If you’ve landed here, it’s because you are wise enough to know that a little preparation can go a long, long way to ensuring your wedding day stays stress-free.
Once the wedding day approaches, it’s time to start turning your attention to the little things you can do that will make a big difference.
This article will give you the lowdown on some last-minute tips that will help you not only enjoy the day more, but also allow you opportunities for the best wedding day photos.
As a wedding photographer, I have a unique perspective that has allowed me to witness first-hand what many brides and grooms overlooked on their big day.
We all know about tips that will help you plan when you’re years or months out, but what about day of wedding tips?
So, read on for my specific tips that will help you when your wedding day is fast approaching.
Oh, and don’t forget to check out my other article about letting go on your wedding day!
So what are the main things you can do to have a stress-free wedding day?!
Honestly, number one is breathe : ) Things will go a little awry – even if you are the most organized bride in the world and you have a wedding planner! It’s totally normal and seriously, don’t even worry.
Stay grounded in the reality that this is the day you marry your best friend – nothing else matters! Maybe your flowers are not what you were expecting, your parents are late, and it’s raining. None of this matters when you’re marrying the one you love.
If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s that only fools make plans. OK, I’m being a tad facetious, but all this is to say: if it isn’t what you had in mind, just go with it!
That said, there are some excellent day of wedding tips that I want to share with you so that you can have a stress-free wedding!
These are tips for the day itself that will be useful to any bride or groom. Assuming you already have a sensible timeline, these are last-minute wedding tips Your wedding is, like, tomorrow, girl! Let’s do this thing!
If you like this guide, you probably want all the BEST wedding planning resources together in one place! Check out my ultimate planning guide linked below:
Table of Contents
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! Something thoughtfully prepared like this one, works well. I have more recommendations in this article.
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 + bring dancing shoes!
Most all at your wedding will be wearing new shoes. So allowing adequate time to make sure they fit and to break them is, is key! 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.
Even with the more comfortable style of heels that many brides rock, after several hours in them, your feet will be tired. Make sure you can enjoy your dance party but having some flats you can change into. Rolly Flats are perfect for this (and look super cute too). You may even want to provide flats for all your ladies so everyone can dance the night away. Sore feet shouldn’t be an excuse to stay off the dancefloor!
4. Learn a little about posing so you’re familiar with the principles
Learning a bit about the principles behind posing helps you to hit the ground running on the big day, especially if you didn’t have an engagement session.
Your photographer may have some guidance on getting the best out of your photo session, in video or blog post format. After all, they have more tips to share than we’d possibly have time to impart via email or phone call. So, check out the tips below so that you feel confident and prepared! You do not have to pose yourselves (that’s your photographer’s job!) but sometimes, forewarned is forearmed, as they say!
5. Practice bustling the dress
The time it takes to bustle a dress can be way more than you imagine. If it’s a one-button thing with a loop, then easy peasy. We’re talking mere seconds. But if you have a whole complicated bustling system going on, this can easily take 20 minutes to get it right.
So reduce that time by practicing in advance with your mom, maid of honor, or whoever has the role of chief bustler. Likewise dress changes: it takes more than 5 minutes to change out of your wedding dress and into something else (like a sari, qipao or ao dai!) It can take 30 minutes! Practice at home and time yourself.
6. Get guys to learn how to tie their bow tie
OK, so it can be quite funny to take photos of the guys as they watch endless YouTube videos and try and fail to tie their bow-ties. Honestly, it may not be a big deal to you to make the whole getting-ready process as quick as possible. Isn’t it all part of the fun?
It definitely can be! But in the days of shorter weddings that we’re now in, I feel it can adversely affect the timeline if the guys are not sure how to tie their neck tie. Better still, get a cool wooden bow tie! I love these things!
7. Print out (or electronically distribute) timeline and family photos list
This is an important one, especially if your family members are not the most organized bunch! You’ll know what works best for them. Key thing is to make sure they have the timeline or at least the information as to what time they need to be and where, for family photos. Adjust the timings on their copy so it shows earlier timings if folks known to be chronically late!
8. Make your final vendor payments
If you don’t have a planner, you will be taking care of making vendor payments yourself. Many of these payments are due shortly before the wedding day, so get in touch with each supplier or use the payment portal, to take care of any balances due in advance so you don’t have to worry about attending to those reminder emails when they come through. Planning to do vendor payments on the day? Make sure you have someone that can deal with this.
9. Check in with your vendors
This is also a great time to check in with your vendors, make sure everyone’s on the same page, see if they have any final info they need from you or advice that could really help. In the times we’re living in as I edit this in early 2021, it’s always good to check that everyone’s safe, well and symptom-free.
10. Pack your marriage license
This one is so easy to forget but your officiant will definitely need the license. Your marriage is only legit once this is signed. So, put it in a place where you can grab it easily, in a folder or file to keep it crease-free.
11. Get a good night’s sleep
I know this one may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many things are left to the night before! Coupled with all the excitement, it’s easy to see that unless you plan an early night, it may not end up happening. Also in a cruel irony, this is the one day that you may have to get up at an actual ungodly hour (4, 5am!) to get you and your ladies’ hair and make-up started.
12. 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 the lovely moments as you get ready and hang out.
13. Always allow extra time for hair and makeup
If there’s any way at all to have hair and makeup start and finish up as early as possible, do it! Even with a hair and makeup trial under your belt, it can take considerably longer on the wedding day.
Why? The MUA may be late. You may be late. You may constantly be interrupted or be on the phone, meaning the artist can’t do their work if your face isn’t completely still or you’re rushing around putting out fires.
You may have broken out with all the nerves. The weather or humidity may be different than on the trial. Maybe something isn’t to your liking and the artist needs to start the work again. I’ve seen these happen time and time again.
Late-running makeup will impact your whole wedding day, and cut short your photography which is one of your bigger-ticket items of the day. And unfortunately, it is photography that will be impacted the most. Instead of getting first look/ romantic photos etc, and even the family/wedding party formal photo session, you would have to skip everything we’ve planned and go straight to the ceremony. We will try to cram everything in later for sure, but it just will not be the stress-free and relaxed experience you had planned.
So it’s worth allowing a huge buffer to allow for any late-running (which is almost inevitable). I recommend having hair and makeup finish at least 1 hour before you need to leave for the wedding venue if you’re not having the getting ready session photographed.
If you are having getting ready photographed, then ideally you’ll want it scheduled to be completed at least one hour before the photographer’s slated arrival time with you. That’s because the best use of our time is once the makeup is completed, you can get shots like putting on the dress with everyone helping, bridal portraits, everyone hanging out together with zero pressure.
If you want shots while the makeup artist is still present and working on you, this is a much longer session than the quick 30-45 minutes I recommend.
What about who goes first? Usually, when it’s a bride and groom couple, the photographer starts with the groom, leaving the bride a little more time to get ready, again in case of late-running. Typically the bride gets more time than the groom. When it’s an LGBTQ+ couple, we can discuss with whom it makes sense to start.
Also don’t forget, you’ll be traveling from the getting ready location to the wedding, so that needs to be factored in. Add to that potential delays from Ubers being late, drivers getting lost, city traffic, road closures and parking.
Remember, late-running is inevitable as there are myriad factors beyond anyone’s control. You need to mitigate this risk by having everything scheduled with plenty of buffer time, starting with hair & makeup. This way, even if there’s a delay of 30 minutes or more which is common, it doesn’t impact the day we’ve so carefully coordinated. Your experience will not suffer; your photography will not be compromised.
Failure to allow enough time for hair & makeup, or starting it too late, is the number one reason weddings start late and as a result, brides are frazzled and stressed all day. Unfortunately, disappointment is inevitable. Your photographer needs the time we agreed on to photograph what you’ve paid for.
14. Have your flowers delivered before they’re needed
Just like with the makeup, flowers should be delivered a long time before they’re technically needed. For one thing, your photographer will want to get photos with the florals as part of the all-important wedding details. Plus track down those spare blooms to incorporate into those dreamy flatlays you’ve seen.
Also, one of the modern traditions is to have photos of the guys pinning boutonnieres on. We don’t want to wait for the florals to turn up before we can begin – time is tight before the ceremony.
15. Designate someone to keep your phone
Have a helper who can keep your phone safe and let you have it whenever you need it. Someone who has a dress with pockets is ideal for this task ; )
16. Eat something and stay hydrated
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.
17. Have your officiant announce it’s an unplugged 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 (if you want to go that route – with the pandemic that may have changed). Ask your officiant to make this announcement before the ceremony starts. Some couples have a moment to face guests, ask everyone to take all the photos they want, then put phones away.
18. Have a back-up plan for bad weather
Outdoor ceremonies are the norm here in California. But that means that a bad weather contingency is sometimes the last thing on brides’ minds! Depending on the nature of your venue, you will need to think what kind of rain plan works for you. If it’s a backyard wedding, consider a professional gazebo company. If it’s a venue, ask to see their indoor spaces and the price for that. If it’s out in nature, you may need to change the venue completely (or have friends holding two cute, clear umbrellas like these over your heads!)
19. Streaming your wedding? Allow enough time to set it up
Livestreaming your wedding is a really fun idea that involves guests who cannot make it in person. As a great bonus, you’ll also get a cool wedding video that you can watch to your heart’s content, without the expense and extra personnel of a local videography team.
However, many couples underestimate how long it takes to get all the tech working together! Sometimes there are problems with getting the WiFi to work, or some device refuses to connect, or some little adapter or cord can’t be located.
While I recommend using a professional, affordable wedding livestreaming service like LoveStream, sometimes you have to make do with what you have. So, have a tech-minded friend to help you troubleshoot so at least it’s not you and your partner having to deal with any hiccups.
20. 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.
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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!
24. 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.
25. 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!
26. Remember to recess back down 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.
27. 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.
28. 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.
29. 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.
30. Order your family photos by priority
I usually advise having your largest family groupings first but there is another strategy that could be useful. It is to have an A List and B List of groupings, if you’re concerned about running out of time. Many couples want to do a large number of groupings (more than 6), which takes a lot of time. Get the most important photos first, then if there’s time you could always add in those shots with the aunts, uncles etc.
31. Remove any decorations 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.
32. 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.
33. 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.
34. 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 (if you’re not already livestreaming). A mic and gimbal could be a worthwhile investment for decent sound quality. Make sure you also learn how to get the best results from your equipment.
35. Have 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.
36. Designate someone to give gratuities to vendors
If you’re planning to tip your vendors, that’s great! Just make sure you have someone on hand that can take care of this task. A planner is the ideal person, but if you don’t have a planner, then a parent or responsible bridesmaid is perfect for the task. Don’t forget to bring more envelopes and a little extra cash in case there are additional contractors at the wedding or someone really went above and beyond.
37. Appoint someone collect up the gifts at the end of the night
Are you having guests bring gifts along to the wedding? Even if you’re not, older guests are sometimes so used to this being the tradition, they will bring either a gift or envelope of cash along. Make sure a friend or family member is charged with gathering up any gifts. There may also be cleaning duties that someone will need to take care of to avoid venue fees. Check with your venue what they require.
38. 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.
39. 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.
- GOT MARRIED DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC.
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!
40. 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.
The number one thing that will get you through every eventuality – and also get the best photos, to boot – is having a come-what-may attitude! The candid photography approach prioritizes real moments, so if there’s chaos, just lean into it!
You’ll have unique stories and memories, I guarantee it!
I’m a Bay Area wedding photographer specializing in documentary-style photography for couples whose weddings are a true reflection of their values. Bay Area Wedding photographer – Info, pricing, about & portfolio