In most weddings, as in real life, things don't always go as planned. That's why it's important to set reasonable expectations for your wedding day so you don't end up devastated when something goes wrong.
Diana Rohini, who married her husband in Bhopal, India, in a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony, knew she'd have to throw off her perfectionist hat for her multiple-day wedding event. "I think it was empowering for me to accept that not everything would go exactly as I planned and to embrace the variations," she says.
Despite a few blunders, Washington, D.C., bride Caroline McGraw wouldn't change a thing about her wedding day. "The pianist played the wrong song for my entrance, and the minister botched the vows the first time around -- saying 'In sex and in health' rather than 'In sickness and in health'," she recalls. "But none of that mattered, because I knew the real treasure lay in the fact that I was committing myself to the love of my life, and that he was choosing me, too. In fact, the minister's mistake made us all laugh and made me feel like I was at a family celebration... the kind where you can joke and relax with one another."
Most brides agree that their wedding day was a (happy) blur. That's why Dallas bride Chanda Gailey Woodhead suggests embracing each moment. "Take a deep breath about every 30 minutes and take a look around the room," she says. "Everyone is there to share and celebrate your new beginning as husband and wife."
Bride Karen Clay, who was married in Columbus, Ohio, recommends stealing away your new spouse during the reception for 15 minutes of alone time. "[It's easy to] lose track of the real meaning of the day," Clay says. "We really appreciated these precious moments by ourselves. They were the most memorable of the day for me."
Easier said than done, we know, but take it from these brides: Don't let wedding day stress keep you from enjoying what can be one of the best days of your life. Laura Siderman, married in Barbados in 2008, says the key ingredient to the success of her wedding was letting go and having fun. "The guests from my wedding are still saying, 'That's the best wedding I've ever been to,' and it's because we just had fun. By the end of the night, I swam in the ocean in my wedding dress."
If you're worried about difficult family members getting in the way of your wedded bliss, here's some advice from Minnesota bride Lyz Lenz: "Your wedding only lasts a day. Your marriage lasts a lifetime. No matter what happens, by the end of the day, you'll say 'I do' and you can blow that Popsicle stand and start your honeymoon," she says. "That's what we did. We left the reception early, grabbed some Wendy's and hung out in our hotel room."
Another way to de-stress before your big day is to hold your rehearsal dinner two nights before your wedding so you have time for yourself the night before. Says Los Angeles bride Lisa Shapiro: "I ordered a massage and had the dinner being served at my wedding delivered to me so I could taste what my guests would be eating. It was the best thing I ever did. It gave me time to reflect and enjoy the surroundings of my wedding location in a calm, quiet way. I was so relaxed the next day since I wasn't rushing to go anywhere. I just waited for my 'team' to arrive."
Remember the old saying, "You get what you pay for"? Most brides agree. Wedding photographer and Florida bride Jemma Coleman suggests doing your research before signing any contracts, especially when it comes to your wedding photography. "Check to make sure your photographer has backup equipment, insurance, a license to do business and special lighting know-how," she recommends. "At the end of the day, that's what you have to remember your wedding day from, so don't skimp."
Looking back, Coleman says she wishes she had hired a wedding planner or day-of coordinator. "I felt like I was running around like a crazy person trying to do everything myself. If I hadn't rushed, things could have gone a lot better."
New York bride Joanne Rock also regrets not asking for more help. "Appoint an on-site person to handle any crises as they arise," she says. "As an independent person who wanted to do it all myself and not ask too much of family and friends, I regret not leaning on others a bit more."
If you can't afford a wedding planner, Rock recommends asking family members to pitch in for day-of tasks such as dealing with seating arrangements, greeting the deejay and paying the vendors. "Organizing those tasks up front means a few more thank-you notes, but much less stress for the bride and groom on the big day."