Top 10 Pieces of Wedding Advice (Part 1)

August 31, 2015

The more I have conversations with friends and strangers and potential clients the more people ask me for my best pieces of wedding advice.  

I find this to be such a humbling and confidence boosting question, because the truth is, I have soooo many pieces of advice for wedding planning! I totally understand that my point of reference isn't that of an all-day coordinator but as a photographer I end up wearing at least 6 or 7 different hats on a wedding day from photojournalist to flower-girl consoler to drunk uncle wrangler.  Yes I have a million stories about wedding days.  I am beyond grateful to have many more great stories about beautiful days full of love and joy than stories of worst case scenarios coming true.  But time and time again, there are certain things that always resonate as either "We wish we would have" or "We're so glad we did" on specific pieces of wedding planning that I'd love to share with you.

I'm doing it in two parts so you don't get tired of my over-sharing, so here are numbers 10-6:

10 - Remember, your engagement is about more than just planning your wedding.

Planning a wedding is a lot of work but it is important to remember that you said yes to the love of your life and if all you're working toward is a well-coordinated wedding instead of a well-communicated life together, there will be little joy in the process.  Date each other!  Have nights every week where you don't talk about the wedding at all.  And go to pre-marital counseling.  Having marriage mentors or counselors is not weakness, it is proving you are willing to prepare for the big stuff.  My husband is a pastor and we do pre-marital counseling for couples and it is our absolute favorite thing.  We were given amazing tools to help us communicate well in our marriage and sharing those tools and strategies with other couples is life-giving for everyone.  

Go date your future spouse, say I love you, say I'm sorry, say you forgive each other and do it all over again the next day.  You're lovely together, stay lovely.

9 - Hire a wedding coordinator.

Pinterest has given us a lot of great ideas and a lot of deluded ideas as well, one of which is the fact we can DIY just about anything.  But the truth is, you don't plan to execute your wedding every weekend (I assume).  There are, however, professionals who do that with excellent finesse and minimal stress because they are practiced at it.

Even a day of wedding coordinator will help the entire day run smoothly.  I know it seems like it would be fine to outsource the coordinating to your Aunt Diane, but the thing is, Aunt Diane has a vested interest in you not simply helping your wedding run well.  She means well and has the best wishes for you, but she'll get caught up in chatting with family or something else.

You need someone whose sole responsibility is to make sure that when you're off taking gorgeous rooftop portraits during cocktail hour that the wedding party knows where and when to meet for group photos so no one bothers you with those questions.  Finding someone do coordinate that day and be the go-to person for all friends, family and vendors is and invaluable stress-reducer for everyone involved.

8 - Choose the wedding party you want, not the one you feel obligated to have.

Choosing your bridal party is a touchy subject.  Some people know they want 9 of their best friends by their sides at their day and there is no awkwardness.  Some people have just one attendant that means the world to them so it's a small affair.  Both of those are incredible situations because it means you're surrounded by love and affirmation.

However, we all have heard of situations of obligatory wedding party members that make things uncomfortable.  If that's the case, I highly encourage you to speak to that person in private and explain why they're not going to be in the party.  I know it's terrifying and it might have immediate fall out, but honestly, it's better than regretting that decision every time you look at your photos.

The right wedding party makes everything feel different.  Rachel chose her four best girl friends from back home in Hermantown, MN and they were some of the most fun girls I've every worked with.  I know I'm probably biased being a Minnesota girl myself  but truthfully, Kara, Sara, Tina and Alicia were such a perfect team, I still remember their names.

7. - Don't fall into the comparison trap - 

It is so easy to get inundated with every little and big thing that look like a great idea from tiny succulent favors to gorgeous hilltop vineyards to six-tier wedding cakes to custom calligraphy-clad envelopes.  The hardest thing about Pinterest is that it lets you choose the best images from the best things in the world and it gives a faulty sense of what real weddings with real budgets and real people look like.

Theodore Roosevelt said that "Comparison is the thief of joy."  Be joyful about your wedding because you aren't having any of those other weddings you've seen, you're planning your wedding and no one else is going to have a wedding just like yours!

6. - Stick to a budget and mean it - 

Sure, having a blow-out, bigger than life party is a really fun way to start a marriage, but a ton of debt is a terrible way to start a marriage.  This is going to mean finding a budget, and sticking to it with fierceness.  It means awkward conversations about money with your loved ones, it means being really honest about your priorities and sacrificing on some of the non-essentials.  It means getting creative with locations, times and food.  It even means asking to borrow things and barter for things.  It means asking big questions of vendors and not trying to con them into a deal but laying out the truth with dignity and asking what can be done within your budget.
My favorite example of this was Whitley & Eric's wedding.  They knew they had a tight budget that they had to stick to but they still wanted lovely images.  It was her honesty and forethought that drew myself, and other vendors, to want to be part of their wedding.  It was lovely and it wasn't tens of thousands of dollars and I'm sure they were thankful of that as they stepped over the threshold of their new home on New Year's Eve.

All right, five down, five to go!  See you tomorrow!

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