Your wedding morning survival guide

As the sun rises on your big day, here’s how to keep your plans on track

bridesmaids looking at bride
Photo: Iris Art Photography

The closest thing we have is Christmas. The alarm rattles (not that you need it – it’s a rare bride or groom who has managed much shut-eye the night before) and you’ll maybe manage one slurp of coffee before an army of best friends, sisters, mothers, makeup artists and hairstylists invade. It’s festive, in that there are gifts (for the bridesmaids, neatly stacked on your dresser), family members in every room of the house, and squealing, excited kids, aka the flower girls, having a long-jump contest in the hallway. It’s chaos, but you embrace it. 

Wedding mornings can be more than just military operations. Yes, organisation is essential (frantically texting the groom to check if he has a copy of his speech is not the stuff of romance), but it’s possible to make space for getting giddy, as well as for getting it together.

Break it down, and the actual purpose of this part of the day is simple: getting ready. In reality, of course, this isn’t quite as straightforward as your average night-out prep. This is the hair and makeup that will be frozen in time, the curls and rosy lips staring back at you from a photo frame forever more. Getting the professionals in makes sense.

By this stage, you’ll likely have had trials and will trust the stylists to deliver your chosen look. All that pre-planning might be in vain, though, if they don’t have a work space suited to your beautification. “At the Principal Edinburgh George Street, we can offer a dedicated bridal preparation room, the Forth View suite,” says Oskar Gilchrist-Grodnicki, the hotel’s senior wedding co-ordinator. “It’s flooded with natural light from the surrounding windows, and has its own en-suite bathroom, as well as makeup chairs, upright mirrors and an iron. It’s also adjacent to a private rooftop terrace which can be an oasis of calm between pampering or for taking a break in the fresh air.”

bridesmaids fixing brides dress
Photo: Tandem Photo

Whether you are spending the morning at home or at the venue, you’ll always need to consider how well equipped the room is. “I like to work near a window for natural light and close to some kind of counter-top,” says Georgina Kane of I Do Makeup by Geo Kane. “I also have a portable chair to use. If I were to nominate one perfect setting, I’d say a dining table next to a window is ideal. Nevertheless, I will work with the options that are available.” And as for hair, there’s a golden rule: no plug socket, no pristine chignon for you.

A schedule for hair and makeup, however regimented it may seem, is also imperative, usually with you going last to ensure that your look is the longest-lasting. “The morning so often runs over because beauty preparations can take much longer than you’d imagine,” cautions wedding planner Mercedes Somerville at Scarlett & Bell. “Speak to your makeup artist and hairdresser (and put them in touch with each other) and listen to their recommendations for timings. Remember, the stylist will want all hair freshly washed, so make sure everyone knows this.” The more organised you are, the more chilled you’ll feel, so over-prepare and leave generous gaps in the timeline as an insurance policy. “No two wedding mornings are the same, but they always seem to flow,” assures Georgina.

While you and the girls sit sipping fizz in your silk robes, hair and makeup underway, what should be happening with your gowns? “Amid all the excitement of the morning, accidents can happen,” warns Anna Cirignaco, owner of Glasgow boutique Eleganza Sposa. “Keep the dresses out of harm’s way! And remove them from their cotton storage bags the night before to allow the material to settle.”

“Dresses should be nowhere near makeup, for obvious reasons,” adds Georgina. “Try to store them where there is very little bridal-party traffic. If you’re getting ready at home, the bedroom is best.”

What if there are creases? “Steam gowns in advance, as trying to arrange this on the day itself can add a lot of time and stress,” says Oskar. (Even though this will have already been taken care of by the boutique, wrinkles could appear again in transit – hanging your dress in the bathroom while you shower should do the trick.) “You can put bridesmaid dresses in our wedding storage space the day before, but bring the bridal gown directly to the preparation room only on the big day itself, and hang it open as high as you can to give the fabric room to breathe.”

When you’re all set for slipping into that gown, gather your girls around you – this is not something you can do solo. In fact, it’s one to think about long before you reach this point. “If feasible, bring a member of the bridal party to your fitting, so they can see how best to help you into your dress,” advises Anna. “That way, the morning of your wedding won’t be their first introduction to the gown, making it a lot easier for them to assist you.”

As with everything, common sense is key. “Bear in mind your bridesmaids will be wearing makeup and perhaps fake tan,” Anna points out, “so be careful! And if anyone has had their nails done, they should be particularly cautious when fastening any buttons on your gown.”

bride and bridesmaid in robes
Photo: The Curries

It’s not often life gifts you a shining opportunity to focus on yourself. First up on the self-care agenda? Food. While your stomach flips and flutters, the thought of a full Scottish might be enough to make you hurl, but this is a crucial step you can’t skip. Hunger, as you may well know, can make you faint – you want the wedding to be swoonworthy, not for you to actually swoon. “I always encourage the bride to eat – graze, even,” Georgina says. “It’s a long day without anything in your stomach. I can work around snacks and am there to touch up lips and so on. The hairdresser and I will rotate the bridal party among the buzz, food and bubbles and, one way or another, it should come together.”

“You might not feel like you want to eat a lot on the morning of your wedding,” adds Oskar, “but remember that your meal won’t be served until late. It’s really important to keep yourself hydrated and not feeling hungry. Refreshments and bite-size portions can be spread out throughout the morning so you don’t feel bloated.”

Managing your anxiety levels is also key. No one wants to look back through a surreal haze and wince at how uptight they felt. Pause for a minute and weigh up what, or who, is upsetting your psyche. “You are 100% allowed to be ‘selfish’ on the morning of your wedding,” Mercedes insists. “If there is anyone around you causing you stress, ask a member of the bridal party you trust implicitly to find them a project elsewhere. Surround yourself with people who calm you.”

If your family makes Everybody Loves Raymond look like The Brady Bunch, nuisance intruders will be a concern. “It’s easy to forget that, while it is your day, your relatives are bound to be fired up too,” says Anna diplomatically. “To avoid difficulty, explain the night before what will work for you. Let them know that limiting the numbers assisting you in the morning will be less stressful, and that you look forward to spending the rest of the day celebrating with them.”

smiling bride
Photo:  I Do Makeup by Geo Kane 

Where communication fails, lean on a ’maid or mother who’s part-bodyguard, part-peacekeeper. “It’s a good idea to keep the door closed – locked, even – so no one can come in without knocking,” says Mercedes. It sounds like an extreme nightclub scenario, but you’ll soon understand the need for it. “Answering the door is an excellent job for your mother, because no one is going to question her when she says the bride is with the photographer, having her makeup done or (insert excuse here).” We like your style, Mercedes.

That said, stress can be bypassed if you have a planner or venue co-ordinator, rather than a loved one, on the case. Their expert eye might save your sanity – especially if the unexpected happens. “Over the years, there have been a few hair-raising moments,” Oskar tell us. “Last July, when I was assisting a bride, all was going to plan until the zip on one of the bridesmaid dresses broke off completely! The only option was to sew her in. I took on this challenge, having stocked my pockets with a sewing kit. My skills must have been rather good as the thread wasn’t visible and lasted well until the night. The bride and I still giggle over this!”

For Mercedes, it’s all about being prepared: “I create a very detailed itinerary in which I always allow grace periods to make up lost time,” she says. “On the morning of a wedding, I have done everything from stepping in on behalf of a florist who had only completed half the task, to redesigning a table plan after the venue changed one of its policies overnight.” Yikes!

Other than getting to the ceremony on time, your top priority is to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime morning. Although your photographer is hovering to capture it all, take mental snapshots of your mum in the makeup artist’s chair or of your girls’ teary faces as you reveal your gown. Savour every word of your maid of honour’s heartfelt, improvised toast. Be in the moment. It’s a cliché, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. “It goes so fast,” observes Georgina. “In the blink of an eye, it’s time to get your dress on. When I first arrive, it seems like there is loads of time, but a wedding morning flies by. The last few hours before you tie the knot are magical. That feeling of anticipation is something you can’t ever get back.” Amen.