Planning a wedding is so exciting but it also can seem quite overwhelming at times. I am going to give you some of my top tips to make sure you have the wedding you've always dreamed of and to help put your mind at ease while planning. My name is Patrick Julian and I am a wedding & engagement photographer in Phoenix, Arizona. I offer these tips and many more to my clients when they are planning their special day. I have done my best to break some of these tips down into sub-categories to answer any planning questions you may have.
1.) First Aide/Emergency
Nobody ever likes to think about what can go wrong but you should, even just a little, so that if something does go wrong you are well prepared. Here are some items I usually carry in my camera bag but I suggest all of my clients have with them on their wedding day.
Tide sticks or stain remover, baby wipes, bandaids, floss, Tylenol/Advil/immodium/benadryl/tums, snacks, water, bobby pins, compact mirror, safety pins, tissues & hand sanitizer. There are many more items you can add but these are the basics I always recommend. You'd rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it.
2.) Seating arrangements
I am a very visual person so adjust these tips as necessary for your needs but I have found this to be the easiest way to plan out a seating chart for me.
Step 1a.) Make a visual overhead view map of your reception space and the exact amount of tables (round, square, rectangle) on a poster size white board. Write out the names of all your guests on cut out pieces of paper and start placing them on your poster board. This allows you to see things visually and also make changes easily.
Step 2a.) Start your seating chart with bridal party and their dates (if they aren’t at a head table.) Next seat both immediate families closest to the action, then in order of relation/association begin placing relatives & friends closest working your way towards the last tables. Everyone’s situations are unique but I find this to be the easiest way.
Step 3a.) RSVP cards - Numbering your RSVP cards before sending them to your guests is a great way to stay organized. If you’ve already sorted your seating chart by number then break down your guests by number as well. For example Aunt Jane and Uncle John are guest #33 so if they forget to write their names on the RSVP you still know who is attending.
Step 4a.) Ask for your parent’s to assist you if possible. Tell your parents which tables are open for their guests, or perhaps guests you do not know their relationships with other family members etc. Your parents will be a great resource to help you and they will appreciate being included in your special day planning.
One final tip for seating - when choosing where people sit, or if you have an odd number, consider placing guests with others of similar age and interest. Play matchmaker for a minute, put sports fans together and similar ages together, similar personalities and so on. Placing Grandma with a freshly turned 21 year old at an open bar wedding is probably not a great idea. 😉
3.) Order of Events/Entertainment
Keeping your guests entertained and informed can really make or break the vibe of your wedding day. Hungry and bored is a dangerous combo for any age group so consider these tips to keep your guests engaged.
1b.) Events Schedule Board - As the people planning the wedding (bride & groom) often times we forget that our guests do not know the schedule. This can cause them to wonder what’s next for the evening or sometimes wonder if they are missing something. Consider having a posted schedule or itinerary that is easily visible for all of your guests so they can feel in the loop for you big plans!
2b.) Games/activities - Keeping your guests active and enjoying their time can be as simple as setting up a few yard games such as cornhole, a mini putting green, some table puzzles or trivia games etc. so many options the possibilities are endless. Such a simple addition can make all the difference in guest morale.
4.) Attire & Comfort
1c.) Brides and Grooms - break in your shoes before the big day. Nobody wants to have their dancing cut short due to blisters. If you can’t break in your shoes beforehand consider a change of socks and shoes/flats for the reception. This will make all the difference for your wedding day fun and comfort I assure you.
2c.) Dress bustle - When it comes time to bustle your dress it’s great to have at least two people that know what they are doing. While your photographer or coordinator may be able to help, it is very beneficial to have someone that went to your final fitting with you bustle your dress.
3c.) Bow ties, ties and pocket squares - If you are wearing a suit or tux it's important to know how to properly wear it. Youtube is such a great tutorial resource for tying knots, folding your pocket squares, which buttons need buttoned and which don't. This will make sure you look your best dapper self on your wedding day.
Keeping lists and staying organized is the easiest I repeat EASIEST way to keep your sanity while planning and ensure that you don't forget any minor/major details.
1d.) Family Photos - it is important when planning family photos to make a list. When making the list be sure to use titles and names so there is no confusion on your wedding day. (Mother Donna Father Greg etc..) also inform your family members that they will be needed for family photos before your wedding day. This helps everyone stay organized and prepared plus as the photographer if I don't have names I don't know who is who.
2d.) Details matter- Organize all of your wedding day details. Jewelry, invitations, shoes, rings or anything you’d like photographed. Keeping all of these items in one place organized and ready can ensure you get all of your details photographed on your wedding day.
3d.) Keep a wedding journal - Style ideas, photo ideas, contact names & numbers so much information to keep straight. Consider keeping a wedding journal with you to make notes, vendor contacts, rsvps and so on. Keeping everything neat and organized can eliminate a lot of stress. Plus you never know when that wedding inspiration may hit you and it helps to have a place to jot it down.
6.) First Looks
This is less of a tip but more of a pros to doing a first look. I often get asked why would anyone want to do a first look and here are a few reasons I'd like to share with you.
1e.) Alone time - wedding days can fly by, it’s important to take a few moments together to just be alone and relax. With a first look you and your fiancé get to share all of your emotions together in private before the ceremony.
2e.) Spend more time with guests- first looks allow for most of your photos to be taken before the ceremony. This give you more time to mingle with your guests during cocktail hour.
3e.) Staying fresh - with a first look you can eliminate a lot of the pre-wedding jitters allowing you to spend more time enjoying your gorgeous day and less being nervous. Your hair & makeup will be fresh, suit nice and sharp and you will likely have more photos in the end.
This one is easier than you think... bring them. Have someone you trust that is not immediately in the wedding party help you with your children or pets. Children and pets are going to need snacks, potty breaks and exercise all of which you will be too preoccupied to handle. Kids get sick, dogs get overheated it is important to have a contingency plan in place. Someone that can leave the venue if necessary or arrange a ride so you don't have to worry on your wedding day.
8.) Remember what’s important
You are marrying your best friend and celebrating with all of your loved ones. If something isn’t going exactly as planned dont let it ruin your day. Relax, trust your vendors to fix issues that may arise or delegate a bridesmaid or groomsmen to be the vendor liaison so you don’t have to worry about a thing on your big day!
9.) No Peeking
Whether you intend on doing a first look with your significant other or not, that precious moment you both see each other for the first time can be foiled unintentionally by social media. What do I mean? I suggest letting your wedding party know in advance that you don’t mind them taking pictures while you “get ready” but please no social media sharing. One Snapchat/Tik Tok of the bride in her dress seen by the groom, one Instagram post of the boys tying ties seen by the bride before it is time can really suck the wind out of your sails. I suggest to all of my couples to stay off social media for the day, enjoy your wedding experience, enjoy your friends and family. You really only need your phone for wedding coordination or emergencies.
The big day is here, the big moment is close, you and your bridal party are about to proceed down the aisle. Remember this last tip for the best processional photographs, chins up, shoulders back, flowers low, walk slow and big smiles. These are some great moments for pictures and we all want to see you looking your absolute best! Guys and girls both don't look their best when they are slouched looking at their feet as they walk.
Well and there you have it, some of my most asked questions answered and some of my favorite tips for wedding planning all in one place. I hope that you can use these tips to have the wedding experience you have always imagined and dreamed of. I love to help my clients however I can, to me being a wedding photographer is more than just taking photographs, it is making sure that you look at those photographs with fond memories of a day that was truly unique and special for you and your family.
If you liked these tips and are interested in seeing more then be sure to follow my instagram where I regularly ask and answer questions about wedding planning @Patrick_julian_photography or just click on the instagram link below.