“Are you ready?” My dad asked me thirty seconds before we were about to walk down the aisle. The aisle. The wedding aisle.
Up until this moment, I’d been so confident that I wasn’t going to cry at my own wedding. Not that this should be some badge of honor, I just…. I don’t know, I’m not a crier. At least not an “in front of people” crier, or a “happy tears” crier (what are “happy” tears? I have never once cried tears that felt ‘happy’, most of the time they feel like I had a bad day or something crazy happened on Grey’s Anatomy, but those tears never feel happy.)
But today? Oof. I don’t know what it is about that moment right before you walk down the aisle, but it’s a lot. No one could have prepared me for all of the feelings – like ALL of the feelings, they were all bubbling to the surface – that would rush over me in that moment. The excitement! And the nerves! And the reality of “this is it! This is the THING that we’ve been planning and talking about and HERE IT IS!’
I wanted to say something witty in that moment – I don’t know why, it’s just me and my dad, my dad certainly doesn’t care if I’m witty. But I wanted to say something to make the moment more… I don’t know, or maybe less….? I don’t know. I just wanted it to be nice, you know? Not just me standing there uncomfortably trying not to cry.
“Are we ready?” Margo, our wedding coordinator, poked her head into the room. My dad said, “I think so” with a smile and I nodded. Because apparently talking when you’re trying not to cry is hard. “Alright,” Margo said, sounding more like a proud stage mom, “It’s time. Let’s go!”
Let’s go. Game face. Don’t cry. Crying is for suckers who ruin their make-up. Keep it together, Jenn. KEEP IT TOGETHER.
So I took my dad’s arm as Margo cued our guitarist to play the song that I’d chosen specifically for this moment, and we walked down the aisle. Together. And to be perfectly honest, the only thing I kept repeating in my head was: “Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry”. Unfortunately you can see allllllllll of the emotions unfolding on my face. In my almost-happy-but-also-very-nervous-non-commital-smile. It was one of those “I don’t know what to do with my hands” moments, except it was “I don’t know what to do with my face”. Should I smile? Should I look calm and serene? Will it look fake if I smile with teeth? But will I look less happy if I don’t smile with teeth?
Don’t get panicked and in your head like I did. All of that is going to show up on your face, and later on, in your photos. These are photos that you’re going to look back on for years to come and maybe even show your children one day. You don’t want them to ask why their mom looks constipated.
Smile! Yes, smile! WITH TEETH! It’s your wedding day, you’re supposed to look over-the-moon, ridiculously happy – so don’t worry, your smile doesn’t look fake and no one is going to wonder why you’re smiling like Miss America. You’re the bride, you’re SUPPOSED to look like Miss America today.
- Stand up straight
I have terrible posture. Like, my husband continuously needs to remind me “stand up straight”. Make sure on your wedding day, you are standing up straight. Not only will this INSTANTLY make you look thinner (believe me, it works) but you’ll also look better in photos. A little trick I’ve learned (even though it sounds crazy – bare with me here, people) is to imagine a string at the top of your head, pulling you up. Try it. They say super models do it.
- Never put your arms tight to your side
Not only will you look smaller (not in a good way, you’ll look scrunched up and uncomfortable) but it also makes your arms look fat with the skin is being flattened out against the side of your body. Create separation between your limbs and your body to give yourself a leaner look.
- Angles are your friend
Turn to the side. That’s it. Even if it’s only a LITTLE bit to the side. Photos that are straight on typically make you look wider. (Maybe this is what they mean when they say “the camera adds ten pounds”) If you look at photos of celebrities on the red carpet – even some of the thinnest celebrities – you’ll notice their bodies are always slightly turned.. Even if they’re only adjusting their hips – no one is ever straight on. This is ON PURPOSE, it is not just because the camera happened to be at that angle, the celebrity made sure to turn their BODIES to that angle.
- Don’t try too hard to be cute
Maybe this one only applies to me. I’ve had this weird habit in the past where – if I know someone is taking a photo of me – I try a little too hard to “turn it on”. I make sure to REALLY open my eyes (so I’m not blinking) and sometimes I smile a little TOO big, or open my mouth into one of those “ah!” moves that’s supposed to look cute, like I’m laughing, but in reality I just look like I’m yawning or screaming. With deer-in-headlight-eyes because I’ve made sure to open them super wide. It looks weird. I need to stop doing it. But with that being said – don’t try too hard to be “cute” because you know you’re being photographed. Just be your natural, beautiful self and the camera will be sure to pick it up.
Seriously, relax. Yes, I know everyone’s looking at you, and you’re wearing a dress you can’t breath in, and you feel like you’ve got a pound of make-up on your face, and you’re being pulled in a hundred different directions and – honestly – getting married is not relaxing one bit, it’s STRESSFUL. The day is a whirlwind. A beautiful whirlwind – but they aren’t kidding when they say “you blink, and it’s over”. So ENJOY it. Relax. Take a breath. You’re doing fine. If you’re stressed out, it’s going to come across that way in your pictures.
- Have a shot list in mind (if you want)
This one is for those of you who saw some photo on Pinterest and said “Aww… I want a picture like that…!”…. send your photographer that picture. Tell her you want a picture like that. He or she may not be able to change the scenery around you (like if you send a picture of a couple on top of a mountain and you’re getting married on a beach), but they’ll be able to at least help recreate the “vibe” of the photo. Photographers want to make YOU happy, as their client, so if there is a specific photo you want, let them know!
- Pose for PDA pics away from guests
No one feels particularly romantic kissing their new-husband when his mother is ten feet away watching and cheering, or your drunk bridesmaid is saying “Get it, girl!” Suggest to go somewhere a little more “private” for photo-time where it’s just the two of you and your photographer. This will make you more relaxed (honestly, taking pictures off-site was probably the most relaxing part of my wedding day) and help to capture better photos where to two of you can feel a little more ‘in the moment’. Try to plan a cocktail hour or something for your guests to do while you’re off taking photos.
- Put nervous hands to work
What should I do with my hands? Your photographer should tell you. But it also helps to have a back-up plan. One hand is probably holding your flowers, which will help, but the other could always be holding your dress, or touching your veil.
- Skip the orange-y make-up
You don’t want to look back at your wedding photos and feel like you looked like an Oompa Loompa. Yes, I know you want to look tan. I get that. Being tan is just as important as being skinny for some reason, but cool it on the “foundation that doesn’t match your face” today. Use a shade that matches your actual skin tone, like it’s supposed to. This will photographer better (also your face will match your body, you’re welcome) and you won’t have to worry about looking too orange in the sunlight.
- Be cautious of how much you’re drinking
Remember when I said “relax”? That doesn’t mean “get drunk”. It’s fine to have a glass or two of champagne, but know your limit. Don’t get sloppy. It will come across in photos and you’ll regret it later. (Honestly, I don’t know how anyone has time to get drunk at their wedding. When I got married I barely had a glass of wine because I was constantly talking to someone or running from here to there. But if you’re able to finish more than two glasses of champagne- just don’t.)