My city hall wedding ceremony: 5 things I wish I did differently

While I don’t have any regrets for the way my city hall wedding ceremony went, there are definitely some things I would have done differently to have the day go a bit smoother. Feeling comfortable in my own skin is certainly one thing I took for granted on this occasion. I was definitely swayed to conform to tradition when it came to what I wore and where I stayed the night before the big day.

Since this was the only kind of wedding ceremony Vadim (my husband) and I were going to have, it felt like I was trying to inject fanciness and excess into a simple ceremony.

I placed a lot of pressure on myself. And because of this pressure I didn’t tune into my inner voice-the one I can count on to tell me if something feels right or genuine.

Luckily, our closest friends and family were there to celebrate the occasion with us and make us feel like we were the only two people getting married the day. And even with all the hiccups, it was truly a special day.

If you are also doing a city hall ceremony and would like some pointers from someone who’s been there done that, read along ๐Ÿ™‚

1) Have aย “no phone” policy.

Specifically, no taking phone calls while photos are being taken. The only person that made this a problem was my mom. There are a few photos where she’s sitting next to me and talking on her phone while Vadim and I are doing our champagne toast post-ceremony. I had to crop her out. This is so unfortunate because our friends and family were looking at us and it was a very beautiful picture otherwise. Perhaps she didn’t realize the photographer was still taking photos, but I wish I had communicated this to her the day before and even the day of.

Exhibit A of necessary cropping

2) Stay in myย apartment the night beforeย instead of a hotel close to City Hall.

Since we weren’t doing a traditional walking down the aisle type of wedding, I held on to the tradition of not having the groom see the bride until the wedding day. I told myself it was because I wanted to have more time to get ready and be closer to City Hall and not have to rush. Truthfully, having the comforts of home the night before would have been very helpful. My best friend and I stayed at a hotel the night before so she could help me get ready in the morning and because she was kind enough to do it. That night I slept next to the air conditioning and felt uncomfortable all night long (I also had a cold…in the end of August). So I didn’t get much sleep and still felt rushed in the morning because time escapes you when you think you have more time than you do. They say the people that are closer to where they need to be are always late. This is so true. It would have been nice to take the train with Vadim and have it feel like a “normal” day.

When Vadim met me right before we cabbed it to City Hall

3) Wear whatever the hell I wanted to.

For months I looked for the perfect white dress because that’s what you’re supposed to wear for your wedding, right? This was so frustrating. I swear brands mark up the prices for white dresses regardless of whether or not they are “wedding dresses.” If you type “wedding” next to whatever it is you’re looking for, chances are the price of that item will be more than if you just typed in “shoes” or “dress.” I found this Club Monaco number the day before the ceremony. It seemed to check off all the boxes even though it was quite sheer (even with lining). I bought it anyway. Although I love how simple it was, it was short and needed a slip. So I had to scramble to buy a slip and hope that it would work with the dress. The slip ultimately ended up being longer than the dress if I raised my arms, and that showed in some pictures. If I hadn’t restricted myself to the color white, I probably would have felt less frustrated with my search and more at ease the day before.

In addition to the pressure of finding the perfect white dress, there’s also the “wedding shoes” that I convinced myself were a thing. I bought a pair of heels that I wore for the first time that day. And because I was walking around in lower Manhattan after the ceremony for photos and on our way to brunch, my heel got caught in a grate and got snagged. Nevertheless, they are no longer with me and I only wore them twice. I would have gotten a different color in a pair of my favorite flats…so I could be comfortable walking around NYC streets and still wear something “new” to mark the occasion.

In short, wear what feels good and looks good. You know what that is…after all, you’re the expert on yourself. If you feel pressured, give yourself a moment to pause and refocus on what matters most to you without the noise.

Story time: I once worked at a law firm for a day as a receptionist. On my first day, I wore flats. At the end of the day, a “colleague” told me that the main lawyer of the firm preferred that I wore heels instead. I decided at the end of the day that it was also my last.

4) Period Insurance.
This is more of a don’t forget type of thing. I got my period the morning of…not exactly the perfect moment to feel good in white. Luckily, I don’t remember it bothering me much because I had my thinx period underwear with me. I reviewed them here. Bring what you need in case your period shows up. For me, some kind of pain relief is imperative. And because I was prepared, my period was barely on my mind.

Last but not least…

5) Leave my skin the hell alone.

I wish I knew to not eat dairy leading up to and avoided the two facials I got the month of. Don’t even ask me why I thought this was necessary. If only I knew about my current skincare routine then. I had a few active bumps from doing so much to my face. Even the foundation I bought just for the occasion couldn’t cover up the bumps entirely. This was also the last time I owned foundation because I returned it right after. If I don’t wear it everyday, why would I get it just for the one occasion?

If you take away anything from this post then I hope it is to celebrate in the way that feels the most like you and your partner. Silence the noise and focus on all the love and future you have ahead of you as a team.

All photos were taken by Kate Edwards.

Thanks for reading till the end.ย I’ll see you in my next post.

Sophie ๐Ÿ™‚

Disclaimer: Not an ad. Just sharing my wedding ceremony experience.

  • Kendraya Hampton

    Sophie, this was such a wise and heartfelt post! I enjoyed every part of it! Sometimes we place so much emphasis on following tradition and the norm, but we end up missing out on some of the preciousness in enjoying special moments more freely.

    I’m glad you’re able to share the beauty and candidness of your wedding day! Each of your points of wisdom and the story time made this such a good read. Also, the pictures are beautiful!

    This post really resonates with me, as I’ve pretty much talked myself out of having a wedding ceremony of my own. I fear that it won’t go as planned and that others might ruin my special day. I’m not a person who likes having the spotlight for celebratory occasions, but I think a city hall wedding would be great! You can add personal touches to make it a beautiful moment.

    Thank you for sharing, Sophie! โค๏ธ๐Ÿ˜Š

    • Thank you so much for the sweet response, Kendraya ๐Ÿ™‚ I am so happy that you enjoyed it and inspired you to do something personal for your special day. I think it’s so important to always ask myself what or who I am doing this for and if it feels right then it’s because I’m doing it because I want to or I want it for myself. I used to think that that was a selfish way of thinking but I’ve learned that only by doing what feels genuine for myself will I be happier and a better person to the people in my life.

      Thank you for reading this ๐Ÿ™‚ I still think no one’s going to show up on my blog and I am always grateful for thoughtful comments like these. Have a wonderful weekend!

      • Kendraya Hampton

        You’re welcome, Sophie! Asking ourselves those questions is so vital for us to make sure that we are living for ourselves. It’s not selfish, at all. ๐Ÿ˜Š In order to truly be there for others, we have to make sure that we’re making ourselves happy. I agree with everything you said!

        Sophie, I’m so glad to come over to your blog! You have such great content to offer the world, and you’re such a genuine person – beautiful on the inside and the outside! Enjoy the rest of your weekend. ๐Ÿ˜Š

  • I read this a while back but forgot to comment. Your photos are lovely! Especially love the last one in black and white. Your wedding seemed so chic and intimate! I really love city hall weddings. We would have done it ourselves, but we felt like doing the vows in front of ppl was really important.

    We had an unplugged ceremony at the suggestion of the photographer. It was fine, but ppl thought it extended to the reception, too. So I wished MORE ppl actually whipped out their phones to take pictures. Communication is the key.

    I’m glad we decided to stay at home and get ready together. Even though some of the picks have my clutter in the background (ugh), it’s more real, you know?

    I also tried to stay away from sweets pre-wedding to avoid any zits. I got pretty lucky on the day-of. I still feel like my makeup wasn’t done as nicely as a makeup artist would have done it, but it was good enough. I wish there wasn’t such a pressure for perfection when it comes to weddings.

    • Thank you! I know what you mean about the photos though. No one did that for us either …I guess they were really enjoying themselves? I think having realistic photos are something that will bring back so much more of the emotions of the day than pose-y photos at a venue. I wish our cat was in our photos too…sounding like a super cat lady here haha. I recently read this article about how a woman decided to go makeup free for her wedding day to make a statement about not changing herself and trying to meet society’s expectations for what a bride should look like-it was really inspiring.

      Thanks for coming back and commenting ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Nina Thomas

    You wedding looks gorgeous! I’ve considered doing a city-hall wedding when I eventually get married. Do you ever feel like you missed out on the traditional wedding experience. Did you end up getting food with your closest family. I’d love to hear more about your wedding!

    • Thanks, Nina! I don’t think I missed out on the traditional wedding experience to be honest. We had brunch after city hall with our friends and family who came with us and the following week we held a dinner for 35 people at our favorite restaurant and it was really intimate and memorable. I would have liked a first dance but honestly it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the overall experience and day. I talked about all my wedding planning details here –> in case you wanted more info. Hopefully this was helpful. Feel free to ask me any more questions you have. ๐Ÿ™‚