I'm here to tell you that there is only one piece of wedding advice you'll ever need.
Surely I'm exaggerating; undervaluing the importance of other wedding advice.
Nope. There's really only one thing worth taking to heart, and it's this:
It's your day. It's okay to take in opinions from all sides. Choose to act on them or not, but listening politely is never a bad thing. However. When it comes time to make your decisions, you need to do what will make you and your soon-to-be spouse happy. That's it. End of story.
That's really it. You may say, but my family wants us to invite my mom's cousin's husband who I haven't seen in ten years, and it's really important to them. You may say, it would kill my fiance's sister if we don't get married in a church. You may even say, I just want to elope, but I know my family would never forgive me.
Here's the thing. The family and friends who love you will get over whatever decisions you make. The people who want to be in your life will learn to live with your mom's cousin's husband not being present for your nuptials. They'll be sad that you had your wedding in the park, but they'll live. If you run off to Vegas, I'm sure they'll wish they were there (and think seriously about that before you do it). But they will overcome whatever feelings they may be experiencing, because your wedding day is about you. YOU AND YOUR INTENDED. And that's the absolute END OF THE STORY. You will have the rest of your lives to worry about compromising and keeping the peace with your families and friends. That's not what the wedding day is about.
Is it true that some families suffer prolonged drama as a result of people making certain wedding decisions rather than other wedding decisions? God yes. And some people won't eventually get over whatever injustice they feel you've forced them to suffer. I'm here to tell you the harsh truth--they're not worth your time. I don't care who they are; if they put their own desires above whatever would make your celebration the best day of your life, they don't care about you as much as they pretend.
Now, I'm not saying wedding planning is easy or without sacrifices. Should you ignore everything your mom wants? Probably not. In every wedding decision, you should weigh the pros and cons of keeping the peace versus having your way. Be prepared for any fallout that may occur. But if the decision is something that REALLY, REALLY matters to you, don't back down. Firmly and politely hold your ground. People will understand. Anyone who has planned or helped to plan a wedding will understand. And if they don't? You need to be comfortable with that.
This gets tricky when money is involved. If you're not paying for your wedding, it gets harder to insist that you skip the priest because you don't go to church. How important is it to you? You may need to be willing to foot the bill yourself, or change direction if you can't afford to. All I'm saying is don't agree to anything that makes you overly unhappy or uncomfortable.
A wedding is a shooting star; it's a beautiful, glowing, fleeting moment. No matter what might go wrong or who might think what, you deserve to feel beautiful and loved and on top of the world on this one, magical day. Don't let anyone take that away from you.
Did I master the art of sticking up for what mattered to me when I got married? Not exactly. I made progress. And fortunately, both my family and my husband's family were extremely understanding. I know they didn't all agree with every decision we made. But at the end of the day, when it came to the things that my husband and I felt most strongly about, we explained our feelings and they were respected. I think most people will extend you the same courtesy if you make it clear why something is so important to you. And if not? Just remember, you get the final say. And your wedding should be amazing. That's why I think you should really take this advice to heart, above all else. It's your day. Yours and your intended's. End of story.
And for anyone headed to a wedding in the near future, try to respect the wishes of the bride and groom, whether you think their decisions make sense or not. There is usually a reason that a couple chooses to do something a certain way. Just have a good time and take notes for when it's your turn to plan the best day of your life. And just for the record, mine was the absolute best day of my life. I'm sure our wedding ducks (see above on our sweetheart table) were a big part of that! ;-)