9 Tips for a stress-free wedding day

March 2015

Have you ever been to a wedding and everything felt rushed, or the bride was really late or you could feel some tension and want to avoid this at your own wedding?

After taking photographs at hundreds of weddings, I have seen the stress points and have come up with a list of helpful things that make you have a super chilled out wedding day.

In this article, I will give you useful hints and tips to have a stress-free wedding day.

  • A stress-free wedding morning for the bride
  • How not to be late for the ceremony, and why
  • Stress-free wedding morning for the groom
  • Who walks down the aisle and in what order?
  • How long should I plan for my wedding reception?
  • Wedding speeches when and what is the order of the speeches
  • When to have the speeches at a wedding?
  • Should I have a receiving line at my wedding?
  • What if it rains on your wedding day?

A stress-free wedding morning for the bride

Stress-free wedding day
Stress-free wedding morning

Make sure all the suppliers are coming to you – i.e. hair stylist and make up artists are coming to your home, or hotel, rather than you having to leave and go to them, or their salon. This avoids having to arrange taxis, transport and people arriving at different places on time. Delegate one person who is responsible for breakfast so that you and the girls are looked after in the morning.

  • Organise a good breakfast for your wedding morning, your favourite thing, and delegate this to one person who will make sure it is prepared for you and the girls.
  • Have your emergency little bag ready (includes a free downloadable template).
  • Make sure to have a pair of scissors with you, you will need them to remove all the tags and the little loops as they have a tendency to climb out during the wedding.
  • If your dress is buttoned up, find someone without artificial nails who can help you get dressed and is OK with the buttons.
  • Take the dress out of the bag and hang it up somewhere so the creases can "hang out". It's also great for photos!
  • Arrange a dress rehearsal with your mum or bridesmaid a few days before the wedding. Once your hair and makeup is done, will it still be ok to go over your head, or will it be ok to step into the dress?
The bride checking the bridesmaids' dresses, stress-free wedding morning
The bride checking the bridesmaids' dresses

How not to be late for the wedding ceremony

The mother of the bride, the bride and the bridemaids, stress-free wedding morning
The mother of the bride, the bride and the bridemaids

Have you ever been to a wedding where the bride was half an hour late? For the bride, those 30 minutes were probably really stressful, but for all the guests it is quite boring and your partner waiting at the altar might start to wonder...? Will you turn up?

Here's how not to do it: Ceremony is at 2 pm, 10 min transport, the bride wants to be late… so the transport is organised for 1.45ish. And this then means you could be ready in your dress around 1.30ish? (which never happens by the way!).

Here's how to do it for a stress-free start of your wedding day: Aim to be totally ready, dressed, makeup and hair done by at least 20 minutes before you leave for the ceremony. Communicate this to your hairdresser and makeup professionals too. Your photographer can take some amazing photos of you and the bridesmaids and possibly your parents?

But the bride needs to be traditionally late? Consider this:

  • Try to be at the venue on time.
  • In most cases, you need to speaking to the celebrant before the wedding. Every registrar, humanist, priest or minister will insist on seeing you before the wedding.
  • The celebrant will need to check you are OK and in a fit state to get married, they may check your personal details with the ones printed on the marriage schedule etc.
  • So bear in mind: if you are 10 minutes late – this will easily turn into 20 minutes and leaves your partner and guests and cuts into reception and photography time later on.
The bride with her hairdresser, stress-free wedding morning
The bride with her hairdresser

The Groom getting ready - Things not to forget

The groom and his groomsmen relaxing before the wedding, stress-free wedding morning
The groom and his groomsmen relaxing before the wedding

The groom and his groomsmen often have a different and later start to the morning than the bride and the bridesmaids. Here are a few activity ideas for the guys in the morning:

  • Plan a pub visit and have a pint (just the one!)
  • Have a game of pool in the morning with the lads.
  • Go hunting with the guys.
  • Have a spa / sauna / swim / gym visit.

Organise deliveries: Make a list of your deliveries:

  • Make sure any rental outfits such as kilts or suits are delivered the day before or early morning.
  • When will the flowers / buttonholes will arrive?
  • Have you arranged for a present to be delivered to the bride?

A handful of things not to forget on your wedding morning:

  • Set an alarm, have someone call you to make sure you're up on time!
  • Make sure you have a decent breakfast! You don't want your tummy to be rumbling during the ceremony.
  • Try not to shave too close before the ceremony as the skin can look red or irritated.
  • Send a gift to your bride.
  • Have a drink, but stick to one. Say "no" if your mates try to convince you otherwise. It's illegal for a celebrant to marry a couple if one of them is intoxicated.
  • Don't forget the rings!
  • Make a plan - who is responsible for what on the day. Don't be afraid to delegate.
  • If you wear a kilt - in Scotland - make sure you know how to put it on.
The groomsmen in their kilts, stress-free wedding morning
The groomsmen in their kilts

Who walks down the aisle and in what order?

Who walks down the aisle and in what order, stress-free wedding morning
Who walks down the aisle and in what order

Who walks down the aisle and what order depends on type of ceremony:

  • Christian Ceremony: Bridesmaids - Maid of Honour - Ringbearer - Flowergirls - Bride and her father. Most Christian weddings follow the same basic order. The celebrant is at the altar facing the congregation. As you look to the altar from the back of the church, the groom and his best man stand to the right of the altar. The groom might either be facing the celebrant or he might turn round and see you walking down the aisle. Bridesmaids might walk in together or in pairs. The maid of honour walks alone. The ring bearer follows and then the flower girls. At last, the bride and her dad walk down the aisle ,with the bride on her father's right side. Once at the altar, the groom is to the right, the bride to left. Bridesmaids are to the left of the bride, groomsmen to the right of the groom.
  • Catholic Wedding: The father of the bride walks her down the aisle and gives the bride away before taking his own seat.
  • Civil ceremonies & Humanist wedding ceremonies: There are no set rules of who walks down the aisle and in what order for a civil or humanist ceremony. But you might want to borrow traditional options from religious wedding ceremonies. Think about what you would like and arrange it in that order. Here are some ideas: 1. Bride walks in alone. 2. Bride walks in with her dad. 3. Bride and dad walk in together, followed by the bridesmaids. 4. Flowergirls and/or page boys walk in first, followed by bridesmaids, followed by bride and her dad. 5. Bride and groom walk in together.

Walking down the aisle – take your time. Enjoy the moment leading up to meeting your groom (and give your photographer the chance to take some lovely photographs).

How long should I plan for my wedding reception?

The wedding champagne reception, i.e. the time after the ceremony and before the wedding breakfast, gives you and your guests the chance to chat, have a nibble and a drink before the next formal part of the wedding day. Here's what to consider:

  • Plan a 2-hour gap between the end of your ceremony and the call for dinner.
  • Don't worry - guests don't get bored, they are happy catching up with old friends and relatives!
  • Have nibbles and champagne ready and everyone will have a good time.
  • Plan 30 minutes for the romantic photographs of you and your partner.
  • Plan 30 minutes for formal family group photos (try to limit them to no more than six combinations, avoiding standing in one spot for ages and trying to find people for group photos. Check out: What are the standard family group photographs at a wedding? and this one: How long should I plan for formal group photographs at my wedding?

What is the difference between "dinner" and "call for dinner"?
This is a hotel term and is an important one for your photographer. For example, if your ceremony is at 2 pm, it will end roughly around 2.40 pm – then ask your venue that the call for dinner is not before 4.30 pm. This is important – as the venue might just tell you that dinner is at 4.30 pm – but that means that the "call for dinner" is at 4 pm – which means there is only 90 mins time to mingle, take photographs etc.

I have also written a little article about how much time you should plan for your wedding reception.

 The bride and her bridesmaids, stress-free wedding morning
The bride and her bridesmaids

When should I have the wedding speeches what is the order of the speeches

Here's the traditional order of wedding speeches:

  • Father of the bride
  • Groom
  • Best Man

Often the bride and bridesmaids want to give a speech too, then the order would be as follow - if you want to stick to a traditional wedding speech order:

  • Father of the bride
  • Groom
  • Bride
  • Bridesmaids / Maid of Honour
  • Best Man

The best time for wedding speeches is before dinner. Why?

  • If people delivering a speech can enjoy their meal without being nervous about the speech after dinner.
  • The tables look pristine for photographs – no lipstick on glasses, no crunched up napkins or dirty plates.
  • Individual tables are getting served at different times. So the ones that have finished may start to get up, go to the bar, mingle again etc. and it’s time-consuming to get everyone sitting down again for the speeches.
When should when speeches happen and what is the weeding speech order, stress-free wedding morning
When should when speeches happen and what is the weeding speech order
  • Before the speeches
  • After the meal
  • When the evening guests arrive
  • Before the first dance

Think about the microphone -a microphone stand can be in front of the person's face, whereby a held microphone might look better in photographs.

When is the best time to cut the wedding cake?

Cake cutting – there are different options and it's entirely up to you and your plans for your wedding day:

Most weddings I have photographed - the cake cutting happened before the first dance, when all the guests are present (day & evening wedding guests). It’s a good photo opportunity and it also gets you on to the dance floor, in time for your first dance.

Here's an interesting little article about The truth about Naked Wedding Cakes.

Should I have a receiving line at my wedding?

The receiving line, stress-free wedding morning
The receiving line
  • What's good about them: You get to speak to absolutely everyone, you can thank them for coming to your wedding.
  • What's not to so good: They can take a huge amount of time out of your reception. Plan 1 minute per guest and you can see how a receiving line can easily take an hour from start to finish.

What if it rains on your wedding day?

Rain on your wedding day means good luck. I know, I can hear you - it can be really annoying! Almost every couple asks me about the weather. You planned this amazing garden wedding, and then it threatens to rain, and what about the wedding photographs?

  • Speak to your venue and ask them what they have planned for bad weather situations.
  • Speak to your photographer what they normally do if it rains.
  • Check out the venue and speak to your wedding coordinator and see where family group photos can be taken if outside is not an option. Make sure this area is accessible and free to use for you on your wedding day.
  • Get some wedding wellies!
  • Have a couple of big wedding umbrellas ready. You could order the online close to the wedding and send them back unused should you not need them.

Who is Nadin Dunnigan - Wedding Photographer in Edinburgh

Hey, I am Nadin! (same as "Nadine" - just without the "e"). I am a wedding photographer in Edinburgh, Scotland, specialising in big family weddings in Edinburgh, Scotland, and internationally. I have photographed so many weddings, and it is my mission to help couples with planning their dream wedding. Any questions I come across repeatedly - either in person or online, I will pop in here and provide more insight.

I hope you will find them useful :)

Nadin Dunnigan Photographer