Planning for a Unique and Meaningful Wedding

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I wrote this blog post to give some insight from being a wedding photographer for 8 years and from helping plan a wedding of my own. Some of these points are more on the practical side from a photographer’s perspective and others are more reflective from the perspective of someone who was recently married in hopes that it might be useful to any couples planning a wedding anything like the ones I love to shoot as a photographer and the kind of wedding that my wife and I were fortunate to have had ourselves. 

Decide What is Most Important To You
I‘ve been contemplating the concept of value quite a bit the last few days and how it applies to the wedding industry. As people, we assign value to things sometimes without even realizing it. Sometimes we have a set of criteria that we have adopted to assign value by but how many times do we reflect and evaluate that criteria and to make sure these standards that we assign value by are not arbitrary or, even worse, not our own? Like many other things in life, I feel like couples should decide what is most important to them for their own wedding day. Traditions are great if it’s what you want. Trends are great if that is what you want. But they are not for everyone and sometimes they can become unnecessary expenses and stress. Having a clear cut philosophy of what you value most will help you narrow down your decisions and help you focus on what matters most. For my wife and I, we wanted our wedding to be pretty, fun, inexpensive and for it to be a community effort as much as possible. Kasi’s aunt made our cakes, my mom was our florist, and we found a caterer local in the town we got married in to make each guest their own pot pie. We collected rosemary from our mothers yards (the stuff was growing like crazy) and we even attempted growing our own pumpkins. Our venue was not well known and many of our details came from knick knacks we had around my apartment. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it was exactly what we wanted. The point is, you should be able to make your wedding what you want without an obligation to the traditional or what’s on trend because at the end of the day, what matted most to us were the moments shared between family, friends, and each other as opposed to feeling an obligation to conforming to a preset template defined by someone else.

Hire Good Vendors And Trust Them (Especially Your Photographer)
This one sounds a little biased but being on the other side of it as a groom, I can safely say I put my money where my mouth is. If you’ve done your research and hired vendors you trust, then the best thing you can do is let them do what you hired them to do. Even as a photographer myself, I wanted our photographer to to document our wedding the way he does best, because I know that’s how he would be able to serve us best without being micromanaged. We couldn’t be happier with not only our photos but also with what we got from all our other vendors as well. 

Get to Know Your Vendors
Kasi and I still get emotional looking at the beautiful photos our photographer delivered to us and we have zero regrets about any vendors we chose. Besides the fact that half our vendors were family, one of the main reasons we were so happy with how things tuned out is we stalked several vendors’ websites and decided together which ones we connected with most before we even had a meeting. From the perspective of a photographer, I obviously want to get hired but I realized a while back that I’m not a salesman. There are several things in the consumer world that you expect a bit of salesmanship with, but the wedding industry isn’t one of them. It’s a balance of business and art and more than anything, it’s a matter of connection rather than what bells and whistles are included in a wedding package. Kasi and I love meeting our clients for food or coffee just to get to know each other and to connect on a personal level. We actually had several of our clients come to our wedding because we became good friends.

Pick the Right Venue
Besides picking a wedding photographer, picking the right venue is obviously one of the most significant things to consider when planning a wedding. One of the first things people look for in a venue is the ceremony space. Ceremony photos, however,  make up about 10% of the the wedding photos we typically deliver. From a photography perspective, besides having the right kind of vibe for your wedding, the ideal venue should generally have good light, enough space, and a variety of indoor and outdoors locations to shoot in. Over the years, as a photographer, I’ve become better at making the most out of each venue but it’s true that some venues have more to offer than others. With that being said, more expensive venues are not always better. For Kasi and I we chose a little known venue that was in her home town and had everything we were looking for and well within our budget. It was rough around the edges in some ways but we made it our own and we felt like everything turned out perfect. 

The Groom’s Attire Doesn't Have to be Basic
I realized early on as a wedding photographer that as far as style goes, the groom’s attire sets the tone of the wedding just as much as the bride’s dress. One of my favorite groom’s suites was maroon that matched the bride’s hair. Another one of my favorites was a suite from H&M that had a brown tweed jacket with a darker tweed vest and a tie with horses on it. It was totally unique to their wedding and was an extension of the couple’s personality.

A Beautiful Thing is Never Perfect
It’s very likely that there will be something not go as planned on your wedding day. That is the nature of putting on this kind of event. On the morning of our wedding day we were without a P.A. system and there was a grass fire heading for our venue and Kasi went all day with only one contact lens. Somehow it all worked out thanks to my friend who made a couple trips to Guitar Center and our family who tried to keep us in the dark about the impending doom that was potentially heading to our wedding and my bride who toughed out being blind in one eye for a day. We still feel like our wedding day was perfect.

“A beautiful thing is never perfect.” - Proverb

Plan For The Light  
As far as the technical aspect of photography goes, light is the most important thing to consider. By definition it literally means “writing with light” and it’s one of the things I tend to stress out over the most as a photographer. Over the years I’ve learned to adapt to less than ideal lighting conditions but its always a good to plan for as much of an ideal situation as possible. It’s important for your ceremony to take place in good light while also leaving enough time to shoot in the good light after the ceremony. Even indoor ceremony’s look best when there is natural light coming through at least a few windows. It’s also important to check and see what time sunset is on your wedding date. As a natural/available light photographer, I basically define good light as the sun not being directly overhead and not being in complete darkness. 

Plan for Extra Time
Sometimes people are late, weather is unpredictable and sometimes things just run behind. Building it into your schedule to have an extra cushion of time is almost always a good idea. If things run on schedule then you can use that extra time to enjoy the day and relax.

Be Adventurous
Sometimes finding interesting and beautiful spots around your venue means you might have to pick some twigs and leaves off your dress. As a photographer, I never want to force couples to do anything that they’re not comfortable with but letting little obstacle get in the way limits what can be done with photos and you might miss out on what could be some of your favorite photos. 

Consider Seeing Each Other Before the Ceremony
Seeing each other before the ceremony can serve a couple purposes. Firstly, in my opinion, a fist look adds a special moment to the day where you get to see your bride away from all the onlookers and busyness of the event. For Kasi and I, I didn’t feel like it took away from any ceremoniousness but only added to the specialness of the day. It was actually my favorite part of the wedding day. Another purpose it serves is a more practical one, which is that it makes for a less restricted schedule. Since it eliminates the concern about the bride and groom catching a glimpse of each other before the ceremony any photos involving the bride, groom, and wedding parties can happen before the ceremony and frees up time after the ceremony.

Plan for Portraits
In my experience, one of things that is most risk of getting cut for time are the bride and groom portraits. As a photographer, I feel like these photos are one of the main reason couples hire me and they are one of the main reasons we hired our photographer. If there is not enough time set aside for portraits in the schedule other things can take priority. By setting aside at least a solid 30-45 minutes for the bride and groom to be together with their photographer is a good rule of thumb to make sure you get a solid set of photos together. Most photographers, such as myself are more than happy to be a resource and help build a schedule that works best for your event.