As we were utterly unencumbered by the constraints of tradition — on account of us both being dudes — we were able to meld tradition with our own ideas, and came up with something that worked for us. We applied the same concept to our marriage.
Since our wedding, I have streamlined the lessons learned into a few digestible pointers, which I share with recently-engaged friends. As a public service, I offer them here:
• Have the wedding at a time of day when people don’t expect you to feed them. No matter what anyone tells you, you do not have to give these people a steak. It is expensive and ultimately pointless. When people reflect upon your wedding, no one is going to say how good the salmon was.
Plus, people don’t know how to eat when they’re in nice clothes. Once upon a time, they did. But life isn’t an episode of “Downton Abbey,” and all you’ll end up with is a lot of asparagus tips being awkwardly dug out of cleavage.
• Do not leave early. I’m talking about that bride and groom getaway where people throw shit at your head. Tradition dictates that the guests can’t leave until you do.
This is a holdover from when it was commonly expected for the newlyweds to be virgins, so the wedding night was a really big (and often disappointing) experience. Assuming no one’s waiting outside your room for a bloody sheet, chances are you’ve already tested the goods. So stay at the party.
The most important people in your life will all be gathered in one place at one time for you. Don’t wish you’d stayed longer to see your favorite cousin. Let your guests know beforehand that the bride and groom will NOT be doing a scheduled getaway. Guests can leave whenever they want to, or stay til y’all all get thrown out.
• Most important: Pay attention to each other. Your wedding ceremony will feel like skydiving: It is one of life’s most glorious and bizarre experiences. One can easily lose track of what’s happening in the moment.
Between the ceremony and reception, after y’all take pictures, find 10-15 minutes for the two of you to be alone and process what just happened. You will need to be selfish.
Drink some water, smoke a cigarette, do whatever. But get away from everybody for 10-15 minutes, and you will laugh hysterically, and also cry, and also marvel at the moment. And breathe. Then go back to the guests and celebrate.
• And then there’s the little stuff. Hydrate. Don’t lock your knees when you’re at the altar. Don’t put anyone in your wedding party whom you won’t wish to look at pictures of for the rest of your life.
Stash a kleenex somewhere on your person. If you don’t have a good spot for a tissue, tell your intended spouse beforehand to dab away your tears with theirs, which will make everyone go, “Awwww” and will one day be your favorite moment in the wedding video.
Your wedding will not be the most important day in your life together. That day can’t be planned, and will only reveal itself long after it happened.
Your wedding is the day you threw a big party to celebrate the official start of your journey together. So make it your own, don’t put yourself in debt over it, and enjoy the celebration.
Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at www.topherpayne.com