WEDDING PLANNING TIPS

Planning a wedding is hard, so let’s make it a little easier

Wedding Planning Tips: Simplify the Process

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. Here, I’ve compiled some wedding planning tips which will hopefully help make it easier for you two.

Summary of the Tips

Now, before you get to the details, here is a summary of my wedding planning tips:

  1. Get organized

    Whether you’re high-tech or prefer a chalkboard, decide early on a system that you and your partner will use to plan your wedding.

  2. Find a venue

    Where you two will get married will set the tone for your planning process, all the way from your date to your budget.

  3. Choose a wedding photographer

    Nothing will help you cherish your day forever like quality wedding photography. Don’t skimp here.

  4. Have an engagement session

    Get some practice in front of the camera with your spouse-to-be. As a wedding photographer myself, I have to recommend this!

  5. Plan your honeymoon

    Potentially another big ticket item, sort our your post-wedding day trip. No matter what you decide, you’ll be glad you gave it thought.

  6. Find your other wedding vendors

    Other than your photographer, you two may decide that you need a planner, caterer, DJ, hair/makeup artist, etc.

  7. Establish your wedding day timeline

    As your day starts to take shape, work with your vendors–primarily your wedding photographer and planner–to write down your schedule.

  8. Think ahead to after your wedding day

    The job’s not done after you’re married! Be aware of the things you need to do after your wedding day.

The Covid-19 Pandemic and Connecticut Weddings

Last updated 2/20/21

A bowl of custom hand sanitizer bottles and a plate of masks site on a countertop under a tent at a Connecticut wedding.
Covid-19 wedding favors, including masks and hand sanitizer for guests.

Disclaimer: This information is derived from various pages within the Connecticut Covid-19 Response portal developed by the State of Connecticut. It is not intended to be direction from me; only the state can provide that. Therefore, and because the situation continues to evolve, I recommend that you click the links I provide throughout this section so that you can read the info at its source.

Some experts say that Covid-19 is something we’re going to have to deal with forever. But don’t let that get you down. Instead, focus on another forever thing: the love between you and your partner! Here’s how Connecticut is faring in terms of the pandemic and weddings:

Phase 2.1

As of November 6, 2020, Connecticut is in Phase 2.1 (yes, we went backwards due to the spike in cases). The State of Connecticut’s Sector Rules and Certification for Reopen webpage provides comprehensive information about what this phase entails and requires.

UPDATE: Yes, we’re still in phase 2.1, but come March 19, 2021 there will be big changes in the positive direction for weddings held at commercial venues! I’ve incorporated the updates below in the Wedding Person Capacities section.

Here is a summary regarding Connecticut weddings:

Wedding Curfews

  • Indoor and outdoor events at commercial venues must end at 11:00 PM
  • Entertainment/recreation venues must close by 11:00 PM
  • Restaurants must close by 11:00 PM with last dining service no later than10:30 PM

Wedding Person Capacities

  • Indoor private social/recreational gatherings at commercial venues are capped at 25 people
    • Effective March 19, 2021: This will increase to 100 people or 50% venue capacity (whichever is smaller)
  • Outdoor private social/recreational gatherings at commercial venues are capped at 50 people
    • Effective March 19, 2021: This will increase to 200 people
  • Indoor private social/recreational gatherings at private residences are capped at 10 people
  • Outdoor private social/recreational gatherings at private residences are capped at 10 people
  • Indoor religious gatherings are allowed up to 50% capacity, capped at 100 people, with six feet of space between people
  • Restaurants are allowed up to 50% capacity with six feet of space between people (max. of eight people/table)
  • Indoor performing arts theaters are allowed up to 50% capacity, capped at 100 people, with six feet of space between people
  • Indoor entertainment/recreation venues are allowed up to 50% capacity, capped at 100 people, with six feet of space between people
  • Outdoor “event venues”, such as amphitheaters and race tracks, hosting private events are allowed up to 50 people

Failure to Comply

Wedding venues and vendors which fail to comply with the governor of the State of Connecticut’s executive orders can be reported! Please keep this in mind before requesting that anyone bend the rules for your wedding, or if you are being met with any resistance.

Masks

Yes, masks are still required! In Connecticut, Executive Order No. 7NNN is still in effect, mandating that “masks or cloth face coverings that cover a person’s nose and mouth are required to be worn when in public and a six-foot distance is unavoidable, whether indoors or outdoors.” This does not apply to anyone who has a legitimate medical condition which would be negatively impacted by a mask/covering.

No matter your wedding plans, I highly recommend reminding your guests of the State of Connecticut’s rules at the time of your wedding, as well as your expectations. While planning your wedding, you might also look into distributing masks, hand sanitizer, and personal space wristbands.

Travel

According to the State of Connecticut’s Covid-19 travel advisory, your wedding guests who travel into Connecticut from anywhere other than New York, New Jersey, or Rhode Island must fill out this travel form and self-quarantine for 10 days. This includes any country other than the United States. Failure to adhere to this, which is part of the governor’s Executive Order No. 9S, could result in a $500 fine per violation. Be sure to read the fine print!

There’s currently a big exemption to the self-quarantine rule: getting tested. According to the state’s webpage on the topic, a travel needs to meet all three of the following conditions:

  1. A Covid-19 test within 72 hours of arriving in Connecticut “or at any time following arrival in Connecticut”
  2. A negative result on said test
  3. Providing written proof of 1 and 2 to the Commissioner of Public Health via email (DPH.COVID-Travel@ct.gov) or fax (860-326-0529).

Again, the State of Connecticut’s page on travel during the pandemic is pretty detailed, so I recommend you and your out-of-state guests read it here.

Getting Tested

The State of Connecticut’s Covid-19 test locator tool is pretty handy for finding a test site. You can also dial 211 for help with locating a test.

Getting a Vaccine

Currently, we’re in Phase 1b of the Covid-19 vaccinations in Connecticut. This one focuses on citizens 75 and older, then folks between the ages of 65 and 74. You can read more from the State of Connecticut here.

Get Organized to Start Wedding Planning

Connecticut wedding photographer Terrence Irving holds an Android phone with the Google Drive logo present.
With the right apps on it, your phone can be a great tool for wedding planning.

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 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.

Big wedding or small elopement, 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.
  • 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.

Wedding planning can be stressful. Please, if you do only one thing on this list, get organized and have a plan from the outset.

Find a Wedding Venue

Picking the perfect wedding venue for your big day is obviously important.

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. There’s quite a bit to consider on this front.

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. As for Connecticut wedding venue ideas, I have a whole page for that! Head there for an organized directory of some of the state’s best, as well as more tips:

A white pergola sits in the background and a rectangular concrete pond in the foreground of the Stone Acres Farm wedding ceremony area.

A categorized list of some of Connecticut’s best wedding venues.

Choose a Wedding Photographer

A sitting bride is on the verge of tears as her maid of honor reads a speech from her phone. A prime wedding planning tip is that the little moments stick with you for a lifetime.
Sometimes it’s the small moments, like that speech by your maid of honor, that stick with you for a lifetime.

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:

Guests at a Rhode Island wedding take photos of a groomsman and his date

Here are some tips for choosing your most important vendor, your wedding photographer.

Have an Engagement Session

An engagement session is a great time to practice for your wedding day. Pick a place that’s special to you two and go for it!

Engagement sessions are really great. For one, they result in artwork that you can use to announce your engagement to friends and family as well as have as a pre-wedding keepsake. Another thing is this: I’m willing to bet that other than their wedding day, most couples never take the time to invest in professional photos of just the two of them. For these reasons and the ones that follow, I highly encourage you to think about having an engagement session.

Now let’s bridge the gap and bring engagement sessions into this list of wedding planning tips. Here are some things to consider:

  • 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. Regardless, think about the season you’d like your photos to take place during.
  • 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. Use the multitude of options to your favor and get creative!
  • How: This one is sort of out there, so bear with me. 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. Like milkshakes, for example? Let your engagement photographer know!

By the way, a closely related wedding planning tip regards choosing a wedding photographer to do both your engagement session and your wedding photography. While this isn’t necessarily a must, it’s a good way to get to know each other!

Plan Your Honeymoon

Terrence Irving Photography honeymoon photos
Living in a colder state like Connecticut makes one appreciate tropical locations that much more.

Despite 2020, honeymoons are still a thing. I promise. Make sure that you two are devoting resources to this component of your nuptials. And remember, there’s no rule that you have to go on your trip immediately, nor does it need to be far away.

Here’s a post I wrote about all-inclusive honeymooning:

Terrence Irving Photography honeymoon photos

After your wedding day, you two may want to get away for a while. Here’s some info about the reality of all-inclusive resorts.

Find Your Other Wedding Vendors

Photographers are the best, but your other wedding vendors matter, too.

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.

I’ve had the chance to work with some great vendors. Here are some recommendations:

Attire

  1. Bridal Affection (Hamden, CT)
  2. The Wedding Embassy (Oakville, CT)
  3. The Black Tux (online; nearest physical studio is in Natick, MA)

Caterer/Baker

  1. Matthew’s Catering (Plainfield, CT)
  2. Chocolate Rose Bake Shop (Griswold, CT)

DJ

  1. After Hours Events of New England (East Windsor, CT)
  2. Welcome Entertainment (Winsted, CT)

Facilities

If you happen to be considering a backyard wedding, you’ll have to make sure that you hire the right facility wedding vendors. Be sure to check out this post for more info!

Florist

  1. Honey Bee Florist (Torrington, CT)
  2. McKenna’s Flower Shop (Norwich, CT)

Makeup Artist

  1. Blush and Wave (Litchfield, CT)
  2. Lorna Pulver, LE (Stonington, CT)

Officiant

  1. April Smith (North Stonington, CT)
  2. Marie Tyler Wiley (Stonington, CT)

Planner

  1. Plan-It Vicki (Avon, CT)
  2. Pink Olive Events (Cheshire, CT)

Transportation

  1. First Student Charter Bus Rental
  2. Joshua’s Limousine (Ledyard, CT)

Establish Your Wedding Day Timeline

That feeling when you get each other (almost) the same wedding day card.

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. Generally speaking, here’s what a typical eight-hour wedding day might look like (assuming no First Look and sunset around 7:00 PM or so):

  • 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)
  • 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 begins, formal group photographs, formal couple photographs
  • 4:30 PM: Formal photographs end, couple heads to cocktail hour
  • 5:00 PM: Cocktail hour ends, guests find their seats
  • 5:10 PM: Wedding party and couple intros
  • 5:15 PM: Couple’s first dance, individual partner and loved one first dances
  • 5:30 PM: Dinner
  • 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.

Think Ahead to After Your Wedding

A bride and groom raise their champagne glasses at budget Connecticut wedding venue Boulder Ridge Day Camp.
Yes, we’re married! Well, don’t forget to do a few things after.

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:

  1. Return rented items on time, such as your suit(s)/tux(es), dress(es)/gown(s), furniture, floral arrangements, etc.
  2. Open gifts and make a list.
  3. Send thank-you notes.
  4. Call the town hall and figure out how you’re going to receive your marriage license.
  5. Handle name changes.
  6. Update financial stuff, insurance, and other benefits. Remember to save physical pieces of mail for proof of address.
  7. Share wedding photos with family and friends.
  8. Ask friends and family for cell phone photos and videos, collect and save everything in a single spot.
  9. Write reviews for your awesome wedding vendors.
  10. Make sure that your wedding photographer knows how to reach you for print delivery, etc.

I’m a really great listener and would love to hear your wedding planning questions.

Click below and I’ll show you how helpful I can be!

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