Advice for a happy marriage III

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Finally, time for Part 3 of my marriage advice trilogy. Part 1's words of wisdom, you may recall, came from a bunch of children. Their advice was questionable at best (heavily focused on triplets and bunnies). Part 2 explored the world of the 1930s housewife (think girdles and rampant sexism - also highly questionable).

For Part 3, having exhausted everything my bookshelves have to offer, I have decided to showcase the marriage advice given to us by the very people who (should) know us best - our wedding guests. Hold on to your hats, people.

As I mentioned in Part 1, I struggled to find an idea for a wedding guest book that didn't make me weirdly uncomfortable, in a very OCD kind of way. It was one of the only wedding details that really stressed me out (I know. I need to get a life). Eventually - and I mean ev-en-tu-a-lly - I decided, given that our invitations and table plan were postcard-themed, it would make sense to carry that theme on and use individual postcards for our guest book too, thus neatly avoiding the potential empty-pages-in-the-back-of-a-book Nightmare Scenario.

It took me even longer to find postcards that fit the bill. They had to be vintage-y, preferably lots of different pictures so our guests could each choose one that tickled their fancy, plus vaguely relevant to us. Oh, and cheap. Not easy. But somewhere, somehow in my internet wanderings I stumbled across the fantastic Postcards From Penguin. 100 different vintage book covers (I'm a total book worm) in one bargainous box - perfect.

(I should add, I'm not the only one who worked these into my wedding - Clare from Any Other Wedding used them as escort cards, and Kiara from Henry Reigns used hers as a photobooth backdrop - see, they're so versatile! The same publishers have also since brought out a kids' book version, Postcards from Puffin, which are too cute. Trying to think of an excuse to buy them - all suggestions welcome.)

We put the postcards out in piles and left little cards on each of the tables inviting our guests to pick a postcard, give us their top tips for a happy marriage and then leave them in an old suitcase for us to laugh at on our honeymoon. We duly gathered them up after the wedding (well, somebody did, I was pretty much a zombie at that point), shoved them back in the box they came in and we carted them off on our honeymoon with us. When we had finally recovered from the wedding enough to think about reading anything - say, two days before we were due to come home? - we cracked them out and read through each and every postcard. It was - an experience.

The advice ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous to the clearly very drunk. There is sweet, heartfelt advice from couples whom I have known and admired my whole life, and from couples whose first drunken snog I witnessed in a dodgy club. There are daft tips involving hiding in sheds. There is even a drawing of a man crushed under a giant thumb (at least, I think that's what it's meant to be. That or a giant worm).

As we flicked through the cards, a few themes began to emerge, and some genuinely helpful advice. Also, some completely random nonsense. So, without further ado, here is the definitive guide to a happy marriage, courtesy of our wedding guests and carefully whittled down by me. You're welcome.

1. "Choose the right person in the first place." Done (hopefully).

2. "Be patient with each other and be able to laugh together."

3. "Enjoy life - travel, sail, golf, dance, sing, walk on the beach." Ok. You're joking about the golf, though, right?

4. "Take time for each other! Every day and in every way."

5. "Keep the flame burning." Or the straight-to-the-point version, "Kama sutra."

The key ingredients for a happy wedding (and, indeed, a happy marriage).

6. "Don't be quick to judge! Think first."

7. "Have a way, for when you disagree, to be able to say that 'this really matters' and respect that from the other person. It makes a big difference."

8. "Never let the sun go down upon your wrath." We had many, many variations on this theme, but none so poetic as this.

9. "Sleep on the couch as little as possible. Remember Kirsty very rarely will be wrong [true] and when she is she will not be the one spending the night on the sofa [also true]."

10. I have to quote this one in full. Pay particular attention to the numbering - I think he's been taking tip (d) a little too seriously...
"(a) She's always right.
(b) Let him watch the football.
(c) Vacation together, never apart.
(d) Have a glass of wine together.
(e) You're both on the same team and want the same thing.
(f) Visit your mum regularly.
(e) [wait, what happened to (g)?] Tell each other how important the other person is when you least want to.
(g) [oh, here it is] Visit your charming cousin in Seattle." No prizes for guessing who wrote this one.

(L) Wedding appropriate. (M) Not even remotely wedding appropriate. (R) Blog appropriate.

11. "Be kind to each other."

12. "Tolerance in all matters. Love each other always."

13. "Always kiss goodnight."

14. "It doesn't matter what language you speak, love conquers all." From my brother-in-law and his Chinese wife, who lead by great example.

15. "If we can make it till Oct 9th it'll be 43 years [they did]. The secret is TWO TVs!"

Some of the more random responses:

"Fuckin best wedding ever!" Thanks, little bro.

"You are today's lucky winner!"


And, finally:

"No advice needed, you guys are awesome just the way you are!"

My favourite postcard. Look, Fin's even wearing a kilt! My dress is lace! She's a genius. 

And there you have it. The collective wisdom of 140 of our closest family and friends. No relationship is perfect, but if we can follow even half of this, I think we'll do ok. Who knows, in 43 years I might even feel qualified to come back and give some marriage advice of my very own.

Now, dish. What's the best marriage advice you've ever been given? Actually, screw that - what's the worst??

Wedding images by Lillian and Leonard


16 boats moored

  1. I love these postcards and what a great idea for guest comments! We sort of eloped with just 1 guest so didn't have any of that to worry about but its a lovely idea. The best advice i've got is to marry your best friend-in 50 years after the passion has dimmed you need someone you can laugh at life with. I def married my best friend and itsounds like you did too!

  2. Fab advice and fab idea (which I may steal...). My Dad always told me not to go to sleep angry with each other, which I completely agree with. As for bad advice, I made a joke to one of my colleagues that my man is only marrying me for my cooking skills and he very seriously said 'that is NOT a good basis for a marriage'. Isn't it?!

  3. We also had postcards for our guestbook - a bunch of vintage ones from eBay that were of countries we'd visited. Also, is the font on your guestbook sign Mom's Typewriter? That's the one we also had!

    The best advice we got was to make sure we appreciate each other, every day - simple but very, very true.

  4. Ahh...more Penguin Postcards! I love them I do!

    We did the classic guest book and I knew even beforehand that it was going to irritate the hell out of me that only the first five pages would be used, but it was something I kept putting off, until two days before the wedding I realised I had neither a better idea, or the time to do anything about it even if I did.

    So we now have a 100 page book, with the first 12 pages used, with everyone cramming their messages onto those 12 pages. Which makes me die a little bit inside everytime I look at it.


  5. My dad told us that the most important thing to take into a marriage was the ability to forgive, and that being said that we should neither of us ever do anything unforgivable.

    I thought that was pretty good for a guy who had only ever been married for three years.

  6. We had a poster guestbook which didn't leave much room for advice. However several of our Irish contingent advised us to 'keep her lit' or KHL ( not the most romantic advice but heartfelt all the same.

  7. For the children's book covers: art, obviously! Frame them, or just clip them to a string tacked to the wall. And if you have any extras from the wedding, you could mix those in, too. You're welcome.

    Best marriage advice I've cousin told one of our cousins (at the bridal shower) that if you're going to fight, fight naked so that you make up quicker. I've passed that gem onto my friends, but I don't know if anyone has actually done it.

    @Esme - I regularly tease my husband that my cooking is the main reason he married me.

  8. Such fab advice, ladies! Husband was particularly tickled by the naked argument suggestion - curious as to how it works in practice though. Do you just strip off as soon as you start fighting? Because that's probably the last thing I would normally consider...

    postcardsfromtheedge - yes it IS Mom's Typewriter and bless you for noticing! A fellow font geek, yay :) The other two I used for the wedding stationery, if you're interested, were Gill Sans (classic GNER and Penguin font, Kiara used it too I believe?) and Jane Austen which I now see *everywhere* - Zizzi restaurants even uses it in their logo. I still love it though.

  9. Fantastic advice; especially from your cousin.

    I mentioned already we put stamped questions in our guest book and one of the questions was 'Any advice for the Newlyweds?'. We too got a million variations on the dont sleep on an argument as well as some other gems including one 'shouldnt have done it'.

    You've inspired me to get the book out again and maybe share some of our advice too; I think it would make the perfect last post to finish up everything about our wedding {which, yes, im still writing about 11 months & 3 weeks after the day; nothing unusual about that!!!}

    That is if you dont mind me borrowing your post idea???

    p.s dont have any suggestions for how to use the kids postcards but how lovely are they & I love the original ones too; think I need to think of an excuse to buy them! Also Pantone are about to bring out a box of postcards with their colours which I would love as well even if I have no idea what I would do with them!

  10. Hey Gaynor, of course I don't mind, look forward to reading it!

    Pantone postcards sound amazing - maybe I could just bring back the art of sending actual mail and send postcards to my friends instead of texting them? Slower, sure, but so much prettier...

  11. Fab thank you; ive just published my post!

    and yes how good would it be to get back to sending proper mail! I love getting something through the post that isnt just a bill!

    I got very excited yesterday as cards arrived, which im assuming are for our anniversary on Sunday!

  12. Sorry that was supposed to be an actual link but know idea how to do that!

  13. wow that was a great one .. to look ..

  14. Love the advice and the postcards are a thing of beauty. After reading this I ordered them and they arrived today. The Puffin postcards, in particular, are so wondrous I almost don't want to use them. But I shall. Weddings are all about being gracious after all

  15. Aw yay! I am still tempted by the Puffin ones - I'm sure I can find a use for them somehow...


  16. One of the stylish ways to do that's to use the No Contact Rule. You both decide a specific quantum of time that you do not want to talk to each other. This way you can really see what life is like without your partner.
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