If you're having an outdoor wedding ceremony, don't include a part where you and your spouse-to-be light candles as a demonstration of your eternal love. Don't light one candle off the other. Don't use the two candles to light another bigger candle to represent the union you're creating. It seems obvious now, but sometime in the course of planning the wedding, you'll probably forget this very important fact: There will be wind at your outdoor ceremony, and your candles won't light.
Because of the wind, you won't be able to light any of the candles. The symbol of your eternal love will fail to ignite, or repeatedly go out, and there will be mumbles and uncomfortable titters, and you'll stare out into the crowd apologetically, feeling nervous and doomed as fuck.
Eventually, after every stoner in the audience offers up their Bics and Zippos, you'll manage to fake the lighting for a few seconds, and you'll move on. I've seen this happen twice, at two of my favorite weddings for four of my favorite people, and it just doesn't get any less uncomfortable, for the audience or for the couple, the second time around. Don't try to defeat the elements. Just don't do it. PAUL CONSTANT
Luminarias—votive candles set inside decorative paper bags—can provide a simple yet elegant touch to any outdoor wedding... until the wind kicks up, setting the bags and the surrounding brush ablaze. Such was the excitement at one friend's wedding when a sudden gust of wind sent guests rushing out of their seats to stomp out multiple wildfires just as the happy couple exchanged their vows. It was a wedding that my singed tux pants will never forget. GOLDY
At the intimate indoor wedding of some beloved humans a few years ago, my date noticed the squat candles lining the aisle, which was also lined with bunches of decorative twigs. It seemed like a fire hazard, she pointed out, candles on the floor. Ha-ha, I said, they must have thought of that. But our worried eyes kept slipping back to stare at the small flames, flickering in their twiggy nests of brush. During the processional, three generations of family paraded down the aisle in flowing fabrics. Distracted by the adorableness, we forgot about the candles until a sudden commotion up front. Whispers rippled through the guests: Is that... is that woman on fire? Indeed, a very sweet grandmother's long skirt had swept right over a candle, setting her alight. To much relieved laughter, she was safely extinguished, but we learned this very important wedding advice: Try not to light your grandmother on fire. ANNA MINARD
I've had a best friend since second grade. We share the same first name. When we were teens, she stayed overnight at my house almost every weekend. Her mom was a very strict Christian and, unlike mine, thought it "unwise" for teenage girls to have birth control or to talk to teenage boys on the telephone, because it would surely lead to pregnancy. When my friend got pregnant, in the 11th grade, it was like a prophecy come true. Shortly after having the baby, it was decided that the best thing my friend could do was to marry the teenage father. I was the maid of honor, and I was shocked when, 20 minutes before the event, the bride was nowhere to be found. She finally flew into the church and announced she'd been in a car accident. She said she'd hit a mysterious "slippery" patch on the road—even though it was summer. Everyone chalked that one up to God. The car was totaled, the wedding rings lost. Then, 15 minutes into the ceremony, a thunderstorm hit—the air electric with both lightning and thunder. When the priest got to the part about Should anyone here know of any reason that the couple NOT be joined in holy matrimony, speak now, the lights exploded with a bang, and the whole church went dark. People in the pews audibly gasped. I heard the bride's mom praying. My mother later remarked that this whole scene could have been avoided if they'd only checked the weather (well, that, and used condoms). KELLY O
A decade or so ago, an old friend of mine got married in a park in Cannon Beach, a small and unremarkable town on the Oregon Coast. The wedding was small and short. The day was cool and cloudy. The groom was Spanish and handsome. The bride was American and pretty. When the moment to exchange vows arrived, a volley of machine-gun fire erupted over our heads. It was terrifyingly loud and rapid, and it came from somewhere nearby but obscured by trees. The mother of the groom ducked several times because she hadn't heard guns firing since being in the Spanish Civil War. The father of the bride cleared up some of the confusion and alarm with the explanation that soldiers were practicing at a shooting range next to the park. The ceremony continued, and so did the machine guns, and so did the ducking. When the bride was asked if she would take the Spaniard to be her lawfully wedded husband, the sound of bullets riddled the air and obscured her response—"I do." The wedding became a battlefield. The fallen were words of love. And the ceremony ended with the guests feeling like the civilian survivors of some great war. CHARLES MUDEDE
When it comes to taking your wedding ceremony up a conceptual notch, few things beat a well-written, well-read chunk of text by a beloved writer who's managed to pin down in words an eternal truth about the union being made before our eyes.
However, when it comes to making wedding guests wish they were dead, few things compare to a long, boring, off-putting wedding reading. So keep your guests away from the razor blades by keeping your wedding reading short, sweet, and clear. Many great poems make next to no sense on first listen—and that's all a wedding guest gets. If you're going with poetry, aim for something with tangible concepts and imagery and, most importantly, that fits on one printed page.
Fun fact: At three different weddings, I've read the same collection of words from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, which doesn't come from a poem but a letter: "Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side by side can grow up between them, if they succeed in loving the distance between them, which makes it possible to see each other whole and against a wide sky." Individual egos stroked, glory of love celebrated, all in one sentence that makes sense. Follow this lead. DAVID SCHMADER
You've planned your wedding to within an inch of its life, which is exactly what you should have done. That doesn't mean that calling it off is not exactly what you should do, too. Sometimes, calling it off is exactly what's called for. I do not say this lightly. I called off my was-going-to-be-awesome, 225-person, one-and-only wedding four days beforehand. If you get to a place where you are deeply unsure—I had the feeling that I would only be able to bring my body halfway down the aisle—if you have a version of this feeling and it is persisting to the point where you're having to fight it off but it keeps multiplying, then stop it. Stop it. Every single friend and family member I consulted told me, "You know you can call it off, right?" They will not be mad at you. They will help you. People will refund you. They know you are horrified and embarrassed. You will be unable to breathe during the actual hours when the wedding was supposed to happen. Then, a few months later, you will never regret it again. You can get married anytime. But the only right time is the time when it feels right. JEN GRAVES