5 Tips for planning a wedding, from someone who has attended A LOT of weddings!
If you are reading this then I will assume that you are currently, or are soon to be, planning a wedding - a somewhat daunting task!
As a result of trying to anticipate precious, photograph worthy moments all day, us wedding photographers have become somewhat fine tuned to see what people are actually enjoying and what they may not be enjoying so much.
So please, use this knowledge I have gained to plan an incredible day!
1. Don’t get bogged down with traditions!
There are countless different wedding traditions found across the globe with varying levels of absurdity! One of my personal favourites is how in some areas of Austria it is tradition for the brides friends to wake her up very early on the morning of her wedding…with gunshots or firecrackers!
Occasionally at weddings I see brides and grooms concerned about how they should do something the right way. Now this applies not only on the day but particularly during the planning stages: this is your day and you can have it however you want! A break from tradition that I often see and appreciate is letting people chose what side to sit on for the ceremony rather than a brides/grooms side. There is usually a sign by the aisle pointing out that once the couple are married, everyone is family anyway!
A break from a tradition that I yearn for as a photographer is a first look! This is where the bride and groom get to see each other alone just before the ceremony. This is such a beautiful moment as the couple can be as emotional as they want without the nerves/pressure of being stood in front of ALL of their friends and family. I am actually surprised whenever a groom does have a big reaction to seeing his bride coming down the aisle because he is usually occupied with the monumental task of controlling his nerves!
2. Food is not everything.
I am sure everyone can agree that wedding food is GREAT! However, similarly to my last point, it is important to remember that there are alternative options to sitting everyone down for a three course meal.
At Debs and John’s wedding, they had what they described as a ‘mass picnic’! This involved giant picnic blankets and baskets filled with delicious picnic treats. They also had a burrito van that continued making burritos for people through the day until they ran out of burritos! (Side note: They were phenomenal burritos). To top it all off, they hosted and judged a ‘bakeoff’ competition where guests brought in homemade cakes. Not only was this hilarious to watch but it also provided desert for everyone at the wedding - genius!
At other weddings I have seen chip vans, portable pizza ovens, local cafe’s doing bespoke dishes and more. While unconventional, all of the couples received endless praise for their daring food choices. Everyone appreciates fine dining but a wedding can be a big day for all and sometimes guests want nothing more than to eat however much they want and on their own!
3. Entertainment is everything.
While food is something that people can overthink, wedding entertainment is often something that less though is put into. Entertainment can be categorised into pre first dance (things for your guests to do in the day) and from first dance onwards (the evening do).
Pre first dance: On your big day, yourself and your significant other will hardly have a moment spare. Quite literally everyone will want to talk to you and the day will fly by. But spare a thought for your guests: what is there for them to do for the 6+ hours between the ceremony and the dancing? Particularly for guests who don’t know many others at the wedding, or for children, it can be a very long day indeed. Lawn games are a popular option, I have also seen a mechanical bull, inflatables for grownups, magicians and more. At one wedding the happy couple got everyone involved in a quiz about the bride and groom, telling them to move to different locations for different answers which was very entertaining to watch! My personal favourite however is at Tracie and Dave’s wedding where they hosted Scottish Highland Games! The Caber Toss, Tug of War and Wellie wanging were all on the agenda and nearly everyone had a go!
First dance onwards: The evenings entertainment is so crucial in getting people on the dance floor. You may have a very particular idea about wedding music (think Abba/Loveshack) but it doesn’t have to be that way! You have two options here, either a band or a DJ. Now bands have a particular energy and ability to engage a crowd that DJs often can’t do. However, DJ’s can play pretty much any song you would like and will usually play for the whole night. If you are to book a DJ, I would really recommend booking someone on the younger side if possible! I have absolutely no discrimination over age but let me set a scene I have seen many times:
As his tinny speakers attempt to thrust ‘Highway to Hell’ throughout the venue, DJ-SilverFox admires his overbearing purple lights and blinding green lasers as they roam the empty dancefloor. Thinking he may have earlier spotted some youths in the room, he thumbs through his bag in search of ‘Now That's What I Call Music 34’. Unfortunately, the cassette is not in its case. It is looking like he may not win the crowds back after his smoke machine spontaneously plunged the first dance into a thick cloud of cough inducing smog.
Ok, maybe I have not seen exactly this many times (ever) but you get my point. I can whole heartedly recommend Boutique Disco or Inspired Party if you are looking for a DJ or
Bill Ding & The Skyscrapers if you are after a band.
4. Don’t be afraid to Do It Yourself or ask your guests to!
Weddings are expensive, there is no way around it. However, one way to ease the pain actually comes with a huge bonus. People often decide to make 'wedding things' themselves to save money on the wedding, but the end result is that the 'thing' becomes much more special as a result. I sometimes see that friends and family of the couple sometimes contribute and create things as their gift to the couple. One example that sticks out to me more than any was at Katie & Adam's wedding where Katie's mum literally created her dress for her. This was an extreme example however, much more common examples include people making decorations, the favours or flower arrangements.
Tracie and Dave’s was a perfect example of how to do a DIY wedding with style. Almost everything was made bespoke for the wedding by the couple and their friends/family. For the flowers they knew what wildflowers they could pick and use as the groom worked in conservation. From scratch they made the table layouts, decorations, all of the food, even a tractor trailer was turned into a massive rustic wedding taxi! This wedding showed how special it can be when even the smallest details have been created by the people closest to the couple.
5. Consider a coordinator.
Something people often overlook when planning a wedding is how to ensure that this very plan is actually enacted! You may have the wedding planned to the second but this doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t have someone to command all of your guests on to the next part of the day. Trying to convince any amount of people to go anywhere at a wedding is much harder than it sounds. This job is often tenuously assigned to a groomsman where it may not be done well or efficiently.
To make sure your day runs to plan and on time, consider hiring a wedding coordinator or see if your venue can offer this to you. Alternatively, if you think a particular groomsman would be good at this, be sure to clearly outline your expectations of them beforehand and don't be too frustrated if they can't do it, its not an easy job!
Myself and other wedding photographer often find ourselves becoming impromptu wedding coordinators when the happy couples fail to shout above the joyous racket being created by their guests. You don't need that stress on the day, you should be relaxing with a glass of bubbly whilst letting other people worry about time!
Check back very soon for more wedding advice!
Shhhh can you keep a secret? If you recommend me to your friends and they book me, they will get 10 free 7x5" prints of their choice from the big day! Just tell them to quote #5RECS10PRINTS