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Day Before 

Who knew your I do’s could feel so close and still so far? Stay on track with these four tasks:

1. Check the forecast. If it looks like surprise storm clouds might put a damper on your outdoor shindig, it’s time to call in the tent (pitch it at your venue’s highest point) and heat lamps you had on hold, or check in with your wedding planner about enacting plan B. (Tip: have an indoor alternative in your back pocket, or a lot of Portland’s ShedRain umbrellas.) Unexpected heat wave? Tents provide shade, too, and some come with air conditioning or fans. Ask your wedding party to help assemble baskets of sunscreen, fans, and bottled water. Guests will be extra thirsty, so also prepare to go over budget on drinks, says Lisa Marie of Events by Lisa Marie.

2. Touch base with key vendors. Inform your venue of layout changes, notify the officiant about tweaks to your vows, and review the wedding-day itinerary with your coordinator, Lisa Marie says. If you’re running your own show, confirm schedules with your photographer, caterer, DJ, limo service, fire dancers, etc.

3. Take care of business. It isn’t official until you (and a couple witnesses) sign on the dotted line. “Put your marriage license in the bottom of your wedding shoebox,” Lisa Marie advises. Concerned your Jimmy Choos might go MIA? Give your license to your coordinator at the rehearsal. She can also handle leftover payments, tips, or thank-you notes; option two is to entrust them to someone other than your busy wedding party. Ensure you’re organized by preparing a binder with contracts and checks ahead of time, suggests Rachelle Bell of Champagne Wedding Coordination. In addition, verify the gown, suit, and all accessories (rings, too!) are shipshape and where they should be. Finally, secure essential documents with your honeymoon luggage, and schedule a cab for the ride to the airport.

4. Relax. Even when orchestrating the party of a lifetime, it’s important to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. Recent Portland bride Stephanie Rhoades (who wed Alden Kelley September 14, 2013, at the Colony in St. Johns) took a vacay from planning stress with a girls’ brunch/mani-pedi party. “It was a great way to kick off the wedding weekend,” Rhoades says. You could also snuggle up with your sweetie, take a hike with your sister, or hit the spa solo. “Your feet are in for a very long day,” Bell says, “so consider a hot-stone foot massage at Barefoot Sage.”

We loved Dragonfly Event Design! They made the last hours beforehand and take-down after stress-free. —Stephanie Rhoades

Evening Before 

By late afternoon it’s time to gather up everyone involved in the ceremony for a practice run, ideally at the venue. (Tip: you want people’s focused attention, so if you expect a day of imbibing, hold the rehearsal late morning instead.) At the very least you should talk through each element, recap responsibilities, and do a walk-through—begin with everyone in their place at the altar so they know where and how to stand (bouquets low), and then do the recessional followed by a processional back to where you started. “Ours was an hour and so helpful,” says Eugene bride Lisette Peterson, who wed Chase Collings August 10, 2013, at Rio Vista Winery in Chelan, Washington. “We tweaked the music, which was very important to us, shared some new info with our coordinator, and made it so the actual ceremony was exactly what we pictured.”

Next up is the rehearsal dinner, a time for families to get to know each other and ease into the big event—consider having a slide show and most of the weekend’s toasts. Blush Bridal event planner Amy Nuttman advises starting around 6:30 p.m. to give local guests time to change post-work, as well as allow everyone their beauty sleep after. Keep the invite-list traditional with just your parents, siblings, wedding party, parents of child attendants, and officiant, or open it up to the whole kit-and-kaboodle. A simple restaurant meal is just dandy, but feel free to shake things up: event planner Nora Sheils of Bridal Bliss suggests calling in favorite food carts for a park rendezvous, throwing a barbecue blowout, or boarding the Double Decker PDX bus for a progressive dinner. Redondo Beach couple Anna Larsson and Spenser Halvorsen (wed July 20, 2013, at Oswego Lake Country Club in Lake Oswego, where they both grew up) opted for an intimate supper with immediate family and their wedding party at Serratto two nights before the main event; post-rehearsal they boated around the lake with old friends, and then hit the sack early.

Speaking of sleep, going your separate ways can add to the fun: Rhoades loved reminiscing with high school friends at an all-girl sleepover while her fiancé hunkered down with the guys. But if it’s comforting or just plain special for you and your betrothed to bunk together, by all means do so.

Morning Of 

Rise and shine! Hopefully you’ve avoided a hangover (have Advil and papaya enzyme tablets for nausea on hand just in case), but a healthy breakfast like oatmeal or eggs is essential for maintaining stamina no matter what. The morning of her nuptials, Larsson’s mother ordered fruit, pastries, quiche, and sandwiches from Elephants Delicatessen for the bride and her eight ’maids, while Halvorsen went wakeboarding. You won’t regret finding time for exercise, notes Gather Event Planning & Consultation’s Katie Wilgus: “A half-hour of yoga first thing will set a harmonious tone for the entire day.” These early hours are also a great time to exchange love notes or gifts with your sweetie, or just chill by the pool with a book.

If a snafu occurs, remember that there’s always a solution. Can’t find the cake topper? Blooms from a centerpiece will do. And white chalk is great for camouflaging wine on your gown. Wilgus also suggests asking an eager guest without a role to help out with last-minute issues as well as any DIY details, like placing baskets with program-fans or cones of confetti. Prep for minor mishaps with an emergency kit, adds Encore Events’ Cindy Rosen: beauty products, first-aid supplies, stain remover, pins, candles, ribbons, lighters, and black socks, as “one groomsman will inevitably forget his.”

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A Few Hours Before 

The finish line isn’t far—time to make sure you look dazzling as you cross it:

Her The photographer often arrives now to take candid getting-ready pics, as well as close-ups of your attire, heirlooms, etc. Set aside at least an hour for your makeup and another hour for hair, advises Merrymaking Events’ Karli Vidourek. Paying for a team to gussy up bridesmaids makes a beautiful, photo-friendly gift, but if you don’t have the extra funds trust that your friends will primp perfectly on their own. Local makeup artist Kirstie Wight suggests outfitting ’maids in matching silk robes and having a special getting-ready playlist. Peterson and her ladies proactively guzzled water (they’d be standing under a scorching sun for pictures and the ceremony) and noshed on chicken salad, which gave them plenty of energy to also practice for their surprise line dance at the reception.

Him Maybe all that’s needed is a shower and some deodorant, but a sauna session will provide a healthy glow, or a manicure (yes, really) could clean up those cuticles for the close-up ring shots. Kelley opted to hit Modern Man with his groomsmen for straight-razor shaves, strong coffee to counteract the previous night’s whiskey, and, he recalls, discussions about fishing, favorite wood smells, and the nuances of women.

Both Chances are that fancy lingerie, those tight Spanx, and the tiny buttons up the back of your dress will require more time than you think, so add an extra 30 minutes to your getting-dressed schedule. Save the accessories for last to avoid getting your veil caught on your frock or hairspray on your earrings, Wight notes. Bridesmaids should get dressed first so that they aren’t in strapless bras and jeans for those getting-in-the-gown shots. The menfolk should also allow plenty of time to properly tie their neckwear, navigate cuff links, or iron wayward wrinkles in a shirt or suit.

Final hour 

And away we go—well, almost…. If you’re not already at the venue, make sure your limo, Bentley, or buddy’s cargo bike makes it there with time to spare. Already on-site? Guarantee no iPhone-wielding guest gets in the way of your photographer capturing the moment you lock eyes on each other with a first look. Staging the big reveal prior to actually getting hitched also helps couples be in the moment and better remember the whirlwind that is their wedding, says Bend photographer Byron Roe. “And it can make them less nervous, so that they don’t look like deer-in-headlights during the ceremony itself.” Fit in your formal group pictures as well, so that everyone can thoroughly enjoy the post–I do appetizers and signature drinks. Speaking of cocktail hour, get guests in a festive mood by hosting one prior to the ceremony. (Tip for nontraditionalists: have more face-time with friends from afar by joining in!) Serve minted water and iced tea, Oregon microbrews or bubbly, and gourmet snack foods. Hire a jazz trio, get the photo booth going, or set out couple-themed mad libs to loosen guests up. “But save the lawn games for the reception, when there’s enough time to really get into them,” says Perfect Planning’s Jennifer Fox. As the final minutes wind down, make that last bathroom visit, down a tequila shot if you need it, and get thee to the altar. “That last moment before walking down the aisle felt a lot like how I used to feel when stepping up to the starting line of a race—my adrenaline was through the roof!” Peterson says. “I loved having my dad to hold on to and help me relax.”

Insider Additions

Anna Larsson and Spenser Halvorsen

Real brides’ been-there, done-that tips:

“After the wedding we headed back to the Heathman in a Rolls- Royce from Best Car in Town. Turns out our amazing coordinator, Geranium Lake Flowers’ Kim Foren, had packed us a box of sandwiches, cheese, crackers, fruit, and wedding cake that our driver gave us when we arrived. We suddenly realized how hungry we were, and really enjoyed the time eating and talking about the day. I now encourage everyone to have late-night snacks ready.”—Anna Larsson

“Looking back, we should have given ourselves a little more wiggle room in the day-of schedule. Somehow we ended up over an hour behind, which cut into one of the most important parts of the entire experience for me, our photos. Luckily, our photographer was able to keep us relaxed, and our pictures turned out great, but I would have loved more time for family shots rather than hiding from arriving guests.”—Lisette Peterson

“The only thing I would have done differently is clearly communicate the details of the wedding styling to more people. Since I was the only one who knew my elaborate vision for the flowers, tablescaping, etc., I was fielding all the styling questions, which got a little overwhelming. Thankfully, the moment I started looking frazzled my awesome bridesmaids took charge of the setup and fed me much-needed snacks and Champagne!”—Stephanie Rhoades