ladies, get your glass & merlot now - lets talk weddings.
Wedding planning ugh.
For some of us, every detail has been planned out from the day the bride turns 11 years old. She knows exactly what kind of dress she wants because she saved a tear sheet from a Davids Bridal magazine circa 1992. The color palate is all nude tones, the decorations and invitations have been selected way before she got engaged, and of course there will be pony rides and and an ice cream truck and...blah blah blah. We get it.
Then there are the women like myself who probably have never even attended a wedding, let alone plan one & if you feel me, you may take a sip (or gulp) from that wine glass....now.
PSA - This blog is for anyone planning a wedding, I am gonna address the ladies in here because fo'rreal, we all know if you're the bride, you'll likely be doing most of the planning & if there is no bride, read on and apply these tips as needed!
Here's the thing, there has never been, nor ever shall be, a wedding that has gone perfectly according to plan from start to finish, unless you're marrying Prince Harry or something. LETS GET REAL GUYS it does not exist and that is 1000% okay! To be perfectly honest, when my husband proposed to me in our 1 bedroom apartment we were living in at the time, I was a sweaty, grumpy mess fresh off a 9 hour shift. Wondering why in the heck my dude was huddled in the corner working on something while I'm trying to complain about my day and clean the kitchen. Then he puts on "Our Song" (which was Home by the Crystal Fighters) and proposed to me in the kitchen, with the most beautiful opal ring I have ever laid eyes on. This is not a typical proposal, but it was authentic to us, and I definitely felt bad for my attitude like, immediately you guys. I was not cute, there wasn't a twinkle-lit path to some elaborate picnic setting with cooled wine waiting - and I loved it even more for that reason.
There are a million blogs, magazines, websites and everything in-between that will tell you how to plan your wedding with some very heavily advertised vendors and trends that are "must-haves" for your big day. Now, I am no way a wedding planner, so maybe I don't have the authority to speak on this but I'm going to anyway. The only MUST haves on your day is yourself, your loved one, and the rings. Remember, this isn't about the details, the guestbook, the reception or the band, this day comes to celebrate you as a couple and the love you share. Now don't get me twisted, that's not to bash the Pinterest-worthy rustic glam brides out there, as a photographer I would be stoked to capture those details and am all for it. But I'm not writing this for those couples, I'm here for the couples that just got engaged and are sitting on the couch wondering what the heck a Boutonniere is and why are they so expensive? For the couples wondering how they are going to book a venue that will allow them to bring their own food, or find one that wont charge you for every napkin or TP square a guest uses.
Pictured above - 1 - Brides little boy, who burst into tears during the ceremony to give his mom a hug because hes just "so happy." 2 - Cute highland cattle going in for a taste of that bouquet, looks delicious! 3 - my niece-in-law doing her happiest little dance performance while my husband and I say "I Do" totally unaware. 4 - this little flower girl looking completely unimpressed with the whole thing.
First things first-the venue
Most likely the cause of your wedding day anxiety, and for good friggen reason! As a bride, I was so overwhelmed with finding anything that wasn't over 1k for basically an alter and a room for a reception. If you can afford it that is amazing, but if you're tyin' the knot on a budget, you'll want a little more for your money, or have most likely considered eloping and having a reception later. If I am being honest, my advice would be to elope and put all your funds towards the decorations, and your photographer ( & holla at me if you need one! ;) Seriously though, after our venue was booked, we had nothing leftover for photos and OOF I wish I had budgeted for that. We booked at a local resort, and I will always be happy that we did, but lemme tell you what, it was far from easy. We had everything from an overly-religious officiant stealing the show, to music mis-haps, guests showing up late and guests showing up that we didn't even know and ontop of it all we were up-charged on anything and everything!
Ladies, when you are shopping around for a venue, or discussing details with your wedding planner / mom, be sure to clarify who is playing your music, and who is checking that guest list! Wedding crashers' are a real thing and they WILL show up if you are not paying attention. The takeaway - ask as many questions as you can and do not be afraid of sounding like a bridezilla! This is your day and your voice should be HEARD.
Pro tip - Once you have finally nailed down a place to say " I do" do yourself and your photographer a favor and find the areas that you want to have your photos taken. It will make your day so much smoother when you know exactly where to bring your wedding party, let me tell you, its like herding cats no matter how well the rehearsal went!
what not to do - from someone who's first attended wedding was her own.
If you are anything like me, then you are the bride that has never attended a wedding and may have completely under-estimated the planning involved. This girl is a Kona, Hawaii native (not native Hawaiian) the home of the pot-luck party for almost any and all events. Graduate high school? Break out the canopies. Baby Shower? Pull out da coolers. Wedding? Lei making party, go grab the Heinakins & Barefoot champagne. Basically, we love to party and we wanna do it ourselves to avoid the tourist pricing. So planning an intimate, fancy, and perfectly decorated reception was definitely not something I was familiar with. When it came time to pick out a venue, I was overwhelmed with the costs and didn't have the luxury of getting to see them in person. It was a lot of back and forth with my mom and dad separately, children of divorce I know you understand what that feels like! From pot-luck style on the beach to intimate wedding on a clients vacation property, we finally landed on getting hitched at the resort where we met.
At this point, I'm felling p-r-e-t-t-y- good about myself. We have a venue! Now all I need is a dress and I'm ready, right? Uhm. This is when I could have used a maid of honor to sit me down and slap me straight and tell me I had barely scratched the surface. Our engagement happened in December and we were pretty determined to be married by March. This, ladies and gentlemen, was our first mistake. Take it from us, and opt to stay engaged for a year, because I PROMISE you, its gonna take that long to plan everything out without loosing your Godt damn mind. My mother is a super woman and got the florals all taken care of, and all of the lei making and center pieces herself with a small tribe to help, otherwise I honestly probably would have picked a few flowers from the garden and called it good.
Moral of the story; The venue is not 50% of the battle- its like, 25% of it, and the other 25% is: The Dress.
Sayin' Yaaasss to the dress.
If you have ever stepped foot in a Davids Bridal, then they probably charged you for the air you breathed while in their store. Whenever I see my friends on my new feed picking out dresses, I remember what it felt like when I attempted to find a boho style dress for less than like.. $200.00 spoiler alert - it does not exist. I was living on the mainland, while my family and friends were all in other states, which meant dress shopping was going to be a solo venture. Once I realized I could not even afford the plastic flower crowns they had on sale, I realized I was probably thrifting my dress from ValueVillage or ROSS and walked straight outta there.
There is a saying you probably heard that goes something like this, "Every bride needs something old, something new, something blue (why though?) and something borrowed." I happened to luck out a month before we got hitched, while meeting some new friends at a dinner party in Portland. This woman has traveled the world, worked with who even knows how many renowned designers and stylists. Well it just so happened that we were the same size, and she was kind enough to lend me her one of a kind dress for my wedding. That counts as something borrowed I figured. Now I realize that was a completely random, by chance, situation that I lucked out on but here is where I am going with it. Don't subscribe to the idea that you have to spend hundreds of dollars on a dress you wont ever wear again and will probably just let any stranger borrow later in life anyway. No one is gonna know the difference. There are plenty of other options that wont leave you crying in a ROSS dress for less changing room. I highly recommend going down to your local thrift store and looking at dresses there, if you find one you love but doesn't fit - then you have the extra bump in cash to spend on getting it altered to your size and still walk away saving hundreds and looking like a goddess, plus you are simultaneously going green and we can all get behind that, right?
r-s-v-p-c-t tell me what it means to me
Following a dress and a venue, the less talked about but apparently, equally important invitations. Did you know, most people send out an announcement before the official r-s-v-p invitations? Yeah, neither did I. Who knew you had to tell everyone you're engaged first and THEN send the invites later? No one told me this, and of course, we procrastinated on picking out the stationary until the final weeks were knocking on our door. This is one reason why I recommend waiting a year from engagement to ceremony - pick out yah damn cards and send them asap! Read that again, and let it sink in. Not only is this important for you to share the excitement, but this is more of a courtesy to your guests. Most of us have some friends or family that live out of state, and it is nice to give them enough time to plan and save for the trip to see you walk down the aisle - trust me they want the opportunity. In my case, they all got a few weeks notice and I didn't get to have my grandparents, best friend or sister attend my big day, which makes me a little bummed when I look at my pictures and don't have that memory with them. This is also important to get the final guest list rolling, chances are whatever venue you snagged, those plates are runnin' you about $50 per head, so you wanna be damn sure who's coming and who you're willing to pay that price for.
In our case, we invited some friends I would say that were on the outter rim of our inner-circle. This is why I stress to only invite those who are CLOSE to you and your partner. This particular guest came into our reception like they would have at a pot-luck party - with all the kids, cousins, and their friends piling food on their plates that we ended paying over $300 extra for, uninvited. Not only were they destroying the buffet line, but they also told my bridal party there was no room for them to sit down, so they had to eat at the bar. Now, at this point, having someone actually checking the guest list, would have been handy but our wedding planner/coordinator was nowhere to be found so what more was there to do but refill that wine glass and have a good time anyway. Brides - make sure you have someone there to help your guests, that your tables have reserved seats, and to ensure they know its not that kinda buffet.
the other 50% of wedding planning: who is your photographer?
A MISTAKE is thinking that you'll have enough friends and family there capturing images with their personal devices, that you don't need to spend the money on a photographer. As a photographer now, I cringe that this was my actual real life thought process on my biggest day. If it comes down to a venue or your dream photographer - hire the photographer and have a reception later. Do NOT rely on your guests cell phone / personal dslr camera shots, in fact, I recommend banning them from being used at all. You don't want to look at your first kiss and have a sea of cell phones blocking the shot and honestly, you wont regret it. I encourage all my brides to think of their wedding package as an investment in your memories, and less like another massive expense. These images will bring you joy every time you look at them, they will hang on your walls proudly for all your guests, they will eventually become a relic of the past for your family to remember you by - an heirloom. Your photographer is likely going to be there for every step of the way, more than your wedding planner, more than the band, more than anyone. They are on their feet all day, running around capturing all the little details, herding your wedding party to each location for formal images, posing and working through the reception - please consider setting aside a plate to feed them and allowing for a slot of time to have a break. We are humans too, and we are workin' this wedding like you're about to WERK that dance floor, and then spending weeks at a time re-living it all and editing up your gallery.
Often when I receive an inquiry from a couple regarding their wedding I insist on meeting them for the signing of the contract. I do this because I want to cultivate a relationship with them, walk through their day and answer any questions they may have. If you take anything away from this blog I hope that its this - get to know your photographer! Get coffee, or drinks and tell them all about your story and your vision, the more information we have the easier it is for us to ensure we capture the things that highlight you as a couple and as individuals. Tell me all about your over bearing mother in law, or the importance of the band or including your doggo in the ceremony! The day is going to fly by so fast, you will hardly remember all of the little details you pained over for months and just hope for the best. There will be hiccups that you didn't plan for, traffic, rain, uninvited drama etc. and all you can really do is shrug it off and remember that you just married your best friend and the rest is just another good story. Take the mis-haps in stride and try to laugh it off - No person is perfect so why should you hold yourself up to these un-achievable standards set by hallmark movies? If I can leave you with one last bit of advice, it would be to create a wedding day itinerary with your wedding planner and share this with your photographer to ensure you have enough time to get each shot. This only works if you can stick to the schedule, so make sure you know it well enough to give yourself enough time for the unexpected that will inevitably pop up. I have worked weddings where the ceremony started so late, we lost most of the light by the time we got to taking formals - remember this isn't a studio, and you ARE slaves to that sun.
Pro Tip - It is not your photographers responsibility to gather your wedding party and try to hold you accountable for your own schedule, and it is not their fault if your images turn out dark due to poor planning. Plan your day so you are ready long before the ceremony, that way you can get your wedding party & individual portraits done while you have the best possible light. Then you can head straight into celebrating with your friends and family after the ceremony instead of watching the fun go down as your getting photos done, tryna smile when your hot, thirsty, and probably dying in heels.