You have never been quite so prepared for anything in your life. It's been months of wonderful and painstaking planning. You've attended to all the details, big and small. But in the final few hours before you walk down the aisle, there is still much to be done to get you feeling and looking your best. It begins even before you open your eyes. Sleeping well the night before your wedding is essential. Not only will a good rest leave you refreshed, it'll help you look your most beautiful. That's not to say you need to get more sleep than normal -- doing so may make you feel groggy. According to the National Sleep Foundation in Washington, D.C., you will sleep more soundly and wake up with more energy by sticking to your usual sleep schedule.
Sleep will also come easier if you are mindful of your behavior that evening. Take only a few sips of wine or Champagne when it's time to toast at the rehearsal dinner. Too much alcohol can disrupt sleep, as can caffeine, so steer clear of coffee, tea, and chocolate, too. Instead drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated and your complexion glowing, says Rosemarie Ingleton, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. If it's getting late, feel free to leave; everyone will understand. Once home, remove your makeup with your regular cleanser. Don't use new soaps, toners, or masks. Your skin could become inflamed, or you could have an allergic reaction or unknowingly aggravate an underlying skin condition. (In fact, avoid any new products or procedures, such as facials, in the two weeks before the wedding.)
When you wake up, be sure to eat a good breakfast. If you forget to eat, you could feel lethargic; plus, eating early will give the food a chance to settle. If jitters are curbing your appetite, try something light, such as toast, a muffin, or a scone with jam. And have protein-rich snacks -- nuts or yogurt -- to eat during the day.
Next, it's time for a shower or bath. Ask your hair stylist if you should shampoo the night before or the day of -- the answer will depend on your hair type and style. Allow yourself extra time to soak, and use your favorite scented bath oils, salts, gels, or soaps. Lavender, chamomile, orange, and grapefruit will help you relax; peppermint, rosemary, and cloves will boost your energy.
It's best to do all styling and primping before you slip into your dress, except final touches like lipstick. Wear a button-down shirt so you won't ruin your hairstyle or makeup pulling a T-shirt over your head when it is time to get into your wedding attire. Be sure to bring your headpiece with you if the stylist will need to work it into your hair; also bring any makeup of your own you'll be using. Arrange to have a manicure and pedicure the day before so you don't have to worry about wet nails.
Plan to start getting ready about two hours before the ceremony, earlier if you're taking formal photographs first. You might want to ask your photographer to take some pictures as you are dressing (once you're ready to be seen, of course). Put your shoes on before your gown -- it can be cumbersome to find your feet in a bevy of frills and layers, and it will be easier to fasten and adjust your gown if it is draped the right distance from the floor. Keep your dress hanging with the bodice stuffing in place and covered with a white sheet until the moment you're ready to put it on. Press any wrinkles with a cool, dry iron using a white pressing cloth; you should only use a steamer for a gown that is made of tulle.
If you dress at home, minimize wrinkles during the ride to the ceremony by carefully lifting your dress as you step into the car, holding it out by the side seams so any wrinkles will get lost in the skirt as it falls back into place. In the car, gently push as much fabric as possible to the side so you sit only on the smallest area necessary. Sheaths or straight dresses should be smoothed down before and after you sit to minimize wrinkles. If you will dress at the ceremony site, carry your gown (with bodice stuffing intact) covered in plastic and placed inside a garment bag -- the plastic should be used only for transporting; if left on long-term it can cause fabric to yellow. Fasten the hanger to the hook above the car's back door, and spread the gown out along the back seat.
Have an emergency kit on hand for any snafus -- include aspirin, needle and thread, safety pins, double-sided tape, glue, scissors, extra hosiery, and nail polish. Once you're dressed, drink only water -- other beverages could stain -- and use a straw to limit spills. Cover your dress with a towel or sheet to finish your makeup. Finally, look in the mirror to be sure everything is in place. Then take a deep breath, and make your first step toward the most wonderful moment of your life.
From Martha Stewart Weddings, Fall 2004