8: PRACTICE REIGNING IN THAT TRAIN — Try on THE wedding dress with your Maid of Honor, mom, a sweet friend, heck even a random 2nd cousin there, BUT DEFINITELY take time to make sure someone reliable PRACTICES bustling that dress! This might not apply to everyone (depending on your dress style) but SO many times the dress has this gorgeous train, (right? and it’s BEAUTIFUL!) but on the wedding day there often comes a point where suddenly a surprising amount of time is spent with a group of stunning ladies confused and crowded around the brides backside trying to discern just where the buttons/hooks/snaps/elastics even ARE and which ones go WHERE so the dress lays right! It might not be rocket science, but it can be an unexpected stress as the bride stands there awkwardly, (knowing that people are waiting for the bridal party to come out to the reception) and the shows being held up while everyone waits for someone to get that bustle all buttoned up and ready for the dance floor! Often times too if the dress isn’t bustled quite right, a train can lay pretty funky (and the last thing we want in those precious first dance photos is to have a lumpy weird looking backside, am I right?!) Take this tip and enlist someone to practice on that bustle a few times until they’ve got it DOWN!
7: Checklists and Timelines are your BFF — First of all, whether your wedding date is far far away or right around the corner, making a list of your tasks is always a great idea. And spreading those tasks out over the days you have left will make those last few weeks and months before the wedding SO much less stressful. There are tons of websites with great checklists and timelines to help with wedding planning (THIS one from Here Comes the Guide is amazing!). Set goals with timelines, (Choose color scheme by THIS date, Schedule dress shopping appointments by THIS date, Send out Save-The-Dates by THIS date, Meet with florist and have all floral/decisions made by THIS date, etc…. Overestimate how long you think it’ll take and try to work ahead!) THAT kind of goal setting is GREAT for helping you be confident and in control as you watch things get crossed off your list ahead of schedule! Each decision made gets you closer to that amazing day. Wedding planning timelines are truly awesome for the whole engagement season. But guys, wedding DAY timelines are LIFE. I’m telling you, the timeline for your wedding day will either CREATE a ton of stress (especially if it doesn’t exist) or seriously help DETER it. Work with your photographer, your planner, your venue, (check the sunset time) and create a wedding timeline that leaves plenty of time for the things you value and are most excited about. OH and another extremely helpful timeline tip – PLAN for buffer time, LOTS of it, in between items on that timeline because things TEND (alllllmost always) to run late at weddings. I’m going to say it again friends. Buffer time. Lots of it.
6: Hire a wedding planner — Okay, this one might seem obvious to some, and unnecessary to others, but hear me out. Even if you’ve dreamt of planning your wedding yourself your whole life, AND are on a tight budget, a wedding planner can still be a wise move. They know how to work a wedding on a budget and often have connections with other vendors and know how to stretch those precious dollars. Wedding planners are amazing for relieving the stress because they take the point-of-contact OFF the bride the day-of. They know how to bring your vision to life, and take the stress of the bride to worry about keeping everything moving and on track. IF you opt not to hire a wedding planner (even as a day-of coordinator), then I highly recommend still delegating tasks out like crazy. Appoint other people be in charge (as hard as that sounds) and truly limit access to the bride (even if that means handing her cell phone to someone else to field messages) so she can focus on the excitement of celebrating and participating in the day and not the details of running the day.
5: Think ahead – what are some things the day of that might cause trouble, for example, will the Groom and groomsmen know how to fold their pocket squares and pin on their boutonnieres? Will there be enough mirror space in the getting ready rooms for all the bridesmaids to use? Basically, walk through the day and try to picture everyone getting ready and look for any areas that could cause difficulty. Googling a couple how-to videos on boutonniere-pinning and pocket-square-folding and emailing the links to the groomsmen could be super helpful. Asking a bridesmaid to bring along a couple extra mirrors (and asking her to remember to bring them home when the night’s over) could make big difference in how long it ends up taking the bridal party to be ready. Try to foresee possible issues and think of if there’s anything that can be done on the front end to make it go a little more smoothly.
4: Wrangle the fam for pictures. Okay, I go over this pretty extensively with you if you’re one of my brides, but in case you aren’t – it’s SO helpful in preventing a stressful moment if the family portrait section of the day is well-planned out. I highly recommend making a numbered list of the formal portraits you want taken (usually 10 or 15 group shots at the most), and making sure to include names next to the people (1. Bride, Groom, Groom’s Mom (Bev) and Groom’s Dad (Charlie), 2. Bride, Groom, and Groom’s whole extended family (Bev, Charlie, Uncle George, Aunt Leslie…) This gives the photographer an amazing ability to call people by names they’ll recognize instead of “hey you in the red shirt” and makes things run so much more smoothly! Also, it’s SUPER nice to nail down where and when family pictures are going to be ahead of time, and make sure everyone (EVERYONE) who’s supposed to be in those pictures knows exactly where and when they’re supposed to be there. Send out an email ahead of time to everybody, then send a group text, then announce it at the rehearsal and get verbal confirmation that everyone knows, because it definitely takes up a good chunk of time to locate missing folks and can really disrupt the flow and (oh, you know) cause added stress.
3. Have a “First Look”. Okay, this is a big one. If you don’t know what a first look is, it’s when the bride and groom take a private moment before the ceremony and he sees her in her wedding dress. Usually they are set up in a beautiful, private spot, the photographers have him blindfolded or turned away, we bring her in, turn him around, and take pictures of his adorable reaction to seeing his bride for the first time all dressed up to marry him. It’s might be my favorite moment in all of time. Okay, so YES it’s a little non-traditional, but the benefits of a First Look are SOOOO great. Your wedding pictures benefit HUGELY in so many ways, I promise. Pictures turn out better because: 1. The people in the pictures are relaxed and not stressed about being rushed, they’re excited and the smiles are so much more natural and less-tense. 2. The bride’s hair and makeup are fresh and unsmudged for the bride and groom portraits. 3. Even bridal party pictures can now be taken before the ceremony when everyone is looking their best (especially before an outdoor wedding, where people tend to get sweaty and windblown on top of everything else, eeeesh). I’m telling you, everything is more relaxed and the entire timeline ends up being SO much smoother, by having the time to do both the bridal party pictures and bride and groom portraits beforehand, it prevents having to crunch family pictures, bridal party pictures, AND bride and groom portraits into that poor cocktail hour. ONE last reason I push for a First Look, especially for Fall and Winter weddings (but really for all of them) – the lighting is so much better. Some winter weddings even fall into the category of ZERO daytime wedding pictures of the bride and groom, which can still be beautiful (indoor and nighttime outdoor photos are gorgeous too) but to me they’re JUST not the same as having those lovely, super flattering, outdoor sunkissed photos of the bride and groom staring into each other’s eyes on their wedding day… guys I LOVE those daytime pictures. I LOVE a first look.
2: Remember to BREATHE. If I’m your photographer, you might hear this from me a few times. With so much going on, it can be easy to get lost in the checklists and details and lace. But I’ll remind you the day of, and I’m happy to remind you of it now. Soak this stuff in. It’s such an amazing season of life to be SO in love, and SO excited. Stop and look around and smile, while you’re planning, and on that amazing wedding day. Revel in the fact that ALL these guests are celebrating the fact that you two are in love. It’s really, super amazing when we stop to think about what this whole incredible party is about. The start of your new life together. Remind yourself (if I’m not standing next to you reminding you) to stop running through the checklists in your head for a bit, just here and there, and let yourself really smile and be present in those beautiful moments.
1: Okay, number ONE!! SHAMELESS PLUG — Book ME as your wedding photographer! Lol, well not necessarily, cuz my calendar only holds so many weddings, but seriously Virginia and North Carolina friends especially, message me and let’s chat. I want to hear about your vision for you wedding day (all the plans – location, colors, which dress you chose, everything!) and if I’m free on your date I want to know if we’re a good fit! If we aren’t a great fit for any reason or if I’m already booked for your wedding date, I have a few amazing wedding photographer friends I can get you in touch with because YALL, having a wedding photographer who CARES about you, communicates and plans well, and just overall goes the extra mile to make your day amazing (AND will document it with breathtaking wedding photos, of course) will help tremendously to make your day run extra smooth.
That’s all I’ve got for now! What do y’all think? Do you have any tips for extra-smooth wedding planning?! Help some brides out and comment below with your own BEST wedding planning tips!