PHOTOGRAPHY AND ARTICLE BY
KIER SMITH, FIRSTLIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY
CHANCES ARE WE’VE BEEN TO MORE WEDDINGS THAN YOU. We’ve been in the wedding industry for the last 10 years now and have been to hundreds of weddings. During some of the wedding shows and open houses we attend we have asked that we talk to brides about finding a photographer and planning wedding day photography. As you can imagine I’ve got a lot of thoughts on the subject and since your photographer is probably one of the top 3 expenses you’ll have on your wedding day and the photos are once the dust settles, the cake’s been eaten and everybody goes home, the photos are the one thing you’ll have to remember your big day.
In giving our presentations we go over a lot of things that have very little, if anything, to do with photography. Over the years we’ve learned a lot and talked with a lot of other wedding professionals, so we do our best to be a resource for our couples as they’re planning their wedding, although we still highly recommend hiring a good wedding planner. So here are our ten steps to planning a stress-less wedding:
#10: THINK THROUGH STICKER SHOCK
If you’re getting married for the first time, you’re probably suffering from some sticker shock and that is really understandable, there’s very little connected with the wedding industry that is cheap and if you find something that is, think twice about it. You will really want to consider what things are the most important to you and which you may be able to skip or tone down a bit. There are many ways you can save money and although it may sound counterintuitive, one of these ways is to hire a wedding planner.
#9: GET A WEDDING PLANNER
Why? There are a ton of reasons, from helping you plan all of the logistics involved in a wedding day to making your vision come to life using their vast experience and contacts. This will save you stress and money. Here’s what local wedding planners say:
“Having a planner gives you an experienced ear to run ideas by and puts your nerves at ease knowing every detail will be covered.” — Tricia Fisk
“A wedding planner is the one person versed in all aspects of the wedding, placing the sole focus on the couples wishes.” — Jennifer Vandeventer
From a photography perspective, things flow so much better with so much less stress for everybody involved in the wedding. For the couple, you have a point person that makes sure everything is going according to plan and who run interference if something isn’t going according to plan.
#8: GET A GOOD DJ
Picking a DJ is more than just finding somebody who can play music. The DJ is in charge or your reception, they make sure things happen on time and work to make sure your guests are having a good time. Unlike caterers, florists or a lot of other people associated with your wedding it is VERY important to make sure your DJ’s personality meshes with that of you and your guests.
As a photographer a professional DJ is a very important aspect to the reception as they know how to work with us to help make sure we are in the loop when events are about to happen and make sure things happen on time. Out of the hundreds of weddings we’ve shot we have only had to stay late (and charge for extra time) at a reception two times and both times are because they either didn’t have a real DJ or the DJ wasn’t doing his job and keeping things on time.
1: Meet with 3 DJ’s and make sure their personalities work with your crowd
2: Make sure that the DJ that you meet with is the one that will actually show up at your wedding. A lot of the larger companies will send a rep to meet with you, but you will end up with whoever is available the day of your wedding.
3: Be sure that they understand the music & mood you want at your reception.
4: Review your reception timeline with the DJ and make sure to get their input.
#7: GET A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER
(professional wedding photographer vs. “Uncle Bob with a ‘nice camera’”)
There’s more to finding a photographer than just finding one that has a style you like. You’ll have to realize that not all photographers will even photograph a wedding and finding a photographer on Craigslist that will shoot your full wedding day for $500 isn’t the way to go if your wedding photos are important to you. Like with the DJ, once you’ve found some photographers you like schedule consultations with them and get to know them a little bit. It’s important that you get along with them because they will be with you every step of the way on your wedding day and if you don’t like them it can make things tense.
I’ve heard too many horror stories from brides who thought they were getting a good deal on a wedding photographer or their uncle has a nice camera and volunteered to take photos of the wedding. If you’re having a tiny backyard wedding and photos aren’t that important, Uncle Bob is probably fine, but if photos are important hire a professional wedding photographer.
#6: WORK OUT A WEDDING DAY SCHEDULE
The first thing we go over with our clients is a schedule / timeline for the day. We start from the ceremony and work backwards to plan out the times for different photos we need to take. Working with our clients to determine the number of people in the wedding party, places they will be getting ready and the types of photos they wish to take before the wedding. Do they want to do first-look photos before we get started on the rest of the formal photos or do they want to wait until after the ceremony to do bride and groom portraits?
Beyond this you will want to start with the first things you need to do on the day of your wedding, from getting hair and makeup done to when various people are supposed to arrive. Your photographer will likely have a timeline for photos and your DJ will typically put together one for the reception and a good wedding planner will help coordinate all of these and put them all together into one master timeline for everybody.
#5: KNOW WHEN TO LIE… (ah, tell small “untruths”)
To help make things go smoothly throughout the day, make sure that everybody you need for photos knows when and where they need to be for those photos. If you know one of your people tends to run late… LIE and tell them 15 minutes earlier.
#4: DRINK AFTER THE CEREMONY
A champagne toast with your wedding party is fine, but some of the most difficult situations we’ve ever been put in have been the times we show up and the entire wedding party has already gone through a couple of bottles of Fireball and can hardly stand before we even arrived. This makes it rough for the photographer to direct people and get the amazing shots that you’re paying them to get. We even had a situation where half the wedding party was out on a boat drinking and got back nearly an hour after their scheduled time for photos. We expect most people will be drinking at their wedding, but save it for the reception.
#3: CONSIDER TIME OF YEAR/ WEATHER (and where we live)
This seems pretty straightforward, but I’ve been in some really great venues that would have been much cooler in the opposite weather conditions. One was really nice, but when it was 90 degrees out with 150 people crammed into the venue it was VERY hot and the smell of the seafood got to be a little too much.
We’re based near Seattle and in this region you pretty much have to assume it will rain and the odds go up substantially if you don’t have contingency plans for rain. A while ago we had two weddings on a day that the Farmers Almanac said it was statistically the least likely to rain… it rained. One of our teams had just finished up with formal photos when the downpour started, but the other team was at a park and the ceremony was in process when the sky opened up… quick finish and dash to cars to the reception venue.
#2: HAVE A “REALITY BUFFER”
Weddings are large events with a lot of moving parts and believe it or not things don’t always go according to plan. Because we’re giving you tips on how to have a “Stress-Less” wedding we suggest having a dedicated person (Wedding planner / day of coordinator or a trusted friend) to buffer you from any of the things that may not be going quite according to plan. You don’t need to stress and from our experience, most of the people at a wedding have no idea that something went wrong unless somebody makes a big deal about it.
This is your big day and the fewer things you have to worry about the more you will be able to enjoy it. You’ve already spent months planning and working with vendors, by the time you reach your wedding day you should be able to relax and let the day unfold and not stress out about the little things.
#1: REMEMBER WHOSE WEDDING IT IS!
Just because most people do something at a wedding doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to do it too, it is YOUR wedding, not theirs. A lot has changed since your parents got married and weddings now very much reflect those changes, so you need to focus on doing things that will be meaningful to you and skip the things you are doing just because “you’re supposed to do XYZ at a wedding.”
Something as simple as the bouquet and garter toss can cause controversy, maybe you want to do it, but don’t feel like calling out all of the single people at your reception. You can simply say that all of the women or men should get ready to catch the bouquet / garter “for good luck.”
One of my favorites was the couple that made a Black & Tan rather than doing a sand ceremony then did a “Brewery Crawl” for their reception taking the entire wedding party in a small bus to four different breweries. Do you want to wear an orange wedding dress and get married on Halloween? Do it. Wedding on a Friday the 13th, go for it! Bottom line, make it YOUR wedding and make it something that you will remember.
Click on a photo to enlarge.
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