split the gifts, share a room, and encourage each other to order off of the kids menu. It’s kind of like a gym buddy, but for financial health throughout the wedding.
  • Be an Outfit Repeater. If it’s not white, wear it again. Break into the clothes you haven’t worn in forever. You don’t need a new dress for every occasion. Borrow clothes if you need to. It’s not worth it, you can manage without the shopping spree.

With all of this in mind, I also need to highlight a few important things:

  • Do not complain about how much money you have had to spend to go to a wedding. It makes everyone feel uncomfortable. You are there to support the bride and groom. Chances are high that they are spending way more than you to put on a party for all the people they love.
  • Know your limits. Sometimes you have to say “no” and deal with the FOMO.

2. Dressing The Part.

You can complain about the dress, or shoe choice, or tacky matching bathing suits for a total of 10 minutes to someone not invited to the wedding. After that, I cannot even begin to express how irrelevant your opinion is in the grand scheme of things. (Can you tell this is a big pet peeve of mine?) Seriously though, worry about the things you can control. Do not be labeled as the complainer of the group. I promise you, that makes you look way worse than the booger colored dress she might want you to wear. When your day comes, you can send her down the aisle in whatever you want. For now? Shut up, dance, and spill cake on the dress so you never have to wear it again if you so choose.

3. Makeup and Hair

You Don’t HAVE To Get Yours Done

Out of the five weddings I have been a bridesmaid in, there was not ONE where I didn’t end up in the bathroom, scrambling to help a fellow bridesmaid wipe off her overwhelming amount of bronzer, or trying to take a few inches off of a teased up-do.

Personally, I love to do hair and makeup, (holla @ me if you want me to do yours), but don’t pay to get yours done just because you think you have to. If you typically don’t wear a lot of makeup, you probably should not spend $70+ to get your make up done unless you know the makeup artist personally, and/or feel comfortable enough to tell them if you don’t like it. Same goes for hair.

My Advice: Makeup

If you don’t know someone who can do your makeup, ask for only eye makeup and bring a picture. SPEAK UP if you’re unhappy. Don’t be rude, but normally artists want you to love their work, so tell them if you don’t like it, and they will probably fix it no problem. Just be clear about what you want from the beginning.

My Advice: Hair

I know everyone is different and some people are convinced that if they put their hair up, they’ll look like Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean (and not in a good way), BUT I recommend pinning up as much as you’re comfortable with. It’s so much more of a hassle trying to keep your hair in place when it’s down. If it’s pinned up, you can be free to boogie with the bride and groom instead of running back and forth to the bathroom all night.

**The “speak up” rule I mentioned for makeup also applies to hair.**

Gift Giving 101

Let me just say this: I am in no way qualified to put a price on your relationships with the happy couple. Gift giving isn’t the only way to measure how much someone loves/appreciates you. I would put more value on the effort made to be with me on my big day, and the thoughtfulness behind the gift. But that’s just me.

That is not to dismiss how awesome getting a really nice blender would be too though…

Everyone expresses love/appreciation in different ways.

This topic was the hardest for me to cover because everyone says something different. I have heard it all, and I’m sure you have too:

  • “If you are in the wedding, you can just get a shower gift.”
  • “Shower gifts are meant for people to shop off the registry, while wedding gifts are meant to be cash or check in the amount of the plate.”
  • “You get a present for both the wedding and the bridal shower.”
  • “People have showers as an excuse to unwrap the gifts early so they don’t have to worry about them after the wedding.”
  • “Any gift bought off of the registry counts as a wedding gift, even if bought for the shower.”
  • “Bridal shower gifts are more feminine gifts.”

After consulting multiple internet sources, young brides, my parents, my instagram following, and my personal experiences, I have decided on the following rules, and their exceptions:

General Rules

  • Engagement party gifts are not necessary, but they’re a nice gesture.
  • Bachelorette or Bachelor parties: unless the host asks for everyone to bring something for a game or something, a gift isn’t necessary. You may be held responsible for a “bride tribe” tank top though…
  • Check the registry–early. This is especially true if you don’t know the person well and you have no idea how to personalize a gift. Even if you don’t get something off the registry because you want to get them something more personalized, just check to make sure you aren’t getting them something that five other people already did. If you look on the registry and the only things left are the really expensive items, maybe find some other procrastinators and go in on a gift together.
  • What to spend: There is no right answer, but, you’re gift should probably fall within a $50-$150 range.
  • What you cannot give in price, you should try and make up for in thoughtfulness. Maybe you had to buy three plane tickets to be able to attend all of the bridal events or even just the wedding. Ultimately, that was your choice so you can’t use that as an excuse to give the couple a $20 gift card to Applebee’s, BUT they will most likely understand if you have to be less generous with gifts. If this is a close friend or family member, consider putting more personalization into your gift to make up for it.
  • If you were given a place to stay, a plus one, or any other amenities, consider putting more effort into the gift. Some couples put a lot of time and effort and dig into their own funds deeper than they were planning to, all to make sure that their guests have a good time with no hassle.
  • Consider the cost of the plate. (Cost of the plate typically means cost per person for those who may not know.) If you’re in a place to match that cost (you can call the venue to find out), you should do your best.

***An important, (but maybe not so popular with the bride and groom) point I want to make is: If you are choosing to spend your life savings on a wedding, that is your choice. Your guests will hopefully do their best to show their gratitude for the invite, but I don’t think it’s always fair to expect a gift that is comparable to the price of the plate. Especially if all of your guests are young and broke like me.

  • What you give is what you get. A lot of couples keep track of what their guests gave them so they can use that as a guide for when it’s their turn to give a gift. I really don’t think this is a tool to be petty, but understand what you give is probably going to be what you get, so think twice before you get your distant cousin that $20 gift card to Applebee’s.
  • Consider the values of the bride and groom: If you know the couple, you can usually tell if they put a lot of value in material gifts, or if they would rather a check to go towards their honeymoon. Just because people like receiving gifts, does not mean that they are “materialistic”, and just because people like to spend their money on experiences, doesn’t mean they don’t also need/like material things. All I mean is, don’t get the adventurous couple that lives in a hut on the beach a fine china set, and don’t give the shopaholic bride, a handmade coupon for “A Girls’ Night In” with you.

Some Creative Gift Ideas:

  1. Subscription to a Hello Fresh or a Blue Apron kind of thing
  2. Grocery store gift card
  3. Personalized doormat
  4. Something involving the coordinates of where they met (Pillow, Christmas ornament, wall decor…)
  5. A comprehensive first aid kit (I know this might sound weird, but what is more adult-y than having basic medicine in the house?!)
  6. Personalized wine label
  7. Christmas stockings
  8. Nice luggage tags/ passport holders if they’re going on an elaborate honeymoon

Advice for the Bride

I’m going to be honest here, I can’t give you the same advice you’d hear from your mom or grandma, but as a completely irrelevant third party who you may or may not know, and has never been a bride– here’s my advice after practically having a part-time job as a bridesmaid, and binge watching too much TLC:

1. Set a Time Frame To Drop your Stress

Whether you are a certified Bridezilla, or the only reason you didn’t elope is because your mom would have murdered you, planning a big event is stressful. My advice would be to set a time limit for your stress.

Promise yourself: once you step into the shower to get ready for the rehearsal dinner, you are finished. If Aunt Bertha makes a snarky comment about how your wedding dress doesn’t cover your shoulders, let it go. Everyone is going to have an opinion. Some people are going to be bitter about not being the center of attention, so they make comments that put them closer to the center attention (aka the reason the bride is crying).

That’s just the way the wedding cake crumbles.

I know you spent so much time going back and forth between what place card designs to use, but that is not what people will remember. The best and most fun weddings that I have been to have been weddings where the bride is focused on seeing and spending time with all the people that came to celebrate her, but also having a good time herself.

I have seen bridal meltdowns, family squabbles in the lobby before the ceremony, and weddings where they ran out of alcohol. Designate some trusted bridesmaids and groomsmen with any issues you might be expecting, and then focus on having a good time. You can insult Aunt Bertha’s bad wig another time.

2. Managing the Bridesmaids

A mashup of sisters, old friends, new friends, and future sister-in-laws, managing the bridesmaids can be overwhelming to say the least. A few things to consider:

Picking and Choosing

This is a tough one, and there is no right answer. You are probably going to offend someone, if not multiple people. Your aunt will be mad because you didn’t include your cousin (who you haven’t spoken to in years), your sister will be mad she isn’t the Maid of Honor (even though she lives across the country and couldn’t actually help with any of the wedding preparation), and your brother will be annoyed he has to be in the wedding at all because he will have to rent a tux.

At the end of the day, think of who you honestly want to be standing up there with you for your big moment. Don’t pick anyone if you’re only asking them to avoid drama. There are so many different ways to include all of the different people you love, without having one of those 50 person bridal parties (which is just stressful to look at). Here are a few of my ideas:

  • Invite all the people you want/can to the events before the wedding (bachelorette party, engagement party, bridal shower, etc.)
  • Ask people to be ushers, readers, or even in charge of dealing with a vendor. They might not want this job, but chances are, they want to feel needed. So don’t force it, but make the offer.
  • Give them an option to coordinate outfits. This might sound psycho but people want to feel like they matter. If you tell them it’s really important to you that you get a good picture with all of your high school friends, it might help soften the blow of not being a bridesmaid.

……Or they could tell you to shut up ’cause you’re being annoying. Good luck figuring out which one!!!!!!

Bottom line; do the best you can, but accept that someone is going to be annoyed or unhappy. If their only thrill in life is to be a bridesmaid in your wedding, they need a hobby. It’s not your job to make everyone happy over every last detail of YOUR wedding.

Create an Environment of Inclusivity

Yeah, maybe the hubby-to-be has a sister who has the personality of a door knob, or maybe is even straight-up MEAN. Fact of the matter is if she has to be in the wedding party, make her feel as welcome as possible.

Ask one of your outgoing bridesmaids to reach out and see if she would want to go in on a shower gift together, or help decorate for the bachelorette party. She might turn down all of your offers, but you will know you did everything you can (and you can tell her that when she tries to bring it up at Christmas every year from now on).

This tactic can also be used when mixing old friends and new friends. It’s pretty standard to have a diverse bridal party. Your friends who convinced you to cut your own bangs when you found safety scissors in the arts and crafts box in kindergarten have gotten to know you differently than your friends who held your hair back after your poor decision to chug a Mike’s Hard Lemonade at your first college party. Just because you value a friendship differently than another, doesn’t mean you value it any more or less. It can be tough with the pressure of trying to make everyone happy, but just do your best to let everyone know they’re important to you, and you’re glad that they’re there.

Dressing Your Bridal Party

You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, but the best advice I can give is: the more freedom you give your bridal party, the happier they will be. If you require a strapless dress, you can’t get mad if “Double D Debbie” in your bridal party ends up accidentally flashing Pop Pop in the middle of the ceremony.

Your best bet is giving specifics with colors and materials, but allow some room for personalization. Example: Navy blue, long chiffon dress, without beading, nude heels, and simple gold earrings.

Yeah it’s specific (and you might sound crazy), but if we could avoid giving Pop Pop a heart attack, I feel like we should.

Prioritize What You Want

This is a year that you are going to remember for the rest of your life. You might have been planning this day for years. A hard pill to swallow: your entire bridal party will not be able to revolve their lives and schedules around your wedding. If you’re getting married young, your friends are probably starting new jobs, or building their careers. That means they can’t be taking off a ton of time from work, pay for someone to take care of their dog, or afford three plane tickets.

If the most important thing is that you go to the Bahamas for your bachelorette weekend, understand that not everyone will be able to go, and don’t guilt trip those that really can’t make it. If your #1 priority is to have everyone together for the bridal shower, make sure its a reasonable location, and give people the option to opt out of other events if they need to.

3. Say “Please” and “Thank you”.

This might seem dumb to point out, but it isn’t assumed. Tell your family, bridesmaids, and groomsmen you appreciate any help they offer, any time they made your life easier as opposed to harder. It’s amazing how much you can cut down stupid drama by telling people that they are appreciated.

4. Be Straightforward About What/How Many Gifts You Want

If you assume your bridesmaids are mind readers, you WILL be disappointed. If you expect a present for the engagement party, bridal shower, bachelorette party, and wedding- let them know. Have a conversation with the Maid of Honor and ask if she will spread the word. If it’s uncomfortable to do that, make sure your invitations say “send gifts to _______”. It is so uncomfortable to not realize you were supposed to bring a gift and you have to say that it’s in the mail or something.

Advice For The Groom

Tbh, you are on you’re own. Chances are, if you’re a groom about to get married, you are not googling “what to do if you’re a groom”, so I doubt you will end up on this page.

BUT on the off-chance you’re here and you need advice:

  • Show up on time for events.
  • Don’t be wasted at aforementioned events.
  • Carry heavy gifts/decorations when needed.
  • Cry when you see her walking down the aisle. Take acting classes if neccessary. No need to weep, just a single tear will do.

…yep that’s all I got. Best of luck, my dude.

Advice For Anyone Giving a Speech

Keep it Short

Think “Gettysburg Address”. No need to go on and on about how much you love the new couple and how excited you are to see them happy. I hate to break it to you but probably everyone around you is thinking the same thing, so don’t be unoriginal.

Keep It Simple

If I hear any of you try to use your speech as an excuse to regurgitate an entire song, a Dr. Seuss book, or a poem you read in high school…I will lose it. I once heard a speech where the person just read the lyrics of “Wonder Wall”….?

I also respect the dedication of those who make their speech into a rap or song IF AND ONLY IF the sound is working properly and you can actually hear what you are saying. If this is the route you want to go, consider using a powerpoint with the lyrics as a visual aid. Remember: your audience has probably already started drinking, so it might be like trying to command the attention of a room full of eight year olds.

Keep It Sweet

Don’t go on for 2o minutes about the time the bride peed herself at a concert, or how the groom was a real skank before he met his bride. Don’t mention exes. Don’t bring up that short break up they had in college. If you think it might be a bad idea to mention, it probably is.

For The Rest of The Guests

I have only been a guest at one wedding so far, but I will do my best.

Girls: DO NOT WEAR WHITE ???

Don’t wear anything that could even be misinterpreted as white. No ivory, no cream, no light beige, no off-white, no white background with a floral print.

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Plus Ones

If you didn’t get a plus one, don’t ask for one. That is asking the couple to pay for another plate aka v rude. If they wanted your bf of six weeks to come, they would have given you one. If you did get one, don’t bring someone you barely know. That has disaster written all over it.

Dress Codes

I will give you my suggestions, but typically the dress code varies depending on the venue and time. When in doubt: it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.

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Bridesmaids/Lady Guests

Bridal Shower: Think “Sunday Best”. A nice sun dress or a cocktail dress that would make your Grandma proud (unless you have a slutty grandma). If the dress might be too casual, dress it up with some heels. If you think it might be too fancy, go with wedges or flats.

Rehearsal Dinner: Kind of the same deal, but pay attention to the venue. If it’s at the wedding venue, it might be on the fancier side. If it’s at a local pizza place, you’d be fine with a sundress or something in that realm.

Wedding: If you don’t have your dress picked out already, here’s your guide:

  • Casual: don’t show up in jeans but a casual dress would probably do the trick.
  • Cocktail attire/ Semi-Formal: Self explanatory.
  • Beach Wedding: Something that won’t get gross in the sand/ make you look sweaty.
  • Formal/ Black Tie Optional: Think “prom” minus all the trends of going in sneakers. An opportunity to get fancy if you’d like.
  • Black tie: Your best bet is a formal floor length gown.
  • White Tie: This is like “brb, going to the Oscar’s/ White House Ball”, so bust out yo ballgown, gal.

Fellas

Can’t say I am too much help here, but I’ll do my best:

  • Just kidding, I have no clue.

And They All Lived Happily Ever After…

Whether you’re a bride, a groom, a bridal party member, or a guest, I hope you enjoy all the weddings you attend this wedding season. If ~Wedding SZN~ is just starting for you: Just accept poverty at this point and hope they enjoy their stupid blender and life-long love, or whatever.

…because ready or not- wedding season is happening, ladies and gents.

Let me know what you think! Please leave a comment.

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