Game-Changing Planning Tips from the Perspective of a Wedding Professional

I attend weddings like it’s my job. 

Because it is!

Being a wedding photographer, I attend over 30 weddings a year, so when my friends and family get engaged I tend to be a good source of information when it comes time to planning. Over the years I feel like I’ve seen or heard it all. Between witnessing wedding days unfold right before my eyes, others in the industry sharing stories, and hearing reflections from former brides (my clients or otherwise), I’ve gathered a pretty good sense for the source of wedding-related frustrations. 

The tips I share with my newly engaged friends go deeper than just photography. Beauty, timeline, communication and priorities are topics most frequently covered. So today I’m sharing all of my insights! Get a pen and paper ready, because I’m coming at you with all my behind-the-scenes tips!

BEAUTY

  • Spray Tans – I have SUCH a love / hate relationship with spray tans! Do I think they’re necessary? Sometimes! I got one for my wedding and don’t regret it. But here’s ways in which you need to be strategic about them:

    • Do a trial - Make sure it’s going to be the right shade for your complexion and one that will compliment your partner.

    • Keep in mind your groom - Piggybacking off my previous bullet, keep in mind the complexion of your groom! If he is fair and has pink undertones, doing a spray tan will make you look orange and will make him look pink in photos. Trust me, as a photographer, this is nearly impossible to improve with editing! In fact, sometimes it’s more obvious in photos than it is to the naked eye. If it’s really important that you get a spray tan and your future hubby has fair skin, have him get one too! Even if he gets a really light shade, your undertones will match.

    • Make sure all your bridesmaids are on the same page - If you have fair bridesmaids & some of your girls are opting to get a spray tan, encourage them to do the same. As I mentioned above, even if it’s a light shade, everyone will have similar undertones and your photos will be much more harmonious. 

  • Hair – Ohhhh, hair! This can be a BIG frustration on your wedding day. It’s so, so important to do a hair trial (or maybe two!) and to do it during the same season as your wedding! If you’re getting married in the summer, it’s likely you’ll have sticky, humid weather & a trial in the midst of cool, dry winter might not give you an accurate idea of how your hair will hold up. I’ve seen a lot of brides wear their hair down and curled, and by the middle of portraits they’re frustrated that the curl has fallen & their hair looks frizzy. If you really want to wear your hair down, just be flexible! If the forecast changes to rain or you end up with a humid day, you might be happiest if you have a backup plan already set in place for an up-do of sorts. 

  • Lip Color – This one is simple & silly but important! I wanted a bold lip for my fall wedding and it was my #1 regret / pain point on my wedding day. If you’re going to do a bold color, ask your photographer to hold your makeup remover wipes in their camera bag. You WILL need it to remove the stain off the groom’s lips throughout kissing portraits! Also, choose a color that is elevated from your everyday look!

  • Hire Professionals - I can’t stress this one enough as a wedding photographer. Sometimes brides have talented friends that offer their services to do hair & makeup on a wedding day. But unless they’re used to the stress and unpredictability that a wedding day brings, these weddings almost always end up running behind, which cuts into time for portraits and almost always starts the day off on the wrong foot with heavy stress. Make sure you’re hiring someone that knows how to manage large groups, can hire out additional talent if needed, and is used to managing really strict timelines. 

TIMELINE

  •  Allow for Breaks - I always encourage my couples not to be a prisoner to their timeline. Factor in downtime or small breaks that you and your new hubby can escape for 5 minutes to soak it all in. Your wedding day shouldn’t be all about pictures. It should be about enjoying the celebration of your marriage! 

  • First Look – I mean, it’s a game changer! Similar to the point above, do a first look so that you can have all your staged photos completed before the ceremony. That way, when the ceremony concludes, you can simply enjoy the day with your guests. We’ll still be there to snap away if you ever feel inclined to do more portraits later on!  

COMMUNICATION

  •  Family – Communicate with your family the week of the wedding your priorities. It’s important that it’s fresh in their mind so that you can be harmonious on your wedding day. Things to communicate are: 

    • Family photo list – Let them know the final list & whether or not extended family is included (and why).

    • Timeline – Where to be and when (PRO TIP - always make it 15 minutes earlier than what’s actually scheduled). It also doesn’t hurt to let them know the schedule for the entire day so they don’t feel the need to micromanage. Let them relax and enjoy the day. They should be reassured everything is handled and in the hands of the vendors you trust!

    • When to be ready / dressed - This gets overlooked more often than not. Make sure you’ve planned with your hair and makeup team to not have your mom last on the list. You’ll want your mom (or whoever is helping you into your dress) dressed and ready to go when it’s time to put your wedding dress on.

    • When the photographer can fulfill your requests – Family is absolutely entitled to getting photos they want of their guests! But let them know what the best time for their requests might be, whether that’s during cocktail hour, dinner, or maybe even never depending on your priorities!

  • Your Guests – I LOVE when I see signs for unplugged ceremonies! But they sometimes go unnoticed. Encourage whoever is officiating the ceremony to make an announcement and remind the guests not to take their phones out at any point during the ceremony. Make sure this announcement happens before the bride comes down the aisle. Nothing is more distracting than seeing the beautiful photo of the bride walking down the aisle with her dad and having 50 phones obstructing the view! 

  • Communicate With Your Photographer As You Plan – You won’t annoy us with questions, I promise! One thing we love to be involved in is the ceremony & reception layout. More often than not, the ceremony altar & reception head table land at a spot in the room that makes it really difficult for photos, and unfortunately this isn’t something vendor coordinators usually communicate. Here’s some tips that photographers often give regarding things we wish were executed differently:

    • Avoid anything backlit if you’re indoors - A window might seem like a beautiful backdrop! But if you have light coming in behind you, the bright light will make your faces dull in photos. Curtains or drapery can help a bit, but unless it’s thick enough, you’ll get the same effect. Consider standing (if it’s a ceremony) or sitting (if it’s a reception) in front of a wall that’s adjacent to the windows so the beautiful, natural light comes in on your face. You can always add a floral arch or something beautiful to the wall if you’d like a special effect. Your photos WILL turn out better!

    • Don’t have your head table placed in front of a window or mirror – This configuration is popular, but challenging. Most of the time reception photography requires the use of a flash. Because of this, you’ll likely get the bright flash reflected in either the windows or the mirror. You might even get the photographer or videographer reflection in the photo as well! Use the same tips from the point above to avoid this from happening.

    • Avoid being seated directly under a chandelier – Some venues have gorgeous, statement chandeliers hanging, and couples often opt to have their head table centered underneath these statement light fixtures. While beautiful, it often casts a tricky orange light onto the couple’s face. If you’re someone that cherishes the photos that are captured during speeches (these are always my FAVORITE), avoid sitting in a spot where the lighting might be unflattering.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS / PRIORITIES

  •  Shot List - Don’t get too wrapped up in creating a detailed shot list. Let your photographer capture the moments that are true to the day. The candid photos will be your favorite! As a former bride myself, I can say that I’ve never printed off my bridal party photos, not once! But the candid photos, family photos & of course, photos of Aaron and I have been printed over and over and over! 

  • Bridesmaid Dresses - Ask yourself the following questions about your bridesmaid dress color – does it compliment your bridesmaid’s hair color and skin tone? Does it compliment the colors of your venue? Do the dresses compliment the season / the surroundings of where you might take your portraits? A lot of brides select their wedding colors before anything else. But your dresses don’t need to match your stationary and décor! Let the answers to those questions guide you to your dress color!

  • Getting Ready Space - Be creative on where you get ready! It sets the tone for the day. Also, a major bonus if the getting ready space can double as an indoor photo option for winter weddings or for weddings that take place during a rainy season. A more complete blog post on this here

If you’re a bride-to-be, I hope these suggestions were helpful as you plan the details for your big day! I truly believe that you will have a more joyous, harmonious day if you think of the little pain points in advance and communicate to your family, guests, bridal party & vendors what your priorities are. Let the day be focused around your love and not silly distractions! Former brides - were any of these factors a stressor for you on your wedding day? If I missed something, comment and tell me what else I can communicate to my couples & friends that are seeking advice!

Trish Burtzel