The 9-Word Piece of Advice That Saved My Wedding Day

This May marks seven (seven!) years of marriage to my husband. We got married in Brooklyn and I have so many special memories of the day from the picturesque Manhattan skyline views as a backdrop to the absolutely potent French 75s that were served. Still, it’s this 9-word piece of advice that will always stay so vivid in my mind: “It’s not what goes wrong, it’s how you react.”

It came to me out of the blue, too. On the night before our rehearsal dinner, I was racing around running last minute errands with my fiancé when we turned the corner on a particular block and ran smack dab into one of his college friends. It was a true blast from the past—they hadn’t seen each other in quite some time. We explained that it was the eve of our wedding when my husband’s friend, seriously and earnestly, asked if he could share a few words of wisdom.

That’s when the line above came. He explained that no matter how much meticulous planning goes into the ceremony, the cocktail hour, the reception, there will be snafus. That’s just what happens. It could be major, but—he assured us—it will be mostly minor moments that don’t go as planned. But no matter what happens, it’s only as big (or small) as you make it. And after the fact, when others are reminiscing, no one will remember the details that went wrong, but they will remember how you reacted to it.

We said our goodbyes on the street and our wedding day came. And boy did that snafu show up as promised: It was a colossal downpour. (The New York Times asked us to share our tips for future couples, that’s how hard it rained.) On top of that, our wedding coordinator forgot to put out our guestbook, so we had to chase friends & family down for signatures at our send-off brunch. And after the wedding, my grand plan for everyone to get Ubers to the after-party at a local bar failed due to lack of drivers on a busy Friday night in NYC, so many of us (myself included) were stranded on the side of the road.

All the while, I remembered my husband’s friend’s advice. It’s not what goes wrong, it’s how you react.

No, my face wasn’t plastered with toxic optimism. But the motto gave me a sense of control amid the chaos. I could choose to make these things a big deal…or not. In my situation, these tiny hiccups were exactly that—tiny. The rain was probably the biggest damper on the occasion, but if I started sulking or throwing a fit, it’s true that that’s what my guests’ memory of the occasion would be. I couldn’t change it, so I rolled with it. We bought umbrellas. I dried my shoes with paper towels. Life goes on.

Also, with the benefit of hindsight, the things that didn’t go according to plan often turn out to be the best memories of any occasion. (For example, the lack of Ubers meant that I had 30 uninterrupted minutes chatting—and laughing—in the moonlight underneath the Manhattan Bridge with most of my bridal party.)

Bottom line: It was a fantastic—and serendipitous—bit of wisdom to get. Now, it’s my turn to pass it along.

Rachel Bowie Headshot

Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...