Hey brides & grooms!
I am so excited to finally sit down and write this helpful blog for you all. I got married almost 4 years ago and did a lot right and learned a lot about what I should’ve done. I’ve also asked a bunch of my friends and former couple’s about their wedding days and got tons of great advice from them! I pray this helps you gain some clarity as you plan and make your wedding day what YOU dream of it being and not feel boxed into what everyone else is doing.
- Don’t feel like you have to talk to every single person at your wedding. This could spark some controversy, but quite frankly, I don’t care. I am a big believer in not being a people pleaser on your wedding day. You will exhaust yourself to no end if you worry about everyone feeling loved and welcomed. Yes, it’s polite to let people know that you’re happy that they came, but of course they should know that! I don’t think it is fair at all to think it’s rude if the bride & groom don’t circle around to guests and give them a hug. They were invited, got a free meal (the average plate at weddings cost $25/each), dessert, some good photos all dressed up and a fun night. Your guests should be just fine. Just do a general “thanks for coming” in the microphone and you’ll be golden!
Also, be careful of being caught in a selfie train. If you stop and take one photo with some guests with their cell phones you’ll have a long line of eager guests wanting that instagram worthy photo with you. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I have seen 30 minutes to an hour of this go on and the bride and groom are completely drained from it. Just feel empowered to say “we are going to go dance! Come dance with us!” Instead of just taking cell phone pics.
- It is totally okay to have an uneven number of bridesmaids & groomsmen.
When I got married, I had 8 bridesmaids and Kevin had 7 groomsmen, but my little brother has Downs Syndrome and didn’t stand, so he had 6 standing. I had my brother on the end to walk my mom in, had my sister in law last on the other end so she could walk out with him, and then I had my husband’s twin sisters walk out together. Some people are obsessed with even numbers and I totally get that, but don’t feel like you have to scrap a bridesmaid or force your fiancé to ask someone he doesn’t really want to be a groomsmen for numbers sake. This is a big deal and only your tribe should be up with you!
- Think about Sunset!!!
If you’re having an evening wedding and you want to have sunset photos you have to plan it just right. Sun set time means the sun is GONE, not golden hour.
I had several brides plan their winter weddings in the summer and forget completely that the sun sets at different times throughout the year and they had complete night time weddings. I’ve also had brides time the sun going down right at the start of their ceremony which posed a huge problem and not at all what they envisioned. The ceremony was super sun soaked and the guests couldn’t see anything happening with the sun in their eyes. The photos after the ceremony were rushed because it got dark so quickly (which is never what a photographer or a couple wants).
The best advice I can give a couple planning is to have their ceremony about an hour and a half before the sun sets. The average ceremony is about 30 minutes long, then family photos are about 30 minutes on average (if family cooperates!!!), and then couples photos take about 20-30 minutes. You obviously want the best light for your couple portraits.
- Brides: Put a sign outside of your bridal suite saying exactly who you want in your room at any given time. Even lock your door and put bridesmaids near it as bouncers.
Guests, I don’t care how close you are to the bride, family, or bridesmaids, if you’re not in the wedding party, DO NOT go in the bridal suite! Just don’t.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much this upsets the bride on her wedding day. It is such an invasion of privacy and just plain rude. Brides dream of not being seen by anyone on their day and spend hours getting ready. When you barge in uninvited, you are taking that away from her. Bridal suites are a sacred and peaceful place that the bride spends MOST of her wedding day in. If you are in there just hanging out or asking questions, you’re adding stress to what should be a not stressful day.
On my wedding day, I was already stressed out with it raining outside, but I looked up and actually said “who are all of these people?” There were guests in my suite just hanging out. I quickly put myself in a closet since there was nowhere else to go and I just had some time to myself. My sacred space had been invaded and it was so upsetting. Now I fight for my brides on this because it is something that was taken from me.
Also, parents of the flower girls and ring bearers, please please please change your kiddos in the bathroom. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen screaming kids in the bride’s suite while their parents frantically change them. It’s just unnecessary and causes stress. Or just bring your kids to the wedding venue changed already.
- Have a wedding coordinator that isn’t you or your parents.
If you don’t have the budget to hire a coordinator find a friend or an extended family member who would be good at giving direction and executing your vision on your big day. Meet up together, talk about your vision, make a schedule together and go over it, and make sure they know who every vendor is and what you expect from everyone.
Every single time I’ve seen a wedding with no coordinator it’s been a very, very hard day. It only falls back onto the couple and stresses them out to no end. You don’t want that for your wedding day! I’ve also seen the mom of the bride as the coordinator too many times and it has completely taken away her role as mother of the bride, which is a HUGE deal, and put her to work where she doesn’t get to live in the moments with her family, but rather control the moments and get through the day without actually taking anything in.
- Letting your photographer know what kind of photos you want.
This is huge! As a photographer, I welcome ideas and inspiration you have for your wedding day. YOU are the one getting married. This is YOUR wedding day. I will do what I know and will be creative and give you great photos, but I want to also reflect what YOU desire for your day, too.That will also help me as a photographer serve you better, and maybe even try something new! Wedding days are hard for creatives, too. It’s not the time for us to sit and think on something super cool to do in the moment-we are on a schedule, but if we talk through ideas beforehand, we could come up with something super special!
I should also note to trust your creatives. You don’t have to tell us what to do, we do this ALL the time. And whatever you share with us, we will do our best to execute, but we are never liable for not getting every single thing you desire if the circumstances don’t allow for it to happen.
- Have the ceremony you want even it’s raining or too hot.
My wedding ceremony took place between two thunderstorms. The Lord literally opened the perfect window for me to have the wedding I wanted. I had some people try and move it inside and although they were trying to help, it wasn’t what I wanted. My friend & my mom who knew my desires stopped them moving it inside and set it all up outside again in a matter of minutes. I’m FOREVER thankful for that. Kevin and I wanted to get married outside, even if it was in the pouring rain. We didn’t have to do that, but we would’ve. Your guests do not have to sit in the rain for you. They can watch from inside or from a porch. You aren’t forcing them to do anything they are uncomfortable with. Again, I’m a huge believer in doing what YOU want and not catering to other people on YOUR day.
At my brother’s wedding it was 50 degrees and raining. My sister in law never wavered from what she wanted and I am forever proud of her for that. She told her coordinator and everyone beforehand that no matter what it looks like outside, she is having it outside. The coordinator handed out paper towels to guests to bring to their seats or offered them the porch to watch from. Everyone except a couple of older folks sat in the rain for my brother and sister. It was wonderful and so empowering to see. Jannie walked down the aisle in the rain and it made me cry so much because she didn’t let anything take away from what she wanted. Not to mention her wedding photos are MAGIC!!! The rain made them so dreamy. I think planning your special day in the interest of other people is something you’ll regret. It’s not a party you’re hosting, it’s a celebration of you and your love story that you’re inviting people into. If anyone makes you feel bad for that then they’re trying to plan and control their wedding, not yours.
- First looks don’t take away from seeing the bride walk down the aisle.
There is a huge myth going around that doing a first look spoils the groom seeing the bride walking down the aisle. That is just not true. In fact, every single wedding I have shot where there is a first look, the groom cries or tears up when his bride is coming towards him down the aisle. First looks are such a breath of fresh air on your wedding day. They serve as a way for you to have some uninterrupted time with your person, have a personal reaction to each other without any pressure, and calm any nerves before the ceremony. Every single couple that I’ve worked with that has done a first look is so glad they did it. So if seeing your future spouse beforehand would benefit you and make your day sweeter then do it!! 🙂
- Don’t spend your entire wedding day in a bridal suite getting ready.
Had I known, I would’ve done a brunch with all my bridesmaids or go on a coffee walk the morning of my wedding. We woke up and went straight to the venue and sat in a bridal suite all day. It was fun with them, but it was so easy to get cabin fever. I wish I would’ve filled up my yeti and walked around the beautiful property of my venue with each of my bridesmaids because that would’ve been so life giving to me. I just did what I knew everyone else does and went straight to my suite and spent ALL day getting ready. Pretty unnecessary.
Just do at least one thing that would be life giving to you on your day. Make it special and something to remember your day by. I so wish I could change this about my day!
- Don’t skimp on vendors if you can help it.
Getting free or cheaper services is GREAT, but just keep in mind that in most cases you get what you pay for. I didn’t want to use a lot of my budget for a DJ and ended up using someone very inexperienced because the price was right. Our first dance song was wrong, we constantly had to give them cues, the dance floor kept emptying out, and a lot of the songs we chose for our reception were totally wrong.
Your DJ is the thermostat of your wedding reception. If they’re lively, mixing it up, and interactive with you and your guests, it’s going to make a GREAT party. If they’re missing the mark constantly and not keeping the party going then it’ll die out.
Luckily, I have the most fun friends in the world so we didn’t let the DJ’s mistakes ruin our party, but it was pretty disappointing in hindsight and we weren’t satisfied at all with the service. We ended up paying as much for a rookie as the seasoned DJ’s cost when it was all said and done and I wish I would’ve thought that through more.
- Online invitations are the way to go.
Of course stationary is so cute, but you can easily spend hundreds of dollars on invitation suites and postage that is only going to get thrown away. You could put that money towards another vendor or even save it! Plus online is so convenient for everyone involved.
- Think through wedding favors.
After tons of weddings I shoot there are countless personalized cups and coozies leftover. I hear from my couples all the time about how no one took their favors when they spent so much time & money on them.
The biggest hits at weddings I’ve worked is cookies, WHATABURGER HONEY BUTTER CHICKEN BISCUITS, brownies, coffee, etc.
Perishable things are the best because guests will most likely enjoy it right then and there. I also believe that if you have a Photo Booth or something where a guest can take their photos with them, that is more than enough. You don’t have to overdo it. Again, the average meal at a wedding is already $25 per person!!! That’s not including the free alcohol either. They’re getting more than enough, I promise.
- Schedule a breather before your reception.
I believe it’s so important to take 10-15 minutes on your wedding day after the family photos and couple’s portraits to sit and just breathe with your new spouse. It’s so easy to get swept up and go through the motions, but it’s so important to stop and actually process what is happening in the moment. Even if that puts you 10 minutes behind on your reception, you can afford that. This is YOUR day. Your call. Just take it all in because it goes by so fast. Pull a Jim & Pam and take mental photos, too.
- Use the groomsmen!
There is no shame in having the groomsmen come early and help set up for the day. It’ll save everyone time and stress if you have a lot of people doing a couple of tasks and then having the one with the vision come in and fine tune it all. Not one person can do everything and they shouldn’t be expected to. That way everyone can enjoy their day and not feel overwhelmed.
- Make your wedding YOUR wedding and not a production.
I think the hardest thing as a wedding vendor to witness is whenever you see a couple do everything on their wedding day for the sake of a photo, but never truly be in the moment. If you’re not careful in this instagram world, you’ll be a robot on your day and not actually take in what is happening. Go dance with your friends on the dance floor.. not just for the photo you’ll post for them on their birthday next year. Spend time with your mom!!! Don’t just snap a photo with her. Cut your cake and eat half of it if you want. Don’t cut it for the picture perfect rehearsed moment. Do everything for the memory of doing it. You will regret it if you put yourself on autopilot and do it all because “that’s how weddings go.” By living in and enjoying your wedding day, you will be astounded at the real-life, in-the-moment photographs of love, joy, and emotion throughout this special day that your photographer captures!