If you’re a list maker like I am, and if you’re recently engaged, then you have stacks and stacks of wedding to-do lists hanging over your head right now. Probably a few handwritten notes you dashed off at work. Maybe a pinterest board full of wedding day list pins. You might have even resorted to scribbling notes on your hands like you’re back in High School biology. And all these lists are just hanging over you, haunting your sleep, until you feel like you might start slowly growing fur and stomping around like Bride-zilla! Relax, girl! You have now found a list to end all lists! You’ll be ready for anything – and I mean ANYTHING your wedding day can throw at you. In order to put together the ultimate wedding day checklist, I’ve combined several smaller lists of things you’ll want to do and have to be mega prepared for your big day.
When I got married, the first thing I did after I got the ring was book my photographer. Everyone told me my wedding day would blow by me like a whirlwind and the only part of it that would last would be the pictures. I wanted to be sure I got a great photographer who would capture the feel of our wedding day in her pictures. And I did! She was amazing. I can’t tell you what a load it took off our shoulders to be able to live in the moment that day, knowing she would capture it for us so we could go back and re-live it later. And the pictures do exactly that!
One brilliant thing our photographer did with us before our wedding day was ask us to sit down and think through what types of photos we wanted, even getting down to specific poses and specific people we wanted photos with. We turned those lists in to her several weeks before the wedding. That way, on our wedding day, we didn’t have to stress over what we wanted – she already knew. Of course, we were flexible about grabbing her for a few impromptu photos, but overall we saved ourselves A TON of time and confusion by thinking those things through beforehand. Which brings me to my first list:
PHOTOS TO TAKE ON YOUR WEDDING DAY
- The bride and groom (Lots and lots of these)
- The bride and groom kissing (More of these)
- The bride and groom kissing under the veil
- The bride and groom doing a dip
- Doing a dip and kissing
- You get the idea
- The Wedding party
- Bride with the bridesmaids
- Groom with the groomsmen
- Flower girl and ring bearers
- The bride’s side of the family with the bride and groom
- The bride’s grandparents with the bride and groom
- The bride’s grandparents with just the bride
- Parents of the bride with the bride and groom
- Parents of the bride with just the bride
- The bride with her Mom
- The bride with her Dad
- Repeat for the groom’s side of the family
- Bride or groom or both with any special friends that may not be in the wedding party
- The bride and groom with any little kids in the wedding party (Especially nieces and nephews. I’m a total sucker for these shots)
- The wedding rings
- Details of the wedding clothing – the dress, the shoes, his tie, his cufflinks, etc.
- Flowers -arrangements and the bouquet/boutonniere
- The cake
- The venue. Did you choose it for its arched doorway? For the gorgeous view? For the amazing brick? What details made you fall in love with it? Make sure your photographer knows so they can highlight those and last, but certainly not least, my personal favorite,
- THE FOOD!
Of course, you’ll want to add a few of your own photo ideas to this list. Every bride is unique, as is every wedding, so you really want to highlight what is unique about you and your groom and your big day. Take a few out-of-the box photos that you won’t find on any list. For example, my hubby has a best friend that we always joke about because I swear he loves that friend more than he loves me. (Not true, but sometimes, it’s close. They’re like two giddy girls when they get together)! So we took an exaggerated photo of him showing his ring to his buddy while I’m standing a few feet off, alone, hands on hips and rolling my eyes. It might sound silly, but it’s one of the pictures after the wedding that made us laugh and that really captures that friendship.
Another photo I’m so glad we took is of the door to our venue. We had our reception in an old hardware building and the sign above the door captured the unique, industrial feel of the place. I asked my photographer to snap a shot of it at some point. She even included it as we were running out of the building, which I loved! Think through what is unique about your venue or your decorations and what you’d like to highlight. Is your groom wearing ironman cufflinks (mine was)? Did you make your own cake stand? Those little details really help you remember the day long after it’s gone.
Next up? Emergency preparedness. You don’t know what little emergencies will come up on your wedding day – all you know is THEY WILL COME UP. Let’s be honest, there’s lots of moving parts to a wedding and there’s lots of places where something can go wrong. It’s great to throw a bag together beforehand so that day you’re not scrambling when they do.
WEDDING DAY EMERGENCY CHECKLIST
Hair and Make-up Emergencies
Weather can do a number on your hair. So can lots of hugs that tug on your veil, or just the length of a wedding day can make it hard to keep your hair perfect. Grab everything you might need to do a quick spruce-up!
- Bobby pins! (LOTS AND LOTS of) Bobby pins!
- Hair spray. Need I say more?
- A comb
- Nail polish for touch-up
- Lipstick, easily accessible (Like, in the groom’s pocket, accessible)
Don’t believe in dress emergencies? Just ask Sofia Vergara. My dress emergency happened as we were getting ready for the reception when someone noticed a bug had crawled up between the liner of my dress and the lace overlay! I had seven women helping to hold my dress up while my mom reached up between the overlay and the liner and swatted it back down. That’s seven women screaming every time she swatted! We got some great pictures of all of us freaking out. So trust me, weird stuff can happen with your dress! You want to be prepared.
- Tide to-go pen
- A needle and some white thread
- Your dress bag
- Somewhere to hang your veil if you don’t plan on wearing it all day
- Safety pins
You’re almost guaranteed to get a headache on your big day. Start with not being able to sleep the night before, add some stress, throw in a billion bobby pins, add a veil and a crazy meal schedule…you get the idea. But nothing can zap your energy on your wedding day like a bad headache!
- Lip balm
- Bandaids (blisters, anyone? That’s a long day on your feet!)
- Water bottle
- Wet wipes
If you’re having any kind of slideshow at your reception, or if you have any displays that plug in, be prepared for anything.
- Extra chargers
- Extension chord
- A laptop with your slideshow DOWNLOADED to it. (no depending on wifi!)
- A backup laptop with different connections.
- A DVD backup to your backup.
- Someone really techy who can help get it all going.
Are you scared yet? Don’t worry, if you’re prepared, these sorts of mini-emergencies will be some of your favorite memories of your wedding day. Remember to have a sense of humor about anything that might happen. My sister had a tall, layered cake that started tipping halfway through her reception! We assigned one of her best friends to stand next to it and catch it if it finally fell. (Lucky for my sister, it stayed upright long enough to finish the line and cut the cake). Might sound like a disaster, but we have had some huge laughs over it now. Remember, there’s some emergencies you can’t plan for, and those you just have to laugh at!
EVERYTHING ELSE CHECKLIST
So much happens on your wedding day! Here’s a list of things you’ll want that you may not have thought about.
- A wedding-day timeline to hand out to all your vendors and the wedding party so everyone is on the same page.
- Thank you notes with tips for the vendors
- A thank you card and/or small gift for your bridesmaids and groomsmen.
- Thank you cards for your parents and the grooms’ parents, because you really couldn’t do a wedding without family.
- A love-letter to your groom, saying everything you want to tell him before you actually tie the knot! (Give this to him early on in the day, so he can find a quiet moment to read it before things get too crazy).
- Miscellaneous décor items: These will be different for every bride. Do you have candles? Make sure you bring a couple lighters. Pictures to set out? Bring extra frames. That cute box for guests to put their cards in? Lay it all out a few nights before and go over your wedding day, step by step in your head. Pack accordingly.
- A food plan. I’m not kidding when I say my life centers around food. Naturally, so did my wedding day. But seriously! It’s so easily forgotten between all the rushing around and getting from one place to the next. But not eating can cause all kinds of problems – nobody likes a hangry bride. (And even worse, a hangry groom). Throw together some snacks, or plan for someone to run and grab something if you know you won’t have time for a meal. My favorite part of my wedding day (besides the actual ceremony, right?) was the family breakfast we had before it all started. We picked a nice buffet at a restaurant downtown and took a quiet moment to eat and be together as a family before all the madness started. My groom was there with his parents and it was so great to have a moment of calm before the storm. Plus – BONUS – I got a good meal in to start the day. Depending on your wedding day timeline, this might not be possible, but look to see if you can fit it in. It’ll be worth it. I promise.
Everyone told us we wouldn’t eat at our own reception. I was determined to prove them wrong. Buuuut…. I’m sorry to say, we DID NOT EAT A LICK at our own reception. I never tried one bite of the food I so painstakingly planned for! Have someone box some of it up for you to take with you that night. I thought I had that covered – my brother-in-law was on it! But the problem was, he never told me WHERE he put it. When I didn’t see it in the car, I thought he’d left it inside somewhere and no WAY was I going back in for reception food after our sparkler send-off. What I didn’t realize is, he’d put it in the trunk for us, where it sat all night, and we had to throw it away the next day! We ended up hitting up a McDonald’s drive-through that night on our way to our hotel. I was STARVING. But McDonald’s probably wasn’t the best idea. Especially when you pull up to a really nice hotel after, where they take your bag in for you and call you Mr. and Mrs. Ernstsen and you have to hand him your Big-Mac box to throw away for you. (Rookie, much?)
BUT my sisters saved my bacon by packing me a goodies basket for my honeymoon and stashing it in the back seat of my car. They had a bunch of fun snacks and some drinks for us, along with some microwave meals and some breakfast pastries that ended up being so great to have! We slept in so late we missed the hotel’s breakfast, but we had everything we needed to take the day and stay in together, rather than having to head out in search of food.
At the end of the day, the most important item on your wedding day checklist will be your flexibility. This is YOUR day. You’ve probably been planning for a long time and you want everything to be perfect, but just remember: it won’t ever go exactly how you pictured it would, or how you planned. Some things you might have to wing at the last second. But if you keep your focus on celebrating the love you and your groom share with people you care about, it really doesn’t matter if the cake starts leaning or if you never taste your reception food (and that’s really hard for me to say)! It will be your day and it will be the best.