Just try to get through one bridal magazine without seeing an article about stress. True brides, the mags will tell you, have to be doing some stressing of some kind.
Why else would they come out with the obligatory ‘How To Have A Stress-Free Wedding’ or ‘Are You A Bridezilla? Take Our Ultimate Test’ every freakin’ month.
But it can be very stressful.
All of a sudden, you’re feeling the pressure over things you never thought possible like learning exactly how many shades of ‘white’ are actually out there, and if you’re not feeling anxious about it, you start to stress that you’re not stressing.
At least stuff like colour themes and centrepieces and matching velour trackies for your ‘maids are things that can be somewhat controlled. If they’re too fussy or too green or too matchy-matchy, you can change your mind or dump the idea and move on.
But there are a few things that can add to the stress levels of a bride that can’t be controlled. One is the weather, and the other is, well, people.
If on her wedding day the bride is being particularly icy or curt, it could be good ol’ fashioned stress. And maybe, without realising it, these people – while well-intentioned – are making it so much worse.
Ah yes. This colourful character can sometimes find themselves a little too ‘Pantoned’, especially when an open bar is thrown into the mix.
You may love your Uncle Eric, but sheesh, the anticipation of whether he’s going to unleash the ‘hilarious’ racist jokes or start getting a bit blue with the girls you invited from work can really upset any party host, let alone a bride and groom. Especially since he could very well court both scenarios.
Maybe the Uncle Eric character in your family may not even be a man but the point is, a bride needs one or two in her corner who can wrangle these people when they start to shuffle over the line of being funny and good-natured to being an inappropriate pest.
Two guests of mine got really hammered at my wedding but it wasn’t until a week later I found out exactly how much so. My brothers and The Mister totally took control of the situation before I had a chance to even be aware of that there even was one.
– You might think it’s the best idea on the planet (and if you’ve had a couple of sherbets you will be convinced) to give an unsolicited speech about the happy couple. You might end up saying something delightful but that’s not the point. While you’re up there waxing lyrical, the bride will be freaking out underneath her NARS makeup. Brides generally don’t like surprises, especially if the surprise involves an impromptu speech that either belongs at a rowdy 18th, a funeral, or a big beige boardroom. And if you’re the one doing the speech, that scorching feeling isn’t just the embarrassment, it’s the bride’s white-hot eyes boring into the back of your skull as she motions to the Best Man to wrangle the mic off you.
– I’ll admit I am a ‘big’ dancer. I could send the people around me into triage with my Kate Bush or Beyoncé-esque dance styles. As a ‘big’ dancer, you also run the risk of becoming the barefoot dancer. While there is nothing hugely wrong with this and it’s not always a ‘thunder stealer’ per se (here I go justifying myself), it’s best not to launch into ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ before the bride and groom have had their own first dance, or at least indicated that it’s OK to start cutting the rug. Also, it’s not OK to bring back the Lambada with the groom. Or his dad. Or Uncle Eric.
– Children. Oh children. How cute they can be at weddings all trussed up in mountains of polyester. But kids are kids, and children don’t always know what to do or how to behave at weddings. And it’s not just the rowdy, precocious ones either. I’ve seen shy children turn an entire crowd’s attention away from the I do’s. I even noticed how the bride couldn’t give her soon-to-be-husband’s vows her undivided attention as she had one squinted bride stink-eye on the carefree babe. I don’t blame anyone who wouldn’t want children at their wedding: less stress for brides, less stress for the little ones.
– There is nothing wrong with loving the high-drama outfits by Forrester Creations, but unless you’re the bride (seriously, if Hope ends up marrying Wyatt I’m going to scream), I would rethink the champagne ivory white halter dress for a wedding. I mean, it’s always good form to congratulate your fashion twin on their fabulous taste when you wear the same outfit as a wedding guest, but it’s not so good when it’s the bride.
– Social media spoilers are a new kid on the Thunder Stealers block. If the invitations say something like ‘put your phones away, I want to see faces not interfaces’ or ‘no uploading to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram’, you’re going to have to take it seriously. If you blatently hop on Facebook while people are finding their seats at the reception, the bride will immediately assume (rightly or wrongly) you’re uploading pictures – which is exactly what she wanted to avoid. Don’t stress her out. Put your phone away. Wait until the next day.
– Also, if you have some personal news to share, put some thought into whether you really want to announce it at someone else’s wedding. I get that it’s probably super-convenient with everyone already in the one place, but gee whiz, like the social media spoiler, wait a day, huh?
When a couple sets the date and books the venue for the Big Day, the hourglass flips and the sandy countdown begins.
However the sand runs out quicker for some than for others.
The night before the wedding, vendors such as florists, function centre managers, councils, photobooth providers, bunting makers, hay bale delivery dudes and caterers should lose the bride’s direct number. By now, they should know what is going on. If they don’t, they need to contact someone other than the bride to find out. Assuming there is no wedding planner, a loose hierarchy of who to contact would be something like this:
- Maid/Matron of Honour
- Mother of the Bride
- Best Man
Before The Mister and my mum instinctively unburdened me by telling vendors and guests that any questions go through them first, I found myself getting unnecessarily alarmed over really simple and well-meaning questions like ‘what time do you want the first drinks served?’ and ‘is there a back door and a service lift?’ and ‘What’s the address of the reception?’
I never thought I would want to pass the reigns on to others but after I did, the relief I felt was breathtaking.
The same goes for those that have out-of-towners flying or driving in or guests at a destination wedding.
In the 24 hours leading up to the wedding, instead of ringing the bride or knocking on her hotel room door for the third time asking ‘where’s a good place for us to hang out before the wedding?’ or ‘who’s skippering for the Lannisters?’ or ‘what should I wear?’, get in contact with the groom, another guest, or hey, the concierge.
The bride should be your absolute last resort. That’s if she’ll even answer her phone.
The shag on a rock
It doesn’t tend to happen on your 16th birthday, or very much on your 18th or 21st, but your 30th, 40th and various housewarmings to come, it happens all the time.
Your different circles of friends converge, making one big awkward oblong.
If I’m a guest at one of these parties (the last one was a one-year-old’s birthday), I usually end up being the weird friend that hangs around in the kitchen, desperate for a platter to hand around so I’m at least doing something.
If you’re invited to a wedding and you don’t get a plus-one and don’t know anyone else but the bride or groom, yes, that’s really tough, what’s tougher though is to yank a fancy wooden board of antipasto from waitstaff to hand around as your go-to method of mingling.
But you can’t exactly hang around the only people you know – the bride and groom.
You probably already feel like a shag on a rock if you’re only making conversation with bride, but you have to back off – not because they’re the untouchable la-dee-dah Bride and Groom – they are also the hosts. And rule number one of being a host of any party is to be on high-alert making sure your guests are fed, watered and comfortable – the more guests, the more thinly your host is spread among them. Dial that up to 1000 for a wedding.
So while you may not be immediately obvious to why you’ve been seated at Table 7, but if the bride and groom are smart and considerate of your one-ness, you’ll probably find it was no fluke at all to why you’re on a table of like-minded people. Hopefully.
If you’re at a cocktail reception with no designated seating, summon your best Fräulein Maria’s ‘I Have Confidence’, put your phone away and make an effort to talk to some friendly-looking people with a cliched conversation starter such as ‘so how do you know the happy couple?’ Wash, rinse, repeat.
Brides, if your lone friend from highschool is shadowing you and it’s getting on your nerves, as you make your way around the room introduce them with thoughtful detail, a la Bridget Jones-style: ‘Sheila, this is Daniel. Daniel, this is Sheila. Sheila enjoys horse-riding and comes from New Zealand.’
If worse really does come to worse, commandeer a bridesmaid, your brother, your mum or your cousin to lure them away with promises of a drink or a prawn cocktail.
In 1995, my last year of high school, I was elected into my school council. I’ll be honest, I was chuffed that out of 150 girls in my year I was one of 12 (the actual twelfth) selected. And true to typical Twelfth Man style, I didn’t do anything.
Except one thing.
The school ball seating chart. Seriously, that’s all I ever did. But it turned out I had a knack for it. Which came in handy for doing the seating chart for my own wedding.
Except, instead of just putting my group of mates on the most accessible tables to the dance floor and sticking the meanies near the loos, this time I had to deal with the ugly and very real-life problem of negotiating my way around family politics.
The trick being, how to settle on an arrangement that, by the end of the night, people who had no idea of the tension, would leave the wedding remaining none the wiser.
That part of the seating chart was hell. And sad. To this day, I’m not even sure if there were any bristly exchanges – I sincerely hope that was because people knew how to behave at a wedding. I’m convinced they spent the whole afternoon and night avoiding the other, which to me sounds exhausting.
So how do you minimise the possibility of your wedding turning into The Red Wedding?
Separate those involved on different tables. Like children.
Don’t invite them. Which is far easier said than done and runs yet another risk of you passively-aggressively involving yourself in whatever family dispute is going on. Which is super-duper counter-intuitive since we’re trying to reduce stress here, right?
Elope. Which, I know, is the go-to answer for any wedding problem that crops up, but if the problem is so deep-seated, perhaps you should seriously consider it – or have an ‘immediate family only’ wedding.
On the day, you’re not going to be able to control everything (it rained at my wedding) but at least you can work a plan to try and delegate who, other than you, is going to tackle it.
Because it’s coming whether you’re ready or not.
Try and be ready.