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Managing Wedding Day Stress: Strategies for Staying Calm

Instead of tips on perfecting your photography, today we’re going to talk about managing wedding day stress.

Stress is often the culprit for poor photography; a bad day can quickly lead to bad photos.

As a wedding photographer, you’re under a lot of pressure to nail the photography because you only get one chance to tell the story of each couple.

After over 13 years of the ups and downs of wedding days, I’ve learned that my stress management skills are as important as knowing which camera settings to use.

In this guide, I’ll talk through common wedding day stressors.

Then, I’ll discuss how to combat them both ahead of time and on the day itself.

I’ll wrap it up by talking about how you can learn from past weddings and strengthen your support network and mindset.

Regardless of your biggest wedding photography stresses, these strategies will help you stay calm and focused so that you can stay creative.

Common Wedding Day Stressors

Most of us have met a photographer (or several) who refuses to photograph weddings because they’re too stressful.

Weddings are fast-paced, emotionally charged, and photographically diverse.

You have to shoot all day in crazy conditions with intense people breathing down your neck.

And you only get one shot to capture that first kiss, ring exchange, or first dance.

As you read through these common wedding day stressors, make a note of which ones bother you the most.

By the end of this article, you should have some ways to not only cope but to take the challenge and use it to improve.

Let’s talk through the people, the expectations, the long days, and all the things that can go wrong.

The People

It can be stressful to meet the high expectations of demanding clients who only have one shot at incredible wedding photos.

For some photographers, the pressure on our performance can feel like a lot.

We don’t get to have a bad day.

Sometimes the couple, their families, the bridesmaids, the groomsmen, or the guests are a source of stress because they are uncooperative, demanding, or unrealistic.

Other times it’s the venue staff or other vendors that for some reason aren’t acting like we’re all on the same team.

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Dealing with people is a big part of being a wedding photographer, so you’ll want to have a plan.

We’ll talk more in the coming sections about ways to find the right clients and communicate so that everything goes smoothly even during stressful parts of the day.

The Expectations

A woman in a wedding dress and a man in a suit, both smiling, are outdoors in a lush, green, mountainous setting. The man is wearing dark sunglasses.

Another common wedding day stressor is expectations both from our clients and ourselves.

Client satisfaction is very important to most wedding photographers.

Part of why we shoot weddings is that we love making people happy, but that means we put pressure on ourselves to do exactly that.

It might be the client who is too demanding and unrealistic, or it might be you.

We’ll want to learn how to handle both variations of intense expectations.

Some people use expectations as fuel, while for others, it can be paralyzing.

You might need to redefine expectations, set boundaries, or work on a mindset shift to battle this wedding stressor.

Long Days and Expensive Gear

Sony Alpha camera body with lens mount exposed, placed on a wooden surface, flanked by two camera lenses on either side.

Gear malfunctions or even feeling slightly under the weather can also throw us off our game, especially if we’re working for 8-12 hours straight.

In the next sections, we’ll talk through some ways to plan for this or deal with things when they happen.

Shooting all day, something is bound to go wrong, which is why we have backup gear and backup plans.

It’s also why we need to think about basic things like eating and drinking.

Imagine being on your feet all day with camera gear in tow and then contorting yourself into crazy body positions.

On top of that, the camera gear required for a wedding can get expensive, so if you drop a lens you’re in trouble.

You also potentially need a lot of gear to be able to cope with a wide variety of lighting conditions.

You might have light modifiers or lighting setups for bounce light and off-camera flash.

Are there other wedding day stresses that you can think of?

What worries you the most?

Let’s dive into some strategies for dealing with wedding day stress and see if we can figure out how to stay calm and focused.

Strategies for Stress Before the Wedding Day

A wedding ceremony takes place outdoors with the bride and groom standing under a wooden arch, surrounded by bridesmaids in maroon dresses and groomsmen in black suits.

In this section, we’ll talk about booking the right clients from the outset.

Then, we’ll walk through some ways that we can prepare for the wedding, thus reducing stress.

And finally, we’ll address communication and visualization.

Each of these sections will help address the wedding day stressors we talked about above.

It might be helpful to keep your specific challenge in mind and see if you can apply the strategy to your situation.

Booking the right clients will help with the people stressor, but it will also help with the expensive gear situation if you book clients who pay sufficiently to run your business.

When it comes to preparing for the wedding day, you can make specific plans based on your challenges whether that’s crazy expectations or getting tired after shooting for 8 hours.

Book the Right Clients


Before you even book a wedding, you can reduce potential wedding day stress by ensuring that you’re booking the right clients.

With proper branding, package structure, and communication with potential clients, you can find the couples that will be the right fit for you.

Not every client is a good client.

You want couples that love your style of photography as well as your personality style.

That way, they get what they’re expecting on the wedding day and it leads to more satisfied customers.

Preparing for the Wedding Day

Once you’ve booked the right clients, your thorough preparation begins.

In the beginning, it will seem like a lot, but the more you shoot, the more comfortable you will become with various aspects of a wedding day.

For example, having a good timeline is crucial.

There are a ton of sample timelines out there, but you’ll want to create a timeline that works best for your photography style and the couple’s vision for the wedding day.

This might include a first look, a long getting ready session, or transition time between events so you can set up lighting or photograph golden hour.

You’ll also want to think about all the wedding photos you’re going to need to document.

I call shots lists creativity killers and generally don’t like when there are specific shots I have to get because it puts so much pressure on them.

However, some people love knowing what they need to capture and this can be helpful if you’re new to weddings.

You’ll definitely want a shot list for family photos so you can be efficient.

Family photos are one of the most stressful times for me because of managing all the people.

Having a list and even someone to help identify family members can greatly reduce stress.

Communication and Visualization

Communication with the couple is key: you want to make sure you know their expectations and that they know how you work.

This is one of the reasons we always do an engagement shoot – it’s a great way to get to know couples ahead of time.

It also makes the wedding day less stressful because they know us and are comfortable with us.

Communication with other vendors might also be important especially if there is a complex wedding day schedule.

You’ll want to make sure you communicate your needs for successful wedding photography.

Lastly, once you’ve done your preparation and planned for success, it’s time to visualize success.

Strategies for Managing Stress During the Wedding Day

A group of people, including a bride in a white wedding dress, stand in line outside under string lights at night, waiting to board a blue bus.

Now, once the wedding day has arrived and you’ve prepared for everything you can, the real work begins.

In this section, I’m going to talk about the importance of taking care of your body.

Then, we’ll address taking care of your mind so that you can stay positive and professional.

This is important if you want to avoid wedding day stress and also overall wedding photographer burnout.

Taking Care of Your Body

You’ll want to think about your nutrition, hydration, and sleep leading up to and during the event.

It can be a long day with poorly timed breaks, so you’ll want to make sure you can keep your energy levels up.

Good posture is also key so that you don’t start hurting too early.

I’m also a big fan of comfortable shoes despite any fashion complaints.

A wedding season with an ankle strain is no fun.

Then, when the stress hits, have some breathing exercises or meditations you can do.

I find that it’s worth it to step away and even close my eyes for a minute to recalibrate.

Pushing through is not always the best way to stay focused.

Sometimes you need to decompress, walk away, and then refocus.

After a few weddings, you’ll identify times that you can do this.

For example, I always like to take a minute before the ceremony because I know I won’t have a minute during the ceremony.

You might even write personal notes to yourself on your timeline as to when you’re going to drink water or eat a quick protein bar.

This will help you stay organized and on schedule, which will help reduce stress.

Staying Positive and Professional

Doing the above will also help you maintain positivity and professionalism. Save your negative comments for sharing with your spouse when you get home.

Don’t share them at the wedding. Write them down if you have to, but stay professional.

Be ready to adapt to unexpected situations. In fact, expect unexpected situations.

We always have a timeline but make sure we’re not married to it.

And on the note of expectations, manage yours.

Keep the big picture in mind.

It’s easy to get caught up in taking epic photos and put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

Your couples don’t need perfection in every photo; they just need you to capture the things that are most important to them.

Obviously, push yourself, but not so far that stress stifles your creativity.

Learning From Past Weddings

A wedding reception takes place under a white tent illuminated with string lights at dusk, surrounded by trees and a dark blue sky, with a couple dancing in the center.

On the note of pushing yourself, it’s good to look back and learn from past weddings.

Look back at weddings that were really hard and remind yourself that you still delivered an incredible gallery of images to your clients.

We shoot thousands of photos and only deliver hundreds, so it’s ok if the thousands aren’t perfect.

It will help future wedding day stress if you remember to celebrate achievements as you go.

Make notes of hard things that you survived.

Reflect on challenges and make a plan for the next time something similar happens.

Be willing to learn and grow from each wedding.

Mindset and Support

Lastly, having a support system is crucial. Wedding photography is a weird career and your friends might not understand what you’re going through.

It can be really helpful to build a community of wedding photographers or even just creative entrepreneurs who will help encourage you.

Even if you typically shoot a wedding by yourself, it can be nice to work with second shooters and videographers for camaraderie.

This is also when you can unload the negative thoughts that you kept to yourself on the wedding day.

Be professional on the wedding day but then have someone to decompress with.

This might even be a professional counselor to help you manage your stress or reactions.

In addition to building community, think about building a resilient mindset.

While some people say they would never shoot weddings because they’re too stressful, you could be someone who says that you love weddings because they are challenging.

The challenges make us stronger photographers.

Shooting weddings makes us resilient and ready to shoot just about anything.

Summary of Managing Wedding Day Stress

In summary, it’s important to manage wedding day stress so that you can be calm and focused.

Your photography and creativity will benefit from both self-care and resilience.

Being flexible and adaptable while also having a solid plan will set you up for success.

To manage wedding day stress, you’ll first want to identify what your main stressors are.

Knowing where you might run into problems will help you prepare for and combat them.

From there, you can have numerous personalized strategies to reduce stress, whether you need to focus on preparing ahead of time or taking care of yourself on the wedding day.

Finally, it’s helpful to have support and control your mindset around weddings.

I still have high expectations of myself and weddings are always a little crazy with the unexpected being inevitable.

But now I stress a lot less because I’ve developed coping strategies that help me be at my best and most creative on the wedding day.

Cheers to an intense wedding season – may it be full of crazy expectations and people, but free of stress.

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