A few short months ago, I got married for the second time. Planning a midlife wedding wasn’t so different from the one I planned in my early twenties if you take into account that, well, my mother planned my first wedding, and I didn’t have to pay the tab for that one.
Having planned two weddings certainly doesn’t make me a expert. But it gave me perspective on the experience of getting married in two decidedly different phases of life. So, whether you’re 52 or 72 and planning another (or first) trip down the aisle, here’s a list of things I highly recommend:
1) Pre-wedding photo shoot. Ask someone close to you to take no fewer than a gazillion pictures of you in your chosen dress (or attire) from every angle. Have them capture you sitting, standing, walking, and dancing. Believe me, Midlife Brides, this is a non-negotiable. Standing in front of a mirror squinting and sucking in your pooch is not a good barometer for how you will actually look in your wedding day photos.
2) Plan a wedding reception, not a party. My first wedding was a walk-down-the-aisle-with-a-veil, cut-the-cake, champagne-toast affair. And it just felt silly to imagine doing those same things at this stage of life. My husband and I wanted a party, a celebration with family and friends. And we got that. It was truly wonderful. But without some of the traditional wedding staples, the evening lost some momentum. You don’t need to dance the Macarena. But the more people are engaged in the event, the more cohesive and fun it will feel.
3) Share some shots. If you’ve hired someone to snap pics at your wedding, the likelihood is he (or she) is a pretty much a stranger to you. Because of that, he doesn’t know the difference between what you look like when you’re hungover and how you look when you’re runway-ready. To remedy this, give him some sample photos of yourself that you love. That way, he’ll have a reference point for how you’d like your wedding — and you — to be captured. There are no do-overs, so please trust me on this one.
4) Practice mindfulness. A wedding it would typically take a year to plan, I planned in the span of just over two months. By the actual day, my head was spinning with all the logistics. Because of that, I remember very little about it. We wrote and read our own vows (also recommended!) and, luckily, I do remember the ceremony. After that, not so much. I wish I had meditated first. Or found a quiet place to gather my thoughts. The evening was a lovely blur, but I wish I been in a better mind frame so I could have stored more memories of it.
5) Invite them. My vision of a small, intimate gathering (well-laid plans and all that) was quickly eclipsed as our guest list grew to first wedding proportions. As the expenses mounted, I trimmed the number of invitees. I wish I hadn’t. I could have done without those extra floral arrangements and had some people there I truly missed.
6) Stick together. My husband and I grew up together so there were many old, mutual friends in attendance. In our excitement to greet everyone, we didn’t spend enough time together at the reception. Big mistake. I was feeling untethered as it was (see #4), and having him by my side would have helped. Plus, it would be nice to have more shared memories from that day.
7) Include your kids. If you have kids from a prior relationship, find a way to include them in the ceremony. No matter their ages, this day is a big event for them as well. We had our five grown sons flank us during the ceremony and it was powerfully meaningful for all of us.
8) Choose your own officiant. If you’re forgoing a religious wedding, some states will allow you to choose your officiant by granting that person a one-day license. This entails an application process, so plan ahead if this is the route you’d like to take. My sister did the honors at our wedding and wrote a deeply personal and unforgettable service.
9) Video. Who needs it? I didn’t think I did. Giant regret. Not so much for the reception, but it would have been special to have had our vows captured on video. This is an easy one even if you don’t want to go to the expense of hiring a professional. Anyone with a steady hand and a smartphone can get the job done.
10) Enjoy. Soak in the happiness of all of those celebrating with you. Let the love in your partner’s eyes fill your heart. And don’t sweat the small stuff. The grace and gift of midlife is finally knowing what really matters — and accepting and appreciating the journey that led you to this amazing day.