I'm getting married in about a month (!) and I keep picturing what those final moments will be like before I become a wife. Will I experience a surge of adrenaline, happiness, trepidation, or all of the above, before the doors of the church swing open and I walk down the aisle clutching my Dad's arm? There's no way to emotionally "prepare" for such a life-altering event, despite all of the hard work, pre-wedding freak-outs and my fiancé's loving support. I won't know until I'm there in the flesh, pinching myself because it's actually happening.
But in the meantime, what I can focus on is taking care of all those last-minute details, like making seating charts and deciding what time everyone needs to arrive at my parents' home. We're working on an upcoming story about the most heartfelt "getting ready" photos — stay tuned — but in the meantime, here's a list of things that need to get done in the final weeks leading up to your wedding.
1. Make it legal!
This was the first of many "final countdown" items I completed. In most cases, your marriage license is only good for a short period of time, but contrary to popular opinion, you don't always have to get it the week prior to the wedding (I got mine way back in July). Call ahead to find out how much it'll cost and which documents you need to bring.
2. Meet with vendors to fine-tune all of the details.
This week alone, I'm meeting with my photographer, officiant and florist; not to mention Skyping with my violinist. One thing I've learned is that it's really helpful to run those mandatory "request lists" (whether it's your top 10 must-play songs or must-have photos) by friends and family members. My mom realized that we forgot to tell the florist to decorate the sweetheart table and my groomsmen voted on songs they like for the reception entrance. Also, my photographer had a great suggestion: give the maid of honor your shot list so that she can help round up all of the relatives you'd like to take pics with on the big day.
One of the most important tasks I'm working on is the wedding-day timeline. Trust me — you definitely don't want to skip it, no matter how reliable or punctual everyone is. I've witnessed firsthand how one little glitch can create utter chaos and throw everything off. If you're like me and you don't have a wedding planner, work with your photographer and beauty prep team to determine timing and logistics. Include some padding in case mishaps do occur.
Photo Credit: Husar Photography
Also, if you never made that budget spreadsheet, now's the time! My fiancé Jason and I went through all of our contracts, recording how much we owed each vendor and when each payment is due by. This is an easy way to alleviate stress and will prevent any late fees. You should also set aside tips (check out our cheat sheet for tipping vendors) and designate a point person to distribute them on the day of the wedding.
3. Do an outfit run-through with all of your VIPs.
Schedule all of your gown fittings and bring the accessories that you plan to wear from head to toe. This will not only give you a better idea of your overall look, but allow your seamstress to make any necessary modifications. I recommend testing out shapewear ahead of time to ensure it's comfortable; the garment I wanted to wear turned out to be torturous on a hot day, so I'm having cups sewn into my dress instead.
When it's time to pick up your dress a few days before the wedding, take the garment bag off when you get home so that it has time to "breathe" and settle. Put the gown in a room that's well-ventilated and avoid cooking or smoking in your home, since odors can seep into it.
Photo Credit: POPography
Resist the urge to show everyone what you'll look like in your dress before the big day. Some of the most touching pre-ceremony photos I've seen are of the bride's dad, grandmother, bridesmaids, or whomever witnessing The Dress in all its glory and getting weepy-eyed or ecstatic in the process. So, I'm planning on doing a "first look" with my Dad and keeping the gown a surprise until the wedding.
Ditto for the bridesmaids — cell phone snapshots from a dressing room don't compare to the day-of look, complete with hair, makeup, accessories and that bridal glow. (If they can't decide whether they want to be kept in suspense or not, show them a detail shot from the back, like I did recently with one of my bridesmaids.)
Photo Credit: Perry Vaile Photography
Your bridal party attendants probably already know that they should schedule fittings in advance, but I'd suggest sending a friendly reminder anyway, just in case. One thing they might not realize is that it's important to try on their outfits one final time after picking them up from the tux shop or seamstress. You don't want your poor ring bearer to cry because his shoes are too tight or have a groomsman panic because the store gave him the wrong size pants (true stories). If your groomsmen are renting tuxes, arrange for the best man or someone else to drop them off at the store on the return date so everyone doesn't have to make multiple trips.
4. Organize accessories, décor and honeymoon items you'll need to transport.
I would suggest storing all of your fashion accessories, ceremony décor and reception items in separate baskets or bins. This has done wonders for my stress levels! Here are some examples of what my pre-ceremony basket contains so far: Dad's cufflinks, a customized ring bowl from Paloma's Nest, a vintage handkerchief for happy tears and three pairs of shoes (heels, wedges, and flats).
Don't forget to include photo props as well, so that everyone's not scrambling for sunglasses when it's time to take that group shot out on the lawn. Also, it's a good idea to give your venue coordinator a list of items that need to be returned to you at the end of the celebration, like your parents' decades-old cake topper.
Photo Credit: Evermore Photography
Pack a kit with wedding-day emergency items, even if you don't think you'll need them. One great tip I got recently was to include spray deodorant so that anyone can freshen up in the bridal suite without the "ick" factor or worrying about bringing their own. Other must-haves include: glue for false eyelashes, scissors (to remove any tags), hairspray, pins of every kind, individual aspirin packets, a hairbrush, a Tide to Go pen, band-aids, nail polish, a sewing kit, hand lotion, gum and more.
Get a headstart on honeymoon packing, too. Unless you're the pack-the-night-before-at-5-a.m. type or you're not leaving until a few weeks after the wedding, you'll want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip in case of emergency (check out these honeymoon horror stories). I've been tossing new items directly into my suitcase so that when it's time to finalize everything, it'll be quicker. Keep your passport on top so that you don't forget it! (P.S. Leaving for your honeymoon the day after the wedding, like I am? Nominate a gift caretaker while you're gone.)
5. Schedule hair, makeup and any other beauty treatments.
You've probably already attended your hair trial and makeup trial at this point, but you'll also need to decide who's getting ready with you that day, whether it's all of your bridesmaids, just your maid of honor, or in my case, out-of-town relatives.
If you're beautifying with a group of people, choose photo-ready outfits in case your photographer decides to take candid shots of all the prepping. I've included some fun options below that you and your ladies can definitely use again.
Photo Credits: Preppy Wife Preppy Life
Photo Credit: Jennefer Wilson
Photo Credit: Joey Ikemoto Photography
Book your final beauty treatments for teeth whitening or whatever else you have planned. Avoid using any new beauty products or having a facial a few days before the wedding, just to be safe.
6. Decide who will sit where.
I'm dreading finishing this task (with a capital "D") but it's a necessary evil. To make your life easier, consider using a digital seating chart tool like tablerrr.com or allseated.com, which helps you manage everything electronically. I've tried the latter, and it allows you to drag and drop guests' names to different tables and color code your entire guest list into different groups.
Make your RSVP date about three weeks before the wedding date so that you have enough time to determine the final headcount and round up any stragglers. Read our Editor-in-Chief's advice on how to handle a guest who doesn't RSVP, here.
7. Make arrangements for out-of-town guests and prep your hotel or home.
Surprisingly, this has been the most stressful item on this entire list, and I'm not even the one doing the heavy lifting! My parents are tackling home renovations big and small, like redoing the wood floors upstairs and buying new curtains for the bedroom, where the majority of prep photos will take place. (Hosting a destination wedding instead? Assemble all of your welcome baskets and create an itinerary of wedding weekend activities for guests.)
The wedding day can be looong and exhausting, no matter how exciting it is. Fortify yourself for all of the emotional moments that lie ahead with tasty beverages and treats that are easy to eat in formal attire. At past weddings, I've sampled everything from pastries to cut-up sandwiches, but you can also include hot appetizers or a cheese and fruit plate.
Photo Credit: Sarah Kossuch Photography
I love the idea of setting up a mimosa station with different fruit purees or serving mini bottles of champagne.
Photo Credit: Amy Bennett Photo
Can't speak in the morning until you've had a cup of coffee? Include plenty of java and tea in case your parents or bridal party could use a boost, too. Allocate extra food and drink in case neighbors or loved ones stop by unannounced to wish you congratulations before the formal ceremony begins.
Setting the stage for a fun environment on the wedding day is important, too. I'm making a playlist of feel-good dance anthems that I can listen to while getting ready. Remember when you used to crank up the radio as loud as your parents could stand while getting ready for formals and other big events in high school and college? Not much has changed — music still has the power to get you in a great mindset.
Photo Credit: Bre Thurson
8. Exchange a special token of affection with your groom.
My fiancé Jason and I wrote wedding-day love letters to each other as part of a Pre-Cana requirement, but curiosity got the better of us and we already read them!
Photo Credits (from left to right): Geneve Hoffman Photography and Nancy Cohn
This time, I'm keeping my deepest feelings under wraps so he'll just have to guess what he's receiving that morning, whether it be "Open When..." letters (for milestones like your first fight or wedding anniversary), a "Can't Wait to Marry You!" gift or a suprise text message from my ladies.
Photo Credit: Simply Kierste Blog
Photo Credit: Jill Tiongco Photography
Photo Credit: Lennon Photo
9. Carve out quality alone time and plan a fun date with your girlfriends.
The month before the wedding is packed with appointments and obligations. Even if your planning has been smooth sailing up until this point, odds are that you could use a break. I recently booked a pro massage and it was the best thing I added to my to-do list, even though I worried that there were oh, about 50 other things I could have been doing for the wedding with that time instead.
Another sanity-saver is to plan a date with your friends — and no, I don't mean an evening spent browsing wedding ideas on Pinterest. I mean a date where you truly enjoy their company without focusing too much on the "W" word. I'm having a "spa-chelorette" party the week before the wedding with my bridal party, including my maid of honor, who's flying all the way here from Italy, and I cannot wait.
10. Repeat after us: Everything will turn out great.
A lot of brides we've interviewed have said that the last month leading up to the wedding is the hardest, and from my personal experience, I've found that to be true. When things get stressful and hectic, I repeat the following positive affirmations and pray that all of the hard work, planning and sacrifices will have been worth it.
Photo Credit: Ashley Mauldin
Photo Credit: Carrie Wildes
Photo Credit: Brett Heidebrecht Photography
Tell us: What else would you add to my list? (Sorry, asking for divine intervention doesn't count, as much as I wish I could call upon it myself come September 1!)
— Stefania Sainato