Things I wish I'd known in preparation for my wedding day
1. It will be REALLY overwhelming. There will be multiple people talking to you at once during the whole reception. Just getting from one side of the room to the other is a chore and can take up to 10 minutes. Designate someone to be a "gopher" for you. People don't walk and talk and you'll be cornered talking to a long lost relative when all you can think about is getting back to your purse/drink/food/whatever. (I had 3 different people all trying to have different conversations with me at one time. I couldn't enjoy my moment because it was so overwhelming.) Make a deal with your hubby and/or bridesmaids to "save" you if you give a cue that you need to get out of a situation.
2. Take at least one break with your new husband alone to the corner of the room or just outside the door so that the both of you can take a moment to take in everything. Make a private moment for just the two of you. The night goes so fast, and you need to make a conscious move to take a mental snapshot.
3. Putting on the dress and all the garments/shoes/etc that go with it can be difficult to do by yourself. Have someone help you. And it can get HOT. And since your adrenaline is going, too, make sure the room you get ready in is cool... a fan helps. I got hot, sweaty, and light-headed until I had a fan.
4. If you are not going to have a videographer, designate a couple people to use a video camera or camera phone to record a few of the highlights. (The "I do" moment, the first dance, and the speeches, especially my father's speech, are what I really wish I had recorded.) Splurging on a videographer would be worth every penny.
5. Caterers care about themselves, not your party. Before the reception starts, have someone you trust request (to the person heading up the staff) that nothing... and you mean NOTHING... (especially from the head table) be removed without permission. The caterers were in such a hurry to clean up and go home that I missed out on the other flavors of my cake and half of my dinner because they took it away too fast. I heard other complaints from guests about the same thing. "I went to the bar for JUST A MINUTE, came back and my food was gone!" My father tipped a large sum to each waiter before the reception, but really should have told the head waiter that these tips would be available at the end of the evening based on performance. Once they got their "tip", they didn't care if they were doing a great job or not.
6. Depending on your dress, you will probably need help to pee. It's annoying to always have to have someone with you to pee. Just have to deal with it.
7. It's nearly IMPOSSIBLE to spend time with each and every guest. There just isn't the time. If you can, make rounds to different tables to say hi to everyone collectively. People understand that you are overwhelmed on your big day, so you can't let yourself feel guilty about not seeing some people.
8. Make sure you know who is in charge of collecting your things to go home at the end of the night. Who is taking gifts home for you? Who is taking guest book/toasting glasses/centerpieces/cake servers/etc home for you? Make a list of everything that must make the trip back to your house for whomever is in charge of it. We made 3 trips back to the reception site the next 2 days trying to find things left behind. I recommend that whoever is in charge of taking things for you be a non-drinker.
9. People will write checks to Mr. and Mrs. NewLastName or Natalie NewLastName. Most banks have a policy about cashing or depositing these checks until your marriage license comes in (usually up to 30 days after the wedding). We couldn't cash a couple of the checks for a month. You can get creative by signing your new name and signing it to a 3rd party, such as your mom or husband in order to get them cashed.
10. Give the dj or announcer a typed up version of what you want said where and proper pronunciation of every person's name in the wedding party and family. And an order in which you want the reception to go.
11. At the rehearsal, I noticed our minister was in desperate need of a haircut. It looked as if he hadn't had a cut in 3 months. Hair was taking over his neck. It shows in some photos. I considered asking him at the rehearsal to get a haircut before he did the wedding, but didn't. I should have spoke up. The photos are forever.
12. The whole day goes sooooo fast. Make sure to take mental snapshots throughout the day/evening, and make sure your photographer(s) have instructions for specific things you want captured. It's a good idea to have them go table to table to capture every guest. Table cameras for the guests was the best thing we did. We got some great shots from the guests points of view.
13. Ask your caterer to make sure at least 2 bartenders are on duty for the first hour of your reception. No one likes standing in lines, especially when they are missing out on your reception.