10 Pieces of Advice For Planning Your Wedding

10 Pieces of Advice For Planning Your Wedding

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

Top Ten Engagement Session Locations in Memphis

Top Ten Engagement Session Locations in Memphis

“So where should we have our engagement session (we call it a Forever Session)?!” Is the question we get asked most from our couples, and we understand why. In Memphis, there are so many options! You have the Mississippi River and downtown. In midtown alone you can go to Overton Park or Cooper Young area or the Crosstown Concourse or Overton Square. And we haven’t even gotten to Shelby Farms, a Memphis gem, as well as the many outdoor places that have such a beautiful southern landscapes and moods.

Before we start though, there is one very important thing to take into account: who you are as a couple. This includes your story, personalities, and interests! We love to ask a simple question, “When you two have free time and want to get out of the house, what do you love to do?” Most answers from couples are usually about taking their dog to their park (which we LOVE dogs at engagement sessions!), or going out to try a new restaurant, etc. But the answer to that questions tells us whether you gravitate to the free, invigorating outdoors or the energetic, romantic city life. From there it becomes a lot easier to find your perfect spot for engagement photos in Memphis!

So don’t freak out! We have been doing this whole engagement photography thing in Memphis for a while now and know the best, most consistent places to get beautiful photos!

1. Beale Street Landing

From a great view of the Memphis skyline and bridge to a beautifully manicured, urban garden space, you can really get a little bit of everything Memphis out of Beale Street Landing. This urban park has some of the best sunsets we have seen over the Mississippi River were here! Plus the modern architecture will give your photos a sophisticated, yet fun feel. With a more dressy attire, it can really make your pictures stand out! This is for sure one of our favorite spots for downtown Memphis.

2. Harbor Town

Harbor Town is so much fun to shoot at because it is one part park by the Mississippi River and one part small town. The park features massive trees, open fields, and views of the river and bridge. The Park lends itself to spacious photos with depth, but really the star of Harbor Town is the town itself. It is quaint, well manicured, and feels homey while almost foreign to a typical Memphis scene. You can get lost in its mystique! Add in the numerous little parks nestled deep into the town, and you have a location with lots of options! Plus around the holidays the town is decorated with tons of Christmas lights and we love the magic that comes from twinkle lights!

3. Shelby Farms Park

We don’t play favorites, but if we did, Shelby Farms Park would be it 🙂 No, it is not downtown nor has any strong Memphis landmarks (beyond the park itself being a haven for many Memphians). What Shelby Farms does have is the most unique landscape in Memphis. If you want outdoor photos, this is THE place in our opinion. The Hyde Lake area is a top notch urban park and the Uplands are a perfect place to feel like you are in the wild (with your dog off leash too!) And, if you like sunsets, Shelby Farms have the best in Memphis without a doubt!

4. Main Street

Main Street is one of the most popular places to have an engagement session in Memphis, and for good reason. South Main Street has a great feel with the shops, restaurants, and trolley! But to be honest our favorite part of Main Street is closer to the central part of downtown. This part of downtown feels the most like a bigger city. A great mixture of modern and old buildings, brick sidewalks, and ornamental street lamps will really give your session a romantic, “night out on the town” feel! Plus you are a simple walk to the river where you can get a lot of beautiful sunset photos if the weather is right!

5. Somewhere Personal to You

For us, this is should be the first consideration at all possible. This engagement session is about YOU so we love to learn what is a place to you as a couple that is special. It could be where you got engaged, your first date location, or even your home! These type of engagement sessions always make you the most relaxed and in the right mood. Happy memories means happy smiles! Plus, it keeps the photos authentic to who you are as a couple. We, as photographers, LOVE it when we get to photograph a couple in a meaningful location. It truly is the best!

6. Overton Park

Overton Park is a midtown staple. It’s variety of locations is almost endless – Brooks Museum, Levitt Shell, the old Memphis College of Art, the beautiful parks – so you can really get a bunch of different looks from your session! One thing, as photographers, we really enjoy about Overton Park is the light quality. There is so much variety in light because it is wooded enough that you can find beautiful beams of light to really give extra interest and depth to your photos. We are always happy when we get to shoot there!

7. Crosstown Concourse

If industrial, modern, and indoors is your thing then nothing beats Crosstown Concourse! This walkable community is truly a photographer’s dream. So many little vignettes and scenes can be found there. The Atriums are vast and industrial, the art space is modern, and the reading nook is just so much fun! If you have more modern tastes and prefer indoors, then this is a great place to have your engagement session in Memphis!

8. Botanic Gardens

Okay, so this one is pretty obvious. Flowers, beautiful gardens, and outdoors. But seriously, the Botanic Gardens offer some of the best vistas in Memphis. Since it is sectioned out into numerous gardens, we always have fun exploring with our couples and finding what the next turn has in store because every time we have shot there we found a new favorite place. It never disappoints. Make sure your photographer has a professional membership there though – otherwise they will kick you to the curb!

9. The Peabody

Yes, there are ducks, and yes they are cute! Beyond those little guys you will find a stunning lobby that feels like from another time. It oozes romance! The lighting is just right, the wood is warm, and the feel is grand. If you like to dress up and enjoy the town, then the Peabody totally lends itself to dressy attire. Our dream is to one day have the whole place to ourselves, but we have gotten really good at making your photos feel like you are the only two in the world!

10. Cooper Young District

When Memphians think of midtown Memphis, most think of the Cooper Young District. It’s funky. Artsy. The home of so many Memphis staples. This is such a great place to really show off your personalities because it already has so much personality. From murals to fun bars to even small parks, you can really have freedom to find a location that accentuates who you are as a couple. We always have fun exploring this area with couples and make fun photos for them!

Obviously, this is not an extensive list but it should be a great place to start for your engagement session planning in Memphis! If you have any questions, please post it in the comments and we will try our best to answer it for you!


Savannah and Philip