It seems with every wedding I shoot, I learn some new tidbit of helpful information I want to pass along to future brides. Truthfully, I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way in this job - nothing that ever was detrimental to a wedding day, but just things that could’ve been better planned on my part. And sometimes I notice things outside of my control that could’ve been helpful to do differently.
I do share as many helpful tips with my couples as I can, and some things are dependent on the specific wedding. But these gems of advice apply to just about every wedding there is. If you’re soon to be engaged or in the thick of wedding planning, hopefully you find this helpful!
1. Do a hair and makeup trial beforehand
If anything, at least do a hair trial, and if possible, with the stylist you’ll be using on your wedding day. I speak from experience as bride here - it’s worth the extra expense and time. I had a specific vision in my head for how I wanted my hair on my wedding day, but it took a trial (and error) for me to learn how to communicate that vision to my stylist. It wasn’t her fault! But brides, you have to be specific. Take several inspiration photos to your trial appointment, be very detailed in your descriptions, and take a photo of the finished style on you before you leave. I’ve unfortunately seen a few brides not happy with their hairstyle on their wedding day, but at that point, it’s too late. You’ve got one chance with your hair on the big day, and you want to be 100 percent confident in how you look!
2. Hire a day-of coordinator
I could sing this one from the rooftops over and over. If you don’t invest in a planner, that’s understandable! Many brides choose not to for a variety of reasons. But I cannot possibly stress enough the importance of having a day-of coordinator (someone who isn’t your mom, aunt, or best friend) to take care of ALL the tiniest details. Hiring a professional for this job is no doubt one of the very best investments you can make for your wedding. Certain venue rentals include a day-of coordinator and some have it as an add-on. If yours doesn’t offer a day-of coordination service, ask for recommendations. Let yourself and your mom truly enjoy the day without having to answer a million questions, figure out where things and people are, and stress if anything is not going as planned. That’s what a coordinator is there to do - to anticipate needs before they even arise - and all of the ones I’ve worked with have been wonderful at it!
3. Hire a second shooter
Another extremely important investment. I recommend a second shooter for any couple expecting more than 150 guests OR more than 5 bridal party members each. The more people involved in a wedding, the more going on, the longer things take, and the more memories there are to capture. One person can only be in one place at one time! All of the photos taken by this person will be edited seamlessly by the lead photographer, so you shouldn’t even be able to tell who took which photos - you’ll just have lots more of them to look back on!
4. Your venue can be a game-changer
As a professional wedding photographer, it’s my job to create amazing images no matter where you’re getting married - whether that’s the church you grew up in, your parents’ backyard, the local hall in your small town - you don’t have to spend a fortune on a venue. You do you, girl. I’m all about meaningful locations. That said - a venue designed for hosting weddings can be a game-changer, and for one reason - LIGHT. Well, two reasons, really - light and design. Wedding venues built for that purpose typically have strategic window placement and strategic wall colors (as compared to, say, a room with no windows, purple walls and fluorescent lighting), and beautiful landscaping on a pretty piece of land - all of which makes for great photos. And, they’re designed to host large parties. Their bridal suites have tons of seating, mirrors, and plugs. They have a dedicated space for the guys. There’s hopefully plenty of spots on the property that offer a back-up plan in the case of bad weather - not always an option when you’re getting married somewhere that wasn’t designed for weddings.
Again, a professional wedding photographer will deliver images that tell a beautiful story no matter where you choose to host your wedding. But if you’re open to it, investing in a well-designed wedding venue (especially one with tons of windows - the more natural light, the better!) can be way more practical and make taking gorgeous photos a breeze.
5. Have the girls go last for group photos
This is one of those gems of wisdom I’ve learned over the years being a part of weddings. When it comes to group photos, it’s guys first, always! You’ll want to plan for as much time as possible for the ladies to finish hair and makeup. Typically, this part of the day runs long - it’s just the nature of the beast. So I like to capture the guys’ formal photos while the girls finish getting ready, or if I have a second shooter, I’ll have them with the guys while I capture candid moments of the girls. Even if it means the guys have to get fully dressed way before the ceremony, it’s worth it - they can take their suit jackets off when photos are finished and get back to playing foozball. No girl I know has ever turned down more time to get ready!
On that note, I always recommend brides and their moms go first for makeup (and hair, but especially makeup). The bride will be the most photographed person of the day, and her mom is usually in several important shots at the beginning of the day. They won’t regret being all done up for as many photos as possible - even the candids. If the bride needs to start getting ready before my scheduled time to arrive but she still wants photos of her hair and makeup being done, I’ll ask the makeup artist and hairstylist to do a quick touch up once I arrive so we can capture photos of that, and so it all stays fresh.
6. Stay with your husband!
Once you’re married, leave and cleave! Ha. But really, one of the best pieces of advice I received as a bride and one I always pass along is to stay with your husband throughout the night. When you enter your reception, you’ll have a million people you want to hug and say hi to - how amazing is it that all of your loved ones have gathered in one place? That was something I never realized I’d love so much about our wedding day. It’s truly a special feeling. But if you feel pressure to chat with everyone, know that they don’t expect that from you. Really. If you can’t get to everyone, that’s okay.
I just caution couples not to separate for long periods of time, because inevitably they’ll get stopped to chat, but you don’t want the end of the night to come and you haven’t seen your spouse for more than 10 minutes at your own reception. When you make the rounds to say hello, go together. Those who don’t know your spouse will love being introduced, and you’ll get to spend that time by their side. Your guests will not regret that you didn’t get to have a long conversation with them - there just isn’t enough time in the night - but you may regret not spending more time with your new husband on the dance floor!
Just a few bits of wisdom I’ve learned as a bride and as someone who works with brides on the reg. I want you to look back on your day and not regret a single thing! This post (7 Things I’m Glad We Did at Our Wedding) shares a few more practical and memorable things I’m really glad I incorporated into my own wedding day, and that you can, too!
If you have any tidbits to add, share them in the comments!