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On her wedding day, Jaclyn Rosen was determined to remember everything. Because she stayed extremely focused, she remembers her then two-year-old niece saying, “Ja-ja pretty!” while she was under the chuppah, and then letting out a cry because she didn’t want to be carried by her father.

Although nearly 10 years have passed, she still recalls what the room looked like, whom she danced with, and how real it all felt. The next day, rather than feeling dazed, she was able to look back and cherish her memories.

“Enjoy your day,” she advises brides-to-be, “and try to remember it. It will be the most important day of your life – and Gd willing, you’ll only do it once!” Rather than feel overwhelmed by the music, the guests and the sheer incredulity of the occasion, stop for a moment to take it all in – the beautiful décor, the people who have come to celebrate, and the overwhelming joy. Do your best to imprint the event on your memory.

“I was very present at my wedding,” says newlywed Esther Djmal. “I knew I wanted to remember it for the rest of my life. I wanted to savor the whole day from beginning to end.” Esther is grateful that she got married during the summer, when she, her older sister’s family and her parents all lived under the same roof. “We shared a group hug in the kitchen at 7:00 in the morning! Getting ready was so fun.” Everything from hair to makeup, she fondly recalls, was done with a family full of women helping in the process.

Get Involved!

The brides we spoke to graciously shared with us their tips for getting through the hectic months before the wedding. “Get involved in the planning,” says Sara Mizrachi, who got married this past August. “Don’t just leave everything to a parent or wedding planner. Check up on the photography, flowers and music the week before; don’t just leave everything to chance.”  Brides should be clear about their preferences to ensure that they’re happy with the final layout. Jaclyn, Esther and Sara also strongly advise brides to carefully determine their priorities in order to avoid unpleasant battles with parents over expenses.

Spend time selecting the music that will be played, Jaclyn stresses. She recalls sitting with her DJ and painstakingly picking out each song. She wanted to know what to expect and ensure that everyone would be happy. Her choices were geared mainly towards her primary crowd, but she also wanted to be sure there would be something for everyone, so that both older and younger people would feel comfortable.

Jaclyn also spent time on the menu. “People will come hungry,” she notes, “so it’s worth planning out the menu in detail.” In a similar vein, Esther tells future brides, “Make sure you hire a personable photographer – someone who makes you smile and laugh. You want your photographs to look natural, not forced.”

Realistically, though, Esther says. “You plan and you plan and you plan and you do as much as you can, but things will go wrong.” Once the wedding starts, don’t stress over the small details that didn’t work out. They won’t interfere with your night unless you let them. And, perhaps most obvious of all, she urges: don’t be nervous. This is the best day of your life; you’re going to have a great time!  It’s hard not to feel anxious before such a tremendous life change, so have a small glass of wine to calm your nerves, if you need it. And if you’re convinced you’ll feel anxious no matter what, consider investing in a product called Pinch Provisions – an emergency kit for brides. The deluxe version, especially, will have everything you might possibly need in a tight spot – everything from stain remover and bobby pins to lint brushes and nail polish. However, these small things may not even be needed if brides take advantage of the helper sometimes provided with the caterer. Often, they have these things on their person, ready to be whipped out and applied in a crisis.

Sleep & Lunch

Hard as this may seem, Esther advises getting to sleep early the night before the wedding. The moment you open your eyes the next morning, thoughts of the wedding will invade and there will be no more sleeping. She also recommends taking time before the wedding to say the special prayers for brides and grooms. Most people think they should be said under the chuppah, but in truth they may be recited all day long. “If you take time to say them once during the day,” Esther insists, “you’ll have the comfort of knowing you said them once already.” This way, the couple can actually focus on the activity under the chuppah. With their heads out of the siddur, they can look around them and reap the full experience of where they are. Of course, this is not to downplay the power of tefilah. As is well known, brides and grooms receive extraordinary holiness, but it can be spread throughout the day, rather than be confined to a single moment.

All three former brides emphasize the importance of eating lunch on the wedding day. You won’t have a lot of time to eat that day, and when you do get to eat in the yihud room, you’ll be rushing, anxious to get back to your guests. A quick, rushed meal and the boisterous dancing that will follow may not make a good combination, so make sure you arrive at the wedding well fed. This will enable you to more fully enjoy the privacy of the yihud room, and focus your attention exclusively on one another.

And, of course, make sure to keep hydrated! Esther tells that at her wedding, she went a step further than standard water; she brought SmartWater with her to the hall. Those electrolytes really did make a difference!

Eight years ago, at my own wedding, I made one uncommon choice that I was very happy with: I decided not to change out of my wedding dress into a going away outfit. My rationale was this: my wedding dress would undoubtedly be the most beautiful thing I’d ever wear; why not stay in it for as long as possible? Because I didn’t change, I got to enjoy the entire wedding with my guests and remain present for every moment.

Esther recommends something I didn’t think of then, but which is truly ingenious: ask the caterer to pack a tin of food for you so you can take it to the hotel. You and your husband will inevitably be starving by the time the festivities are through, and you won’t eat nearly enough during the Sheva Berachot.

Jaclyn and her husband Paul ran into two unexpected problems when their own wedding was over – funny it retrospect, but anxiety-inducing then. The first lesson they learned: make sure you ask the limo service you’ll be using about their rules and regulations. Sometimes limos only stay outside for a certain amount of time – which could run out, so that by the time the wedding is over there’s no limo waiting for you! Jaclyn and Paul had to call for a new limo on the spot. Thankfully, one arrived shortly, but alas, their problems weren’t over. When they got to their hotel, Paul discovered that he didn’t have the credit card he put on file when he reserved their room. This created a bit of an issue when the hotel staff insisted they need to swipe that specific card to give them their room.  They eventually relented, but not before Jaclyn and Paul made frantic phone calls to his parents, asking them to bring the credit card to the city!

“Realize How Lucky You Are”

Though it may not seem like it now, in the flurry of the hectic preparations, but there will be a time when the wedding is over and you can sit back and reflect on all those people who made it possible. When you get to that point, Esther says, mail thank you cards to the caterer, wedding planner and wedding helper. They will greatly appreciate your kind gesture!

Of course, we cannot forget the groom in all of this. Although many say the wedding is the bride’s day, I think we can all agree that the groom plays a pretty crucial role! So what advice should he take to heart? Sara’s husband, Joshua, remarks, jokingly at first, “Stay out of the way and do exactly what you’re told!” Then he takes on a serious tone to acknowledge the flip side of that: don’t be oblivious to what’s going on. Be aware of what your bride wants so that if you see things are not going according to plan you can personally make sure that adjustments are made. And my own husband, Morris, says: “Find as many opportunities as you can to express love for your bride during the wedding. Realize how lucky you are to have each other.”

We very much hope these words of advice – from brides whose weddings are long in the past and brides whose weddings are still a recent memory – have helped to ease the pre-wedding jitters. Every bride should find someone she trusts in to confide in about her hesitations and concerns – all of which will come to nothing if she stays true to the person their heart – and Hashem – has chosen for her.