Sick on Your Wedding Day? Here's What to Do

SOS—you've woken up to a horrible cold or period cramps on your wedding day. The show (likely) must go on, so here's what to do to make it work.
Sick in bed
emily cieslak the knot wedding fashion expert
by Emily Cieslak
emily cieslak the knot wedding fashion expert
Emily Cieslak
Wedding Fashion Expert
  • Emily Cieslak is a Women’s Fashion E-commerce Specialist for Walmart.
  • Emily is a highly organized content creator specializing in fashion and e-commerce.
  • Emily was a Digital Editorial Intern with The Knot during the summer of 2018.
Updated Sep 09, 2020

Even if you've taken every step to make sure your wedding is absolutely perfect, some things are just out of your control—Mother Nature has a way of gifting us with a blemish or fever at the worst moment. Does waking up sick mean you have to redo your wedding day timeline? Not so fast. We consulted various health experts for their top tricks to stop an ailment in its tracks—or at least long enough for you to say "I do."

Their biggest piece of advice overall? Keep yourself hydrated and fueled with food. While it's tempting to skip meals because you're nervous, Amy Gannon, MEd, RD, LD and department manager of eCoaching at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, says this will only lead to an energy crash and a hunger spike. But don't depend on wedding cake and signature cocktails alone for fuel—anything sugary, salty or greasy will only increase inflammation and bloating, so stick to simple, clean sources of energy. And look to these doctor-approved remedies for any of the below maladies to power through your day.


With all the potential stress and travel surrounding your wedding, there's the chance a dreaded pimple could pop up on your day. That's why Audrey Kunin, MD, dermatologist and founder of DERMAdoctor, recommends creating an emergency kit just in case. First, ice the breakout to shrink it, then apply a drying spot treatment. One-percent hydrocortisone cream can further reduce inflammation if you apply it after removing the spot treatment. Given the time and resources, a quick trip to the dermatologist for a cortisone shot can rapidly shrink an inflamed blemish. As for cover up, green concealer will be a lifesaver to hide redness.

Sprained Ankle

Whether you were taking a wedding day jog to ease your nerves or breaking in a pair of heels for the reception, a sprained ankle can happen to the best of us. Unfortunately, there's no quick fix. Shireen Khan, MD, an emergency doctor in Philadelphia, recommends resting, keeping the foot elevated, applying ice and using an anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen. For extra support, buy an elastic bandage from your local pharmacy and just slip it off for photos. You may have to ditch the heels you were breaking in, but flats or even going barefoot can be just as chic. And certainly take as many opportunities as you can to rest before the actual wedding. Leave all those last-minute details to your day-of point person.

Pink Eye

Smudging your eyeliner was your worst worry, but now you have pink eye. Your doctor will probably prescribe an antibiotic, but in a pinch, buy an over-the-counter eye drop—Khan likes Systane—for comfort. "This happened to my friend who's a pediatrician and works with sick kids for a living," Khan says. "You can always have your photographer tweak your photos like my friend did. Most of your guests won't even notice from far away."


Don't let something as common as a cold get in the way of your special day. While you can't make the sniffles disappear instantly, there are ways to treat your symptoms and feel good enough to dance the night away. Khan's favorite combination is pseudoephedrine (just ask your pharmacist to get you Sudafed from behind the counter) and oxymetazoline nasal spray (Afrin). (Always talk to your doctor about taking these medications if you have high blood pressure or heart problems.)

In terms of diet, Gannon stresses hydration. Water is always a great choice, but you can go for coconut water or Pedialyte if you're feeling extra parched. (Gannon says Gatorade is too sugary for your needs). Have some fruit on hand? Try your own hydration recipe. Summer Sanders, a certified raw food chef and author of Strong + Radiant, goes for a blend of natural antibiotics of papaya, turmeric, ginger, coconut water and raw honey.

No Voice or Coughing

We know your wedding might have you feeling extra chatty. But if your voice is already waning or you're battling a bad cough, try to rest your vocals as much as possible before your "I dos." Start the morning with a saltwater gargle using 1 tablespoon of salt dissolved in eight ounces of water. Drinking ginger tea with honey can also soothe your throat. If you want to try medication, Khan suggests Benzonatate for the cough (Tessalon Perles) and/or guaifenesin for mucus (Mucinex). Just don't use any combination medications that can make you sleepy.

Flu or Fever

The best defense for the flu is a good offense: proper prewedding self care to ensure you're healthy. "If you wake up with the flu on your wedding, I am truly sorry—it's a terrible illness that makes you feel absolutely awful," Khan says. You can't treat the flu with antibiotics, and medications may decrease its length by a few hours—not helpful on your actual wedding day. Your best bet is to alternate between acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) to keep the fever down. For food, Gannon recommends the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. These foods have nutritional value, but are easy on the stomach, not to mention likely on hand at home or in a hotel. Chicken soup is another comforting meal to warm you up and sneak some protein and veggies into your system.

Stomach Virus or Nausea

An upset stomach doesn't mean you have to lock yourself in the bathroom all day. Khan says Ondansetron (also known as Zofran) does wonders for nausea. Just have your doctor call it in to your local pharmacy. If you have essential oils on hand, Sanders recommends rubbing fennel and peppermint oils on your head and neck to combat queasiness. In the case of serious bathroom issues, Khan recommends Loperamide, which you can get over the counter. And sip ginger or peppermint tea if you can throughout the day to keep butterflies at bay.

Period Cramps

Did Aunt Flo decide to show up at your wedding without an invite? No fear. Treat yourself to some dark chocolate and seeds like pumpkin and chia—the magnesium helps relieve cramps, according to Gannon. Plus, when doesn't chocolate make you feel better? Avoid foods high in sodium or fiber as well as carbonated drinks since they can increase bloating. Cramps can also be treated with physical methods like rubbing your stomach (Sanders uses clary sage and cypress essential oils on the lower abdomen) and applying heat (you can easily use a warm water bottle or pick up a gentle heating pad at your local pharmacy). Of course, trusty painkillers like ibuprofen or Midol are safe bets too.


Had a little too much fun at last night's rehearsal dinner? Tame a trembling headache with ibuprofen or Tylenol and start chugging—water or juice that is—to rehydrate. Eating fruits high in water content, like melons, can also help. Feeling extra ambitious? Sanders swears by drinking pure celery juice on an empty stomach. "This will soothe your stomach and help rebalance your stomach acid," Sanders says. If you can't survive without coffee but worry it'll dehydrate you, don't—that's just a myth, according to Gannon. Look to protein and healthy fats found in food like eggs, salmon, avocado and whole grains to soak up extra alcohol and replenish your energy.

Bug Bite

"This hits home for me because I had a massive bug bite in the center of my back with my low-back wedding dress last year," Khan says. Her day-of solution? Grab some ice, slather hydrocortisone cream and tell your makeup artist to be generous with concealer and finishing powder. If you're the type of person who gets particularly large and painful bites, you can take ibuprofen to reduce swelling. Though an antihistamine like Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can help with symptoms, Khan says it's best to avoid them as they will make you drowsy. "You want to be awake for your party!" Khan says.

Food Allergy or Hives

Hopefully the thought of getting married doesn't send your body into hives at this point (a la Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City) but if you get hives from food, nerves or the environment, don't stress—there's hope. Khan says to pop a non-sedating antihistamine like Loratadine, Fexofenadine or Cetirizine (probably better known as Claratin, Allegra and Zyrtec, respectively). They take 30 minutes to four hours to start working, but will suppress hives for 24 hours. Try your best not to scratch, get too warm, consume highly acidic food or alcohol (especially red wine) or wear tight clothing (wedding dress permitting). Of course, if you're facing a life-threatening allergy or illness, put your safety first and go to the ER—you know your limits, so always listen to your body and put your health first.

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