What Makes It? What Breaks It?

There are thousands of variations available for every option when you’re getting married. The words of the ceremony, the clothes you choose, the food you serve, color combinations, flower arrangements, not-so-flower arrangements, the music you have played – even what method you use to get that music played, not to mention dozens of other things.

But let’s face it, some of these options matter more to you (and to your guests) than others.

Some people can’t stand anything that varies from strict tradition, while others wouldn’t want to be caught dead at a wedding that doesn’t challenge nearly every tradition in the book. Some people hate buffets with a purple panting passion, while others find pre-plated meals stuffy. For some it’s all about pomp and circumstance while others prefer something casual and light-hearted. For some, as long as the wedding ends with a married couple they don’t much care what else does or doesn’t happen. There are people whose priority is food and drink, and those who care more about party favors.

So I’m curious. What matters to you? What makes a really great wedding in your individual opinion? What makes the event a total bust? Did that change when you became the bride?

Talk to me, people. Tell me what you think.

9 Responses to “What Makes It? What Breaks It?”

  1. Caty May 16, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    the people make the wedding. i’ve been to 100,000 dollar weddings and 15,000 dollar weddings, and the one thing that makes it good is if you’ve got a fun bunch of people invited. the best weddings are when, no matter if you have a DJ or band, EVERYONE is up and dancing and having a good time. open bars also help this a bit :)

  2. Rosanna May 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

    A great wedding is something that looks, feels, smells like the bride and the groom. It’s something that reflects THEIR tastes, THEIR sense of style, what is important to THEM and how THEY are in the world.

  3. The gold digger May 16, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    I just want to be around fun people and have a good time. I don’t care if there is booze. I don’t care if there is fancy food (although I would like to be fed). I don’t care if there are flowers or an ice sculpture or a chocolate fountain. I just want to attend a joyous event where everyone is having fun. And dancing is always a plus.

  4. Omnibus Driver May 16, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

    My favorite wedding of all time was a small wedding in a south side of Chicago Missionary Baptist Church with reception that followed in the church basement.

    The best man and maid of honor were engaged, but had put off their own wedding because they had committed to the expenses of being in this wedding. The bride and groom knew the best man had a wedding license burning a hole in his pocket. They approached the minister quietly and explained that it seemed selfish to waste the beautiful day, their gorgeous outfits and the gathered friends and family, and would the pastor please, please consider going back upstairs and marrying the second couple.

    A delighted pastor made the invitation, and we all trooped back up to the sanctuary, where the pairs swapped roles and the second couple swapped vows.

    That was the most beautiful expression of love and selflessness I’ve ever seen. No amount of money or pomp or stuff will ever take the place of those two weddings on that one day. Love. Friendship. Family. Celebration.

  5. Blossom May 17, 2010 at 1:21 am #

    For me it was getting to call my man, my husband. And that goes for all couples as long as thay are happy thats what matters.

  6. ChristianeF May 17, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

    Omnibus, I first read your post this morning at work and it was/is so lovely, I cried right there at my desk. I’m pretty sure my supervisor heard the sniffling.

    Thank you for sharing it.

  7. Annie May 18, 2010 at 12:38 am #

    I’d say a good wedding is one where the people getting married actually thought about and considered what they’re including and why, and even why they’re getting married in the first place, not just going through the motions of getting married according to whatever group or subculture they belong to, or their families belong to, or their friends belong to. Not just getting hitched because someone doesn’t like the idea of them living together without a marriage license or it seems like the right thing to do. Not just doing something to stand out for the sake of standing out or fitting in for the sake of fitting in. Not just inviting hateful aunt or uncle Pat to preserve the peace or including a small niece or nephew in the ceremony to keep their siblings from acting all huffy and spiteful. Actually researching “traditions” and/or thinking about what they mean to them personally before including them, and not just doing it because it’s done. Respecting each other in the process, and not just making the day about one member of marriage because society days so. Taking their marriage as seriously as they mutually believe it should be taken, regardless of whether that involves a waterballoon fight at the reception or a full religious ceremony.

    I’d say a great wedding is one where the individuals getting married can do all of the above and remember to treat their guests, if they choose to have any, like human beings and guests rather than spectators their to validate some unfulfilled “need” for something. Remember that at the end of the day, they’re married, and regardless of whether they’re doing it because it’s something they dreamed of since childhood or it’s a grudging acceptance of a tradition that makes them grind their teeth for visa or tax reasons, all that matters is that they are married, and a few drunken guests or missing caterers doesn’t change that. And remember to have fun in the process.

  8. ElfPuddle May 18, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    What Annie said. Absolutely!
    And, thanks!

  9. kristophine May 18, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    From a guest’s point of view:

    1. The guests can be reasonably certain that the bride and groom aren’t making a horrible mistake. No wedding, no matter how pretty, is comfortable when you’re watching the couple bicker and thinking, “I wonder how long they’ll take to get this inevitable divorce?”

    2. Food. I barely remember the reception decorations, let alone ceremony decorations, but I guarantee you I remember food. It doesn’t have to be fancy, doesn’t matter if it’s plated or buffet, doesn’t even matter whether it’s a lunch or a dinner or a mid-afternoon tea with candy. What does matter is that guests know what kind of food it is, so we know if we need to eat ahead of time in order to not be starving during the reception; that there be enough of it, so that nobody’s eyeing anybody else’s plate hungrily; and that it be tasty and the appropriate temperature. No cold little appetizers that are masquerading as dinner, no stale things that should be fresh, wilted things that should be perky, or tasteless things that should be delicious. If I have to eat one more canape that thinks it’s a main course for a real dinner again in my life I will scream. No lumpy food stuck to a paper wrapper with its own cold grease. No half-melted ice cream. And cake! Come ON. It’s cake. Cake is not hard. You find a cake you like–recipe or bought–and you make sure it’s not so dry it’s going to crumble like a socially anxious kid at a debate tournament. You make sure the frosting doesn’t taste mostly of Crisco, and if you must have fondant, make sure the fondant will come off without gutting any given slice. (Most people will not be enthused about actually eating the fondant, especially after a trial bite.) Cake should have, and easily can have, full, rich flavor, delicate texture, be moist, and be appropriately frosted, for cheap. Have a sheet cake waiting in the wings, seriously, but HAVE. GOOD. CAKE. It is cheap. It is easy. Half the time you can get a box of mix from the store that takes ten minutes to prep, half an hour to bake, and tastes better than the pre-made thing you were gonna pay thirty bucks for. And if BOX MIX is superior to the cake you choose, just imagine how much better a straight-up from-scratch cake is. I have been baking a lot over the last two years, and there is a BIG difference between mix-made store-bought cake, from-scratch store-bought cake, mix-made homemade cake, and from-scratch homemade cake. The two in the middle can switch places, but a from-scratch homemade cake just plain tastes better. And if you’re a terrible baker (or just won’t have time), fine, that happens, but pay somebody who isn’t to do it. Pay your cousin twenty bucks. It is NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. It is not mystical. It is a cake. Millions of people less awesome than you have made cakes before, and any screw-up you can possibly make is dwarfed in comparison to the screw-ups I’ve seen professionals make. (Cake Wrecks, for example. Or that baking challenge show where a professional baker set an entire cake on fire.) A little practice, or, like I said, paying your cousin/sibling/acquaintance will get you a perfectly serviceable sheet cake that you can stealthily plate if you want your display cake to fool everyone, which is in and of itself kind of ridiculous.

    I have very strong feelings about cake. And food in general. If you’re going to spend the money for catering, your food should at least be edible. Otherwise, buy a hundred things off the dollar menu at Wendy’s and call it a day. Food is the second-biggest chunk of our wedding budget (after rings; my man is in love with old-world enameling), and if I had my druthers it’d be more. People remember food, they remember drinks, they remember the warmth of a full belly and the pleasant chit-chat that paves the way for. People care about food. Don’t treat it as an afterthought, or care more about how it looks than how it tastes. You can’t eat photographs.

    I haven’t been to many weddings, but I am still bitter about the wedding with the reception held during dinner time where we weren’t warned that it would be only be cake, so we hadn’t eaten beforehand, and then the cake was dry and tasteless and the “filling” was overly-sweet raspberry jam–clearly storebought from a less than a perfect place. The couple was great, and I do feel happy that I went, and got to see them being wonderfully in love–but I remember being hungry and cranky (and bored, while they took a million years to do their photos) at their reception, too. Paper plates and paper napkins if you must, but serve good food appropriate to the time of day!