~ Author's Note ~

This was originally a general guide, before I decided it might work better this way. I'm not sure how successful I've been. Hmm…

~ Ron Weasley's Guide to Getting Married ~

Relationships are never, ever easy. That's one thing I can say, hand on heart, that I have definitely learned over the years. They're sweat and tears and heartbreak and constant hard work and more often than not they drive you absolutely crazy. But if you do it just right, they're worth every single second. I've been married for twenty-five years now, and there's not a single day that I wish hadn't happened, not one single moment I would take back. I've had to learn everything as I went along, and if I'd had someone offer to tell me how to get it right, like you do right now, I'd have grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

As far as I can see it, you've found a nice, pretty girl, managed to convince her you're not nearly as scary as she thinks you are, and now that you've somehow even managed to get her to love you, you're ready to marry her. So far, you've done everything pretty much spot-on. You might think you're out of the woods, but let me tell you, your problems are only just beginning. But never fear, because (after a lot of trial and an unbelievable amount of error) I happen to have a lot of experience in this area, and I'm more than willing to help you out. So start taking some serious notes, because I'm only going to say this once.

The Basics

No matter how perfect your relationship, you will have arguments. It's unavoidable. Embrace it. Appreciate it. You may think I'm mad, but I'm deadly serious. I have had an argument every single day for the entire three-and-a-half decades that I have known my wife, and I could not live without it. A daily bout of bickering clears the air; if you try to act like the perfect couple, or you don't let the other person know what's bothering you and how you're really feeling, then you will only let the bigger issues fester, and then they'll take over, and you won't be able to control them and you'll end up murdering each other horribly. Again, I learned this the hard way as a teenage boy, and I still have the marks on my arms to prove it. So, to avoid a bloodbath, have a tiny massacre every day. And if you don't believe my reasoning for it so far, then how about this; your wife, for some ridiculous and frankly unfair reason known only to the evil god who creates the psyches of men, will always look her most desirable, her most passionate and her most downright beautiful when every inch of her is itching to hex you into oblivion. Trust me on that one. Anyone who has been normal enough to have a blazing row with their significant other can back me up on that one.

As a side note – despite how unbelievably amazing she looks when she wants to kill you, it is generally not a good idea to attempt to kiss her at this point. It may bring about your doom faster. On another, equally unfair note, when you are annoyed with your wife, avoid her at all costs if you want the charges to stick. Seduction may not work on her, but if she decides to try it on you, all the willpower in the world will not help you. Again, this is all trial and error.

The girl you choose is always right. About absolutely everything. Accept it. In my case this is even more true than usual, because she just so happens to be the cleverest person in the world and always has been, and she also just so happens to be married to the biggest idiot in the world. All women are always right, and even on the rare occasions when they appear to be wrong, do not look into it, because the chances are extremely high that they are just allowing you to win an argument for once. I don't know how they do it, and even after years of close study I am still none the wiser. It's just one of the gifts they somehow received; they got ten years longer to live than us and always being right: we got being able to pee standing up.

The Wedding Day

Pay attention here, because quite a lot hinges on this day. There are a few very simple and very clear ground rules which should be, but all too often aren't, glaringly obvious. The most important of these, I have discovered, are simply the following:

Allow your fiancée to have the wedding exactly as she wants it. You may think that the day is for both of you. You may think that it is a celebration of your love and devotion. You are very, very much mistaken. It is the bride's special day, not yours; you are there to smile and look pretty in the photos. Sounds harsh but just remember this; your fiancée, like most girls, has probably been planning the wedding since she was about five. Don't take that away from her. You'll thank me for it later.

Although it's not really your day, on the RARE occasions your opinion will be required, my only advice is GIVE IT. Do not hesitate, do not backtrack, and for the love of GOD do not take the time to ponder over your decision. Answer instinctively and, if you don't have any instincts, answer blindly. Always pick the red thing over any other colour – that way, if you are asked to explain your opinion (yes, they really are that cruel. Trust me.) you can say that it's because "red is the colour of love". Complete rubbish, and I've never understood it seeing as red always makes me think of blood, but it never fails. I learnt that the hard way; don't do the same. Your fiancée is already going to be a ticking time-bomb of stress; do NOTHING to detonate. Seriously. When you are shown the invitations, for example, smile and nod. There is a difference between cream invites with a white border and white invites with a cream border. Don't argue with it; just accept it. Somehow women seem to be able to see many more colours than we simpleton men can. Like the reverse of a dog, I suppose, except dogs don't invent colours to win arguments. When asked your opinion (because they will spring it on you from nowhere, just to be evil. I'm beginning to think it's just how women work.), if all else fails, just fall back on this personally-tested, one-hundred-per-cent-guaranteed-to-work line. "I don't mind, dear; I want you to have it exactly the way you want." Not only is this line guaranteed to work in about 85% of situations, you will usually be rewarded for your 'selflessness' in some way. In my experience the reward is generally food-based.

Never, EVER, question the wedding buffet menu. Just don't do it. Unless, of course, you happen to like being stared down by a group of exasperated and highly-strung women, who will have spent weeks carefully deciding why smoked salmon and foie gras is somehow preferable to chicken and potato. My general advice is this; if it is unpronounceable, avoid it. If it looks and sounds disgusting, it usually tastes like it was stewed in someone's armpit for a while before being served. Stick to what you know – cakes, sandwiches, sausages, pork pie, etc. – and you can't go wrong. That way you won't end up having to try to casually deposit the mouthful of utter cack in your mouth into the potted plants without being seen (not an easy feat at the best of times, and even harder when people keep coming up to congratulate you.)

Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, despite ANY amount of attempts at coercion (including but not limited to: blackmail, begging, bribery and faithful promises to be good) allow your siblings (or your best friends for that matter) to organise your stag night, if you have one. Just don't do it. Not even if they're normally the best most considerate and amazing people in the world. They can and will use this rare opportunity to humiliate you as much as possible. Don't believe me? That's up to you – but don't blame me if you wake up the next morning with one eyebrow dyed blue, the other charmed to flash orange and pink, and a pair of large false buttocks magically grafted to your backside. It's not as fun as it sounds; trust me, whatever the photos might look like. To me, this is a very obvious rule; however, this is hindsight talking. If I'd had a brilliant guide like this, I'd have got in a hell of a lot less trouble, and my wedding photos wouldn't show me with a ridiculously combed fringe in a desperate bid to hide my polychromatic neon eyebrows. That's why there aren't any photos of me on display; every picture in our living room is of the bride and various guests.

DO NOT GET DRUNK. I can't stress that enough. Particularly if, like me, you are not a very dignified drunk. My wife was not amused when, on our wedding night, she had to carry me up the stairs whilst I went "Wheee!" in her ear. Yes, it's your special day, and yes, it's a celebration. But find the line between 'merry' and 'off your face' and you should be fine.

You'll be marrying a girl (if not then we need to have a serious talk, as this guide is now a bit redundant). Girls, in general, do not find flatulence amusing. No matter how much you try to convince them otherwise. Laugh at someone doing it on your wedding day at your peril. Not even if it's in the middle of your vows. And for the love of God, if you like the shape of your head (and I can't see why you would) DO NOT do it yourself.

There is a very real chance that you will be asked to do quite possibly the scariest thing ever invented, and this is coming from someone who has fought every type of Dark wizard there is. If you hear the words "our", "own" and "vows", be very afraid. There's no point trying to talk her out of it, because she'll think you're unromantic and that you clearly don't love her as much as you say you do or why wouldn't you want to let everyone you know see it? And don't think you can come up with other excuses not to do it, because she'll be expecting them all and she'll have six counter-arguments prepared for each one. Just accept your fate. When it comes to actually writing them, as terrifying as it is, my advice is to forget every love song you've ever heard and every wet notion you have about love, and write exactly what you feel. It might not be as beautiful as what the poets have written about but she'll appreciate it more because it will be true.

The Most Important Part of All

Choose your wife carefully. Your head might be the part that makes the most sense, but believe me when I say it's your heart that makes the decisions, and it's never wrong. Marry a girl who drives you absolutely crazy. Marry a girl who challenges you every single day, in every possible way. Marry a girl who can make you laugh and make you cry, who can make you furious and make you so happy you think your heart will burst, because that's truly living. Marry a girl who makes you feel, every single day, so that when you get to my age and feelings are what matter the most, yours will be just as strong as the day you proposed. Marry someone you have had to fight tooth and nail to be with, because when you finally get her it will just make every day that bit better. Don't ever marry a girl just because it's 'right' – marry a girl because you can't face the thought of not marrying her. And don't ever be afraid to take a chance, because it's always, always better to wish you'd not been stupid enough to do something instead of wishing that you'd been brave enough to do it. It took me years to get my act together and finally get things going with your mother, and I went about it the completely wrong way. Never ever try to make the girl you want jealous, because all it will do is set you back. You always ask me where I got the little scars on my arms, and all I can say is that it's proof that playing games never works. Be honest, to her and to yourself, and I know you'll do great.

Let us know when you two set a date, Hugo. Brianna sounds like a great girl – make sure you bring her home soon so your mother and I can meet her. From what you've told me so far, it sounds like you already know just about everything I've told you. I'm proud of you, Hugo.