Wedding Planning Tips from Photographers Who Have Shot Over 100 Weddings— The Inside Scoop on How To Prioritize Your Timeline and Budget
Wedding “I-Dos” and Don’ts:
Things You Should Know For Your Wedding Day
Some people have been thinking about saying “I Do” since they were marrying their stuffed animals in a fort underneath their coffee table; while others, well not so much. Whether or not you have a Monica-sized binder of wedding ideas, rest assured that your wedding day is going to be a wonderful experience. It’s a day where you’re doted upon like royalty as friends and family deliver their support, love, mimosas and/or whiskey and everything in between. There will inevitably be stresses, but if you safeguard the experience of your wedding day by heeding a few of our industry tips, you and your significant other will live happily ever after.
Host Cocktail Hour Before the Ceremony
This one may be controversial as it goes against the tradition of not seeing the bride before the ceremony, but everyone knows the feeling of sitting through a wedding ceremony when cocktail hour starts to creep into your mind. By welcoming guests with hors d'oeuvres and beverages upon arrival, you’re able to ease your guests into the day, creating happy bellies and heads to fully enjoy your wedding ceremony. Yes, you may run the risk of your irresponsible relative or friend loading up on a few drinks, but as long as you keep it short they won’t have much of a chance; or better yet, save the hard liquor for after the ceremony.
You will find that you create a much more relaxed, welcoming atmosphere where people can be themselves, especially for those guests who arrive late. We initially thought of this for our wedding because we wanted to create the vibe of a dinner party, knowing how critical it is from a hospitality standpoint to make someone feel welcome as soon as they enter an event. We felt more like gracious-hosts than guests-of-honor, and encourage couples to create their own timelines to reflect their personalities as well.
Schedule Your Itinerary Down to the Minute
With all of the moving parts of a wedding day, it makes sense to want to be hyper-organized when it comes to your itinerary. The thing that most couples don’t realize is that while you may be organized, that doesn’t mean the rest of your guests and event staff will be up to the task. It is all too often that we get a four-page timeline that goes something like, “6:47PM Welcome Toast, 6:51PM Blessing By Bride’s Father,” and we know how impossible it is to adhere to that tight of a schedule. So when you’re charting out your day, keep in mind that you have to account for things like: wrangling your uncle’s four cranky kids when taking family formals, finding a chair for grandma to sit on, the changes in location when the weatherman was wrong yet again, and how the staff forgot to set up for your special seating arrangement sign.
I’m not trying to say all of these things will go wrong -- but I am saying that something inevitably will -- and when it does, your perfectly laid plans will start to stress you out because you’re quickly 4 minutes, then 7 minutes, and then 10 minutes behind schedule. Our advice is to treat your itinerary like a guideline, not a schedule, that way you have a structure to follow, but you can still be flexible to accommodate for the many variables of your wedding day. Figure out what actually needs a concrete time and let everything else bend with the breeze. For us, those were our guests arrival time and when the DJ would begin playing music—everything else—had some room to breathe. One of our favorite 2017 brides put it best when she said:
Have a Backup Location for the Ceremony
Most venues accommodate for this, but you would be surprised how many weddings we’ve been to that when the weather got cranky, everyone stood around staring at each other wondering what to do. It is super important that when you book your venue, you know where the backup ceremony location is and that you’re happy with it.
We could tell you some war stories about shooting in torrential rains, subzero temps, nor’easter floods, sideways hail, and hotter-than-hell sun because there either: (A) was no backup plan, or (B) the bride simply would not get married anywhere else. I have literally watched a group of 200+ guests get pelted by hail while the couple is standing at the altar pretending like shit isn’t hitting the fan.
Maybe we’re superstitious, but we tend to believe that the more content you are with your backup location, the less likely it is that you will actually need to use it! Similar to the itinerary advice, you have to gauge your expectations to the many variables of the day, and this is especially true for the weather. Be realistic and aware about the seasonal weather patterns of your locations, friends! (i.e. it is probably going to be crazy-humid in NYC in August / you can expect a wet day in Seattle in May / and it’s not unheard of to have a September blizzard in CO.)
Spend Big on the Cake
Yes, we all want to mush cake on our significant other’s face to get back at them for beating us at Scrabble (is it just me?). And yes, we all want to seize the opportunity of having a tiered custom cake made to our specific wishes and desires—but think for a minute—can you specifically remember any cake you had at a wedding? According to WeddingWire, the average couple spends about $500 on their wedding cakes. I’m not saying that the bakeries are over-charging because they really aren’t, but maybe your wedding isn’t the time to live out your Cake Boss fantasies. This is a great place to trim the fat (literally) and reallocate some of those funds to some real memory-makers.
Chances are you’re going to be too busy tearing up the dance floor to actually tear into the cake with grandma over a cup of decaf coffee anyway. So instead of shelling out for something that will most likely wind up in the trash (we see it ALL the time), go for a dessert that your guests can enjoy on the fly, like an assortment of cookies, brownies, cupcakes, or try thinking of a fun and healthier option! (We had a caramel apple bar with slices of apple on sticks and melted chocolate and caramel for dipping.)
Take a Few Minutes for Yourselves
The other side of being treated like royalty on your wedding day is that everyone wants a piece of your time. As wedding photographers, we’re almost part-paparazzi part-security in how we snap pictures of a couple as we shuffle them along through gauntlets of friends and family. The flow of the day can quickly feel like you’re being shuttled from one place to another without stopping to enjoy the day that you spent so much time and money planning.
As hospitality professionals, Heather and I recognize when this is happening and always encourage a couple to take a moment to duck out in a room to take a few breaths and steal a few kisses. Everyone who has gotten married will tell you how “the day goes too fast,” so slow it down by finding some quiet time to take it all in. Go to the bathroom, drink some water— it sounds obvious, but you might be surprised at how even the most basic of needs can fall by the wayside on your big day. According to The Knot, the average wedding celebration clocks in only around 5 hours (although it feels like five minutes). What good is having a wedding if you don’t thoroughly enjoy it!?
Stress About Wedding Favors
Have you ever taken a wedding favor and thought, “this is amazing, I can’t wait to use it?” Us neither. Yet we’ve heard so many couples talk about how difficult it was to choose something to give as favors to their guests. Some ideas can get expensive very quickly, so what are some ideas that are inexpensive but not “cheap,” and won’t go directly into the trash?
We like to suggest things that are edible (especially if it’s good for soaking up booze), like specialized cookies or popcorn you can make at home, or something that is eco-friendly like wildflower seeds. The average wedding produces about 400lbs of trash and 63 tons of CO2 according to the Green Bride Guide, so we love the idea of doing something to give back to Mother Nature in lieu of a crappy present.
Another great option is to donate some money to a charity of your choice and tastefully let your guests know which organization you went with. The reality is, like wedding cake, odds are people aren’t going to remember it, so direct your stress and your funds to something that actually adds to yours and your guests’ experience! Take it from a Pro Event Coordinator with The Pines at Genesee:
Hi and Welcome!!
We are Heather & Terrence Huie— the husband-and-wife team behind Apollo Fields. We are a photojournalist duo who have worked weddings big and small all over the United States as well as International Destination Weddings. As vendors who have also been through the process of planning and executing a wedding ourselves, we have a unique perspective on the good, the bad, and the ugly that can happen on your “big day”. What works for us certainly won’t work for everyone, our hope is that our inside scoop can help you and your fiancé prioritize your wedding timeline and budget in a way that actually serves you (and your guests).