Wedding days are a culmination of potentially years of dreaming to marry the one you love. They require months of planning, preparing and anticipation. And when that day rolls around, it’s almost surreal.
Having photographed almost 200 weddings since I started my full-time profession as a wedding photographer, I’ve seen happy times, sad times, funny instances and unexpected moments.
But at the end of it all, it’s about the marriage, not the wedding.
On the following pages are a few tips that will help couples enjoy this start to their marriage.
1. Remember this is YOUR Day
This day is a celebration of you. Your parents, your siblings and your best friends are excited about your wedding, but remember, this is a day when you and your fiance are given permission to create a vision around your personalities, your dreams and your ideal experience.
If you don’t want to do a sit-down dinner, don’t do one. If you want to dance all night, do it. And the same thing applies to the decisions regarding your dress, flowers, decor and ceremony. This day is an extension of who you are as people.
It’s really hard in a social media and opinion heavy society to stay focused on what you like rather than what you think will impress others. Be true to who you are and what you love rather than letting others influence your decisions.
2. Hire a Wedding Planner
The first thing I did when Brad and I got engaged was hire a wedding planner (Hannah Trahan/owner of Southern Couture Weddings). It’s very possible that we could have planned our own wedding; after all, I’ve seen enough weddings to know what I wanted. But there’s been so many wonderful things that have come from hiring a wedding planner.
The wedding planning process can be extremely overwhelming. After becoming engaged, I’ve had at least two or three major breakdowns involving tears and thoughts of eloping. And that was with a planner! By the time the week of the wedding rolls around, I’ve heard so many brides say they’re just “ready for it to be over.” I honestly feel that can be eliminated with someone hired to help you.
A good wedding planner can range anywhere from $2,000-$5,000 full service. Honestly, the return on investment (for me at least) was worth the price. Our wedding planner saved us time that I would have had to spend researching everything from videographers to rental companies. She also educated us on what would be logistical decisions as well as how to best allocate our funds.
I would suggest finding a wedding planner with lots of experience, extreme organizational skills and quick response times. I found these to be the most beneficial qualities of working with our planner.
3. Choosing Professional and Personable Vendors
The wedding day experience is greatly impacted by the personalities of your vendors. I’ve seen the importance of this firsthand, not only as a vendor myself, but now, as a bride. You want to make sure they’ll not only provide their goods or service to the best of their ability but also in a friendly and enjoyable way.
I’ve heard too many horror stories about planners or photographers (both of which spend the most time with you on your wedding day) who have negatively impacted a couple’s experience.
A great way to find out if you’re a good fit with your vendor is to spend a little bit of time speaking with them via phone, Skype or in person. Even 30-45 minutes is plenty of time to get a feel for someone’s character.
Recommendations and referrals are a great source of insight as well.
4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
If you can anticipate the worst, you will not be disappointed. The difference between an enjoyable experience and a miserable one is the way you handle the hiccups.
I can think of two past brides of mine in particular that really stood out in the way they positively handled their hiccups. One had the wrong colored flowers on her day; the other planned an outdoor ceremony only to have a torrential downpour in the middle of their vows. Neither were ideal scenarios, but both were handled beautifully. The common thread between all of my clients, and especially these two, is their ability to let it go. They realized in these unexpected moments that it was OK and rather than being upset, they embraced it.
From a photographer’s point of view, if you want awesome wedding photos, have fun on your wedding day. More than beautiful flowers and lovely backdrops, real, raw authentically special moments are what make gorgeous imagery.
5. Live in the Moment
Out of all the advice that I have given in this post, I would say this is the most important. Your wedding day will come and go so quickly you won’t know what happened. You’re surrounded by the people you love most for for a relatively short period of time. When is that going to happen again?
Even as a photographer who strongly believes in getting incredible images for my couples, I want even more for them to truly experience their wedding day. Don’t spend time fussing over your hair or worrying if the band is playing too loud or not loud enough.
Smile, dance, love on your significant other. And do your best to remember the smallest of special moments, because these fleeting instances are awesome. And you deserve it.
Congratulations to each of you who are embarking on this journey to marriage. I wish you all the best!
Catherine Guidry is the owner of Catherine Guidry Photography. She specializes in wedding photography and recently planned her own December wedding for 65 guests in New Orleans. Visit catherineguidry.com for more information on her services.