Planning: From This Day On

Our to-do list for the 36 hours before the I do's | By Heidi Kent

Seattle bride Johannah Wergin | Photograph by Clinton James


Don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling each and every emotion known to humankind right about now. And don’t be surprised if everyone around you is talking about the forecast— which leads us to the first four checkpoints.

1. The Weather Savvy Seattle planners will always address rainy-day contingencies with you well in advance of the final hours—and these days, depending on the event date, they’re likely to discuss options for unusually hot weather as well. (Hello, global warming!) If it looks like a wet day, call in premade arrangements for tents or bulk umbrellas; in the event of a heat wave, consider this wisdom from Megan Clark of Clutch Events: “I ask indoor venues to turn the fans or air-conditioning on in the morning of the event; we can remove or turn off the unsightly and loud cooling systems before the ceremony.”

2. The Team Clark says she checks in with all of the vendors on the Monday before each wedding. If you’re not working with a planner, you’ll probably want to put a call in to key players and ensure that everyone has the correct final details, addresses, and times. The day before the wedding isn’t a good time to request a new linen style, but it is OK to confirm that the gray runners you swapped for the black ones last month are the ones going on the truck for the next day’s delivery.

3. The Paperwork It won’t be legal and binding unless one of you remembers the official documents. Whether you delegate the duty or take it on yourself, pack the marriage license with something else that’s sure to make it to the venue—the dress, the suit, the shoes, the rings. If you’re working with a planner like Clark, he or she can take the paperwork at the rehearsal for safekeeping. Same goes with vendor checks and tips. Although Clark encourages her clients to pay their vendors beforehand—it’s one less thing to think about at the wedding—she says some prefer to settle up on the day of, so “I collect final payments at the rehearsal and pass them out as vendors arrive at the venue the next day.”

4. The Mood “I love to tell my clients to do one pampering treatment to de-stress the day before the wedding,” says Clark. “But I suggest sticking with a few routine habits as well. If you’ve never been married before there will be lots of firsts that day, so take time to go to the gym, read the paper, walk around Green Lake, or visit your usual coffee shop. These familiar and regular customs can help you stay grounded and calm.”


It’s not entirely uncommon for couples whose ceremony is small, intimate, and purposefully brief to forgo a test flight, but Seattle experts agree: practice makes perfect. You’ll probably find your wedding party agrees, too. “You would be surprised how many attendants get really nervous,” Kaycee Parker of Parker Events told us. “They do not want to mess up their friend’s special day.” Parker prefers not to go exhaustively through the whole ceremony—better to save those moments for the real deal—instead, she focuses on what might be called muscle memories. “We practice walking gracefully and slowly, and how to transition from arriving at the altar or ceremony site to standing there with presence, and truly being in the moment,” Parker says. “Walk-throughs are especially helpful for attendants who may not have met prior to the wedding,” says Jillian Cook from Perfect Harmony Events. “Getting acquainted ahead of time can really calm their nerves.”

With the trial run crossed off the list, you and your crew will be ready to unwind together. But just who’s in that crew? It’s a given that the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and your immediate family will all be at the rehearsal dinner, but “it’s common to invite family and friends from out of town, and you might consider including those who may be feeling left out because they are not in the wedding party,” says Cook. Parker reports that couples who welcome lots of out-of-towners are leaning toward happy hour parties instead of formal sit-down dinners.

Regardless of what your rehearsal is like and whom it includes, you might consider having it the day before the day before. Jenny Harding of A New Chapter Weddings and Events says it’s a trend. “Couples are often going with Thursday [when they have a Saturday wedding], giving them the full day on Friday to relax and get last-minute stuff done. These couples are always so happy they made this decision.” On the other hand, she says she’s also seeing the rehearsal dinner turn into a whole bells-and-whistles welcome event for anyone and everyone in from out of town, and often these are very Seattle experiences: think an Argosy dinner cruise or a beach barbecue at Golden Gardens.


This is it: the first day of the rest of your life! Greet the morning with at least one large glass of water and, even if you were smart enough to skip that third cocktail the night before, do your best to keep hydrated. Everyone from Dr. Oz to your grandmother will tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day; Cook personally vouches for one that’s high in protein and low in carbohydrates. As important as a sustaining meal is, you’ll also need emotional and spiritual fuel—in other words, friends and family.

Seattle bride Camile Wynn, owner of the Dress Theory | Photograph by Tec Petaja
Seattle bride Camile Wynn, owner of the Dress Theory | Photograph by Tec Petaja

“On the day of my wedding I woke up in the little house we had rented to find my friends working on flower arrangements so that I could sleep in,” recalls Camille Wynn, who owns the Dress Theory in Greenlake (and outposts in San Diego and Nashville). “I felt so lucky! We all had manicures and pedicures in the living room, but the most memorable part of the morning was a gift exchange. I had put together gifts for all of them but was surpassed by what they had made for me: a scrapbook and a charm bracelet. Spending that time with my closest girlfriends before the photographer arrived was so special.”


OK, folks, this is really happening. Let’s start by getting everyone on the same page. “All members of both bridal parties should know what time photography will begin,” say Nick and Aleah Valley, the husband-and-wife planning and designing duo behind Valley and Co. “And everyone should have an itinerary of who is having hair and makeup or grooming services, and what duties—grabbing lunch, welcoming grandparents—are expected.” Is there a friend or relative asking for a job to do? Give them a download of the day’s prep schedule (or have your planner do it) and the bridal parties’ phone numbers, and have him or her send everyone a text. Easy, peasy.

“We love when our couples have at least an hour of time with their photographer during the getting-dressed time,” say the Valleys. “The candid images can be so special. If you can’t schedule with your photographer to have a second shooter on board for the day, make sure he or she has time to visit both sets of parties.”

The Valleys are also in favor of orchestrating and capturing the “first look” moment before the official event begins. “We saw each other before our own ceremony and we loved having some time together without the pressure of joining guests,” they told us. Furthermore: “Sometimes we find that when the couple opts to do photos after the ceremony, the photographer really doesn’t have time to capture the reception details that our clients so meticulously planned.”

Philip Atkins and Paul Stazel | Photograph by Lindsay Schuette

You might even say that spending pre-ceremony time together is trending. Right before Totokaelo’s director of merchandise Philip Atkins married Paul Stazel on November 11, 2013, in the Bavarian–themed resort town of Leavenworth, they pulled on lederhosen (when in Rome, you know?) and personally poured mugs of beer for their guests and passed out locally made pretzels and mustard. “It was about us giving back to the people who supported us for the last 10 years,” Atkins says. After the themed beer hour, they returned to their cabin and changed into their tuxes while guests hit the full bar. “We got about 25 minutes together before everything started,” recalls Atkins. “Best decision ever.”


At a certain point in the day, all that’s left to do is get yourselves to the altar. When Iva Jean designer Ann DeOtte married Bart Kaufman at an 11 am ceremony on July 21, 2012, at Volunteer Park, she arranged to have a bike cab pedal her, alone, from her home to the ceremony. “Those 15 minutes of solitude out and about in my neighborhood were the perfect time for me to reflect and feel gratitude and joy,” she says.

Couples who are already on-site may find they have some idle time. “I had a client who bought a hundred dollars in scratch tickets,” says Cook. “It was a good way to keep nerves calm, although they didn’t end up hitting the big honeymoon money they had hoped for.”

By all means, don’t stress about the clock. “I always warn my clients that the ceremony almost never starts on time,” says Harding, “and that’s perfectly OK.”

Insider Additions

Loree Payne and Penny Davis | Photograph by Alattar Photography

We decided that we didn’t want anything to be a surprise during the ceremony, because we’re both very sensitive and emotional and we wanted to not be crying messes. So, after the rehearsal dinner, Penny and I decided to have some time alone where we actually read each other the vows we wrote and practiced putting our rings on. It gave us time to relax a bit and reflect on what was to come.
LOREE PAYNE, married Penny Davis on May 3, 2014, on the rooftop of the Post Apartments in downtown Seattle

Johannah is a sucker for love notes, so I decided to write her letters about our relationship; Layne, her maid of honor, helped me deliver them to her throughout the day. The first two were written ahead of time and were about our past and growing closer, but I wrote the last letter on the day of our wedding because I wanted to capture the way I was feeling right then. Before the ceremony, she gave me a gift that played to my goofy side, a T-shirt proclaiming, “This guy LOVES his wife.” It was a hit at brunch the next day!
NICK MILLER, married Johannah Wergin on August 3, 2013, at Lairmont Manor in Bellingham

As a wedding designer, I had to walk away from setting up my own wedding and trust that others would step in. And yes, there were a few things that didn’t get placed in exactly the spot I had envisioned, but even as a very particular person, I thought my wedding was perfect, because everyone was happy and laughing and hugging. And at the end of the day I was married to my better half. When it comes down to it, focusing on the person you’re marrying and the people who have come to celebrate is the most important task.
MCKENZIE POWELL, married James Powell on August 8, 2009, in a tent on a field in Lynden