There’s no doubt that your wedding day is one of the best days of your life (I can personally attest!). I remember hearing a lot of couples tell me this while I was planning my own wedding – and don’t get me wrong, while I loved crafting and planning the details of the day I married my best friend, I often felt flustered by the amount of time I was putting into making the wedding of my dreams, which lived in my head, a reality. I constantly worried that I would be running around like a maniac on the day of my wedding, ordering people around and trying to keep family, friends, and vendors on track. But boy, was I wrong. The day of my wedding, I felt relaxed and at ease, knowing that I had done everything I could’ve beforehand to help those involved know what was happening the day of (and more importantly, that it was all in God’s hands!). In lieu of this, here are my top three tips for having a fun and stress free wedding day:

1.     Be prepared.

Remember in high school (or college) when one of your classmates showed up to a big presentation without anything planned? Of course, they didn’t have to necessarily say they hadn’t prepared anything, but it was easy to tell from their body language, slow speech, and general lack of enthusiasm. The same is true for your wedding day. Showing up unprepared, i.e., without a pre-thought-out timeline, can make any wedding day more stressful. When friends, family members, and vendors don’t know where they’re supposed to be or what they’re supposed to be doing (except for a general ceremony/reception start/end time), things can get chaotic. Flowers arrive at the wrong location, limo drivers take the entire bridal party to the wrong church, the bride is late, and family members wander off before the photographer can snap family formals (yes, all of these have happened at weddings I’ve photographed!). It’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page (and timeline) for the day of the wedding so that the bride doesn’t have to be in charge, since all of the information is only in her head. Share the timeline love with those around you so they can help keep track of time and know what’s happening during the day, too!

2.     Leave a LOT of buffer time.

There’s a big difference between regular time and wedding time (something one of my favorite photographers, Mary Marantz, often says). Something will run behind on a wedding day. Someone will forget something, lose something, take longer to do something than expected and then the whole day falls behind schedule. It could be something as simple as bridesmaid forgetting her dress at the getting ready location to something as crazy as the limo driver taking the bridal party to the wrong church (I know I said this one before – I just can’t believe it actually happened!). There are a lot of events that happen during a wedding day that sometimes aren’t factored into the timeline, including bustling the dress, having a post-ceremony receiving line, and setting up the bridal party and family members for the grand entrance. In addition, did you know that limos and party buses have to drive a certain number of miles below the speed limit? Many large moving vehicles that carry people are restricted to certain routes, leaving them unable to travel on busy and bustling roadways, which can result in delays and slower travel times. So what’s the quick fix? Schedule a 5 or 10 minute buffer between every event happening at your wedding. Leave time for Great Aunt Sally to pull you aside for a picture, or for the cousins who you haven’t seen in years to give you hugs. Those are the moments that should happen on a wedding day, and it’s a shame to miss out on them because of a cramped timeline.

3.     Let other people help you.

 It’s no secret that wedding planning is not for the faint of heart. From keeping track of deposits to crafting the perfect centerpieces, there are so many details that go into a single wedding day – which is why you absolutely cannot try to plan alone. I made this mistake early on in the wedding planning process. Even though my husband, bridal party, and parents were more than willing to help me with contacting vendors, organizing lists, and creating a timelines, I often felt the need to take the reigns in order to “release them” of responsibility. I felt guilty for asking for their help, since I knew they were all busy as it was. But here’s the thing: they wanted to help, and who was I to deny them? Who was I to tell them what they could or couldn’t fit into their schedules? We make time for the things we love and for the things we want to do. Don’t be silly like me - if you have an army of people willing to help you, let them help you. Because if the roles were reversed, I’m sure you would do the same exact thing for them. And if no one has offered to help, don’t be afraid to ask. Many people are just waiting for an opportunity!

In addition to letting those close to you help you, don’t forget to let your vendors help you! Many vendors have years of experience and have seen what does and doesn’t work on a wedding day. Never hesitate to reach out to your DJ, photographer, florist, makeup artist, or caterer with a question. Take it from me – they want to help. As a photographer, I LOVE when brides ask me to help them make the perfect timeline, because usually it means they really truly care about taking the time to create awesome photos on their wedding day, which REALLY gets me pumped up! I’m sure the same is true for all of the other vendors, too. Many of us got into weddings because we love what we do, and we want to help you get the most out of whatever product or service we’re offering.

Have a tip of your own for navigating towards a stress-free wedding day? Leave it in the comments section below, I’d love to hear! And happy wedding planning!