Over the years of photographing weddings, my assistants and I have paid careful attention to planning details, wedding day snafus and instances when things could have gone just a little bit smoother. The one vendor who is with you the entire day can see quite a bit! Here are some tidbits we’ve compiled!
1. Assignment of Duties
One of the biggest wedding day blunders that we see is unprepared ushers and personal attendants. Between a no-show personal attendant…or one that shows up still hungover from the night before, to ushers that stand around mindlessly unsure of what they are supposed to — we think it’s pretty important to choose friends and family carefully who will be playing pivotal roles on your wedding day to help you. For personal attendants, choose one or two people who will be willing to stay with you throughout the day and attentive to your needs. Make a care pack for your personal attendant(s) to carry with them (don’t expect them to do this and know your needs). And be sure to communicate your expectations of them. They will work a bit that day. Choose ushers equally as careful. Choosing people who have a great personality and rapport with others is going to be the best fit for a job where they will be seating many of your close friends, family and guests. Also…communicate their job. If they are to hand out programs and seat people, tell them that and tell them what time to start. They are usually the responsible party for getting the ball rolling and can hold things up if they have no idea what to do. Put one usher in charge to lead the team and you will have a seamless start to your ceremony.
2. Putting on That Amazing Dress
You’ve no doubt spent countless hours on searching for your perfect wedding day gown and cannot wait until your groom sees you in it for the first time! One of the big photo moments for brides is putting on the dress and finishing details before seeing her groom. We cannot tell you how many times we’ve seen brides put on a dress in a messy room with clothes and purses on the floor, and bridemaids who are not ready and still wearing sweatpants and t-shirts while they are helping the bride get ready. And this is the scenario you want in your photo? We have advised our clients to plan this part of the day better. Just like you look for a great location for your ceremony — think of the location you will be putting on the dress and what it looks like as well as who will be helping and what they will look like as well! A little effort makes for a memorable, uncluttered moment captured in photos for eternity.
3. Consider a First Look
We’ve seen a good mix of first look vs. no first look. Our advice…have a first look before the ceremony for three reasons: 1) Can you really wait that long? There are several hours before most ceremonies start and they are spent coordinating times to take other photos than the ones of the bride and groom together. Spend more of your day together and start with a first look while your hair and makeup are fresh and your mind is fresh; 2) If you are expecting a BIG reaction from the groom as you walk down the aisle…it usually doesn’t happen. Many people’s eyes are on both of you and that adds quite a bit to any nerves you are already experiencing. Crying grooms are rare and the fist bite as he first sees you is equally as rare. We see more reactions from the groom during a private first look where you both have time to hug, share a kiss, a verbal response to how each other looks and with no eyes peering in on your moment other than the camera (if you choose that); 3) Think of your guests and how they have either traveled long distance, spent money on hotels, and will be spending their whole day with you…FOR you. Do you really want to make them wait while you take photos after the ceremony? And with that in mind…it’s not conducive to really great thoughtful photography to give your photographer only a few minutes to get all the photos with the couple so they can hurry off to the reception. After the wedding, most people are done with photos and ready to party. They are somewhat exhausted from a long day of preparation and while it was a good plan initially, most brides are the first to say “Hurry up, I’m done with photos.”. Something to consider.
4. Flower Pinning, Tie Tying and Pocket Square Folding
There are a few small necessities that can hold up getting the photography started at a wedding. The bride is ready to go, the groom is ready to go…and everyone else is standing around looking for their boutonneiers, bouquests, and wrist corsages or figuring out how to tie a tie and fold pocket squares. Whatever beautiful garnish you are using to beautify your wedding party — have instructions or someone present who knows how to pin flowers, fold pocket squares and/or tie a tie. And know where the flowers are being stored and/or what time they will show up from your florist. Time communications for photography is important here as well. If you are taking photos as Noon — people should be pinned, tied and folded by 11:30 and ready to go at the photography location.
5. Receiving Lines
It’s a fairly modern concept to forego the receiving line. We are happy to say that most couples choose to exit the church, straight to their transportation to be whisked off to the reception where they will be able to greet their guests on a more personal, relaxed level. We have personally been to weddings as guests where couples act as the ushers letting each row go one at a time and serving as the receiving line in the process. As a guest…it was simply agonizing to have to sit and wait so long just to get out of the church pew. There is absolutely nothing wrong with catching up with your guests and even visiting each table at your reception to visit and say thank you. If you were to ask most guests — they would be thrilled to know there is not going to be a receiving line. If you are planning to do a receiving line at the ceremony location — there is no need for anyone other than the couple and maybe the couple’s parents to be present. Do not make your entire wedding party be in the line — this is awkward for your guests and your wedding party. They are not the ones to be congratulated.
6. Use of Props in Photos
One of our biggest pet peeves as wedding photography staff is to get requests to use props to ‘enhance’ the photos. Hello! You’ve spent a bunch of money on your wedding dress, tuxedo and flowers….you have enough props! Best advice always — keep it classy and keep the cheese out of the photos. Entirely. And don’t try to make a Pinterest shrine out of your wedding day. If more time is spent ensuring all of the signs you want to hold to say ‘Thank You’ and ‘Just Married’ than the time we spend taking photos of you both as the couple connecting and in love — then you are simply staging everything. Don’t stage just let the day happen. And leave the props for the photo booth at the reception.
7. The Power of Simplicity
The classiest, most beautiful weddings we see are the ones where all the details are present, but they are classy and simple and not over-thought. We unfortunately live in a DIY world powered by Pinterest. And what that does is make some brides crazy! They latch on to every single idea they see and have to choose them all in some capacity. Keep your planning, details, decorations…everything…very, very simple. Uncluttered reception tables with a centerpiece is sufficient. Believe it or not — party favors are not a necessity. Spend your money on good food for your guests and they will be more than happy! Keep your colors, your floral design…even the dresses and tuxedos simple. Let the beauty of the person shine through on that day and not be overtaken by ‘stuff’. Less is always more in everything. Spend your money on less wedding day ‘stuff’ from the dollar store and you will have a bigger bang for your buck in the end and likely enough money to pay someone else to do it for you at a higher level of execution. Unnecessary details add up fast with your pocketbook!
8. Make a Grand Entrance
Many couples love the excitement of that first entrance when they walk into a reception hall and the guests cheer and they are announced as a couple. Here’s a really good tip — make the grand entrance just yours. The wedding party was there to help your day move along, share it with you and be a friend in what will be one of the most memorable days of your life. But you married one person and one person that you should be sharing the limelight with. When you are announced as a couple to the reception guests — keep it classy and just announce you as the couple.
And as another great tip…keep the guests attention on you and share your first dance as soon as you are announced to the reception hall. It’s more impactful and you are guaranteed to have all eyes on you while you are dancing, rather than tables being cleared, guests getting antsy, some leaving, some visiting, etc. They are waiting for you to enter and also…they are waiting to eat. They are attentive for the first half hour of the reception and will remember your dance for certain.
Lastly, bypass the bar hopping routine. After the wedding, your guests are heading right to the reception hall…and they are hungry. No really, they are super hungry at that point. So while you and your friends are out having drinks and driving all over town in a stretch limo — your guests are wondering when you are getting there. To put it point blank, it is entirely rude to keep them waiting. I’ve heard couples say “It’s our wedding, we can do what we want.” But let us remind you…your guests are what make your wedding day come together as a shared event. And YOU chose to invite them and accept their time and gifts on your day. Be respectful. We’ve seen couples and their friends show up hours after the ceremony — and are intoxicated to boot! If you don’t think people notice, you are wrong. If you want to share a drink at the bar — share a drink at the bar and go to the reception as soon as you are able. Don’t steal the groom or the bride or any of that nonsense. And keep the drinks in the limo to a minimum — you’ve had nothing to eat and a long night ahead. Do you really want to spend your wedding night passed out or look ridiculous in front of your guests? Save it for a night out with friends another night — this is a day for a husband and wife to celebrate their union of love.
9. Keep Cell Phones and Electronics OUT!
Sadly, we live in a day and age where cell phones, iPads and anything electronic that we carry with us has a camera on it! Just because you have a camera, doesn’t mean you are a photographer. And this goes for family and guests. Nothing will ruin a beautiful scene of the bride walking down the aisle or the beauty of the couple sharing their first look than a pushy guest/family member who thinks somehow they NEED to have the same angle as your photographer. In all of our years of shooting — we’ve compiled a great deal of shots with cell phones and iPads in them. Tell your friends, guests and everyone attending this one thing: PUT YOUR PHONES AWAY! And while you are at it…turn them off for goodness sake! Unplug and unwind. Nothing they can get on their phone will hold a candle to your professional photographer’s images anyway.
10. Remember the Purpose of the Day
You are getting married to your best friend and it will be a lifelong friendship in the best of times and worst of times. THIS is the purpose of all the hullabaloo of wedding planning. The fact of the matter is this: something can and will go wrong or not as planned on your wedding day. It can be because of weather. Or perhaps a guest, family member or wedding party member’s behavior or actions create upheaval for you. Maybe the tuxedos are the wrong size for one of your groomsmen, or perhaps the flowers showed up droopy and wilted and don’t look as nice. Maybe someone accidentally stepped on your cathedral veil and left a foot print. Best advice we can give…roll with it! Roll with it, baby! No, it’s not fair — but that’s life. And the way you handle your wedding day is a very good indicator of how you will handle the dips and turns in your marriage. Consider the wedding day a testing ground of sorts. You can literally turn that negative snafu around with a better attitude and a few adjustments. No one will know or care that something was not as you had planned. Fact.
I always love to share the story of the couple who had planned an outdoor wedding. They quite literally had everything go against their plans that day. It rained…alot. And all the beauty of the outdoor gala was forced to go inside. We had nowhere to shoot and ended up shooting in indoors locations that we knew the bride was not excited about. The entire wedding party (and our photography staff), stopped everything for an hour and moved the whole location and set up indoors. It was a wedding I’ll never forget. During the ceremony, the father of the bride accidentally stepped on the dress and gave way to an audible rip. The bride handled EVERYTHING with grace like nothing I had seen in my life. She did not lose sight of the point of the day. Not once. And the memories this couple have from the photos are beyond anything from any other wedding I photographed. Because they can tell a story about their day like no other. They rolled with it and guess what…their wedding photos got picked up by a national wedding blogsite. How cool is that? So the moral is, just get married and remember the purpose of the day. Make memories worth keeping and keep the smile on your face the whole time! It’s going to be the best day ever!