Wedding Day planning can overwhelm many brides and grooms.
By being in the business of weddings for over 25 years, (coordinating weddings and as a Wedding Photographer) my goal here is to share my experiences with you to help you enjoy a smooth and joyous wedding day. So read on, and maybe one or two things will help you.
Lessons learned, detailed checklists do help pave the way to a smooth and joyous wedding. When talking with my couples, although I am a professional photographer, I too am a certified Wedding Coordinator. Not only have I photographed weddings since the late 1980's, but took the Wedding Coordinator Certification Program to help my customers. By knowing what to expect and prepare for in a wedding, I am able to assist my couples with what to think about and have referred them to other professional and wonderful vendors to fulfill their other needs. Also, that certification has helped me collaborate more with my customers' wedding planners as we can speak using the same terms; and it has enabled me to assisted during the wedding day in moving the 'program' along.
Things I recommend:
Once you have decided on your DATE.... do the following:
12 to 9 Months before your wedding:
- Define your target budget. Knowing your budget enables you to define how many GUESTS you can afford to invite, the location and size of your VENUE, the MEALS and APPETIZERS you can offer, as well as the DRINKS and SPIRITS your guests will enjoy before and during the meal. Will you have an open bar, or one where guests must pay for their drinks before your main course? Many things to think about.
- Define your style. I highly recommend reading current wedding magazines to see the trends of the season. Some may be appealing to you, while others may trigger other ideas. You may also want to talk to family about TRADITIONS in the family or your culture. Many couples love incorporating traditions from their native lands, and friends and family not familiar with those traditions are introduced to cultures from afar widening their knowledge sometimes causing curiosity to travel to those lands for a personal experience. Defining your style includes defining what style of PHOTOGRAPHY you want for your engagement session, wedding, and portraits. The variety is amazing. For example I specialize in traditional photography because I love the elegance it brings out in everyone, and then I have fun with candid / natural lighting shots during the ceremony and reception to add some flare to the wedding album.
- Time to Sign Contracts: Reserve that Venue; during certain seasons booking a venue can be challenging, so book early. Book your Officiant, Photographer, Videographer and Entertainment. They too get booked early. Start sampling appetizers and main courses provided by CATERERS. The venue may provide a select menu for weddings, or you may have to contract with an Independent Caterer. The variety is endless. Don't forget the CAKE, it is a good idea to start sampling Bakers delicious foods. Think of that 'place setting gift' for your guests. Many use chocolates, or pastries.
- Research the type of PHOTOGRAPHER you want. Do you enjoy their company, do you feel secure that you can trust this person with the quality and professional result you expect? Are they a fully trained / Certified Professional Photographer, or did they just purchase that camera? Check if the photographer offers packages also known as COLLECTIONS. As an example, we at Ana Montgomery Photography, offer four Collections from basic coverage without an engagement session, to full coverage with the engagement session, multiple professionally framed portraits, formal albums including 2 parent albums, and an extra portrait session after the wedding day. ANA MONTGOMERY PHOTOGRAPHY Collections range from $2,100 to $5,700 based on the products and quality selected. Since the caliber and professionalism of the photographer and quality of products differ so much, I highly recommend you meet in person with your photographer and get a clear understanding of what you are buying. Ask if there is flexibility should things change before your wedding. A recent customer chose another portrait in place of the second parent album, sadly a parent passed away a few weeks before the wedding. Some photographers are flexible while others are not.
- Register and Website: Do you have a favorite store that offers the household goods you want for your home, the silverware, flatware, daily ware, home decorating items, etc. you truly would love to receive as wedding gifts? Make it easy for your guests, REGISTER with the store or stores that you favor. It truly is an enjoyable experience when walking around with the store representative who personally shows you each dinnerware design, the complimentary silverware, and educates you on how to formally decorate a table, also showing you the myriad of complimentary platters. I still personally remember that day, how my husband and I would discuss the patterns and what we liked or disliked about each, until we settled on one that complimented both of our tastes.
- There are many WEBSITES specific for Weddings where you can register and track your activities, guest lists, etc. Check around, talk to former brides and get the inside scoop of what they liked or didn't about the website they used. That will help you select the one that is best for your tracking needs.
8 to 4 Months before your wedding:
- Invitations, Officiant, Florist, Wedding Gown, Bridesmaids Dresses, Honeymoon: Research and purchase your INVITATIONS; vendors may take 2 to 4 weeks to print them. So don't delay. Don't forget to carefully proofread those invitations before being printed and after being printed; I have seen mistakes on both ends. Time to select and meet with your Officiant to review the order of the ceremony, or traditions when/where to incorporate them into the ceremony. Will you include a special message or vow to your spouse? This is the perfect time to start thinking about your VOWS and messages, and discussing details with your OFFICIANT.
- Flowers, Flowers, FLOWERS, oh how they enhance and beautify a Church, a Gazebo, Reception Venue, your bridesmaids bouquet, and the bride's Bouquet. Think of the season when you will get married for that will affect the type of flowers that are readily available for you; or pay a hefty price to import them (pray US Customs doesn't destroy them - yes I can tell you stories about Orchids left to dry at the US Customs doc at LAX!)
- It is exciting when you find your WEDDING GOWN; however, even more exciting when you get it at a discount. Shop around, many bridal stores will run specials and why not take advantage of those sales. Downtown Los Angeles' Fashion District offers amazing discounts on new fashionable gowns. They can afford those discounts only because of their location, so don't think that you can't get the latest and greatest gorgeous gown just because it is not purchased in Beverly Hills.
- Think of when you want to go on your HONEYMOON. You will be exhausted after your wedding reception, with all of the planning yes many brides get overwhelmed, and then the wedding day is here and gone so quickly, you feel a void. I know, I sure did which was an amazing experience. One year of effort and wham, gone in one day. Ah, but the memories linger even until today 23 years later, as if it was yesterday. So do plan that honeymoon to just spend time with the love of your life, regroup, and get re-energized for a lifelong love affair with your parter.
- Secure the REHEARSAL date and location; confirm your cake selection, begin those dress fittings (and don't loose or gain too much weight, your alteration costs will go through the roof); don't forget the HAIR and MAKEUP ARTIST. As a professional photographer I always tell my couples, your hair, makeup and dress will make or break a photo. So go for it on this special day, the day you will look your best; enjoy the pampering a professional makeup artist offers, and enjoy your special day!
- Don't forget the DJ and coordinate with him what music you want played when. Music sets the pace of your wedding day, and guests love it when they can get up and dance or sing along!
3 - 2 Months before your wedding:
- Finalize flower arrangements, finalize menus, finalize your ceremony's details, finalize printing requirements (place cards, menu cards, invitations, thank you cards). Mail invitations, post your wedding announcements on social media, the local newspaper, and review that music list.
- Did you have your wedding RINGS custom-made? Are they ready? Do they still fit? Or did you forget to order them, engrave them? or?
- Time to meet with your PHOTOGRAPHER. Do you have a specific shot list? Do you have any specific requirements for portraits, e.i., location, time, person. Make sure you discuss with your photographer who is your contact person on the day of the event to ensure everyone you want in a portrait is there in it. I have seen too many times the 'Mother' of the bride taking on this role to later forget to get Aunt ABC or Uncle XYZ from out of the country and can't be found in the photos; they were off having too much fun saying hello to old friends and never showed up for the family portrait. Oops, and the family blamed the photographer.... Nope, if the contract with your photographer insists on having that 'specific person in charge' named on the contract. So avoid this problem, designate a person to help out. Photographers don't know who is who, and the bride and groom and their immediately families are too busy enjoying the company of their guests.
1 Month before your wedding:
- Apply for your MARRIAGE LICENSE. Check with your local government office (Example: Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, Marriage License Department) for current marriage license requirements. You will be asked to provide original documentation so have those documents in hand, or expect delays. Also check cost, timing, expiration dates; these vary. Now is not the time to cause delays as your wedding day is approaching fast.
- Time is of the essence: Mail rehearsal invitations, or call everyone to make sure your bridal party will be present, and on time at the correct location. Yes, I have heard it all, "wrong church, 1 hour late, , forgot to pickup a groomsman, stuck in traffic, missed the plane!"
- Confirm everything is still on track with your vendors. Purchase gifts for your wedding party.
- Get that facial and massage, don't forget to whiten your teeth for the gorgeous smile! Finalize your vows.
The week of your wedding day:
- Try to get a lot of rest, drink plenty of fluids (water!), it beautifies your skin and thus you look radiant and glowing in your photos. Get your manicure, pickup your wedding gown & veil, shoes, accessories, and finally touch base with your vendors to confirm your TIMELINE (arrival times to each location, any changes of shot lists, etc.)
- Ensure your 'designated person' has your requirements.
- Time to ENJOY YOUR WEDDING DAY! You have worked hard to get to this day not it's your turn to be the focal point for all. So now just let the day flow, and simply enjoy the love for each other and let that radiate in your photos.
Thank you, Ana Montgomery, Certified Professional Photographer
Member: Professional Photographers of America & Professional Photographers of California
Multi-International Award Winner in Photography
2014 Kodak Award Winner for Photographic Excellence