Early in the wedding planning business I joined a wedding forum because I was directed there by a friend and wanted some impartial advice on wedding-related things I didn’t understand, like why most women spend £1k on a dress, get married in a church despite being atheist or pay somebody to do their make up for them. And general stuff like how a wedding “normally” went.
However, as I’ve explored a bit more, I’ve discovered that there is an awful lot of totally crap advice out there on websites. They are usually generic wedding websites, written by people who have a very narrow perspective and have failed to take into account the wider audience who might come across their ramblings. Reading these sites tends to make you feel like you forgot some wedding must-have, you’re not doing things the “right” way and need to change to be more “normal” or that you/your situation have/s been excluded.
Of course, there are some great tips out there you would not have thought of without being prompted. I would especially like to draw your attention to groompower.com, where the Fiance picked up the wonderful tip not to get overambitious polishing his shoes, to avoid a bride with black stains all over the bottom of her nice white dress.
But how can you tell the good advice from the bad?
Well, half of it is just common sense. I suppose in my case it helps that I only started browsing randomly after having talked to lots of lovely ladies. It also helps that I am stubborn and opinionated and that we’re doing a lot of things differently and don’t feel the need to follow the (baa) flock. But even if you’ve started from the same point I have, you can easily end up having a little wobble because something you’ve read on a random website has given you doubts. You might not even go there on purpose. You might get linked there on a forum, by a supplier or through a seemingly innocent link embedded in a blog post.
So here are some Hot Tips for recognising Bad Advice.
1. It’s usually very brief
The bad advisor cannot be bothered to go into details, do further research or question to what extent their advice is limited by their own experience. They probably don’t really know what they’re talking about and thus there isn’t much of it. If they’re trying to sell a product, it’s best not to mention alternatives if possible.
2. It’s linked to Branding
If the site is flaunting one supplier or another, it’s biased. So, okay, we all know this, but sometimes the site doesn’t just big itself up – it hides alternatives. There’s nothing wrong with looking through these sites for lists of products, but be cautious as you do it.
Make up sites are particularly bad at this, telling you that you have to wear one thing or another, telling you what the bridal look is or harrassing you with package deals for your big day. If they don’t offer an product they also won’t mention key things like the fact that it’s worth looking for as much waterproof make up as possible – especilaly for your eyes. They won’t tell you that you can try samples for free or have free make up lessons on Boots/Debenhams/John Lewis stalls and that these things might be really useful in case their products disagree with your skin or something. Good advice will tell you to try before you buy, warn you that everything is not sunshine and glass slippers, and encourage you to shop around.
In other words, it doesn’t sell, it advises. And if instead you go to see a make up vendor in person, they’ll probably give you real advice too.
3. “Signal” word like “you must” and “never”
Why? Is it the done thing? Would it be an awful faux pas if you did? Would your family throw down their champagne flutes and perform a mass exit in protest? I suspect not.
Whatever happens, it’s your day. Yes, you need to take the feelings of your guests into account, of course you do, but only you know your guests. It’s easy to follow decades of tradition rather than actually decide what is suitable, but you should still do this, because the traditional way might not be suitable either.
Don’t let any website give you orders. An order on a site is an invitation to click the big red cross in the corner. So if you see a command on an advice page (e.g. “Don’t let any website give you orders.”) really sit down and question it – it may be a strongly-voiced opinion, or casual use of language… or you may well be best moving on from there.
Good advice will give you some hints and tips, suggest alternatives and then invite you to decide what is appropriate given your own set of circumstances.
4. It invites you to be selfish
Wedding related media is particularly guilty of this because it is Your Day and thus only what You Want matters. So if you want to eat raw meat and give out condoms as favours, do it! Who cares how many people beg you not to. …Erm? Even wedding forums can get pretty bad – though it does depend upon the forum and its feel and attitudes.
I was recently reminded of this by a thread on a facebook group I frequent. The poster asked:
How much do you agree that weddings are JUST about the bride and groom?.. I personally think that as soon as you invite guests, you are a host, and should consider your guests.
I ask because over on the UKBride forum there’s a thread about menu choices, and everyone apart from me has said something along the lines of picking what the couples wants, and not considering the guests. This seems silly to me as a) presumably, people do actually LIKE the people they are inviting and want them to have a good time, and not go hungry and b) surely if you’re spending x amount on a meal, you don’t want 75% of the guests not to eat it?
There was a whole stream of choices, especially from lots of women desperate to drool over their menu choices once again, but one in particular caught my attention and is relevant to this post:
Please don’t get me wrong, but UKB seems to have a culture that isn’t necessarily conducive to planning an enjoyable wedding. Your guests ARE important as is making them feel comfortable.
5. Key information is missi
This is only particularly noticeable to those who are going for something different to what is mentioned, but even if your choices are covered by the advice, noticing that others aren’t should be a big clue to treat the rest of the content with a pinch of salt. Why? Because advice should help people make choices, not force them to feel outcast if they don’t do it your way.
The main example I have found is something on the lines of a discussion on the beautiful church wedding vs the cheap quick registry wedding. Erm, well, not all church/registry weddings are like that, plus what about other religions, or the large number of registered buildings for civil ceremonies which are out there? There are even plenty of places for fussy buggers like the Fiance and I who ruled out hotels into the bargain. Just have a look yourself.
6. It’s American
Sadly true that whilst lots of American customs are applicable to UK couples, not all of them are, and you might come across several of the other bad advice signals which arise accidentally simply because things are different over there. It’s a great fallacy to assume that because we have a shared language we also have a shared culture.
I’m talking about lots of things which American culture assumes. Like having a rehearsal dinner (what???) or a receiving line. Like asking you “What are you doing for your favours?” (or “favors”, which I can’t help but pronounce in an Italian accent as “fah-vorrs”!) instead of “Are you doing favours?” Because Americans brought favours back in to popularity, and now many UK brides are starting forum threads like
Favours?? Can i be arsed? Do you have to do favours? Will people think less of me if i dont?
7. It makes very odd assumptions
They key example I have of this is an article I rambled across about how to meet your future in-laws for the first time… which makes the very odd assumption that after getting engaged, one of the first things you’ll need to do now is meet your other half’s parents. Which is okay, right, except that I’m sure most people will have met them before now. Won’t they???
Articles like this worry me. They encourage people to avoid meeting their partner’s family until absolutely necessary, and then, when they meet them to follow dodgy advice, like doing research on them to endear yourself to them (erm, stalkerish at all?), which seems inherently dishonest. Be nice and all that, but don’t fix a false smile, compliment their hideous dress and tell them you are a massive golf fan too.
I’ve just had a furious google around to relocate the article, and found several similar – but longer (see item1)!
These longer articles largely repeat the obvious stuff, but also mention that you should BE YOURSELF. Advice strangely at odds with the false compliments suggestions. Some articles even tell you not to make assumptions based on the first meeting. Crikey. Is that actually… GOOD advice?
So where can you go for good advice?
Forums are usually pretty good, although as we’ve discussed it does depend upon the forum, the mood, the attitudes, the general flavour in the air. Specialist websites are also good, of the non-branded variety, which will also hopefully take you outside the fluffy world of weddings, where everything is a must-have at 150% ££s. Personal experiences are a favourite of mine, because if you explore enough of them you get a better idea about the range that’s out there than if you start with a magazine’s site or something that pre-selects the writers who fit their “look”. Read one and you’re not much better off, but read several and you’ll acquire a much more representative slice.
Here’s something you may not want to hear – then again, I’ve got it from my experience. When it comes to weddings, advice from men and advice for men tends to be saner, more sensible, and to the point.
Of course this is not always true, but in general men are much less carried away by the sentiments, the prettinesses and the dream-quality of a wedding. To them it’s much more about you the couple, and a nice party afterwards. And so accordingly their advice tends to be much more earthed and snap you back to reality.
However, I did read this really awful report on how to choose the ring and stage your proposal from a bloke who treated the whole thing like a business arrangement and the ring choice as a dealbreaker, using phrases like “[y]ou will markedly improve your chances of success if” and basically encourages every would-be-fiance to become a diamond expert. He also flags up the necessity of asking for permission. THIS IS AN EXTREMELY PERSONAL THING AND YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY ASCERTAIN THE PERSONAL SITUATION WITH RESPECT TO PERMISSION AND NOT TAKE THE ADVICE OF SOME RANDOM GUY ON THE WEB. Some girls absolutely love the romance of having their father asked for permission, and some fathers feel that they have the right to this request. Some couldn’t care less. Others, like me, would probably have turned down their bloke had he asked their father (or other key family member) for permission and decided that the relationship needed further work for a bit. Nobody has the right to decide my future for me. I am my partner’s equal, and I want my partner to be a man who respects my rights to choose over following a tradition hungover from when women were property. Luckily, he is. Asking for a blessing post engagement is totally different.
Good advice would out these issues and tell you to investigate the right way in your partner’s family. Bad advice cheers you on to follow the traditional “romantic” route, because that looks pretty down on paper. Well, screen.
Tips can also be picked up on completely non-wedding-topic related sites, and these tips are often more honest because they are not invested in the business. These are the kinds of things you will come across when you are not looking for wedding related advice, but browsing harmlessly, which I hope you are still doing, as it will probably help you avoid the post-wedding blues, which seem to be quite common, especially amongst those who give up the rest of their life whilst planning your big day.
We recently came across a really awesome tip for shaving smoothly from, peculiarly, Neil Gaiman, which was this. If you were looking for advice on a clean, smooth shave for your wedding day, I severely doubt your first port of call would be a fantasy writer’s blog. So it just shows.