Ever wish weddings came with a user manual? I know I sure did when my wife and I were planning ours 5 years ago. Wedding's are funny in that there's so much pressure and expectation for this monumental day to be perfect and run smoothly, and yet, we get one chance to get it right (often without prior experience or knowledge of how to make that happen). Looking back, there were so many quirks about our wedding day and although we can look back and laugh now, I wish we had a list of DO's and DONT's to help guide us along the way. This is why I love sitting with couples and helping them plan for their big day and making it as stress free as possible. I'm going to share my top 5 wedding planning tips, in hopes that it will offer some help, insight, and relief in your planning endeavors.
1. DON'T SKIMP ON A PHOTOGRAPHER
I'm going to go ahead and start off by addressing this one head on. When all is said and done, the decorations are packed up, the venue gates are closed, the food is eaten, and the music is over, the photos are the only thing you have left to relive one of the most important days of your lives. I know that because of what I do, I naturally have a biased opinion but far before I was a photographer, my biggest advice remained the same. Invest in your memories because they are worth it and so are you!
I've witnessed so many unfortunate circumstances unfold for those trying to spend as least as possible on a wedding photographer: Poor editing, no shows, canceling last minute, being rude to guests at the wedding, losing photos and refusing to return a partial refund, severely grainy images. The popular saying very much applies when in search for the right wedding photographer, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.
2. TIMELINE CAN MAKE YOU OR BREAK YOU
Whenever I ask those inquiring how long they need me for, I would say 9 times out of 10 I hear anywhere from 8-12 hours. Most people assume that they need a photographer from the time they start getting ready for the day till they depart from the reception, which can make for a very costly day. Before ever sending a quote, I always go over a series of in depth questions to help the couple narrow in the time frame they're actually needing photography for because let's face it, no one wants photos taken before make up is applied, hair is done, and certainly not hundred's of photos at the end of uninhibited guests busting their best dance moves.
I typically recommend a start time of 1 - 1 1/2 hours prior to the ceremony for preparation photos depending on the size of the wedding and how much time the couple prefers to have between the prep photos and the ceremony. If your preparation location is different than the ceremony or the guys and girls are getting ready in two different locations, I would plan for closer to 2 hours before the ceremony as a start time.
Another important piece to consider is the end time of a wedding. If you are planning on having a send off captured, that will be your end time by default (unless you do a mock send off earlier in the night). However, for those that either don't do a send off or don't wish to have it captured, I always recommend that they consider the end time about 30-45 min into the open floor dancing portion (unless there is something crucial happening afterwards) because at this point of the night, it's a lot of the same people and moments being captured, only a little more "uninhibited." No one wants a million pictures of Uncle Joe attempting to do the running man.
3. MAKE THE MOST OF GOLDEN HOUR
Creating your wedding timeline can be a daunting task and all too often I hear, "I have no idea where to start." There's so many aspects of the day to factor in as you plan from start to finish so in an ideal world, I like to simplify this by asking what are some of the most important photos of the day to capture and what is the best time of day for lighting? Most people would agree that the photos with family, the wedding party, and the bride & groom are the absolute most important photos of the day and it's a given that golden hour is the best time of day for lighting.
That being said, I always recommend that couples plan an hour during golden hour for these photos. 15 minutes with family, 15 minutes with the wedding party, and the remaining 30 minutes for the bride & groom photos. Doing this allows you to work backwards and forwards with ease.
4. LEAVE WIGGLE ROOM
No matter how prepared you are, NO WEDDING EVER GOES EXACTLY AS PLANNED. Stuff will inevitably come up and you can anticipate being thrown a curveball or two...or 5. That being said, my next piece of advice as it pertains to the timeline of a wedding is leave wiggle room between transitions. Every time I've done a wedding or attended one with a back to back schedule, the evening always runs behind, thus causing stress for those involved and things begin to fall in the cracks. Trust me, you would much rather be enjoying the day and relaxing than playing damage control.
W H A T T O D O
4-5:30pm // Preparation Photos
6pm-6:15pm // Ceremony
6:30-7:30pm // Family, wedding party, and bride/groom photos
7:45pm // Grand Entrance to the reception
W H A T N O T T O D O
4-5:30pm // Preparation Photos
5:30pm-5:45pm // Ceremony
5:45-7pm // Family, wedding party, and bride/groom photos
7pm // Grand Entrance to the reception
5. SET THE TONE FOR THE DAY
Determining the tone of your wedding draws a line in the sand, determining what compliments the dynamic of your wedding and what doesn't. Are you wanting a small, intimate wedding where everyone gets to enjoy each other's company? Are you wanting a big, upbeat, all night celebration? Are you wanting something more on the casual side? Once you determine this, some things to consider are:
- Day of the week: This is an especially important factor for those looking to have a lively, all night party for their reception. The best days for this are Fridays and Saturdays (but note that because of this, these are the most costly days to host a wedding). I've been to weddings that had an end time of midnight on a Sunday evening and despite how festive the reception was, guests began to leave by 9pm due to having work the following day.
- Time of the day: I did a wedding early this year and the couple wanted a very casual, close family feel for their big day. They decided to do 10am on a Sunday morning and it felt absolutely perfect for the tone of their wedding. They preferred time to converse with family and friends over open floor dancing so having the wedding in the evening would've seemed out of place. The time of day you host your wedding plays a big role in the overall tone of the day.
- Open bar: Let's be real, the wedding being open bar or not determines how long your guests will stay. My wife used to always tell me that people always stay the latest and dance the most at open bar weddings and I would tell her that was a myth...until I start doing photography for weddings. Now I know for a fact that she was right.