How to Plan Your Dream Wedding
Your guide to getting the best wedding photos
YOU JUST GOT ENGAGED!
I’m so genuinely excited for you. You’re in the midst of one of life’s biggest milestones.
The first thing I want to say is to enjoy this process of planning. All those ideas you’ve ever thought ‘might be cool for our wedding’ – dig them up and make them happen. Make the day exactly how you want. My aim as a photographer is to help you create a day that is low on stress and high on very good vibes; the kind of day everyone remembers for good reasons. If I can help you relax and enjoy the day as much as possible, then I just know you’re going to have beautiful photographs to show for it.
So what is this guide all about?
I wrote this guide because I’ve been in the position of planning a wedding and realising there was a lot I didn’t know, and that most of what I did know was out-dated. After all, I was a rookie – like most people planning a wedding. And everything I knew about weddings came from TV, movies or the few weddings I attended as a kid.
This guide is essentially a collection of thoughts, ideas and suggestions for you to either get some inspiration from or disregard completely. It might cover some things you simply hadn’t thought about yet, or it might make you think about parts of the day slightly differently.
What happens after you’re engaged?
Firstly, slow down and enjoy this time together
It’s so easy to go head first into planning – and it’s a tonne of fun, too. But don’t forget to slow down, soak it in, and enjoy the planning process. Don’t let it consume your entire life – keep doing the stuff you love to make sure you enjoy putting the wedding together.
The first steps
Before almost anything else, you should both sit together and decide what kind of wedding you both want. Do you want an intimate city rooftop wedding, a big wedding on the South Coast, a destination wedding? Once you’ve made some decisions here, you can start to work out how much such a wedding will cost and what your budget might look like. It’s also time to decide if you want to use the services of a wedding planner or go solo. There’s no right and wrong answer here and it largely depends on your budget and your available time.
Then it’s time to reach out to some potential venues to see where you’d like to host your celebration and set a date in stone. I have curated a list of some of my favourites here:
Should you have a pre-wedding couples shoot?
Yes And there’s so many good reasons why
Firstly, if you’re at all nervous about being in front of the camera, then a couple’s shoot before the day is perfect for getting rid of those nerves. The lead up to your wedding will be that much more pleasant knowing that you’re comfortable being photographed and that it’s no big deal.
Also, who doesn’t like spending golden hour somewhere like a beach or on a cliff listening to their favourite tunes? And having a tonne of pretty photographs to show future generations that you were once young and cool?
If you get in early enough, they also make a very good addition to a wedding incite, save the date or wedding info website.
What to expect from me as your photographer
My job as your photographer doesn’t start and end with simply taking photos
Before the wedding
In the lead up to the wedding, I don’t limit the amount of phone calls or meetings I offer. I’m always happy to answer emails, jump on Zoom or take phone calls about any and all questions.
Officially, though, once the date is locked in, the next step is about a month out from the wedding where we have one big planning meeting for timings, and then another phone call a week out to check we’re all set.
On the dayI usually arrive a little early so I can get ready and start nice and relaxed without rushing. I tend to keep a very chill vibe most of the day and while I’ll grab you if there’s something I need, I tend to try let you enjoy the time unbothered while I work away finding all the good stuff to document.
The aftermathAfter the wedding within a few days, I’ll share a gallery with you of some of my favourite moments of the day. You’re obviously welcome to share this with vendors, guests, friends – whoever you’d like. The final gallery of images is usually ready within 4-6 weeks after the wedding where you’ll receive a little package in the post. Who doesn’t love receiving non-bills in the post?
Getting ready tips and advice
This is an epic part of the day; not just for your enjoyment but for photographs, too. It’s pretty informal, you’re hanging with your closest mates, there’s music cranking (hopefully through a bluetooth speaker and not just someone’s iPhone) and there’s just this kind of electric vibe in the air. It’s excitement, it’s nerves, it’s anticipation – it’s just a good time. And it’s super fun to photograph.
Don’t feel like you need to do anything specific – it’s a pretty slow and chill time and I usually try to allow for a little while at this point so there’s no rushing or stress. Just enjoy, be excited, and have fun.
I’m not going to ask much of you at all at this point. I’ll just be hanging, chatting and looking for interesting photographs to take. People usually think of getting ready photos as being quite literal, but that’s not it at all. To me, this part of the day is about very chill and gentle moments. Share a letter for each other. Or a sentimental gift. Show up with a guitar and sing a song you’ve written especially for the day to your loved one. Whatever you want. The point is, this isn’t so much about photos of you actually getting dressed, but more so about the informal moments before the day really kicks into gear.
It’s tempting for some people to just say “oh we don’t want getting ready photos!” but honestly, they’re such an important part of the day to capture and they make the story of the day feel whole.
It’s a day of celebration; start it off right and have a belter of a time with your mates. My biggest tip for the getting ready is to have an epic playlist of all your favourite tunes and enjoy the informal time hanging out.
Timelines might generally be considered a tool of the Type A but honestly, they’re there to make you less stressed and if you’re less stressed, your photographs get more amazing. There’s definitely a direct coorelation.
They can act just as a guide and be a bit fluid, but having something in place that says ‘this is when this should probably happen’ is going to be a lifesaver.
But since the likelihood is that this is your first time organising a wedding, I’ve put together some info on roughly how long to allow for things and when they’re most often done.
Use this as a bit of a guide to craft your own winning formula of a wedding day. But dismiss it whenever you want, too.
For a spring or summer wedding.
- 1:00PM – GETTING READY
- 3:30PM – PRE CEREMONY
- 4:00PM – CEREMONY
- 5:00PM – CANAPES
- 6:30PM – RECEPTION
- 7:00PM – DINNER & SPEECHES
- 7:30PM – SUNSET PHOTOS
- 8:30PM – CAKE CUTTING
- 9:00PM – DANCING
- 10:00PM – COVERAGE ENDS
Note: This is all dependant on time of year, sunset times and what you actually have planned for the day.
Should you have one?
How to make it amazing
And we’re finally here! This is the moment you’ve been looking forward to. It’s easy to get caught up in all the preparations and stress. However, remember the most important thing is that this is the beginning of your lives together. Savour this moment!
The usual ceremony lasts approximately 30 minutes, but if you want to include any specific traditions, I’d recommend giving yourself up to an hour. Some of my favourite photos come from this part of the day and there’s a few simple things you can do to get bloody epic, emotionally explosive photos.
The first, as I touched on earlier, is getting yourself a celebrant that’ll set the tone you want. Getting someone with some personality who fits your vibe is going to do wonders for your ceremony. When everyone is engaged, enjoying it and emotionally invested in the whole situation, it really shows up in a photograph.
Now this is probably up there with the most emotional points of the day, and you’re getting married so you’re clearly pretty into each other, so while you’re up there, stand together, hold hands, cuddle, kiss (whaaaat!?) – take it all in. You’ll enjoy the moment so, so much more than standing there like a robot.
Encourage people, especially those in the aisle, to just keep phones away. It’s such a mood killer in a photo when people are watching through a little digital screen instead. So many photos are spoiled by old aunts and uncles trying to get a photo of you walking back down the aisle. It really wrecks what can be one of the best photos of the day. And for what? A blurry, tilted, terrible photo that they won’t ever look at again? There’ll be plenty of time for getting the iPhone out after the ceremony.
Speaking of walking back down the aisle – I recommend going heavy with the confetti! Really heavy! Make sure it’s either real petals, or even better, biodegradable confetti (or confetti cannons!?) – but just get heaps of it. I honestly don’t think you can have too much of it. Think of the amount you need, then at least double it. If there’s too much, we’ll use it during the couple’s shoot instead.
As you come back down the aisle, stop about half way for an extra kiss (if you’re in to the whole PDA thing). It’s an epic photo with you surrounded by a tonne of your best buds and confetti falling and people cheering. I love that photo.
Once you’re down the aisle, let people come up and hug and smoosh you. Let them just rush up to you and surround you with massive high fives, cheers, tears – the works. It’s such a good moment and one that should be allowed for time-wise. Hang tight and enjoy the affection. Everyone is there to celebrate you! Let them come and do it.
quick, painless and important
The Wedding Party
After the family photos (and after you’ve had a chance to hang and mingle at canapes) it’s time to grab your wedding party for some photos! While I’ll definitely grab one or two posed ones of everyone together as well as each partners side separate, I mostly prefer to do this as everyone is hanging out together and often try centre it around something like a big champagne spray followed by a good swig straight from the bottle. It’s always chaotic and wild.
I obviously want the day to be amazing for all your mates as well so we’ll avoid any stiff posing and it’ll mostly just be walking and kicking back between locations. I recommend bringing plenty of sparkling, beers – whatever you want. I’ll try have a bluetooth speaker with me and it’ll be like a mini party with your closest mates.
It’s that time. Not only is it chance to get beautiful photos together, but it’s also a time where you can relax and be together in your own quiet.
Because light is super important to getting those beautiful photographs, I recommend grabbing some couples photos after we finish the wedding party, but also setting aside 20 minutes at sunset for another quick wander nearby. The light at sunset is generally a tonne nicer and things look just ethereal. It’s such a magical time of day. Not only is that light nicer but it also makes us feel nicer, too and it’s worth going out to enjoy that last bit of light.
One of the most common worries I hear is that people feel that they look awkward in photographs. When this concern is brought up, it typically means “I’ve never had photos taken before” or “I’m awkward/nervous in front of the camera” – the good thing is that awkwardness usually manifests itself as nervous laughing which photographs amazingly and before long you’ll be feeling comfortable.
time to eat, drink and be merry
You’ve done it! Woohoo! Now that you’re married, it’s time to celebrate! I’ll shoot some candid and group shots during the reception, so if you have any friends or extended family members you need photos with, now is the time! I try to get a peek into the reception before guests go hang their jackets on chairs or their bags on the table. If you’ve gone all out on styling, a second photographer can be handy to make sure we get the chance to photograph it all.
I absolutely appreciate that not every budget allows for this, but I highly recommend getting a band if you want a crazy dance floor. Having a live band gets everyone on their feet.
If you do go the DJ route, or even the Spotify route, fill the start of the playlist with some classic bangers that everyone loves. And another confetti canon on during the dance floor wouldn’t go down badly, either.
The worst thing I see at weddings is completely unoriginal speeches. Hearing the same Googled speech week after week just kills me because this is one of the only truly public opportunities we get to express how much someone means to us and why. The perfect speech is original, heartfelt, expressed in the speakers natural speech (don’t use a thesaurus and concise. Even if it isn’t the most eloquent, it’s going to mean so much more if it’s just genuine.
On the subject of speeches, while it might make more sense to have them throughout dinner, I’ve always been a big fan of speeches done outside during canapés or just before everyone comes in for dinner.
If they’re inside, just ensure the speaker and yourselves are in a decent bit of light. If it’s too dark, I have to bring the flashes out which is really distracting for not just the speaker but all the guests, too.
Mostly definitely sit together during your speeches. Don’t be afraid to react, laugh, cry – embrace everyone telling you how bloody lovely you are and also how you embarrassed yourself that time.
Sparklers, night portraits & exits
Firstly, sparkler tunnels or circle (for the sake of the argument, circles superior). While this might seem a little like organised fun, it makes for some pretty damn epic photographs. It doesn’t have to be an end of night thing – gather everyone outside at dusk, light some of the really long sparklers (get a fair few extras) and have everyone surround you while you toast champagne, dance, kiss – whatever you feel like. It’s also a good chance to regather everyone for another dance floor session.
As if we haven’t had enough couple photographs already, right? I recommend ducking out for five minutes and let me grab some fashion magazine-esque portraits under direct flash. It’s a short little moment and you’ll feel like you’re in Vogue.
I highly recommend this especially if you have a little costume change for reception. And yes, big sunglasses and champagne are a must.
Should you have a videographer?
The answer is yes, but with a caveat
I know this one is often debatable – it’s an extra expense and you’re wondering if it’s really worth it? It definitely is. Being able to relive your wedding day through a film is an entirely different experience, and one that is totally worth it.
A good filmmaker (I know several) crafts a film that just feels effortless and beautiful. It shouldn’t just be a chronological documentation of what happened – it’s carefully put together and tells the story of the wedding day.
That said, picking the right filmmaker is SUPER important. Someone with a minimalist approach who shoots primarily handheld is going to be the difference between barely knowing they’re there or feeling like you’re on a film set.