CONGRATULATIONS! You're getting married! To help you have the BEST DAY EVER, we've created this comprehensive guide to all the little secrets you should know about how to create an optimal environment for a stress-free, perfect wedding day. As you continue planning for the best day of your life, keep these handy tips in mind and we promise that you'll avoid several unnecessary wedding-day headaches and hiccups.
Wedding days are beautiful events that require a lot of planning, research, proper timing, and organization. They are an exciting, whirlwind celebration, but they can also include a lot of unnecessary stress, last-minute plans you weren't aware of, and an overwhelming amount of things happening in a very short amount of time. After photographing weddings for the last 6 years, as well as planning our own wedding (and being intimately involved in planning several siblings and close friends' weddings....), we are confident that you will find this little guide EXTREMELY helpful!
1. LET IT GO and delegate, delegate, delegate.
In the words of Elsa from Frozen... By the time your wedding day arrives, it's time to LET IT GO. The planning officially has to stop and it's time to be a bride! Have a dedicated point-person who can answer questions, speak with the venue and be generally knowledgeable about how the wedding day is going to flow. This is why a wedding day coordinator can be invaluable.
2. Hire a professional wedding planner or day-of coordinator.
A professional wedding planner or day-of coordinator is guaranteed to make your life less stressful and make everything run more smoothly! Maybe your wedding venue has a day-of coordinator available to you? Either way, the more help you can have in finalizing wedding plans and directing the flow of the wedding day, the less stress you'll have. You're supposed to let go and enjoy your wedding day, not play flight traffic control for every vendor and every issue that may arise (which hopefully, there are none).
3. Touch base with all of your vendors in the final weeks and days leading up to the wedding.
You want to make sure they have everything they need from you, and you'll be getting everything you want (and paid for) from them. Communication is key, and it helps to know that everyone is all on the same page.
4. Hand your phone off to someone else.
I know this will be hard for some... but... this is your wedding day and you need to be present and not stressed out by people arriving late, vendors who are lost, things that got forgotten, etc. Put someone else on "selfie duty" and remember that your photographer will capture many amazing images as well! Someone else can answer any calls and return any texts that are time-sensitive. Again, important to delegate. Enjoy your day to the very fullest, as it goes by in a flash.
5. Work with your photographer to craft the perfect timeline for your day.
Plan your wedding timeline around the BEST LIGHT of the day. Usually, this means knowing what time sunset is (hello, gorgeous "golden hour" photos!) and working backwards. One of the most influential pieces of your wedding day puzzle will be the wedding day timeline and allowing enough time for the things that matter to you -- you quite literally need to schedule in time for a first look with dad, or know that you'll take those group photos with your sorority sisters after the cake is cut. Don't try to squeeze everything in without a realistic game plan. Start your day earlier if you need to, because time doesn't stop just because you have a wardrobe malfunction or a bridesmaid goes missing when it's time to take portraits.
6. Don't skip the wedding ceremony rehearsal.
While this might seem unnecessary, you'd be surprised at just how helpful a quick walk-through really is. Make sure everyone knows how to line up, knows how fast to walk, how to stand and line up once you're lined up at the alter (front of the ceremony), that you've timed out your ceremony music and you have printed copies of all wedding readings that might be needed.
7. "All in One Location" Wedding Venues are AWESOME.
Having a single location means only having one location to go to all day, more time for photos, less chance for guests to be late / delayed / lost, and simply put... more time to enjoy your day versus travel time. It's not always possible and sometimes you really want to get married in one location and reception in another. But all-in-one locations are just easier all the way around. If this single venue also includes space for BOTH the bride AND the groom to get ready, it's even more ideal.
8. Have the bride and groom get ready in the same location.
Whether it is at the wedding venue, or at one hotel, having both the bride and groom in the same location makes the whole morning run infinitely smoother AND makes it way easier for your photographer / videographer to get all the photos / video needed during the "getting ready" portion of your day. Oftentimes, if the bride is getting ready in one location and the groom is a car ride away, the groom is usually left out of the morning coverage.
9. DON'T FORGET YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE!
You really, really need that. Know where that is at all times, until it is officially signed and all taken care of. Put someone in charge of it, and make sure it arrives safely at your ceremony and/or reception venue (wherever you intend to sign it).
10. DO A HAIR AND MAKEUP TRIAL.
This is actually somewhat of a necessity. Yes, it usually costs extra money. But if your hair and makeup takes twice the amount of time you budgeted for on the morning of your wedding, you can't get that time back, and your whole wedding day timeline will be off and you will be late from the get-go. Also, definitely splurge for really good airbrush makeup. Regardless of the time of year, your makeup will stay put and look AMAZING -- all. day. long. Even through the tears and sweat! (I can personally vouch for this from my own wedding day!)
11. Add at LEAST 30 minutes to your expected hair + makeup timeframe. Whatever timing your hair and makeup artists tell you they need to make you gorgeous, add at LEAST an extra 30 minutes of buffer time. Trust me on this. It's almost always needed... and you don't want the day to end up off-schedule before it's even begun. It's way more fun anyway, when you can be relaxed and enjoy your morning coffee and mimosas with your best gals and have time to spare.
12. Make sure everyone is fed earlier in the day. And PLAN TIME to eat!
Sustenance is important, and calories burn quickly. You don't want to go all day on an empty stomach (filled with maybe coffee and champagne) all the way until dinner. We've seen brides and wedding party members get faint and it isn't fun. Eat, snack, hydrate.
13. Set all of your "wedding details" aside for your photographer / videographer.
This would be everything from your dress to your wedding rings, to your invitation suite and even your gifts to your bridesmaids. Be sure that everything is organized and ready to go the night before the wedding, or at the very least, in the morning before they arrive. We have a super handy "details checklist" available here.
14. Wear the Spanx, nylons, knee-highs, etc.
You don't want chaffing or anything rubbing together all day. And you can avoid most blisters by wearing nylons or even knee highs (if you want to stay a little cooler). Change from heels into flats whenever possible. Rule of the day: be comfortable whenever possible. 99% of the time, nobody knows you're wearing Spanx or have changed into comfy flats because they can't see them under your dress.
15. Avoid "Strap Lines" and ditch the bra (or wear a strapless) when getting ready.
For all the ladies -- take off your bras / wear a strapless bra on the morning of the wedding to avoid seeing "strap lines" when it's time for photos to begin. It is also helpful to wear cute robes or button down shirts to avoid messing up freshly-done hair and makeup.
16. If you must spray tan, do a trial run well before the wedding.
No bride deserves to look like an Oompa Loompa. Don't leave this until the day before your wedding or you might not like the results... and your photographer will not really be able to "make you less orange" in 1000 photos (Yes, I've been asked to do this, no, I can't un-do your spray tan you decided to get 24 hours before your wedding). Do a test run and make sure you like how you look. Consider how your bridal party will look as well. If you're super tan/orange and everyone else is very pale (also, consider the complexion of your hubby-to-be), it will look off in photos.
17. Put a "wedding day emergency kit" together and include EVERYTHING.
And I mean everything. From bobby pins to TUMS to a sewing kit and more... Chances are, you might not even use it at all, but if you need it, it will be a life-saver. Trust me... I've seen a groom split his pants at the crotch 40 minutes before ceremony time. Man, that emergency sewing kit came in handy!
18. Break in the wedding shoes!!
This goes for the bride, for the groom, and the bridal party especially... most all will be wearing new shoes, and will need to break them in so that they do not get blisters / achy feet. Apply arch supports, heel pads, sole pads, etc. before the wedding day and make sure you will be walking on air on your Best Day Ever!
19. Brides -- Make sure you have an attendant or two who is NOT your mom / a bridesmaid, etc.
Someone who can go fetch you water, fluff your dress, hold your flowers, hold your lipstick, help you go to the bathroom, etc... All the simple things where an extra pair or two of hands makes a WORLD of difference!
20. Keep the "getting ready" suites free of "clutter"
Nobody wants to see the sandwich platters and plastic dress bags just strewn about. Keep the areas next to natural light (ie- windows and doors with natural light coming in) free of clutter, as that is usually where photographers / videographers prefer to take certain photos. When you keep the areas clear, you don't have to clean the clutter mid-morning and then you won't see all the random "stuff" in the background of your photos!
21. Have a backup plan for weather.
If you're having an outdoor ceremony or planning to take any outdoor photos, you'll need a Plan B, even if you don't use it. Watch your forecast, and don't fret about it. Always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared and scrambling and disappointed.
22. Prepare for the elements -- sunscreen, umbrellas, bug spray, etc.
You definitely don't want to forget these essentials on your wedding day! No matter what season of year you're getting married, if any part of your wedding day will be outside, make sure you're prepared. This means making sure you have LOTS of sunscreen, bug spray, umbrellas, blankets/shawls, etc.
23. Have water / beverages available to your guests and bridal party.
Dehydrated and overheated people are not happy people... and that makes for a bummer of a time. This is especially critical if you're having an outdoor wedding in the summer. Whether your guests are waiting for your ceremony to begin or if your bridal party has been out in the hot sun, make sure everyone has a chance to get hydrated.
24. Don't forget about the bathroom situation.
Getting married in a beautiful spot in the woods somewhere? Ok... what about the bathroom situation? Many couples neglect to think about the number and availability of restrooms available to themselves and guests at different parts of the wedding day. You can "bring them in", but porta-potties and bathroom trailers are definitely an added expense most people do not consider.
25. Make sure you know and have planned for EXACTLY how you and your bridal party will be transported around.
If you have more than one venue or will be taking photos in separate locations, make sure you hire a limo or trolley service, or, have dedicated friends / family available to transport the bridal party around. Losing bridal party members to giant parking lots and traffic is NOT ideal and throws off the timeline of the day.
26. Your wedding bouquets and boutonnieres/corsages should be delivered to the appropriate venue BEFORE they are needed for photos.
Your photographer / videographer will want to capture images of them before you need to use them, and you'll also need time to pin on boutonnieres. Make sure you have 1-2 dedicated people who know how to do this, it will go so much quicker.
27. Whomever is helping the bride in her dress, should be dressed and ready BEFORE her.
Whether you have your mom, your maid of honor, or all of your bridesmaids helping you into your wedding gown, make sure that those people in particular have hair and makeup completed and they are dressed BEFORE you get into your gown. Everything will look more polished and they will be camera ready too.
28. Everything should be steamed + wrinkle-free BEFORE the wedding day
Make sure that all of the bride + groom + bridal party's clothes are steamed / wrinkle-free the day beforehand. If you wait until the morning of your wedding to steam your dress, veil, bridesmaids dresses, etc... that busy work takes away from your enjoyment (and that of your mom, maid of honor, etc) when that chore could have been done earlier. Instead, steam everything ahead of time and have it hanging and ready for the photographer. Then everyone can enjoy mimosas and get their hair and makeup done!
29. Guys -- learn how to tie bow-ties before the wedding day.
If you're opting for tuxes or suits with classic bow ties, please make sure the guys know how to tie them BEFORE the morning of the wedding. This will save lots of time and headaches as they attempt to learn off of a YouTube video 15 minutes before pictures are supposed to begin...
30. Make sure the groom has a spare dress shirt available.
Guys sweat, a LOT. Especially when they're running around in a full suit/tux all day. Having a fresh shirt available so that sweat stains aren't dripping through if they take their jackets off is important. Having a spare "undershirt" would also be very helpful!
31. Have a designated point-person for wrangling family for group photos
Your photographer will not know who Uncle Bob and Grandma Betty are, so make sure you have someone appointed to be the designated "family wrangler" on the Big Day. Waiting for the lone family member who disappeared to cocktail hour can be very time consuming and frustrating to everyone who is waiting. Make sure that all friends and family are aware of WHEN they will be needed for formal photos, both before the wedding day, and the day of.
32. Skip the receiving line and greet your guests during the cocktail hour and reception.
This one can be controversial with the parents, but it will save a ton of time and there is still plenty of opportunity to greet your guests during the reception. Also, give clear directions to your bridal party and parents to not linger at the back of your ceremony space / church in order to avoid confusion and a de facto receiving line you didn't mean to have... which then intruded on the time you were supposed to be taking those gorgeous sunset photos...
33. Keep the "formal photos" to just those that you really want.
Generally, this would be the Bride and Groom, Bridal Party, Immediate Family and maybe one or two "whole side of the family" photos. If you are truly wanting photos with just you two and each aunt/uncle or extended family members, make sure to budget time to do so. And definitely take heed to your photographers' recommendation for the timing (and best light) needed to get the best photos of you and your new hubby!
34. Share your wedding day timeline with your bridal party AND immediate family.
Work with your photographer (and wedding planner / coordinator, if you have one) to craft the perfect timeline. Then, make sure to share it with your bridal party, attendants, family members or anyone who needs to be available for photos before the wedding day. This will keep things running smoothly and everyone will be aware of when they need to be ready and available for photos.
35. Make sure you plan in small pockets of time to "freshen up"
It's your wedding day and you'll be in photos and hugging people all day long! Make sure to keep your makeup fresh, stay hydrated and reapply deodorant and perfume as needed.
36. Account for the time it takes to bustle your wedding dress.
Bustling the dress (if you have any length of train) usually happens before the entrance to cocktail hour / dinner. A single-hook bustle takes mere seconds, but a 30-point tie-up bustle definitely takes some time. Make sure you plan the time for that to avoid delays in your reception events or sunset photos. Once that sun is gone, you can't get it back...
37. Delegate who is cleaning up your bridal suite, and who is helping clean up / pack up your reception decor at the end of the night.
You'd be amazed how many brides I see cleaning up the centerpieces and such after the party is over (myself included....fail), when they should have been headed to their honeymoon suite... Again, delegate, delegate, delegate. Oh, and blow out the candles BEFORE you need to pack up the holders, so they can cool off....(again, speaking from experience.)
38. Know how long it takes to "flip" any spaces at your venue to avoid delays.
If your wedding venue has to "flip" the space from ceremony to reception, or from reception to the dance floor, make sure you know how long this will take, and also add a buffer. Running an hour behind scheduled dinner time because the venue took forever to "flip" not only makes everyone antsy, but your timeline for the rest of the evening will be off as well (read: less time to party!). Make sure you ask your venue if they have to "flip" any spaces and how long it will take.
39. Have your final vendor payments and tips in envelopes and ready to go.
If any payments need to be made on the wedding day, or tips / gratuity paid to any vendors, make sure that the checkbook is handy or cash is available. If you can have everything labeled in envelopes ready to go, it will be far easier! Put someone else (mom, dad, etc.) in charge of making sure vendors get their moneys due.... you're supposed to be partying!
40. Designate a point-person to collect and store all of your wedding gifts and cards.
Make sure they are locked up for the night, or taken home by someone you trust for safekeeping before you can open them. Don't keep card boxes right next to an entrance either, as it makes stealing the goods easier for any nefarious people lurking about (hey, it has happened...).
41. Figure out how you're going to be leaving your reception.
Will you have a sparkler exit? Will you have a limo whisk you away? Will you already be at a hotel for your reception, and you can just walk upstairs to your honeymoon suite? Don't find yourself stranded at the venue at the end of the night, especially if you've been drinking. And definitely do not drink and drive!
42. Overnight / honeymoon bags should be packed and stored in your room or ready to go to the airport.
Make sure that you've packed your overnight / honeymoon bags and they are placed in your hotel room / vehicle so that you have clothes for the next day. Designate someone to this task if you cannot access your room ahead of time, or if the bags need to be moved. Having a checklist is really handy when you're packing and prepping to leave straight to your honeymoon, that way you won't forget anything. Just be sure this is done a few days before leaving!
43. Things might go wrong, and delays might happen. But in the end, you are still getting married and none of those things really matter.
Enjoy the celebration, laugh about the bloopers, give people lots of hugs, and smile even when your cheeks hurt!
I hope that you found this list helpful in preparing for the Big Day! It will be the best day ever, but it will go by SO FAST. At the end of it all, you'll be happily exhausted and simply thrilled to officially be MARRIED!!
Remember, no matter what happens, you are marrying the love of your life and this is the best party you'll ever have.... so ENJOY IT! :-)