HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR WEDDING DAY
To all future brides and grooms planning a wedding. Make yourself a cuppa, grab a chocolate digestive and take some time to read this….
When I was planning my own wedding (OMG 8 years ago in November, wow that has FLOWN!) I was in full on wedding planning mode – almost on the verge of bridezilla actually. This lasted the whole 18 months (I can’t actually remember how long our engagement was but 18 months sounds about right!) I started buying all the wedding magazines to get ideas and inspiration for colour scheme’s, shoes, quirky little details that would wow our guests and because I’m such a perfectionist my OCD and attention to the smallest detail would keep me awake night after night. What if my hair or make up person doesn’t show up – or what if neither of them show up? What if the florist doesn’t take the flowers from the church to the reception and will he remember I want them on every 3rd pillar not every other! will the venue get the gluten free meals mixed up with the regular meals? People are going to be ill, it’s all going to be my fault and the day will be ruined!!! I could go on but I think you get the gist.
In hindsight though (and we all know hindsight is a wonderful thing) I would do the whole thing differently and I especially wouldn’t get sucked into family politics – I know there’s so many of you who can relate right now – why is it that there’s always a family drama involved in wedding planning? or even at the wedding itself in my case but THAT is a completely different story and I haven’t got enough time or wine in to get started on that right now.
So based on my own experience of wedding planning, the stress that comes with it and how I feel after it, it got me thinking…. I wonder how many other people share the same view? what would they do differently? and can I help future brides and grooms so they don’t have to lie awake night after night thinking about cake toppers and dealing with the anxiety of the men’s tie’s not exactly matching the colour of the bridesmaid dresses! (yes I actually bought extra material to have tie’s made – I wasn’t lying about having OCD!)
Last week I posted on my Facebook page (post dated April 12th if you want to see the whole thread) asking for hints, tips and pieces of advice that past brides and grooms would want to pass on to future brides and grooms and the response was fantastic. So I’ve collated the main things people would change and I hope that this helps to make the whole wedding planning process less stressful for you, and also I hope it gives you the courage to follow your heart and be true to yourselves.
Overwhelmingly, the main thing people would change is their photographer. Now I know what your thinking, ‘she’s a photographer of course she’s going to say that!’ but I asked people to post anything they’d change no reference was made to photography alone. Sadly though I have to say I’m not surprised that this is the main thing many couples were dissatisfied with. At the bottom of this post I’ve written about how to choose a photographer but before I go into that, here are some of the other issues that were raised:
“I should have had a videographer, my biggest regret! That and my dog wasn’t part of it…. You don’t appreciate or want to pay for one at the time but it’s years later when people have died you really wish you did”
I’m so glad I hired a videographer. Photo’s are timeless and keep such good memories but there is something about hearing peoples voices years afterwards, even when they’re no longer here with us that is priceless. I will forever be able to hear my Dad’s laugh, we’ll always remember the way James and I felt when he choked up in his speech, and we can watch and re live the ceremony and the speeches in their entirety when ever we like – photo’s can’t replace that (although capturing people’s belly laughs is pretty awesome!) We also still love our video messages too!!
“Have a real think of who you’re inviting! We don’t see or hear from half of the people that we invited!”
Same here. I don’t know why I felt the need to cram as many people into the venue for the sake of it. Many of them didn’t even show up or let us know they couldn’t come. What we should have done was stick to our nearest and dearest we’d have halved the amount of guests and the money we’d have saved we could have used to add an extra week onto our Honeymoon! (we spent 10 days in the Maldives. Kurumathi Island – go there if you want to do The Maldives it is OUTSTANDING!)
“Spend more time with your spouse. Because people travel so far I felt the need to talk to them all, but that meant I hardly saw my wife and I didn’t really enjoy the day…. Let the guests come to you….”
I could not agree more. I speak to so many couple’s both on the day and afterwards and they say ‘we hardly saw each other. We were trying to get around all our guests that we spent hardly any time together.’ Again cut that list if you can!! Let people come to you. I always give my couples some alone time on their portrait sessions even if it’s just when we’re walking back to the venue. It’s so important to take just a small piece of the day for yourselves. Even better – in that lull between the food being over and the room being cleared to the evening party getting started (because there is always a lull) get yourselves a bottle of Champagne go and sit under a tree or up in your room and just be together – you’ll be so glad you did afterwards!
“Get married a little earlier, so you have longer after. It went way too quick….I regret getting married so late in the day! I think it was about 3.30pm, 1st of March, so it was dark by 4!”
The day will absolutely fly by. If you can get married earlier (11am-12pm) I personally think you’ll get much more out of the day. You won’t have to rush your photo’s, you can mingle with your guests, you’ll see more of the entertainment you’ve booked (if you book any at all) and you’re more likely to get a canapè – You WILL be starving.
“We spent a fortune on the cake and it ended up in the bin as guests didnt eat it. I would opt for a fake one just for show and a small one for cutting.”
I have seen some quite extraordinary wedding cakes and I completely appreciate the time, skill and creativity that goes into them so I understand why they cost what they do. BUT how many people actually like wedding cake? too much icing? not a fan of fruit cake or marzipan? food intolerances etc not to mention the mound of cake left over anyway? where does it go? I was dishing wedding cake out to my whole street for a week after my wedding just to use it up. You can get some amazing cakes from the high street like M&S or better still get one made with polystyrene layers for effect have one ‘real layer’ and save yourself a fortune. Your guest’s won’t know the difference – I guarantee it. You could also just have small cupcakes and each guest can have one.
“Choose bridesmaids wisely… some are much more helpful than others and don’t have them to please family members!”
Okay. THIS is EXCELLENT advice and the same can be said for Groomsmen too. I have been to only a handful of weddings where the bridal party have literally been so helpful, so considerate and so bloody amazing at their job on the day and it makes the absolute world of difference. Picture the scene: You’re about to have your photo’s taken, Jody, your chief bridesmaid has your lippy and powder in her clutch bag (that you bought her to accompany the dress you bought her which probably cost you £250+.) Jody is nowhere to be seen. You are wondering around looking for her. The rage inside you is building. There she is! at the bar doing jägerbombs with the Ushers because she’s fancied one of them for ages. You ask her for your lippy…. Jody looks at you puzzled… “Ummmm,” she slurs – “I dunno where it is!” (No offence to anybody called Jody by the way). Now, we all have a Jody in our friendship groups don’t we? and hands down she’s the one you want in your gang when you’re having a night out because she is a blast. But here’s the thing – she doesn’t need to be your bridesmaid. There are many brides out there who choose to have just 1 bridesmaid and many who choose to have 8 or more and I have no opinion on either choice, but my advice to you is don’t pick someone who is going to do a Jody on you. Equally choose your Ushers who will help arrange groups for your photographer, who will show people where to leave the cards and gifts, who will work with the venue on your behalf. So many people feel almost bullied into these choices because they don’t want to offend their friends or other family members. If they are true friends they’ll understand. There is so much more to being a part of the bridal party than wearing a nice dress or a sharp suit and just turning up.
So, that’s a few pieces of general advice, let’s look into what it is that so many wish they could change – Their photographer. When I was reading all of the comments that had been written I genuinely felt sad for each and every person that hasn’t got the wedding photos they wanted. Because after the wedding, when the dress has been worn, the cake has all been eaten (hopefully), and the hangover’s have just about worn off all you have left is your photos, (and video if you have a videographer) so it does sadden me that this tends to be what many brides and grooms budget the least for. I receive many emails and enquiries that explain to me how they’ve gone over budget on the dress and the Band and they don’t have much left for photography. There are many reason’s why a reputible, professional photographer charges what they do but before I go into that, here’s some of the feedback about photography:
“My Photos were too rushed. I have no photos of me with my Mum and Dad and Sister….”
“I wish we’d spent more on our photographer as we have very limited photos. Not a single one of just me in my dress, none of me with mum and dad or my sister and no romantic shots of Matt and I after we got married. Absolutely gutted as we can’t go back and do it again so we will never get those photos….”
“I wish I’d paid a photographer. We had a really intimate wedding and as it was my second we used a friend who is involved in the wedding industry but in the printing side….”
“I never had a photo with my girl friends. The photographer mistook friends for everyone…”
“…I found even though in my meeting with the photographer I had specified photos I wanted he didn’t write them down etc and then on the day when he asked what pics I wanted it was on the spot and I couldn’t remember half of what I wanted…”
“I wish I had made a list of important pictures to have with family members/friends and the little quirky things included in the wedding!”
“My photographer went bust so despite paying for a package, we only ever had the proofs. Our pics weren’t amazing and my advice would be to be relaxed enough with your photographer to be able to have a natural smile!”
“…So many precious memories missing from my album…”
“Pay for a good photographer!! I hate my wedding photos…”
Imagine spending 12-24 months planning the wedding of your dreams, Your photographer email’s or calls you to let you know your wedding photo’s are ready. Excited to re live your dream day you view them and the only thing you feel is that sinking feeling of regret. ‘I wish we’d thought more carefully about our photography.’
There are many people out there who own a decent DSLR camera, have a Facebook page or even a website and market themselves as professional wedding photographers. There are also people out there who have the same DSLR camera, a nice website and Instagram feed who also market themselves as professional wedding photographers. There’s no regulation in the photography industry and pretty much anybody can start up their own photography business at any time. So who do you book? how do you decide who’s the right one for you? Let me try and explain.
Obviously it goes without saying that the first thing to decide is whether or not you like the images you see. It’s a no brainer isn’t it? But the decision making process goes much deeper than liking a few images on an Instagram or Facebook feed. Is that person showing you a variety of moments throughout the day? ceremony, bridal prep, speeches, portraits, or is it just the same thing from the same part of the day. Are they showing you images using different kinds of light? for example, sunset shots, harsh light (bright sunshine with little shade), soft light, images where it’s rained and even night time shots these are a big indicator into the capabilities of your photographer.
You should be able to narrow it down to 4-5 photographers from looking at the above. Next thing you need to do is email them via the contact form on their website to see if they’re available. If they are great! Make an appointment to go and meet them. After a few minutes you’ll already know if you like them or not. Trust your gut. we spend the whole day with you it’s really important that you feel as though you can be yourself around your photographer. Ask if you can see examples of full day wedding coverage. It’s very easy for someone to showcase their very best work on their website and social media but how does this compare to a full day’s coverage? When I meet potential clients I always show them my sample wedding albums and this isn’t to get them to buy an album it’s to show them what a typical day’s coverage will look like. Each of my sample albums showcases a different style of wedding from a DIY wedding on a budget to a more luxuriously styled wedding in a grand castle setting. I feel it’s important to show people what they’re going to get by booking with me. Many of my couples have only a handful of posed group shots because they prefer the natural candid images when their friends and families aren’t looking at the camera but if having a lot of traditional family portraits is important to you ask to see examples of these as well.
You may also want to consider asking other questions such as ‘what happens if you’re ill on the day?’ ‘How will you ensure my images aren’t lost do you back up the images?’ ‘are you insured?’ these are only a handful of many things you could ask but they are handy to know and worth bearing in mind in the decision making process. Photographers also attend many weddings so we know what works well and what doesn’t work so well so ask for their opinion on something or if you can’t find a specific supplier for something who would they recommend?
A photographer who has invested a lot of time and money in learning and developing their skill, who invests in professional level equipment and keeps this equipment maintained and also has back up equipment, who takes the time to ensure that your photo’s are safe and secure by backing up in multiple locations isn’t going to come with a £150 price tag. Turning up and spending 10+ hours photographing your wedding isn’t what you’re paying for. You’re paying for their intellectual property, a skill that has been learned, refined and fine tuned to be able to produce the final images that you see. You’re paying for their ability to be able to watch what is happening around them and to anticipate what is going to happen next so you can have those photo’s that really make you go WOW! You’re paying for the camera’s, lenses, lighting and computers that go into producing your images. Their website which has been carefully designed to reflect their business and brand. You’re paying for their ability to capture the ordinary in an extraordinary way. All of this is reflected in the price the photographer is charging and you are investing in your photographer to get you the best images of your special day.
When you’ve booked your photographer it’s worth scheduling in a date to meet up with them a few weeks before the wedding to run through what is going to happen on the day. The timing’s, the group shots you want, any surprises planned like singing waiters etc. I work closely with my couples in the build up to the wedding to ensure that I know exactly what’s happening. If they’ve learned a dance routine for their first dance I want to know about it so I can bring the correct lighting and equipment to get the best shots. I note down the names of everyone who they want to have group photos with because this makes the whole process run much smoother on the day. If on the day I call ‘brides family’ it’s too ambiguous, is that just immediate brides family or is it extended brides family? I wouldn’t know nor would most of the family members so I always make sure I’ve got 2 lists (incase I lose one! OCD again) to be able to call people by name for example, Bride, Groom, Tracy, Howard, Sarah & Peter. This is so simple but so effective to getting these shots done as quickly as possible so you can get on with enjoying your day and get the photo’s you want. Another good tip is I like to know who is going to be there to round up the family members for the photo’s. I don’t know who Aunty Jean is but most likely the best man and the chief bridesmaid will so I let them know they’ll be needed to help me gather the relevant people.
I hope that by reading this post it’s given you a better understanding of how to get the most out of your wedding day and I certainly hope it helps you to choose the photographer who is right for you. Ultimately the only thing that matters is that you get married! But please make sure that the photo’s you do get are worth looking at and that they make you remember how you felt at the time the image was captured.