0. Keep in touch with your vendors! While you're sending queries out to vendors asking about availability, check your voice mail AND your spam filter... they may be trying to get a hold of you and you don't even know it! Check in a month ahead of time and send them out perfect maps with the times they're expected to be there. Follow up the mail with a phone call two weeks prior just to make sure you're all on the same page. I know, I know... it seems like all this falls into the "duh!" category, but when you've attended one too many weddings when NO ONE contacted you until two hours before the ceremony and you find out ALL of the vendors were also left guessing when and where they were supposed to be, it seems like it's worth mentioning and giving the royal place of honor on the tips list, place #0!
1. Choose your photographer wisely... Strangely, you'll have more close contact with your photographer on your wedding day than you will with your new spouse! So make sure you like that person and that they'll fit in well with your group.
2. Have the bride get her makeup done first! This problem creeps up many times each year. For some weird reason, many hair and makeup stylist insist on doing the bride last. And 90% of the time they are running late. This not only throws all your carefully planned timelines out the window, but it adds a HUGE amount of unnecessary anxiety into a day when it's easily avoidable. Great hair and makeup is supposed to last ALL day. Many brides get theirs done at 8 AM and still look absolutely fantastic by the end of the night. DO NOT LET THEM TALK YOU INTO GOING LAST!
3. Hire a babysitter for your reception ... For any guest with a smaller child, your wedding presents a dilemma. This may be the most romantic, exciting date they've had in YEARS, but just as the dancing's gearing up, their kids are melting down ... what's a responsible parent to do? If you hire a couple of teen-agers, the kids can be safely supervised, your grown-up guests won't suffer from premature departure syndrome AND they will be indebted to you forever!
4. Pick a dress you'll be comfortable in for 12 hours ... When picking out your dress, ask how much it weighs. I know it sounds strange, but some dresses weigh 10 - 20 pounds. It can really, truly weigh you down. Some of the lovely, yet heavy gowns are strapless, compounding the problem. If a dress weighs more than 7 pounds, ask the bridal shop what they can do to lighten it up. If the dress you've selected is strapless, ask them if you can attach straps for later in the evening so you can freely dance with BOTH arms up. I've seen a lot of first dances done with a bride's one arm up on her hubby's shoulder and the other arm firmly clamped across her chest. Also, check for beading under the arms. These always cause a LOT of chafing and discomfort.
5. What does your dress look like when it's bustled? Amazingly, only about 50% of my brides know how their dress is really supposed to be bustled. I'm usually pretty good at figuring it out, but many dresses are like doing origami with fabric. Not only do you and at least two other people need to know how to do it, but you need to know what it looks like when you're done. I've seen many gorgeous gowns become, well, unflattering when bustled. People are going to be seeing your dress and your backside in a bustle for the majority of the time that day, so make sure you like what it looks like. Don't be shy about bringing a camera to the salon and shooting pictures of the dress before you buy it. If they balk at letting you photograph your dress from all angles, it might be because it doesn't look great from all angles.
6. To have a receiving line or to release guests row by row ... Ah, the great debate. Remember that most of your guests have gone to a lot of effort to come to your wedding and that it's important to greet each and every one of them. But before you plunge ahead, check with the church to see how long they let you stay in the church after the ceremony is over. Some say half an hour, some say an hour. Keep in mind that releasing guests row by row, which is definitely quicker, still takes about half an hour. The more traditional receiving line, even with just the couple and parents, takes at least 45 minutes. Another glitch with this method is that all of your guests, regardless of age and patience, are left standing in line for a really, really long time. I personally like releasing row by row because your guests can sit down until it's their turn, or make a quick exit from a side aisle if they need to leave. Either way, though, build this into your timeline for the day. A lot of my couples know that I can get my lights set up, shoot my group shots and be broken back down within half an hour, but sometimes if the church wants you out on a deadline, the photos are really condensed and the keeper of the church will be breathing down everyone's neck. It creates a stress that's usually totally avoidable. When reserving the church, ask for at least 1 1/2 hours, and hope that you won't need it. Many couple opt to visit each table at the reception or have their receiving line at the hall, but it's not quite as thorough or immediate.
7. Bring an emergency kit - Scissors, thread, gum, breath mints, band-aids, Shout wipes, kleenex, nail polish, Tylenol, nail repair kit, safety pins, hair pins, hair spray, pens, ziplock baggies, Visine, and again, SCISSORS! I carry my kit with me to the wedding site, but most photogs don't!
8. Designate a check writer - Have a parent, or best man, or trusted aunt or uncle hold all the checks you'll be doling out on your wedding night. Leave the signed checks blank and ask all the vendors to give you receipts so you can update your checkbook later. There's nothing worse than having to interrupt a bride or groom at the end of the night and asking for money!
9. Make really, really good maps to your church and reception site ... I know, I know. Almost all of your guests will be navigating with their phones. But until they make weather proof phones that don't shut down in heat and cold, you will be doing your guests a solid to include a map to your locations with their invitations. Anyone from out of town will really appreciate having it for a reference. Also, when you create the maps, have an out-of-town guest look at it. I get maps all the time that make no sense. Don't forget to add North, South, East and West to the map. Have written directions from several main highways as well on the other side. You don't want your guests getting lost and you don't want to give them a good excuse for getting to the wedding late. Hopefully this tip will eventually become obsolete when we all have navigation chips in our brains, but that day has not yet arrived ;)
10. If you want people to show up on time... Print the start time on your invitations 1/2 an hour earlier than you plan on starting! Every year, guests are arriving later and later (or is Michigan just tearing up more and more roads causing more and more construction?). 3/4 of your guest will not arrive until 5 minutes before the ceremony! Many will be wandering down the side aisles while you're making your entrance! Many churches plan for several weddings in their facility that day and will only give you a time slot. So save yourself the grief and print the wrong time!
11. If you want people to dance ... Hire a live band! I know they cost more, but if you want people to stick around and really dance regardless of their age or musical taste, nothing gets everybody up on the dance floor like a live band.
12. Where's the cutoff for the guest list? A surprising amount of couples ask me this question. I always tell them that if you went out to dinner with this couple, would you pick up the check without thinking twice about buying them dinner? If you can say yes, then by all means, include them on your list. If not, then send them a nice personalized note after the fact. Couples are so worried about offending people by not inviting them to their wedding. Have you ever been offended by not being invited to one? Think about it. A lot of guests are coming from far enough away that they need to get a hotel room for the night, as well as pay for travel expenses and a gift for you. Sitting at dinner during receptions lets me eavesdrop on way too many conversations. I hear more people complaining, complaining about being invited! They're upset because they're spending anywhere from $50 - $500 just to not spend an evening with you!
13. If you're planning on having a ring bearer or flower girl under the age of five ... Recognize that they are solely there for the "cute" factor. Kids don't become reliable at all until they are about six. Being up late the night before for rehearsals and then wearing weird clothes, having people fuss over you and missing your nap on the big day usually provides entertainment for your guests, but it's a hair pulling moment for the toddler's parents! If the image of a little girl wailing, "Mommmma, Mommmmmmmmma" as she screams back down the aisle just as you make your grand entrance, makes you laugh, then by all means, include the kids!
14. Don't worry about buying your DJ, videographer and photographer dinner! Oh, don't get me wrong, we do need to eat, you just don't need to pay for us. If you've got a live band, or someone's coming with an assistant, then you might want to plan on getting them food, but otherwise there are always two or three guests that said they're coming and then don't show up. You're paying for those plates anyway, so plug your vendors in that way. If, by chance, everyone does show up, (which has happened exactly once in my career), then ask the caterers if they can make up extra plates.
15. If you or your fiancee is bringing your child with you into the union ... Why not make them part of the ceremony? I've seen many such weddings and I can't tell you how beautiful it is to see the groom making vows to a child promising to do his best as a new parent. There are lots of ways to include the kids and create a "blending of the family" type ritual into the ceremony. It's a nice way to publicly declare to friends and family that the vows extend to all the family members.
16. Enjoy yourselves - This is the most important tip of all! On your big day, remember to relax and have fun. You've hired pros. Your friends and family have all pitched in and now it's time to be in the moment. Let the day flow and just have a blast. This is probably the biggest party you'll ever throw and you need to have fun.
17. Rehearsal Dinner - If you're somebody who sweats details, think about having your rehearsal dinner two nights before the wedding instead of the night before. You may lose a bridal party member or two, but you gain a lot of extra down and recuperation time. Your young flower girls and ring bearers will fair MUCH better and you're much more likely to get a good night's sleep the night before your HUGE day!
18. Bridal Makeup - This should be my number one tip! Whether you're doing your own makeup or you're hiring a professional please use matte makeup ONLY! Anything with glitter, sheen, glowing, highlights or sparkly looks like reflective tape in the dark once a flash hits it. Anything "dewy" translates into "greasy" and "sweaty", not exactly the look you're going for! So matte, matte, MATTE please! Make up artists are fantastic at making you look great, but many of them have no idea what you will look like under the constant flashes and artificial lighting. They keep changing the terminology, but it all amounts to the same thing. Stick with matte!
|Michigan Wedding Photojournalist With Lots of Tips For Your Wedding Day!|