Tips for Staying Present on Your Wedding Day

All you have to do is focus on the five senses.

A bride and groom laughing while staying present on their wedding day.

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

From the marriage proposal to milestone anniversaries, there are many moments in a romantic relationship that will hold special significance for years to come. Chief among them, of course, is your wedding day. “This is one of the most important days of your life, and you want to be able to create memories that you’re going to be able to recall later,” says life coach Catherine Andrews.  “Mindfulness can absolutely help you do that.”

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment without judgment or evaluation. “It’s being able to notice all that is happening without meaning-making,” says Andrews. While it can be an easier-said-than-done approach, especially for over-thinkers, there are certain tips and techniques you can employ to practice mindfulness, and thereby be more present, on your wedding day. Read on for Andrew’s best strategies for staying in the moment, as well as a wedding-specific perspective from wedding planner Maria Barrale of Vida Events.

Meet the Expert

  • Catherine Andrews is a life coach whose work centers around female empowerment. She writes and hosts The Sunday Soother, a newsletter and podcast on mindfulness and intentional living. 
  • Maria Barrale is the owner and lead planner of Vida Events.

Meditate Ahead of Time 

Getting into a more present mindset on your wedding day involves prep work, and guided meditation is like a well-paved road to that destination. Ahead of the celebration, Andrews recommends seeking out “love and kindness” meditations on the app Insight Timer.  “They bring you back to your heart center, and will remind you to have compassion,” she says. By helping you expand the bubble of love in your heart to those around you, these meditations will help you come into your wedding day with a profound appreciation for all involved, including yourself and your partner. This is crucial for quickly assuaging annoyances that could distract from your experience. 

Start With a Scent 

Scent is one of the best ways to ground yourself in a moment and connect to other memories, so let it work to your advantage in the wedding planning process. “Choose a perfume or an essential oil and wear it during moments of calm ahead of the wedding,” suggests Andrews. “Then, bring it out during the wedding to bring yourself back to that sense of calm.” You can also achieve the same effect by lighting a candle or burning incense.

Engage Your Five Senses 

Starting while you’re getting ready and then at regular intervals throughout your wedding day, ground yourself in reality by focusing on immediate sensations. Andrews' favorite way to do this is the five senses grounding technique. In this technique, you focus on:

  • Five things you can see
  • Four things you can touch 
  • Three things you can hear 
  • Two things you can smell 
  • One thing you can taste

“So much of mindfulness is coming back to the physical rather than letting the mind run away with itself,” says Andrews of the tactic, which she also suggests practicing ahead of your wedding day so it will come more naturally when you most need it. 

Make a List of Priorities 

With so many moving parts happening at once, it’s inevitable that things won’t always go exactly according to plan on your wedding day. Sweating the small stuff can be a major distraction from staying present, so Andrews recommends getting ahead of this by coming into the day with a few birds-eye-view bullet points of non-negotiables for the experience. “Make a list of three to five things that are really important, one of them being that you end up married,” she says. “Everything else is just gravy.”

Rank Smaller Annoyances 

As smaller issues come up throughout the day (a groomsman forgot his tie, the tea lights are white instead of ecru), assign a numerical value to how worthy of your attention they are. “If something is irritating you, but on a scale of one to ten it’s under five, make a conscious decision to let it go,” says Andrews. “If it’s a six, seven, or eight, speak up.”

Trust Your Wedding Planner 

On your wedding day, it can be easy to hyper-fixate on solving small problems in order to regain some feeling of control. Remember: If you’re working with a wedding planner, that is their responsibility, not yours—so let go of the job. “Instead of the DJ asking where their table should go or the caterer making you track down the guest with the dietary restriction, they’ll be contacting your planner,” Barrale explains. “Your planner will make professional decisions on your behalf and will help a lot of the small issues go unnoticed by you or your guests.” This frees you up to focus on enjoying every moment.

Repeat a Mantra 

Whenever a moment feels too overwhelming, simplify your experience within it. As you massage the acupressure point between your thumb and first finger—which can help you calm down—repeat an affirming mantra in your head. It can be as simple as the word “relax,” but Andrews prefers
“I choose to be present to the love that surrounds me.”  

“Reminding yourself that you have personal agency during something that can be as chaotic as your wedding day confirms that you have the ability to choose your reactions,” says Andrews. By guiding yourself back to feeling in control, you’ll be able to better experience the day.

Savor the Ceremony

Your ceremony is the formal beginning of your wedding day, and, for couples who opted not to do a first look, the first time you’ll be coming together as a duo. (In other words: a huge deal!) Before you head down the aisle, use the 4-7-8 breathing technique—inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold the breath for seven, then release through your mouth for eight—to steel your nerves, calm your thoughts, and prepare your mind to focus on what’s ahead. Then, redirect that energy towards all the little details—”the look on your spouse's face as they recite their vows, the feeling of walking away as newlyweds,” Barrale offers as examples—so you can stay fully in the moment.

Write Out the Memories

“A few days after your wedding, write a letter to yourself about the highlights—that funny line from your maid of honor’s speech, how the cake tasted, the way your partner looked at you,” suggests Andrews. Then, use the website Futureme to schedule it to be sent to your inbox on a significant date down the road, such as your first anniversary. “You’ll have a fresh memory from right after the wedding that will help you retain the experience,” Andrews adds.

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