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Confessions of a Wedding Photographer – The Planning Phase: What’s Most Important?

Today we’re kicking off a new series here on the blog that we’ve been discussing for awhile!  We do a lot of blogging about our sessions, our life behind the lens, and tips for photographers…and we want to start sharing more information that is geared towards our engaged couples and how to prepare for their wedding day, from both the perspective of a past bride myself and a wedding photographer!  I remember when we got engaged and I began planning our own wedding…I immediately found myself lost in the world of the Wedding Industrial Complex (WIC, as I eventually learned it was called) and for most of the planning process I felt like I was drowning.  I felt the weight of so many expectations – from wearing a white dress (which I didn’t…I wore a colorful hand dyed silk dress), to creating a guest list that would keep the whole family happy even though we wanted a small wedding – and so much pressure to make our day Pinterest-perfect.  I knew in my heart and soul that the most important thing was becoming a wife to my best friend, but I found that the planning process has a tendency to cloud that element.  I spent my days looking at inspiration on Pinterest and popular wedding blogs, and before I knew it I found myself in an environment where there was more focus on the perfect centerpieces and the perfect shoes and the perfect color palette than there was on building an awesome marriage – and it was exhausting, overwhelming, and expensive.  As bad as this sounds coming from a wedding photographer, and as much as I love thinking back on our wedding day, if we could go back and do it all again we probably would hired a great planner and eloped on top of a mountain in Patagonia in Argentina with just an officiant and our dream photographer and videographer (and if you are planning such a wedding PLEASE bring us along to photograph it!).  It wouldn’t have saved us any money, I’m sure, but it would have been us.  I don’t regret our day by any means, but after being married for a few years and being present at so many weddings as a photographer, I feel like we have some insight into what elements are the most important on a wedding day.  And I’m here to tell you that it has little to do with your centerpieces…here are our top two tips for those of you navigating the planning phase of your wedding…

1.  Spend less time on flowers, and more time on your ceremony.  After all, your wedding day is a celebration of one thing – your marriage!  It’s a chance for your family and friends to surround you to witness and support the biggest commitment that you’ll ever make.  And, as cool as it is, I’m not talking about that ombre flower petal runner from Pinterest that you’ve got planned:)  I’m talking about your vows to each other, the promises that you’ll make as you hold hands and look into each others eyes (and if you’re anything like Rick and I you’ll cry like babies as you recite them!).  I’m talking about that moment that your partner slides that ring onto your finger for the first time.  She’s been wearing her engagement ring for months, but it’ll be the first time you’re wearing your ring – and you can’t help playing with it for the rest of the day and smiling to yourself about what is symbolizes.  I’m talking about that moment, when your husband or wife are speaking their vows with a shaky voice, and you see the rest of your lives flash before you – years of love and laughter and family with the person of your dreams.  I’m talking about the way that your mom grabs your dad’s hand and the look of pride that they share as tears well in their eyes.  These things – these words, these promises, these moments – these are the most important things that will happen on your wedding day.  Don’t lost sight of that.  Spend more time thinking about your ceremony, what it means, and the promises that you’re making to each other and less time worrying about your seating arrangements.  As a photographer I love shooting all of those beautiful details – it’s so fun to see how each couple personalizes their day to reflect their love and who they are – but in the end it’s not those details that I’m going to remember.  You’ll find me tearing up and remembering the way you laughed together when you tried to put the ring on your partner’s wrong hand, and the way he looked deep into your eyes without blinking once as you read your vows to him, and the way your father looked at you with adoration as he walked you down the aisle oblivious to everyone else in the room.  I’ll remember how she wiped your tears away, and how he swept you off your feet as he gave you your first kiss as a married couple.  I’ll remember how you pulled her close as you went around the corner after your ceremony, and you looked at each other and exclaimed “We did it, we’re married!!”  When we were planning our own wedding we wrote out a personalized ceremony, and I’m so happy that we did, but looking back I wish I would have spent more time dwelling the true meaning behind our wedding day and less time worrying about small details that weren’t as important in the end.

wedding planning tips 2.  Take time away from the planning.  Planning a wedding is hard work.  It’s no joke.  And it’s easy to get sucked into a 24/7 wedding mindset – or at least it was for me!  For over a year I thought about our wedding all. the. time.  A whole year!  I spent my free moments surfing the web, discussing ideas with Rick, running thoughts by our parents, daydreaming about what it would be like, and basically totally caught up in the hype of the stuff we needed for our wedding day and how everything would look.  I remember the day after our wedding was over, I thought to myself, what the heck and I going to do with my free time now that the wedding’s over??  And what the heck are we going to do with these 500 paper roses we spent months making?  And you know what?  To be honest, I regret spending almost all of my waking moments for a whole year thinking about one day.  I wish I would have thought more about preparing for marriage, or just going on adventures and spending more time with Rick having fun and enjoying being engaged.  I wish I would have hired a wedding planner up front.  We didn’t have a huge budget, but looking back I wish we had squeezed that in and let someone else do the worrying for me.So be sure to step back sometimes from the planning, and spend time together every day or week just hanging out with no wedding talk allowed.  Your wedding will be one beautiful, awesome, and important day in your life…but by making your relationship and marriage the priority you’ll enjoy years and years of happy days ahead.  Our wedding was one of our happiest days, but we’ve had so many more happy days since then – and you will too!

Allie+Alex-60

So that’s it!  Those are my top 2 tips for navigating the wedding planning process.  Of course, there are a million other things that go into wedding planning that I didn’t discuss, but if I boil it down to the absolute most important things – these are them!  Focus on each other.  Focus on what’s important.  And if you decide to spend 5 months making paper roses out of coffee filters like we did, disconnect from the rest of the planning while you work on them, enjoy that time together, and spend less time worrying about the perfection of one day, and more time focusing on the perfection of your every day.  Love, A

 

  • January 20, 2015 - 8:24 am

    Gwen Workman - Some wonderful Wedding Planning Tips! Can’t wait to read more!!!ReplyCancel

  • January 20, 2015 - 9:54 am

    Tosha - These are awesome tips to go by when planning a wedding! I remember how stressful things got for us while planning last year and it was great to take time away from planning!!! Awesome post!ReplyCancel

  • January 20, 2015 - 10:42 am

    jenn - so true, anna! thank you for sharing this. it’s a pinterest era for our industry and it’s so refreshing to read something like this today!ReplyCancel

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