Wedding Ideas, Observations, Various Hints & Tips

Originally from England with an Australian twist, I've had the pleasure of working as a full-time wedding photographer in upstate New York, Vermont and Massachusetts for many years. When I think I've seen just about everything, I still get surprised. I love it! Safe to say, you'll likely have lots of suggestions from family and friends, but remember its absolutely okay to be unique and different. Make it your wedding. Planning a wedding is somewhat like putting jigsaw pieces together. With patience, everything really will fall into place without the stress level rising too much. Most of all, you likely know what you want (and what you don't) so go for it and do whatever makes you happy.

In pretty much random order, I've listed a few mostly practical wedding hints and tips. Hopefully, one or two of these will help you enjoy your one day of perfect just a little more.

• Whatever you do, don't gamble and settle for average and ordinary as you'll regret it. Hire wedding professionals with the expertise and experience to surpass expectations and work with your budget. Your wedding will be expensive so demand excellence. Hire people who love what they do and are excited to be working for you. Plus working with a specialist is huge as such a BIG gamble hiring a company that offers to do everything. Chances are pretty good a DJ company isn't experienced with photography and/or video (or photo booths) as they sub-hire 'ringers' who aren't invested in the business OR your wedding AND who often have no personality. Plus, reality is, if they were experienced and passionate about what they do, they would have their own established business or work for a specialist and not be a 'jack-of-all' trades.

Beware the one-stop DJ shop that offers everything in a bundle!! Only mention this as several recent occasions where couples (and families) have asked me to edit pictures taken by local companies that offer a DJ/video/photography/photo booth 'all-in-one' bundle service they weren't happy with afterwards. This as the picture quality was well below average, more like snapshots, no better than pictures taken by guests. Experience really makes a difference!

• The best plan of attack is to contact a variety of professionals and find the service and style that best meets you needs and budget. Then, let go, relax and leave everything in their capable hands so you get to actually enjoy your wedding. Proper planning is huge, but don't micro-manage especially on your wedding day. If you watch Bravo, you know the brides I'm talking about!

• Trying to control every little detail on your wedding day may seem like a good idea, but can easily end up having the opposite effect. If you want to have an unforgettable day, be flexible and let your family and friends help. Delegate without cracking the whip too much!

• Makeup and hair can take longer than expected and are reasons brides are often late getting ready. A good idea is to start appointments at least 30+ minutes earlier than you think you need to. Make sure you get a time from your stylist when he/she will have you done. Same with makeup. Oh, and never go last behind all the bridesmaids as that will guarantee you end up late. It's your wedding day and everything really should be about you. Your husband-to-be will understand :)

• If possible, apply lipstick after you get dressed as it's easy to accidentally get lipstick on your dress layers and fabric when adjusting and fluffing. Keep a towel handy. A bottle of champagne too for that matter!

• It's great fun to have some of your favorite tunes playing when you're getting ready or in the wedding cars before and after the ceremony. It may help calm nerves a little too. Everyone, not just the bride, can get stressed.

• Think about comfort over style for your wedding shoes. Don't spend the most important day of your life in agony because you want to impress. Your shoes are mostly hidden from view anyway and it's hard to smile (and dance) when your feet are killing you. And rental shoes for the groom can be miserably uncomfortable so not a bad idea to have a backup pair of his own dress shoes handy at the reception just in case.

• Your dress is going to get dirty especially after your ceremony. This happens to all brides and virtually no one will notice so don't panic. Accept this as part and parcel of a fun and happy wedding and go with the flow. Plus, have a good dry cleaners lined up later on.

• Too many brides worry about the weather. If it's wet or freezing cold so what. You're going to be inside most of the day anyway and pictures of the bride and groom under a Brolley can be fun. Okay, maybe that's stretching it a bit, lets hope it doesn't rain on your wedding day!

• You may wish to let your dressmaker know your wedding is a week earlier than it actually is, especially around prom season. This will avoid last-minute panic and frustration with your dress not being ready on time.

• The lucky sixpence (or penny) in the shoe for good luck and good fortune dates from the Victorian era, but many brides like this tradition. For comfort, rather than taping or placing it in your shoe, keep the coin with you in your bridal bag. It's also more secure this way.

• Mentioning your bridal bag, consider including headache tablets, perfume, tissues, lipstick, lip gloss, mints, safety pins, a nail file, sanitary items, deodorant, etc. In the words of someone famous, 'Be Prepared'.

• Some Limousine companies over book and end up rushing couples after the ceremony when you really need the time. Plan your booking time carefully so you don't have the car(s) arriving 30 minutes earlier than necessary.

• A few guests always arrive late for ceremonies, and brides don't like getting out of the car with stragglers still heading into church. My suggestion is consider listing your start time 15/30 minutes earlier on the invitation. This way, you may get to walk down the aisle almost on time. And you gain time afterwards which means you get to your cocktail hour sooner.

• If you're late you're late, but some priests and reverends and others can be very particular, especially if there's another ceremony (or confessionals) following your wedding.

• Don't expect too much from young children in your bridal party even if they are usually well-behaved. Kids will be kids. They get very excited (or have a meltdown) and can suffer from pre-wedding nerves too. Accept this may happen especially when it comes to the processional. Keep in mind, whatever they do will likely be pretty entertaining. At some point you just have to go with the flow!

• Let friends and relatives know before your wedding it's okay for them to step outside during your ceremony if their baby is crying. Guests like to hear your vows not screaming children. Amen to that I say!!

• Make sure you designate a person to pin boutonnieres on the blokes at church as men being men are usually in no rush to wear flowers.

• Mentioning the men, make sure they don't bring their phones to your ceremony. Always shows through any pocket in pictures. Plus, is it really crucial to have a phone. I half expect the groom to pull out his smart phone and change his FB status during the ceremony. I've never seen a bridesmaid with her iPhone, but more often than not the men have a phone stuffed in their pants pocket. No jokes please!

• At your rehearsal, ask the officiant marrying you if he/she would mind stepping to one side before your first kiss. This will prevent their face/neck etc showing right behind you which really messes up what should be one of those moments.

• Consider not having boutonnieres, a pocket hanky looks very elegant and classy with tuxes or suits.

• Many bridesmaids (and bride's too) race down the aisle and end up almost on top of each other before they reach the altar. Leave plenty of space in-between.

• If your dress isn't too tight, take a deep breath, enjoy the moment and smile. No gloomy glum looks, it's a wedding not a funeral.

• Attention brides! You are queen for a day so smile, keep your flowers low, time your aisle walk to the music and take it all in. These are your memories. Don't rush.

• Remind dad (or whoever's walking you down) not to pull your veil off when they bear-hug you as they give you away.

• Don't be strangers at the altar. Many couples look as if they've never seen each other before and don't even look at each other. Yes, you're going to be anxious, nervous, excited, major league butterflies going on etc., but hold hands, talk, be together as best friends should be. This is the person you're marrying.

• Most of all, make sure you look at each other during your rings and vows. You are not marrying the officiant! That would be weird!

• More than 75% of couples skip a formal receiving line after their ceremony and your guests will really love you if you do. The advantages are they you get to cocktail hour much sooner and your guests aren't waiting in line for 20+ minutes. When it's hot and humid this can be plain miserable for everyone and, believe it or not, only having parents in the line doesn't move guests through any quicker. They (the parents that is) still tell life stories.

• Let your officiant know you don't want your wedding certificate folded. You may wish to frame it.

• Bubbles after your ceremony are great fun and rarely stain dresses like confetti and petals can when wet. Mind you, few churches will allow things to be thrown anyway. If they do, whatever you do, don't throw rice. You'll regret it. Think not just of hungry birds it apparently harms, but your hair, your veil, your dress, your eyes will never be the same as you'll have rice everywhere.

• Instead of a formal receiving line after the ceremony, many couples (and parents) will visit with guests during dinner. It's more relaxed and you get to chat with friends and family you want to chat more with.

• On the biggest day of your life the last thing you want is ordinary. You don't want ordinary flowers. You don't want an ordinary cake. And, you definitely don't want to gamble with an ordinary DJ or Photographer. Pick me. Pick me!!

• There are many amateur wedding DJ's and photographers who lack the talent and experience to get results. If you're okay with ordinary pictures that mostly look like snapshots a guest could have taken, you'll save money, but likely regret it afterwards.

• Some couples like to see each other and shoot their first-look pictures and family formals prior to their actual ceremony. The advantages being they're more relaxed and have no delays for pictures after they walk back down the aisle as husband and wife. However, the odds of everyone being ready pre-ceremony for all the family pictures is the wild card. Always a gamble!

• When hiring Videographers, choose wisely. Most couples don't like bright video lights that irritate guests and ruin the soft, low-light ambiance you have in your ballroom. Like with pictures, low-key and unobtrusive is the best filming style. These days, most digital video cameras are amazing and don't require lots of additional lighting.

• Make sure, too, your videographer is creative and tells your wedding day story documentary-style. Far too many videos are dull, boring and predictable. The fact is, you'll rarely watch boring videos twice. You'll also be embarrassed to show them to friends and family. Plus, an avid editor is critical if you want quality and class.

• Your wedding day goes by so fast and you should be together with friends and family not missing-in-action overly-posing pictures. You want to enjoy your cocktail hour. It's your first chance to really relax. Your photographer should mostly be unobtrusive and low-key. Lots of real and Natural Candid Shots along with a mix of elegant and classy formals are the best way to tell your wedding day story.

• Find a photographer you will be comfortable around and one who encourages fun. This way you'll relax and enjoy everything much more. Did I mention I love fun and making sure couples don't miss their own wedding?

• Make sure your paperwork and contracts specify exactly who your DJ and photographer will be. Some companies are crafty and known to send along someone other than the person you expected. Keep a listing of all payments made.

• Have an at-a-glance emergency phone and email contact listing for all wedding services you hire. Keep a copy handy in your pocket book, tablet and on your smart phone of course. And if you've still got a Verizon LG Revere 2 Basic Flip Phone good luck!

• It's best for younger flower girls and ring bearers to sit with parents during dinner. You don't want to become baby-sitters at the head table.

• Many wedding couples prefer adult-only ceremonies and receptions. Unless they are teenagers, young children can be a distraction with their running around, rolling across the dance floor, and will likely enjoy games and pizza more. Parents will then get to enjoy a rare night out together.

• With reception seating avoid having older guests too close to the DJ or Band. Younger guests will likely be okay with louder music so put them by the speakers.

• This is almost a repeat, but worth repeating. Cutting corners with your entertainment budget is a huge mistake. To put in perspective, it's amazing the amount some couples spend on flowers that will be long gone in days and have little lasting impact compared to the investment they make in their DJ or band. Like you, your guests attend many weddings and know when they've had a great time or not. The quality of your entertainment will largely determine how much fun you and your guests have at your wedding reception. 

• With rare exceptions, a friend or relative serving as your DJ (and photographer!) can spell disaster. Don't do it! You want your reception to be unforgettable not boring and dull. Hiring a professional with experience and expertise will make a huge difference. I think I've made my point. I'm stepping off my soap box!!

• A DJ with a spectacular light and laser show and a bright neon sign with their name plastered everywhere is not critical for a great reception. It's their personality, style and professionalism that really counts.

• Flowers are lovely but can be very expensive. Sometimes less really is more. Many churches and ballrooms already look grand and need little decoration.

• Many mothers and grandmothers prefer wrist corsages or small hand held bouquets instead of pin-on flowers that can be rather awkward to wear especially on thin dresses.

• Candles often work much better than flowers as table centerpieces. They provide great ambient lighting, warm up faces, and allow people to see each other easier.

• Instead of traditional table numbers, use themes. Honeymoon destinations (London, Sydney, Paris, Rome, Myrtle Beach et cetera), favorite colors, types of flowers, cheeses. Anything goes. Be different.

• Save dollars and get candles from stores like Michael's, AC Moore, Target, etc. Two or three large candles (perhaps on a mirror plate) look very elegant. You can even sprinkle rose petals to add a splash of color.

• You'll be amazed how many brides use Central Market florists at various Price Choppers. The value, service and selection is tops. Then, with all your savings, you can upgrade your photo coverage and get my super-deluxe Platinum plus package!!

• It's your Wedding Cake so if you don't like the typical chocolate or vanilla selections be creative. Ice cream, carrot cake, marzipan, even banana pudding can make delicious alternatives. Have a Rhubarb pie. Get something you like!!

• If your Caterers are flexible, avoid forking out for a huge cake many guests never end up eating anyway. Approximately 60% serving slices relative to your guest count will be more than adequate especially if left on a dessert table for everyone to help themselves. Having To Go containers always a great plan as some guests love to take cake and cookies home!

• More than 75% of couples avoid the garter and bouquet routine. Options include just throwing the bouquet, giving it to a mother or grandmother, an anniversary dance presentation to the oldest married couple, or just plain nothing. Full stop. Remember it's your wedding so be unique. Sometimes the fewer interruptions post-dinner the more dancing fun everyone will have.

• If you do wear a garter, test it before your wedding day as they tend to fall down. Make sure it is tight and doesn't create a bulge through your dress. You can always keep it in your bridal bag and put it on later at your reception.

• Your Reception will be over before you know it so dance the night away every chance you get. After all, it's the biggest party of your life.

• Most of all, the absolute best way to make sure everyone enjoys your wedding is for you to enjoy it yourself. After all the planning and preparation, that's all that matters. Have lots of great food and great fun!!

Please email anytime with questions. Most days, I'm usually very friendly and helpful and in my office afternoons and evenings. Don't even worry if I'm not your photographer as delighted to help with suggestions. I love what I do and love doing my best to help. That's what I'm here for.

For even more help, my Friends features a listing of videographers, photo booths, DJ's, bands, hotels, ballrooms, inns, florists, cake bakers, and others worth checking out.