On wedding days, the 10 minutes before the ceremony is always the most stressful for me. A LOT of shit is going on: Guests are arriving, and need to know where the bathroom is. The groomsmen all of a sudden forgot their processional order (???), and the parking lot is backed up. The ushers need guidance on how to pass out programs, the videographer needs to mic up the officiant, and wait—did the grandparents get their corsages?
AH! Too many people need me! I can’t screw this up. Whether you’re the planner or the one getting hitched, here are some life hacks to ensure a smooth and memorable ceremony:
Have an assistant.
I am only one human. I include an assistant for up to 8 hours in my day of coordination package because there’s no physical way for me to do all of the things. During the ceremony, my assistant tends to all of the vendor needs and questions, while I keep the cool, calm, collected face for my couples. I like to give the bridal party curtain calls at the 10 minute and 5 minute mark to do any last minute things before go time:
10 minutes! Last call for bathroom runs, people! I grab all the bouquets and dry off the drips of water before handing off to the bride and bridesmaids. I find grandpa and pin his boutonniere without stabbing him. I’ll scoop up the petals for flower girl, and hype up the ring bearer, but won’t give him the rings until the last possible second.
5 minutes! Challenge the bridal party to finish their drink (Groomsmen: I’m looking at you). I make sure everyone has taken off their sunglasses and put phone away. Remind the girls to touch up lipstick/hair, and wrangle parents and grandparents in the correct order. I’ll take my last lap to check in with photographer, videographer, officiant, and music, and peep the parking lot for stragglers and get them seated quickly. Here we go!
Reserve spots in the first two rows.
I always pack reserved signs and various ribbon/toole to block off the first two rows/specific number of chairs for the important people my couples want to be nearest to them. Don’t forget to include the VIP’s being escorted in the processional, they need somewhere to sit once they get down the aisle!
Are there sides?
While the traditional bride’s side/groom’s side seems to be fading out of style, many guests want to be sure they are seated in the appropriate area. Whether there are ‘sides’ or not, let the ushers know how to guide guests to choose a seat. I like to give them a quick ‘training’ right before we open the doors and 2-3 talking points to stick to. The ushers are one of the first touch points of the wedding day, don’t overlook their impact!
Is the bar open?
When your ceremony is also being held at the same space as your reception, guests are always going to flock to a bar if they see one. If you want them to enjoy a drink before the ceremony, that’s totally fine! Here’s a tip on how to prevent a kegger from starting before you said I Do:
Pre-pour glasses of water and one adult beverage. I love when my couples have champagne or their signature cocktail in flutes set on the bar for guests to grab en route to their seat. This stops a line from forming, and still lets them enjoy a drink early.
I had a couple last summer serve champagne in a glass to each guest, and before they kissed, they shared a toast to their marriage with everyone in attendance. Guests loved it! The ushers helped pass out the glasses, and spread the word to ‘save a sip’ for their first married kiss. We also had a sign, and pre-poured glasses at the alter for the bridal party too. Yay Hillary and Kurt!
See the rings.
Okay…this seems like such no-brainer, but I’ve literally been there. Do not start the ceremony until you have physically seen the wedding rings! Usually, the Best Man will hold onto them until it’s time for the couple to exchange them, but riskier couples may have the ring bearer walk them down in a cute box or tied to a pillow. In those cases, I keep the rings on me until he’s about to go down the aisle. Regardless, there’s always a fake wedding band set in my emergency bag just in case. #NeverAgain.
Please. Be. Seated.
This has been happening a lot recently. The music will change, the officiant says ‘Please rise,’ my assistant will open the doors, and I’ll fluff my client’s gown as she glides down the aisle. She gets down to her boo, gets in place, and the officiant will dive head first into it: ‘We are gathered here today, blah blah blah.’
But we have a problem. The guests are still standing!
I’m not going to pretend to understand how much pressure a person is under to officiate a ceremony, but for the love of ladies rocking their highest heels, do not forget to say ‘Please be seated!’ I can’t tell you how many times I have to gesture to the officiant as a reminder, and it turns into this awkward game of charades as the guests start looking around, wondering if they missed something.
It’s so important at the rehearsal to practice this! I love the trend of relatives or friends officiating ceremonies, but if they aren’t a professional, major moments like this can be glossed over, and have guests confused and uncomfortable. Have a seat, y’all!
Keep it cool.
The ceremony is arguably the most emotionally charged part of a wedding day, and I always try to keep cool, and not sweat the small stuff. Lashing out because something doesn’t go according to my well thought out Google doc will only make me, the planner, look really bad. Guests are late. Groomsmen have to pee. It might start drizzling halfway through. The flower girl might not make it down.
Shit happens, and for the most part, others won’t remember that. What they will remember? How you reacted with a funny joke, gave them a moment with their parents, or found the perfect solution just in time. Everything will be okay.
Was this helpful? Cool! Have any other tricks of the trade? Leave ‘em in the comments!