Five Things I learned About Weddings From Writing for The New York Times


bride and groom
Photo: Karizma Photography

I started working in wedding catering as a teenager, and after college, I went to work for The New York Times’ society desk, where I wrote wedding announcements for some of America’s most famous (and infamous) couples. I even wrote a book about it. So you could say I know a bit about weddings: the before, the during, and what happens the day after. After more than 20 years, I’ve learned a few things about weddings and how important it is, after all the fuss and flowers, to focus on what’s in front of you: the person you love.

1. Something will go wrong.

It’s going to be fine. It poured buckets on our wedding day, an outdoor spring affair with dinner under a pavilion. Oh, and my husband disappeared the morning of our wedding. But we had the foresight to buy a bunch of umbrellas, and Michael’s groomsmen eventually found him in the hot tub at his hotel, where he was trying to recover from a hangover. Things will happen on your wedding day that you didn’t plan for; some might be funny, and others might not. But keep your eye on the prize: You’re getting married to the person you love with your whole heart. The things that you’re working so hard on right now are going to be great, and even if your printer messed up the place cards, your guests will still figure out where to sit.

2. Everything you’re feeling is OK.

Planning a wedding, and getting married, will be one of the most emotional experiences you’ll ever have. Every emotion you’re experiencing right now — happy, sad, fearful, loving, angry, frustrated — this is all normal, and all expected. I cried a lot before I got married, and at what felt like the craziest things: trying on my wedding ring, for example, or walking to a yoga class. But a wedding is the ending of something, and the beginning of something else — one of life’s greatest traditions, and also one it its biggest changes. Let yourself feel what you need to feel, and lean on your friends and family. But that said…

3. Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a great battle.

That might sound a little dramatic. But when you’re in the throes of wedding planning, it can be hard to remember that not everyone is as singularly focused as you are on your wedding. Your wedding dress fitter has faced the tantrums of many brides, but she’s still on the floor, pinning your dress to your specifications. Your caterer can’t control the food supply chain — especially now — but they’ll work with you as best they can. Your attendant who lost their job during the pandemic might not be able to afford the outfit you selected, but they still want to be there for you on your day. A little perspective and kindness, even when you feel like so much is being asked of you, can go a long way to a happier wedding — and help you avoid emotional fallout after you get back from your honeymoon.

4. Drink water.

I’m serious. I had a pounding headache by the end of my wedding, and it was because I hadn’t drunk enough water that evening. We had a spectacular wait staff who cleared dishes and glasses attentively, but that also meant my water glass walked off before I got a chance to drain it. Pair it with alcohol, buy yourself a “bride only” water bottle and put it under your chair. Then, task one of your trusty attendants with the single goal of making sure you have a full glass of water at all times — do whatever you need to do. Drink water. Trust me. Your body will thank you later.

5. If you think your wedding is going to be the best day of your life, wait until you see what happens next.

Because in the end, that’s what it’s all about, right? As much as we want our weddings to be the perfect day for us, we can’t forget what’s on the other side of it: a marriage, with all the joys and complications that life can bring. I’ve been married 11 years, and life has thrown a lot at us: health scares, moves, job changes, funerals, miscarriage — and also some of the greatest happinesses and thrills a person can experience. Throughout everything, with all the joy and chaos that life can bring, we’ve had a home in each other’s arms. The vows we said in April 2010 remain the underpinnings of our life together, as a couple and a family. How lucky I am to be able to say that still.

Cate Doty’s memoir, Mergers and Acquisitions (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), takes a deep dive into her adventures as an editor and writer at The New York Times.