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'Everyone in the room feels it.' The one piece of advice that completely changed my wedding.

Throughout my early 20s, I spent a majority of my Saturday nights at weddings. 

Not ones I'd been invited to. I wasn't attending the weddings of friends or family members, getting dressed up and sipping on free champagne. I was working at the local golf club, which doubled as a popular wedding venue on weekends. 

Couples would have their ceremony on the lawn, looking over rolling hills and still lakes in the middle of an otherwise primarily residential suburb in Northern Sydney, and move into the dining room for their reception. A canopy of fairy lights would drape from the ceiling, and guests would find a small gift at their place setting, which I soon learnt were inexplicably called 'bomboniere'. There was an entire language dedicated to weddings, as well as a mood that was unlike that associated with any other events we might host at the golf club - birthdays, Christenings, Christmas parties. 

The stakes of a wedding running smoothly were unimaginably high, because for the bride and groom, and the people closest to them, it had to be - we were told - the very best day of their lives.

More than once, I saw the pressure of this expectation come crashing down. I remember one bride who was unwell with gastro, and spent the entire evening in and out of the bathroom, wiping away tears as she returned to her seat. 

I saw couples argue with each other, upset about family members behaving badly, unexpected weather, an unfulfilled dietary requirement, red wine spilled on a wedding gown, or guests who hadn't turned up. 

As the person serving the meals and pouring the drinks and providing the knife with which to cut the cake and orchestrating the lights for the first dance, I had an unfiltered look at the bride and groom. How they reacted to a plate where a spot of sauce had been dropped on the rim. The tone with which they made requests to the service staff. The way they spoke to each other and the people around them. 

It wasn't until years later, the night before my own wedding, that I put together what I'd noticed. Because when my sister gave me one piece of advice, I realised there had been a common denominator in what made the best weddings the best, and the worst weddings the worst.

I was speaking with my sister about the things I was worried about. To be fair, my partner had planned 90 per cent of our wedding and most of my job was to turn up, but still. I was anxious and nervous and terrified and had become fixated on what would happen if something went wrong. 

As most conversations go these days, she said, "Okay, so I saw this TikTok."

She explained she'd watched a clip from a podcast - The Anti Diet Bride - that interviewed beauty entrepreneur Jules Von Hep. He shared the best piece of wedding advice he'd received, which was essentially: the mood you bring to your wedding will be the mood of your wedding.

@tallyrye I got some of the best wedding advice I’ve heard yet from @julesvonhep on this months episode of Anti Diet Bride #wedding #engaged #bride #weddingadvice #bridetobe ♬ original sound - tallyrye

She made me watch it, because that's how we share information in 2023. 

In the clip, Von Hep says, "Your whole day, and the whole day of everybody else and the guests, is all determined by your mood.

"So if you are anxious about how you look, if you are bitching and moaning about some bloody flower that is in the wrong place or the lighting or the sound or the weather, everyone else in the room feels it.

"If you get yourself together and you go, 'This is going to be one hell of a rollercoaster and I'm going to enjoy every single second, I'm going to be really present', and you just beam, everyone else is on the journey with you."

Speaking about his own wedding day, Von Hep recalled, "When I walked down the aisle, people were whooping. Whooping. I punched my bouquet in the air, I was screaming. We had the best day ever. And everyone talks about the energy from our wedding, but it is all determined down to you as a couple. Just go for it."

The way things look, he explained, is the least important part.

"Don't go on the diet because when you get to the day you'll be so focused on your aesthetic, which actually means nothing," he said. "It means nothing on the day."

I realised that it hadn't been the most beautiful or expensive weddings at the golf club that had been the best to witness. At the end of the night, as we were polishing glasses and packing away furniture and eating whatever dessert was left over, none of us were talking about flowers or smoke machines or dresses or colour schemes. 

We were talking, really, about the vibe. 

I remember one wedding where the couple had been together for a decade, and they had photos dotted around the room of holidays they'd been on and places they'd lived and the memories they'd created. They gave a speech together and I stood, near my assigned light switch, smiling. In that moment, the food and the alcohol and the table settings evaporated, and it was their energy that filled the room. An energy that said: This day matters and is special to us not because of the photos we'll put on Instagram, but because we love each other and want to celebrate with you. 

The morning of my wedding, I woke up with butterflies in my belly. My sister and I went for a walk and jumped in the ocean, laying on our backs and waiting for the cold water to slow our breathing. As we returned, the hairdresser and makeup artist were arriving, and I couldn't believe how lucky I was. To be marrying the best person I'd ever known. To have my sister and best friend and mum with me. To have family and friends willing to travel and get dressed up and take an afternoon and evening out of their lives to celebrate something joyful. 

The morning of my wedding. Image: Supplied.

I hadn't always known I wanted to get married. In fact, I'd been quite cynical about it. My partner and I had been together for 14 years and we'd never been in any rush. But when the world closed down in 2020 and people weren't legally allowed to gather - for the first time in human history - both our feelings started to change.

Then, over the next couple of years, there was sadness around us. We lost people we loved. People got sick. We realised, looking around at our lives, that it wasn't going to be like this forever. And what is life if we're not willing to celebrate the good moments?

My wedding day was the best day of my life. Not because I love being the centre of attention or because I got to wear a fancy dress. Not because of any one of the many, many elements that goes into planning a wedding. 

But because being in a room full of the people I love, gathered there not out of anger or sadness but of joy, was everything. 

Things went wrong, I'm sure, but neither my partner nor I noticed them. It's the energy of the day that we'll remember, and I hope everyone who was there does too. 

But it was that advice - that the mood you bring to your wedding will be the mood of your wedding - that allowed the day to be so special. I've always been insecure about my appearance, and especially when I was younger, I'd let those concerns entirely dictate the mood I brought with me. A day like my wedding day would've been easily swayed by my own anxieties about how I looked or how other people perceived me. But as Von Hep says, those aesthetic elements mean nothing on the day. If you're in your own head, "everyone in the room feels it". 

There's a bigger lesson, too, that the way things feel is far more important than the way things look. On the big days and the smaller days. We spend so much of our time fixated on the things that don't matter. It's a bit of a metaphor for life, really: no one remembers the colour of the flowers or the font on the place cards. They don't remember the styling details of a hanging installation. But they remember the energy - the mood and the laughter and the undefinable magic - pulsing beneath it. 

For more from Clare Stephens, you can follow her on Instagram.

Feature image: Mitch Ferris.  

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