If you've been asking yourself any of the following questions, this post is for you!
What tips do you have for someone planning their wedding?
What should I remember to bring with me on my wedding day?
What do things do brides forget most often?
What should i know prior to my wedding day?
What details might I forget when planning a wedding?
As a Kansas City wedding photographer with more than seven years of experience documenting 200+ weddings, I've learned quite a bit about what to do and not to do when it comes to planning your wedding. I've written dozens of comprehensive blog posts, but I wanted to put together a post with quick tips to remember on your wedding day. Some of these might seem obvious and some you might have never thought of before. However, even the obvious ones are often overlooked, so be sure to save this post and reference it when planning your wedding!
Prior to the Wedding Day:
- Choose a getting ready location with plenty of natural light. An experienced photographer can make some magic even in a dimly-lit hotel room, but there's something special about natural light getting ready shots.
- Assign a groomsmen to pick up lunch. Everyone needs to eat and this is not something you want to worry about on your wedding morning.
- Gather all your wedding details (invitation, jewelry, shoes, etc) and put them in a shoe box. That way you won't have to hunt them down while trying to get ready.
- Discuss your family formal list with important family members. We don't always have time to add last minute groupings, so be sure this is discussed in advance.
- Appoint a friend or extended family member to help with family formals. You don't want your mom trying to hunt people down, so make sure this person knows in advance who is involved.
- If you have a button up dress, bring a crochet hook. It will make it so much easier to get dressed.
- Bring a change of shoes for the reception. Thank me later.
- Have someone practice your bustle in advance.
- Don't drink the night before your wedding. It's never a good idea to be hung over in the morning.
- If you wear a fit-bit or Apple Watch on a daily basis, be sure to take it off at least a month before your wedding. Alternatively, you could wear a bracelet to cover up the tan line.
- Assign someone to pick up coffee and breakfast.
- Tell your bridesmaids to arrive at least 30 minutes before your hair and makeup artist.
- Plan for hair and makeup to run late. It's not a big deal, but it always happens.
- Make sure your mom (or whoever is helping you into your dress) is dressed and ready to go by the time you are scheduled to put on your dress.
- Tell the groomsmen to arrive an hour before you need them.
- If possible, set up the night before or hire a planner so you don't have to worry about this.
- Make sure your makeup artist gives you lipstick to keep with you.
- Always bring your own hairspray and eyelash glue. There's nothing worse than having an eyelash fall off.
- Don't wear a bra in the morning unless you plan on wearing it with your dress. It'll leave a mark.
- If you are wearing a low-cut dress, have your makeup artist touch up any blemishes on your neck and chest.
- Have your hair stylist stay to put in your veil and then tell a bridesmaid how to remove it.
- If you wear contacts, bring extras.
- Clean up your getting area prior to your photographer arriving or make sure there is at least one untouched corner.
- Make sure your flowers arrive before your photographer or ask if your florist might have loose blooms you can pick up in advance.
- If you are getting married in the winter, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing leggings under your dress. Get some white thermal leggings and be way more comfortable. I actually did this when it was 30 degrees at my October wedding. No regrets.
- Groom and groomsmen: learn how to tie a tie, fold a pocket square, and pin a boutonniere before the wedding morning! I can't even count the number of times I've seen a groomsmen looking at a YouTube video as he struggles with his tie.
- Listen to instructions. I always ask my couples to turn in a specific way to get the best images. It's understandable you are full of emotions and might not comprehend everything properly, so ask in advance what you need to do.
- Don't carry your bouquet. You want to be able to wrap your arms around your spouse.
- Assign a bridesmaid to carry your train and lay it out for you. We'll instruct you where to stop and then have the bridesmaid get out of the way before the moment begins.
- Decide in advance how private you want your first look to be. Oftentimes your wedding party or family will ask to watch. The choice is completely up to you whether you want them around or hidden away until you are ready.
- Enjoy the moment. Don't look at us until you are ready to move on. We'll keep shooting until you give us the go ahead to begin portraits.
- There's nothing wrong with asking for a private moment. If you want a few minutes alone with your spouse, we'll step away until you are ready to continue.
- If you think you might cry, have a bridesmaid on standby with some tissues.
- Don't feel like you need to wear your wedding shoes all day. Unless you can see your shoes under your dress, there's nothing wrong with bringing comfortable shoes especially if we'll be walking around for a bit.
- Hold your bouquet at your belly button. Unless told otherwise, this should be your go-to.
- Don't forget bridesmaid's bouquets. I'm often asked if they need them for pictures. The answer is always yes.
- WATER. Don't forget to stay hydrated.
- For the groom, never leave your arm at your side. Either put your hand in your pocket or around your wife. We'll instruct you on what to do, but if you aren't sure, pockets are always safe.
- For the groom, never button your bottom button. The top jacket button should be the only one ever buttoned.
- If you have a train, make sure a bridesmaid is carrying that thing whenever we move locations. You don't want it dragging before the ceremony.
- If you have a dress made of tulle and are getting married in the summer, you will have bugs in your dress. No, you won't be able to see them in pictures but they'll be there and there's not really anything we can do about it when you are essentially wearing a net.
- Your dress will get dirty. It's a fact of life even when we do everything to keep your dress clean. Don't worry about the dirt affecting your pictures. It's never noticeable enough to be a problem.
- Keep your family formal list short. The more groupings you have, the less time you'll have for party pictures and bride/groom pictures. A general rule is it will take 3 minutes per grouping, so factor how many groups you have into your timeline.
- There's nothing wrong with having ideas for poses, but also trust your photographer. We have our own ideas and will control the show, but won't be offended if you ask for something specific.
- Champagne shots are always a good idea. When you are spraying the champagne, open the bottle and hold your thumb over the top then start shaking. It'll spray beautifully.
- Pay attention to the time of sunset. Your photographer should help you with this, but always be prepared to step outside for a bit right around the time of the sunset.
- Did I mention stay hydrated?
- Don't forget your bouquet.
- Walk slowly down the aisle and keep your eyes on your spouse the entire time. I know you're worried about tripping, but looking down pictures are never the best.
- Your entire wedding party also needs to smile and look up the entire time. There's no need to pause for the picture. I actually prefer when no one stops. Instead, make sure you are smiling and keeping your head up while walking the entire aisle.
- When you get to the altar, hand off your bouquet to your maid of honor and hold hands with your spouse unless instructed otherwise (Catholic weddings, I'm looking at you).
- Try to avoid looking at your officiant the entire time. You can never go wrong with keeping your eyes on your spouse.
- When swapping rings, be sure to hold it from the bottom so your photographer can actually see the ring.
- When it comes time for your kiss, ask your officiant to step out of the way. It's creepy when they are just staring at you in the background.
- For your kiss, be sure to wrap your arms around each other and hold it for at least 5 seconds. Try to avoid pecking and calling it good.
- If you plan on dipping with your first kiss, tell your photographer in advance. That way we'll know the best angles and focal length to capture the whole thing.
- If you want your kiss from your officiant's point of view, discuss a game plan with your photographer. This isn't always possible with every venue, but we can see what we can do to make it work.
- After your kiss, grab your flowers from your maid of honor and walk slowly back down the aisle. Feel free to high-five your guests along the way.
- Stop at the end of the aisle for one final kiss. This is a good way to get you kissing with all your guests in the background.
- If your timeline allows, ceremony exits are always a good idea. This is a perfect opportunity to throw some rose petals or blow some bubbles.
- If you plan on doing a "power move" during your reception entrance, wait until you are on the dance floor. The pictures tend to not look as great when you are first entering the reception hall.
- Make sure you go through the buffet line first. You want to be finished eating before any of the reception events begin. It's easy to get carried away with talking, but make eating a priority.
- If you don't have a wedding planner, assign someone to clean off your plates before speeches begin. It's ideal when you don't have half-eaten meals in every image.
- Give your speech-givers some ground rules. They shouldn't talk for more than 5 minutes. They should tell a personal story about you and your spouse. Good speeches make for the best wedding videos.
- Your first dance should be long, but not too long. I recommend discussing this with your DJ in advance. Dancing 2-3 minutes is a good amount to be long enough for good photos, but not too long to bore your guests.
- During your first dance, be sure to move around. No need to stay in one place and sway back and forth. Do some twirls, have fun, and make it your own.
- Parent dances are more about your parents than you. You might not think too much of this time, but your parents will remember it for the rest of their lives. Make it special for them!
- The more reception events you have, the less time you have for partying. If you want to do all the things like dollar dance, anniversary dance, formal dances, bouquet and garter toss, etc, I recommend cutting out some of the non-crucial events so your guests can get to partying.
- The dollar dance is way longer than just a dance. These can go 30+ minutes, so have your DJ move people along quickly or decide on a hard cut off time.
- If you plan on shoving cake into each other's faces, don't use a fork. I may have learned this one from personal experiences.
- If your reception events will take place in multiple locations, give your photographer a chance to move lights. This is common when going from formal dances to cake cutting. We'll need a couple minutes to set up before you begin.
- Be sure to hit the dance floor! When the party starts, a lot of couples begin mingling. There's nothing wrong with this, but make sure you are able to have fun for a song or two. I recommend one line dancing song and then one slow song at minimum.
- If your guests aren't vibing to one song, ask your DJ to switch it up. Most experienced DJs will know when the party starts to die, but they won't get offended if you ask them to play something else.
- It's not uncommon for half of your guests to leave as soon as cake is served. Don't take it personally when people begin to clear out. Those who want to have fun will stick around.
- Don't forget to eat cake! You paid good money for that, so be sure to enjoy it.
- Have a private last dance. Whether this is at the end of the night or staged as your guests get ready for the exit, this will become one of your favorite memories. Trust me when I say you won't regret taking this time alone together thinking about your amazing day.
- Don't wait until the end of the night. Instead, have a staged exit about an hour into your open dance. Your guests won't be too drunk to handle fire by this point.
- Never have a real exit. Even if you do want to wait until the very end, don't just get in a car and drive off. Your guests who stuck around will want to give you a hug good bye. If you want a getaway car, have the driver take you around the parking lot and drop you off once more for a few final hugs.
- Don't forget lighters if you are having sparklers. Also, don't forget a bucket to put the lit sparklers in after you are done.
- For sparkler exits, get the longest sparklers you can find. They should last 2-3 minutes.
- For glow stick exits, get the longest and brightest glow sticks you can find. The small ones won't do your exit justice.
- Buy way more sparklers/glow sticks than you think you need. Sometimes a few boxes won't light properly, so it never hurts to have extras.
- Guests need to be prepared for the exit! The best way to do this is to have a smaller exit with only your immediate family members and wedding party. That way, you can tell them in advance what to do without breaking up the party. Alternatively, you could put information about your exit on your wedding website.
- Be prepared to go through the line multiple times. I like asking my couples to go through until the sparklers die. That way we can get a nice variety of images. Feel free to mix up the way you walk. Maybe you'll do a dip one time. Maybe you'll skip through the line holding hands next. Have fun with it!
- If you are up for it, keep a couple sparklers just for you two and your photographer. We can get some really epic night shots after your guests go back inside.
And here's the most important piece of advice I will give you: if something goes wrong, it's okay! It wouldn't be a wedding if everything went perfectly, but once the day is all said and done, you won't remember your hair and makeup ran late or a groomsmen didn't show up on time. You'll remember all the love and laughter, so as cliche as it is, don't sweat the small stuff. As long as you are married at the end of the day, everything worked out just as it should.
I hope this comprehensive list of important tips for your wedding day will help you out in your planning! Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comments!
Share this story