Tips for a Stress-free Wedding Day

Posted on Jan 12, 2015 in Articles, Wedding Resources | 16 Comments

stress-free bride

Tips for a Stress-free Wedding Day

Last week, I wrote about what to consider when choosing a wedding photographer. I received a lot of great feedback on that post and so I thought it would be helpful to give you some insightful tips on how to have a smooth, stress-free wedding day! It takes some planning though, and having photographed many weddings over the past decade, I’m hoping I can let you in on a few insightful tips on how you can have a stress-free wedding day.

If you are planning a wedding, I’m sure you have heard family and friends say “It all goes by so fast” or “Nothing goes as planned”. And while those things may be somewhat true, they are not necessarily bad. Even though most wedding days seem to travel at the speed of light, it is possible to have a relaxed, stress-free wedding day where you will enjoy every second, even with all the bumps along the way!

Red Rose Bridal Bouquet

So, what is the most important thing you can do?

Have a Solid Wedding Day Timeline

Having a well thought out timeline is what will have the most impact on your wedding day. For many of my couples, drafting a timeline can be an overwhelming process, so I am always happy to help my couples put one together. In fact, whenever possible, I suggest teaming up with your photographer when thinking about your timeline.

Photographers have a lot of insight the general flow of the day, and will be able to offer suggestions on how to time things, based on lighting conditions and other important factors.

Here are some of the main things you will need, when considering your timeline…

  1. Where will you be getting ready?
  2. What time will you be allowed on the venue property?
  3. Travel time between locations (if applicable)
  4. Will you have a first look?
  5. Ceremony start and end time
  6. Cocktail hour start time
  7. Reception introduction time

I suggest gathering these main items and using them as a starting point. Once you have this information, your photographer can look at all of these factors and make suggestions on when she will need to arrive, when and where will be the best time to take family pictures, bridal party pictures and of course, the images of you and your new spouse! By working with, and receiving input from, your photographer, you can better ensure that you will have enough time to take the pictures that you are looking for.

Pad Your Timeline

I know that I just covered the timeline above, but this is something that I feel is important enough to give it its own slice of the post. Whenever you are participating in an event where lots of people are involved- things are likely going to run behind. Perhaps the flowers don’t arrive on time, or maybe Aunt Betty gets caught in traffic. Last month, I photographed a wedding where the limo never arrived at the hotel to bring the bride and her bridesmaids to the ceremony. With so many hands in the pot, there are bound to be delays and other unexpected hiccups. And, since there is no way of knowing what those hiccups will be, I have found it is beneficial to pad your timeline.

By allowing for additional time, you will ensure that when something happens, your photographer and other vendors will be able to adjust things accordingly. The best way to pad the timeline is to add additional time to the main portions of your day. If it takes ten minutes to drive from the hotel to the reception, I suggest allowing for 20. If your hair dresser says that hair and make-up will take 30 minutes per girl, allow for 40. By planning ahead for things to run behind, you will be much less likely to be stressed if they do run behind on your wedding day. And, if everything goes on time as planned, you’ll have the additional time to hang with your bridal party or mingle with guests!

Mountain Wedding

Connect Your Vendors Prior to Your Wedding Day

I always ask my clients to supply me with a list of the other vendors they will be using on their wedding day. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know several of the vendors fairly well, and it’s nice knowing when you will be working with someone that you know is top notch. By suppling all of your vendors with a list of your other vendors, you can be sure that everyone will be on the same page. If, a few days before your wedding, there is a major change in the catering timeline, your coordinator will be able to quickly touch base with your photographer DJ and videographer, so that they can plan ahead.

Bridal Party with Christmas Tree

Have a Plan for Family Formals 

I always ask that my couples supply me with a list of family groupings that they would like taken during the formals portion of the day. By providing a list, your photographer will not be left trying to figure out who is who and guessing to make sure that everyone important is photographed. Planning ahead will also give your photographer the opportunity to let you know how long your list is likely to take. If you supply a list that will take 50 minutes, but you have only allowed for 30 minutes in your timeline, you then will know where you need to make adjustments.

Also, be sure to let your family members know who will be in pictures and what time they need to be ready. I suggest telling all family members that they need to be dressed and ready, at least fifteen minutes sooner than we really need. There is nothing more frustrating for a couple than having one person missing from a twenty-person group photo or learning that Uncle Joe left for the reception because he didn’t know he was to be in photos.

Having to round family up for photos, after the ceremony, is one of the biggest time-stealers of the day and often causes unnecessary stress! Plan ahead who will be in photos and be sure to let them know where you need them and when.

Bride taking a limo to the ceremony

Plan Out Transportation Ahead of Time & Have a Back-up Plan

About two weeks ago, I was at a wedding where the Bride’s mother asked her if she needed a ride to the church. I also mentioned earlier, that last month, I was at a wedding where the limo never arrived to pick up the bride. This is an area where it is easy for time to be lost. Plan ahead in terms of transportation and be sure that there is at least one back-up option, just in case something falls through.

Large bridal party photo

Assign Tasks to Your Bridal Party

Are the flowers late? Do you still have to pay the DJ? You should not have to worry about these things on your wedding day! This is why you have a bridal party, right? In the last few days, before your wedding, assign tasks to your bridal party. Perhaps the Maid of Honor is in charge of tipping/paying vendors, while your sister is in charge of making sure the flowers arrive on time. One bridesmaid can be in charge of wrangling family members for formals and another can make sure that she has all of the personal items you might need once you leave the hotel. By delegating out these items, you will won’t feel pressured to make sure that everything is being taken care of. Put these things in the hands of your bridal party so you can relax and enjoy your day.

Wedding first look

Consider Doing a First Look

I plan to write a separate post about this soon, but for now, I’ll just say this: Not only does a first look significantly open up your timeline, by allowing for pre-ceremony photos, but I have found that most couples are more relaxed, and better enjoy their day, when they have had a few moments alone together before the ceremony. After-all, who calms your nerves better than the person you plan to spend the rest of your life with?

bride checking her make-up

Don’t Sweat the Small (or the Big) Stuff

Next to having a well thought out wedding day timeline, this is the best advice I can give you for a stress-free wedding day! Nothing will steal the joy out of your day faster than fretting over centerpieces that were put together wrong or the fact that you ordered a bouquet of red roses, but received white. Once your wedding day has arrived, do your best to allow these things to roll off your shoulder. After-all, everything is already in motion, and unless there is something reasonable you can do to correct the situation, getting upset about it isn’t going to do any good.

I know how disappointing it can be when things don’t go as planned (my husband and I were married outside, on an island, with no power, the weekend of hurricane Isabel- nothing went as planned!), but don’t allow these things to bring down your day. In my experience, couples who roll with the punches, no matter how big or small, tend to enjoy their wedding day more than those who worry about every last detail.

After-all, all of that stuff doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you and the love of your life get to say “I do” in front of all your loved ones. Right?

Bride and Groom Just Married

I hope these tips will help you and your fiance have the relaxed, stress-free wedding you are hoping for!

For those of you that have been there, done that- what tips do you have for a stress-free wedding day? Did I leave anything off the list? Is there anything you stressed over, that you wish you hadn’t?

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  1. Angie
    January 12, 2015

    These are some really well thought out and wonderful tips! Baltimore is lucky to have a wedding photographer like you in the area!

  2. Laura
    January 12, 2015

    These are some great tips and I love the emotions in the images you chose!

  3. Scott
    January 12, 2015

    Some really great tips here! Your couples would be wise to listen to your expert advice!

  4. Krista A. Jones
    January 12, 2015

    I love this post Jennifer! Especially not stressing the small stuff on your wedding day :)

  5. Emilia Jane
    January 12, 2015

    Great post! Love all of these tips :-)

  6. Natalie
    January 12, 2015

    Love that last tip most! Don’t sweat the small stuff! :) Perfect planning post!

  7. Brooke Tyson
    January 12, 2015

    Great tips, Jennifer!! It is so beneficial to pad the timeline; I added an extra hour to my own wedding day timeline, and we still started the ceremony late! There are so many unexpected things during a wedding day. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  8. Eileen Lambert
    January 12, 2015

    My daughter’s photographer attended the rehearsal so he could be familiar with the church layout & general flow of the ceremony. Took a few rehearsal photos, as well.

  9. tPoz
    January 12, 2015

    pad the timeline!! yes!!! great tips!!

  10. Dani
    January 12, 2015

    Such great recommendations!! I am loving all of these informative posts, lately, lady!

  11. Jackie Phillips
    January 12, 2015

    These are great tips & ideas! Planning a wedding is a lot of work (& fun)!

  12. Jete Devisser
    January 12, 2015

    What a concise, well-written post about planning the wedding day! It’s a great idea for the couple to team up with the photographer and/or event planner to lay out how the day is going to go. But since nothing ever goes exactly as planned, having some padding in there is very smart ;) Great tips!!

  13. Traci
    January 13, 2015

    Great tips, I know you brides will love them!

  14. Melissa Avey Photography
    January 13, 2015

    Each one of these wedding portraits is just beautiful!

  15. Emily
    January 13, 2015

    Great post Jen! Loved reading this – such good tips!

  16. Renee
    January 13, 2015

    I love this post! So helpful for all of your future brides!


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