How to Have the Perfect Wedding Day - Based on Tips (and Regrets) from Married Couples

Weddings are fantastic fun and if you’ve ever been to a good one, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say, “Weddings are one big party!”.

Your wedding day will be an experience you’ll treasure for the rest of your life.

As a wedding photographer, I get a unique insight into what goes into planning a wedding, what happens on the day itself, and then what the couple felt was good, or not quite so good about it afterwards.

I’m sharing these with you in the hope that they give you some insight and help you with your own planning.

This is a list of meaningful stuff  the couples I spoke to told me that these are the things that truly make or break the wedding.

Let’s dive in…

Get the timing right

A great wedding runs to a good time schedule. It’s a lot to get in without good timing and someone keeping time, the whole thing will become stress you don’t want.

You’re organising people, ceremony, drinks, food, and a party. You’ll want it to run smoothly.

Start as you mean to go on!

Having a very early or very late ceremony start time is best avoided most of the time, if possible. Avoid the mad rush in the morning that comes with the early option, and don’t have it too late in the day and keep them all waiting! However, sometimes a late ceremony is a good idea if you’re getting married abroad and it’s going to be too hot at 1-2pm. 

The happy medium is something like 1 or 2 pm, just after lunch. That’s the sweet spot. This way you’ll be certain that guests will have eaten something just before the ceremony, so you avoid the common ‘starving guests’ problem that most 12 pm ceremonies have.

It’s also a more relaxed start to the day and gives you adequate time for bridal preparations.

Let’s be honest, the boys are normally ready in 20 mins and down the pub!

Trying to squeeze too many things into a finite timeline is the killer of a relaxed wedding day vibe! With that in mind…

Don’t overfill your day with lots of fixed events

Be realistic here. Just because you want all those things to happen at your wedding doesn’t mean they’ll fit in or allow for an enjoyable day. It can be really tiring for you and your guests if there’s no ‘down time’.

It’s not a film set and it’s not an endurance race either!

It’s a celebration. Some couples cram too much in and before they know it they’ve got to the end of the day and not managed to talk to anyone, or each other!

Make the first dance the last thing

I’d recommend making the 1st dance (if you’re having one) the last event of the day, as it marks the start of the party in most people’s minds!

Have the right food and drink at the right times

It’s a wedding. Assuming you’re not all teetotal there should be booze! Get reception drinks and table wine sorted and please, PLEASE have a bar! I’ve seen weddings with this essential social element missing and they don’t work as well. It doesn’t mean you have to pay for all the drinks though. Just be honest and upfront about what’s happening. A welcome drink is likely to be included, then a paid bar is perfectly acceptable.

Ensure your guests have access to alcoholic and soft drinks is one of the most obvious ways to keep spirits up and the energy and mood of the day flowing freely and upwards!

Order canapés

Dinner is likely to be fairly late and if your guests haven’t had a good meal before the wedding then they’ll need something to snack on before the wedding breakfast.

A good wedding has nibbles. Fact. They don’t have to be elaborate, but they do have to be fairly substantial and plentiful.  

If you’re offering drinks to people with empty stomachs, then you’re in for an interesting time once they do sit down for the formalities if you don’t hand out some nibbles!

Get a good photographer #SorryNotSorry

I make no apologies for putting this on the list.

Here’s the thing: I’ve heard of so many people talk about their regret of not hiring a professional photographer.

After the day is over, all you’ll have is your memories. Sadly, these will fade over time. So good photos are a must to preserve your memories and give a glimpse to others and your children.

PLEASE don’t rely on your guests to get ‘some snaps’ for you. They won’t be a patch on what a professional photographer will capture. Once the cake has been demolished and the flowers have wilted, you’ll still have those amazing photos to make you smile forever.

Do it your way…

You know what they say happens when you try to please everybody, right? Be completely upfront here that this is your wedding and you’re doing it your way.

You might get some pretty strong hints from your parents and friends, and that’s all welcomed as long as they’re just suggestions; not commands. If your family is paying or contributing this does become more difficult, but it’s all about clear communication and mutual respect.

It’s your wedding and you won’t be able to repeat it! Do what makes your heart sing, not what makes others stay off your case.  

  • Don’t feel pressured into inviting family members who you don’t normally see or even knew existed at all.
  • Don’t have a vintage car if you love that new electric Jag!

And please get married where you want to, not where uncle George used to work or where your Nan used to meet her friends. This article on Huff Post about boundaries is worth a look.

Don’t invite 100s of people!

More people doesn’t always mean you’ll have a better wedding. More people will cost you more, add more pressure, and create you more problems.

Some of my couples even said that they’d have rather spent the same budget on a higher end party for fewer people or spent it on a better honeymoon instead!

  • Be strict on cousins and long-lost aunts.
  • Don’t allow too many +1’s
  • And set a clearly defined rule that will stop as many arguments as you can.

You can’t (and won’t) please everyone though, so just be ready for the odd complaint about your wedding! Ask anyone who moans to speak to you directly and explain your standpoint in a clear and composed way. It’s your wedding but you can be reasonable about it too.

Avoid Dutch courage the day before

Getting drunk the day before with persuasive groomsmen or bridesmaids might sound like a great idea, but it’s a very old-fashioned (and silly) one. The last night of ‘freedom’ should be spent relaxing and getting yourself set for a very long day. Getting married is tiring so get a good night’s sleep. Smelling of booze for that first kiss is also not a great idea! You’ll also look jaded for the photos – not ideal.

Download the music – don’t stream it!

Having access to all types of music is great and it means you can play anything you like for your entrance music, backing track for dinner, and even the evening playlist.

But don’t stream it! You’ll really regret it if the signal drops on the leading to music that skips. Download the music onto whichever device you’re planning to play from and leave it plugged in.

Ban phones and social media!

Look, I’ll be honest with you. I love my smartphone too. I love a bit of Facebook stalking and scrolling on Instagram. But they can ruin a wedding!

For one day, live the day through your eyes, not your phone. Make your memories. Speak to your family. Chat with your friends.

I’d give this rule to everyone too. Stop people using their phones for the day. Ban photos on phones being uploaded to social media before you upload them. Explain that anyone with a phone in their hand will have to donate to charity (or your honeymoon!).

Consider an ‘unplugged ceremony’ so people can be present and in-the-moment, not watching it through a smartphone. Do you really need 30 versions of your first dance taken on an iPhone in the dark that no one will ever watch again? Nope. Make some cute signs about putting phones away, or explain your wishes on the invites.

As a bonus, it makes photos 100% better as well!

Don’t sweat the small (pointless) stuff

Stressing over the nitty shitty details (that in reality, nobody will care about) will ruin your day. No one knows what you had ‘planned’ for the day or when this and that was ‘supposed’ to happen – so don’t stress if things don’t go 100% to plan.

Nobody cares what colour your napkins are, what year the wine was bottled in, or when each song was supposed to play. Decide the details and move on! You’ll be so much happier. Wedding planning is stressful enough without drawing out the process.

Pack some flats!

Oh… and ladies (and guys of that persuasion) pack some flats! It’s a long day to be in heels so pack some flats for the evening or right after those official photos have been taken. Give your feet a rest.

I’d also recommend that you wear your wedding shoes in beforehand! Wear them around the house with socks on to get your feet used to them.

Enjoy it!

Obvious, but important. Enjoy the day. Try to relax and be there in the moment. Get the right people around you to do the worrying and make sure they know what needs to happen and when.

And then… enjoy it! Mingle with your guests.

But stay together in your couple at least some of the time or you’ll get to the end of the day not having seen or spoken to each other! (Yes, it’s happened.)

A wedding is a celebration; not a chore!

  • Get the timing right.
  • Get the right people on side.
  • Plan it your way.
  • Book the right food and drinks.
  • Have a bar.
  • Consider going ‘unpluged’. No phones and social media. Gulp!
  • Download music, don’t stream.
  • Hang out with your husband or wife.
  • And don’t get smashed the day before!

… Oh! And book a fantastic photographer who’s prepared for anything and loves a party.

Speaking of which… “Hello, my name’s Andrew Craner”.

If you’d rather have fun on your wedding day, and if you don’t want traditional wedding photography with its awkward posed photos and fake smiles – drop me a line now.

I’m based in Leamington Spa, and I travel all over the UK – or world if you’re getting married abroad. I’m extremely reliable and won’t let you down.

One of the best compliments I get from couples is; “We hardly noticed you!”. You want your photographer to fit right in; not boss you around. And that’s exactly what I do.

If you’d like to have a chat about me capturing your wedding, then please do contact me now.