Ten tips for planning your perfect wedding

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Whether you choose me as your photographer or not (that’s another decision of course!) I believe in helping couples along the way in any way I can, so here are my top 10 tips for getting the most out of the planning stage of your wedding.

Having shot over 400 weddings over the last 15 years, I’ve seen a beautifully diverse plethora of ways to get the most from your day – from the smallest intimate mountaintop elopement, to the grandest epic party wedding. Making your day personal to you and focusing on what is most important for you as a couple is the key, but this always creates many questions which need answering, and as for most people getting married is a first time experience, finding the answers to these questions isn’t always easy, but your suppliers are always on hand to help.

Whether you choose me as your photographer or not (that’s another decision of course!) I believe in helping couples along the way in any way I can, so here are my top 10 tips for getting the most out of the planning stage of your wedding.

01.

Getting inspired

Your wedding should be about you, if you step in to it from the outside, it should feel instantly recognisable and just like home, and a reflection of you as a couple. This might sound obvious, but converting your personalities into an event isn’t always easy. Pinterest is a great too to gather inspiration, create boards based on colour palettes or interests, and add as much as you can. Over time you will start to see patterns in what you like, which can define the direction you go. If you search for colour palettes specifically, and include your interests and things you connect with then the results can be really useful, and can really help influence where you want to go with dress, suit and flower combinations, and even venue styling too. 

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02.

Following the trends?

We see so much trending on media these days, particularly with Instagram showing us what the next big thing is, and with fashion thee often feels pressure to follow and be seen to be on trend. Often though, predictions of trends are just that, written by blogs and influencers to garner attention, rather than being based on what will actually happen. With all these trends however, my suggestion is to imagine looking at your wedding photos in 20 years time, and ask yourself whether the trend followed looks timeless, or whether it felt like a gimmick. There was a time when sepia or vintage ‘Instagram’ look photos were on trend, whereas now they look awful, so perhaps think about what will stand the test of time, and be timeless. Currently photos with motion blur and direct flash are in vogue, but in 20 years will you look back and wonder why your photos weren’t in focus? There are plenty of ways of getting that look afterwards, without embedding it in to the original photos which can’t be changed. My style of photography is deliberately authentic, to stand the test of time.

I’ve also lost count of how many weddings I have been to with a basket of flip flops for the dance floor, again something that people see at weddings so assume you need, but as yet I have never seen anyone wearing them! 

03.

Getting the timings right

Timings can make or break a wedding, if things are too rushed, then it can be stressful, and may lead to missing out on certain parts of the day if things over run. Your wedding should be enjoyable, rather than feeling like you are rushing from one moment to the next. So make sure you allow plenty of time for the things that are important to you. Most weddings start with the ceremony time which is often set for you, so it is then a case of planning backwards from then for the preparations, and forwards for the reception. Your hair and make up providers will advise how much time they need based on how many people they need to work with. and as a photographer I suggest arriving around 2 hours before the ceremony, to spend time to get to know everyone, and to start taking photos when the make up is well underway. 

One thing I definitely advise is being ready not for the time you need to leave, but around 15 minutes before, to give you time to enjoy the moment, to look at yourself at your absolute best ,and to not feel rushed, This then gives your photographer time for some relaxed photos too. 

Give yourself a good margin for travel if moving to the wedding venue. After the ceremony, allow plenty of time for the reception  – talking to friends and family takes longer than you think, and then there are canapés, games, group photos, and perhaps some photos of yourselves as a couple, time flies really fast. Personally after the group photos which can take around 15 minutes when well planned (more on that here!), and 10-20 minutes with you as a couple for some relaxed photos around the venue, by far the best bit is all the natural moments, which only happen with time. So try to allow at least a couple of hours for the drinks reception.

If sunset photos are important to you, then I can factor this in by predicting when it will be on your day, and then we can keep a little window between speeches or the first dance, depending on the time of year. 

04.

Confetti

A question I am often asked, what type, and how much? It should be biodegradable of course, and the more, the better! There is a balance on size – fresh more leaves are bigger and you need a lot more for a good handful, whereas dried leaves are smaller, but easier to throw as they have a little more weight. I’d avoid lavender, as it tends to be invisble in the photos, plus you’ll be finding it for weeks!

Cones are helpful for this as they allow you to portion it evenly and it gives guests something to launch it from, but I also do like a good well thrown handful, and hands can really add to the photos. I’d also suggest choosing confetti which matches your wedding colour palette too. I can highly recommend Shropshire Petals, who specialise in their home grown floral confetti, and have plenty of helpful guides, including this one to calculate how much confetti you need. 

A cloud of paper discs

Bubbles work great too!

05.

An unplugged wedding?

With social media these days, there is an obsession to capturing everything as it happens, rather than living in the moment. You can choose to have an unplugged ceremony, where guests are asked to not use their phones, though I tend to find that inevitably there are people who always will. Camera phones are a fact of life now, so for me I like to embrace it, and take pictures of people taking pictures, it emphasises the significance of the day, and tells the story of the two people at the centre of it, and all those capturing it around them. One caveat for me though is to make sure that your parents are not the ones taking photos at key moments, they should be totally focused on the moment, and trusting the photographer to deliver. The same for guests too as you walk down the aisle, to ensure that no-one steps out to take a photo, without realising the photographer is behind them, and will lose the shot.

06.

It’s all about the light!

The word photography is of course derived from the latin term to paint with light, so for us it the source of everything through the day. It’s not just about the photography though, a well lit wedding will sparkle, so think about candles, or fairy lights, or using the golden hour light outside for the reception or first dance. For your preparations, make sure make up and hair can be done in the best light possible, ideally a shaded window, so that you get the most flattering  softy light possible, for the best photographs. A good photographer though will be able to control and adapt to the light, and I always work on the premise that if the light isn’t there, I need to add it in subtle ways. 

07.

Should we have portraits?

Ask yourself how important portraits of you as a couple are, and envisage in your mind what these will look like. Are they more formal classic photos, or are they relaxed ones of you having fun, or just purely reportage moments? I like to strike a balance based on what matters most to you as a couple.Nearly every couple i speak to will say they don’t like having their photo taken, or that they don’t feel photogenic, when all it comes down to is the fact it does feel a little strange being the centre of attention and having your photo taken, I feel exactly the same. So personally take away the word portraits, and make it just about photos of the two of you, whatever that is. This can be a simple as going for a walk together (which is actually the first time you get to talk to each other all day) and I then watch for the natural moments between you, which makes the photos all the more authentic. We can spend as much or as little time on these moments as suits you, and as many times, including sunset too perhaps. I can also offer tips for better positioning so you look even better, if you would like to be guided. 

The key point is that these photos need to feel real to you, not orchestrated or posed moments.

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08.

When to have the speeches

There is no hard and fast rule for when to have speeches (or indeed whether you have to have them at all!) Traditionally they have been after the wedding breakfast, which means there is no interruption to the flow of the catering, but this can mean that guests are sat even longer than perhaps they might like. This also means that the nerves of the speakers are extended, and I’ve seen many a groom not eat their meal because they are so nervous, which is a real shame when the food can be so personal to you. You can spread them between courses, but this can put pressure on the caterers to deliver when speeches finish rather than when the food is ready. The same is true for speeches beforehand, but this is achievable if you allow a set amount of time for how long you envisage the speeches to be, with a little buffer too. It is also worth considering how your media team will cover the speeches, we have to rest and eat too and the wedding breakfast is the only opportunity, so having a clearly defined time for speeches certainly helps us. Some of the best speeches I have seen have been those held informally with all guests gathered round, and this minimises the amount of time guests are sitting in the same seat for. Whatever you choose, just make sure it is right for you as a couple and reflects the feel of your day. 

09.

Choosing your photographer

My area of expertise as a supplier, so I have to include just a little advice here! 🙂 Above all, the most important factor is connecting with the photographer’s style, because the photos you get of yourselves will be similar, and loving them and feeling they are a true reflection of you is so important. Back up systems, insurance are a given, but it is worth checking, and it should be a deal breaker if not in place – the attention to detail is so important. Even down to cover if the photographer is ill, I personally have a clear strategy as I know how important this is, so I will find a replacement of equal quality and make all the arrangements for you. Unless I’ve been hit by a bus of course..! Once you have considered all this, it comes down to trust, and who you feel give the best representation of your day, a legacy for future generations.

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10.

The most important point above all else – relax and enjoy the day!

This is probably my most important tip of all, and is saved till last. Once you have planned your day, and everything is in place, trust that it will go to plan.

The day will be over in a flash, live and breathe every second. Smile, laugh, enjoy, celebrate. This will shine through in your photos. Worrying about whether things are going to plan will only detract from your enjoyment, and this comes through in the photos too. If things don’t go to plan, it can still create memorable moments, and you can guarantee that everyone there, your amazing suppliers family and friends will do everything to make it all work perfectly, resolving hitches without you even noticing.  

Live the best day of your lives

and this will shine through in your photos.

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