Planning a wedding is hard, if we are honest it is. It takes a lot of time and effort. For a lot of couples this is your first wedding, it’s overwhelming with all the options available today. With one of the most important days of your life, understandably you want it to be perfect. Here are my top wedding planning tips.
After photographing over 100 weddings, I thought I would give some advice, hopefully you will find it useful. I have seen the same problems various times at weddings and it’s something you just wouldn’t think about until you are at the wedding. Please remember the cool thing about weddings, and why I love them so much, is that everyone is different. You all want something different from your day and these are purely my thoughts.
Bridal & Groom Prep
This is one of my favourite parts of the day. The excited nervousness of what’s about to happen. As great as bridal prep is, here are my thoughts on things to consider.
- Where you get ready. Getting ready at home can make sense, everything is there for you. However consider how far this is to the ceremony location. You will need to think about how you will get yourself, bridesmaids and anyone else getting ready with you to the venue. You can hire a car but you may need several cars or multiple trips which adds time and cost. Also consider you will have a photographer, make-up, hair and maybe videographer, so space can soon become a problem. If you are having a car collect you consider where they will park. They will want to be outside of the house as best they can. I have seen people use tape around wheelie bins to reserve a space for the wedding car! (Maybe check with your neighbours first). Finally don’t forget if you are staying out you will need your stuff with you, where are you going to put your phone, clothes and make up? Quick tip, if you put a bag in the back of your wedding car, remember to take it out before the car leaves!
- Getting ready at the venue saves you a lot of stress from the above. This only works if you are not getting married at a church obviously. You could get ready at the reception venue then arrange transport to the church / registry office and then transport back. This way all your stuff can stay in one place. I saw this recently when I photographed a wedding at Rudding Park Hotel in Harrogate. The couple and a lot of the guests stayed at the hotel the night before the wedding. They all got ready at the hotel then arranged a double decker bus to take everyone to Harrogate registry office. The bus then brought everyone back. This only works if you don’t mind seeing your partner before the wedding! This worked well for them as they also hired the cinema at Rudding Park the night before the wedding and spent some time with their guests at a private screening.
- One thing to mention is that a lot of venues will allow you to get ready included in the wedding price.
- Finally from a photographer, please remember that we need to get to the ceremony, park and be ready for your arrival. This means I need to leave before you. Often your wedding car will pull straight up outside the venue, they don’t need to worry about parking. I love the photos of you in your dress and everyone seeing you for the first time. So just think about your photographer leaving around 15 minutes before you, then factor that in to your timings.
- If you are getting ready in a different location to your partner just consider you may need two photographers to capture both sets of prep if you want that.
After the Ceremony
You don’t have much to think about during the ceremony. The registrars, Vicar etc will deal with that. Just one quick tip, check the music works before you start walking down the aisle, whoever is controlling the music make sure they do a test!
After the ceremony though you have a lot to think about. Confetti, photos, possibly travelling to another venue, but a bit of planning can solve all these issues well before the day. Here are my thoughts:
- As a documentary wedding photographer I rarely pose anything during the day. However some couples obviously do want family formals and some portraits. Just think about what photos you want before the day. Sort a list with your photographer and just think they will always take longer than you think. Doing formals closely after the ceremony means everyone is there, so grab your nana and get those photos ticked off nice and early. It’s also a good idea to have a groomsman or bridesmaid or both in charge of rounding people up. They will often know people better than the photographer so they can get the next group ready, this saves time. Give them a list, pen and the power!
- If you are getting married somewhere different to your reception location you need to think about transport. Are you going to put a bus on? Will everyone just make their own way? However you do it, the one tip I have, put the reception address on the wedding order of service, better yet add a map. This way when guests start asking what the postcode is or how to get there, you can just tell them to check the order of service.
- Confetti, if you are planning to use it, check with the venue if you can use it and if so where. The best way is to get groomsmen or bridesmaids to hand it out at the door as everyone leaves the ceremony. Speak to your photographer or wedding planner about how you want to set it up. Consider the wind direction as well! If you are using a venue such as The Normans in York, they allow you to use confetti inside the ceremony barn. Simply place the confetti on peoples seats and as you walk down the aisle after the ceremony prepare to be covered in confetti! It makes for great photos as well.
- Finally think about the period after the ceremony before you sit down for speeches or food. There is often a little while, it can be great to have some entertainment. If the weather works then some popular options are giant Jenga, garden games, magician, croquet and a whole host of amazing things to keep everyone entertained.
Just a quick couple of tips to consider for speeches. Also a great part of the day and can make for some fantastic photos.
- Before or after food? Well the traditional way is to have the speeches after the meal. However now couples are choosing a number of different ways. Sometimes it’s hard to relax and eat when you know you have a speech to do, especially if you are the nervous type! Frequently people are having the speeches before the meal. The one thing with this is consider time. If you get married at 12pm then don’t sit down until late and then do speeches, you may be very hungry. I always suggest have a big breakfast but a lot of couples tell me they were too nervous and excited in the morning to eat a lot. You could also mix the speeches up and do one after starters or do them before the desert. They do not need to all be together. Always check with the venue first as they will have strict times for food.
- Finally on speeches, something I am seeing a lot in recent years is couples leaving tradition. The traditional way is father of the bride, groom then best man. But it is 2019 now so who says the bride can’t say a few words or a close friend? It’s your day so do what you want, I have had some amazing bride speeches recently. Quick tip, don’t feel like you have to speak for ages, a short well thought out speech is always better than one that drags on. If all else fails, just get the father of the bride to demonstrate his party trick, eating a Magnum lolly whole! (See picture below).
After the speeches and food you usually have a little gap, depending on what time you get married and how long the meal takes. This can be the perfect time to have some entertainment or something to fill the void. I would recommend considering garden games (weather depending), casino, Caricaturist, magician, I have even seen a bird of prey show at a marquee wedding in Wales last summer! Obviously if all else fails just drink and get ready to dance! My reception thoughts:
- At most weddings there are two key formal things during the reception; cake cutting and first dance. As above there is no reason why you have to stick with tradition and do these, but if you do consider the times. This is purely my thoughts, but please don’t wait to do your first dance. What I have found is that you do your first dance, everyone joins you on the dance floor for a song or two and then they call the buffet. This then kills the mood and it takes a while for people to get back on the dance floor. This obviously depends on the people at the wedding but I love it when the couple has the first dance, everyone joins them and then the band or DJ plays some huge hits and lets the party start. If you have a band they will often play a couple of sets, let them finish the first set and then have the evening food. Just my thoughts but from a photography point of view it’s great to get people in the dancing mood off the back of the first dance. Another little tip, I really like a father daughter dance, or mother son or any kind of mix. They are sweet and usually make for some lovely photos. The evening party photos are some of my favourites, I often stay long after the first dance to capture them. Oh and I won’t complain if you throw a few confetti canons in!
Well done if you have made it this far, I know it was a long one! Anyway just a couple of final points that I have not included above. Sparklers, they can look amazing, just make sure you buy the longest ones you can and get a few lighters that will work in the wind! Also don’t wait too late to do them when everyone is to drunk that it becomes dangerous!
Thank you so much for reading my tips. These are purely my thoughts and the thing I love about people and weddings is that everyone is different. Pick a venue, entertainment and guests that you actually want and within your budget. Overall just have an amazing time and enjoy the day because every single couple says to me they can’t believe how fast it goes! Enjoy the wedding planning process, it will be stressful at times but it should be fun and enjoyable. Questions? Just drop me a comment below or send me a message here.