1. Well, we had no control over this one, but there was just too much painful reality with us in our wedding experience. Right before the wedding, my best friend and matron-of-honor, K, and her family went through the death of her father. I knew her family was hurting deeply during this dark time of loss and I was not able to be as present with her through it all as I wanted. And I missed her. And S's best person's mom was in an accident on our wedding day and was in the hospital. Those are terrible things that hurt the heart.
2. A bit of reality I could have done something about if I had planned better (or if we had paid somebody else to do it): I did not enjoy staying late to clean up after our wedding. I had not really planned out the logistics of this, but I somehow did not expect to stay until 3:15 am cleaning up stuff after the reception. It was not the magical exit off to the honeymoon that I had imagined and seen in the weddings I had been to before. If I had hired a caterer and wedding planner, I guess they would have done this for us. But since we didn't, and we had a late evening wedding, we had to stay and take care of the nuts and bolts parts of it all. I guess if I had gone into the day expecting to do that, I would have handled it better. Instead, I found myself dumping a bucket of coffee into a water fountain and sorting silverware and hauling boxes of stuff out to the car in my wedding dress. In the cold. On the verge of tears. At 3 am. Not what I had imagined.
Thankfully we did have some people who helped, but it was a WAY bigger task than I had anticipated. And I was exhausted and hadn't realized that S and I would have to clean up the reception after everyone left that night. But as my long-distance matron-of-honor, K, said...maybe this was a better metaphor for marriage than the idea of the fairy tale wedding. Marriage has good times and challenging times, so maybe this was a more realistic start to what it is like to join your life with someone. She's probably right. But I tend to enjoy being an idealist.
3. Better event planning of the actual schedules and details of the wedding weekend...and sharing that information with the wedding party and families. I had started comprehensive spreadsheets with schedules and tasks that needed to be done and was going to be very organized about this, but I lost steam along the way. I think number 1 made me so sad that I just didn't care enough about the spreadsheets to follow through. Unfortunately, better planning would have minimized the stuff I mentioned in number 2.
4. Better personal organization and follow-thru with little details of the weekend. I didn't find the time to write the sweet notes I was going to write to the wedding party, so I had to give the gifts without notes. (Too bad I didn't write those notes in the week or two before the wedding instead of waiting to be "in the moment" of the actual weekend. I had waited so I could be more specific with my words and instead they just didn't get done.) I never got to do my DIY French Manicure, which somehow makes me feel pretty and pulled together. And I forgot my garter. Somehow, I didn't bring it to the hotel where I was staying. I mean, how often do you get to wear a garter on your wedding day? I had bought it in Belgium almost 10 years ago and had saved it in case I ever got married. White Belgian lace with a delicate blue ribbon. I kept it through four moves, two of which were international. Then I forgot it on The Day. Sigh. And I didn't really ever figure out the Something Borrowed thing.
Of course I know that these are certainly not things that matter, and I surely won't remember it in the long run, but on the day of, these little things combined to make me feel scattered and not as prepared as I had wanted to be. Like when dinner guests show up before you finish getting ready, and you are forced to accomplish only the essentials and abandon the rest of your plans of what you had hoped to do.
6. S and I now understand the need for an actual honeymoon. We only took two nights in a nice hotel because we are hoping to take a belated honeymoon trip later this year. Maybe to Norway? But we found ourselves launched back into day-to-day life too soon. So...I would say go on a honeymoon for more than 2 nights. Doesn't matter where, but I think it is the idea of getting away alone to enjoy each other and to escape daily life and laundry and work that is important.
Considering all this, I guess I would want to stress that a DIY wedding is hard. I had thought it would be very similar to self-producing theatre, but I didn't really take into account all the extra emotional stuff that is a part of the wedding planning process (and the fact that I was planning a wedding during an international move and all that goes with that!) I don't think I would change our choice to do it this way, but I would try to be more organized if I could do it over. Thankfully, we had many people step in and help carry us though, and all the important stuff got done.
But on a more fundamental level, I learned that profound joy and sadness can co-exist. K, my long distance matron-of-honor, told me she wanted us to celebrate love and life. Even in the middle of her pain, she wanted to give me permission to celebrate. And though I did not feel like celebrating, I came to realize the depth of her wisdom. We need to celebrate life and love BECAUSE of the reality of death and tragedy and loss.
Our wedding was not the fairy tale, "everything is perfect" kind of day one is made to expect and want, but rather a "there is real pain in the world, deep loss, and people you love who are far away, but we are making a choice to make the most of life, enjoy each day, fully love each other, and be thankful" kind of day. We were surrounded by love and support, both there at the wedding and also long distance, which was an amazing thing to experience. And we had a beautiful, incredible day full of laughter, love, immense joy, and tears of sadness too. And I know I somehow felt really present through it all, even with all the things that weren't perfect. Perhaps the thing to learn in life is how to be present enough to live and love in the middle of all the stuff that doesn't go how you planned.