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If You Could Turn Back Time

Married couples look back on their weddings and share what they cherish and what they would change

by Stephen Leon on January 30, 2014


“The one thing that we wish with our whole hearts that we had done was make a video of our day!” says Andrea, who has fond memories—and photos—of the day she married Mark. “We spent a lot on photographs that really are beautiful and we cherish so much, but we don’t have the moment of exchanging our vows to hear again, or watch our first dance, or hear my best friend’s speech that brought tears to my eyes! . . . Being able to watch that happiness over and over again would be priceless!”

The e-mail survey we sent out to married couples we know consisted of two questions: 1) What one aspect of your wedding worked out so well that you would do it again (and also recommend to others)? And 2) What aspect of your wedding worked out the least well, so you would definitely change it or not do it?

For Andrea and Mark, who have overwhelmingly fond memories of their special day, the only regret is the realization that they could have preserved it in video. The stories I’ve heard over the years of things that went wrong at weddings range from the minor (Uncle Joe passed out; the place cards were the wrong color; the DJ, announcing the 35th anniversary of another couple in attendance, botched their names) to the more problematic (the officiant/photographer/caterer didn’t show up; pouring rain at an outdoor reception). Typically, the answers fall somewhere in between.

Christina and Dan hired a “cheaper” photographer and regretted it. “Although our wedding photos were OK, and we got some beautiful ceremony shots, the aftermath of ordering was a disaster and we almost ended up in small claims court! I highly recommend meeting with your photographer a number of times before the big day and really understanding their process before you buy a package. Cut your budget on flowers, guest thank-you gifts and decor because those things are minor. Photos last a lifetime and are frozen memories of the most important day of your lives.”

Jen wishes she had found a better seamstress. “I brought my dress to a local lady I heard was good. . . . She had my dress for two months and did a terrible job, leaving me to find someone new four days before the wedding. My dress didn’t fit as well as it should have (too long, bad bustle etc.) which made it a harder to dance and walk around comfortably.” Marie had a similar problem with a chain retailer. “My dress didn’t fit correctly and therefore in many pics was falling off. They alteration department there was horrible and didn’t know what they were doing.”

Clearly, how the bride looks on her special day is of paramount importance. “The one thing I regret about my wedding is my hair,” says Jenna. “I would recommend doing several trial runs before the big day. If you don’t like it, speak up and let your hairdresser know!”

Other regrets included having the wedding too far from where most of the guests were coming; and spending too much time and anxiety on little details. “My husband made placecard holders from wine corks,” remembers Nicole, “and after spending hours on the project, our venue forgot to put them out. I didn’t even notice until I saw the pictures from that night!”

What did couples say they’d do all over again? More than one said they were glad they found a venue that was all-inclusive, and/or had its own wedding coordinator. Also popular were “First Look” wedding photos: “It saved so much time and allowed us to enjoy our cocktail hour, recalls Jenna. “It also provided an intimate setting for Matt and I to truly focus on each other during that special moment rather than the 200 people at the church.”

Marie loved her DJ, who “sang Sinatra during dinner/cocktail hour and played music we could dance to for the rest of the reception. People loved his voice, and it set a calm, enjoyable mood for dinner and a fun mood for the rest of the reception.”

Ryan “loved that we decided to substitute the traditional wedding cake for something more our style, which was a raspberry pie!”

And since Ryan clearly is the least traditional of all of our respondents, we’ll give him the final word on what he would change: “Although we had a beautiful wedding, we wish we had spent less money and eloped instead.”