In the past 8 years I’ve witnessed nearly 100 couples say “I do.” Along the way, I’ve learned a few tips & tricks that I'd like to share with you! These are tried and true tips that will really help you on your wedding day and can only come from the knowledge gained through years of experience in the wedding industry.
#1. Determine what is important! : Above all else, set aside three things that are the most important to you. It doesn’t matter what these three things are, this is your wedding, but think to yourself “what are the three most important aspects of my wedding day?” For instance, when I get married I’ve established that the three most important things to me are: My photographer, my venue, and my décor. I’m not personally as concerned about our attire, because I already have a basic understanding of what I’d like us to wear and it is going to be a small event. But, because I feel that the images are the most important this is why my secondary items must help achieve the overall look I am searching for with my photographs. Therefore, I need a good venue and the right décor, or the look I am going for may not be as easily achieved. But these are the things that I desire for my own wedding, what you choose is completely up to you. However, once you establish what those three things are, this is where the focus of your budget should be. It’s all up to you, but make sure that you know what is most important to you & focus your energy there, this way when you look back on your wedding you’ll not wish you had put forth more time in to the things you truly felt were important.
Bonus: I also recommend writing a list of all the things you’d like with your wedding and put them in a list of most to least important. The items at the top of your list are the items to put the majority of your time and money in to and the items at the bottom of your list are the items to put less focus in to.
#2. Do your research! : Contrast & compare, but not by price. Okay, maybe by price if you are on a budget – but be weary of all things “cheap” in the wedding industry because the saying is true “You get what you pay for!” Now, if you followed ruled #1, you can probably be lax on your budget for the things that are not as important to you. Let’s talk photography, since this is the subject I know most about. The biggest thing for me when choosing a photographer is the variety of their portfolio and the uniqueness of their portraits. Do they showcase images in multiple situations & conditions? Are they thoroughly showcasing their ability to capture moments throughout the entire day and not just outdoors? & most importantly how creative are their portraits compared to other photographers? For me, I want a photographer who can individualize my wedding. So I wouldn’t choose a photographer who displays the same basic posing and little to no candid or unique portraits and most importantly I'd look for variety & consistency. Are they showcasing several weddings & several lighting conditions? Or is it a lot of images with the same couple in the same lighting conditions? Variety says to me that they can work in any condition & because I know anything can happen on a day I cannot reschedule, this is very important to me! But this is all contingent again on what is most important to you.
There’s a huge misconception that this industry is over-priced and I can attest that this is just not true, it is priced accordingly to what the vendor has to offer you. Weddings are an event that cannot be redone or that you get a second chance with if you make a mistake, so the cost of the vendor is likely mostly surrounded by how well they can work under conditions in which they have little room to make a mistake. If a vendor is offering you the moon for the cost of a pebble, be cautious.
#3. Details! Details! Details! Personalize your wedding! : Incorporate things in to your wedding that are unique to you as a couple. For instance, at my own wedding I plan on hitting up multiple thrift stores for unique tea cups to use as centerpieces for banquet style tables (long rectangular tables) to incorporate a lightly themed Alice in Wonderland vibe because my fiancé is a huge fan. These types of things truly help to personalize your wedding and set you a part from the ever popular Pinterest wedding where all the ideas are similar and seldom hold any personal value to you as a couple. Truly use your imagination or brain storm together on things you could do to personalize your wedding!
Little things make a huge difference. For instance buying a non-plastic hanger to hang your dress on, instantly will create a better looking portrait for your dress. I’ve actually been considering buying my own fancy hanger as this is often something I run in to at weddings!
Oh and also, totally unrelated to details but equally important: have an emergency kit!! Bandaids, scissors, feminine products, deodorant, A SEWING KIT!, etc.
#4. Consider the “First Look” : Okay, even though I know how beneficial the First Look truly can be to the itinerary of the day, I definitely cannot say this is a must have, just a suggestion. I completely support the traditional aspect of the groom seeing his bride (and vice versa) for the first time as she’s walking down the aisle! However, if this is something you’re open to, I highly recommend it! First, you get even more portraits with just the two of you, so that’s the main bonus but you also can split your portraits up for your day and utilize time to your advantage. Most of my couples who incorporate the first look take care of all their formal portraits before the wedding. This puts them at a huge advantage for having time for creative portraits later as opposed to cramming a whole lot of portraits in a short period of time. Unfortunately it does take time to capture certain portraits and feeling rushed is never something we want on our wedding days! Usually when a couple decides to do a first look our itinerary has them photographing with their family before the ceremony, leaving all their wedding party and couple portraits for after the ceremony.
Most importantly, how I photograph a first look is to leave it entirely candid. I’ll give minimal direction on where the groom will stand and will have the bride make sure to walk all the way up to him (to ensure closeness/intimacy of the portrait) but other than that this is an entirely raw, candid moment between the two that lasts considerably longer than seeing one another at the ceremony.
#5. Cocktail Hour! : Oh gosh of all the things to recommend, perhaps this should have been higher on the list. Yes! Either a cocktail hour or hors d'oeuvres, something! The reason I recommend this is that it does not stick your guests just waiting for you between the ceremony and reception and gives them something to do. Now days, the new tradition, is that as a guest you expect to be waiting for the couple to get done with their portraits. This gives you an hour to utilize to your advantage and allow your photographer the time she needs to create those stunning portraits you hired her to take. (Hint Hint!) This is especially helpful if you do choose to remain traditional and not include a first look because almost all your portraits will be taken after the ceremony!
#6. If you can, hire a wedding planner! : This is something that not everyone can include on their wedding day, in which case I would recommend confiding in your vendors for advice – we are always (or should be) willing to help! But, if you can budget in a wedding planner, I do recommend! Planning a wedding on your own can be so overwhelming at times and a good wedding planner can help ease those feelings tremendously. My favorite wedding planners are the ones who double as coordinators and make sure the day runs smoothly, these are wedding planners who not only set you up with a preferred list of vendors but also are there the day of your wedding to help set up and make sure the day runs smoothly. Several wedding planners not only help you plan your wedding but also design and decorate your venue for you so that it is one less thing you have to worry about and they do this based on your personal taste!
Most importantly, they act as the "go to vendor" for all of the other vendors. Having a wedding planner can cut a lot of confusion & the wedding planner will know the role each vendor plays the day of the wedding as well as what their duties/responsibilities are - we all play a part, but the wedding planner can help to clear up any confusion on just what the role of each vendor is & more importantly can communicate with them for you on the day of the event.
If I didn’t already know the ins and outs of the business, I’d definitely be hiring one myself!
#7 Share your itinerary! : If you cannot afford a wedding planner, this is extremely helpful! I work with every couple on putting together an itinerary of portraits, in which I always recommend be passed around to everyone who will be present in photographs. However, you (or your wedding planner) should put together an itinerary for your entire event so that everyone knows where they need to be and when. This is so helpful in making sure that your day runs as smoothly as possible! When I first started weddings, I did not think that an itinerary would make that much of a difference. I, in my completely inexperienced brain, thought that going with the flow was the best route for me to take. Boy was I wrong, after the VERY FIRST wedding I photographed on my own I vowed to never photograph a wedding without coming up with a clear plan for portraits that we could all agree on. Luckily for me, my first wedding was a family friend, so when we were all over the place not knowing where to be, it didn’t reflect too poorly on me because they all knew me, however I still felt like things would have gone much more smoothly had I thought about putting together a timeline with them. Now, this is protocol to every wedding I photograph and I put these together with my couple so that we both are comfortable with the end result.
#8. Consider an Unplugged Wedding! : An unplugged wedding is a wedding that asks guests to not take photographs during the ceremony or during key events at the reception. We live in a time where everyone wants to document everything through their cell phone and not through the actual experience of things. Let your guests know you have this covered, you hired professionals who can take care of the portraits for you and they’re equipment and expertise far exceeds anything that could be captured via a cell phone camera. Not only that, guest photographers have the potential to ruin portraits and video that the professionals are there to take.
Now for me personally, I haven’t found that I truly prefer unplugged weddings but I have had guests step in front of me while trying to get a shot and have had their flash ruin portraits by overexposing my settings. But the one advantage I have found is that it makes for better portraits, instead of having a background with guests sticking their cell phones in the air, the couples just have their guests experiencing the moment with them. I have heard horror stories of photographers who had guests step in front of them as the first kiss was being taken, or minimal portraits because the client had so many guests using flash simultaneously. I had one wedding where a family member walked up behind the couple on the altar and photographed from there, they were undoubtedly in every portrait. Now, in most situations, if a guest is standing in front of me or is in the shot incessantly and it is meant to be a portrait of just the couple, I will just politely let them know. Usually this is no harm no foul and the guests seldom even realize they’re being obtrusive, so I wouldn’t say this is a must but if you don’t have a photographer who can gracefully deal with those kinds of situations.
#9. Take the time to take is all in! & don’t forget to eat! : As I’ve stated, I have photographed A LOT of weddings in my career and I have seen plenty a couple never sit down to relax. This is your wedding day, take a moment to truly soak it all in and enjoy it. And most importantly, eat that food you worked hard on picking out and making sure was just right! This one is simple, just take a moment to relax!
#10. Focus on what is Truly Important! : Say it with me “Whatever will be will be.” Of all the advice I have to give as a wedding vendor this is hands down the most important one, do not get so caught up that you forget to focus on what is truly important: you are getting married and you cannot redo this day. Do not allow unexpected hiccups to ruin your day. Nothing is more important than the fact that you are about to marry the person that you love. The last thing you want is for minor uncontrollable details to put a damper on your day. First of all, from a photographer’s perspective, if you’re upset or unhappy about something… you can tell in your portraits. And so you just inadvertently reminded yourself for the rest of your life that something at that moment had taken over the happiness and joy that is your wedding and now it’s documented forever in your portraits. Let it pass. If you must remind yourself a thousand times, do so… but never forget that no matter what happens, nothing is going to stop you from marrying the man or woman you fell in love with and nothing will stop you from celebrating that love with your family, especially not rain or a snag in your dress. So don’t let the minor hiccups take control over your day.