There are so many expenses when it comes to wedding planning. Many brides have to prioritize what they want to invest in. Over the last 10+ years of photographing weddings, I have found that there are certain things to avoid investing in and other parts of the day that a little extra investment will go a very long way! My hope is that this list will help you invest in the parts of your day that will be high-impact and will help you avoid spending money where it doesn’t matter.
When I’m photographing a wedding, if the bride has a gorgeous bouquet, I can make the entire day look like there were beautiful florals everywhere! I can use the bridal bouquet to spruce up bridal details, reception details AND even bride and groom portraits as well! The bridal bouquet is a focal point for me when it comes to your photography so I highly recommend getting your DREAM bouquet and investing less on the bridesmaids' bouquets since they will not be photographed nearly as much!
Greenery is beautiful and photographs well, and it can be half the price of ordering blooms. I recommend actual flowers for your bridal bouquet and other bouquets but then decorating other aspects of the day with greenery to save money while still making a huge visual impact!
If you’re hoping for a heavily detailed reception but the cost is adding up, focus on one focal point instead of trying to decorate everywhere. For example, invest in a beautiful, large, hanging chandelier or unique lighting elements but do shorter, simpler floral centerpieces on one half of your tables and candles on the other half.
Maybe you choose to have an epic, well-styled entryway decor at your reception that also doubles as an amazing photo booth later on throughout the evening once party dancing has started. Or have elevated florals for your alter and then repurpose them for your reception tables.
Customized favors, personalized M&M’s, etc...it all adds up and at the end of the day, your hard work in the tiny details can often be overlooked.
Ceremony lighting is really important. If you get married outdoors at 12pm, the lighting will be extremely harsh and not only will there be harsh lines of light on your faces, you will also be squinting. I suggest planning an outdoor ceremony 2 hours before sunset if you are having a FIRST LOOK. If you are not interested in sharing a first look, then I would suggest having your ceremony 4 hours before sunset to ensure that you will have plenty of time for all of your portraits afterwards. The lower the sun, the more romantic the lighting. If you are having an indoor ceremony, it is always best to have EVEN lighting at the altar. If there are two spotlights on the bride and groom, I will not be able to expose the rest of the bridal party. It is better to have soft, even light across the whole altar.
The best advice I have for the program-making process is to remember that not EVERY guest needs a program! We printed a program for everyone attending our wedding but quickly realized that most families only took one. We ended up with many extra programs! Which I printed myself one by one on velum paper. Yikes! Also, before ordering your programs, have SEVERAL people check it for spelling and grammatical errors. Programs and the ceremony decor are things that the bride can plan in advance but then delegate the actual job of setting it up to a friend or coordinator. The last thing a bride needs to be doing the morning of her wedding is running around setting up floral arrangements!
Hiring either a full event planner or just a day-of coordinator is so important! Brides realize very quickly that if they do not have someone in charge of the coordination of the day, that responsibility will automatically fall on the mother of the bride, the photographer or the BRIDE herself! When a photographer is in charge of the timeline and the coordination of the day, the images will suffer. All of my stressful wedding situations were caused by a lack of organization and coordination. It’s so important to make this a priority. If you need any recommendations on wedding coordination services I would love to share some of my favorite vendors with you.
The party is here! Receptions can be a blast! However, it’s important to make sure that you have your event well thought out. This is the job of your coordinator and your DJ/Band. Your caterer will also play a big role in the design and set up of your event. Every aspect of your reception affects the overall outline of the evening. For example, if you’re not having a plated meal, your reception will need to be set up in a way that allows movement. Guests will need to be able to find the food stations easily, and there will be a mixture of dinner tables and hightop cocktail tables. This will encourage guests to mix and mingle. If you are having a plated dinner, you will more than likely need escort cards, full place settings and space for all of your guests to be seated comfortably. Whatever the style of your event, make sure that you plan out all of the aspects of the evening. Your coordinator and DJ can help you set up the evening so that guests won’t leave early or experience long periods of waiting for the next thing to happen.
Much like the ceremony, you have the freedom to make your reception your own! It’s your party, it should be exactly how you want it to be! Here is a list of some key events that happen often at receptions:
- Bridal Party Introductions
- First Dance
- Daddy-Daughter Dance
- Mother-Son Dance
- Anniversary Dance
- Money Dance
- Traditional Religious Dances
- Welcome by Father of the Bride
- Cake Cutting
- Bouquet and Garter Toss
- Large group portraits with friends
- The exit of the Bride and Groom
Take your guests into consideration when planning your timeline. If you have a lot of elderly guests that will not be staying until the very end, make sure you schedule the cake cutting at a relatively early time so that they can be a part of it. Grandmas love seeing this sweet tradition!
Chat with your coordinator about how you can plan your reception in a way that will keep guests engaged and moving all night!
If you want to have a special dance with your grandparents, do it! Make your reception a reflection of who you are and don’t feel tied to traditions. Also, make sure you give your DJ or Band a “Do Not Play” list if there are some songs you really don’t want to hear during your reception!
It’s time to relax, dance and celebrate!! Your reception should be a BLAST! The last thing you need to be worrying about is your timeline. Your coordinator and DJ should take care of making sure that everything stays on schedule so that you can enjoy your night. Here are some tips that will help your reception flow smoothly.
In the formalities and the details. Sure, details are pretty and fun to photograph, but they can steal the joy of the day if you get too caught up in them. Plan your centerpieces, welcome table, etc., well before the wedding date, and teach your coordinator or family friend how to set them up so that you aren’t even thinking about those things the day of.
If you haven’t purchased enough coverage time for your photography to last until the exit, that’s ok! We have several options! (See next page!) I recommend planning your timeline so that you can have at least one hour of dancing photographed. The guests who dance during the first hour will still be dancing in the third hour! One hour of dancing will be enough time to really capture the joy of your reception!