On October 21 2018, we celebrated our first year of marriage! As I thought about what I was doing one year ago, I got to thinking about our culture’s stereotype of bridal behavior. It’s…not flattering.

This is a time of high-stress. Even for the most chill among us. I believe marriage is about so much more than the wedding day. I tried to approach mine practically. Here are some of the things I believed then and still recommend other brides-to-be consider.

My marriage is more important than my wedding day.

In 12 hours or less, this event that took months of planning and hundreds (thousands?) of dollars will be over. Enjoy the day in a way that is meaningful to both of you, but don’t ruin the relationship or your financial future in the pursuit of some absurd fairytale.

This really isn’t “your” day. 

Contrary to what your bridesmaids tell you, this is not your day.

This is a special day. For you and your spouse, as well as your immediate families. Yes, the two of you decide what cake to serve and what music to play.

But you as a bride do not own your wedding day. If you insist you do, you’ll become possessive and obsessive. Your priorities will get out of whack. You will feel entitled to a “perfect” day at the expense of everyone else. No one–including you or your husband–will be able to remember this day without remembering how much of a butt you became.

Worse? In your obsession, you place undue emphasis on yourself. The emphasis should be on the fact you’re about to swear, before an assembled body of witnesses and the God of the universe, to love this person in a way beyond your capabilities without God’s help and grace.

But sure. Make it about the shade of rose petals and late music cues. 

Don’t wear too much makeup.

This is my practical advice!

I wanted a neutral look that highlighted my features without turning my face into a carnival show. Even so, when I look back on our reception photos I wish I had asked the makeup artist to go even lighter on the eyeshadow. By the time I started sweating and smearing the makeup, I looked a little like a melting raccoon who had gotten into cheese puffs.

Your reception pics will never be as nice as the ones you have done at the beginning of the day. But the less makeup you have to sweat, the less you will melt.

Seriously think about your footwear choices.

Another practical tip!

If heels are totally your thing and you wouldn’t be you without them, well…wear the heels. More power to you.

Me? I rarely wear heels, and never well. I was going to be on my feet all day. Why would I wear shoes I don’t like just to earn myself aching feet at the end of what is supposed to be the biggest party I’ll ever throw? Hot no. I bought a sensible pair of white ballet flats and loved every second in them.

Also! Your dress is probably so long it covers your feet. So who cares what your shoes look like??

Think of your bridesmaids. 

What dresses the girls wear, who pays for what, and whether you have makeup artist service everyone are a few of the choices you’ll need to make before the ceremony. 

Ours was a practical yet classy wedding. Accordingly, I asked my bridesmaids to choose any style of dress that would flatter their particular body shape. The two guidelines? Dresses needed to be black and approximately tea length. The girls spent varying amounts of their own money to get dresses they looked great in! And they could reuse them for other things because they had the power to chose what they wanted.

You don’t have to do this. Maybe handpicking the styles for a uniform look is important to you. But at least consider the sizes and shapes of all your girls. You asked them to be in your wedding because they mean a lot to you. Don’t make them suffer by stuffing them in something that makes them cringe.

Also, paying $100-$200 for what is essentially a one-time-use prom dress as a twenty-something woman is not my definition of a party. At least let it be something they can use again.

Do not have an absurd number in the wedding party. 

Every member of the wedding party equals dollars you have to spend. Dollars you do not get to spend on the honeymoon, eating out, saving up for a house, or paying off student debt. It is a great honor to be invited to a wedding as a guest. Don’t feel like you have to include all 15 of your closest girlfriends in the actual wedding party.

Try to avoid having an extreme gap between ceremony and reception. 

Some people can’t fathom taking a portion of the wedding photos before the actual ceremony. If that’s you, think what you can do to minimize the wait time for your guests as you’re snapping all those perfect pictures after the ceremony. Some of your guests may have children, have a great distance to travel at the end of the day, have physical problems that make sitting or standing for long periods painful…the list goes on.

Yours is the only wedding in your entire lifetime where making people wait a long time between events will seem okay. Pay it forward. Don’t do to others what you will not enjoy putting up with later.

Throughout the entire day, look around you and remember. 

I am such a planner. I have to stop in the middle of events and take it all in lest they pass me by.

Look around you. Study the faces of your girls as you’re waiting for your entrance into the church. Take some time to watch your guests during the reception. Hold hands with your new husband between events. Talk to your mom. Take many intentional moments to soak it all in. You won’t remember the flower arrangements or the decorations. You’ll remember the feeling of starting your new life with the person you love most, surrounded by your family and friends.

Be nice! 

While this is a great life goal in general, it bears repeating on your wedding day. Be nice!

To your groom. Your mom. Your mother-in-law. Your bridesmaids. Your best friend. Your photographer. The reception staff. Don’t tarnish the memory of your wedding by becoming a psychopath. It will make remembering the day much more pleasant for years to come.