The Wedding Basics, Step Two: The Budget

So, your guest list is finished! Now you have to start thinking about the money.We know, that almost made you close your browser, right? This is no one’s favorite topic. But we promise you’ll feel so much better once you’ve got all the numbers nailed down! Here’s how to land on your final budget without running away screaming.

pexels-photo-128922-448x194.jpeg

Who’s Paying for This Party?

If you and your partner are solely funding this event, then this step is easier. Take a look at what’s in your bank account, and figure out how much of it you want to spend.

…Okay, that may not be as easy as it sounds. Some things you might want to take into consideration are how big you’re imagining the wedding to be and what you can’t live without. Maybe it’s a great photographer or a top-notch meal. But whatever it is, start getting some quotes from local vendors to figure out what’s feasible with what you’ve got. And no matter what things are most important, it’s also good to start getting an understanding of the things that will probably cost the most no matter what, like the venue and catering.

But let’s talk for now about if someone else is paying for your wedding. You may know right off the bat if your family is willing to contribute, but if you don’t, please borrow our script on how you can non-awkwardly ask them:

“Hey [Mom/Dad/Aunt Betty]! We’re so excited to start planning our wedding, and are sitting down today to get the budget figured out. There’s no pressure to contribute, but we wanted to find out now if there’s anything you felt strongly enough about having at the wedding that you’d like to help pay for it. If not, then we’ll just look forward to celebrating with you on the day-of! Can’t wait!”

Obviously feel free to adjust this as needed, but what we hope to accomplish here is both to find out if anyone wants to contribute and also to set the clear ground rule that if your family really, really, really wants you to have flowers at the wedding, and you personally don’t care if there are flowers or not, then they can either offer to contribute them or accept your final call on where the money gets spent. Which leads us to…

The Payments and the Power

If you’re paying for the wedding entirely on your own, you may wind up having a smaller affair, but you also get to completely decide every detail. If someone else is paying for it, then like it or not, their opinion matters.

Obviously, this is still your wedding, so you’ll need to decide how much control you’re willing to give away. If someone offers to, say, pay for your wedding outfit, but then will only pay for it if you pick the one they like, maybe that’s money you don’t want to take.

The best way to work with the people paying for your wedding is to start laying down ground rules from the get-go. What are you willing to compromise on? What absolutely has to stay the way you’ve pictured? Try to have a conversation with the person who’s funding the wedding about what accepting that money means and how much of a say that person is now expecting to have. Getting these big, hard conversations out of the way early on will mean a much more relaxed wedding planning process down the line.

Where the Money Goes

Once you’ve got your budget all figured out, you have to decide where to spend it. Let’s get back to talking about where you want the money to go. What’s most important to you? Being able to invite whoever you want? Decor? Hair and makeup? Narrow it down to three things that are really important to you so that when you have to start making hard choices, you know what’s been important to you from the get-go.

One of the things that was most important to my husband and me was inviting the guests we wanted to invite and making sure they felt comfortable. That meant arranging shuttles to and from their hotels, hosting a brunch the day after the wedding so we could spend more time with them, and putting together lists of things they could do if they were traveling from out of town and staying a few extra days in our city. Overall, this meant more of our time and money went to our guests than to many other parts of our wedding, but that’s what made us happy.

So, what will make you happy? You may not be able to have everything on your list in just the way you pictured, but by picking a few key things that you want your time and money to go to, you’ll still wind up with a wedding you can happily tell stories about for the rest of your life.

Lifting the Veil: The History Behind One of Our Oldest Wedding Traditions

pexels-photo-208215-448x194.jpeg

Wearing a veil to your wedding is a tradition with roots so deep that it predates white wedding gowns. And like many other wedding traditions, this one exists because of the patriarchy. We’re all surprised, I’m sure. That said, I still wore a veil to my wedding. I’ll get to my own reasoning why, but first, let’s ask a much bigger “why:” why do we wear veils at all?

Origin of the Bridal Veil

From Judaism to Christianity to Hinduism, wedding ceremonies have involved veils for thousands of years. Ancient cultures used veils to hide the bride from evil spirits, but as time went on, veils became a symbol of purity and chastity – yet another way to signal to everyone present that the bride was a virgin. There’s some speculation that in the cases of arranged marriages, the veil was lifted from the bride’s face so she could be presented to the groom either right before or after the ceremony for approval. The “right before the ceremony” lore says that the groom and his family had to make sure they were being given the right daughter and weren’t the victims of a bait-and-switch. The “after the ceremony” lore says that the veil is lifted after marriage in case the groom doesn’t like what he sees. Then the marriage is already finalized and he can’t back out.

And these are all lovely traditions surely designed to make women feel wonderful about themselves.

Sheesh.

A funny side effect of those long-ago veils from Ancient Greece and Rome? They were floor length and flame-colored, and while they definitely obscured the bride’s face, they also obscured her vision. That’s why brides were walked down the aisle by someone. They couldn’t see and someone had to make sure the bride wouldn’t trip and fall.

The Veil in Everyday Life

Veils weren’t just a symbol of the bride – they were (and in many places, still are!) a symbol of being a married woman. In Ancient Rome, wearing a veil signified that you were under your husband’s control. Conversely, not wearing a veil meant your marriage was dissolving. By the Middle Ages, this had evolved into a married woman covering her hair, but not her face. Christianity and Judaism continued to slowly eliminate the veil as a mandatory item of clothing, replacing it with hats (sometimes with a short piece of lace attached) or head scarfs. But the veil is still used in many religions as a symbol of purity. Consider, for instance, the last time you saw a statue or painting of the Virgin Mary. She was wearing a veil, wasn’t she?  

For remaining such a staple in wedding culture, and for having such deep roots in religions around the world, the veil has become a controversial topic, particularly in regards to Muslim women. Some countries have gone as far as to ban veil-wearing by Muslim women, including France. It’s the subject of a lot of heated discussion across Europe, the UK, and the US. Who would have thought that such a small piece of fabric would cause such a ruckus?

So, Do You Want to Wear a Veil to Your Wedding?

I did. My husband is Hindu, and for the Hindu portion of our ceremony, I was required to wear a veil to show my respect to the deities as well as to the elders present. My mother-in-law had a veil made for me, and my sister-in-law put it on me at the appropriate moment.

And since our wedding was all about combining worlds (I am not Hindu), I decided to wear a western-style veil for the western portion of our wedding. For me, it was about celebrating the traditions of both of our cultures. Though I will mention that I lifted my own veil from my face before the ceremony started. It felt like a nice way to honor the past while embracing a more independent, feminist future.

If you’re considering wearing a veil, you might want to ask yourself what’s important about it to you, and how much the sometimes-troubling history of the veil means to you.

Either way, the same rule applies to veils as well as to everything else on your wedding day: your wedding gets to look however you want it to. Wearing a veil can be wonderful, but not wearing a veil doesn’t make you any less married.

Did you or are you considering wearing a veil to your wedding? Why or why not?

Wedding Planning Basics, Step One: The Guest List

So you got engaged, you and your fiancé have spent a couple weeks basking in the glow of happiness, and now you’re coming out of the haze and realizing you need to plan a wedding (did anyone else just think, Oh, sugar?) While I’m sure there are five dozen different ways to take a concrete first step, I’m going to definitively declare a clear winner here: make a guest list. Knowing who, and how many, folks you plan to invite gives you and your sweetheart a jumping off point for what your wedding looks like. So, how to go beyond putting together a comprehensive list of your family and friends? Read on…

Call your mom (or dad. Or other important/influential parental figures).

Close family will likely have an idea of who you should invite, and if you’re thinking about a guest list of over 20 people, it’s good to ask for their opinion (opinion being the operative word).

Doing so will will give you an idea of exactly how big or small your relatives are envisioning your wedding will be, which gives you a great excuse to start practicing loving but firm conversations tempering those expectations. It won’t all be rough conversations, though; their input gives you an extra set of eyes to make sure you didn’t accidentally leave off anyone important.

pexels-photo-104972-448x194.jpeg

“Hey, stranger at Starbucks. Want to come to our wedding?”

If you’re my husband, you don’t just call your parents and grandparents for a list. You involve everyone, like  siblings and great aunts and make an enormous list of people who could be invited. That third cousin you’ve only met once? Absolutely they should come. Your siblings’ ten best friends? How could the wedding even happen without them! After a couple weeks of gathering names, you look at an Excel spreadsheet with five different tabs for various branches of the family plus your friends, and you add up all the names, and you discover there are 600 people listed there, and then you invite them.

Yes. All six hundred of them.

Why did we do this? Simple. The guest list was, easily, the thing my husband cared most about. He wanted absolutely everyone we wanted to invite to get invited.

Calculating out who would realistically come to our wedding, my husband and I were left with a grand total of three venues where we could host our nuptials. And then we could move on to deciding everything else.

What is that magical everything else?  

Maybe you’ll draw a lot more hard lines than we did about how many people ultimately get a save-the-date, or maybe you’ll do what we did and start inviting people we’d met the week before. But in either case, it’s going to be the first big discussion you have with each other and your family about what this wedding might look like, and it’s going to determine everything that comes afterwards: the venue; the catering; the size of the dance floor. It will also, most importantly, give you an idea for about how much you should budget.

And hey, maybe you’ve always dreamed of getting married in the same church your parents got married in, and it seats 20 and so that’s how many people are going to get invited. Great! But unless you already know of a solid reason why the guest list shouldn’t be the first thing you knock out, then officially consider this your first step.

How to elope: four steps to making it happen without hurting everyone’s feelings

My older brother and his wife considered eloping. They talked to their families and friends about it, and everyone had pretty much the same reaction: we’d all understand and support them, and we’d all have our feelings hurt. They weighed the pros and cons, and wound up combining some ideas so they could still have the small, intimate ceremony they wanted while also giving their friends some space to celebrate them.

If you’re thinking about eloping, my guess is that one main question is stopping you from just getting a license and doing it tomorrow: how many people are going to be mad at you?

We’ve got some tips for getting through the process with the most care possible.

Step one: creating space for feelings

Whether you elope and then tell everyone afterwards or tell everyone you’re going to elope before you actually do it, people are going to be upset that they can’t be there. Maybe it’s born out of genuine love and desire to celebrate your union, or maybe it’s one really opinionated relative who’s going to be mad if you do anything but the exact wedding they’ve pictured for you.

In either case, your friends and family are going to have feelings to express. And you don’t have to change your plans to accommodate their feelings, but you really should listen to them and acknowledge you’ve heard them. (I say this on the assumption that these are people you love and want to maintain a relationship with. You do not have to listen to your toxic friends/family members unleash their anger on you. Self-care, folks.)

Step two: draw some boundaries

Develop a sense of what you’re willing to compromise on and what you’re not. Would you be okay with a party somewhere down the line? Dinner afterwards with a few people? Sending out cards/emails to announce your union? Figure out what you feel comfortable doing to include others while maintaining some amount of privacy. If you have some ideas up front, great! You can tell your friends/family exactly how they’ll be included when you tell them you’re eloping. If you don’t, also great! When you tell the above-mentioned awesome people in your life about eloping, you can also tell them you know they’ll want to be included somehow and get their thoughts about what they’d like to do that doesn’t essentially mean “having the big wedding you don’t want to have.”

And then — here’s the hard part — don’t let people talk you into something you know you’d hate.

You can’t preserve everyone’s feelings. But you can show some love to the people who love you so they don’t think you don’t care, and then stick to your plan.

Step three: make it awesome

Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you can’t have some of the traditional wedding stuff if you want it. Get your hair and/or makeup done if it would make you feel special. Hire a photographer. Send out cards.

As someone who loved the idea of eloping and couldn’t do it for a myriad of reasons, please steal my plan to wear a flower crown and get married at the Ventana Inn in Big Sur, CA. And send me pictures, maybe.

Step four: you only get one wedding, unless you want to have more of them, and then you get as many weddings as you want

If you really want to elope, and if your friends/family just can’t handle it, remember that your options aren’t “elope OR having a wedding.” You can elope AND have a wedding.

My cousin and her husband secretly went to a courthouse and got married, had photos taken, and went out to a kickass dinner. And then a year later, they had a wedding. By that point, they’d been married a while, they were happy, and their families still wanted to do a big celebration, so when it finally didn’t feel stressful or like a huge financial burden, they went ahead and had that huge wedding.

You get to design whatever kind of wedding works for you. Going into it with your eyes wide open and plenty of space to have emotional conversations will make a world of difference.

Anyone out there who wants to elope or did elope? What are your best pieces of advice to those still wondering how they’ll manage it?

The great compromise: wedding planning

Every once in a great while, I hear about engaged couples who have the exact same vision for their wedding. For them, planning just means getting all the vendors booked (no small task in itself). And then there’s the rest of us.Wedding planning, in my experience, is a giant series of compromises.

I now pronounce thee overwhelmed

My husband and I think about almost everything in exact opposite terms. We’re on the same page for all the really important stuff — what we want out of life, what joy we find in new adventures, whether we want kids, and how much Netflix is too much Netflix (answer: no amount). Generally, it’s something we both enjoy about our relationship, but the wedding brought into focus how much we could differ on really simple questions. Here’s a partial list:

Big or small wedding?

Long or short ceremony?

Religious or non-denominational?

Get married inside or outside?

Should we have a first dance?

Should we see each other before the ceremony?

Do we want flowers as centerpieces?

Are we fine with the black folding chairs the venue provides or should we rent different ones?

Write our own vows or not?

How many people in the wedding party?

And here’s the complete list of things we agreed on right off the bat:

Do we want cake? (Yep.)

How many flavors of cake? (Three.)

Cake tasting was definitely our strong point in the whole process.

But outside of dessert, we knew right away we’d need to have a lot of long, emotional conversations about everything in the wedding. Around the point that we got to “wow, we both have really strong feelings about chairs,” I was so. Done.

chairs
chairs

How to compromise when you both have strong opinions

Our saving grace as we moved through the wedding was this question: Who cares most about this?

He cared most about chairs. I cared most about centerpieces. Sometimes the small details meant the most to our families; my mom definitely cared most about whether or not I walked down a traditional aisle, and his cared the most about having a brunch the day after the wedding.

It didn’t mean we were suddenly able to relinquish the things with grace and let someone else handle it since it clearly held more meaning for them, but it got easier with time, and eventually, it even felt great to let go of some stuff, and to give myself permission to let someone else care about certain details instead.

But sometimes, the simple truth was that we both cared exactly the same amount.

“And” instead of “or”

I’m not religious. My husband is.

I tried really, really hard to get comfortable having a religious ceremony because it was important to him.

But about six months before the wedding, I realized I was never going to be okay with it. I felt like I wasn’t being represented, because even though I don’t have religious beliefs, I still have beliefs about our life together and our relationship, and I wanted those to be discussed, too.

So when it became clear that I’d be unhappy having a religious ceremony and he’d be unhappy not having a religious ceremony, we just…decided to have both.

A lot of couples in our situation wind up having two ceremonies, usually accompanied by a break between them and an outfit change. But we had this vision of one ceremony with two officiants, combining everything that was important to us. That’s actually how I first met Vow Muse, and we sat down with them for a couple hours outlining everything we needed to have happen. They worked with our religious officiant to blend things together seamlessly. When I first read the ceremony draft they’d created, a weight lifted off me. I felt so much better, and so much more represented, and overall our ceremony just really felt like us.

It went so well, we wondered why we hadn’t just been doing what we both wanted all along. Though, admittedly, I’m not sure this strategy would have worked as well with the chairs situation. Overall for us, it meant a less traditional wedding, but also a way more personal one, and in the end, that’s what really mattered to us: that we felt like ourselves.

What are the big compromises you’re making or have made? Was anyone else really surprised that their partner cared so much about chairs? (I just really didn’t see that coming, guys.) Give us your best tips!

DIY Edition: How To Actually Enjoy Your Destination Wedding

Photo by Justin Bench at 1takewonders.com
Photo by Justin Bench at 1takewonders.com

Destination weddings aren’t for everyone. The sun, the umbrellas in the cocktails, not to mention hanging out with your friends and family nonstop for a few days — ugh, sounds terrible! Ok I’m (mostly) kidding. But seriously, if you dream about picking the right texture of frosting for your caramel frappuccino chocolate cake and are excited by the challenge of finding a third gluten-free, vegan appetizer so your second cousin will have something to eat, then the laidback vibe of a destination wedding might not be for you.

If, on the other hand, you’re down for an adventure with your besties that might not go exactly as planned, but is sure to be memorable, then you might be a candidate for a destination wedding! I chose a destination wedding in Hawaii to save money,  keep the guest list short, and get an affordable, intimate weekend trip with our closest friends. We hung out on the beach,  grabbed food together,  took hikes — it was like we were at summer camp, in paradise and with our BFFs.

So how do you enjoy your destination wedding and not get drawn into the drama and details that can accompany any wedding?

  1. Decide (early) what’s important

My fiance and I talked  extensively before the wedding about what mattered. We even settled on a theme to guide us: love is the greatest adventure! We wanted a meaningful ceremony, so we spent time and got help (thanks Muses!) writing our vows and ceremony. Quality time with our guests was key, so we planned shindigs before and after the ceremony. And we really wanted money left in the bank when it was all over. So for something like food, we looked for great Yelp reviews and moved on with our lives. (And ended up with delish Hawaiian BBQ , without agonizing over the exact menu — time and money saved!)

  1. Don’t compare your wedding to a traditional wedding

You can’t compare a destination wedding to a detailed, super-planned hometown wedding — it will only lead to disappointment because something will inevitably go “wrong.”

For example, we didn’t account for the tide, so our beach wedding got moved from the sandy shore to a bluff with the ocean in the background.

Let go of that image in your mind, of the other wedding you could have had. The sooner you stop comparing the two, the sooner you can enjoy the wedding you’re actually having!

Photo by Justin Bench of 1takewonders.com
Photo by Justin Bench of 1takewonders.com
  1. Delegate, delegate, delegate!

Regardless of if you’re going with a package wedding at a resort or a complete DIY on the beach, there will still be decisions to be made once you arrive. But if you already decided what you care about, everything else can be handled by deferring to your proxy.

This part is worth repeating: defer to your proxy.

My elementary school teacher friend  (read: organized, action-oriented and great at wrangling people) stepped up and fielded the questions I didn’t care about. Eventually, I realized I was redundant, looked her in the eye and said, “Thank you, I trust your judgment,” and then left to do some yoga before the ceremony.

Decide ahead of time who is making the decisions you don’t care about and then let them do their job!

  1. Pick your battles

Weddings equal at least a little bit of drama. People will ask you if the decorations are just right, if the bridesmaid dresses are all the same amount of wrinkled, if there’s enough food. Remember, everyone means well: they just want everything perfect for your big day.

Does your soon-to-be mother-in-law have really strong feelings about how the tables should be set up, and you couldn't care less? Let her win this one, because it’s really a win-win. You don’t have to make the decision and she gets what she wants.

If you did step one, you know what the most important aspects of your wedding — focus on those, try to let everything else go and practice saying “I trust your judgment” while smiling and walking away from the drama.

Photo by Justin Bench at 1takewonders.com
Photo by Justin Bench at 1takewonders.com
  1. Enjoy!

Do what you need to do before your wedding to be present and relaxed. The morning of my big day I started off trying to do too much — prepping food, consulting on decorations — instead of letting my wonderful friends handle all the things, thus stressing myself out. I eventually left the prep area, and made time for myself to get excited about what was happening: marriage!

My advice: Decide ahead of time what you want to do before the wedding, instead of micromanaging the details, so you can pack any necessary supplies like a yoga mat or running shoes.

Last thoughts

Half the fun of a destination wedding is that the fun doesn’t end after the ceremony. We scheduled a brunch, beach time and another dinner for the next day. What do you and your fiancee love doing? Rock-climbing? Surfing? Treasure hunting? Plan activities that reflect both your personalities (and  consider your friends’ lifestyles). Just make sure to give your friends and family a heads up on all the extra activities so they can come early and stay late!

Are you considering a destination wedding? What questions do you have?

Tami Weiss is a writer, photographer and environmentalist living in Santa Cruz, CA. Her favorite hobbies are brunching, reading, organizing and yoga-ing. 

Jewelry Bender: Engagement Rings for Men?

In today's edition of “the patriarchy hurts us all,” let's look at how one-sided wedding jewelry has been since the middle ages. Did you know men didn't even regularly wear wedding bands until the 20th century? But now in century 21, thanks to the rising spread of equality and the slowly-being-chipped-away wall of traditional gender roles, we've arrived at a really simple, really basic concept about wedding and engagement rings: if you want to wear them, you should, and if you don't want to, you shouldn't. Moment of silence for how long it took us to reach this conclusion. One of the last bastions of “this is only for ladies” in weddingland is engagement rings, and it's high time we stopped indulging that fantasy. In an effort to be part of the solution and not the problem, let’s look at engagement rings for men.

Do men wear engagement rings? 

According to a 2014 survey by The Knot, about 5% of men wear engagement rings. (Please note this article calls them “man-gagement” rings, because heaven forbid we break down a small gender barrier without creating another, but that's a feminist lecture for another day.) I can't find a more recent survey, but given the legalization of same-sex marriage across the country and a push toward creating more equal, loving wedding ceremonies overall, I would be surprised if that number hasn't grown.But if you're reading this and the real thing you're wondering is “Can I wear an engagement ring? Can my partner?” then the answer is yes.

Why don't more men wear rings? 

As we mentioned in an article we wrote about wedding bands vs engagement rings, De Beers is the big reason we have diamond engagement rings at all. They ran a very convincing ad campaign in the late 1930s. These were heteronormative years where men were expected to be the active partner (buy the diamond! Propose!) and women were expected to be the passive party (wait for a diamond! Hope he proposes!). Women wear engagement rings because women have historically been the people being proposed to. That’s the big secret. And I bet you already knew it.

Isn’t this a double standard, you might be wondering? Yes, I would say. Yes, it is.

What kind of engagement rings do men wear? 

Because this is still relatively new territory, let’s break down some options here. But the bottom line is you can wear whatever kind of ring you want. Glide that puppy down your left ring finger and bam! Engaged.

Men's engagement rings with stones. 

14k-white-gold-ring-with-white-sapphire-and-diamond
14k-white-gold-ring-with-white-sapphire-and-diamond

This beauty from Gemvara showcases a popular style for men looking for a ring with a stone. Many men’s engagement rings have stones set into the band instead of above it. However, the styles of inset stones are many and varied. You can have one in the center, ten all the way around, a cluster of six or seven -- there are more possibilities than you can probably imagine.

Men's engagement rings without stones. 

il_570xN.711627920_f57m 2
il_570xN.711627920_f57m 2

If you’re not into the look of stones, you can get a plain band. Note this looks similar to a traditional wedding band, so explore some possibilities. You can wear your engagement ring as a wedding ring if you love it, or even have it engraved before the wedding day to mark the change. You can also consider getting an engagement ring and a wedding band that interlock with each other.

Rose gold, copper and even wood make for stunning men's engagement rings. 

il_570xN.730589587_p9n7 2
il_570xN.730589587_p9n7 2

Get creative! You’re not limited to silver and gold. “Engagement ring” shouldn’t be a term that means “only diamonds and only for women.” There’s a whole wide world of materials and stones to craft a ring to mark this huge life transition. If it’s an occasion you want to mark with a physical symbol like a ring, then by all means, do it. And maybe send us a picture (like one of our faves, Skylar Astin). 

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 2.43.50 PM
Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 2.43.50 PM

Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

Things I Didn't Expect to Happen After I Got Married

I was really sure that being married would feel the same as not being married. But in reality, I can't believe how different my relationship is. It shouldn't be, logically speaking. We'd dated for five years before tying the knot. We'd lived together for two of them. We'd had our dog for a year. After we got married, we came home to the same apartment and the life we'd already built. It was all very familiar. But it was different. It was better. Here’s a few more things that happened after I got married that I truly didn’t expect.

Safety in Numbers

I feel safer. I can't explain this. Where once I used to worry about earthquakes and fires and escape plans, now I just...don't. It could all still happen. My marriage didn't stop natural disasters. I mean, obviously. Come on. And theoretically, I even have more to lose with each passing day. But it's like that part of my brain just got quieter. I sleep easier. I don't panic much anymore. I really wonder why this is the case, but I’m mostly just stoked that it is.

Endless Possibilities

All my little regrets morphed into possibilities. I didn't study abroad in college, for instance. I used to think “you should have done that!” And now I think, “we’ll go wherever we want for as long as we want.” Like somehow marriage has bestowed upon me riches and limitless time.

Live Long and Prosper

Life feels long. I have a friend who told me that when he proposed, he was crushed under the weight of his own mortality. This was the person he’d die with. Life would end! It freaked me out when he told me, which was like a year and a half before I actually got engaged, because I was already living with a pretty firm grasp of “BUT SOMEDAY I WILL DIE” and applying it far more liberally than is wise to every aspect of my life. (See above about how much I used to worry about natural disasters.) I think my husband has some of this too. For how quickly these first months have gone, it's like everything slowed down at the same time. Our marriage stretches before us. We have so much time together. And I no longer feel like my life’s motto could be summed up in a giant musical montage called “Death Is Just Around the Corner.” Are you seeing a theme to the ways in which I've changed? I literally just saw it.

Though Some Things Will Never Change

I am still the worst blanket-stealer this side of the Mississippi. I am also offended every single time someone brings this up. Some things just don't change, apparently.

Children on the Horizon

I feel fine about having kids. I think I'll be excited about it someday sooner rather than later. I was always on the fence about it, and was always going to come down on the same side as my partner, assuming I wound up with one. I think I'd also genuinely be happy without kids. But ever since meeting my husband, who loves kids and wants them badly, I’ve really started to see myself with them. I'm surprised that I am actually looking forward to having them in a few years.

Freedom!!

I'm freer. There's a lot being said right now about the importance of single women (HIGHLY recommend Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of the Independent Nation) and I agree that now that women aren't financially dependent on men and don't really NEED them to have a perfectly fulfilling life, the world is a far better place. I think those same principles apply to how marriage has changed for the better. It's no longer the end of adventures. The end of fun. It's also no longer relegated to just a man and a woman. All those things tie into each other, don't they? We’re all freer. Get married. Don't get married. Live your life. But if you do want to get married, it isn't the end of all things. For me, it feels like the beginning. Here we are, together, and we get to decide now where we want to go.

Did things seem unexpectedly different for you after tying the knot too? Let us know in the comments!


Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

 

Ring Lingo: Everything You Need to Know About Engagement Rings and Wedding Bands

Before we get into the history of the rings, let’s just say this up front: getting married doesn’t actually require fancy jewelry. If you want rings, great. If you want bracelets, great. If you want nothing, great. If you want to celebrate your commitment to each other by going skydiving and then signing some papers at the end, GREAT (ps: if you did this, can we watch your wedding video? That sounds amazing). But for everyone curious about the difference between a wedding band and an engagement ring, this post is for you. In a traditional western wedding, you’re looking at an engagement ring (for one or both spouses) and a wedding ring (usually for both spouses). But...why?

The Not-So-Hidden Secrets of Why We Buy Engagement Rings

Today, we buy engagement rings to signify to ourselves and to the world, “Hey, I intend to marry that person” (and subconsciously at bars, “I’m taken, back off” — sometimes). Engagement rings are worn roughly between the period of deciding to get married and actually getting married, though many people go right on wearing them after the wedding too (they’re so pretty! Why not?), with the wedding band typically worn beneath the engagement ring.

Are Engagement Rings Always Sporting Diamonds?

In 2013, The New York Times reported that 75% of women wear diamond engagement rings. But the tradition stems from marketing of all places. Back in 1938,  De Beers hired the New York ad agency N.W. Ayer to give a boost to diamond sales, and those guys did some Mad Men style magic on those particular gems. The Atlantic reports that it wasn’t the first time anyone would buy a diamond engagement ring — the practice was unevenly gaining some ground even then — but people weren’t spending a lot of money on the diamonds, opting for lower-quality, smaller stones. Ayer set out to convince us all that the money you spent on a diamond was directly proportional to the love you felt, and we super believed them.

But here’s the fun news: not all engagement rings have to have a diamond. You could have literally any stone you wanted, or no stone at all. Things to keep in mind while you’re considering a stone choice if you decide you want an engagement ring: pick something that won’t easily dent, chip, or discolor. If you think you’ll wear your ring every day, you want something that will stand up to the wear and tear of washing dishes, eating popcorn while binge-watching Making a Murderer, and gesturing wildly while talking about Making a Murderer and hitting your hand into stuff.

And With This Second Ring, I Thee Wed: Why We Buy Wedding Bands

Wedding rings are typically exchanged during the wedding ceremony, and signify, “Hey, I married that person!” As opposed to engagement rings, which might only be worn for the period of the engagement, wedding bands are worn for the whole marriage. Yes, even when you’re fighting.

Gold, Silver, Platinum, Rose Gold: Help? The Color Spectrum of Wedding Bands

Both men’s and women’s wedding bands come in (most popularly) gold, white gold, or platinum, though you can find them in a wide variety of metals. Basically, the periodic table is your oyster when it comes to what mental you prefer, so long as you take a few things into consideration, like: do you want the color of your rings to match? (Meaning, are you okay having a gold ring while your partner has a platinum one?) How often do you see yourself getting your ring cleaned? Would you be willing to have it re-dipped if you choose white gold and it starts to wear off eventually? All of these questions can help you figure out which high- or low-maintenance band would be best for you.

Pro tips:

Higher-maintenance = white gold, which will need the plating re-applied when the yellow gold beneath starts to show through.

Lower maintenance = platinum, which may outlast the apocalypse in perfect condition, though keep in mind it’s pretty heavy .

The Million Dollar Question: Should You Buy an Engagement Ring or Wedding Bands?

Honestly, the better question is, why do you think you want one? For me, that physical symbol of “I love you today and I’m going to love you all the other days too” was really meaningful. I like being able to see it; I like the reminder of it on my hand. One of my best friends could not care less about rings. Her long-term partner has expressed an interest in having wedding bracelets someday, and that’s about as much as they feel comfortable doing. They’d rather spend that money somewhere else, and they don’t feel like they’d miss having rings.

The best answer is this: You and your partner will have to make that decision together. Yay communication!

Love your engagement ring? Love NOT having an engagement ring? Tell us all about it in the comments!


Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

 

How to Choose Your Groomsmen (Without Ruining Any Friendships)

Picking bridesmaids was the easiest part of my wedding planning process. I'm an introvert, and at the time of my wedding, I had exactly three close friends plus a soon-to-be sister-in-law (there really should be a shorter term for that relation). Boom. Done. My husband, on the other hand, will someday write a book called, “Why Aren't There More People At This Party: How to survive in a world where you can only invite a thousand people to everything.”

Picking groomsmen was a hard task for him, but here's how he narrowed down the field of contenders (without ruffling any cumberbunds) and how you can do it too:

  • Know what you want from your groomsmen. Like anything, it’s helpful to first look inside yourself and understand why you want a flock of well-dressed folks up there with you at all. For my husband (and likely for you), it was a mix of emotional and practical considerations. He wanted people beside him who he loved and who were going to support him through this major life decision, and he also wanted those people to make sure he got everywhere he needed to be on time and to remind him to eat breakfast the morning of the wedding.
  • Consider all the options. My husband has a close group of 12 friends. And one of the many options he considered was asking all 12 of them. But logistically, that many people got messy. His family was bringing over outfits for the groomsmen from India, and wrangling measurements from a dozen people just wound up being NOT what he wanted to do. What he really knew was that he wanted his brother up there, and his best friend since high school. Since I’d already stolen one of his siblings for my own wedding party, he decided to just return the favor and stole both of mine. That way, we had all siblings represented, and we each still had our bestie up there.
  • There’s room for everyone at the party. Just because all 12 of his best friends weren’t groomsmen didn’t mean all 12 of them weren’t important. Ultimately, my husband felt he could have picked anyone from the friend group without causing a lot of hurt feelings because he planned other activities that included all of them. They all had a bachelor party together, they all talked about wedding plans together, and they all came to the wedding and stayed with us until the venue turned the lights back on and kicked us out. Friends for life, guys.
  • Don’t worry too much about the “men” part of “groomsmen.” Or the “maids” part of “bridesmaids,” really. If I hadn’t asked his sister to be a bridesmaid, he would have asked her to be a groomslady. If he had decided to go big or go home and asked his 12 friends to be groomsmen, I would have asked my brothers to be bridesmen. We really wanted our siblings up there. And if you have siblings or friends you know you want standing by your side that day, don’t let gender be the hang-up.

As many rules as it feels like there are around who you do and don’t ask to be in your wedding party, the truth is this:  you get to do what you want. Can’t imagine being up there without your 12 friends? Go for it. Would rather just be up there with your partner and an officiant? Do it. As you decide who to  ask (or not ask, as the case may be), consider how you want to feel on your wedding day. Is the person you’re thinking of having stand up there with you going to help you feel that way? Your answer will probably tell you everything you need to know.

How did you pick a wedding party? Any tips for the engaged folks out there?


Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

The Art of Staying Calm: 4 Tips for Less Stressful Wedding Planning

I met a newly engaged friend for drinks recently, and the first words out of his mouth were, “Last summer I texted a bride two days before her wedding to tell her I couldn’t make it. I have just learned how much that probably cost her.” A ton of people get engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, so if you’re one of them, let us be the first to welcome you into the wide world of Things You’re About to Learn About Weddings. There is, first and foremost, the cost. Then at some point you’ll realize how many details you haven’t even thought of that you’ll need to plan out (for me, it was reading a blog post where someone said they realized the day of their wedding they’d forgotten to get a microphone for their officiant. Pro tip: Get a microphone for your officiant). Then your family and friends will suddenly have a million ideas for your wedding, and other people will suddenly decide they’re very offended by the way you’re approaching centerpieces, and then you’ll turn to your beloved and say, “What if we eloped?”

I totally support eloping, and I have watched two people in my family try to do it and be beaten back by the tide of hurt feelings that followed. The decision to elope is its own post. For today, let’s assume you’re planning a wedding that guests will be attending.

Let’s also assume you’d like to retain some measure of calm feeling between now and then.

We can’t promise wedding planning will be totally stress-free, but there are definitely ways to get through it with a minimum of anxiety-induced pizza eating. (All pizza eating should be joyous, after all.) Here are my four tips for making it happen:

  1. Agree on your wedding budget up front.

You can’t start planning without knowing how much you feel comfortable spending. This may mean taking a long look at your bank accounts (yes, we recommend sharing savings info and salary with each other if you  haven’t already) or having honest conversations with relatives who want to help. Once you’ve got a number in hand, talk about the top three things that are most important to you both. Is it being able to invite everyone you’ve ever met? Great food? Rockin’ music? Do you love decor? Knowing the things you’re willing to spend more money on will give you some natural direction for how the budget will balance out, and can be a nice list of points to come back to as you’re struggling to decide which tablecloths to rent.

2. Make someone your official outsourcer.

All those things NOT in one of your main categories? Yeah, decisions still have to be made for them, and you might be the kind of person who has a hard time settling on a final choice, or who has a busy job, or who just doesn’t want to think about any of those details. I recommend making someone — whether it’s a wedding planner or a sibling or a friend — your “Decisions I Don’t Care About” decision maker. When my venue emailed to ask me how many of the lights I wanted on for the reception, I immediately panicked, and then responded with, “CC’d here is my friend, who is in charge of lighting.” My wonderful, level-headed, not-in-the-middle-of-wedding-planning friend wrote back to ask what the venue recommended doing, the venue made a recommendation, and that’s what we did. I thought about it for maybe fifteen seconds total.

3. Surround yourself with people you’re comfortable with.

Worried you’re going to look unnatural in the photos? Wind up with a ceremony that just doesn’t feel like you?  Be a total wreck the day of the wedding? “Good people” is the answer to all of that. Hire a photographer you really like and can be yourself around. Meet with your officiant a couple times before the wedding to make sure they really understand what you’re after (Vow Muse, for example, meets with everyone before the ceremony is written to get a sense of who you are as a couple). Have bridesmaids or groomsmen who are not going to fight with you, each other, or anyone else, and instead are going to really be there to support your relationship during this next big step.

4. The details aren’t what anyone is going to remember.

And actually, it’s probably not what you guys will remember either. My wedding was seven months ago, and my husband and I no longer have any idea what color the napkins were. As my wedding planner put it, “The only centerpieces anyone ever remembers are the ones that catch on fire mid-reception.” The stuff you wind up remembering forever might surprise you, and the stuff you thought you’d definitely remember might go by so fast you’ve forgotten it in a week. And from your guests’ perspective, what they’ll really remember is you and your new spouse, starting this next step of your lives together.

No matter what, here’s what your mantra should be as you wedding-plan: You are getting married. The wedding will happen, and you will leave it a married person. Even if you’re short a microphone. So take a deeeep breath, and start planning!

-

Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

5 Tips for Writing Your Own Kick-Ass Wedding Vows

I really didn't want to write my own wedding vows. Our enormous wedding already had about fifty things that were stressing me out (giant guest list, two days of activities to plan, and the sheer number of tablecloths we were going to need to name a few), and I just didn't see “put all your thoughts about why you want to love this one person forever into a two minute speech” as an enjoyable addition to my to-do list. But just like I didn't want to invite 600 people and then did anyway, and I didn't want to do a first dance and then did anyway, I wound up writing my own vows anyway. And I did all these things for one reason: my husband really wanted to, and I wanted him to be happy. Confession time? I am beyond thrilled I did all those things, and I wouldn't change them for the world. But the vows, man. Nothing like a blank page and the pressure of speaking your intimate thoughts aloud to foster creativity, right? Haha. Ha.  Add to this my husband’s request that we keep the vows a total surprise, and you have a recipe for potential disaster.

Whether you're thrilled to be writing your own vows or terrified (welcome to the club), there's a lot of nerves in the writing process. I think it's because it feels so nebulous, you know? What if you say totally different things? What if yours are funny and your partner’s are super serious? What if you keep them short and your soon-to-be-spouse talks for ten minutes?

Turns out, there's totally a process here. You just have to know where to start.

  • Ask your officiant for guidelines. Angie and Alicia told my husband and I to keep the vows to about two minutes max, which winds up being 300 words. Talk to your officiant about how much time you have to play with for vows in the overall ceremony, or what lengths they've seen work well in the past. Knowing how much you have to write is a helpful first step.

Personal tip: I always find it easier to write everything in my brain and then edit down than to underwrite and have to find places to beef things out. The first draft of my vows was 800 words. The final draft was less than half that.

  • Pick a general format. If you are into surprises, that’s great, and you can keep the vows a secret. But it doesn't mean you just shouldn't talk about them. For those on the “okay with just a little surprise” end of the spectrum, consider writing a fill-in-the-blank style vow Mad Lib that you then both, you know, fill in. (Think something like: “[Spouse name], I'm standing here with you today because of [reason I love you]. I promise to always [thing 1], [thing 2], and [thing 3].” Etc.)

If you're on the “total surprise” end of the spectrum, discuss a much wider style format of vows. (Here's what my spouse and I came up with for our wedding — feel free to steal it: [Paragraph about why I love you], [paragraph about a specific event in our relationship that's meaningful to me], [paragraph with some promises for our future].

  • The part where you actually have to write them. A tip to keep in mind: they don't have to be — and shouldn't be — perfect after a single draft. Don't sit down at a computer or notebook thinking “I have to write my exact vows right now.” Sit down thinking, “I can get some ideas on paper.” To get you started, try writing about anything meaningful to your relationship: first date, how you met, a moment in your relationship where you knew they were The One, a funny story, a little trait you just really love about your partner. Eventually, you'll have a few paragraphs of some really meaningful, heartfelt, and unique moments, and you can start working your favorite ones into your agreed-upon vow format. And if you decide this just isn't something you want to stress about anymore, call us. We can totally help you.
  • Know thyself. You should read your vows out loud before the wedding. Full stop. For practical reasons, it'll just get you comfortable saying them so you're not totally scared the day of the wedding, and it'll tell you about how long your vows are running. For creative reasons, you'll notice once you're reading out loud if anything could be said more smoothly or if something doesn't quite make sense. If you are prone to stage fright, read them out loud to someone else. It's a different feeling than reading them out loud to the mirror, and the trusted friend you pick can even give you some feedback if you need it (and you can watch them burst into tears as you read them, which is validating as heck!).
  • As the wedding gets closer, you will probably start worrying about the vows. Public speaking is nerve-wracking, even when you really want to do it, and even when everything you wrote is lovely and wonderful. My advice? Speak the panic aloud. The day before the wedding, I told my maid of honor about a crazy fear that had taken hold of me: I'd get up there, look at the vows I'd written, and suddenly not be able to read my own handwriting. Which is not a problem I've ever had. She lovingly listened to me say this, and then said, “Okay. Well. I don't know how to tell you this.” And then she put her hands on my shoulders, and said, “That's not a thing. Calm down.” (Weirdly the most helpful thing anyone said to me about any of the pre-wedding fears I developed.)

Writing my own vows wound up being a super rewarding experience, and I can't imagine not having done it now that I'm on the other side. We’re here for you if you need some help, and in the meantime, would love to hear any questions or advice you've got about the whole tricky business of putting your feelings into words. Did you write your own vows? Are you considering it? What's been (or what was) the hardest part?

-

Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

Choosing an Officiant: Would You Like to Phone a Friend?

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate two people I think are awesome."

When my husband and I got married, we had a huge initial hurdle: we didn't share a religion, and we had no idea who to ask to officiate our wedding. That's actually how I met Angie and Alicia (hi, guys!). They wrote a gorgeous ceremony that left plenty of room for all the religious traditions we wanted to incorporate, and they saved us from an ongoing nightmare scenario we dreamed up where no one in the entire world could marry us.I don't know anyone who has gotten married and said, “I just really don't care about the ceremony.” Everyone wants it to feel unique to them, whether they're incorporating a lot of old traditions or blazing a totally new trail. So why not turn to a friend for help with that whole “actually getting married” part of the wedding?

Having a friend officiate your ceremony means you get to be married by someone you already know and love, plan out the details with someone who totally gets you, and enjoy a lot of the personal touches that come from someone who knows all the best things about you.

Lauren & Charles-148
Lauren & Charles-148

But how do you actually make this happen (and with the least amount of stress for everyone involved)? Here's what you should consider:

1. Choose wisely. When you're thinking about who to ask, consider folks who not only know you well, but who would genuinely like standing up in front of a bunch of people and talking about you. Some of your friends might love YOU a lot but hate public speaking.

2. Tell them why you're asking them. Not just because compliments are always nice but because it'll give them a sense of what you're hoping they'll bring to your wedding. When a friend of mine was asked to officiate, the couple told her they were inspired by her — the subtext between those lines being that she felt like a valued friend. 

3. Don't leave them in the dark. Are you hiring someone to write the ceremony and just need your friend to perform it? Are you writing it yourself? Do you want your friend to write it? Maybe a mix of all of the above? Giving your friend clear ideas about what you want in your ceremony (especially if they’re new to officiating) will help them feel supported and ensure you wind up with a ceremony you love.

4. Give them lots of time (and practice!). Get together with your friend and put some dates on the calendar for first, second, and final drafts of the ceremony if you're asking them to write it. That way you're not up till 2 AM together the day of the wedding finalizing word choices. If they're just performing it, talk about doing a rehearsal so you can hear everything out loud and make sure it sounds the way you pictured it when it was just words on a page.

5. Make it all legal. If you're having a legally binding ceremony, your friend needs to get the proper credentials. Check out your local and state laws (usually found on the county clerk’s website). Some states require your friend to be deputized, others allow for your friends to become ministers (free!) through the Universal Life Church. There’s an awesome run down on California officiant information at Offbeat Bride.

Pro tip: When your officiant and witnesses sign your marriage license, be sure there are no smudges or crossed-out words! The clerks are 100% particular about these documents.

Having a friend perform your wedding means it's totally personal and uniquely you. And hey, if they need some help getting all their ideas in order, send them our way!

Has anyone performed a wedding or had a friend officiate theirs? What advice would you add to this list?

-

Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

Points! to the Bride and Groom

Chris Hardwick, left, and Lydia Hearst arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" at the Dolby Theatre on Monday, April 13, 2015. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Chris Hardwick, left, and Lydia Hearst arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" at the Dolby Theatre on Monday, April 13, 2015. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

On September 12th, Chris Hardwick, of Nerdist fame, got engaged to Lydia Hearst, model and actress of...Hearst fame. It’s my favorite celeb pairing of all time.

I know everyone loves the Nerdist podcast, and The Talking Dead also has a big name for itself, but my favorite of Hardwick’s shows is actually @Midnight, a points-based game show he hosts and which I became addicted to in no small part because he consistently features a funny, diverse group of comedians.

And of course I’m good friends with Lydia Hearst. I mean, I took a tour of Hearst Castle when I was nine. And I had a good heart-to-heart with a security guard there about why I couldn’t go swimming in the pool. So I assume Lydia heard about that and I’ll be getting an invite to the wedding any day.

In the unlikely event I don’t get to attend, I thought I’d just go ahead and plan the wedding I’d like to see them have:

Location

HearstCastle
HearstCastle

Hearst Castle. Duh.

Officiated by

RonF 2
RonF 2

Ron Funches, everyone’s favorite @Midnight contestant.

Vows

chrishardw 2
chrishardw 2

Will be recorded, include an in-depth portion on their careers, lives, hopes, and dreams, and then be broadcast on Nerdist.

Toasts

Written in the style of a Yelp review for the happy couple. “The groom is good-looking, an engaging speaker, and takes nerd culture super seriously and with a lot of sincerity. Five stars for true love.”

First dance

Michael Jackson’s Thriller. You just don’t have a Chris Hardwick wedding without some kind of zombie influence, I assume. Theme

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.31 PM
Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.31 PM
Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.36 PM
Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.36 PM
Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.39 PM
Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.39 PM
Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.42 PM
Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.42 PM
Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.44 PM
Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.44 PM

(Quick California history lesson: In 2014, the Hearsts were the sixth richest family in the US, with a net worth of $35 billion!)

After Party

hearstcastlepool 2
hearstcastlepool 2

(I wonder if their position on letting tour groups go swimming has changed…)

What else should be at this wedding? Aside from yourself catching the money bouquet, which Rachel already called dibs on. Flip on those fantasy wedding switches I know you have lurking in your mind and tell us: what would you want to see?

-

Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

4 Unexpected Benefits of Saying “Yes!” to the Maid of Honor Gig

Til Death Do Us Party
Til Death Do Us Party

I’ve done the maid of honor thing from both sides of the aisle: I’ve been one and I’ve asked someone to be mine. So I know the costs add up fast between a dress (that you can wear again, fingers crossed!), shoes, maybe a plane ticket, a bachelorette party, a bridal shower, the time it takes to organize all of the above… you know what? I’m gonna stop there. It’s not just pricey, it’s also a  ton of work, and I hope your best buddy is super crazy grateful for all the time and effort and money you’re putting into being there for them. For moments when the stress is getting to you, I’ve compiled the major benefits to keep you sane:You get to taste all the things.

I knew the part of wedding planning I’d really excel at would be cake tasting. I was not wrong. And when you’re the maid of honor, you get to cake taste, too. You can also dinner taste. I maybe possibly tracked down the drinks vendor and  wine tasted as a maid of honor (this is definitely a thing, so if you start telling people about it and they say they’ve never heard of a wedding party doing this, send them my way). And I actually managed to do all this from half a country away! My commitments to friends and food are strong. If you’re in the same city as your engaged friend, I enthusiastically recommend you tag along and eat everything you are allowed to and really help narrow down the menu. If, like me, you are many states away, then track down the closest alternatives and eat them in support over the phone while the couple talks over the options. In a stressful moment, you can always return to your local bakery in the name of “helping.”

You know that updo you’ve always wanted?

Whether someone has been hired to do hair and makeup or the wedding party is tackling this job solo, this is an awesome time to get together (face-to-face or over Skype) and go through online tutorials for looks you’ve always wanted to try and never had the time/energy/boldness to really put effort into. Here are real-life things I real-life tried as maid of honor: contouring (not for me), cat eyeliner (lots of yes), fake eyelashes (changed my life), and milkmaid braids (also not for me and broke my heart to realize it). I would not have called myself make-up-ly competent before doing all this online with my best friend before her wedding, but it turns out practice really does make perfect.

You can’t imagine how memorable getting ready together is.

Obviously you can get ready with whoever you want day-of, and maybe the engaged couple wants to only get ready with each other (support!), but if you're invited to get ready together the day of the wedding, I would take it. My most cherished memory of my best friend’s wedding is helping her mom zip her into her dress and then walking her to the courthouse. We sat in a quiet, small room together while we waited for the ceremony to start. Nothing big happened during that moment. But we were together, right before she was going to get married, and I had put her shoes on her feet when she couldn’t see over her dress. It was emotional in ways I wasn’t expecting.

What goes around comes around in weddingland.

I didn’t know it when I was maid of honor for my best friend, but about a year after her emotional courthouse wedding, she was maid of honor for me. She called me every time I seem stressed, she didn’t think I was silly when I discovered a deep love for picking out tablecloths, and we of course ate more cake. The day of the wedding, after our makeup and hair were done, she had her new husband bring us garlic fries and then did dramatic readings from gossip magazines until I was in tears laughing. (There are photos of it — I have them saved to my desktop and look at them often.)

Final tally on being a maid of honor: It’s totally work, and it’s totally stressful, but in the end? Totally worth it.

Have you been a maid of honor? Had a great one? What were your favorite parts?

Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.