Your wedding day might be the biggest day of your life, and it can also turn into the most hectic and chaotic. There are so many moving parts, people to coordinate, vendors, decorations, seating and all sorts of little details to coordinate that nearly every time something goes wrong. You have invested a lot of time, energy and money into the big day, now it's time to set yourself up for success on the day.
Your big day does not have to be chaos. In fact, it can be downright enjoyable if prepared for properly in advance. As a wedding photographer, I have witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly of weddings. Here are a few tips from my experience to help future brides and grooms be more prepared and less stressed on the wedding day.
Have a Coordinator
I am always surprised at how many of my clients do not have a wedding coordinator. In fact, most do not even have a day-of coordinator. I have met some fabulous professionals that can put every detail of the wedding together beautifully. But they come at a premium. If you have the means, splurging on a proven and trustworthy coordinator will bring a whole new element to planning, and will take a huge load off your plate.
But for the majority of us that are planning the big day on a do-it-yourself budget, there are still options. The tip I recommend to 100 percent of my clients is to have someone else be in charge. This can be a trustworthy aunt, cousin or a friend. The goal is to take as much pressure and decision making away from the bride on the wedding day. I advise against mothers being too involved, as this is a big day for them to enjoy as well. For my wife and me, we had two good friends coordinate together. All the vendors knew to see them if they needed anything or an issue arose. My wife and I were able to go the whole day without being bothered. It was wonderful.
Maybe I am biased, but I believe the photographer is the most important vendor you will select. Your photos will last you the rest of your life and might be the only recollection of the wedding details (believe me, wedding days are a blur). Take the time and effort to set your photographer up for success by working together ahead of time to develop a timeline and to make a list of any important photos that might be extra sentimental or unique. I do not advise making a Pinterest shot list, as this takes away from the natural creativity you found appealing when you hired your photographer. Let him/her do their thing, but do advise them on anything unique or a specific request.
I also recommend a family formal list for photos. Before the wedding day, make a list of all the family members that should be present for the formals. Note which combinations you want, such as bride with mom, bride with dad, bride and groom with mom and dad, etc. Family formals are often taken right before or after the ceremony, so the pressure is on to get them done and to move on. Having a list ahead of time will help speed things up while making sure nothing important gets missed.
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Drinks and Snacks
The day is going to be long, not only for you but for everyone involved. If you're having a summer wedding it might be hot as well. An early morning breakfast may be difficult to stomach with all the nerves of the day. Have some snacks and beverages lined up for you, the wedding party and anyone else volunteering to help setup. They will be there for a long time, too. And they will get hungry and thirsty. The last thing you want are grumpy volunteers with growling stomachs.
Stay on Schedule
Staying on schedule sounds obvious, but honestly it rarely happens. Every bride I work with has some form of schedule for the day, and at every wedding the schedule gets behind and things begin running late. When things are running late people begin to get stressed, and then the tension increases and people get grumpy.
Have a reasonable timeline for the entire day, beginning when you plan to wake up with each detail - hair, makeup, what time to be dressed by, what time family must have arrive and be ready, etc. You will likely work in conjunction with your photographer on creating this schedule.
Once made, utilize your coordinator to keep things on track. I also recommend adding in some buffer time, as everything will take a little bit longer than you expect the day of. If you think your hair will take 45 minutes, plan for an hour. I also advise having a 30-45 minute break before the ceremony for everyone to sit, relax, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. For goodness sake you're about to get married! Pause and enjoy it.
Thank You Cards
You will find that a lot of your friends and family are willing to volunteer and help out the day of. Great, utilize them. It means a lot to them as well as to you. Before the wedding day, take some time to write a short thank you card to each person that will be helping out. For those that are taking on a large responsibility (such as coordinating the day), it is nice to include a small gift. These little acts of kindness are meaningful to those around you, making sure they feel loved and appreciated. They will also be more likely to forgive you if your stress level gets the better of you on the wedding day (bride-zilla!).
Most Importantly: Enjoy the Day
Regardless of what does or does not happen, this is your wedding day - enjoy it! This is what you have worked so hard to plan and prepare for. This is where you commit your life to the one you love more than anything. Cherish your wedding day. Do whatever it takes to set things up ahead of time so it runs smoothly, then relax and soak it all in. And congratulations!