I've been married for almost 15 wonderful years now but I don't mind admitting that if I were to get hitched again tomorrow, I would do things very differently. Oh sure, my choice of groom would still be the same but that's probably about it because my wedding dress, reception venue, guest list and even the style of wedding would change drastically.
This isn't to say I had a s**those wedding, or that I was forced into things kicking and screaming (hell, I chose the tulle meringue and the sit-down reception with beef or chicken option). But as a person you're constantly evolving, and the person you are at 25 is a huge departure from the person you were at 15 and absolutely no match for the woman you'll be at 35.
When you're in the throes of planning a wedding, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, so it helps to take a step back and remember this: none of it matters. I know that's tough to hear when you're organising the biggest day of your life to date but believe me when I say not only will you not care what kind of bonbonniere you had six months down the track, but that years later you will cringe at some of the choices you made and trends you followed.
Can you honestly imagine anyone who suffered the terrible misfortune of getting hitch in the eighties gazing adoringly at photos of their Dynasty shoulder pads and lace headbands while thinking, "Synthetics… yes, I made the right choice"? My tip? Just relax, plan a party to celebrate your union and don't worry about the small stuff. It will barely be a blip on the radar in years to come – promise.
What our girls need to know about planning their Big Day
* Yep, nothing says true love quite like exploding pyrotechnics, the release of NIDA-trained doves and a music reality show winner crooning Sinatra covers at guests while they dine. Don't get me wrong, some people love this stuff and that's cool, but it's been my experience (I was the features director of Cosmo Bride for quite a number of years), that the more extravagant the wedding, the more likely the couple are to call it quits soon after.
Don't get caught up in the theatre of organising an event. It's not a movie you're directing, it's a marriage, and your groom is not your bitch.
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* You know those cute little dresses you've found for your bridesmaids? The lavender ones you're convinced they'll be able to wear time and again? Never going to happen. In fact, this has never happened in the history of bridesmaid dresses. If you want matchy matchy, give them a colour scheme to work with and then let them choose their own styles. Lavender is a tough sell, by the way.
* You don't need to spend big on a designer wedding gown to look breathtaking on the day. I will you this because I know how easy it is to get caught up in the moment, but if you don't tread carefully you'll find yourself saying things like, "Well, I suppose $12,000 for the dress of my dreams isn't all that expensive…" If you ever start to feel that way, I want you to grab a coffee, re-read my notes on charity further back in this book and take time out to have a rethink.
There are many ways of procuring your dream dress without first promising your firstborn. Start your search by checking out designers' sample sales or seeking out labels that do plenty of cream forma gowns. You could go for the popular vintage option of course, or if you're obsessed with a particular bridal designer, you could ask them to make the same or a similar gown using a less expensive fabric or omitting any intricate detailing to bring the dress in line with your budget. You'll never know if you don't ask.
Photo: Getty Images
* It's worth paying more for a decent wedding photographer but because long after the event has faded into the background, all you'll be left with is an album full of photos to get misty-eyed over. Engage someone who specialises in weddings rather than a professional photographer who's been known to shoot the odd wedding because there's a world of difference between the two. Familiarise yourself with their work before you lock them in. Ask to see entire weddings, not just the portfolio of the "best of's" they've got on the coffee table. Anyone can get lucky and take one or two excellent shots. You're looking for consistency.
* As a bride you want to look like a better version of yourself, not look like someone else. If you don't normally wear red lipstick or a tandoori tan, this is not the time to get experimental. It freaks people out – particularly your partner – and you won't be happy with the final result.
* Have a hair and make up trial and make sure the artist isn't some kind of coke fiend. I don't know how you can diplomatically check this but if he or she is continually sniffing and running off to the bathroom, you can be confident it's not a case of the runs. My hair and make up artist was like Tony Montana from Scarface and the hair and make up I got on the big day was very different from what we settled on during the trials. Hmm, now that I think about it, this complete invalidates what I'm telling you about getting trials. Still, a good idea however.
* Always get everything in writing. Verbal agreements don't hold up in court, so you're going to need every quote written down and signed – in blood, if possible.
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* The quality of the diamond is more important than the size of it. Look for something within your budget that fits within the D to H grading range and take heart: if your budget is modest, there are plenty of tricks you can incorporate into the design of the ring to make it look more impressive (if that's important to you, that is). You can opt to have a halo, or perhaps look for a coloured stone in place of a diamond.
* If your partner can't afford to buy the ring you've had your heart set on, accept the situation for what it is or offer to pay a sum towards it, if not half. He (or she) might be appalled or he might say yes but either way, you'll have to quit going on about it. They can be really sensitive about such matters and pushing someone to purchase something they can't afford is not going to help the situation any further.
* Stop worrying about finding the perfect first dance song. Your choice doesn't have to be one loaded with personal meaning or be any kind of reflection of who you are as a couple. Just choose one you like. If you really want to roll around the floor to The Prodigy's Smack My Bitch Up, that's your prerogative and I applaud you.
* Wedding cakes can be ridiculously expensive but there are plenty of ways around it. You can have foam layers added to make a basic look more impressive; you can have your florist top a simple cake with beautiful blooms; or, if you don't have a sweet tooth, you can have wheels of cheese instead.
* There are plenty of ways to celebrate your hen's night WITHOUT wearing a flashing sash and sucking on the end of a penis straw. Just saying…
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* Lock in a reception venue as soon as you start to plan your wedding, because the best ones get booked months or sometimes years in advance. Before you start to look at actual venues, you'll need to have a think about the style of wedding you'd like, your guest list, budget and desired location. This will help you zero in on the venues most suitable, and then it's a matter of calling up and enquiring about the nitty-gritty such as whether they charge corkage, allow you to bring your own alcohol and so forth.
Next, you'll have to book in the other major components of your wedding, such as ceremony location, photographer, celebrant, and if you're having your dress made, your dress designer.
* Remember you can't please everyone. You could have Ricky Gervais emceeing the bloody thing and you will still have some worse-for-wear cousin sneering in the bathroom that she just can't believe you'd have that "little troll entertaining guests". F*** 'em.
* Compromise is everything. It wasn't my plan to have a traditional wedding; I wanted to get married in Vegas in a glo-mesh dress and go-go boots but the other party to the marriage was insistent we do the whole white-dress-and-sober-ceremony thing. I saw how important tradition on the day was to him so I did it to make him happy (I got my Vegas wedding ten years later). Just remember you're not the only one getting married; it's your partner's big day too.
* Working out the guest list is perhaps one of the most stressful parts of planning a wedding. It sounds ruthless but the best way to go about it is to make your initial list and then ask yourself two important questions about every person on it: "What are the chances this person will still be in my life in ten years' time?" and "Is this person really worth the $150 per head I'll be paying to have them there?" You might be surprised by how much shorter your list will become.
* Lastly, when you get married, you're basically saying yes to waking up next to this person every single day of your life until one of you dies (BTW, would you like me to write your wedding vows? Offer's on the table). Saying "I do" is like ordering steak off an a la carte menu and having that same meal three times a day, day in, day out no matter what the specials are or even if some days you think you wouldn't mind having chicken instead. Steak you ordered and steak you shall have. Forever.
Now, taking this into consideration, ask yourself do you really want the marriage, or is it just the wedding you're after? If you can take on board what I'm saying and be just as content to marry in a registry office, then by all means get hitched. If you feel even the slightest flicker of doubt, back out now. There's no shame in bailing before you spend tens of thousands of dollars on a very big mistake. Do what your heart tells you.
This edited piece on weddings was first published (2012) by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited in Dilvin Yasa's first book, Things My Daughter Needs to Know. Yasa's second book, Good Enough: Confessions Of A Less-Than-Perfect-Mum is available through Pan Macmillan.