“Happiest day of your life!” “Most important day ever!” Wedding days are often hyped as the pinnacle of life, the stuff of fairytales.  With all that anticipation swirling around, it’s no surprise you might feel a little stressed.

I have photographed hundreds of weddings and witnessed all kinds of wedding days, from mountaintop elopements to extravagant celebrations in upscale resorts. As I’ve learned, wedding stress is real and quite common. After all, most couples have never planned a wedding in their life!

The good news?  A little bit of stress is simply an indication that you care deeply about planning a joy-filled and memorable day. Wedding jitters? Totally normal! As a wedding photographer who’s witnessed countless “I do’s,” I want to share 7 tips to help you stay calm and collected on your big day.

A bride and bridesmaids drink from plastic cups with "best day ever" written on them.
A stressful wedding day scene: tired feet, disorganized bridal party gift bags, and a balloon that spells "LOVE" laying on the floor.

1. Plan Ahead and Delegate

Planning a wedding is a joyous occasion, but it can also feel overwhelming. Sharing the responsibilities is key to a stress-free experience. Consider investing in a wedding planner. While they’ll certainly handle logistics and details, it’s more than just “passing the stress.” Wedding planners are experts at navigating the planning process, maximizing your budget, and avoiding common pitfalls. This lets you focus on the excitement and enjoy the journey to your big day.

Taking charge of the planning yourself? A user-friendly planning app (or even a paper planner) can help you stay organized as to-dos, contacts, and details begin to multiply.

A bridesmaid's hands help fasten a wedding dress with lacy sleeves and buttons on them.

When your wedding day finally arrives, let your loved ones be part of the magic by offering to help with small tasks. They want to help, and it will go a long way towards keeping you free of stress.

Two friends help a bride by fastening the straps on her wedding shoes.

As a photographer, I’m drawn to capturing the heartwarming moments of connection and support that emerge when people come together. One of my favorite things to photograph is a group of friends helping a bride get ready for her wedding.

A bridesmaid struggles to button the back of a wedding dress with puff sleeves and lacy decorations.

2. Build a Great Wedding Day Timeline

Fingers point to details on a wedding day timeline.

Whether your timeline has 5 items or 15 pages, a well-crafted plan keeps everyone on-track. It minimizes last-minute stress and lets you focus on what truly matters: celebrating your love with family and friends.

Even for a casual, laid-back wedding, a timeline can be your secret weapon. At the very least it tells people when to show up, and when they get to eat!

Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Build in Buffer time: Life happens! Add extra wiggle room between events (think getting ready, ceremony, photos) to absorb minor delays without derailing the entire schedule.
  • Start Strong: Choose reliable hair and makeup artists known for their punctuality and efficiency. Collaborate with them to create realistic timelines for each person in the bridal party. This sets the stage for a stress-free morning, and ensures the rest of the day’s events stay on course.
  • Stick to the List: Create a list of “must-have” posed family and wedding party photos beforehand. This helps estimate how much time to allocate. Remember, additional photos can be captured more organically during cocktail hour or the reception.
  • Travel Time is Real: If your venues (getting ready, ceremony, reception) are spread out, factor in realistic travel times. Consider the day of the week, time of year, and potential for traffic congestion due to other special events or rush hour.

3. Find Vendors Who Share Your Priorities

I love this feedback from a bride whose Incline Village wedding I photographed: “It takes some sort of superpower level stealth to capture the number of teary-eyed hugs and moments of pure joy Chris got in our pictures – the kind that transport you back to a feeling just by looking at them. Scrolling through them felt like re-living every nervous jitter and moment of warmth or fun of our big day, and not a moment was missed.”

Feedback like this reaffirms my belief that wedding photos need to capture more than simply what people are wearing and how they look on a certain day. These photos need something special, they need the ability to transport you back to how you felt on your wedding day.

Also, this bride reminds me that a wedding photographer doesn’t need to manufacture moments or recreate photos from other events. As a photographer, my job is to pay careful attention and capture the details that make each wedding unique.

A moment of celebration at an Everline Resort wedding, captured by candid photographer Chris Werner.

4. Stick to Your Budget

Financial stress can definitely put a damper on your wedding joy. Be honest about your overall spending limit. Consider how much you’re comfortable contributing and discuss any financial support from family.

In the end, it comes down to priorities. Whether it is the perfect venue, a phenomenal photographer, or a delicious five-course meal, you should allocate a larger portion of your budget accordingly.

A bride expresses a moment of overwhelm as she helps herself to a Lake Tahoe catering company creation.

While some aspects of your wedding day are fleeting, beautiful photographs capture those precious moments forever. Consider photography an investment, not just an expense. These stunning images will become cherished family heirlooms, passed down through generations.

A bride and groom enjoy a sunset stroll by the water at their Hyatt Lake Tahoe beach wedding.

5. Prioritize Self-Care

Getting enough rest and staying hydrated are key in the days leading up to the big day, especially here in Lake Tahoe with its crisp mountain air and bright sunshine.

Focus on Hydration: The mountain air can be dry, so stay ahead of the game by drinking plenty of water in the days leading up to the wedding. Tahoe Tap Water is delicious. So, skip the single-use plastic bottles and bring your favorite re-usable water bottle with you instead. I recommend adding electrolytes to your water, either in the form of a flavored drink mix or electrolyte tablets.

Don’t Skimp on Beauty Sleep: With family and friends arriving, excitement can run high. Make sure you prioritize restful sleep to ensure you’re energized and looking good on your big day. This also means limiting alcohol (easier said than done with celebratory pre-wedding events) if you want to feel good when all eyes (and cameras) are on you.

Sun Protection For the Win: Lake Tahoe’s sunshine is beautiful, but don’t forget to pack sunscreen! If you will be arriving early, this is especially important in the days before the wedding. Sunburned skin isn’t only painful, it can be time-consuming (and costly) to minimize in photos.

A bridesmaid helps the bride stay fed and hydrated by feeding her red grapes and a plate with cheese and crackers.
A bride practices self-care on her wedding day by putting her feet up and laughing with her friends.

6. Embrace Imperfections

With so many joyful superlatives associated with weddings, expectations can be high. Remember that you (and everyone else) will be just as human on your wedding day as on any other day. I recommend hiring trustworthy and experienced vendors, putting together a good timeline, and then simply taking in the moments as they unfold.

Of course, even with the best preparations the weather can still throw you a curveball!

A stressful wedding day unfolds when a thunderstorm brings rain to a lakeside venue.

In the end, it will all be part of your wedding day story. I believe what matters most is for you to celebrate your love and commitment to each other. And quite often, the most important thing for your guests is to celebrate with you and see you happy and enjoying the day.

7. Be Present and Enjoy the Moment

Especially on a whirlwind day like your wedding, cherishing the present moment becomes even more important. As Maya Angelou said, “be present in all things and thankful for all things.”

That’s why intentional moments of connection throughout the day, where you can truly savor the experience with each other, are so valuable.

A joyous bride and groom celebrate at their Sunnyside Resort wedding in Tahoe City.
A groom celebrates on the dance floor at a backyard outdoor Lake Tahoe wedding.
A bride and her grandmother share a heartwarming moment, captured by Lake Tahoe photographer Chris Werner.
An up-close portrait of a bride and groom on the beach at twilight.

Chris Werner Photography

Are you getting excited about planning your own wedding? If you have any questions about these tips, or if you’d like to hear more stress-busting ideas, jump over to my contact page and get in touch!

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