Welcome to the ultimate, step-by-step wedding planning guide to getting the absolute most from your special day.
And you know what, I really should be charging for something with this much detail and this much value, but I want to give it to you for FREE. $0.00. Nothing. Nadda. Zilch.
Because I truly want the best for you.
I truly want you to have the absolute best experience with your wedding.
So, let’s dive deep and get straight into it, shall we?
This ultimate wedding planning resource guide was created with over a decade of experience.
This guide has everything you could ever need from the wedding photography side of your special day. It includes experience from over 15 years, countless weddings, countless weather conditions, both local to New York, where I am based as well as around the world from everywhere that I have personally photographed. I understand how overwhelming that it can get at points during the wedding planning process.
Yes, I am a wedding photographer, but when it comes to your wedding day and getting the most out of your wedding photographs, planning is key. And since I have a lot of the experience, this guide is designed to help you to get the absolute most out of your wedding day. From start to finish, A thru Z, this guide is meant to be the ultimate resource for you. I’m not going to hold anything back.
As you move forward and read through this step-by-step guide, just remember that hiring the right photographer is much more than just finding someone who can take pretty photos of a beautiful couple. That’s the simplest part of what we do as wedding photographers, to be totally honest. After all, a truly talented wedding photographer is much more than just someone who can take a beautiful photograph. It’s someone who can also have fun with you on your wedding day, help keep your nerves calm during those stressful moments, someone who can adjust on the fly with a million different moving pieces on a wedding day, and who can ultimately provide you with both the experience and the quality of photographs that you’ve always been dreaming of. You have one opportunity to get it right. You’re getting married once. And that’s exactly why hiring the right wedding photographer is so key, and exactly why I have taken the hours putting together this wedding planning guide together for you.
At the end of your wedding day, I want you to be so excited to see your photographs. And when you receive them, I want you to be able to relive your wedding day over and over again in those moments that were captured. So, keep reading everything below. I am going to go step-by-step to help you navigate this crazy planning process as best I can.
PICKING YOUR WEDDING DATE & YOUR WEDDING BUDGET
Once you are engaged, it’s all about sitting down with your fiance and selecting a few date options. The high majority want to go straight to a Saturday date in the middle of one of the warmest months to increase your chances of a sunny, warm day, but it’s also about your budget too. Did you know that some venues and wedding professionals offer small discounts for having your wedding day midweek, away from peak season and/or peak days? It’s worth inquiring about if you want to save some money or have your money stretched a bit farther. On those peak days (Saturdays) and peak months (typically May-October), don’t expect any discounts from wedding professionals.
For your budget, that’s a super important internal discussion to have both with your fiance and [potentially] your parents. See what you can realistically afford considering payments are able to be stretched out over time, much like a car, house, etc. Remember, your wedding day is an investment into one of the most memorable, special days of your entire life.
Once you have set an overall budget, it’s time to simply look at it in terms of your priorities. What percentage of your overall budget will go to a particular item? Let’s run an example here.
Let’s say your overall budget your wedding day is $50,000. And let’s run down a very hypothetical example. Obviously, change these numbers to meet your budget and your priorities.
- 30% – Wedding venue
- 30% – Food & drink
- 20% – Florals, decor, rentals
- 10% – Photography
- 5% – Dress
- 5% – Other
So, if you initially thought of a $4000-$5000 photographer as expensive, when you compare it to the catering budget set aside at $15,000 (30% of the overall budget), you will very quicky realize that your photographer is one of the smaller overall investments into your special day.
Now, the above example might not be the budget you are setting aside. Your budget might be more or it might be less. Either way, you will make it happen for however your priorities are set.
For a lot of our clients, photography is the #1 most important thing. Some people don’t about 5-star meals or professionally bartended signature cocktails. They cared about long-lasting, timeless photographs that will be able to cherish for the rest of their entire life and beyond. They want to pass those photographs down to future generations.
BOOK YOUR WEDDING VENUE AND WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER ASAP
Most often, couples book their wedding venue first, and then their photographer. But when your wedding photography is paramount over anything else, you can book your wedding photographer first to lock them in and then book your wedding venue that fits that photographers schedule and that set date. That said, you can also go the route of booking your wedding venue first but also after checking in with the photographer you are really wanting to hire, and then locking both in nearly simultaneously. That way, you get the best of both worlds with everything you are desiring. And this is why it’s also good to go into the conversation with a few dates in mind.
I can’t tell you how many couples I have had to, unfortunately, turn away because I was already booked.
HOW SOON DO I NEED TO BOOK MY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER?
Now. ASAP. Don’t delay this. If you are really wanting to ensure you get the person you want for your special day, book them now. Some photographers book their schedules up to 2 years in advance. Most book 9-14 months in advance. So, if you are thinking about a super popular peak season, peak date (remember those Saturdays in summer time), book early. And when you inquire, be ready to make a decision relatively quickly. It’s common to receive multiple inquiries for peak dates, and bookings are first-come, first served. I don’t want you missing out!
DO I NEED TO PAY IN FULL OR ARE THERE PAYMENT PLANS AVAILABLE?
Most wedding venues and wedding professionals offer payment plans. You do not need to pay in full. A wedding is an investment in your cherished memories, and many wedding pros are more than happy to offer customized payment plans if you ask. Personally, I offer payment plans. I want to be one wedding resource that you do not have to stress about.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I BOOK YOU AS MY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER?
There are a few things! First, you will get a questionnaire to fill out to help me get on the same page with your nitty-gritty details, your must-haves, and to know who the other wedding vendors will be. That way, if I ever have any questions about something, I know who to reach out to, and I know who to credit when I am submitting your beautiful wedding day to wedding magazines, blogs, and posting to my own social media.
After that, it’s you and I keeping in touch. You send me emails whenever you have questions, and I provide you with the answers or a resource for you to check out to get the answers you’re looking for. Either way, I am there to help you along the way.
As your wedding date nears, it’s about nailing down those details. I will send you some reminders about the timeline, family portraits, and other key pieces of info to help ensure we are on the same page about everything well ahead of time. That way, you simply can just sit back, relax, and enjoy your wedding day to the fullest.
During this time, you also have the option of scheduling an engagement session.
YOUR ENGAGEMENT SESSION
While entirely optional, your engagement session can be incredibly helpful in practicing your posing, learning how to work with a professional photographer, building your trust in your wedding team early on, as well as simply receiving gorgeous photographs for your wedding. You can use these photographs for your save-the-dates, invites, website registries, guest books, wall artwork, holiday cards, and of course you can plaster them all over your Instagram and Facebook.
The engagement session is FUN!
99.99% of couples I have ever worked with (and I’ve worked with many) have said that they are uncomfortable in front of the camera and they will need help posing, etc. And you know what? I’ve got you! I don’t expect you to know how to pose, but that’s also why these portrait sessions aren’t really about posing. They’re about having fun with each other. And we’ll certainly be laughing the entire time. That’s what it’s all about.
So, you might be wondering when to schedule your engagement session.
Typically, I recommend about 6 months prior to your wedding day, but it really also depends on the style of images you are wanting. Are you wanting those cozy fall vibes wearing sweaters and scarves, or are you wanting that gorgeous, lightweight dress flowing in the summer breeze? Or maybe you’re wanting a snowy adventure surrounded by snow-covered trees. Whatever your decision is there will determine the time of year best-suited for your engagement session.
Regarding time of day, it’s totally determined by the time of year and the location. Some locations photograph better mid-day, others in the morning, and others during the typical golden hour in the evening. Most often, the engagement sessions will be in the late afternoon or early evening. Either way, I will help you navigate all of this. After 15 years as a full-time photographer, I know the best locations and I can help you achieve what you are looking for with your engagement portrait session.
WHAT TO WEAR TO YOUR ENGAGEMENT SESSION & OTHER ENGAGEMENT SESSION TIPS
Most importantly, it’s impossible to overdress. Always come erroring on the side of being too dressy rather than too casual. Here are a few basic pointers to help you in the right direction:
- Pick one outfit. With your engagement session, you are limited to a time duration. And the second outfit that you have in mind isn’t your favorite. You will always have that one favorite outfit. Choose that one. And maximize the time you have during your engagement session with that one outfit. Otherwise, you will spend a duration of that time changing. It’s honestly just not worth it doing more than one outfit for your engagement session.
- Don’t try to go all matchy-matchy. Go for complimentary outfits instead. Similar vibes. Similar colors. Complimentary is the key word here.
- Stay away from bold patterns and graphics.
- Avoid items of clothing with big logos. If you can, stay away from logos altogether.
- Ladies, for your outfits – Pastel colors are great. Soft, warm, romantic tones. And if you want to really make a bold statement, go for a really bold red or popping yellow. Those two colors really stand out – especially if you are trying to becomce Insta-famous.
- Accessories are an amazing touch. The quality is in the details. Don’t go for bold accessories, but go for accessories that add that extra bit of class and personality.
- Empty your pockets. Don’t have anything on you during your session. You don’t want to look back on photographs for the rest of your life when you have your keys, cell phone or wallet bulging out.
- Iron or steam your clothes to eliminate all wrinkles. That’s even true if it’s a brand new shirt, gentlemen. Those new shirts and pants are creased, and those lines will show up in the photographs. Make sure those outfits are looking sharp and wrinkle-free.
- Clean your ring. Make it sparkle. Many jewelers will do this for free for you.
- Plan for traffic. Even if that day typically doesn’t have traffic, plan for it. Worst case scenario, you will arrive early and be able to relax. Do not plan to arrive right when your session is supposed to start. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the session start time.
- Arrive early. Same note as above, but it’s worth repeating. You will be less stressed and more relaxed so you can simply just enjoy your portrait session.
- Make a date out of it. You are all dressed up, so after your session is done, go grab a romantic dinner. It’s these moments that are truly memorable. Make it a fond one.
WHEN ARE ENGAGEMENT SESSIONS PHOTOGRAPHED?
Weekdays. Typically on Mondays. Weekends are reserved for weddings and Sundays are reserved for family time when there isn’t a wedding scheduled. Everything I do is for my family, so that time is cherished. Mondays are typically the perfect evening for engagement sessions since popular locations have fewer tourists and locals visiting them, parking is easier, and traffic is lighter. After 15 years of testing out literally every day of the week, I have found Mondays to be the best days for outdoor engagement sessions for these main reasons.
SHOULD YOU DO A BOUDOIR SESSION?
Boudoir sessions can be that extra special gift for your soon-to-be husband. There are tons of nerves that can definitely lead up to it, and that’s 100% normal. If you decide to go the boudoir route, it definitely works best when paired with a photo album or a few prints. After all, he’s not going to want to share the images on social media! He will just want those to himself, and you might want those to look back on over the years. It’s powerful!
If you’re comfortable with sexy lingerie – rock it! If you’re not comfortable with those negligee’s, go for whatever you are comfortable with! Maybe some daisy-dukes ripped jean shorts, or some cute, playful underwear and his favorite sports team jersey or his button-down work shirt. Play it up and have fun with it!
If you are wanting to do a boudoir session, I recommend having that scheduled for roughly 2-3 months prior to your wedding day. That way, you are giving your photographer ample time to edit the photographs, deliver your gallery, and for the artwork/album to get to you in time prior to your wedding day. That way, you can give it to him as a special surprise as a wedding gift that he will truly cherish forever.
NOW THAT YOU ARE GETTING CLOSER TO YOUR WEDDING DATE, WHAT SHOULD YOU THINK ABOUT NEXT?
I have taken the time to create an in-depth, step-by-step example timeline for all our brides, but since you’re here, have a look through it. It’s incredibly valuable and it will help you understand an example timeline if you are either doing a first-look or a non-first look timeline.
As you look through all of that, just tweak it as you see fit to make your wedding day flow as you want it to.
Wedding pro hack: Before anything else, figure out your ceremony time. Personally, I would recommend somewhere close to 5:00pm. This time would have your ceremony over by roughly 5:20-5:30 pm, the cocktail hour over by roughly 6:30pm, and your dinner served no later than 7:00pm. With this, you are still having you and your guests eating at a respectable dinner time, nobody is starving, and you aren’t having the ceremony too early either and having your lighting conditions be super poor.
On that note, it’s important to say that if you are having an outdoor ceremony, it’s strongly recommended that you do not have your ceremony any earlier than 5pm. While there are a lot of variables to take into consideration, the best light is traditionally later in the day. Do what you can to avoid that harsh overhead light.
If you have any control over where your ceremony is taking place outside as well, try to place your ceremony location where the sun will be directly behind the officiant’s back. This will give you the most flattering light for your ceremony photos.
WEDDING PLANNERS & DAY-OF COORDINATORS VERSUS VENUE MANAGERS & COORDINATORS
Okay, so this subject is a bit of a controversial one depending on who you chat with, but you are here reading this ultimate wedding resource guide because you want the real opinions from my decade of experience. So, let’s get into it. I am not going to hold back.
- Wedding planners: Worth their weight in gold. They are amazing – when you hire the right one. That said, egos and attitudes can run rampant. Find a planner that has the experience that can do the job right, and do it the way you want to do it. Not how they want to do it. And don’t let a planner tell you that you can’t have a wedding for under a certain dollar number. You can get married for the cost of a marriage license at the courthouse if that’s what it takes. Just find someone that you really respect based on the quality of weddings they produce, the reviews of their customers, and the personality they have throughout the experience. Do your due diligence. If you would like recommendations on the best wedding planners I know, I can certainly send you a short-list.
- Day-of wedding coordinators: If you do not have the budget for a full planner, a day-of wedding coordinator should be your next best thing. Just please hire a pro and not your aunt who was ‘formerly a planner in a previous life’ or someone who ‘plans a lot of parties, so this should be the same thing.’ No. Just no. Your wedding day is a special day, and you want someone there by your side as your go-to person for all those questions that will come up. And as a day-of wedding coordinator, they can help manage those million moving pieces on your behalf so that you can just sit back and relax on your wedding day. And a professional day of coordinator will be one step ahead of those million moving pieces because they have seen it all before – and often.
- Day of coordinator versus venue manager/coordinator: Okay, so this is another big one. A venue manager/coordinator is not the same thing as a standalone wedding coordinator. A venue manager/coordinator is a person who is going to manage the events of the venue and to help ensure the venue details are set up as you wish. That said, the venue manager/coordinator will not be checking in with you on the morning of your wedding day, helping answer questions for you regarding hair and makeup or help you figure out solutions to problems at multiple stages of the day. That is, that’s my experience with venue managers for the most part. That said, standalone day-of wedding coordinators are much more hands-on with you throughout your day, and they can work seamlessly alongside the venue manager. They can work well as a team.
- Final thoughts: I strongly urge you to think about having a wedding coordinator for your wedding day. They don’t have to be expensive, but they can certainly be incredibly helpful in creating a proper wedding timeline, helping you with your wedding rehearsal, answering tons of questions, helping ensure a smooth wedding day, and helping a multitude of other tasks and responsibilities throughout your wedding. They’re worth it.
WEDDING TIMELINE VARIABLES & OTHER PIECES OF ADVICE FOR DIFFERENT TIMES OF YEAR
The weather forecasters are notoriously wrong, so just be aware of the weather conditions this time of year. It can get crazy quickly. But if you have the right attitude, it can still certainly be absolutely gorgeous. I have personally photographed many, many weddings in Spring time and the high majority have been very lucky to have sun and warmth. And because they chose an off-season date, they got off-season rates. So, they saved money too! Just have those clear umbrellas handy in case the rain comes, and run with it. The wedding photographs will be gorgeous no matter what with the right photographer. The biggest thing that makes a gorgeous photograph is a happy couple and a great attitude. If you have that, you’re golden no matter the time of year.
The most popular dates for the tri-state area are in summer, hands down without question. And because of this, you have to book early. Don’t delay in booking your wedding photographer if you are truly wanting to book specific wedding professionals. I don’t mean that to sound like I am pressuring you at all, but it’s the real truth. The most popular wedding professionals are booked early, so don’t delay when booking your wedding team. It’s best to have a few dates in mind, contact your desired wedding photographers before booking your venue, and then doing your best to try and book those two main things nearly simultaneously. After that, things are seemingly easily to take care of. Because now those two most important things are locked in and taken care of. The rest is easy street, especially when you have the right wedding pros on your side.
If for whatever reason that peak Saturday you want is already taken, you should consider having a Friday or Sunday wedding. Everybody loves the excuse to take a long weekend to themselves and come help celebrate. (Note, not all wedding professionals will offer discounts for weddings on non-peak days, but it’s certainly something for you to consider as you plan your wedding day.)
If you are planning a summer wedding, take into consideration the heat, your clothing options (3 piece suites in 90-degree weather aren’t so comfortable), and other weather-related
I love fall. The air is crisp, nobody is sweating profusely, the trees are turning oranges, reds and yellows, and it’s just a beautiful time of year. Honestly, I think it’s my favorite season. It’s cuddle season! Just plan for the occasional storm. Fall can get stormy, especially the later into October and November that you get. So, prepare for rain and wind. I’ve photographed some weddings on some of the stormiest days of the entire year, and they were absolutely beautiful. Don’t let a little storm get in the way of your dream wedding.
Plan for early portraits. And since you will most likely want to keep your ceremony time to around 4 or 4:30pm, that means you will have more flash photography involved in your wedding day and not a lot of those light, bright and airy photographs you might find all over Pinterest. And you know what, that’s totally okay! With the right photographer, you will still get plenty of those early on in the day before the sun goes down. And then you can cuddle up with your husband by the fire during your reception, make some smores, have a bourbon, and dance the night away. If you are planning a winter wedding, my advice is to go all out with that winter aesthetic. Really play it up! Even look for wedding venues that might be covered in snow. Snow is a gorgeous thing to photograph and it looks pleasing in nearly every scenario. It’s super romantic, very unique, and incredibly beautiful. I love Winter!
NOW, LET’S CHAT ABOUT YOUR WEDDING DAY AND HOW TO GET THE ABSOLUTE MOST OUT OF IT
THE MORNING – GETTING READY
It’s finally your wedding day!
By now, your wedding day details should all be figured out. And on your wedding day, there’s a few basic things to help your day get kicked off on the right foot.
- Set the expectations with your bridesmaids that you are going to want to relax on your wedding day and you are going to want their help in achieving it (in a nice way, of course – haha)
- Have your bridesmaids hang the wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses somewhere great before your photographer arrives.
- Have wood hangers or special-designed hangers for the dresses.
- Have your invitations, jewelry, shoes, and any other wedding day details set aside all together for your photographer to grab as soon as they arrive.
- Have a bottle of champagne and champagne glasses available for some toast shots, and think about having a secondary bottle there that’s a bit lower cost so you can shake it up & pop it! It makes for a really awesome photo, and it’s worth the $10 bottle you can get at the store! Do it!
- Consider having matching robes for those cute getting ready photos.
- Decide early on who you want doing up the back of your dress. It saves from a tough decision on your wedding day. (Hack: If you can’t figure out one single person, you can have multiple people doing up the back in different stages).
- Have whoever is doing up the back of your dress (mom, etc) get in their dress prior to helping you get in yours. You want them looking on point for your photographs.
- Get your manicure and pedicure done a day or two before your wedding day so all those detail photos are looking fantastic.
- Decide if you would like to do a “first look” with your dad after you get ready.
- Once you are ready, it’s a wonderful opportunity to exchange gifts, read a card from your significant other, etc. It’s a beautiful moment that can be full of emotions.
- Don’t put your jewelry or shoes on until after you have your wedding dress on.
- Have your bouquets delivered to where you are getting ready so that they are all ready to go for your first look and wedding party photos.
And now that you are ready, dressed, and excited for the next step… what exactly is next?
THE FIRST LOOK
The old tradition was to see each other for the first time as you walk down the aisle. The new tradition is to have a “first look.” And if you aren’t sure what a first-look is, it’s simply seeing each other prior to the ceremony. And there’s tons of benefits with having your timeline set up with a first look, and it’s why I strongly recommend it.
Having a first look is super beneficial primarily because it allows you to spend your cocktail hour with your friends and family. If you didn’t do a first-look, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the cocktail hour because you would be out taking photos. Additionally, it’s a great way to calm those wedding day jitters before the ceremony and have more of a shared experience through the day with your significant other. Additionally, you will feel less rushed through your wedding timeline. And if you’re wondering if it’s any less emotional than seeing each other for the first time as you walk down the aisle, I would say that it could be even a little more emotional based on all the first-looks that I have photographed over the years.
Why, you ask? Because it’s way more intimate and you don’t have 100+ people also looking at you as you’re seeing each other down the aisle.
On top of all of that, having a first look gives you the opportunity to take even more photos! And that’s always an awesome thing.
I could go on with so many other benefits, but these are the main perks.
OTHER WEDDING DAY TIPS AND THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
There are a lot of moving parts to a wedding day, so I hope that this wedding resource guide is as helpful as I claim. I don’t want anything left off the table when you are putting your details together, especially when it comes to your wedding photography.
So, there are a few more things we should chat about. Here they are:
- Build in a cushion into your timeline. Sometimes, things can get a bit delayed with hair and makeup. Or with any other number of things. So, building in a cushion of about a half an hour can be a total game changer. And if your day goes off without a hitch and there are no delays, you now have a half an hour to catch your breath before the ceremony and take in all the small details and/or take a few more portraits. Win-win.
- Let’s talk bridal bouquets. The very traditional route is to go all-white. I do not recommend you do this. An all-white bouquet actually does not photograph as well as a bouquet with a contrasting color. A white bouquet against a white dress simply looks a bit bland in most photographs, and you can lose some of that detail. So, toss in a bit of color that goes along with your wedding theme.
- Travel time/logistics. If you are getting ready at one location, then going off to another for portraits, then to another for the ceremony and reception – build in time for traffic, parking, getting things together, fixing hair and makeup, and simply because you don’t want to feel rushed on your wedding day. Ever. Build in time for traffic, unplanned construction, car accidents, sports games, parades, you name it. If it can happen, I’ve seen it. Especially in downtown environments. So, plan for it.
- Hair and makeup. Brides should be getting ready second to last or very last. This way, your hair and makeup is looking on point right before your first look and portraits.
- Getting in your dress. I will coach you on exactly what to do. Just have an area cleared by the largest window in the room/house for you to get ready in front of. Those big windows/doors will be your best source of light for your getting ready portraits.
- A veil is a great option for photographs. So, even if you aren’t thinking of a veil in the traditional sense, it adds another layer for potential photo opportunities.
LET’S CHAT CEREMONY DETAILS
- Have a sign or announcement that asks that guests keep cell phones off and away during the ceremony. It happens way too often where a guest leans into the aisle or stands up in the middle of the ceremony to take photographs of their own from an old cell phone or tablet. And when they do this, they become the attention grabber. They can even get in the way of the best angle for those photos as you walk down the aisle – and instead of seeing your face, you see a cell phone. Nobody wants that.
- While ceremony details can feel important, when you stand up there, it’s like you have tunnel vision. Your adrenaline is pumping and your excitement is through the roof. Everything around you is secondary to the person standing in front of you. The person you are about to marry. So, those ceremony details are more for your guests than anything else. Don’t get overly caught up in it. Have a beautiful floral display at the alter and be present in the moment. Your wedding party will be your detail. That’s honestly all you really need, in my opinion.
- Your processional. Cue the romantic music, the string quartet, or the pump-up jams. Pick something that is your personality. Have fun with it. Make your day uniquely you. That’s what it’s all about.
- Your officiant. This topic can go one of the multiple ways, but I have seen all sorts of personalities with officiants. Please meet with them prior to hiring them, or at least have a Skype session or something similar to where you can e-meet them. Just something that helps you understand their personality. Are they overbearing? Are they too controlling? Are they too into the details about how you stand, where you look, what you do, etc? If so, run and find someone else. They will pass it off as them helping you, but it’s more stressful than anything. Just find someone who is a great public speaker, someone who can make it personal to you two, and someone you can fully trust and rely on. Everything else can be handled by your planner, coordinator, or whoever is helping you during your rehearsal other than the officiant.
- Lighting during your ceremony. With most wedding venues, you have no control over the ceremony location. And that’s totally okay. But you do have control over the time of day the ceremony will happen. And if you want the best lighting, opt for the latest time possible before it gets dark. There’s a lot of variables here for the time of year, so if you have any questions over this for your particular wedding day, please just email me and I will be more than happy to assist you. That said, if you do have control over your ceremony location, have the sun be on the back of where your officiant will stand. This will make for the best lighting for your faces as you get married. Plus, it adds a nice hair/rim light. Avoid an early-afternoon ceremony if you want great looking ceremony photos.
- Consider doing something meaningful between the two of you during the ceremony. You can plant a tree together in a vase/pot, you can light a unity candle, you can do lots of things. Just check out Pinterest and you will see that there are countless ideas.
- This is the one thing that my wife and I regretted that we didn’t do. We really, really wish that we would have said custom written vows to each other. We didn’t do it because we were so nervous thinking about standing in front of everyone and making a fool of ourselves. But what did we know? We should have done it. And we recommend you do it as well. It’s yet another opportunity to be very open and vulnerable, truly emotional, and it’s a great photo opportunity. If your soon-to-be husband isn’t an emotional guy, this is one of those opportunities where you might finally see him tear up. Writing custom vows is the way to go.
- Go big with it! Shoot off those gold glitter canons, have bubbles filling the aisle, just do something amazing. It’s where you two will have the biggest natural smiles on your faces, and adding to it with some extra detail would be so incredible. I’ve seen a lot of really amazing recessionals and with some truly unique music to go along with it.
- I have been to countless weddings where the bride & groom puts in so much time, effort and money in creating gorgeous programs, and no guest cares about them. They just sit there unused and unread. People know what time they need to arrive, and they are sticking around until they get tired. Period. Keep your day simple.
SIGNING YOUR LICENSE
Right after you have your ceremony, it’s time to make it all official by signing your license. Here, have your catering crew provide you with a couple of snacks and your signature cocktail. And make sure your two witnesses and your officiant remain nearby since they will be needed to sign off on everything.
It’s important to have a wedding photographer who knows how to handle family portraits like a pro. And by this I don’t mean those portraits that you see in a mall photo studio. I mean someone who knows the best order of operations, a commanding voice to go from one group to the next, and who can choose the best location and equipment to get the job done the best possible way in the fastest possible way. After all, these family portrait times can also feel quite overwhelming to most couples. But, they’re also super important. Your wedding day will be like a family reunion, and that’s exactly why I have designed a totally custom template for all my brides to fill out 3 weeks prior to the wedding day. That way, when the wedding day arrives, I already know exactly what group to call out and how long the family portrait session will take. And in my experience, most family portrait sessions will take between 15-20 minutes in total, but this is totally dependent on the size of each family and how well the guests cooperate and listen.
After you have completed your family portraits, go enjoy cocktail hour! During this time, I will be staying out of your hair and capturing real moments and real emotions as they happen. This is the time for photojournalism. And if you want any super particular portraits with certain guests, just call me over and I’ll get it done.
GOLDEN HOUR PORTRAITS
Depending on the time of year, the end of your cocktail hour might coincide with golden hour. And if so, it’s a great time to escape away for a few minutes for even more portraits. After all, your guests will still be there during your dinner and reception for you to say hello to and these are the portraits that will be hanging on the wall for the rest of your life.
Whether or not you decide to head out for golden hour portraits (I hope that you do), a great way to enter into your reception is with a grand entrance. You can either do this as a couple, or you can go in as an entire wedding party with each pair introduced with a unique introduction. Make it funny and really bring out those personalities! Your DJ may also act as your MC and it’s a great way to set the tone for the evening.
Catering can easily become the most expensive element of your entire wedding day, but know one thing – the guests of your wedding day truly don’t mind what there is to eat as long as it’s tasty and it fills them up so they don’t get hungry. I’ve seen luxury weddings serve cheeseburgers, and the guests were ecstatic with joy. I’ve seen lower budget weddings spend the high majority of their budget on fish and steak for 150+ guests and the guests didn’t even enjoy it. The difference between these two catering budgets: Over $10,000. Your guests are not there for a fancy meal. They are there to celebrate your wedding day and to have an incredible evening with friends and family. The food choices are the least of their concern. Remember, this day is all about you and what you want. So if you want pizza and beer, have pizza and beer. If you want steak, get steak. Just understand that the entire rest of your wedding budget can be eaten quickly by your catering budget – and that you can spend more in other areas (photography, décor, DJ, or even your honeymoon) if you cut back on the catering.
There are two traditional ways of serving dinner to your guests.
- Plated dinner. With this option, your guests are all served at roughly the same time and according to dietary restrictions from a pre-planned choice between two options. Typically, the options are chicken or fish.
- With this option, guests typically have a few more options to choose from, they can serve themselves according to the amount they believe they will eat, can serve themselves seconds, and usually creates fewer headaches (number of questions from guests). So, which table goes first? Well, certainly not everybody at once. The first table will be the wedding party, followed by the table with the parents of the bride & groom, and then the rest can be fun and determined by games. As an example, you can have your DJ/MC play a trivia game with your guests, and whichever table gets the answer correct first is able to then go up to get food from the buffet. Remember, your wedding day is supposed to be fun!
The timing of toasts depends heavily on if you are having a plated dinner versus a buffet style dinner. But either way, ensure that guests have had enough time to eat, settle in, get into good conversation, and they’ve had a glass of wine or two. Typically, in my experience, this will be about 45-50 minutes after dinner officially started.
Have pre-set toast-makers, and let them know which order they will be in. If possible, try to let them know to keep their toasts to under 5 minutes. Around 3-4 toasters are perfect. Remember, if you have 4 toasters, that is up to 20 minutes of toasts. Plenty.
Another common question of toasts is if you should have open mic.
While you certainly can (it’s your wedding day, after all), open mic can get a bit wild and crazy. You never know who is going to come up and start rambling on about stories you didn’t want them to share, and they might be someone who you simply don’t really want to hear from on your wedding day (blunt but super true). Plus, guests can commonly feel super uncomfortable with the pressure of saying a speech or not. Some even feel guilty if they didn’t stand up to make one on the spot.
CUTTING THE CAKE
Right after your toasts, it’s a great way to keep the energy flowing by having your DJ/MC to announce that you will now cut the cake. Keeping that energy going is key for your evening! And while your catering staff is cutting the rest of the cake after your initial cut, you head off to the dance floor.
FIRST DANCE AS HUSBAND AND WIFE
Right after you cut your wedding cake, it’s time to dance! Head off to the dance floor and show off your sweet dance moves. Just keep it with your personality. Whether you choose a classic love song or a modern rock ballad, you can’t go wrong with your choice. It’s your day. Make it uniquely you.
FATHER-DAUGHTER DANCE & MOTHER-SON DANCES
These dances are so sweet. And they can be incredibly emotional. If you want, you can have these separate and with full-length songs, or you can have your DJ cut the song early. You can also have the option of having these two dances simultaneously if that calms anybody’s nerves.
DANCING / RECEPTION
Now that the key dances are completed, it’s time to let loose and party! Your DJ and you by now have chatted about the songs you want, the vibe and mix you want, and the right DJ will do what they do best and keep that energy flowing and dance floor packed. And as with anything, there are many different DJ’s of all types and qualities, and I am more than happy to lend my recommendations.
BOUQUET TOSS & GARTER TOSS
While the garter toss isn’t being done nearly as much as it used to, it’s still another option for you to get some more photo ops. And with your bouquet toss, you can either toss your genuine wedding bouquet or you can create a mini replica specifically for the toss! I have seen some brides even snag a bouquet from a centerpiece on a guest table.
PLAYING THE SHOE GAME
It’s such a fun game to play! It’s entertaining to everybody. You go back-to-back and play a trivia game about who thinks what about the other person. You take both of your shoes off, swap one of them for the other and you start answering questions!
Example: Groom is holding one of his owns shoes and one of the brides’ shoes. The bride is doing the same. Then, they sit back-to-back with each other on chairs facing opposite directions. And now that everything is set and they can’t see each other, the MC (or designated guest) starts asking questions.
- Who asked who on the first date?
- Who made the first move?
- Who’s more romantic?
- Who’s messier?
- Who takes longest to get ready?
- Who’s more romantic?
- Who gives the best gifts?
- Who’s the cook?
If the groom thinks the bride is more romantic, he holds up the bride’s shoe. And if the bride thinks the groom is more romantic, she holds up the groom’s shoe. And since they are facing away from each other, there’s no cheating, and the answers can get pretty funny!
HOW MUCH RECEPTION COVERAGE DO I REALLY NEED?
It’s my honest opinion that you only truly need about 40 minutes of general reception/dancing after those special first-dances. This will be plenty of time to capture those high-energy moments with you and your closest friends and family. After those 40 minutes or so, the photographs can seem slightly redundant, and you might not want a camera in your face quite literally all-day-long. And with 8 hours of coverage, that is about what you would get. That said, if you are wanting your reception covered throughout the very end, let’s totally do it! You would just need to add an additional hour or two to your coverage time.
OTHER COMMON QUESTIONS
WHAT HAPPENS IF WE ARE RUNNING LATE ON OUR WEDDING DAY?
When you hire the right people, the likelihood of this happening is very, very slim. That said, it can (and does) happen from time to time. So, if you are running late because hair & makeup took a bit longer than expected (or anything else), your wedding photographer is now given a shorter time window to capture those incredibly important portraits. And this is where hiring the right photographer is so key. An amateur photographer can panic and not be sure what to do, whereas a professional, experienced photographer can work with it on the fly, help keep nerves calm, and suggest a best way to get everything done efficiently.
Even if you are running late, do your best to keep your ceremony on time as much as possible. The most I would ever push back the ceremony time is about half an hour. Any more than that, and guests start getting antsy and wander off. If you are needing to make up time for portraits, you can always do that during your cocktail hour.
WHAT DO WE DO IF IT ENDS UP RAINING DURING OUR PORTRAIT WINDOW?
It’s totally up to you! Personally, I think there’s no bad weather condition when it comes to a wedding day. It just totally comes down to your attitude. Own it with a smile on your face and complete confidence and it will be super unique, incredibly gorgeous, and downright awesome. But if you look miserable in the rain, the photos will look the same. Attitude is everything.
That said, many wedding venues do not photograph that great indoors because they are notoriously dark – and I am personally hired for my photography style that is light, bright, airy, romantic, and modern. So, this means ample natural light.
If it’s raining, I am going to suggest we still go outside. If it’s absolutely pouring and storming outside, let’s still go outside – but bring some clear umbrellas with you. Leave those traditional black umbrellas at home. Clear umbrellas are your best friend when wanting to go outside and relatively dry during a pouring rain storm.
WHAT ARE THE BEST WEDDING VENUES IN NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY, BROOKLYN, LONG ISLAND AND HUDSON VALLEY?
I have completely dedicated areas of my website for this, but before I start linking you to those things, let’s chat! Otherwise, you could be sent down a bottomless rabbit hole.
Use the contact form on my website and let me know the sort of vibe you’re looking for and I will narrow down the search for you and send you a handful that are totally awesome and incredibly gorgeous. I am here to help!
AFTER YOUR WEDDING DAY
WHEN DO YOU GET YOUR WEDDING PHOTOS AND HOW ARE THEY DELIVERED?
Every wedding photographer is different, but I deliver wedding photos within 6 weeks, and very commonly within 4 weeks.
The photographs are high-resolution digitals and put onto a downloadable online gallery. This will be sent directly to your email address for viewing and download.
After you download everything, save them in multiple locations for safe-keeping! It is your I cannot stress this enough.
PHOTO WATERMARKS AND PRINTING RIGHTS
I don’t watermark any wedding photographs. I think it looks tacky, and it distracts from the images themselves. I want you to be the focus! And because of that, I simply ask that you tag me on social media when you post them to places like Instagram and Facebook.
That said, you have total freedom to print wherever you would like. If you want the best quality, print through your online gallery that I will send you. I want the best for you.
I know there are countless wedding photographers available in today’s world, so I wanted to say thank you for reading this ultimate resource guide and considering me to be your wedding photographer.
Simply put, I love what I do, and I would be absolutely honored to be your photographer. I want to be there along your side through it all. It’s going to be an absolutely gorgeous wedding day, and I want to be there to document it the way it deserves to be. The way that you’ve always envisioned it.
As you move forward with the wedding planning process, remember to take time to enjoy the small moments. The cake tasting. The search for the venue. The road trips and the people you meet along the way. The entire experience is unique and it’s a lot of fun.
I truly hope you have found this wedding resource guide as epic and awesome as it was meant to be! And as always, send over your questions if you have any. I would love to answer your questions for you.
And most importantly, if you are engaged and you’re in need of an awesome wedding photographer, please get in touch right now! Just use the contact form on my website, fill out all the form fields, and send it over!
I’m super excited to hear from you soon. Thanks so much!