How to Choose Your Groomsmen (Without Ruining Any Friendships)

Picking bridesmaids was the easiest part of my wedding planning process. I'm an introvert, and at the time of my wedding, I had exactly three close friends plus a soon-to-be sister-in-law (there really should be a shorter term for that relation). Boom. Done. My husband, on the other hand, will someday write a book called, “Why Aren't There More People At This Party: How to survive in a world where you can only invite a thousand people to everything.”

Picking groomsmen was a hard task for him, but here's how he narrowed down the field of contenders (without ruffling any cumberbunds) and how you can do it too:

  • Know what you want from your groomsmen. Like anything, it’s helpful to first look inside yourself and understand why you want a flock of well-dressed folks up there with you at all. For my husband (and likely for you), it was a mix of emotional and practical considerations. He wanted people beside him who he loved and who were going to support him through this major life decision, and he also wanted those people to make sure he got everywhere he needed to be on time and to remind him to eat breakfast the morning of the wedding.

  • Consider all the options. My husband has a close group of 12 friends. And one of the many options he considered was asking all 12 of them. But logistically, that many people got messy. His family was bringing over outfits for the groomsmen from India, and wrangling measurements from a dozen people just wound up being NOT what he wanted to do. What he really knew was that he wanted his brother up there, and his best friend since high school. Since I’d already stolen one of his siblings for my own wedding party, he decided to just return the favor and stole both of mine. That way, we had all siblings represented, and we each still had our bestie up there.

  • There’s room for everyone at the party. Just because all 12 of his best friends weren’t groomsmen didn’t mean all 12 of them weren’t important. Ultimately, my husband felt he could have picked anyone from the friend group without causing a lot of hurt feelings because he planned other activities that included all of them. They all had a bachelor party together, they all talked about wedding plans together, and they all came to the wedding and stayed with us until the venue turned the lights back on and kicked us out. Friends for life, guys.

  • Don’t worry too much about the “men” part of “groomsmen.” Or the “maids” part of “bridesmaids,” really. If I hadn’t asked his sister to be a bridesmaid, he would have asked her to be a groomslady. If he had decided to go big or go home and asked his 12 friends to be groomsmen, I would have asked my brothers to be bridesmen. We really wanted our siblings up there. And if you have siblings or friends you know you want standing by your side that day, don’t let gender be the hang-up.

As many rules as it feels like there are around who you do and don’t ask to be in your wedding party, the truth is this:  you get to do what you want. Can’t imagine being up there without your 12 friends? Go for it. Would rather just be up there with your partner and an officiant? Do it. As you decide who to  ask (or not ask, as the case may be), consider how you want to feel on your wedding day. Is the person you’re thinking of having stand up there with you going to help you feel that way? Your answer will probably tell you everything you need to know.

How did you pick a wedding party? Any tips for the engaged folks out there?

Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

The Art of Staying Calm: 4 Tips for Less Stressful Wedding Planning

I met a newly engaged friend for drinks recently, and the first words out of his mouth were, “Last summer I texted a bride two days before her wedding to tell her I couldn’t make it. I have just learned how much that probably cost her.” A ton of people get engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, so if you’re one of them, let us be the first to welcome you into the wide world of Things You’re About to Learn About Weddings. There is, first and foremost, the cost. Then at some point you’ll realize how many details you haven’t even thought of that you’ll need to plan out (for me, it was reading a blog post where someone said they realized the day of their wedding they’d forgotten to get a microphone for their officiant. Pro tip: Get a microphone for your officiant). Then your family and friends will suddenly have a million ideas for your wedding, and other people will suddenly decide they’re very offended by the way you’re approaching centerpieces, and then you’ll turn to your beloved and say, “What if we eloped?”

I totally support eloping, and I have watched two people in my family try to do it and be beaten back by the tide of hurt feelings that followed. The decision to elope is its own post. For today, let’s assume you’re planning a wedding that guests will be attending.

Let’s also assume you’d like to retain some measure of calm feeling between now and then.

We can’t promise wedding planning will be totally stress-free, but there are definitely ways to get through it with a minimum of anxiety-induced pizza eating. (All pizza eating should be joyous, after all.) Here are my four tips for making it happen:

  1. Agree on your wedding budget up front.

You can’t start planning without knowing how much you feel comfortable spending. This may mean taking a long look at your bank accounts (yes, we recommend sharing savings info and salary with each other if you  haven’t already) or having honest conversations with relatives who want to help. Once you’ve got a number in hand, talk about the top three things that are most important to you both. Is it being able to invite everyone you’ve ever met? Great food? Rockin’ music? Do you love decor? Knowing the things you’re willing to spend more money on will give you some natural direction for how the budget will balance out, and can be a nice list of points to come back to as you’re struggling to decide which tablecloths to rent.

2. Make someone your official outsourcer.

All those things NOT in one of your main categories? Yeah, decisions still have to be made for them, and you might be the kind of person who has a hard time settling on a final choice, or who has a busy job, or who just doesn’t want to think about any of those details. I recommend making someone — whether it’s a wedding planner or a sibling or a friend — your “Decisions I Don’t Care About” decision maker. When my venue emailed to ask me how many of the lights I wanted on for the reception, I immediately panicked, and then responded with, “CC’d here is my friend, who is in charge of lighting.” My wonderful, level-headed, not-in-the-middle-of-wedding-planning friend wrote back to ask what the venue recommended doing, the venue made a recommendation, and that’s what we did. I thought about it for maybe fifteen seconds total.

3. Surround yourself with people you’re comfortable with.

Worried you’re going to look unnatural in the photos? Wind up with a ceremony that just doesn’t feel like you?  Be a total wreck the day of the wedding? “Good people” is the answer to all of that. Hire a photographer you really like and can be yourself around. Meet with your officiant a couple times before the wedding to make sure they really understand what you’re after (Vow Muse, for example, meets with everyone before the ceremony is written to get a sense of who you are as a couple). Have bridesmaids or groomsmen who are not going to fight with you, each other, or anyone else, and instead are going to really be there to support your relationship during this next big step.

4. The details aren’t what anyone is going to remember.

And actually, it’s probably not what you guys will remember either. My wedding was seven months ago, and my husband and I no longer have any idea what color the napkins were. As my wedding planner put it, “The only centerpieces anyone ever remembers are the ones that catch on fire mid-reception.” The stuff you wind up remembering forever might surprise you, and the stuff you thought you’d definitely remember might go by so fast you’ve forgotten it in a week. And from your guests’ perspective, what they’ll really remember is you and your new spouse, starting this next step of your lives together.

No matter what, here’s what your mantra should be as you wedding-plan: You are getting married. The wedding will happen, and you will leave it a married person. Even if you’re short a microphone. So take a deeeep breath, and start planning!

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Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

5 Tips for Writing Your Own Kick-Ass Wedding Vows

I really didn't want to write my own wedding vows. Our enormous wedding already had about fifty things that were stressing me out (giant guest list, two days of activities to plan, and the sheer number of tablecloths we were going to need to name a few), and I just didn't see “put all your thoughts about why you want to love this one person forever into a two minute speech” as an enjoyable addition to my to-do list. But just like I didn't want to invite 600 people and then did anyway, and I didn't want to do a first dance and then did anyway, I wound up writing my own vows anyway. And I did all these things for one reason: my husband really wanted to, and I wanted him to be happy. Confession time? I am beyond thrilled I did all those things, and I wouldn't change them for the world. But the vows, man. Nothing like a blank page and the pressure of speaking your intimate thoughts aloud to foster creativity, right? Haha. Ha.  Add to this my husband’s request that we keep the vows a total surprise, and you have a recipe for potential disaster.

Whether you're thrilled to be writing your own vows or terrified (welcome to the club), there's a lot of nerves in the writing process. I think it's because it feels so nebulous, you know? What if you say totally different things? What if yours are funny and your partner’s are super serious? What if you keep them short and your soon-to-be-spouse talks for ten minutes?

Turns out, there's totally a process here. You just have to know where to start.

  • Ask your officiant for guidelines. Angie and Alicia told my husband and I to keep the vows to about two minutes max, which winds up being 300 words. Talk to your officiant about how much time you have to play with for vows in the overall ceremony, or what lengths they've seen work well in the past. Knowing how much you have to write is a helpful first step.

Personal tip: I always find it easier to write everything in my brain and then edit down than to underwrite and have to find places to beef things out. The first draft of my vows was 800 words. The final draft was less than half that.

  • Pick a general format. If you are into surprises, that’s great, and you can keep the vows a secret. But it doesn't mean you just shouldn't talk about them. For those on the “okay with just a little surprise” end of the spectrum, consider writing a fill-in-the-blank style vow Mad Lib that you then both, you know, fill in. (Think something like: “[Spouse name], I'm standing here with you today because of [reason I love you]. I promise to always [thing 1], [thing 2], and [thing 3].” Etc.)

If you're on the “total surprise” end of the spectrum, discuss a much wider style format of vows. (Here's what my spouse and I came up with for our wedding — feel free to steal it: [Paragraph about why I love you], [paragraph about a specific event in our relationship that's meaningful to me], [paragraph with some promises for our future].

  • The part where you actually have to write them. A tip to keep in mind: they don't have to be — and shouldn't be — perfect after a single draft. Don't sit down at a computer or notebook thinking “I have to write my exact vows right now.” Sit down thinking, “I can get some ideas on paper.” To get you started, try writing about anything meaningful to your relationship: first date, how you met, a moment in your relationship where you knew they were The One, a funny story, a little trait you just really love about your partner. Eventually, you'll have a few paragraphs of some really meaningful, heartfelt, and unique moments, and you can start working your favorite ones into your agreed-upon vow format. And if you decide this just isn't something you want to stress about anymore, call us. We can totally help you.

  • Know thyself. You should read your vows out loud before the wedding. Full stop. For practical reasons, it'll just get you comfortable saying them so you're not totally scared the day of the wedding, and it'll tell you about how long your vows are running. For creative reasons, you'll notice once you're reading out loud if anything could be said more smoothly or if something doesn't quite make sense. If you are prone to stage fright, read them out loud to someone else. It's a different feeling than reading them out loud to the mirror, and the trusted friend you pick can even give you some feedback if you need it (and you can watch them burst into tears as you read them, which is validating as heck!).

  • As the wedding gets closer, you will probably start worrying about the vows. Public speaking is nerve-wracking, even when you really want to do it, and even when everything you wrote is lovely and wonderful. My advice? Speak the panic aloud. The day before the wedding, I told my maid of honor about a crazy fear that had taken hold of me: I'd get up there, look at the vows I'd written, and suddenly not be able to read my own handwriting. Which is not a problem I've ever had. She lovingly listened to me say this, and then said, “Okay. Well. I don't know how to tell you this.” And then she put her hands on my shoulders, and said, “That's not a thing. Calm down.” (Weirdly the most helpful thing anyone said to me about any of the pre-wedding fears I developed.)

Writing my own vows wound up being a super rewarding experience, and I can't imagine not having done it now that I'm on the other side. We’re here for you if you need some help, and in the meantime, would love to hear any questions or advice you've got about the whole tricky business of putting your feelings into words. Did you write your own vows? Are you considering it? What's been (or what was) the hardest part?

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Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

Choosing an Officiant: Would You Like to Phone a Friend?

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate two people I think are awesome."

When my husband and I got married, we had a huge initial hurdle: we didn't share a religion, and we had no idea who to ask to officiate our wedding. That's actually how I met Angie and Alicia (hi, guys!). They wrote a gorgeous ceremony that left plenty of room for all the religious traditions we wanted to incorporate, and they saved us from an ongoing nightmare scenario we dreamed up where no one in the entire world could marry us.I don't know anyone who has gotten married and said, “I just really don't care about the ceremony.” Everyone wants it to feel unique to them, whether they're incorporating a lot of old traditions or blazing a totally new trail. So why not turn to a friend for help with that whole “actually getting married” part of the wedding?

Having a friend officiate your ceremony means you get to be married by someone you already know and love, plan out the details with someone who totally gets you, and enjoy a lot of the personal touches that come from someone who knows all the best things about you.

Lauren & Charles-148

Lauren & Charles-148

But how do you actually make this happen (and with the least amount of stress for everyone involved)? Here's what you should consider:

1. Choose wisely. When you're thinking about who to ask, consider folks who not only know you well, but who would genuinely like standing up in front of a bunch of people and talking about you. Some of your friends might love YOU a lot but hate public speaking.

2. Tell them why you're asking them. Not just because compliments are always nice but because it'll give them a sense of what you're hoping they'll bring to your wedding. When a friend of mine was asked to officiate, the couple told her they were inspired by her — the subtext between those lines being that she felt like a valued friend. 

3. Don't leave them in the dark. Are you hiring someone to write the ceremony and just need your friend to perform it? Are you writing it yourself? Do you want your friend to write it? Maybe a mix of all of the above? Giving your friend clear ideas about what you want in your ceremony (especially if they’re new to officiating) will help them feel supported and ensure you wind up with a ceremony you love.

4. Give them lots of time (and practice!). Get together with your friend and put some dates on the calendar for first, second, and final drafts of the ceremony if you're asking them to write it. That way you're not up till 2 AM together the day of the wedding finalizing word choices. If they're just performing it, talk about doing a rehearsal so you can hear everything out loud and make sure it sounds the way you pictured it when it was just words on a page.

5. Make it all legal. If you're having a legally binding ceremony, your friend needs to get the proper credentials. Check out your local and state laws (usually found on the county clerk’s website). Some states require your friend to be deputized, others allow for your friends to become ministers (free!) through the Universal Life Church. There’s an awesome run down on California officiant information at Offbeat Bride.

Pro tip: When your officiant and witnesses sign your marriage license, be sure there are no smudges or crossed-out words! The clerks are 100% particular about these documents.

Having a friend perform your wedding means it's totally personal and uniquely you. And hey, if they need some help getting all their ideas in order, send them our way!

Has anyone performed a wedding or had a friend officiate theirs? What advice would you add to this list?

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Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

Points! to the Bride and Groom

Chris Hardwick, left, and Lydia Hearst arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" at the Dolby Theatre on Monday, April 13, 2015. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Chris Hardwick, left, and Lydia Hearst arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" at the Dolby Theatre on Monday, April 13, 2015. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

On September 12th, Chris Hardwick, of Nerdist fame, got engaged to Lydia Hearst, model and actress of...Hearst fame. It’s my favorite celeb pairing of all time.

I know everyone loves the Nerdist podcast, and The Talking Dead also has a big name for itself, but my favorite of Hardwick’s shows is actually @Midnight, a points-based game show he hosts and which I became addicted to in no small part because he consistently features a funny, diverse group of comedians.

And of course I’m good friends with Lydia Hearst. I mean, I took a tour of Hearst Castle when I was nine. And I had a good heart-to-heart with a security guard there about why I couldn’t go swimming in the pool. So I assume Lydia heard about that and I’ll be getting an invite to the wedding any day.

In the unlikely event I don’t get to attend, I thought I’d just go ahead and plan the wedding I’d like to see them have:

Location

HearstCastle
HearstCastle

Hearst Castle. Duh.

Officiated by

RonF 2
RonF 2

Ron Funches, everyone’s favorite @Midnight contestant.

Vows

chrishardw 2
chrishardw 2

Will be recorded, include an in-depth portion on their careers, lives, hopes, and dreams, and then be broadcast on Nerdist.

Toasts

Written in the style of a Yelp review for the happy couple. “The groom is good-looking, an engaging speaker, and takes nerd culture super seriously and with a lot of sincerity. Five stars for true love.”

First dance

Michael Jackson’s Thriller. You just don’t have a Chris Hardwick wedding without some kind of zombie influence, I assume. Theme

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Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.31 PM
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Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.36 PM
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Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.39 PM
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Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.42 PM
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Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.38.44 PM

(Quick California history lesson: In 2014, the Hearsts were the sixth richest family in the US, with a net worth of $35 billion!)

After Party

hearstcastlepool 2
hearstcastlepool 2

(I wonder if their position on letting tour groups go swimming has changed…)

What else should be at this wedding? Aside from yourself catching the money bouquet, which Rachel already called dibs on. Flip on those fantasy wedding switches I know you have lurking in your mind and tell us: what would you want to see?

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Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.

4 Unexpected Benefits of Saying “Yes!” to the Maid of Honor Gig

Til Death Do Us Party

Til Death Do Us Party

I’ve done the maid of honor thing from both sides of the aisle: I’ve been one and I’ve asked someone to be mine. So I know the costs add up fast between a dress (that you can wear again, fingers crossed!), shoes, maybe a plane ticket, a bachelorette party, a bridal shower, the time it takes to organize all of the above… you know what? I’m gonna stop there. It’s not just pricey, it’s also a  ton of work, and I hope your best buddy is super crazy grateful for all the time and effort and money you’re putting into being there for them. For moments when the stress is getting to you, I’ve compiled the major benefits to keep you sane:You get to taste all the things.

I knew the part of wedding planning I’d really excel at would be cake tasting. I was not wrong. And when you’re the maid of honor, you get to cake taste, too. You can also dinner taste. I maybe possibly tracked down the drinks vendor and  wine tasted as a maid of honor (this is definitely a thing, so if you start telling people about it and they say they’ve never heard of a wedding party doing this, send them my way). And I actually managed to do all this from half a country away! My commitments to friends and food are strong. If you’re in the same city as your engaged friend, I enthusiastically recommend you tag along and eat everything you are allowed to and really help narrow down the menu. If, like me, you are many states away, then track down the closest alternatives and eat them in support over the phone while the couple talks over the options. In a stressful moment, you can always return to your local bakery in the name of “helping.”

You know that updo you’ve always wanted?

Whether someone has been hired to do hair and makeup or the wedding party is tackling this job solo, this is an awesome time to get together (face-to-face or over Skype) and go through online tutorials for looks you’ve always wanted to try and never had the time/energy/boldness to really put effort into. Here are real-life things I real-life tried as maid of honor: contouring (not for me), cat eyeliner (lots of yes), fake eyelashes (changed my life), and milkmaid braids (also not for me and broke my heart to realize it). I would not have called myself make-up-ly competent before doing all this online with my best friend before her wedding, but it turns out practice really does make perfect.

You can’t imagine how memorable getting ready together is.

Obviously you can get ready with whoever you want day-of, and maybe the engaged couple wants to only get ready with each other (support!), but if you're invited to get ready together the day of the wedding, I would take it. My most cherished memory of my best friend’s wedding is helping her mom zip her into her dress and then walking her to the courthouse. We sat in a quiet, small room together while we waited for the ceremony to start. Nothing big happened during that moment. But we were together, right before she was going to get married, and I had put her shoes on her feet when she couldn’t see over her dress. It was emotional in ways I wasn’t expecting.

What goes around comes around in weddingland.

I didn’t know it when I was maid of honor for my best friend, but about a year after her emotional courthouse wedding, she was maid of honor for me. She called me every time I seem stressed, she didn’t think I was silly when I discovered a deep love for picking out tablecloths, and we of course ate more cake. The day of the wedding, after our makeup and hair were done, she had her new husband bring us garlic fries and then did dramatic readings from gossip magazines until I was in tears laughing. (There are photos of it — I have them saved to my desktop and look at them often.)

Final tally on being a maid of honor: It’s totally work, and it’s totally stressful, but in the end? Totally worth it.

Have you been a maid of honor? Had a great one? What were your favorite parts?

Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.