My cousin got married last year and because I’m a seasoned wedding expert with tons of experience, she called me for advice.

“Here we go again,” I thought.

Not that I mind sharing my expertise with family and friends. I’m happy to do that.
It just gets complicated. Fast.

Friends and family call me because they’re hoping to save money by using my expert advice to do it themselves or to help an amateur who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Now I’m forced into a situation where I can give them my professional advice on their DIY wedding ideas, knowing that it’s will lead to trouble…or I can crush their dreams by telling them their ideas suck.

Can you relate?

So, my beautiful cousin comes to me with her ideas and my brain is screaming, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”

Ideas like:

  • Have the guests do all the coordinating and planning at a non-traditional wedding venue.
  • Multiple locations for ceremony, cocktail hour and reception without having visited the spot.
  •  Using non-pro equipment for the ceremony without a DJ or MC.

And these are just the things she told me about. ARGH!

I agreed to help because I knew she’d need it.

Why didn’t I speak up and tell her what I REALLY thought?

I was scared.

I didn’t want to be the Big Bad Wedding Pro who rains on her parade. And it was pretty clear that she’d already decided what she was going to do.

I thought that if I added my dissenting opinion, it was only going to made her mad. At me.

I ended up MC’ing all the events and wrangling the guests on a corded microphone (ouch!) with an inexperienced family member (yeesh!) on an iPod.

Please, kill me now.

It went well. About as well as expected.

I convinced the couple to do the First Dance and the toasts early when I knew we’d have the guests’ attention. This was a good call, since guests were sprawling across the property for the rest of the night.

As it was, the open invitation for toasts (which I’d advised them against) meant the guests were standing for 45 minutes in the cold wind.

While my industrious cousin had cleverly assigned tasks to teams of people, no one had all the information in one centralized place. Essentially, there was no one in charge.

It was left to me and the catering staff to improvise the rest and hope it was in accordance with the couple’s wishes.

The moms were breathing down my neck all night, giving me last minute special announcements to make (that no one would hear) and fretting about when events were going to happen.

And my family members couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t have their cake and coffee delivered to the tables the way it was “supposed” to be done. *sigh*

Here’s what I learned from this experience and what I’d do differently next time.

#1 – Tell the truth.

Looking back, I would tell my cousin what would happen based on my experience, instead of beating around the bush. I kinda told her, but I was holding back.

Her wedding would have been a better experience, especially for the guests, if she’d had a day of coordinator. I could have been more emphatic in my recommendation.

It also would have been a lot easier on ME. Because they didn’t have someone coordinating things, much of the day of organizing fell into my lap.

#2 – Get all the info.

There were a lot of things I didn’t know about the wedding because I’d never visited the location.

The older guests really needed chairs for those long-winded toasts. The dance floor was way, way, way far away from the dining area, which meant announcements were impossible.

If I’d known the set up, I would have talked her into having everything in one room.

Because I didn’t get all the information up front, I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into and I couldn’t help her create the best plan.

#3 – Insist on your minimum requirements.

I ended up acting as the full-on MC at the wedding. Intros, dances, cake, garter and bouquet, the works.

It was actually fun because I got to show off my chops to my family. “Look, Ma! I still got it!”

However, I didn’t have a DJ I could trust for transitions because the guest manning in the iPod had no experience and Jeff wasn’t there. It left me a little hamstrung.

I did insist on microphones for the ceremony – which turned out to be great because the wind would have carried away everyone’s words otherwise – but I didn’t insist (strongly enough) on pro equipment.

If you choose to participate in a wedding for a loved one, be clear on what’s required to make it okay for you. Then honor those things.

#4 – Warn them about the guest experience of a DIY wedding.

My cousin and her fiancé wanted everyone to be included and involved in the wedding. They figured giving everyone “assignments” was the perfect way to accomplish this.

What they didn’t realize that distributing the responsibilities equally to their guests also distributed the stress.

The moms and BFF’s in particular didn’t get to relax and enjoy themselves.

I suspect that if my cousin had known that, she would have hired more help.

Jennifer McCoy Blaske, of Piano Jenny and author of Giggin’ For a Livin: How to Make Money As a Musician Playing For Weddings and Special Events, describes her experience as a wedding guest.

“We just got back from an OOT relative’s wedding that was almost 100% DIY. Although the wedding was surprisingly lovely and fairly organized, considering, what struck me was what a toll it took on the relatives.

The bride’s sister was working on the flowers til 11pm and the bride and her mother were also working on things later than they had planned. My family went shopping for over $250 of food the day of the wedding, then spend a couple hours in the kitchen preparing appetizers and setting the tables.

I discovered FIVE DAYS before the wedding that they had absolutely nothing planned for music (not even a CD) at the ceremony, and I offered to haul my keyboard up and play for free.

In a way that was a neat thing, because we were all part of a “project,” and it was fun. Don’t get me wrong; we offered to help and nobody forced us to do those things.

But it might be smart to advise DIY brides that if they get in over their heads, they may not want to have their out of town guests have to bail them out. (They would have been in trouble if we hadn’t been willing and able to do all that.)

The ones who really bore the brunt were the bride’s mother and sister, who both looked painfully exhausted before, during, and after the wedding.” – Jennifer McCoy Blaske

Preach it, sister.

My little brother’s wedding is coming up next month. We’ll see how much I’ve learned very soon. 🙂

How do you handle it when friends or family ask you for wedding advice or help?