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As our editorial team was brainstorming what we wanted to talk about during Food52’s recent Wedding Week, much of the thread was hopped up on cakes and toasts and unbelievably sentimental jewelry, but some of it made me (and maybe me alone, since I was the only one actively planning a wedding at the time) wince.
I imagine we’ve all felt our own private mini-rants about weddings before—questioned decisions made by the couple (why fourteen bridesmaids? Why an un-airconditioned church in July? Why silent disco, why??). We’ve judged an awkward song choice or food that should never be left to die in a steam tray or allowing the ex-boyfriend to make a toast.
Having now lived through the stress, the budgeting, and the politics of planning a wedding, I’ll tell you exactly why those couples did everything they did: because they’ve probably never done this before—and hopefully will never do it again.
They’ve likely never tried to make sure the grandmas and the toddlers and childhood friends and coworkers in their lives all felt cared for and welcomed at the same time. Or been asked to time a shuttle service, or to know what angle the sun would be in a distant location in six months' time, or tried to feed dozens if not hundreds of people at once.
As Food52’s wise Director of Events Kate Kudish, a former wedding planner, told me days before my own wedding, “A wedding is like opening a restaurant for one night only.” (You’ve seen Restaurant Wars, right? Just be glad more weddings aren’t like that.)
And in all of those joyful, exciting, unnerving decisions leading up to the event, if they were like us, that couple was trying to plan a day that would fill their loved ones with joy and understanding, a celebration for this one special moment in life when everyone they loved would be in the same place, at the same time, spilling bubbly and dancing to Footloose.
They might choose something unoriginal—like a photo booth—because they’ve seen that it will bring people together, bonding children and grownups, and give you the only opportunity for a photo of your uncle and aunt making wacky faces you didn’t know they were capable of. They might choose a cheesy song because a relative asked them to, or cupcakes not because they’re trendy, but because they fit in a shrinking budget and won’t incur a cake-cutting fee. Or because they’re just tired of making decisions. You can’t know what went into their choices, but it’s probably different (and more) than you’d expect.
This is not to complain or sound put-upon. If I didn’t want to plan a wedding; I probably could have found relatives or a package deal kind of place that would do it for me (or eloped!). Even though planning mine (in under 6 months, from 3,000 miles away) was stressful and confusing at times, I don’t regret it one bit and couldn’t have been happier about the day, even though the art table was poorly attended and the twinkly lights from Kmart stayed in their boxes and I didn’t get nearly enough cobbler.
This is just to say—just as bussing tables will give you a newfound respect for the service industry and you’ll never tip badly again (trust me)—take it from a well-meaning, but out-of-her-element recent bride: Weddings are complicated. And expensive. And they won’t be perfect. But they will be, if hearts are in the right place, memorable and meaningful and important, especially to the couple, but also to you. So I recommend you suspend judgement, listen and reflect and toast (and dance—please dance), help yourself to the free booze and food, and when Neil Diamond sings, “Good times never seemed so good,” you shout “So good! So good!” with the best of them.
And should the powers that be decide to have a flash mob (i.e. some sort of surprise, choreographed dance routine, like these), that flash mob is probably the most delightful, memorable moment in a lot of people’s lives, who haven’t honed their cynicism by watching too many YouTube videos. And the silent disco might not have been for me, but I will gladly dance with myself at your wedding, should you decide it’s for you.