The Epic Wedding Planning Guide

You’re getting married And I am SO excited for you! This epic wedding planning guide is designed to help you throughout the entire process and is full of helpful tips. My desire is to be so much more than just your photographer. We will be spending a ton of time together on your wedding day, so I’d love for you to consider me your friend! My friends are always asking me for wedding planning and photography advice, so I’m sharing my best friend-to-friend tips and giving you the low down on what to expect!

What is important to you?

Planning your wedding can be so exciting, but it can also be overwhelming (hence me making this epic wedding planning guide). There are so many decisions you will be making! My best advice is to decide on about three things that are absolutely important to you. Maybe it is finding an amazing photographer, the perfect venue, and the best food. These will be areas of your budget you will want to allocate more to. Also start thinking about how you want your day to feel (maybe you want a cozy, intimate feel, or maybe you want a BIG party!) — this will help you make decisions down the line too.

Create your budget.

Wedding expenses can quickly add up, so it is important to set a budget before you start booking your vendors. The average wedding cost in the US is $33,900. Now, I have seen clients spend far more and far less on their dream days. As I mentioned above, I recommend spending in line with your priorities. There are many ways to save money and cut costs on the areas that are not necessarily a priority to you. Here are some of my best money-saving tips for your wedding day:

  1. Curate your guest list. I love small, intimate weddings for many reasons. Because more guests will lead to more expenses, intimate weddings can naturally be more budget friendly. More guests = more money.
  2. Venues. Your venue will likely be the biggest expense. While traditional wedding venues often come with a high cost, there are many unconventional options you can consider to drastically reduce your venue expense. Check out air bnb properties (be sure to check with the host first to make sure they allow weddings!), consider a backyard wedding, or look into local parks, beaches, or other nature areas. Restaurants or cafes will also often allow you to rent their space. Think outside of the box and you will be surprised what you can find!
  3. BYOB. You can save thousands by finding a venue that allows you to bring in your own alcohol. This will allow you to choose alcohol to be served that fits your budget. You can also buy from somewhere that will allow you to return unopened bottles. If you are not big into drinking but would still like to provide alcohol for guests, consider having limited wine and beer options only as another way to cut drink expenses.
  4. Florals.

Florals are another area that can add up quickly. While I am admittedly obsessed with florals and personally know it would be one of my splurge areas, if flowers are not so important to you, consider…

  • Choose in-season flowers only
  • Make your own bouquet if you have a creative touch
  • For centerpieces, opt for less expensive greenery or other decor items (fruit can be surprisingly pretty to incorporate!)

Creating Your Timeline.

Before we chat about the timeline, let’s touch on first looks…

It is no secret that wedding photographers LOVE first looks. Why? Not just for the special moment and beautiful, emotive photos we get to capture when you do one, but also for the more relaxed timeline first looks allow us to create.

When you do a first look, this allows us to do photos of the two of you and group photos BEFORE your ceremony. This means we can knock out couples photos, wedding party photos, and even some family photos if you want! Doing these photos before your ceremony allows for a far more relaxed/enjoyable photo taking experience.

If you do not do a first look, we will need to take ALL couples photos, wedding party photos, and family photos after the ceremony. This is a ton to squeeze into a short time frame, and you + your family/wedding party will likely be eager to get to your reception and celebrate. Plus, if you are getting married in the fall or winter, the sun goes down much earlier in the day and this may not leave us with any natural light for all of these important photos.

If having a stress-free, intentional day is a priority for you, I highly recommend doing a private first look and taking advantage of the time it carves out for just the two of you (which is rare on your wedding day!). Seeing your partner can calm your nerves. You will likely get more photos by doing a first look. And lastly, the moment of you walking down the aisle will STILL be special! Trust me. If I could only recommend one thing in this epic wedding planning guide, it would be this tip.

Other Tips:

  1. First looks. If you are absolutely set on NOT doing a first look, it is your wedding day and I completely respect your decision! We will just need to work together with your planner to ensure we will still have adequate time for all of the photos you want.
  2. Buffer time. I always recommend clients to build buffer time into their timelines. For example, if you expect something to take 30 minutes, build 45 minutes into your timeline so that you will not feel stressed or rushed if things are running behind. Hair and makeup can often take longer than expected!
  3. Time for just the two of you. As I mentioned earlier, time spent alone with your partner on your wedding day is rare! I highly recommend intentionally planning time (even if it is just a small slice) to spend with your partner. I love sneaking my couples away for golden hour photos then letting them have a few moments to themselves before returning. I also love private last dances!
  4. Grand exits/entrance. If I will not be staying until the end to photograph your exit, I recommend doing a grand entrance into your reception instead! Sparklers still look pretty in the daylight, or you can consider doing confetti (eco-friendly please), rose petals, or other fun options.

Getting Ready

  • Find the perfect space. When choosing your getting ready location, look for somewhere that is nice and open with lots of natural light. This is your wedding day, so you want to feel comfortable! If the space your venue offers for getting ready does not seem like a good fit, consider renting out a cute airbnb or boutique hotel room.
  • Keep it clean. If you would like to have clutter-free photos, designate a room or corner of the room to be the bag area and try to keep most stuff in that corner.
  • Have details ready for me. You have likely spent time specially selecting certain details of your day, so I love to photograph them as a part of the story of your day! Please have all details gathered and ready for me to photograph when I arrive. After greeting you, I will immediately start on detail photos when I arrive. I recommend having these gathered in a box ahead of time.

Why You Should Have an Unplugged Wedding Ceremony.

Another great tip for this super epic wedding planning guide! I get it, your wedding day is exciting and your friends & family are probably eager to snap some phone photos! During certain parts of the day (such as the reception), this is completely acceptable; however, many guests do not realize that certain moments (such as the ceremony) are not the time to be on their phone.

I have seen many instances where a guest sticking their phone out into the aisle obstructs not only the moment as it unfolds, but also the photos I am taking as the hired photographer. To avoid having phones dangling out of the aisle and to allow guests to be more present, I strongly suggest having an unplugged ceremony

I recommend asking your officiant to make a brief announcement before the ceremony, asking all guests to turn off their cell phones and please refrain from taking photos during the ceremony. Your photos will not be ruined by phones or iPads, and your guests will be free to enjoy the moment and be present with you!

Family Photo Tips

My desire for you is to have the smoothest and most efficient family photos possible! While they can seem daunting, I am here to make them easy-breezy. Here is my advice:

  1. Alert your family. Let the family members who will be in your group photos know ahead of time, and/or have your officiant make an announcement for family to gather for photos in a designated place after the ceremony. If you are doing immediate family only, make sure to have the officiant make this distinguishment.
  2. Shot list. I will ask for a shot list before your wedding to have all the family photo combinations you would like. This will ensure we do not forget any photos you’d like.
  3. Start big. I recommend structuring your list to start with the biggest group first, then working your way to smaller groups so that guests who are no longer needed can be dismissed. I also suggest having grandparent/older guest photos done first so they may be dismissed earlier as well.
  4. Designated helper. Having a helpful friend or family member who know your families well and is willing to assist in making sure all included in family photos are present and ready to go can be a big help!
  5. No phones please. When a guest is taking a phone photo over my shoulder, this can confuse the people in the photo with where to look and can also really slow things down. Please have guests refrain from taking phone photos.

I’m Here for You!!!!!!!!!

I hope this epic wedding planning guide helped you feel more confident about what to expect on your wedding day and answer any questions you might have. I’m here for you every step of the way so please contact me if you need anything at all. I’m so excited to work with you.

Documenting Alaska & Utah elopements, intimate weddings, & portraits

Running Away From A Wedding That Feels

I’ll meet you there. Happy to run, walk, or climb — all adventures are welcome here.

(With an adventure elopement photographer like me?)