Planning 101 29th August 2015

Things I Would Have Done Differently at My Wedding...

“It seemed like a good idea at the time. I wrote ‘Help’ on the bottom of one shoe and ‘Me’ on the bottom of the other. When I knelt down at the altar all the guests broke into laughter.”

Iain Belson may have delivered some comedy to his wedding ceremony but the joke has worn very thin over the years. “I wish I hadn’t done it,” he says. “I look back on that and regret it – and of course, I’m reminded of it regularly. If I could go back and change anything about my wedding, it would be that.”

He’s not alone in wishing he could turn back the clock to the day of his wedding, and change that ill-conceived decision. Hindsight is a wonderful thing – if you’d known then what you know now, your day might have been planned very differently.

Your wedding is a momentous occasion – ideally, though not always, a once in a lifetime experience – which often has a build up like no other. Months and months of planning and preparation, rehearsal and anticipation; for many couples it’s such a time-consuming affair it literally takes over their lives. And then the day arrives, and the ceremony, the reception and everything else flies by in a blur.

Even if your wedding day was wonderful, it’s likely it wasn’t quite ‘perfect’.
A 2014 survey of 1,000 women revealed that 82% of brides would change at least one aspect of their day, if they had the opportunity to do so – choosing a different dress and editing the best man’s speech were among the most common ‘wedding day regrets’.

For grooms, regrets also exist. If it’s not writing gags on the bottom of shoes, or dressing badly – there’s really no excuse these days for failing to wear a well-fitting morning suit with the likes of Dobell offering a strong range– it’s drinking that little bit too much during the reception, dancing embarrassingly or stumbling over the speech. These are all classic fails.

Some regrets are more subtle. Casting my mind back to my own wedding in 2006 there are perhaps one or two minor details I’d tweak – not regrets as such, for the day itself was overwhelmingly one of the happiest and most enjoyable of my life. My wife and I made sure we had the type of day we really wanted, and paid heed to one of the suggestions on this list by Lifehacker – namely, to skip the rituals that don’t really matter to you. We deliberately chose a venue that was happy to allow us the flexibility to pick whatever menus we wanted for the wedding breakfast, instead of having to stick to strictly-defined priced packages. ‘Just tell us what you want and we’ll do it,’ they said. They were incredibly relaxed on that front, and we appreciated that; it felt as if the cuisine had ‘our’ mark on it.

Neither my Italian father-in-law nor my best man were particularly comfortable at the prospect of delivering speeches, so I let them both off the hook by sparing them the ordeal and we completely ditched convention by having my wife and her sister speak as well as I. We also had the speeches before eating, instead of afterwards – there seemed no point in spoiling appetites with nerves.

That would be the first of my small regrets, though; I look back and wish my best friend had spoken for me. Secondly concerned the table arrangements. I tip-toed around the awkward issue of having my long-divorced mother and father sitting at opposite ends of the top table by offering my Dad the option of sitting elsewhere with other family members. Relieved, he chose elsewhere. Yet seeing him sitting at the top table barely 12 months later at my younger brother’s wedding certainly burned a little.

Finally, the photography. I had no grumbles with the quality of the pictures taken – the photographer was a guy I had worked with professionally many, many times and he was happy to give us every single image he took, instead of charging us per picture. However, reluctant to burden any of my guests with the responsibility of organising pictures, I did it myself – and thus spent a good hour or more of the afternoon grabbing family members and friends for group shots, when I should have been chilling out when drink in hand.

Photography seems a gripe for other grooms too, which is hardly surprising as it’s usually one of the more significant expenses and provides lasting memories of the day. Too cheap and the results could be disappointing – or as disastrous as these 20 worst wedding fails - but higher prices don’t always guarantee satisfaction. Jason Evans was married in September 2010.

“The No.1 thing I’d change is the photographer,” said the 28-year-old from York. “We opted for a top end photographer whose portfolio was impressive - he'd photographed Prince Charles and Princess Diana and a number of footballers’ weddings. However, due to this he obviously wasn't cheap and we spent more than we wanted to on the photographer and then the wedding album afterwards. Also, due to his prices, family and friends only bought one or two photos rather than albums.”

The number of guests and style of wedding also seems to be a sticking point, and in comparing the experiences of two other grooms the issue appears to be one of balance. Too many guests and the experience is overwhelming; too few and it can feel low-key.

“The one thing I’d say I would change if we could, and I’m sure that my wife Emma agrees, would be the number of guests we invited,” recalled Ashley Baker from Ross on Wye, who was married in October 2008. “The wedding was at a large beautiful manor house, surrounded by friends and family and it had an intimate feel to it where we chatted to people as husband and wife - up until the evening came around and the other guests arrived.

“At this point it felt as though we both went our separate ways on a whirlwind promotional tour! We were talking to some guests that made us question, ‘why did we invite you again?’, and we were only occasionally able to see each other across the room until we both wearily crawled upstairs to our room for the night.”

For Simon Smith, 60, the opposite was true when he tied the knot in 1980.

“I really wanted a low key marriage,” he said. “My wife and I just sort of decided we’d get married, and picked Finsbury Town Hall. Neither of wanted any fuss, and a church wedding would have been hypocritical. Our wedding car was an Austin Maxi with sheepskin seat covers playing Stevie Wonder.

“I had no real family - at least none I’d have wanted to invite to my wedding - so we’d also ruled out church because it would have tipped over due to the sheer weight of numbers on the bride’s side, balanced by a few motley punks and mods on my side. But I was wrong to push for such a low-key event. It robbed my wife’s family - she’s an only child - of a special day. I should have been less obstinate and been more of a bit part player during their day in the sun.”

Something less easy to control than decisions on wedding venue and number of guests are nerves. Unfortunately, the size of the occasion can overshadow the enjoyment of it for some.

“If I could change anything, it would be my demeanor,” said Pete Pereira, from San Antonio in Texas. “I was very nervous and I'll admit kind of freaking out that I was actually getting married, so I was very tense. Looking back at it, some of the pictures look like I wasn't a very happy person and I just wish that wasn't the case. In one of the pictures I don’t have the best smile and my fist is clenched.” Pete was married in June 2006.

Jason Smith added: “The second thing I'd have done differently would be to have controlled my nerves a little more so that I could say 'lawful wife' instead of 'awful wife'! It did get a laugh from my wife when we watched the video so I got away with that, I suppose!”

Given the chance to go back and do it all over again, there are a very few grooms who wouldn’t change at least one thing about their wedding day, and brides feel the same. Tastes, fashions and preferences alter over time, and it’s inevitable that we’d want to embrace those if we could press the rewind button. But none of us can, and if your wedding day went well, with a beautiful, glowing bride and a room full of happy guests, it’s far better just to look back with fondness.