Hey, I'm an elopement photographer based in Alaska! I love genuine moments between people and love that I get to document them for a living <3

Meet Donna

If you’re in the middle of wedding planning, then you KNOW how hectic it gets. From hiring your vendors to choosing your location to remembering to do all the important legal stuff, it’s crazy hard to make sure you’ve got all your wedding essentials covered. 

And especially once it gets to around a month out from your wedding – that’s when shiz can really hit the fan if you haven’t prepared as well as possible. The last thing we want is for your wedding to be a week out, and you realize you forgot to pick up your veil, buy flowers, or get your marriage license😳

So I wanted to write a resource for you on everything you need to know before your wedding day. From every last-minute thing the bride & groom need to remember to a wedding day essentials packing list, this article should help prepare you as BEST as possible.

I also want to help you plan the best wedding ever, and make sure you really think about WHY you’re having the wedding you’re having. So at the end of this article, I’ll go into my top tips on being intentional with your wedding & the decisions you make!

A quick disclaimer: This article isn’t specific to any size of wedding or elopement, but is meant to be a resource for any type of wedding! Adjust it to fit your own wedding day & wedding planning needs, and you’ll be good to go.

Here’s exactly what I’ll be going through, so you can scroll down to whatever section you’re lookin’ for:

  • Everything the bride needs to know
  • Everything the groom needs to know
  • What you BOTH need to know
  • Important last-minute details to remember
  • A wedding day packing list
  • My top tips to make sure you create the best wedding day possible
  • More wedding planning resources

Let’s get into it!

Everything the Bride Needs to Know

Choose the right dress for you

Picking the right dress can be a difficult task, but it’s important to make sure you find the right one for you.

Choose your dress because of how much you love being in it, NOT based on how you think it’ll look if your wedding gets featured in Brides magazine. 

But you should also consider the photos you want from your wedding: if you want lots of action and movement in your wedding album, then a ball gown is going to be hard to do that in! If you’ll be hiking or doing any active tasks, pick a dress you can easily move around in.

Other things to consider when choosing your dress:

  • Will you be traveling with it? If so, how will you pack it?
  • Are there any straps on your dress that will be uncomfortable after a couple of hours? (This can especially happen if the straps are thin and your dress is heavy)
  • Your dress WILL get dirty. Make sure you’re okay with having to get it dry-cleaned!
    • If you try to hard to avoid getting your dress dirty, you’ll end up worrying about that the whole time, and your photos will feel very stationery and posed!

Be sure to also purchase undergarments that fit you well & are comfortable under your dress! Skin-colored is always the best way to go.

Keep comfort at the top of mind

Make sure you plan for the weather appropriately – if it’s going to be chilly on your wedding day, wear skin-colored leggings under your dress to keep you warm. You don’t want to be shivering your butt off all day just because you want to look pretty in the dress you chose!

You also need to choose comfortable shoes, and consider bringing two pairs. If you’ll be wearing heels for your ceremony, bring some comfier shoes along for your reception so you can dance comfortably.

If there will be grass at your venue and you’ll be wearing heels, buy some high heel protectors so your heels don’t go right through the grass with every step!

Finally, consider buying shoe stickers for traction, if there are any slippery floors at your venue. Let’s try to avoid you slipping, falling, and hurting yourself on your wedding day, yeah?!

Figure out your veil beforehand

This is a big one: so often I’ll arrive at a wedding day, and the poor bride spends forever trying to get her veil in correctly, only for it to fall out an hour later, or even mid-ceremony!

Practice inserting your veil in your wedding day hairstyle beforehand. This way, you know how to do it on the wedding day, and you can prepare for how to best attach it securely. You don’t want to be taking group photos and then have your aunt accidentally hug you and yank it outta your hair!

And your dress, too

On the same note, learn exactly how your dress is bustled beforehand! Bustling can be such a pain in the butt, especially when your ceremony is over and you just wanna go dance, but it takes 15 minutes to figure out how to bustle your dress.

Figure out in advance how many points of security there are, where the buttons/strings/loopholes are, and how long it takes, so you can build that into your timeline if needed.

And make sure at least two other people know as well, so they can help you & make it a speedy process!

Do a hair & makeup trial ALWAYS

This is a simple one: always always do a hair & makeup trial before your wedding day!! You don’t want to get to your wedding day and end up hating your hair and makeup because your stylist wasn’t prepared beforehand for what you wanted.

Prepare in advance for your bridal look

Along those same lines, prepare appropriately for your bridal look.

Don’t go too crazy with your makeup – your wedding day probably isn’t the day to try something new. If you go too wild or out of your regular style, you might end up uncomfortable and self-conscious.

Make sure the makeup on your nose is super set – nose makeup is usually the first to rub off, so make sure your MUA sets it well.

wedding services

Avoid getting a haircut or color right before the wedding – do it with enough time to grow your hair back & make adjustments if needed!

Wax in advance, not the day of. You don’t want your skin to be super irritated and red on your wedding day if something goes wrong.

Finally, get your hair done on the side of your face you like best (if you have a preference). Then, stand with that side showing during the ceremony! There are no rules, so don’t be afraid to swap the “traditional” sides of the altar where couples stand. 

Come up with gift ideas for your bridesmaids

Before the wedding day, come up with a fun gift idea for your bridesmaids to thank them for all their help!

Search on Etsy for cute items, look on Pinterest to get your ideas flowing. There are TONS of fun ideas out there!

Get ready to hold your flowers

Flowers are HEAVIER than you probably think they are! 

Keep that in mind when planning with your florist, because you will probably be so over holding your bouquet by halfway through the day.

If you want a large & extravagant bouquet, maybe opt for some lighter flowers and greenery so it isn’t so thick.

Prepare for Aunt Flo, just in case

Lastly, definitely prepare to get your period on your wedding day. Because as much as that would suck, it’s unavoidable and happens sometimes!

Tampons (or cups/discs) & skin-colored period underwear will be your friend.

Everything the Groom Needs to Know

Find the perfect suit for you

Long gone are the days where grooms are expected to wear a classic black and white tux – you can get creative with your suit and make it feel like you!

Customize your suit not only by size and fit but also by color and material. Think outside of the box and pick corduroy or velvet materials, and make sure you pick a good fabric for the season! Don’t choose something super thick and hot like wool if you’re getting married in the middle of the summer, okay?

Mismatch your top and bottom pieces with different shades of the same color palette. 

Pick a color that compliments your skin tone, hair color, & your location, whether that’s emerald green, silver, or velvet burgundy.

Mtailor is a great place to buy custom suits!

Learn how to put on your accessories beforehand

Just like brides, it’s super important for grooms to learn how to put on their accessories before the actual day of the wedding!

Download a tie-tying app to learn how to tie your type of tie, or print off instructions to bring for you and your groomsmen.

Practice folding your pocket squares, and make sure you know where to place them.

Buy the right size cuff links & learn how to put them on.

And finally, pick where you’ll place your boutonnière & learn how to secure it!

Pick your buttons in advance

A lot of times I’ll get to a wedding and a groom doesn’t know how many buttons to button up on his suit, and the same with the groomsmen.

Here’s the basic rule for a suit with three buttons:

  • Sometimes button the top one
  • Always button the middle one
  • Never button the bottom one

For a two-button suit:

  • Always button the top
  • Never button the bottom

Get comfortable

It’s also extremely important to feel comfortable in your suit since you’ll be wearing it all day!

Wear long johns under your suit if it’ll be cold out.

Bring extra dress socks & shoes just in case, especially if you’ll be outdoors and could possibly run into dirty situations.

Don’t wear suspenders & loose pants – you’ll get a wedgie!

Lastly, buy shoe stickers or sticky spray for help with traction – men’s shoes can be pretty slippery on the bottoms!

Avoid day-of hair/beard trims

Definitely don’t do a hair or beard trim the day of the wedding unless you know EXACTLY how you want it. 

Get your guys gifts

Search the internet for great groomsmen gift ideas to thank them for all of their help! Give them to your guys while you get ready, or during your wedding party photos.

Remember that it’s okay to cry

Finally, remember that it’s OKAY to cry on your wedding day – it’s not a sign of weakness! Can we get over that societal expectation yet please?

wedding vendors

What you BOTH Need to Know

You won’t be able to get to everyone

Keep in mind that you likely won’t have time to say hi to & have meaningful conversations with everyone at your wedding. Especially if you have a larger guest count!

Don’t go into your wedding feeling any pressure to do that, because it’ll be hard to fulfill that expectation you put on yourself.

Instead, make sure you connect with the people who are most important to you. Then give yourselves time to sit down, relax, & eat instead of trying to get to everyone!

You’ll be pulled in multiple different directions

Prepare to be pulled in 100 different directions on your wedding day.

Be ready to say “no” to people, whether it’s to your mom who wants you to go say hi to your long-lost grandma while you’re finishing getting ready, or to your uncle who wants to chat for an hour when you really need to use the bathroom.

Stay present as much as possible and take it all in, and stand your ground when you need a break or when your guests are putting pressure on you! It’s YOUR day to enjoy, not to be stressed about.

Need some tips on how to intentionally be present on your wedding day? Check out this article!

Important last-minute details to remember

Write your vows in advance

In my opinion, it’s best to write your vows in advance so that you don’t rush them on the day-of, and pre-wedding jitters don’t get in the way!

For more tips on preparing your vows, check out my article on How to Write the Best Wedding Vows!

Pay all your vendors in advance + prepare to tip

Make sure all your vendors are paid in advance so you don’t have to worry about that the day of!

If you’re tipping them, make accommodations for that as well and put someone in charge of handing out tips.

Tipping isn’t expected, but it is a very kind gesture! If you decide to tip your vendors, base it on the quality of your experience, how easy it was, their professionalism, etc. They will appreciate it more than you know!

Put someone in charge of the marriage certificate

The last thing you want to do is lose your marriage certificate on your wedding day – put somebody in charge of it on the big day!

Take alone time while you’re getting ready

Finally, take some alone time if you can while you’re getting ready. If you’re getting ready with friends, it can be super fun, but it’s nice to take a moment to calm down and take a breath.

A wedding day packing list

Here’s a quick packing list of items you’ll want to make sure you do NOT forget on your wedding day! They may not all apply to you & your day, so take what you need from it.

  • Wedding rings
  • Vow books
  • Any other details you want to be photographed (invitations suites, ring box, etc.)
  • Tips for your vendors
  • Any letters or gifts you’re exchanging
  • Marriage certificate/license & a nice black pen to sign it with
  • Corsages/boutonnieres
  • Deodorant
  • Tampons/pads
  • Extra hair clips/bobbi pins/lipstick/beauty essentials
  • Perfume
  • Cologne
  • Shoes (+ an extra pair)
  • An emergency kit with items like bandaids, stain remover, etc.
  • Speaker to play music while you get ready
  • Accessories: hat, veil, bowtie, cuff links, jewelery, hairpiece, etc.
  • Garter
  • Snacks
  • Water water water
  • Undergarments
  • Belt
  • Socks
  • Toothbrush
  • Floss
  • Boob tape
  • Bra
  • Scissors for any dress straps you want to cut off
  • Hangers for your wedding attire

Tips for ensuring the BEST wedding day possible

Intentionally plan what YOU want, not what others want

If you are any bit nervous about being the center of attention, prone to anxiety, or anything similar, reconsider having a large wedding! Opt for a smaller celebration where you can truly relax and be yourself.

And really hone in on the kind of wedding you want TOGETHER, you probably have a mix of different ideas, and including them all might be overwhelming, so narrow it down and think about it together

Invite the people you want

Invite the people you want to invite, not because someone else wants you to. Not because you feel pressured to, or because “well, if I invite those cousins, then I have to invite those cousins. . .”

When you’re inviting someone, ask yourself:

  • Do I enjoy their company?
  • Have I spent time with them in the last 6 months?
  • Am I REALLY excited about seeing them again if it’s been longer?
  • Do I spend time with them outside of work?

Choose your wedding party wisely

First of all, you don’t even have to have a wedding party if you don’t want to!

But if you do, choose it wisely. Pick people who mean a lot to you, who will be by your side to help & fully support you, and whose friendship/presence in your life you value.

Prepare to feel like your best self

If you both feel self-conscious about your dancing, then maybe take dance classes if that sounds like something you’d like! Not only does it encourage you to spend one-on-one time together before the wedding but you can have a special dance to commemorate your wedding day. If you have guests, you’ll wow them, and if not, you’ll have special memories and awesome photos! You’ll also be able to feel super confident in your skills.

If you’re worried about your skin, start a skin regimen or treatment well in advance of your wedding day with a professional. This ensures clear and nice skin!

Basically – do whatever you need to do to feel like your best, most CONFIDENT self on your wedding day. Figure out what might make you stressed or self-conscious, and find a solution beforehand!

Be intentional about taking it all in

Find ways to be intentional about taking the day in. Don’t let it all go by without you even catch your breath!

Build time into your timeline for you to be alone together. Whether that’s after your first look, before dinner, or during sunset portraits.

Find ways to take a breather when you need one. Go off to the bathroom, find a room you can head to when you need a break from your guests, or even ask your photographer to “take you away for some photos” if you need an excuse to leave your reception for a little while!

And most importantly, don’t forget to eat!

This is an important one: do NOT forget to eat!! It sounds obvious, but it can easily happen in the craziness of a wedding day!

More wedding planning resources

If you loved this article, I’ve got more where it came from! 

Check out the resources below:

How to Find & Pick Your Perfect Elopement & Wedding Vendors

Photo Storage: How to Store Your Photos After the Wedding

Micro Weddings and What You Need to Know About Them

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Wedding Essentials: Everything to Know Before Your Wedding Day

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