Managing your wedding day, on your wedding day

I cannot count the times I have uttered the following sentence:

“John and Mary, now that you have signed the register, take a moment to be together, have a hug and a kiss before you go to meet your guests, this is the last time today you will spend quality time together.”

People often ask me if I have ever had a run-away bride or groom. NO not in 20 years.

People often ask me if anyone has ever seriously objected to a marriage. NO not in 20 years.

I have had several brides call me up a week before the wedding to ask if they are making a mistake getting married. I have had several brides and grooms have a massive fall out in the days and weeks coming up to the wedding day. I have had a couple of brides and grooms having a humdinger of an argument at the wedding reception itself. I have even had a couple leave separately and almost break off the marriage just five hours after saying “I do”. I also refuse to do marriage coaching in the two months leading up to the wedding day.

You echo a million past brides when you say, “But Stephen, our wedding day should be the happiest day of our lives! It’s the day we get married. The day we have our family and friends all together in one place to witness our vows and then have a party with us!”

Here is the rub.

Planning a wedding is stressful. Having a wedding is expensive. Agreeing on every detail is almost impossible! Keeping EVERYONE happy, a fantasy.

Very often, the bride has been looking forward to and planning this for years.

The groom on the other hand, knows that one day he will be married and have some kids and has a vague perception that this will entail a wedding ceremony.

Very often the bride will want full participation from the groom. Very few men can achieve this to the required degree.

Going to a wedding expo and checking out all of the different stands, chatting to suppliers and seeing what’s new may be heaven for the bride and bridesmaid but torture for the groom.

While the bride sees a beautifully orchestrated day in exquisite surroundings, the groom wonders if the money would have been better spent on a good deposit on a house.

I suggest you simply realise your differences, accept each other and plan around it. Use a wedding budget and then agree on who does what. What you each need to do on your own, and what you agree to do together. Be patient with one another. Be kind to one another. This is about the two of you getting married. Don’t forget the Spiritual while you plan the material and physical aspects.

Now we add personalities.

Everyone wants the best wedding for you. Unfortunately, everyone has a different vision of what a perfect wedding is. Everyone will want to add their view and give their opinion and everyone is correct – for them. I strongly suggest that you get emotionally strong here. Decide with your spouse what you want. Then ask lots of people what they suggest. Then tweak what you want together. You need to let everyone know that while their input is valuable, you retain the right to take it or leave it. Thank them profusely for caring and sharing and then use what you like.

This gets tricky when you add money. This version of the golden rule is often very true. “He who has the gold, makes the rules”. If your parents are paying for most of the wedding, they may feel that they have some rights as to how it is spent. On top of that, I predict that your wedding will cost you at least 50% and sometimes 100% more than your initial estimate. It’s difficult to ask dad for more money AND ignore his suggestions!

I often get brides asking me how to handle a meddling mother-in-law. This is tricky. You want the wedding your way but have a life-long relationship with mother-in-law and her son. To be honest, I don’t know what advice to give here. This one is incredibly tricky. Here is a thought. When you get to a situation where you cannot agree, generally someone will be angry or resentful. If you do it their way, you will be resentful on the day. If you do it your way, they will be resentful. My advice; be selfish and let them be resentful on your wedding day.

I have observed that very often weddings, funerals and Christmas bring out the worst in families. They seem to magnify the family issues. On the one hand, the family rally together as a team while on the other hand, those irritating little foibles seem to re-surface. Fore-warned is fore-armed.

My friends, you cannot imagine the intensity of the wedding day. There are a million things going on. A million people doing things. A million thoughts going through your minds. A myriad of relationships tugging in opposite directions. Minister, DJ, Caterer, décor, flowers, drinks, petals, rings, photos, ID copies, candles, parents, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, acquaintances, groomsmen, bridesmaids, hair dresser, makeup artist,  flower girls, ring bearer, wedding planner, wedding crashers and a whole lot more.

Now add all of the relationships and their requisite expectations. The bride and groom expect this to be the happiest day of their lives. It’s the day they become husband and wife. It’s all about them. They will revel in the attention of friends and family while being together most of the night. Not really! Actually, it’s also about the friends and family and they will all vie for your attention. On the way to the wedding a lot of people will comment to their partner, “Man, I wonder how long the minister is going to go on for? I hope he does not bore us for hours!” The groom and his groomsmen have a BOY relationship. They punch one another, heckle each other, play tricks and DRINK. The bride and her bridesmaids have a GIRLY friendship. The bride and groom will have a myriad of possible relationships with their parents, siblings, new parents in law and siblings in law. There could be people there you don’t know, people you don’t like, people who you wish could have made it and invariably, people who have passed before who you dearly wish were still around.

I suggest you do not add alcohol to this  too soon. Especially if you have taken a prescribed calming tablet or tranquiliser! You have probably not eaten properly over the last couple of days. The chances are you have not slept well either. If you have just a sip too much alcohol before the wedding ceremony, you may be too zonked to actually be mentally present and if you take too many tranquilisers you may even miss you own wedding even though you are present physically J. I would rather you cried through the entire wedding than look at the minister with pupils that don’t dilate!

It is also an incredibly long day. You will be up early and leave late. It could be 15 to 18 hours long in total. You will be drained on many levels but mostly physically and emotionally. Everyone will want a piece of you. Everyone will want some time with you. The wedding planner will be directing you. There will be times when you are separated. Be prepared for this.

In closing. Your wedding day is exactly that. YOUR wedding day. Manage the process, don’t get bullied, try to include everyone, accept all input graciously and realise that it’s way bigger than you ever imagined. Once you have done all the planning, let go and allow it to happen. Invariably there will be a hiccup or two. Sort them out and move on. Above all, be prepared for an incredibly complex get together and then ENJOY it together.


About Stephen van Basten - The Marriage Expert

When you meet Stephen van Basten you instantly realize that there is more to him than meets the eye. This is not a moment to judge a book by its cover. Stephen boasts a list of achievements: He met his wife, Jacqui, 27 years ago, married her 21 years ago and is the proud father of a 'very together' 18 year old daughter. Stephen will immediately tell you with a twinkle in his eye, that Life, Work, Marriage and Parenthood are not for sissies. That while they are all hard work, they can be, and should be, incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. Stephen is a past Karate World Champion, a yoga enthusiast and recovering golfer. If you opened Trip Advisor on his facebook page you will see that he has visited 81 cities in 52 countries including the USA, Alaska, Japan, Europe, Australia and China. Stephen has owned his own company, worked in his family's business, being employed by small and large businesses like Shell SA and the BTG Group. His titles include Brand Manager, Sales Manager, Account Manager, Sales Representative and Business Owner. He now sees himself as an Author, Speaker, Trainer and Coach. Stephen published his first book, "So you're engaged, now what? The journey from engaged to married" in December 2013. His ingenious marketing strategy put this book into over 2000 hands in its first 6 months. His second book "So you're alive, now what? The journey from birth to death" is available online and he is working on 5 more books in the series including "So you're married, now what?". Stephen's obvious passion and first love is Human Behavior and specifically Human Behavior as it manifests in RELATIONSHIPS. He is quick to point out that we have many differing relationships: employer, employees, customers, suppliers, colleagues, friendships, marriage, parents, siblings, children, our maker, other drivers on the roads and we generally have issues in most if not all of them. Stephen is a student of the well-known human behavior specialist, Dr. John Demartini and is constantly researching and honing his understanding of this incredibly complex subject. In 2013 he completed over 175 hours of intense training on T. Harv Eker's signature courses.
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