6 (Huge) Things I Learned About Weddings After My Wedding

I didn’t get much advice leading up to my wedding day. I had been told that it’s good luck to do something old, something new, not to get too drunk the night before, to make sure I ate the day of, and that the hours were going to fly by right before my smoky little eyes. That’s about it.

Fast forward to the first few days after our wedding, and I felt like I had been hit with a tornado of wisdom and experience I hadn’t dreamed of possessing a mere 24 hours before. “I can’t believe I stressed so much over X, why did know one tell me about Y, omg did Z really happen?!”

In an effort to help other couples about to tie the knot, here are the 6 six things I learned about weddings, after my wedding happened. Read them, live them, and pass them on.

Set your intentions and stick to them.
One of the first decisions my husband and I had difficulty making was choosing a wedding venue. Knowing that we were going to have to make hundreds of more difficult decisions to make this wedding happen, we took a step back and aligned on what our three intentions as a couple were for the weekend. Once we had narrowed them down (and written them down!), we used them as a sort of checks and balance system, cross-referencing them whenever we were struggling with a decision: Does this first dance song feel like a party, does it feel like us, and does it make you feel the love? If not, it’s gotta go. This not only gave us clarity and made the decision-making process so much more seamless, it also made all the details of our wedding come together in a way that made sense.

Work with great people.
If you’re hiring people to plan your wedding, take photographs, do your hair/makeup, etc, make sure they’re great people. These “vendors” play a huge role in your wedding experience, so choose vendors that, yes, are super skilled, but that will also be fun to have around you during one of the biggest moments of your life. Our hairdresser felt like another bridesmaid and our photographer felt like a college friend—we ended up inviting both to our Sunday recovery pool party because we couldn’t get enough of them, and our guests loved them as well. Surrounding yourself with people you connect with will make your day just that much better.

Personal touches make all the difference.
The parts of your wedding that feel like they come directly from you and your partner, rather than Pinterest, are the parts that none of your guests will ever forget. My bridesmaids slaved over putting together 3D animal masks for our jungle-themed photobooth, and not only did this fun fact make it into many of the wedding toasts, it’s also something people are still talking about today. It’s so easy for every wedding to look and feel similar, what are the small things here and there that will add a little unique flavor? Even if they don’t scream traditional wedding, I promise they will feel very special for both you and your guests.

Don’t stress.
Someone once told me that the best hosts are the ones who don’t stress—or if they do, they don’t show it. The more you can let go of the tiny details, intricate schedules, and mysterious unknowns the days leading up to your wedding, the better time you and the people around you will have. Trust that you have done everything humanly possible to prepare for your wedding, and give up any lingering worry in favor of staying present and grateful. How you are feeling will set the tone for everyone else, so stay conscious of the energy you’re giving off!

Nothing goes wrong, but nothing will go perfectly.
Leading up to our wedding, so many people told me that things would go wrong. I actually wouldn’t say that a single thing went wrong, but that plenty, if not all, things did not go perfectly. We started later than intended. The waves got our entire wedding party soaked from the ankle down. My brother, who officiated, couldn’t find one of the rings during the ceremony. The candles lining the tables had a greenhouse effect on the tent, so that the dance floor got real sweaty. These imperfect moments made our wedding. They were real, humbling, personal nooks and crannies of our weekend that were totally and completely unique to us, and connected us to our guests in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if everything had been 100% perfect. Get excited for these moments,  they’re precious.

It is probably the most overwhelming thing you will have experienced to date.
I felt so prepared for our wedding weekend—physically, mentally, spiritually—and couldn’t understand why so many people had warned me about nerves. And then the moment came when I was getting ready for our Friday night welcome party, where I would see the 100+ people from all of our walks of life for the very first time and I started shivering uncontrollably in the makeup chair. To look around a room and see all these faces that you know and adore, looking back at you with so much support and love is so special, so precious, so humbling…and so overwhelming. Just know that you may feel nervous, overwhelmed, scared, anxious, intimidated, shy, or all of the above at some point in your festivities, and that that is completely normal. And also know that, like all things, this too shall pass and when it does you’ll feel nothing but grateful, excited, overjoyed, and like the luckiest girl in the world.

—Gabriela Lester-Coll

See Gabriela Lester-Coll’s wedding in Puerto Rico here.