In a way, I feel sorry for Kate Middleton. There is so much you don’t experience when you are planning a royal wedding. Since I have been planning the wedding of a commoner (in status, not spirit), I can speak to the joys of the true DIY wedding. Here’s what you missed, Kate:

  • Flood watch. For suspense, there is nothing like watching in despair as the Mississippi River creeps up the steps, crosses the patio, and pounds against the doors of the wedding venue: Harriet Island Pavilion. I was glued for much of April to the flood forecast charts provided by the National Weather Service and the St. Paul river cam images of a raging Big Muddy. Guests asked if they should bring galoshes and hair dryers. The facility manager suggested we have a Plan B. Finally, the waters crested at more than 19 feet. (Harriet Island becomes submerged at 17.5 feet.) By the day of the wedding, however, the river was back to its normal lazy self.
  • Getting to know the folks at Paper Depot intimately. My daughter wanted to make all the invitations, programs, menus, and name cards. I designed, the bride-to-be Sarah selected the paper, and together with her sister Suzanne we spent a snowy afternoon at Paper Depot planning. I dare say I had more fun than a royal flunky running the die cut machine for 130 invitations (although it did inspire my old tennis elbow injury to flare up). Do you think the Queen Mum would have jettisoned her useless handbag, tossed her pastel boater to the wind, and rolled up her elegant sleeves at a family pizza and wine party to assemble invitations? Not bloody likely.
  • The incomparable dress. When it came to dresses, the princess chose the famous British fashion house Alexander McQueen, while my daughter went with Goodwill. She found the dress of her dreams at the once-a-year sale of donated new and slightly worn gowns. Her look was as elegant as the royal bride’s, though. Like something out of Grace Kelly’s closet. If Holly Golightly had gotten married at the end of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” instead of saving a half-drowned cat, this is what she would have worn.
  • The flowers. To the horror of my gardening sensibilities, my daughter decided real flowers were too “stressful.” So she went another route that can only be described as the Dr. Seuss detour. Fashioning flowers out of colored paper (hello, Paper Depot, again), her bouquets, boutonnieres, and table center pieces were blooms cut from a whimsical garden—and, in the end, I found myself falling in love with them. Oh, the places you’ll go when you decide not to grow.

Yes, weddings are serious things, but they also should be fantastical, Kate. They should have wedding programs with Mad Libs and crossword puzzles in them to keep your guests occupied while all those pictures are being taken. They should be high on romance and low on stuffiness. And when your wedding day winds down and you head home—whether to a palace with 775 rooms or a 100-year-old brick fixer upper in St. Paul—remember the words of  Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel as you snuggle among the covers: “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”