For Holley Simons, it was the bridal party.
She chose her oldest friends, including one who didn’t seem particularly enthused: “She didn’t want to participate in any of the activities the maid of honor had put together, and I just wish at the end of the day that maybe she would have been more honest with me and said she didn’t really feel like being a bridesmaid.”
And then there was the newer friend who really stepped up as the wedding approached, even hosting a shower.
“I didn’t think about including her in my bridal party, but looking back, I wish I could have honored her in some way,” Simons says.
It’s a rare bride who doesn’t have a regret or two about her wedding, from a missed photo op, to a silly splurge, to Uncle Jerry’s unfortunate third drink. Brides, experts and online wedding forums highlight a broad range of potential pitfalls, from clumsy amateur wedding photos to overpriced venues to being so stressed out about getting the details right that you forget to savor a once-in-a-lifetime experience as it actually unfolds.
Some brides regret spending too much time greeting guests, others say they wish they’d spent more time.
Still, if there are no right answers, there are some general guidelines.
“What I say to brides is, become clear on the three to five things that you must have correct, that must be done a specific way, and make sure that happens, and let go of the rest,” says Allison Moir-Smith, author of “Emotionally Engaged: A Bride’s Guide to Surviving the ‘Happiest’ Time of Her Life” (Hudson Street Press).
Maybe your three big priorities are a handcrafted cake, a silk-satin designer dress and a mandatory playlist. That’s fine, but remember that the groom is also entitled to his three to five must-haves.
One of the most common regrets is scrimping on photography, with blog editors saying that professionals offer real advantages over well-meaning relatives, even for budget-conscious brides.
“Unless you’re steeped in the wedding industry, you don’t realize how skilled wedding photographers are, how much time and effort and talent goes into what they do,” says Simons, an editor at Weddingbee.com. “That’s something I’ve seen time and again, brides wishing they’d put a little more money into that aspect.”
Catherine Clark, an editor at Offbeatbride.com, says videography can, similarly, be a source of regret.
“(Married women) see those popular wedding videos where there’s beautiful music and scenes from all the different things that happen,” she says. “They see those and they get jealous.”
Wedding coordinators, who handle logistics on the Big Day, are also a hot topic at Offbeatbride.com, with some brides saying they wish they had made that investment. For roughly $250 to $750, a coordinator will function as your go-to-person, doing set-up, herding friends and relatives, and making sure the ceremony and reception run smoothly.
Bridal party choices are also a recurring theme, with Clark saying that weddings bring out strong emotions, which, in turn, can lead to tensions and rifts.
Among her suggestions for brides-to-be: Choose only your closest friends of all time to be your bridesmaids, not your close pals of the moment; resist being swayed too strongly by the opinions of well-meaning relatives; and offer your bridesmaids the chance to opt out without guilt. If a friend is, say, living far away or financially strapped, your sincere understanding will head off stress and frustration on both sides.
Sometimes, newlyweds are just moving into a new stage of life and developing new friendships and, a few years down the line, they wish they had chosen different bridesmaids or groomsmen.
In those cases, Clark takes a philosophical approach.
“It’s like getting a tattoo,” she says. “At that time in your life you wanted that tattoo and, five years later, it’s OK because it’s a marker of that time in your life. You can kind of look at your wedding party that way: ‘That’s who I was in my 20s and 30s and now I’m someone else, but I can look back fondly on that.’”
Some wedding regrets are bigger than others. Paul Suggett, 40, says that he and his wife, who are now getting divorced, got married in a Colorado courthouse. He had moved to the U.S. from London to be with her and, on the advice of their lawyer, who wanted to prevent visa complications, they got married almost immediately.
“It wasn’t exactly the dream wedding. My parents couldn’t be there, because they were in England, and they couldn’t afford to fly over for a 20-minute ceremony,” he says, “so none of my family was there.” His wife had five relatives in attendance, one of whom was a screaming 2-year-old.
“We’re still good friends and everything, but I think that was one of the things that set us off on the wrong track, just doing everything so rushed,” Suggett says.
Other wedding regrets are almost vanishingly small.
“I wish I hadn’t noticed the mistakes at my reception,” says Moir-Smith.
“The Porta John tent sides were up so you could see (them) from the reception site. Does anyone else who went to my wedding — 120 people 12 years ago — remember that? It’s just a ridiculous thing for me to remember from that magical day.”
You can’t regret-proof your wedding, but you can take steps to ensure you fully appreciate it.
Don’t look for mistakes. Everyone is doing their best, and life isn’t perfect, says Moir-Smith.
Enjoy the gaffes. Moir-Smith was horrified when the deejay played Kenny G during the cake cutting, but then she burst out laughing — a moment that yielded her best wedding photos.
Share what’s special. Don’t expect everybody to notice all your special touches. If you have friends who would get a big kick out of details like your monogrammed dance floor or handmade placecards, then tell them what to look for. “You have to ask for it — don’t be a princess expecting other people to see the details,” Moir-Smith says.