Wedding Planning Tips
Planning the Perfect Wedding
Without a doubt, your wedding day will be one of the biggest moments of your lives. Admittedly, however, getting there will seem overwhelming at times. I’ve compiled some wedding planning tips which will hopefully help make it easier for you two.
In this guide are tips, recommendations, and general advice to help you with planning. Things are intentionally high-level in order to help a broad range of couples. It’s best if you take each tidbit and prepare to tailor it to your needs. Everything in here is written from the perspective of a wedding photographer; other vendors in the industry may have their own opinions.
And of course, if you have any questions (or suggestions), feel free to email me at any point.
1. Start Wedding Planning
Lay Out the High-Level Basics
Whether you’re aiming for a lavish wedding, a small elopement, or something on a budget, your nuptials will have a lot of moving pieces. Here are some rough ideas to consider at the beginning of planning your wedding:
- The big picture: One or both of you have probably been dreaming about your wedding day for a long time. Right after your engagement is a good point at which to discuss what type of wedding you’d like to have. For example, will you have a conventional, micro, or elopement wedding?
- The when and where: Some couples like to get married right away while others prefer to put it off for various reasons. As you would expect, your timeline affects your planning. So, try and nail that down, at least with a general timeframe.
- Flexibility: Today, it’s a spring wedding at the top of a hill. Tomorrow, it’s a small fall gathering outside of city hall. Or, today it’s blue and orange and next month it becomes red and white. You get the idea: minds change when planning a wedding. Being flexible is one key to happiness.
Stay Organized on the Go
Any list of wedding planning tips, I feel, must start with this: get organized and find yourselves a planning method/system. I’m a computer nerd. Therefore, when my wife and I were planning our wedding, we made extensive use of our phones and Google apps. This allowed us do to almost everything digitally on the planning end, up until we had our invitations printed and we mailed them. If you don’t like that approach, no problem! At least get yourselves a notebook that you label “Wedding Planning Book” or something.
Wedding planning can be stressful. Please, if you do only one thing on this list, get organized and have a plan from the outset.
2. Choose a Wedding Photographer
OK, brainstorm with me for a moment. You’ve got each other, your guests that you’ll be celebrating with, a venue, and all the other odds and ends for your wedding day. Now, how are you going to preserve the memories of that day and all its intricacies? That’s where your wedding photographer comes in! I wrote a post containing my tips for choosing a wedding photographer, so please check it out if you think it may be helpful to you.
3. Find a Wedding Venue
You’ve popped the question–or responded “yes”–to the one you’d like to spend your years with. Naturally, you two will start thinking about where to get married pretty early on in the wedding planning process.
Remember: whether you choose to get married in your backyard or in a grand ballroom, your day is about you two and your love story. So, choose a venue that compliments what you’re picturing for your wedding day.
Connecticut Wedding Venue Guides
As for Connecticut wedding venue ideas, I have a whole page for that! There’s also a list of what I consider to be the top 10 wedding venues in CT. If Hartford or Mystic are on your short list, I have resources for venues in those areas as well. If you’re on a stricter budget, consider this advice on affordable wedding venues in CT.
Rhode Island Wedding Venue Guides
Rhode Island wedding venues are awesome, too. Newport Vineyards and the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center are two great options.
Think About Portrait Locations
Each time you visit a prospective wedding venues, pay close attention to the portrait locations it offers. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholding couple! But make sure that you two are liking what you are seeing; you’ll have your photos for a lifetime, after all.
Before we move on:
- Bonus tip 1: Sometimes it can make sense to go off site (i.e. leave the venue) for photos.
- Bonus tip 2: You really want to try and schedule about 90 minutes into your wedding day timeline for all portraits.
4. Have an Engagement Session
I highly encourage you to have an engagement session. Here’s why:
- They result in artwork that you can use to announce your engagement to friends and family, use for save-the-dates, and have as a pre-wedding keepsake.
- Other than their wedding day, many couples never take the time to invest in professional photos of just the two of them.
- The session gives you a chance to practice with your wedding photographer for your wedding day portraits.
Here are some things to consider about your engagement session:
- When: Some couples like the cohesion of, for example, fall engagement photos to match their fall wedding. For others, it might be that the first date was on a winter night and they’d like engagement photos to commemorate that.
- Where: Just like the when, the location of your engagement session may have significance to you and your partner. It’s perfectly understandable, however, if you simply want a pretty background with no specific sentiment attached.
- How: More so than your wedding day, your engagement session affords you to a chance to really let your personalities shine. That’s because the engagement session is much less formal than your wedding day and it’s just the two of you plus your photographer. Have fun with it!
For Connecticut couples, here’s my list of the best session locations in the state. More specifically, West Hartford’s Blue Back Square is great, the campus of UConn is a hidden gem, Haley Farm State Park is awesome, and few locations can compete with Harkness Memorial State Park.
5. Find Your Other Wedding Vendors
Yup, I’ve already tooted my own horn about how important your wedding photographer choice is. The truth is, your entire wedding vendor team is key. We work together to make sure that your wedding day is the one of your dreams.
By the way, have you start looking for your wedding dress yet? If not, check out my guide on the topic, complete with links to recommended dress shops to consider.
After your wedding photographer, your wedding DJ is one of the next most important picks you’ll make. Here’s a guide that I wrote on the topic.
I’ve had the chance to work with some great vendors. Here are some recommendations:
Dress Shop or Tux/Suit Rental
I have a guide on wedding dress shops here. For suits and tuxes, I had a great experience with The Black Tux (online; nearest physical studio is in Natick, MA) for my wedding.
If you happen to be considering a backyard wedding (or a wedding at a venue that requires you to find all/most of your own services), you’ll have to make sure that you hire the right facility wedding vendors. These include considerations like furniture rentals, restrooms, tents, etc. In my planning a backyard wedding guide, I go over this in a lot of detail.
6. Establish Your Wedding Day Timeline
Whether you’re having a small or big wedding, your day-of schedule is vitally important. This aspect of your day–when everything is supposed to happen–deserves a fair amount of attention from you and your partner. It’s also something that you’ll need to discuss with your vendors, of course.
When a new couple inquires with me, I start out by asking questions about what they have decided so far. Once they book, I draft a suggested timeline for them in a pretty, easy-to-read format. Discussing with them and their planner, if they have one, is also something I strive to do.
There are some things you might not think of when considering your wedding day timeline. For example, you really should try and schedule 90 total minutes for portraits (this shows up in the cocktail hour portion in the example timeline below).
Generally speaking, here’s what a typical eight-hour wedding day might look like, assuming you don’t have a First Look:
Getting Ready Timeline
- 8:30 AM: Breakfast, morning routines and preparation
- 9:00 AM: Getting ready and dressed, with hair, makeup, barber, stylist, etc. appointments for each partner and wedding party members
- 2:00 PM: Both partners are dressed, individual formal photographs, separate family and wedding party photographs, pre-ceremony down time
- 2:10 PM: Each partner reads their love letter / opens their gift / First Touch (a First Look would be good here, too)
Ceremony and Cocktail Hour Timeline
- 3:00 PM: Guests begin to find their seats for ceremony
- 3:15 PM: Wedding party in position for ceremony
- 3:30 PM: Ceremony starts
- 4:00 PM: Ceremony ends, cocktail hour and mingling begins, formal group photographs, formal couple photographs
- 5:30 PM: Formal photographs end, cocktail hour and mingling ends, guests find their reception seats
- 5:40 PM: Wedding party and couple intros
- 5:45 PM: Couple’s first dance, individual partner and loved one first dances
- 6:00 PM: Dinner service begins
- 6:15 PM: Speeches
- 6:30 PM: Party time
- 6:35 PM: Quick couple sunset formal photographs
- 7:50 PM: Cake cutting
- 8:15 PM: Sparkler exit
- 9:30 PM: Reception ends
For my couples, I work closely with them to nail down the details and revise the schedule along the way, finalizing it a week or two before their big day.
7. Think Ahead to After Your Wedding
The fun doesn’t end after your reception! No list of wedding planning tips is complete without mentioning what you should be doing after your wedding day. Here are some things you won’t want to forget to do:
- Plan your honeymoon. Ironically, this can be one of the best parts about getting married, yet it happens afterwards.
- Return rented items on time, such as your suit(s)/tux(es), dress(es)/gown(s), furniture, floral arrangements, etc.
- Open gifts and make a list.
- Send thank-you notes.
- Call the town hall and figure out how you’re going to receive your marriage license.
- Handle name changes.
- Update financial stuff, insurance, and other benefits. Remember to save physical pieces of mail for proof of address.
- Download and back up your professional wedding photos.
- Ask friends and family for cell phone photos and videos, collect and save everything in a single spot.
- Share wedding photos with family and friends.
- Write reviews for your awesome wedding vendors.
- Make sure that your wedding photographer knows how to reach you for print delivery, etc.
Want to talk with a wedding photographer?
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