Over the past ten years of photographing weddings in Memphis and beyond, we’ve seen couples get a little overwhelmed by the planning process. Whether you have a short engagement or a year long engagement, the planning process is a lot to take in on top of your normal lives! We wanted to share our top ten piece of advice for planning your wedding. Our dream is that every couple has a stress free engagement that is full of joy and not anxiety! While we aren’t planners, we’ve seen all the inner workings of weddings from start to finish. As photographers we are one of the few wedding vendors who you will have contact with after your wedding and we tend to do wedding debriefs with couples when they get back from their honeymoon and come in to design their albums. Here is what we have learned from our couples and what they wish they had done to help make their planning process go as smooth as possible.
1. Start With How You Want Your Wedding Day to Feel
Jesi and Cabell had their wedding at Cabell’s family lakehouse. They wanted a relaxing, outdoor wedding because they are chill in their personalities and love being out adventuring!
Weddings can overwhelm you with minute details and decisions. To help with those decisions, you need an overarching idea that will be a guidepost for all decisions. Most couples pick themes and color schemes to help with this. But we suggest basing decisions on how you want your wedding day to feel and let your personality shine! Think about your personalities as well as dreams to find that feel you are going for. Do you want the day to feel like a celebration filled with laughter and energy? Do you want your wedding to feel romantic and relaxed? Once you figure this out, decision become so much easier because you can simply ask, “Will this help the day feel like….?” Wedding venue, photographer, florals, food, entertainment, etc are so much easier to pick with that “feel” dictating it.
Craig and Brittany wanted a romantic, elegant wedding and, boy, did they deliver on that! Candle-lit tables, intentional lighting, and classic florals all lent themselves to their style and feel.
Emily and Phillip were all about having an amazing party! They made sure the whole day was lighthearted and full of positive energy. The dance floor was no exception!
2. Pick Two Non-Negotiables for Your Wedding and Be Flexible Everywhere Else
Josh and Theresa really wanted a Fall wedding! Even though it was in September and still green outside, they were determined make their wedding feel like Autumn.
There are so so many choices that you will have to make when planning your wedding. As a couple you will each have your own opinions and if parents or friends are involved in the planning process, they will have opinions as well. And where there are multiple opinions, there is the chance for head butting. So we suggest picking just two non-negotiables and letting the other choices be flexible. Your non-negotiables might be your photographer and the location or it might be the food and band over DJ. It really can be whatever you prioritize! Being fluid on the other choices will reduce the amount of times conflict might come up and will help keep the wedding peace!
3. Book Your Must Have Vendors As Soon As You Set Your Wedding Date
One of the saddest things we have to do as wedding vendors is tell a couple that we are booked for their date. It literally breaks our hearts when couples really want to use our studio and we are booked. Venues, bands, photographers, videographers, most planners, and some caterers only take one wedding a day and if really have your heart set on using them, book them as early as possible!
4. Continue to Date During Engagement
This may sound obvious, but it is not easy. I cannot tell you how many times we have heard engaged couples say that the wedding has taken over everything! We try our hardest to help our couples combat this. Our Forever Sessions, what we describe as “an engagement session with a purpose”, is about pressing pause, forget about the wedding for a night, and focus on why you are getting married in the first place. It’s a time to recenter. We tell couples to go out after the session just so they can continue the experience with just the two of them. And as we leave them we always say, “Now forget about the wedding and just have a nice dinner together!” Our couples ALWAYS cherish that night. So make sure to stop the wedding planning every once in a while and enjoy each other!
Billy and Emilee’s Forever Session ended with a sunset like no other, but what they cared about was soaking in one another! Billy told us later that we “captured the freedom in their relationship”! That’s what it is all about for us.
5. Wedding Planners/Day-Of Coordinators are a Lifesaver
Okay… if there is no other piece of advice that you take away from this list, please take this one! The wedding day is like a symphony. When it runs smoothly, it is breathtaking. When it is out of sync, it can add extra unneeded stress to the day. A wedding planner is like the composer and a day of coordinator is like a conductor. They are able to orchestrate (hee hee, see what I did there?) the numerous details, schedules, and vendors to work in harmony. In our decade of doing wedding photography, we know that no wedding planner and no day of coordinator equals chaos waiting to happen. There was even one wedding where we, as the photographers, had to run the rehearsal because no one was there to organize everything. Don’t let this be you! Wedding planners and coordinators have experience in all things weddings and will be prepared for all surprises that might arise and most the time they take care of these surprises and mishaps without you even knowing!!
Good planners and/or day-of coordinator’s will become a little bit of everything to get the job done – including a dear friend by the end of your wedding!
6. Ask Yourself, “Why Am I Stressing Over This Decision?”
No really, ask yourself if you are stressing because you care or because you are worried about someone else’s opinion. In reality most people won’t even notice a lot of the details. If the atmosphere of the wedding is happy and full of joy, your choice of napkin colors won’t matter. Your guests are there to celebrate your union and that celebration is what matters most!
Lacey and Tyler definitely have the gift of not taking themselves too seriously! Lightheartedness is a gift when it comes to wedding planning.
7. Pick Your Wedding Party Based On Who You Want There Instead of Obligation
Brittany made sure all of her bridesmaids were the ones she wanted to dance all night with!
Your wedding party will be with you most of the day. Pick friends and family who will be cheerleaders leading up to and during the day! You want to feel comfortable and have low stress. So make sure the people you have chosen to be with you are the people you really want to be there during those precious moments of a wedding day. There are other roles that you can ask people to fill like readers during the ceremony or ushers. And this doesn’t mean you should only have a few people in your bridal party! We have photographed bridal parties as large as 36 people and all of them were amazing and dear friends. The bottom line is surround yourself with people you LOVE and who LOVE you!
Becca and William had a large bridal party but they were all dear to their hearts! They all were so wonderful, helpful, and supportive throughout the day!
8. A Groom Deserves a Perfectly Fitted Suit
This one is a must!! A perfectly fitted suit or tux is God’s gift to men. A improperly fitted suit jacket on a groom on his wedding day can make the groom uncomfortable and awkward. Your bride has spent many hours finding the perfect dress and having it tailored and you deserve just as much attention! These days custom suits can be found for just a little more than renting a suit/tux. Your bride gets to keep her dress, you should get to keep your suit (and wear it again!!) You will feel so much more comfortable and confident in a suit that fits.
Jeff didn’t try to get to fancy but he made sure his tux was fit to impress! When I guy knows he looks good his confidence grows.
9. The First Look Is an Option, Not a Must
This is a big one that most wedding photographers come down hard on. But we aren’t like most wedding photographers in Memphis. First of all, it is true that the First Look – where you see each other before the ceremony to have alone time as well as get almost all the photos done beforehand – can be a special moment. It is true that it won’t ruin the ceremony. It is also true that you get to spend more of the day together and gives you more free time for the reception. But it is not a must.
Amanda and Jon did a First Look and it was so good for them because they are so animated! They were able to share an uninhibited moment with each other full of smiles, tears, and happy conversation!
If you, as a couple, feel like the First Look will make the ceremony feel different than you want it to, then do not do a First Look! If you want to have a less chaotic time leading up to the ceremony where you get to enjoy time with your bridal party and immediate family, then don’t do a First Look. If you are just traditional in this sense and always have imagined yourself seeing your bride/groom for the first time during the ceremony, then don’t do a First Look. We believe there are benefits to both sides of this debate and enjoy photographing weddings that go either way.
Julie and Blake opted to not do a first look and the emotions were truly raw, plus the relaxed day leading up to this moment allowed them to really walk into the ceremony fresh and open to one another.
If a photographer tells you that your photos will only be good if you have a first look, then you need to possibly look for another photographer. Your photos will be different depending on whether or not you have a First Look, but they should still be great photographs regardless of the schedule of the day. And it is YOUR day, not the photographer’s day. A professional photographer should be able to make great photos with the arrangement YOU prefer.
10. Your Wedding Day Is Just The Start!
We had the honor to photograph Lindsey and Brett’s wedding and the next chapter of life with the birth of Finn. Our favorite part of our job is to see family’s grow!
Your wedding day will be amazing and it is such a unique and special day! We fully believe that it is a day unlike any other! It is a day when you surround yourselves with your favorite people and celebrate your love and commitment to one another! But remember it is just the start of your future together! The day will end but your marriage is just beginning. We’ve seen so many couples go into post wedding depression because it is all over. You’ve planned a long time for this special day and it is natural to feel let down that it is over. But just think about all the fun that is to come in your marriage! Being married for 10 years now, we can tell you that the days get sweeter as time goes on. So always remember throughout this planning process that the ultimate goal is to marry your lifelong love!
Savannah and Philip