When it was her turn to walk down the aisle, Alison Hotchkiss—now Alison Rinderknecht—knew a thing or two about pulling off a celebration sans worry. After all, she has been organizing nuptial fêtes for 15 years. How did she keep her cool? Here, her expert—and now personally tested—advice.
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1. Don't Become a Health Nut

You want to look your very best on your big day, but don't starve yourself to do so. "You are more likely to gain weight right after you get married if you do this," Rinderknecht cautions. Instead, eat a healthy, balanced diet and focus on being happy.

2. Get Married on a Weekday

If you're looking to ease the strain of a budget, Rinderknecht advises that hotels are often willing to discount rooms booked in the middle of the week. Choosing off-peak months works, too. "We chose a Thursday in February," she explains. "No one gets married in February in San Francisco then because it rains. Luckily, it didn't rain for the two hours we were outside for our ceremony, but then it poured! I knew it could rain and I was totally fine with it."

3. Find Your Zen

Doing something relaxing like yoga or a hike with your girlfriends the morning of the wedding is a good way to get focused and present. "I did yoga at the local studio with my girlfriends and sister, and it was so nice to have time with them," Rinderknecht says. "We then had coffee and sat and talked for a while."

4. Don't Let Drama Get to You

"There is alway going to be some family drama, whether it be your siblings' relationship with their children (children not behaving) or your parents bickering over what conveniences they are used to or don't have access to, like cable TV or butter versus olive oil served with their bread," she says. Her advice? Roll with it. "Your family is who they are, and you can't change them. All you can do is try to make them as comfortable as possible and smile through it."

5. Get Dressed With Your Fiancé

It's a different approach, but Rinderknecht advocates getting ready for the wedding as a couple. "I am a big fan of seeing each other before, as you can still have a special moment when you see each other for the first time," she says. "It also allows you to enjoy your cocktail hour and not be so nervous during the ceremony. Markus and I got dressed together and it was so fun to take out time doing that and kiss in between."

6. Say "Cheers" Before Walking Down the Aisle

Having a glass of wine or bubbly can help calm the nerves. "Just don't have too much, and also remember to drink some water and eat something!" she cautions. "I actually had some scotch with my fiancé and his best man as we were taking photos. It was so fun and it chilled me out."

7. Don't Sweat Enjoying the Dress

"Your dress will get dirty, so just wear it," she says. "You're never wearing it again, so don't waste the energy worrying if you can preserve it or not. I did have my dress cleaned and I am glad I did that, but it's funny: It cost more than the actual dress to clean!"

8. Turn Your Phone Off

Snapping your wedding or providing directions for out-of-towners should not be on your list of to-dos. Be in the moment. After all, you're surrounded by loved ones. "I took one selfie the wedding day and I will say it's my favorite photo, but after I took that photo preceremony, I put my phone away and didn't look at it again until the next day," she says.

9. Hire a Videographer

Or at least have someone document your vows at the ceremony, and preferably a professional. That way, you can breathe easy knowing that the big day is being captured. "One thing I really was so happy to have was our vows recorded," she says. "Even a couple months after we got married, we would listen to them to remind ourselves of how we feel about each other. We hired my friend Julie's assistant from Elysium Productions, and I absolutely love the highlight video she made for us."

10. Write Your Own Vows

It was ten years ago when Rinderknecht first heard a couple exchange original vows. "They were beautiful and so sincere, and everyone in the ballroom, including the waiters, was crying," she remembers, adding it brings a fun and personalized touch to the ceremony.

11. Let It Go, and Let Loose!

When things go wrong, keep moving and continuing to have a good time. "In my years of doing weddings, I have seen it all," Rinderknecht says. "As a bride, I knew there would be stuff behind-the-scenes that would happen, so I told Susie, my employee who managed the day, to just make decisions for me. It was great; I trusted her, and I was stress-free."

One moment Rinderknecht and her husband had to laugh off? When the band played the wrong first song. They had rehearsed a special dance to one tune, but accidentally gave the band the incorrect name. "When it came on, we were so confused," she says. "We realized we had no choreographed moves, so we just did our best."

12. Give Thanks

Be grateful to everyone who works on your wedding, from the bellman to the waitstaff to the assistants of your florist. "Everyone will work their butt off that day," she explains. "A thank-you goes a long way."

Alison Rinderknecht is the owner and creative director of Alison Events Planning and Design, based in San Francisco, California. She is also the author of two books: Destination Weddings: The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding From Afar and All The Essentials Wedding Planner. Alison and Markus live in San Francisco with their two cats, Miso and Tofu, and are expecting their first child in March 2015.

See Alison and Markus’s Rainy-Day California Wedding


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