On March 8 I had the honor of talking with some brides-to-be and their friends and family about wedding photography as part of a wedding planning brunch held at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel. The brunch was organized by Susanna Davis, owner of Prestigious Events. Susanna had several other vendors speak too about how to plan a gorgeous wedding even if you’re working on a budget, including Barbara Courchesne, owner of the Bud Connection in Ellsworth, and Lauren Annaldo, Catering Sales Manager for Atlantic Oceanside.
Here are my 10 tips (I have more too) that I shared with them when it comes to planning your wedding. Some of these may sounds a little harsh, but it’s said with love.
1. Hire professionals.
Chances are, you’ve never planned a party as large as your wedding will be. It can be overwhelming (thus stressful) with oodles and oodles of to-dos before the “I do’s.” Hire professionals who will work to make you look and feel great. Professional photographers know how to see and adapt to light at your prep location, during your ceremony, at your group formals, and in the reception space. They carry backup gear (and sometimes backup gear for backup gear). They carry lots of batteries and memory cards. They won’t rely on an Auto setting to create images that accent and document your wedding day. And chances are, your pro has seen it all.
Added bonus: Because your pro isn’t family, the pro is more likely to be listened to when they have to take charge and focus on what’s important: the two of you and your guests.
2. Develop a realistic timeline.
Your wedding day timeline is essential to ensuring your wedding (and photography) run smoothly. Allocate time for unforeseen delays (they happen) and be prepared to flex. Weather, traffic, and family can all throw kinks in your plans. If you’re prepared, you’ll be much more relaxed. Better yet, when you prepare your invitation package drive from prep location to ceremony location to reception location. Find out how long it takes and add on 20 minutes per location. Ask the venues you are looking at what they recommend for timing and ask your other pros what they need and how much time to allow.
This is also a wedding, not a Pinterest photo shoot. Nothing is perfect. Things WILL go wrong and there may not be time to make them right. But know that for every one thing that went wrong, another 99 went right. And as long as the two of you are together, married, in the end what does it matter’
3. Be realistic about your “must have” shot list.
It’s my belief that group portraits (families, important friend groups, and your portraits) are one of the most important photographs you will create on your wedding day. Weddings are truly one of the few times that families are all together and HAPPY!
With that being said, plan for at least 3 minutes per group. My approach is to start with the largest group first and subtract folks until we’re down to just you! I always suggest allocating 60-90 minutes for photography groupings. Usually we’re done early, but that bumper is a lifesaver.
One great way to accommodate large “must have” lists of group shots is to do a “first look” where you and your soon-to-be spouse see each other prior to the ceremony. Pull in your wedding party at the same time and the only thing left to photograph after the ceremony is your family groups.
If your MUST HAVE list is long, or if you have large families or large wedding parties (the largest wedding party I ever photographed totaled 39 including the bride and groom), I STRONGLY encourage you to plan 2 hours of time for photos, especially if you’re not doing a First Look. You will need the time.
4. Be realistic about your expectations.
It is impossible for your photos to look exactly like another wedding you saw on a blog or in a magazine. Why would you want to emulate them exactly? Your wedding will be unique. If you’re planning a $10,000 wedding, don’t expect it to look like a $30,000 wedding. Embrace what you can afford and embrace and understand that at the heart of your Big Day are your hearts. Focus on each other and you’ll be all set.
5. Use social media as a guide, but not as your planner.
Pinterest, wedding blogs, magazines, Instagram, and Facebook all have lots of ideas and it’s easy to get sucked into wanting everything you see. Use social media as an idea booster, but not as a “you must make my wedding look like this” planner. Use social media as a springboard, but do what you are able to do. And don’t expect that a photographer will emulate every image that you put on your Pinterest page. Remember, you are unique. YOU are not a Pinterest project.
6. Talk with your married friends and family.
Ask them what their biggest regret was, what their happiest memory was, and what they’d do differently if they could. These folks love you and they want to help (most couples , women in particular, LOVE talking about their wedding). And friends and family aren’t being paid to tell you many of the things a blog, magazine, or newspaper are telling you to do. Put money into the things that will make you smile looking back 5, 10, 20 or 50 years.
What’s my biggest regret? Not investing in a videographer for our wedding day. My husband, a professional musician, enlisted four of our very talented friends to play at our wedding. It was amazing. However, the family-shot video (better than nothing) makes their gorgeous string music sound like something out of a 20s era record. And I don’t remember any of what was said for our toasts. While our photos are OK, they’re not enough to make up for the lack of sound in our amateur video.
7. Delegate tasks to trustworthy people.
You are going to be busy on your wedding day. If you choose not to hire a wedding planner or day of coordinator, you are going to need people you trust to help make sure things happen. Make sure they understand their task and what needs to be done. I always suggest you have someone serve as a liaison for group photographs since I have no idea who family members are.
That being said, hiring someone to help you plan or to just run day-of coordination is super important. Scrimp and save, but do it. Your sanity will thank you.
8. Have a hair, makeup and dress run through.
Even if you’re doing your own hair and makeup, do a run through a month prior to the wedding (and no whining that you’re too fat or not perfect (you are perfectly you and your partner loves you). You may learn that the hairstyle you want will either not look good or not be right for the kind of wedding you’re holding. Try to schedule this run through the day of one of your final fittings. And if you’re having a bustle on your gown, take 2-3 people with you to learn how to do it and PRACTICE. I’ve had to bustle many a gown because folks couldn’t figure it out.
This run through also give you confidence. And that will show through in your photos.
9. Trust your photographer.
Unlike most other vendors, your photographer will be with you the entire day. They will see you in various states of dress. They will know what’s happening and when. They will know how to pose you, how to work your family, and how to best guide you through your wedding day. Trust them when they ask you to do things (and tell them you’re uncomfortable if you are). And trust that they have your best interests at heart.
10. Involve your partner.
Weddings take two and I hate to tell you, but it’s not about you. If your partner is not interested, ask them to choose something they want to plan, like the honeymoon or a special food item for the meal or dessert. If they buy into what’s happening, your event will truly be about the two of you and that’s the point.
Smile and BREATHE. You’re getting married!