A wedding photographer’s guide to a relaxed, drama-free wedding! My 25 tips are specifically for you to keep in mind on the big day itself. Short, sweet and to-the-point, read this right before your wedding and hopefully a few will come to mind on your big day!
These wedding day tips are focused not only on having a smooth, fun wedding day but also maximized to get the most out of your photography, too. We all know you have no redos on your wedding day. And even with all the help in the world, there are still little things YOU can do for the best possible photos.
Interested in getting the best candid photos on your wedding day? I have a guide specifically about that, linked below!
There aren’t that many guides out there that focus on what you can do on the wedding day itself, rather than way back in the early stages of the planning process.
That’s why this article is packed with practical steps that take you from the day before the wedding, right through to the end of the reception. My handy and actionable guide will help you to 1) live in the moment, 2) avoid stress and drama, and 3) get the best possible wedding photos!
Living in the moment & savoring!
A lot of couples worry about looking awkward in their wedding photos. If that sounds like you, check out my guide to getting non-awkward wedding photos, linked below.
Your wedding day is the one experience you can’t redo and will be thinking about for the rest of your life. Just keeping a couple of these tips in mind can help you calm your nerves on the wedding day. Make sure you’re prepared so that when the big day comes you can truly live in the moment!
My biggest tip for a stress-free, drama-free wedding day is to hire a wedding planner. Like, right now. The price you pay upfront will more than pay for itself with the money you’ll save with other vendors and the level of stress. Things will be taken care of without you even being aware, which is priceless.
If that’s not an option for you, you may need to take matters into your own hands. This detailed, 4,000+ word article linked below can help!
Sound good? OK, let’s go!
Tips for the day before
1. Pack an emergency kit!
Here are just a few tips for what you might want to have with you for your wedding! Hair elastics, bobby pins, sunscreen, extension cords, cash, lint roller, Tide pen, breath mints, tissues, deodorant, baby powder (for sweat!), tweezers, pain reliever, sewing kit and mini first aid kit! Want more info what to put in your emergency kit?
2. Keep all the ‘details’ together
What are details? Anything you’d like photographed, typically jewelry, shoes, cufflinks, invitations. Keep it all together in one place. You can then pass this off to an attendant who can make sure your photographer can easily find everything without bothering you. Be sure to pack two copies of your wedding invitation with envelope, and know where your rings are!
3. Break in your wedding shoes
OK so you probably need more than one day to do this effectively! Getting your feet used to your wedding shoes for both of you can really help you to enjoy your day and stay in the moment. If you have a long dress, consider whether you really need those fancy heels no-one will see! And be sure to slip into more comfortable footwear for dancing!
Tips for getting ready
4. Tidy up the getting ready space
Have your MOH or family member clear up the getting-ready space of water bottles, jackets, bags, trash, half-eaten food! This means that when the photographer arrives they can great straight to shooting rather than spending precious minutes tidying up. More really helpful getting ready tips here on Martha Stewart Weddings!
5. Eat something!
The getting ready part of the day is the last chance you may have to grab a bite until cocktail hour, or even dinner. Your HMUA will not begrudge you the need to eat a snack and hydrate yourself while they are making you look purdy. Even if you don’t feel super hungry, it’s important to keep your energy going.
Tips for during your wedding ceremony
6. Tell guests to put their phones away during the ceremony
Everyone will have their phone out unless you specifically tell them not to. Many will still be snapping away even after you tell them it’s an unplugged ceremony. Ask your officiant to make this announcement before the ceremony starts, to give us a fighting chance! Some couples have a moment to face guests, ask everyone to take all the photos they want, then put phones away.
7. Ask your officiant to step aside during the first kiss
If your officiant is a professional wedding officiant you probably won’t need to ask them (but it won’t hurt)! A family or friend officiating may not know however. The etiquette is to stand to one side while the couple kisses. This avoids them awkwardly being in the center of the frame directly behind the couple.
8. Walk slowly up and down the aisle
Pause to take it all in, don’t rush! Not only does this allow you to savor and prolong the moment. It also allows for more, and better, photos! If you have any say in the matter, encourage your wedding party to create ample gaps between the folks processing up the aisle.
9. Look at each other rather than the officiant
In our everyday life we look at who’s speaking out of politeness. During the vows, be sure to look at your partner as much as possible! That connection between you is going to make for a memorable experience and electrifying photos! At other times during the ceremony, such as while the officiant or other speaker is doing their thing, be sure to turn towards your guests.
10. Stand central to the aisle or backdrop
Make sure you’re standing in the middle, otherwise pictures will be off-center. It’s especially important if you have a beautiful arch or backdrop that you want to be framed by. The ceremony is one of the times your photographer can’t step in and reposition you, and why so many of these tips focus on the ceremony!
11. Make sure your face is visible from the guests’ standpoint
The trend today is less updos and more wavy hairstyles that hang down and frame the face. From the point of view of your guests, which is where the photographer will take most of their shots, those hairstyles can completely obscure your face. Pin or tuck hair back, or be positioned on the side where your face is more clearly visible.
12. Have a lingering first kiss
No demure peck on the lips here! A long, lingering first kiss ensures a wider variety of photos of the moment. Hopefully even using a few different focal lengths, so more shots for you to look back on! Also again – enjoy it, bask in this moment and make it last as long as possible. Dips are also very welcome, and your guests will LOVE! Brides has a super helpful article about how to get the best first kiss photos!
13. Remember to recess back up the aisle
When you’re pronounced spouses, hold hands, cheer and face your guests! Then walk back down the aisle towards your photographer. Don’t worry, they’ll back up down the aisle as you walk towards them. This makes for my personal favorite candid shots of the whole wedding. You’re so filled with that just-married good energy, you’re high-fiving as you recess out, and your guests’ happy faces are part of the magic.
Post-ceremony (cocktail hour, family photos)
14. Steal some alone time
Whether or not it’s “on the timeline”, make sure you have a few minutes just the two of you. You can even ask the photographer to leave you alone for a completely private moment… Or not! The key is to savor the momentous thing you’ve just done. Stay grounded in each other in the whirlwind that is your wedding day. These little moments can end up being the most memorable.
15. Have your caterer bring you food & drink
Arrange for your caterer or venue to bring to you a plate of passed apps and your favorite cocktail / beer / champagne! Hunting down food is the last thing you want to be doing. This will likely be a very emotional time. You may just want to refuel and take a breather before rejoining with your guests. More on the gap between ceremony and reception on this Brides.com article!
16. Appoint a photo helper
Have someone organize both families and round folks up making for a smooth and efficient process. Make sure they know their role in advance so they can spring into action. Your photographer can provide them with their own paper copy of the photo list or you might want to supply it to them in advance.
17. Have someone that can bustle the dress
Dresses will need to be bustled usually after the ceremony but this will depend on a few different factors. You may even bustle/ unbustle multiple times. Knowing who can do it quickly and easily will save time and stress. Usually moms, sisters or MOH’s are the go-to ladies for this particular task.
18. Remove any tall flowers that block your face
Make sure the floral arrangement on your table isn’t blocking your face. The photographer can move it if it’s an issue, but sometimes it can be tricky once speeches begin. Also we don’t want to obscure someone’s view or mess up the design. If you are repurposing a large bridal bouquet as a centerpiece, be aware not to set it down right in front of you. Also, no need to toast with your glasses at eye-level.
19. Eat well, hydrate and enjoy your food
Your wedding food is the most expensive meal you’ll ever pay for in your life! Yet so many couples don’t end up eating on their big day. Everyone wants to chat, your photographer is asking you about sunset pictures, you’re behind on your timeline. However it comes back down to savoring the moment – literally! Plus, you’ll need to keep your strength up for dancing.
20. If possible have the toastees stand close to you
It’s nice to have folks giving a speech standing near you so your photographer can capture both you and them in the same frame. If not, no problem at all. It’s possible to photograph them speaking and your reactions in separate pictures. But it can be nice to have consistency with lighting, and see your reactions with them standing right next to you. More about the best way to approach toasting time on this excellent Martha Stewart article.
21. Get a friend to record speeches on their phone
Videographers will generally not deliver all the speeches in their entirety, rather a few highlights spliced together. If you want to remember everything that was said, it’s well worth asking a friend or attendant to record everything on their phone. A mic that can be plugged in would probably be a worthwhile investment for decent sound quality.
22. Prepared speeches only!
Handing the mic around seems like a good idea but can be quite awkward in reality. People can and do ramble off-point. Stories about you which sounded great in their head fall flat. It can also be a real time-suck, too! You still have a lot of other events to get through, and may not want to pay overtime on your venue, catering staff, photographer, planner because of one pointless story from a tipsy guest! Stick to the schedule and prepared toasts/ speeches only.
23. Have an after-party plan
You will probably be pooped when your venue calls time. But guests may want to party the night away! It’s good to have a plan for them so they can continue to enjoy your wedding, even after you’ve retired for the evening. Appoint the biggest party animal to corral the crowd to the after-party, keeping everyone safe and in good spirits. Check out the Knot’s comprehensive guide on how to plan your wedding’s after-party!
24. You set the tone for the day!
I’ve worked with couples who:
- Arrived at their venue faced with a power outage and a raging storm.
- Lost their ceremony site that was somewhere in the redwood forest and got married in a random spot.
- Had their friend bail on officiating the wedding that morning – and then it rained all day at their outdoor May wedding.
- Left their wedding rings in their hotel room.
- Forgot to obtain their marriage license before the wedding.
- Used a caterer who’d never done a wedding before, and served the food 2 hours late.
Yet all these couples kept a cool head and partied on like nothing was wrong! Their guests followed their lead. There was absolutely no stress and no drama. They simply acknowledged the snafu, adjusted to the change and carried right on. They were determined to enjoy the experience of getting married – so they did!
25. Trust your vendors
You’ve hired a great team of reliable and experienced professionals. Whatever situation befalls they will be able to work around it and offer solutions. Remember, there isn’t a single wedding that goes off without a snag. The trick is how you (and your vendors) deal with whatever crops up. Still not convinced? Check out this Huff Post article on trusting your vendors!
I hope these 25 tips help you to feel relaxed and prepared for your wedding! There is no such thing as a perfect wedding day, but there are a few things you can do to ensure a drama-free day that’s full of fun, love and laughs. And feels so much like you.
About Zoe Larkin Photography
I’m a Bay Area wedding photographer specializing in documentary-style photography for couples whose weddings are a true reflection of their values. I also travel worldwide to shoot love stories. Find out more: Bay Area Wedding photographer – Info, pricing, about & portfolio
Getting married at SF City Hall? Check out my day-of tips for your wedding experience there!