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Getting hitched? Here’s everything you need to do the night before your wedding
Image / Style / Weddings

Jenny McCarthy

Getting hitched? Here’s everything you need to do the night before your wedding


by Shayna Sappington
10th Apr 2024

We asked wedding veteran and photographer Jenny McCarthy what brides most often forget when it comes to prepping for their big day.

Jenny McCarthy has been photographing weddings for almost 20 years, so it’s safe to say that she has witnessed nearly every problem that could possibly wreak havoc on the day.

Along with creating helpful timelines and schedules, Jenny’s role has evolved from photographer to substitute maid of honour, stepping in wherever she can help. She even comes prepared with her own emergency wedding kit.

“Anything that goes awry on a wedding day, I’m there to fix,” she says. “I have sewed brides into their dresses. I have sewed grooms’ trousers after they have split them from being too tight. There’s nothing that I haven’t done on a wedding day.

“I always see the little things that can potentially go wrong before they happen. So I often tell the bride and groom, ‘If this happens, this is what you do. And don’t tell anyone it has happened because nobody needs to know’,” she laughs.

Based on her experience, Jenny says it is crucial to make sure that you have everything in order the night before your wedding. Here’s what should be on your list…

1. Hang your dress and steam away any wrinkles.

“It’s absolutely essential that brides take their dress out of that white (garment) bag from the bridal designer. Normally, within that white bag is another plastic bag, so you’re guaranteed to have some creases at the end of your dress’ train.

“Now, I also understand that sometimes the bride doesn’t want anybody to see the dress, so I always suggest putting it in a room where you know there is nobody sleeping or placing the bag in front of the dress so that nobody can see it. Hanging and steaming the dress the night before is one of the most essential things because that saves time on the wedding morning.”

2. Try to get a good night’s sleep.

“It is so important to get a good night’s sleep. Sometimes brides sleep in a room with all of their bridesmaids and while that’s great fun, no one’s going to sleep. They will all be awake drinking Prosecco and having chats about tomorrow. Plus, it’s difficult to sleep when you’re not used to sleeping in a room with three or four other people. 

“Try and get to bed as early as you can and stick to your routine. If you normally go to bed at 10pm, then go to bed at 10pm because the following day is just so full on that you need every bit of energy. You will have adrenaline and excitement flying around your body, which is amazing, but also exhausting, and you will want to look as fresh as you possibly can.” 

3. Prepare each element for your wedding details photo.

You know those gorgeous detail shots that include the wedding invitation, the bride’s shoes, jewellery, perfume, etc.? Jenny often reminds brides that it’ll save time and stress if these bits are set out the night before. 

“Lay out any of the details that the photographer or you are going to need for the morning. Now, I’m not saying it has to look nice because the photographer will come in and move them where the nicest light is. Just have them all out together so that you’re not rushing around in the morning trying to do that when it’s your time to have your hair and your make-up done.”

night before your wedding

4. Pack your bag for the wedding night hotel stay.

“You would not believe the number of brides who are running around on the morning of their wedding still popping things into a suitcase for the hotel. Make sure that you have your bag packed so that all you have to do the next morning is add your toiletries. 

“Along with this, try and take away all those stressful little things that add up, so that you can enjoy getting ready and take in your wedding morning.”

5. Ensure the groom (and his groomsmen) have a plan.

“When the morning comes around for the lads, they have no idea what to do. I will always say to them on my Zoom call a couple of weeks before the wedding: ‘These are the things you’re going to need to take into consideration – if there are any ribbons to go on the cars, that’s your job and don’t leave it until the morning of the wedding. Practice it now because they’re not easy and you need to look it up on YouTube and figure out the right way.

“And there are lots of other things that they can be doing as well. I always find the bride does get a phone call. ‘Where are my cufflinks’, ‘Where’s my bowtie?’ or ‘I don’t have a belt for my trousers’. The groom needs to make sure he has everything laid out the night before and sticks to the schedule as well.”

6. Review your wedding day timeline. 

“You must have a timeline for the wedding morning because you’re going to have a gaggle of women getting hair and make-up done, and if you’re not sticking to a schedule, it can be chaotic and you could be late walking up the aisle. We all have certainly been to weddings where the bride comes into the church 40 minutes late and postpones everything else afterwards on the day.”

“When I photograph a wedding, I always tell the couple my arrival time, what time everybody needs to be dressed, and what time we’re going to get the bride into her wedding dress (and how long that’s going to take).” If they want to do a first look, with either their dad or husband-to-be, it’s important to allow time for that too, says Jenny.

“Also, assign a bridesmaid to be in charge of keeping you on schedule on your wedding day because as beautiful as it is, it’s an event and you also want to make sure that you enjoy the party that you’re putting on for everyone instead of running around like a headless chicken and being stressed. This way, you can enjoy these lovely memories in the making.”

What if I don’t have a wedding timeline?

Fret not, because it’s easier than it seems. Start with your ceremony time and work backwards from there. “For example, if you’re getting married at 1pm the lads and the photographer need to be up at the church (or ceremony space) at 12.30pm. Then you can get the photos you need before the ceremony starts,” explains Jenny.

“So you need to work back from 30 minutes before the ceremony is due to begin. I actually have a detailed spreadsheet of timelines that I send to couples after we have our Zoom meeting so that nobody gets confused.” From there, you can estimate your ceremony duration, time for couple photos, travel time to the drinks reception, and so forth.

night before your wedding

Along with her expert timeline, Jenny has packed all of her priceless wedding knowledge into her new book The Wedding. Filled with valuable tips based on decades of experience, the book is more than just a bride’s guide, it’s a guide for grooms and mothers of the couple as well!

“It includes everything from the wedding dress and mother-of-the-bride outfits to questions to ask your vendors and tips to capture the best photos – all you need to know for your wedding is in there. There is also space in it for notes, which is really cool. 

“I just called it ‘The Wedding’ because you know yourself. What do you say when you’re talking about your big day? Everything is about the wedding. There are about 360 pages and it’s in a handy A4 shape with a lovely white hardcover so it’ll last a lifetime. I’m just so proud of it.”

Photography by Jenny McCarthy

This article was originally published in July 2023.

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