Wedding Planning Tips From a Wedding Expert This is the ULTIMATE list of wedding planning tips from a wedding insider that every bride and groom should read multiple times. This page is a comprehensive wedding planning guide that was put together by a wedding expert with over 18 years of experience and who has photographed over 600 weddings/events. Over 50 of the best wedding tips that you've never heard of! I'm always adding more so stay tuned!
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+ Want cash to help pay for the wedding-Register at Bed Bath and Beyond
•It’s still the only major store that allows cash back on returns. It’s a tactful way to ask guests for cash to help pay for the wedding. Plus, I don’t know about you, but when my wife and I got that price gun in our hands we went crazy and didn’t need a lot of the stuff we registered for.
+ Bring a few pieces of chalk on your wedding day
•If you get anything on your dress it’s the best way to cover it up until you can get it professionally cleaned. It works great to blend in almost any dress color and won’t hurt your dress at all…no one will ever know!
+ Don't stack your wedding cake
•If you’re looking to save money, try not having a stacked wedding cake. Usually you see a stacked 3 tiered cake at a wedding. If you ask the bakery to not stack them…ie 3 separate round/square cakes it’s usually half the price! You can then present them in all sorts of creative ways. Same beautiful cakes, but they’ll taste even sweeter at half the price!
+ Powdered Sunscreen...yeah that's a thing!
•Those outdoor weddings can be brutal on a bridal party’s skin. With pictures and the actual ceremony/reception all outdoors it’s no wonder so many people get sunburned at weddings (on their shoulders and especially face if their makeup isn’t SPF or they missed a spot). To make sure your bridal party isn’t miserable after a few hours in the sun and your photographer will thank you for not having him shoot lobsters by the end of the day :). I’ve used it on myself and my brides for a few years now…LOVE IT! Check it out here…it’s SPF50, waterproof and has a built in brush so it’s easy to apply (it’s not greasy like other sunscreens so it won’t ruin photos or dresses). Powdered Sunscreen
+ What is a Styled Wedding?
•“Styled Wedding” This is a term in our industry where a group of wedding vendors will get together and do a photoshoot with professional models. Basically it’s a fake wedding for a photoshoot. Vendors do these to increase their portfolio’s and get stunning images. Be careful when selecting vendors and ask to see examples from REAL weddings as “styled weddings” couldn’t be further from that…this will help give you realistic expectations. You’ll notice that most magazines, pinterest and blogs feature a lot of these. I do very few of these if any…I like to make sure my images are from real weddings I’ve shot.
+ Face each other during the ceremony
•Face each other during the ceremony as much as possible, if not ALL of the ceremony. A lot pastors/officiants will have you face them during the ceremony…especially the important parts…DON’T DO IT! Here’s why…1) facing each other will calm each other’s nerves, and don’t you want to look in each other’s eyes during the ceremony!?!? 2) Guests want to see your faces…not your backs! 3) The photos will be infinitely better if you’re facing each other. (I have a hard rule that I don’t go behind the couple during the ceremony to get pics…I want to capture your ceremony, not be a part of it!). It’s your wedding ceremony…do what YOU want to do!
+ The Veil
•If you’re going to wear a veil for your wedding make sure it’s properly secured into your hair…just setting it in with the comb won’t last long. Make sure you have 2 bobby pins on each side of the comb and push them in so they form an ‘X’ over the teeth of the comb. Make sure anyone who hugs you whisper to them “under the veil” otherwise every hug will give you whiplash!
+ Food for the bride and groom
•This one goes out to all the bridesmaids, groomsmen, family caterers, etc. Make sure the bride and groom get fed during the reception! Too often the couple gets pulled away from their meals for one reason or another (photos, dances, socializing, etc, etc). As a general rule I would suggest that a to-go box/plate should be made for them regardless…period! So brides, make sure you either assign this task to someone or make sure your caterer does it.
+ Family Photos
•I get a lot of brides who request that the family photos be done before the ceremony. While this seems like a great idea in theory…in real life, this virtually never works! There is always a key family member who is either not ready or worse yet not even there and we have to do the shots after the ceremony anyway. Plus guests (especially guys) don’t like to be dressed up more than they have to, in particular on hot summer days. My advice; always have the family portraits right after the ceremony…everyone will be there and will be ready. Even with the biggest families I’m able to get all the shots in 30 minutes or so…so your guests won’t be waiting.
+ Guest List Numbers and Percentages
•Ever wondered how many guests actually attend a wedding if invited? As a general rule you can expect about 85% of local guests to show and about 55% of out of town guests to attend if invited. Granted that can vary but those are pretty darn good numbers to go by when planning your wedding guest list.
+ Asking For Discounts
•I know how expensive weddings can be and fully understand that EVERY bride is on a budget. As a bride you should never be afraid to ask for discounts from your vendors…you never know until you ask and they just might surprise you. One of your best ways to get discounts from vendors is if you have a wedding date that is an off day (i.e. not a Saturday or holiday weekend). If a vendor doesn’t have anything booked for a Friday or Sunday they may consider a discount more. Your chances of getting a discount also increase if it’s later in the season and they don’t have that date booked (i.e. last minute weddings). DON’T tell the vendor that you would like a discount because your wedding will “only be a few hours”…if they book a wedding at a discount for that day they are giving up the opportunity to book that day at full price and probably will say no. DON’T ever tell them it will be great exposure…just don’t! DON’T tell them that you can do some of the work (editing photos for example)…a professional wedding vendor takes pride in giving you their best products and services and won’t want to jeopardize that. Bottom line is that everything is negotiable and it doesn’t hurt to ask but don’t be alarmed if the vendor simply says no…they are making a decision based on what’s right for their business.
+ Cell phones during the ceremony
•In this day and age this has become a HUGE issue. As a photographer it’s of particular concern…I can’t tell you the number of guests that ruin shots by standing in the middle of the aisle, standing up, etc trying to get pics on their cell phones. I’ll never understand why a guest who is actually there during the ceremony chooses not to be “present” by trying to capture the whole thing on their cell phones or cameras the size of one of my batteries. If you’re gonna be there…be there! Honestly, the only real way to ensure that your guests sit and enjoy the ceremony you’ve painstakingly prepared is to have a basket at the end of the aisle where the ushers will confiscate the guests cell phones as they sit down.
+ Guests Dancing
•One of my biggest pet peeves at weddings is when guests just sit and watch as other guests dance. You wanna know what the best gift you could possibly ever give the bride and groom the day of their wedding…show them you’re having a good time! I don’t care if you can’t dance or whatever other lame excuse you have…get out there on the dance floor…period! Trust me, there are countless other people in your same mindset but imagine if EVERYONE was on the dance floor…no one would care, and everyone would have a great time! Brides; my best advice here is to assign at least 2-4 good looking people to bring the party on the dance floor the entire night and literally pull people onto the dance floor.
+ Where to get ready
•This is something that is often times an afterthought for most brides. However, as a photographer it makes a HUGE difference! I totally understand that you may be limited by the venue/location and that’s perfectly fine (I’ll get creative with it for sure). But just keep this in the back of your mind when selecting where to get ready on your wedding day…ideally it’s a large open room with lots of natural light, the walls aren’t cluttered and the lights in the room aren’t a mix (i.e. fluorescent and normal bulbs), there’s plenty of seating and mirrors for you and your girls to get ready. This image was shot at the Ranch Club Missoula just after she got in her dress.
+ The Schedule
•The Schedule. I’ve had a lot of questions about the schedule for the day of the wedding. While each one is different, one of the main time factors is how many bridesmaids you have (expect 40 minutes per hair style and 35 minutes per makeup application). My wife said it best…”Would you rather I show up on time, or ugly?” Remember that everything is going to run late the day of your wedding…just roll with it. Here is a general guide to go by. •10AM getting ready (This includes makeup, hair, and getting dressed…I will start shooting then) •1PM glamour shots of the bride and bridesmaids with the photographer •3PM shots of the groomsmen getting ready and in their tuxes •4PM relax for an hour while guests arrive •5PM ceremony •5:30 receiving line •6PM shots of the family •6:20PM shots of the wedding party •6:30PM Reception/Dinner •8PM I like to pull the couple away from the reception for a few minutes to get some intimate sunset shots of just them •9PM cake cutting, first dances, and bouquet toss •10PM couple send off
+ Fake Lashes
•Bottom line you NEED these as a bride! I take so many shots that feature eyes and lashes during a wedding it’s crazy. The subtle addition of fake lashes draws more attention to your eyes…never a bad thing! But be smart about it…you want a subtle addition, not butterfly wings. I’ve actually seen girls wear two full racks of lashes on each eye at once…just don’t! I would recommend going with the individual lashes (i.e. 2-3 lashes per piece glued on) to make a subtle yet dramatic difference. Again, the girls at Skin Chic are the best at putting these on and making sure you look beautiful!
+ Tipping Wedding Vendors?
•There are no hard and fast rules here and certainly no expectations from any of the vendors. The general rule here is that you really should try to take care of a vendor that goes above and beyond what you expected from them. If you do tip by no means does it mean cash, could be as simple as a heartfelt thank you note. The one exception is if you have a wait staff serve you at your wedding…make sure you ask the caterer if the “service charge” is an actual tip or just an on site fee. Bottom line if a wedding vendor goes above and beyond the call of duty do your best to thank them in some way.
+ Pets in Weddings
•My wife and I absolutely love our puppies…they are our family! In fact I love weddings so much I named my dog Veil! I often hear couples the day of their wedding say “awww…I wish our puppy was here!” My advice is that you really should do what you can to incorporate your dogs into the wedding (other animals are a different story lol). Sometimes it’s incorporating them as a ring bearer with a bow tie, and other times it’s a full on wedding dress and veil. Sadly not all venues allow pets and the biggest hassle is logistics and trying to get someone to watch your puppy the entire day. Ultimately my best suggestion is that you ask whomever is watching your dogs that weekend to bring them to the reception at some point so you can at least get some pictures with them! We made some magic happen with the couple in the photo. It was before the wedding and they didn’t want to see each other yet, but still wanted a picture with their puppy…fortunately she cooperated for a split second!
+ Engagement Portraits
• I highly recommend couples to get engagement portraits. Not only do you get beautiful images to use in invitations, etc, but they are a great way to get to know your photographer and their style. Make sure your session speaks to who you are as a couple! If you have favorite places or things that have meaning to you, mention that to your photographer…we love incorporating those little details! If you book your photographer soon enough you can pick your favorite season for your session! This image was one of my favorites from last year!
+ The First Look
•Some couples choose to have a first look before the ceremony. It allows couples more time to spend together the day of their wedding. There are countless ways to do a first look but my favorite has to be the bride sneaking up behind the waiting groom…it’s a beautiful and intimate moment when he turns around. One of my favorite things that I’ve seen during the first look was a bride and groom who read letters to each other about how much they meant to one another and what this day and future meant to them. It set the stage for a truly emotional and fantastic day. If you choose to do a first look make sure you let your vendors know and if you have some ideas that you want to try or incorporate please let them know.
+ Wedding Website
•This is a great way for couples to provide details of the event to the guests and to get more accurate RSVP’s. Many wedding sites allow you to build your own site within theirs that just has the basics (the knot, etc). If you’re feeling even more creative you can build your own from scratch…I’m a huge fan of the wordpress platform. Check out what Jen and I did for ours to get ideas: www.daxandjennifer.com It’s a great resource on so many levels…in this day and age, every couple should have their own dedicated site!
+ The Cake
•I’m a conessueir of cake…I’ve had A LOT of it over the years. As far as local cake vendors are concerned here’s what I’ve found to be true. Best tasting-ranked from best to worst…Rosauers, Cakes in the Zoo, Black Cat, The Pearl, Bernices. Cost-Rosauers, Cakes in the Zoo, Black Cat, Bernices, The Pearl. Creative look/beauty-Cakes in the Zook, Black Cat, Bernices, The Pearl, Rosauers. Make sure that whomever you select that they can make your vision become a reality…Rosauers simply can’t do some of the creative cakes you see on Pinterest, but they do make a delicious cake. Additionally, when my wife and I got married we wanted a tier that was metallic silver, Bernices literally told us that they could do it, but it would be inedible…WTF! Bottom line we’ve chosen Black Cat whenever we’ve needed a cake and they haven’t let us down!
+ If you lean up against a dirty tire in your dress
•If you accidentally lean up against a tire the day of your wedding and get that black stuff on your dress (it happens more often than you think). Don’t try to clean it or wipe it at all! Rather, use masking tape or a lint roller to remove it…works like a charm!
+ Your Dress WILL Get Dirty! Roll With It...
•Your dress WILL get dirty. Bottom line your dress will get dirty and the underside will be absolutely filthy by the end of your wedding day. I always find it funny how careful everyone is with the dress leading up to the wedding and even the morning of your big day…only to later be whipping the train around the beer and wine soaked dance floor. My best advice to brides who are worried about the dress getting dirty is to just take a deep breath and enjoy the day and just roll with a little bit of dirt. I run into brides all the time who want these epic shots in the middle of a field yet don’t realize what it takes to get them. I do take every precaution to make sure we don’t hurt the dress (towels down, even literally carrying brides, etc) but if we’re walking through a field we’re bound to pick up some grass seeds and bugs along the way….don’t worry it won’t show up in the shots and I guarantee the guests won’t notice either.
•Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love heels as much as the next girl…the 4 pairs of Camuto’s and Melani’s we just got for my wife last weekend from Dillards can attest to this! I would however, recommend to most brides that they skip the heels and only rock flats or cute boots (that hurt just even saying it). It will save you money, most people will never see them anyway, your feet will be more comfortable and most brides end up in flats at some point during the day anyway (messing up the hem that was for heels). The only caveat to this would be if they make you feel more confident or if you need the height.
•After you get your wedding photos back…get prints! I don’t care if they’re large, small, canvas, metallic, etc, etc…just get them done! My wife and I took 6 months to get some prints made and I’m a photographer!!! Don’t just post them to Facebook or worse yet just leave them on the discs to only be viewed on anniversaries. Too often I see couples’ homes that don’t have a single image from their wedding. If you’re looking to save money the best places to use are AdoramaPix and Costco. Adorama’s metallic finish is just beautiful and Costco believe it or not does a pretty damn good job for how cheap their prints are…seriously a 20×30 inch print is only $8.99! For Canvas prints…CGProPrints simply can’t be beat in quality and price!
•Bottom line you NEED to have your nails look amazing the day of your wedding! Whether you get them professionally done or just do them yourself, it’s a must. From photos, to everyone asking to see your ring…EVERYONE will see your nails, so make sure they’re presentable. Simple elegant is always best…crazy colors and designs just distract.
+ Dance Circles
•No…just no! These are the worst during a reception and yet they always seem to happen. We’ve all seen them…it’s when all the guests awkwardly circle around someone on the dance floor who has some moves. But once the person in the center is done doing the worm then it get super awkward. It breaks up the flow of dancing and makes it super awkward for all the people on the dance floor who don’t want to be the center of attention…those who just want to dance and have a good time. My advice…give instructions to your wedding party to do their best to break them up if they occur.
+ Parent Entrance
•I often see parents and grandparents being ushered to their seats during the beginning of the ceremony. Many times this means that the Dad or Grandpa is left to awkwardly walk behind the usher and Mom/Grandma. This is not only awkward for them but also makes photos of them entering virtually impossible. I would recommend that unless one of those family members is a party of one or needs assistance, then to let the couples walk in together and let them share that experience.
+ Hair and Makeup Order
•The order in which you and your girls get your hair and makeup done the day of the wedding can make a huge difference in the flow and schedule of the day. I’ve seen some weddings where they save the bride til last to get her hair and makeup done…DON’T! Say you have 5 bridesmaids all getting hair and makeup done by the time they get to the bride things are undoubtedly running late (it’s a wedding after all) which puts pressure on the hair and makeup people to get done faster and adds stress to the bride in general. My best advice is to never have the bride go first or last with hair and makeup but rather to have her go 2nd or 3rd. That way she’s done and can relax and if something needs to be touched up it can be done before she leaves the salon. Not everyone has a photographer that can do hair and makeup :)
+ The First Look Is NOT Required!
•A first look is when a bride a groom see each other before the ceremony. I’ve heard from a few brides now who were, let’s say pressured, into doing a first look by either their photographer or wedding planner. Despite what wedding vendors may tell you it is NOT necessary to see each other ahead of the ceremony. For me whether you do a first look or not is totally up to you and really doesn’t save any time or make things easier in most cases. I LOVED seeing my bride the day of our wedding at the end of the aisle and I wouldn’t trade that moment for anything…in fact I encourage couples to do just that; wait til the ceremony.
+ Size of the Bouquet
•This post may be a bit touchy for some of my fellow wedding vendors, but I’ll try and be as tactful as possible. I’m seeing a troubling trend with florists and wedding planners…the bouquets are getting HUGE! As a general rule, the bouquet on your wedding day should never be larger/wider than the bride…period! Don’t get me wrong they are still beautiful but let’s not forget that the bouquet is an accessory for the bride to carry down the aisle. In fact…probably the least important accessory (think family jewelry, etc) and is meant to enhance how she looks the day of her wedding…not be the focus. From a visual perspective if you have a bouquet wider than the bride it naturally makes her look bigger than she really is. Ladies, simple and elegant should always be the rule, plus a smaller bouquet will save you money.
+ The Guest Book
•As more and more brides get creative with their guest books (thanks pinterest), make sure you have VERY clear instructions on what you want guests to do. At my own wedding we did a fingerprint guestbook where guests were supposed to put their prints in a cluster to look like balloons above a cute drawing I did of a couple…let’s just say that didn’t happen (not even close). Guests need instructions and maybe even a picture of an example you’re looking to create. Bottom line is that the sky is the limit for creativity regarding guest books, just make sure your guests know what to do to create your memento.
+ The Kiss
•My best recommendation regarding the kiss at the end of the ceremony is to actually kiss twice! I guarantee that you won’t be able to not smile in that moment which is absolutely adorable! If you’re going to do a dip make sure it’s perpendicular to the crowd. No tongue…period! Take your time up there and revel in the moment. By all means practice ahead of time…photographers orders
+ Smiling During the Ceremony
•I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen a wedding party that doesn’t smile during the ceremony. No more RBF people!!! This goes for EVERYONE! Remind your wedding party that they NEED to smile during the ceremony! During the entrance it always looks best if the couples entering are smiling and laughing at each other. While standing up during the ceremony, some smiles and glances at family and friends in the crowd is perfect. During the exit smiling and high five’ing the guests in the aisle is wonderful. And let’s not forget the couple should be smiling at each other with a few laughs towards the crowd. It should be the happiest time for everyone involved…show it. Love, your friendly neighborhood photographer.
+ Try on your dress at least 5 times before the wedding!
•Not just in the store, or the alterations shop. Make sure you try on your dress at home, preferably with the people who are actually going to lace/zip you into it. Practice getting into your dress! Know if you need to step into it or have it go over your head. Make sure the people lacing it up know how to lace it (not just watched it on youtube). Make sure they know how to tie it off and tuck the laces correctly so you don’t have a tail. Make sure they know how to hook the buttons, how the vanity panel attaches, etc, etc. And most of all…bustle it at least 5 times too! I can’t even begin to tell you how many dresses I have personally had to lace up or bustle over the years because I’m the only one there who knows how! PRACTICE ALL OF IT AT LEAST 5 TIMES BEFORE YOUR WEDDING! Trust me on this one
+ Thumb hook on your dress
•All wedding dresses with a train will have thumb hook to help you carry the train as you walk. It’s always located on the underside of the train in the center about a foot from the edge (usually a 6 inch satin ribbon loop). Some brides never notice it, and others try to cut it off thinking it’s just a hanger hook (which it can be used for that as well). It’s a great way to easily get around in your dress without having to fully bustle it.
+ Bring extra black socks
•Bring extra black socks. At least one of the groomsmen will undoubtedly forget theirs! I always carry an extra pair in my emergency kit.
•If you’re planning on spending any time outdoors in heels the day of your wedding get a set of Solemates. They’re clear rubber/plastic caps to go on the end of your heels so you don’t sink into the grass.
+ Adults only wedding
•At my own wedding in September, my wife and I decided to make it an adults only affair. I’m seeing this at more and more weddings. We were worried that our guests who were parents would be upset…in fact it, was exactly the opposite. Everyone LOVED the idea and treated it like a romantic date night away from the kids. It allowed them to let loose and enjoy themselves without having to worry about the kids. Now, if you do decide to have no kids at your wedding I’d advise you try and secure some sort of child care for them at or near the event to try and make it easier for parents…but that’s totally up to you.
+ Crochet hook for buttons on your dress
•If your dress has button hooks/loops the best way to attach them is a crochet hook, but in a pinch a bobby pin will work almost as well.
+ The Groom's Ring
•Guys typically don’t give much input into a wedding and the ring is no exception. Don’t just drag him to a jewelry store and have him pick one…let him know that he can get creative with it. My wedding ring is made entirely of a Brazilian wood…it’s absolutely stunning, lightweight and is extremely durable (that was my biggest concern is it would get ruined cause I’m hard on my ring). It can also be a way to save money. Bottom line make sure he knows that he doesn’t have to go with traditional materials, etc. in picking the symbol of his eternal love.
+ When to send out save the dates
•Generally these are sent about 5-6 months ahead of time (for a non destination wedding). You’re welcome to get as creative as you’d like, but don’t forget to say where the wedding will be (common mistake). These aren’t 100% necessary, but make a nice touch. If you’re looking to save money you can always send them via email (with a nice layout).
•Invitations These need to go out 2-3 months ahead of time. Again you can get as creative and crazy as you want! Jen and I wanted some epic invitations that reflected who we were. We wanted something that no one had seen before. The only way we found to do that was to make them ourselves. Plus it saved us a ton of money while still getting creative! Again…we made these entirely ourselves cutting, gluing etc!!!
•As a general rule, the old adage rings true… you get what you pay for…especially when it comes to wedding vendors! Please make sure you hire professionals. A general standard I use for determining if a vendor is an actual professional or just doing it on the side is to ask if they have insurance for their business. This is a great litmus test to determine if they are the real deal or faking it until they make it. There is simply no replacement for years of experience when it comes to making sure the happiest day of your life is perfect.
+ The Details
•Make sure you have the rings, shoes, flowers, jewelry, etc with you first thing in the morning. The sooner your photographer can get the items like these for the detail shots, the better! It will result in better shots that have a ton more creativity!
•One of the best ways to save money is to do your own flowers. If want to save even more…make them yourself and get creative with it. One of my favorite bouquets of all time was dried wheat wrapped around dried poppy pods…it was only $15 at the farmers market! For Jen and I’s wedding we actually made our own out of fabric, paper, sola flowers (balsa wood), and old negatives I had lying around. This saved a ton of money, made it our own and allowed us to get them done way in advance. Added bonus…dried or made flowers will last forever…ours are currently the centerpiece of our dining room table :).
•Get it professionally done…period! There is a major difference between makeup that is photoshoot ready and what you normally wear. Skin Chic is flat out the best for weddings! Regardless of who you use, a professional will use the best quality products (often using an airbrush for your foundation) and will make sure everything is perfect. The best thing I can recommend to brides is make sure you work with them well in advance to go through a few run-throughs. A professional makeup artist will make sure your vision matches your facial features and the ultimate look you’re going for. Don’t wear makeup…don’t worry they are professionals at making it light and natural yet smooths everything out for photos. Make sure you get a sample or buy a tube of what they put on your lips…it’s the main thing you’ll need to touch up throughout the day. I carry a full makeup kit with me for touch ups, but not many photographers do so you’ll want to be prepared.
+ Any schedule you make is merely a suggestion!
•You’ll need to come to terms with the fact that any schedule you make the day of a wedding is merely a suggestion! Things will undoubtedly run late and take much longer than expected. My best advice to brides is to just roll with it and do your best to enjoy the ride.
+ Reception Schedule
•Make sure you touch base with both the DJ and Photographer about what/when you’d like to have happen during the reception. There are a few exceptional DJ’s out there who always work with photographers and coordinate as the night progresses. Bad things happen when they don’t coordinate. Bottom line if you give a rough outline of a schedule to both vendors, things run much smoother. Generally, toasts shouldn’t start until after dinner. Make sure your DJ gives you enough time to mingle with guests and make an appearance at each table before toasts (since most brides don’t want a receiving line anymore). After toasts, it’s usually cake cutting and then the first dances. The bouquet and garter toss usually comes later, but not too late as some guests like to leave soon after the first dances.
+ Who gives this bride away?
•ALWAYS hug your Dad…and Mom for that matter during the part of the ceremony where the officiant asks “Who gives this bride away?” I get it…in that moment all eyes are on you, your heart is racing and you can’t take your eyes off of your groom, but just breathe and make sure you hug your parents! It’s a small but VERY important gesture to acknowledge how much they’ve done to help get you to this moment. Enjoy that moment, revel in it, hug it if you will.
+ Wedding Group Shots
•Have you ever tried to take a picture of 250 people at once?!?! Whether your family group shots are a few people or a few hundred there are a few things you can do to help. First off, make sure you move all the shoes, purses, bouquets, etc behind the photographer (not to the side). Secondly, fill in the gaps…if you can’t see the camera…the camera can’t see you. Finally, just keep smiling and looking at the camera…don’t check to see if the person three people down from you is smiling (nothing ruins a shot quicker than people looking in every direction). A good photographer will roll through group shots quickly and effortlessly making sure everyone is entertained through the whole thing. I usually start with the large group (to make sure everyone is there) then peel off people as needed. Even with the biggest family groups these shots shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes to take.
+ Trasitions Lenses
•I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've photographed families at weddings only to have it look like 'Dad' is wearing sunglasses because he's wearing transitions lenses! This is a HUGE problem especially for outdoor weddings. As a photographer it's tricky because I have two choices...have them look like Ray Charles or ask them to take off their glasses which often times they wear ALL the time so they don't look like themselves in the photos. If it's someone who is really close to you and will be in a ton of pictures (groom or Dad) simply ask them ahead of time if they could bring/get another pair of glasses that aren't transitions lenses, or if they have an old pair they don't use that you could pop out the lenses on for the important photos.
+ Properly addressed checks
•Make sure to politely/tactfully remind your guests to properly address checks using your maiden name or to use the word "OR" not "AND" when filling them out. (I.e. Make payable to Mr. OR Mrs Smith). Some banks will make it very difficult for you to cash these after the wedding, especially if you haven't changed your name yet (may even require proof of marriage).
+ Asking Attendants
•This one hit close to home recently...my brother is getting married this summer! And in classic little brother fashion, he just assumed that I would be in the wedding...no asking, discussion or talk. I had to hear from my Mom that I was in the wedding. He finally got around to asking if I would be in the wedding after the rest of the fam was giving him crap about it over Christmas (months later). Anyway, the moral of the story here ladies and gentlemen is to make sure you ask your attendants if they will be in the wedding (don't assume anything)...furthermore make it special somehow and personal to you both! I mean you are asking them to stand next to you on the big day after all! For our wedding Jen actually had some super cute laser cut bridesmaids boxes made on Etsy for her attendants and even did one for my Mom that said "Thank you for raising an amazing son, will you be my new Mom?"
+ Placement of the ceremony
•You need to be cognizant of two main things when deciding on placement of the ceremony...lighting and distractions. I'll cover lighting in another tip in more detail. The important thing is to make sure you don't have distractions behind you either while you're standing up there during the ceremony or the one EVERYONE forgets is at the beginning of the aisle. When the bride walks in it's imperative that the background as she walks in is clear of any distractions (buildings, road signs, kegs, guests, etc etc etc)! I can't tell you the number of things I've had to edit out of "entrance" photos. Most photographers will shoot from the end of the aisle looking back to capture the faces of the wedding party and family as they enter. No one remembers to make sure that angle is clear from distractions. So remember, as you walk down the aisle towards your future make sure what's behind you isn't a cluttered mess!
+ Geriatric Flower Girls
•One of the cutest things I've ever seen at a wedding was when a bride had the grandmas be the flower girls. LOVE this idea...it's always awkward to have the grandparents enter during the ceremony. This way they have an adorable job and can have fun. So don't get them a corsage, instead get them little baskets with petals. At the wedding they did it, the grandmas followed the younger flower girls and ended up throwing the petals at guests and even each other...super cute!
+ Late Night Munchies
•It blows my mind how much money couples spend on food and drinks for a wedding! And yet, at the end of the night there's usually not any food or water for guests. NONE! Not only would this help to sober some of them up a bit ;) but guests will be eternally grateful. You don't even need to do anything fancy, after a night of dancing and partying guests aren't picky at all. Plus more often than not the bride and groom got pulled away and didn't get much to eat anyway. Bottom line...be like my mom...make sure you have snacks ready!
+ Look out behind you!
•This one goes out to all the bridesmaids and groomsmen...SMILE DURING THE CEREMONY!!! From the entrance to the exit you need to be smiling as much as possible...period! Too often I see looks that rival serial killers on their faces. You may think you won't be in some of the pictures, but you're wrong. You're in front of everyone and even when the focus isn't directly on you, my lens will catch you...hopefully smiling!
+ Hide and Seek
•In this day and age every wedding is blasted on social media. I especially LOVE the hashtags that couples came up with this year! However, you need to be extra careful that if you don't want your groom to see you ahead of time that no one posts ANY pics of the bride before the ceremony.
+ The Head Table
•Make sure that the head table doesn't have decorations that hides any of the wedding party. Especially the bouquets! To often I see vases on the head table with giant bouquets. Sure they look beautiful but don't be like Sean Spicer...keep your wedding party out of the shrubbery! It makes for much better shots during the toasts if you can see the emotion on everyone's face.
+ Second Shooters
I have a lot of brides ask if I work with a second shooter…the answer is NO! Barring a select few weddings early in my career ALL my weddings are shot exclusively by me in their entirety! Here’s the problem with second shooters…they quite simply don’t provide the quality of images that you and your hubby deserve! Don’t get me wrong, some second shooters can take some beautiful images…but let’s be honest if they were to the same level as the main photographer they would be doing it full time as a main shooter! Some brides think it’s an added value and COUNTLESS photographers feature having a second shooter in their packages. Be careful though…most of these second shooters are simply boyfriends, wives, etc of the main shooter that have been handed a camera. Often times I hear that the second shooter is the one who shoots the groomsmen photos. If I were the groom I would be pissed if I got the JV squad taking my photos! Bottom line…having a second shooter at a wedding isn’t a necessity…especially if your main photographer is awesome!
+ Chalk Signs
Virtually every wedding anymore has one of these super cute chalk signs. One thing brides often don't remember is that they are in fact written with chalk...that means that any touch will smear your perfect font or worse yet, any sort of rain will completely obliterate your adorable Princess Bride quote!!! Couple of options...get signs that are permanent. However, that doesn't work if you want something custom...if it's a normal chalk board background simply write your message and then hit it with lacquer or in a pinch hair spray. If it's a mirror...well, there's not much you can do there...just do your best to keep your guests grubby little paws off your masterpiece!
+ Hard copy of the vows
A lot of couples are reading their vows off their phones as of late. Slowly put the phone down and no one gets hurt! Don't try and squint at the tiny font during your vows...or worse yet I even had one groom whose battery died!!! Do yourself a favor and make sure you have a hard copy of your vows! You could even hand write them, then when your first anniversary comes around (the paper anniversary) you could have them framed. Boom! Best gift ever...husbands of the world...you're welcome!