Holiday cheer, family gatherings, snuggles in the cold, and SURPRISE!! Some new bling for your ring finger. If you're one of the lucky ducks who are now fiancés and fiancées, congratulations! You're getting married!! Buuuut, chances are, this is your first time planning a wedding and you need help. Having a front row seat behind the scenes of a wedding day means I've seen it all — from wedding dress malfunctions, to late deliveries, to speakers blowing out. That's why I've put together this super informative guide with 10 Tips for the Perfect Wedding Day. Below you'll find what you need (or should consider) to have the best, safest, and most fun wedding day possible.
Disclaimer: All weddings are unique and should represent you and your relationship. Use this guide as inspiration, not as instructions. As long as you Make all of these your own, you'll for sure have the best day. #Happyplanning!
01. Hire a coordinator or planner, and don't think twice about it.
Out of all my couples, 80% decided to go with a planner. Of the 20% who didn't, they ALL regretted not hiring one, and rightly so. Picture this: You're finally done getting ready and about to leave for the ceremony. You're already thirty minutes behind, so everyone is scrambling to grab their things and all make it down stair. Except...the car/Uber/shuttle isn't here. It started to downpour. And no one can find grandma Barb. Then you think, Shit. Why didn't we hire a planner?! There's a huge misconception in the wedding planning realm that coordinators and planners are only for the wealthy. But the truth is, not only are they actually badass people who know how to get things done, there is a price range for everyone. If you're on a tighter budget, consider hiring a day/month of coordinator. You can even put a family who's got it together in charge. But seriously, hire a planner. You won't regret it!
02. Never underestimate how long everything will take (especially family formals).
This is where both a great planner and great photographer come in handy. We plan the timeline of your day, making sure that there is a buffer in place in something takes longer than expected. We plan it all because we've experienced it all. And you know what usually takes the longest time to get done? Family formals. Chances are, you're going to have at least 10 family groupings to photograph, and each grouping will have about five to ten members involved. They're always impatient, they're always ready cocktail hour, and they're always unprepared. Unless you have less than five groupings and a smaller family, don't try squeezing Family Formals into a 15-minute time span. It'll cut into your cocktail hour and couple's portraits, and you don't want that!
03. Consider planning a first look or first touch.
To help ease the stress of Family Formals and save you some time to enjoy cocktail hour, I always recommend a first look or touch. It used to be that everyone wanted to "authentic" moment of seeing each other for the first time, but you know? You can still achieve that in a private setting during your first look. I have a lot of couples let me know that they're so happy they did, because it took away the stress of having to look surprised when they just wanted to take it all in. Plus, it's a great way to relieve some stress. Not only do you cut back on portraits later in the day, you also get to have 15 minutes to just breathe and connect. And if you still don't want a first look, consider a first touch! You'll be able to hold hands, or hug, or just simply touch backs and feel each other and know that it'll all be alright before the ceremony. Plus, it makes for super cute photos ;)
04. Keep you and your guests as comfortable as possible.
We've all been there, we've all sat through a party or graduation speech or wedding ceremony where it's hot, it's miserable, and there's too many goddamn mosquitos. Don't be that person who makes their guests suffer, whether it be a sweltering hot (and possibly rainy) summer outdoor ceremony or icy cold winter reception with no heat — make sure you and your guests stay comfortable. Make sure to look at the weather a few days before the wedding day so that you can prepare ahead of time. If you plan your wedding during the hurricane season, provide umbrellas. A summer outdoor ceremony should always have bug spray and citronella handy. And if it's chilly out, have some shawls or pashminas ready! That little touch goes a long way, and you find them online for a cheap dollar.
05. Hire transportation for different locations.
There a few scenarios where transportation is of absolute necessity: if your wedding requires a hotel stay, if your venue and ceremony are more than 30 minutes apart, or if you have a large bridal party traveling together. Whether it be an UberSUV, a hired van, or a shuttle, you should consider the travel time needed for you and your guests. This doesn't mean there shouldn't be parking, because there will always be someone who drives in (including your vendors), so clear up all parking instructions with the ceremony and reception venue to ensure everyone will fit.
06. Don't skimp out on food and drinks.
This may seem like a small aspect of a wedding, but the food and drinks, or more specifically the selections of each can set the tone of how your guests remember the day. This one unfortunately correlates with budget, but even if you could bring in your own food or caterer, ask about vegetarian and allergen-free options. As someone who suffers from countless food allergies, it gives me piece of mind when caterers let me know that dishes are nut and soy free. Same goes with drinking options, if you include alcohol in your day (or not), give some options. Beer, wine, sodas, water, you want to make sure you have enough of each. Make a signature drink together to give a little flair, too! It'll be something everyone will remember.
07. Play some kickass tunes.
It should be obvious, but hey. Some people need reminding! Music sets the tone for the party. Hire a Dj or live band who know their stuff. The right DJ doesn't just click Play and blast some generic playlist, they know exactly what song to play and when to play it to set the right mood of the reception. It also helps us capture amazing memories from the dance floor. Reception shots make up about 30-40% of your wedding gallery, when it's a good ass party. You don't want them to just be of people sitting around chatting. Hire a good DJ, have a good party. Simple.
08. Add a little flare and entertainment.
This is where your creativity comes in. Put up a photo booth, hire a fire breather, or make up some choreographed dance moves — add a little flare that makes your wedding day unique. I've even photographed a wedding where there were two floors: the top floor had the dinner tables set up with a seemingly endless dinner and sweets buffet; the bottom floor had foosball tables, darts, a balloon photo booth, a quiet lounging area, a bar with extra-strong cocktails, and lively band with a hyped up dance floor. Of course, you don't need all those things to make a good wedding, but you should always always always have something to make it your own! And, add a wedding day hashtag so that you can follow all of the posts people have from that day!
09. End the night with a (safe) bang!
Don't be afraid to end the night with a fun exit. It's fun, it makes for a sweet photo, and it lets you leave the party without having to individually say goodbye to everyone (Irish exit, anyone?). I know what you're thinking — sparkler exits are so overdone, and quite possibly dangerous. But it doesn't have to be sparklers! Bubbles, biodegradable confetti, dried flowers, or horseback into the night. As long as it's safe and doesn't leave a trace behind, it's a fun and safe way to end the night, and your venue won't charge you a cleanup fee!
10. And most importantly, have a backup plan.
Last but not least — you should always have a backup plan. If you're planning to have a wedding in a high-risk area of any kind, don't assume everything will work out in your favor. Plan ahead for any rain, snow, fires, tornadoes, etc. so that you and your guests are kept safe and you can enjoy getting married without too much grief. This also includes any small things, like rips in a dress, a small cut, or even fallen curls. Always have an emergency kit on hand in case you need to touch up or patch up.
And with that, I leave you with the last bit of advice: don't forget to HAVE FUN! If you're lucky, getting married only happens once, so make sure to cherish all the laughs, smiles, and great memories with all of your friends and families. Let's be honest, you're never going to have them all gathered in their finest wears again, so why not make the most of it? I hope this quick guide gave ya lots to think about.