As a wedding coordinator, it is literally my job to make people’s lives (and wedding days) easier. using all my wedding coordinator tricks. Weddings can be overwhelming, hectic, and there are almost always some bumps along the way. I’ve been to so many weddings now that I’ve seen (and fixed) a lot of the common mistakes that pop up on wedding days. I’ve put out fires (both literal and figurative), gone on beer runs, and altered dresses on site.
Since I’ve done this wedding thing so many times, a lot of the hitches in the day are predictable to me. But chances are you’re planning a wedding for the first time—so, the stuff that’s obvious to me, won’t be obvious to you until it’s happening. So, whether you hire a coordinator to put out fires for you, convince a friend to be your stage manager, or you’re running the show yourself, here are some of the best tips and tricks I’ve learned from years of going to weddings! (And no, I’m not just talking about a bag with extra bobby pins and tissues—though that’s a good thing to have too!)
1.Hair and Makeup ALWAYS take longer than expected:
Are you getting your hair and makeup done professionally? This applies! Are you DIYing your hair and makeup or getting help from a friend or family member? This still applies! There is just something about hair and makeup on a wedding day that practically never fails to take longer than we expect (especially if it’s more than just you getting ready). So instead of planning to be ready at exactly the time your photos will start, aim for twenty to thirty minutes before that.
2. Tell a little white lie… or a few:
I always recommend telling your family, wedding party, and maybe even your partner a few little lies during wedding weekend. Just let them all know that they should be at the rehearsal at 4:45 p.m. instead of 5:00 p.m. and at family photos at 3:20 p.m. instead of 3:30 p.m. This is one of the best time-saving tricks to make sure that people are where they need to be when they need to be there. And since late happens, a white lie or two won’t hurt them (and will ensure some buffer time for the latebirds).
3. Don’t starve… anyone:
Wedding days can feel really hectic and crazy, and one of the things that almost always gets left to the wayside is eating. That goes for the couple, the wedding party, the vendors… everyone but the guests. Have a plan in place ahead of time so that the whole wedding party gets fed while they’re getting ready—this will keep a lot of people from becoming hangry!
Also, your vendors need to eat. They love you, and they’re there for you. But without food they tend to forget how much they love you, if you get my drift. And while at some smaller weddings it can be nice to sit with the guests, contrary to popular belief, vendors almost always prefer to sneak away to a quiet spot to shovel food into our mouths and recharge.
Please, please, please make sure there is enough food and enough time for everyone (yourself included) to eat!
4. Not all pens are created equal:
There are about ten thousand different versions of a guestbook out there in Pinterest-landia and beyond. Regardless of which version you choose, test out the pens that you’ll use in advance. It’s a bummer when your guest book (or guest picture frame, or guest quilt) is covered with smears before you ever get to read it.
5. Wind and escort cards do not mix:
If you’re having an outdoor reception and you plan to assign seating, avoid the simple trifold card. Why? Just imagine a bunch of tiny pieces of paper with peoples names on them… flying around the yard. Think: chalkboard, mirror, glitter sculptures, wood blocks… pretty much anything but tiny cards for an outdoor space!
And while we’re at it—alphabetize those suckers in advance. There is nothing worse than scrambling to put two hundred items in alphabetical order just thirty minutes before guests start arriving!
6. Make it official:
Want to have a legal ceremony? Don’t forget to bring your marriage license with you to the venue, and leave time in your schedule to sign that thing! Also, you have to sign it while all parties are still sober (at least in California), so try to get that taken care of quickly after the ceremony. And then be sure it gets put somewhere safe (aka give it to your wedding stage manager).
7. Walk through the day… before the day:
A minimum of one time (or twenty-seven times) in the planning process—you should walk through the actual venue in person (and in your mind). This is the time to think about the flow of the day, everything that will happen at any given moment, and how it will all come together. This is when you’ll realize that you printed really beautiful programs… but you have no idea how guests will get them. Now, you know to ask your cousin Joe to hand them out. By thinking about the day from your perspective, a guest’s perspective, and even the vendors’ perspectives, you’ll be able to prepare for all kinds of kinks and work them out in advance.
8. Take a moment, or a few:
I always recommend that my clients take a ten minute break together after the ceremony. In Jewish wedding tradition this time is called the yichud, but I just believe that after the excitement and anxiety that can come with the day and the ceremony, taking a moment to breathe is essential for everyone! Try to do this together, but also, alone. When you’re walking back from the restroom—just stop, take a breath, remind yourself to appreciate your wedding day, and look out at all the people who are there because they love you and your partner. You won’t regret it.
9. Bring some snacks and extra hydration:
Remember when I said earlier to schedule time and a plan to eat? Well, you still might end up hungry, dehydrated, and faint at some point in the day. If you have a secret stash of protein bars and waters or Gatorades, you can refuel and get back to the party—stat!
10. Confirm… everything:
This is task that will be completely off your plate if you work with most coordinators and planners, but about a week or two before the wedding, you should confirm with all of your vendors and key players. Send out an email, your timeline, and your wedding day contact list to everyone involved. A lot of your vendors will ask for this, so it’s best to beat them to the punch.
11. Put your phone away… all day:
It’s you and your partner’s day, and you’ll be surrounded by loved ones, so put (or give) your phone away for the whole thing. Worried that vendors or guests will call you for important information? Pass it off to a friend or family member to manage. Kick your phone habit for a day and stay present with your guests and your partner. Your emails and Facebook notices will all be there tomorrow! (I promise.) Not to mention—where, exactly, in your dress or suit were you planning on stashing that thing?
12. Something will go wrong:
This isn’t just me being a Negative Nancy—this is the truth. No matter the amount of planning and effort you put into scheduling, assigning, and delegating—something will be forgotten, lost, or messed up on wedding day. It’s best to know that in advance.
That way, at 9 a.m. on wedding morning when you can’t find your shoes and your sister has to drive forty minutes back to the house for them, you can just agree with everyone and the universe that that was the big moment. And after that, it’ll be smooth sailing!
THIS article ORIGINALLY RAN ON APW IN 2015.