Weddings are a whirlwind of emotions, festivity, and unforgettable moments. From exchanging heartfelt vows to grooving on the dance floor with loved ones, you’ll create memories to cherish forever. And as the celebration winds down and you officially step into married life, it’s easy to rush into what’s next — be it your honeymoon suite or an intimate after-party.
But before bidding adieu to your wedding venue, you’ll want to make sure not to leave anything behind. Don’t let the post-wedding haze cloud your memory — here’s a list of often-forgotten items to pack up and bring home at the end of your big day/
Your marriage license
Of all the wedding day items, your marriage license is paramount. While forgetting decor might mean missing out on sentimental pieces for your home, losing your marriage license could stand in the way of your legal union. And since many municipalities have strict guidelines, you may not have time to hunt it down in the aftermath of your big day.
“You will have a short period after the ceremony is performed to send in the marriage license, so it is imperative to have this in hand immediately after your wedding,” explains Katy Padilla of Scarlet Rose Events.
Of course, paperwork is probably the last thing on your mind when surrounded by loved ones at the reception! So instead of stuffing your license in the nearest box, Wedding Venue Map’s Shannon Tarrant encourages couples to “have one person assigned to be responsible for it, as well as a designated place for it to be kept.”
On that note, Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings adds a reminder to take “wallets, IDs, contracts, and ANY documents that you had for your day.” You certainly don’t want to arrive at your honeymoon destination to find your credit card missing! Consider having a go bag in the getting-ready suite to store your belongings for easy access.
A tray of leftovers
Amidst the excitement of a wedding day, it’s common for newlyweds to head home hungry. Between greeting guests and giving toasts, there isn’t much time to sit down and eat a proper meal (if your nerves will even let you!). But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the menu you worked so hard to create with your caterer!
“Ask your caterer to prepare a to-go box for you,” recommends Lilia Shatnaya of Plume and Stone Invitation Studio. “You can put your feet up, rehash the events of the day with your new husband or wife, and eat all the delicious food.”
Place a request with your caterer beforehand so they can set aside extra portions for you and your partner to enjoy after the wedding. If your wedding is in a hotel where you plan to stay, you may even have the leftovers sent directly to your room. Either way, you won’t have to worry about sneaking out for late-night munchies!
The rest of your cake
Most of the time, your caterer will set aside a portion of your wedding cake for you to enjoy later — typically the top layer if your cake is tiered. “It is an old tradition to have a slice of your wedding cake to celebrate your first anniversary,” explains Joan Wyndrum of Blooms by the Box.
To preserve your leftover cake, ask your caterer to wrap it up and have someone transport it back to your home. For the best quality, place it in the freezer promptly. Depending on the style of the cake, it should remain perfectly edible (and delicious) when thawed out a year later.
Don’t love the idea of year-old cake? “Serve the extra cake at a post-wedding celebration or a farewell brunch,” suggests Ian Ramirez of Madera Estates.
Or, “just eat it the day or the week after while it is still yummy,” offers Janice Carnevale of Bellwether Events. Pair it with your morning coffee or save it for a late-night dessert — there is never a wrong time to indulge in some leftover cake!
Gifts and cards
As guests arrive, they’re typically directed to drop off gifts and cards at a designated table near the entrance. However, it’s common to move the table when transitioning between the ceremony and reception, which can make it easy to forget after a long day of dancing and drinking.
The Garter Girl’s Julianne Smith offers a reminder to “collect all of the gifts and cards from your gift table.” But before doing so, she recommends taking a picture of the gift table. “This way, when you get home, you’ll have a record of everything that was on the table.”
If you don’t want to worry about keeping track of cards or stowing gifts in the car, Ramirez suggests having a trusted person take over. “Assign someone you trust to help collect and organize these items during the wedding,” he urges. “It’s best to have these items safeguarded and protected in a locked room.”
Ask a set of parents or a close friend to hold onto the cards and gifts until you can settle. It’s not uncommon for couples to open gifts after the honeymoon. Proper etiquette provides a three-month grace period for thank-you cards, so don’t feel obligated to address your wedding gifts immediately!
The guest book
If you plan to have a traditional wedding guest book, assign someone to collect it at the night’s end. Guest books are one of the most commonly forgotten items, which is a shame, given the thought and love your guests will pour into their messages.
“It’s a place where your guests have signed in and often expressed heartfelt wishes for your marriage,” says Vijay Goel of Bite Catering Couture. “You’ll want to make sure you grab the book so you get a chance to read them. It can be a great activity immediately after your wedding or something to warm your heart as you write your thank you cards.”
The same goes for non-traditional guest books. Guest books have been reimagined in many ways: wall canvases, Polaroids, Jenga sets, and even audio recordings. However you choose to collect your guests’ signatures, be sure there is a plan to retrieve it!
While fresh flowers may not live forever, there are plenty of ways to preserve your blooms as a wedding day keepsake — but only if you remember to collect them at the end of the celebration.
“The bridal bouquet shouldn’t go to waste,” assures Kelley Nudo of Momental Designs. “However, you want to have a plan in place for the preservation since the window of time is very short before the flowers can not be salvaged.”
Focus on the Moment Photography’s Elena Gera offers some ideas: “Consider options such as having a dedicated photographer disassemble it and create a stunning canvas print, which can become a beautiful piece of decor in your living space. Alternatively, you could encapsulate it in resin to make a lasting paperweight.”
Book floral preservation services at least one month before the wedding. That way, you’ll know exactly where (and when) to take your floral arrangements before they start drooping.
Smith also notes that “floral arrangements can help brighten your home or can sometimes be donated to nearby retirement communities to brighten their communal spaces.” So, if you don’t care to preserve your wedding flowers, you can still put them to good use after your big day.
All other personal items
Every wedding is different, so you’ll likely have an assortment of decor pieces in addition to the items listed above. Many of these can serve as sentimental reminders of your big day — don’t let them get thrown away!
“Don’t forget your personal wedding decor — especially keepsakes,” reminds Brandon Alley of Bunn DJ Company. “Those precious photos for your memory table are irreplaceable.”
Christina Lovelace of Lovelace Design also cautions against forgetting ceremony ritual items, like unity candles, tea ceremony sets, or decorative ketubahs. “Your jumping broom, ceremony rope, or chuppah-breaking glass are all examples of pieces that play a very special role in your big day, so you want to be sure you don’t leave them behind,” she says.
Sentimentality aside, it’s possible you’re also on the hook for some rentals. “There are the DIY items you created or purchased, but there might also be rented items that you have to return,” says Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events. “Making sure you collect those and take them home with you will be important so you can either return them or keep them for your own use.”
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to account for all of your attire! Believe it or not, accessories like veils, ties, suit jackets, shawls, and shoes are some of the items most often left behind.
It might seem like a lot to remember on an already busy day. But with proper planning, you can feel confident that you and your wedding party leave with everything you brought. “Having a list ready with items to take to your wedding and items to pack at the end of the evening is the best way to ensure you don’t leave behind something precious,” Lovelace assures.
For a stress-free celebration, designate someone to do a final sweep and pack up your belongings at the end of the night. It doesn’t need to be a friend or family member (who may feel just as tired as you!).
So whether you lean on a trusted professional or stay back to pack up yourself, keep this list of items close to ensure you don’t overlook any important wedding day treasures!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusias