The Ultimate Wedding Guide For Planning Your Dream Wedding!

Photo of Newlywed Couple For The Ultimate Wedding Guide By White House Wedding Photography

Hello, and welcome to The Ultimate Wedding Guide for planning the wedding of your dreams! As a wedding photographer for well over eight years with countless weddings photographed and many happy clients. I have seen and dealt with just about everything wedding-related you can imagine.

From my own wedding in Los Angeles, California, to a four hundred plus guest catholic wedding, I understand the complexities that come with planning your dream wedding.

This wedding guide is chock full of simple to follow information to give you a solid foundation for planning the wedding of your dream.

I will give you everything – over eight years of lessons learned in the industry – no spreadsheets, no apps to download, just one hundred percent pure priceless value.

Why am I giving you all this value for free?

I’m giving you all this information for $0.00, for zilch

because I want you to have a unique and unforgettable wedding experience. I want the best for you period!

So, let’s just dive right in, yea?

Use The Table of Content Below to Navigate The Wedding Guide!

First Things First – Prepare to Plan

The excitement and joy of getting engaged are wearing off, and the thoughts of planning your wedding are beginning to come into full focus. That is so cool, and I am totally happy for you.

Before you jump both feet first into planning your wedding, you and your significant other should take an hour or two to sit down and figure out what your dream wedding looks like and how it feels.

Feel free to read through this entire wedding guide before you start taking any action.

Before you sit down, grab a three-inch binder with some blank papers to write on – you know the ones with the three rings? This binder will be an essential tool in your wedding planning process. You will use it to keep all your notes, vendors, contracts, recipes, ideas, etc.… organize.

An alternative to the binder is to use a wedding planning app or just create folders on your computer or Google Drive. If you are anything like me, your computer can become so cluttered that it may be challenging to get and stay organized. Stick with the binder. It will make your life a lot easier 😍 !

I strongly recommend that you get a wedding email ([email protected]). You will be emailing a lot of vendors, especially during the early stage of your planning. Having a separate email address for all your wedding planning will help you stay organized.

Now that you have your binder in place, it’s time to schedule some uninterrupted time to sit down and dream a little or a lot! This is where the fun begins!

Time to Daydream – Get a Perspective!

Start prioritizing what is essential to both of you by asking yourself what kind of wedding day experience you both want.

Here are a few questions to get you going:

  1. Do you want an indoor or outdoor wedding?
  2. Wedding at the beach, barn, hotel, or historical venue?
  3. Decor, uplighting, natural, rustic?
  4. Colors, flowers, theme?
  5. What sort of dress/tuxedo – formal or semi-formal?
  6. Elope or opt for a destination?
  7. How many guests?
  8. Food, entertainment, transportation?
  9. Fine dining or buffet?
  10. Post-wedding plans, honeymoon, etc.?

These are just a few things to get you started – don’t limit yourselves. Continue to brainstorm and only write the stuff down that gets you excited. If tuxedos and bowties are not your style, then don’t write

them down. Only write the things down that you absolutely want. You should get a warm bubbly feeling just thinking about these things.

By the time you get through daydreaming, you both should have a good understanding of what kind of wedding experience you both want. Now, you just have to figure out how you are going to pay for it.

Photo collage of newlyweds for wedding guide by White House Wedding Photography

Figuring Out Your Budget

Daydreaming is lovely, isn’t it? There is only so much you can do with daydreaming, though. At the end of the day, you will need money to bring those dreams to reality. Having a fixed budget is a great way to set yourself up for the wedding of your dream.

There are literally tons of information online for budgeting for your wedding, enough for you to get lost in. So, I am going to keep it very simple here.

When my wife and I got married, we had an incredibly fun wedding on top of a mountain overlooking the city. We spent a pretty penny, but we didn’t go over our budget. And we had everything paid off by our wedding date.

By knowing our wedding budget, we could plan and have the wedding of our dreams without any financial hardship and stress. This is what I

want for you and yours! I want you both to have the wedding of your dreams without financial stress and drama.

First, to figure out your wedding budget, take stock of how much money you and your significant other have to spend on your wedding.

Then talk to your parents and relatives to see if they will be contributing to your wedding expense. Once you got that all sorted out, you should have a combined total of your money plus your parents’ and relatives’ contributions. This is your wedding budget.

Now that you have your overall wedding budget, you can allocate money to your dream priorities. For example, if your overall wedding

budget is $40,000, your breakdown could look something like this:

  1. 30% Wedding Venue = $12,000
  2. 30% Food & Drink = $12,000
  3. 20% Flowers, Décor, Rentals = $8,000
  4. 10% Photography = $4,000
  5. 5% Dress = $2,000
  6. 5% Miscellaneous = $2,000

Note that this is only a hypothetical example – you can change these numbers to match your situation.

In general, couples tend to think that wedding photography is expensive. However, when you look at it compared to other items

in your budget, you quickly realize that it is on the lower side. Plus, if you are a bride or a groom looking to have your wedding day professionally photograph, 10% of your budget is a small price to pay.

When I got married, I wasn’t into photography. The only thing that was important to me was the venue. My wife picked the photographer, and today I wished I had taken more interest in choosing our photographer.

Because all we have left from our wedding are the photos and my wife’s dress. Everything else is gone – talk about that 30% venue, yikes!

The bottom line, think carefully about what is important to both of you and allocate your budget accordingly.

Picking Your Wedding Date

Next up, after setting your budget, is choosing your wedding date. Simple enough, right? This might seem like one of the easiest things to do when planning your wedding. Nonetheless, you would be amazed at

the thought process that goes into picking a date to be wed. The date you choose to get married can significantly impact your budget, guests’ attendants, and overall enjoyment and satisfaction.

Consider your Wedding Style – to pick a perfect wedding date for your dream wedding, first think about what style of wedding you would like. Do you want a relaxed beach wedding with exotic cocktails and warm sunshine, or do you want an elegant indoor wedding with formal wear? The style of the wedding you want will help you pick a date.

Here in Miami, if you have a beach wedding style, you wouldn’t want to choose a summer date. Summers in Miami is scorching and humid, plus the daily thunderstorms and possible hurricane make for an unpredictable outcome. A better time for a beach wedding here in Miami would be late winter through early spring. During this time, the hurricane season is over. The summer days of thunderstorms are gone, and the humidity pretty much disappears.

Consider You and Your Guests Work Schedule – will both of you be able to take time off from work for your wedding? Some companies may have peak seasons where you may not be allowed to take a vacation. On the other hand, you may be able to take your vacation, but what about your guests? Will your guest be able to get time off from work to attend your wedding?

A while back, I photographed a wedding in Fort Lauderdale on a Friday afternoon. The ceremony was scheduled to commence during the height of the rush hour traffic. Needless to say, many of the guests were running late due to traffic, and the ceremony had to be pushed back one hour later.

The point is that most people can’t get off work early enough on a Friday to attend a wedding. So you have to take that into consideration when picking your date.

Consider Planning Timeline – this one is significant because it will determine how hectic your planning will be. Consider picking a date far enough in the future to give you ample time for planning. The typical wedding planning timeline is twelve to fourteen months.

Consider Significant Dates – I have done lots of weddings that are on grandparents’ birthdays. Couples also like to plan their wedding around the date that they first met or got engaged.

Consider Peek Season Vs. off Season – one unique thing about getting married in Miami is that the wedding season is opposite that of the rest of the US. While most US locations, peak wedding season is in the summer, Miami’s peak wedding season is in the winter through early spring. Choosing a date during the peak wedding season will cost you premium pricing.

Consider Major Events & Holidays – although your wedding is about the love and commitment of you and your partner, your close families and friends will play a notable role in witnessing and celebrating with you. You don’t want to select a date that will create conflict for your loved ones. Try to avoid dates like the Superbowl, Ultra Fest, Christmas, New Year, and others.

Wow, I bet you didn’t know that picking a wedding date could be so involved 😍! Hopefully, you have a better understanding of choosing

your perfect wedding date. Now, we can move on to selecting your dream team.

Picking Your Vendors

You and your partner should now have a clear picture of what is essential to both of you. You have come up with a budget, and you have

chosen the perfect date for your wedding. Now, let’s go build your dream team.

Planning a wedding is hard work, and it requires time and dedication. Luckily for you and the countless others like you, you don’t have to do it alone. The bigger your wedding, the more likely you will need a team to help you, especially during the planning and execution phase.

My suggestion is that before you hire anyone or purchase anything, create a list of all the vendors and products that you will need to help make your dream wedding come through. Then arrange them in order of importance, with the most important ones at the top.

Below I have listed some vendors to help you get started:

  1. Wedding Planner/Coordinator
  2. Venue
  3. Photography
  4. Videography
  5. Bridal Boutique
  6. Men Attire
  7. Caterer
  8. Cake Baker
  9. Hair and Makeup
  10. Florist/Décor
  11. Uplighting
  12. Entertainment
  13. Stationer
  14. Rental Company
  15. Transportation

Please note that this is only an example of the vendors most commonly hired for a wedding. You will need to analyze your budget and what’s important to you to decide which vendors you want on your dream team. You may not need a cake baker if you are not going to have a wedding cake. I have done many weddings where the couple didn’t have a wedding cake.

Photo collage of wedding party for wedding guide by White House Wedding Photography

Picking Your Wedding Party

Your wedding party is a group of family members and close friends who will be by your side every step of the way during your wedding planning and beyond. This is an essential group of people, and they should be chosen with the utmost care. You want to make sure you chose people who are really going to help you through the planning stages, the day of your wedding, and after your wedding. Don’t just choose someone because they chose you for their wedding.

I have photographed a couple of weddings where the wedding party was clueless with the wedding events and were literally useless to the bride and groom. This is not what you want! Your wedding party’s’ sole responsibility is to help you have the wedding of your dreams. You and your wedding party have to be on the same page, and they should have your back.

When should you choose these individuals? I think you should choose them as soon as you picked a date and a venue. Don’t get wrapped up in trying to please everyone. Think of yourself first. Also, you don’t have to pick equal numbers of bridesmaids and groomsmen. For example, four bridesmaids and four groomsmen. The number of personnel in your wedding party is totally up to you, but please think about your wedding’s size. The bigger your wedding, the bigger your wedding party should be.

According to the most popular wedding traditions, the bride’s party is all girls, and the groom is all boys. Still, don’t be afraid to do something different. After all, this is your day, and you want it to be uniquely you, right?

Choose your bridal party base on the relationship you have with them, not gender roles. If the bride and her brother have been super close forever, make him a “bridesman,” or if the groom’s best friend is a lady, make her a “grooms lady.” There is no wrong way to build your wedding party – just make sure they will work well together and be reliable.

The Wedding Party Include the Following:

Maid of Honor or Matron of Honor or Bride’s Attendant – is the head of the bridesmaids and is responsible for keeping them organized, helping the bride with wedding planning, navigating family difficulties, and making decisions. The Maid of Honor is also responsible for planning the bridal shower and bachelorette party, and many other things. Above all, the Maid of Honor is a good listener and strong support for the bride to lean on.

Bridesmaids or Bride’s Attendants – picked by the bride and is usually a combination of family and close friends. Bridesmaids are responsible for helping the Maid of Honor plan the wedding, bridal shower, and bachelorette party. They run errands, help the bride shop for her dress and bridesmaid dresses. Furthermore, bridesmaids play an essential role on the day of the wedding. They may be asked to direct guests to their seats at the ceremony, assist with the bride getting ready, direct vendors, secure gifts and clean up, etc..…. Overall, a good bridesmaid is a God Send to a bride. She will be helpful and always available to serve the bride.

Best Man / Best Woman / Groom’s Honor Attendant – this person performs the same duties as the Maid of Honor for the groom.

Groomsmen – the opposite of bridesmaid. Responsible for helping the groom in every way possible.

Ushers – are usually a member of the family or close friend. The usher is the first smiling face that guests see on the day of the wedding. Their job is to greet guests and distribute programs and escort attendants to their seats. They may also help with ceremony preparation, such as setting up chairs, setting up and testing the sound system, and any other last-minute tasks.

Bride’s Parents: Mother of the Bride and Father of the Bride – the bride’s mother is the chief cheerleader. Above all else, she should be warm and supportive. She should discuss the budget and her contribution to her daughter as soon as possible. The mother of the bride will also help with creating the guest list and spreading the word. Also, she may be escorting the bride down the aisle and helping out in any other task that she is needed for.

For the bride’s father, the experience of seeing is daughter get married can be very emotional. This is because some young man is taking his place as the most important man in his daughter’s life. Nevertheless, dads are typically proud to bear the cost of their daughter’s wedding. But they are more than just a wallet! Plan to keep your dad involve as much as possible so that he doesn’t feel left out.

Most fathers generally escort their daughter down the aisle and give her to the groom ( a tradition known as giving the bride away). Some other fatherly duties are the first dance and the toast (speech).

Groom’s Parents: Mother of the Groom and Father of the Groom – the groom’s mother and father can contribute to the wedding cost and support their son. Generally, the mother of the groom will pay for the rehearsal dinner. Dad may also contribute to his son and groomsmen’s tuxedos cost. Understand that these duties and responsibilities will vary from family to family. Therefore the groom and his fiancée need to have an open conversation with the groom’s family before the start of the wedding planning.

Officiant – this is the person who will be performing your wedding ceremony. For the most part, the Officiant is the only person in your wedding party that is not a family member or friend. Also, Officiants are generally hired as opposed to volunteering.

The Officiant is responsible for working with you to create the ceremony that you are envisioning, and getting the marriage license signed and filed with the state in which you get married. It is also essential to find an officiant that is legally recognized to marry you in the state that you are getting married.

You will need to decide if you want a religious or a secular officiant. With a secular officiant, you will have more options for who can be your Officiant. For instance, you could have a justice of the piece, a friend, or even a family member for a secular officiant. Remember that whoever you chose as a secular officiant would still have to be legally recognized by the state to marry you.

Religious officiants are a little stricter than secular officiants. You may have to conform to the religious standard for the wedding ceremony. I have done many catholic weddings from California to Miami. They all have different regulations for what you can and cannot do at a wedding ceremony.

Some catholic churches will place a severe restriction on where the photographer can stand. Almost all catholic churches that I have photographed wedding ceremonies restrict the use of flash during the ceremony. If photography is important to you, make sure you do not choose a religious officiant with severe restrictions on what your photographer can do.

Flower Girl – typically the youngest member of your wedding party (age 3 – 8). The flower girl generally proceeds the bride throwing petals down the aisle. One suggestion I would give here is not to have someone too young to be the flower girl. Children at a younger age tend to get shy and will not walk down the aisle by themselves. If you have someone that young be the flower girl, have an older child escort them down the aisle.

Ring Bearer – is a young boy, generally between the age of three and eight years old. They are often a close family member of the bride or groom. The ring bearer is responsible for carrying the rings down the aisle for the couple. Both the ring bearer and the flower girl will walk down the aisle just before the bride walks down the aisle.

I have photographed many weddings where the groom or the best man would hold on to the rings because the ring bearer was too young to be trusted with the wedding rings. Whatever you decide to do, it is totally up to you. Ring bearers and flower girls are not a requirement and are purely traditional.

Finally, the only things required for you to get married are you, your significant other, the Officiant, and a witness. However big or small of a wedding party you decided to have is totally up to you.

Wedding Contracts

Disclaimer – Please note that I’m not an attorney. The information provided in this section is not intended to constitute legal advice. The Wedding Contract information in this wedding guide is for general

informational purposes only. Readers of this wedding guide should contact their attorney to obtain guidance concerning any particular legal matter.

Now that I got the disclaimer out of the way, let’s get on with it! Make sure you get a contract from all of your vendors. This should be a no brainer, but you would be surprised to learn that many couples hire

vendors for their wedding on just a verbal agreement. An oral agreement is hard to hold up in court! So, before you start hiring vendors, let us look at wedding contracts and why they are a must-have.

A wedding is a very complicated event with lots of moving parts and significant financial investment. The contract is a written agreement

between you and your vendor. A wedding contract details the terms of the transaction to tell you precisely what you are getting. It also describes when and how you will pay, and what happens if your vendor cannot deliver as promised and agreed to in the contract.

Wedding contracts are generally organized into sections called terms or clauses.

Here are some standard clauses that you should see in your contract:

  1. Services to Be Provided – this section should spell out precisely what you will be getting when you will get it, and who will provide it.
  2. Payment – the payment clause describes what payments are due (including retainer) when they are due, and the penalties for late or nonpayment.
  3. Postponement & Cancelations – address what happens if you have to postpone or cancel your wedding. Do you get your money back or a portion of it? What if you need to reschedule, and the vendor is not available for your chosen reschedule date?
  4. Termination – this clause is different from the Postponement & Cancelation clause. It allows you or the vendor to end the contract without any further liability. For example, a vendor may reserve the right to terminate the agreement and keep all funds paid if you fail to make all the payments under the contract. On the other hand, the client may end the contract and request a refund if the vendor fails to perform according to the agreement. Just understand that everything needs to be spelled out in this clause so that both parties know what is expected.
  5. Copyrights – The copyright clause is generally specific to photographers and videographers. It describes who owns the copyright to the photos are videos and state what you cannot do with them.
  6. Model Release – this clause is also specific to photographers and videographers. The model release clause describes how a photographer or videographer may use your image. For example, some couples may not want their pictures to be used in a photographer’s promotional materials. Still, they may not mind if the photographer post on social media. Othe couples may not want the photographer to use their photos for promotional purposes, social media posts, or any other publication.
  7. Force Majeure/Act of God – these two clauses are often used interchangeably in a contract. The French phrase Force Majeure is a way for the parties of an agreement to stop the performance of the contract without penalty. For this clause to be effective, there must be situations beyond the parties’ control and must be utterly unpredictable upon signing the contract. Examples of Force Majeure include hurricane, fire, pandemic, war, riots, earthquakes, etc.
  8. Jurisdiction – refers to where lawsuits regarding the contract can take place. For example, if you live in Los Angeles, California, and you are getting married in Miami, Florida. Your vendors may have jurisdiction in Miami, Florida. Therefore, you wouldn’t be able to sue your vendor in your home state of California.
  9. Indemnification/Hold Harmless – these two clauses are often used interchangeably in wedding contracts. It means that your vendor is not legally liable if something goes wrong at your wedding. Let’s say that one of your guest trips and fell down at your wedding and want to file a lawsuit against the venue. The Indemnification clause means you are responsible and not your vendor. So your guest wouldn’t be able to sue the vendor.

These are only a few of the clauses that are commonly found in a wedding contract. They may sound scary, but they are there to protect both you and your vendor.

The good news is that you can always negotiate the terms of your contract with your vendor. This is why I strongly encourage you to take some quiet time to sit down and read through your agreement and make sure that you understand it clearly before signing.

Hiring Vendors for Your Dream Wedding Team

With your list of desired vendors, it’s time to start researching and hiring your vendors. Keep in mind that the wedding planning process generally takes between fourteen and twelve months. Also, bear in mind that it is necessary to book some vendors very early in your planning stage due to availability and priority – more to follow on this. For now, let’s talk wedding planner/coordinator.

Wedding Planner/Coordinator – What They Do?

You may be asking yourself, what does a wedding planner do, and do you really need one? The answer is yes, and no! Here is why. The topic of to hire or not to hire a wedding planner/coordinator is very

controversial, but let me try to simplify it for you.

In the wedding industry, the terms wedding planner and coordinator are thrown around quite frequently. They are often used interchangeably to describe a person who helps to plan your

wedding. To further complicate things, you also have the wedding venue planner/coordinator. So, let me break it down for you.

Wedding Planner – A wedding planner is a person or team responsible for ultimately planning your wedding. Their sole responsibility is to make sure that your wedding is exactly what you want it to be. Typically, wedding planners are the first vendor to be booked, and they

would be with you through the entire wedding planning process and on your wedding day. Think of a wedding planner like your new best friend.

Wedding Coordinator – The wedding coordinator (sometimes referred to as a Day of Coordinator) is the person or team who manages your wedding day activities to ensure that everything goes smoothly. They are typically hired a month or two before your wedding day. For the most part, by the time you book a wedding coordinator, most of the planning is already done. Their sole responsibility is the day of your wedding.

Wedding Venue Planner/Coordinator – The venue planner or coordinator is responsible for planning and coordinating your wedding day activities at the venue only. From my personal experience, the venue planner/coordinator’s primary responsibility is to the venue. They will ensure that all the venue regulations are followed while coordinating and managing your wedding activities. Bear in mind that venue planning and coordination vary amongst venues – therefore, make sure that you ask the exact level of coverage you will get.

Hopefully, this clears up any misunderstanding you may have about these vendors. Now let’s return to the question of whether or not

you need a wedding planner.

If money is not a problem, by all means, yes, hire a wedding planner. It will make your life so much easier. You only get one opportunity to get married. An experienced wedding planner will have all the right connections and resources to plan an unforgettable dream wedding.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a budget for a wedding planner, I highly recommend you consider a wedding coordinator. Earlier on in my career, I photographed a couple of weddings where the bride and groom didn’t have a planner or a coordinator. I’ll just say the experience was less than desirable – watching the groom run around like a chicken with its head cut off was painful.

If you are having a small wedding with say ten to twenty-five guests and the budget is really tight, I recommend that you delegate the wedding day coordination to a family member or a friend. I promise

it will be well worth it. You will certainly enjoy your time celebrating your love for each other as a couple and the company of your families and friends. I think we are good here! Let’s move on to the next big one, the venue.

Wedding Venue

Because you have already done your homework figuring out what kind of wedding experience you want, what is important to you, and how

much you can afford to spend. Picking a venue should come easy. The venue you chose to get married will set the tone for your wedding. Whether you are looking for an elegant ballroom or laidback beach experience. If beautiful photographs are a must for you, you want to pick a venue that compliments your wedding theme and has plenty of gorgeous photo spots.

Book your wedding venue early in your planning phase. Generally, couples will book their venue first before booking any other vendors. Here in Miami, the top wedding venues are usually booked solid a year

in advance, so don’t wait too long.

Here are a few tips to help you find and book your dream wedding venue:

  1. Establish a budget – you should have already done this.
  2. Set a wedding date – done already.
  3. Get an estimated guest count – yea…. got it!
  4. Identify your must-haves – done, done, and done 😍.
  5. Talk to families and friends – they may have attended weddings at venues in your target location and can make recommendations.
  6. Do a Google search – before you call or make any contact with a wedding venue, do preliminary research online. I recommend using a venue spreadsheet to keep everything organized and track each venue’s capacity, availability, rate, type, layout, restrictions, parking, and extras.
  7. Contact venues – you should have a few venues that meet all or most of your requirements. Organize these venues that meet your needs according to your favorites, then start calling each of them.
  8. Evaluate each venue contacted – evaluating each venue responsiveness, build rapport, and schedule a venue tour.
  9. Venue tour – whenever possible, you should do a venue tour. There is nothing like the real experience you will get from visiting a venue. It is often easy for the venue’s sales reps to convey a picture of perfection to you over the phone and on their websites. However, touring the venue can give you a different vibe.
  10. Contract review – make sure you understand what is included in your package and contract before making any payments and signing any contract. Pay attention to contract postponements and cancellations terms.
  11. Book your dream venue – when you are both happy with your package and contract, it is time to pay the required deposit and sign the contract. Congratulations! You can now move on to the fun stuff, like booking me your friendly photographer.

Are you still with me? Awesome! You are super amazing – let’s jump into the best part of planning your epic wedding, the photographer, ha-ha 😍.

Booking Your Photographer

Most couples book their photographer right after they book their venue. However, if your wedding photos are super important to you, book your photographer as soon as you can. You don’t have to wait until you book your venue. You want to make sure that you get on your desired wedding photographer’s calendar. My couples generally book me a year out from their wedding. Nothing can be more frustrating than finding a photographer that you love, and they are not available for your wedding date.

Finding and booking your perfect wedding photographer will probably be the most challenging decision you will make while planning your wedding. This is because there are so many people claiming to be a professional wedding photographer. I’m not telling you this to scare you into hiring me, but I kid you not, Miami is literally saturated with people claiming to be wedding photographers. Here is the thing, though, some of them are excellent photographers, but do they have the skills to capture one of the most critical days in your life? Are they reliable? Will you have fun with them?

Here are a few quick tips to help you find and book your dream wedding photographer:

  1. Referrals – if you have a wedding planner, nine out of ten times, your planner will have a couple of good referrals for you. Your planner will understand your personality and your wedding theme and will most likely recommend a photographer that matches well with you and your style. If you don’t have a planner, ask your families and friends for a referral. After all, your families and friends know you best. They may have a great experience with a wedding photographer that they would gladly recommend.
  2. Google wedding photographers in the area you are getting married. For example, if you are getting married in Key West, Goggle “Key West wedding photographers” or “wedding photographers in Key West.” This way, you are only looking at photographers that service the location of your wedding.
  3. Create a list of your top three favorite photographers. Your top three favorites will be photographers whose photos you love, who has excellent reviews, and who you are feeling good about.
  4. Evaluate cost – most wedding photographers will have a starting price on their website. If you can’t find a starting price on their website, don’t worry. Just ask for pricing when you contact them.
  5. Initial contact (continue to evaluate) – once all the above steps have been completed to your satisfaction, it is time to make initial contact. Use the contact form on their website or any other means that they provided to contact them. Try to schedule a quick phone call with them. Your goal here is to get a feel for their personality and responsiveness. They should be polite, eager to learn about your wedding and be good listeners. Also, they should allow you to ask as many questions as time permits. If they talk down to you or are all about themselves, and if they are pushy, these could be signs of a red flag. Ask yourself, is this someone I can spend an entire day with?
  6. Book your dream photographer – after your initial contact, you should have one photographer that you really love and is excited to book for your wedding. Ask the photographer to initiate the booking process. Booking can be made online or in person. I book most of my couples online. I have a streamlined process that is safe and secure and handles contract signing and payments electronically. The one thing I strongly recommend that you do before you sign anything is to make sure that you fully understand the contract. Read through the complete agreement a couple of times, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything that you don’t understand.

Do you need to book a second photographer? Personally, I think that is totally up to you. The majority of weddings that I photographed, I’m the only photographer. There are a few weddings where I had a second photographer due to the client’s wedding plans. If the bride and groom are getting dress in a separate location, then evidently, you will need a second photographer. One photographer would cover the bride getting ready, and the other photographer would cover the groom getting ready. Otherwise, I don’t think a second photographer is necessary.

That’s it for finding and booking your dream wedding photographer. Besides your wedding dress and his tuxedo, you can book the rest of your vendors accordingly.

A wedding dress and tuxedos take time for fitting and alterations. If your dress or your partner suit will be custom made, you should allow even more time. I would recommend that right after you book your photographer, you should start shopping for your dress.

What to Expect After You Book Your Wedding Photographer

I can’t tell you exactly what to expect from other photographers because every wedding photographer has their own workflow and processes. However, below is what you can expect from me when you hire me as your wedding photographer.

Pre-Wedding day – after you book me as your wedding photographer, you will receive a welcome email explaining what to expect pre-wedding, wedding day, and beyond. If you have an engagement session scheduled, I will send you an email with information on how to get the most out of your engagement session. Approximately two months to forty-five days before your wedding, you will receive a wedding day questionnaire. The wedding day questionnaire is a way for me to get on the same page with your wedding plans and photography wants and needs.

Wedding Day – the day of your wedding, I will arrive at your getting ready location professionally dressed and prepared to capture everything. All the questions will have already be answered, and all you have to do is just sit back and enjoy every moment of your magical day. I will be right by your side every step of the way – we will have some incredibly fun.

Post-wedding – immediately following your wedding, you will receive a thank you email and information on what to expect next. I will promptly start working on your photos, making each photo as beautiful as possible. Within four to six weeks, I will deliver your photos via a modern online gallery to download and share with families and friends. If you order an album, you will be given a chance to choose the album’s photos. Once the album is designed, you will have an opportunity to view the design, request changes to the design, and approve the design. Your album is sent to production when you approve the design.

Regardless of who you hire to photograph your wedding, they should be very responsive and meticulous in keeping you informed while guiding you through the entire process. Your photographer should genuinely want the best for you. They should make every effort to ensure that your wedding photography experience is everything you wished for.

Wedding guide engagement photo collage by White House Wedding Photography

How to Get the Most Out of Your Engagement Session

Let’s talk engagement session, shall we? An engagement session is an invaluable way to set yourself up for a successful wedding photography experience. Besides getting some beautiful photos for your save the date cards and guest book. An engagement session is a credible way for you to gain confidence posing in front of a camera and working with a professional photographer. Of all the many couples that I have photographed, I can’t recall any of them not been camera shy.

The vast majority of my wedding couples would tell me directly that they were uncomfortable in front of the camera and need guidance. The good news is that photographing none models (regular couples, not professional models) is my specialty. You don’t have to worry about looking awkward in your photographs. I’ve got you! Furthermore, your engagement session is not about posing. It is about you and your love having pure fun.

So, when should you have your engagement session? I would recommend about six to five months before your wedding day. Still, you can have your engagement session pretty much whenever you want. I have done engagement sessions a month before the wedding, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it any later.

The best time to do an engagement session – here in South Florida, late fall through early spring is the best time of year. This time of year, the weather is usually cooler with less humidity, and it doesn’t rain as much. Plan to have your session during the week, Mondays through Fridays, with Tuesdays been the best day. Tuesdays are the best days of the week for an engagement photoshoot because most venues are close on Mondays, and venues and public areas get more crowded later on in the week. Late afternoons, sunsets, an hour before sunset, and an hour after sunrise are generally the best time for engagement photos.

Where is the best place for your engagement photo session? We don’t have any fall colors or snow cap mountains here in South Florida. However, we have many historical venues, endless miles of powdery white-sand beaches, luxury hotels, stunning water views, and exceptional parks. In essence, the possibilities are endless – just tell me the look and vibe that you are going for, and I will make a recommendation.

To help you get the most out of your engagement photo session, follow the tips below:

First and foremost, be on time – photography is all about lighting. A thirty minutes time difference can change the look and feel of your photos. Plan ahead and schedule extra time to get your hair and makeup done. Don’t forget Miami crazy traffic either. Plan for additional time for traveling and for finding parking.

What to wear – If you are from South Florida, you already know how brutally hot and humid it can get here, especially during the summer months. For outdoor sessions, guys leave the suits and ties at home. Instead, wear clothing that is light and breathable such as linin and cotton.

If you must go formal, go summer formal. Lighter color clothes are more suited for hot weather, so consider pastel earth tone colors. Solid colors such as reds and yellows can really pop in a photo and should be considered when you want to make a statement. I recommend minimum accessory but keep it elegant and classy.

Ladies, please wear comfortable shoes 😜! A nice pair of flats or low heels will work well. If you must wear high heels, I recommend that you wear a pair of flats to the shoot and carry your high heels. You can put your high heels on once I am ready to photograph you.

Pick one outfit for your engagement session. Remember that you are limited on time plus depend on where the session is taking place, you may not have a place to change your outfit. Pick your favorite outfit, and forget your second favorite. Believe me, it is not worth the time changing outfits on your engagement session. Your time will be better spent having fun with your love – trust me on this!

What not to wear – please do not wear flip flops to your engagement photo session. Even at the beach, bear feet are better than wearing flip flops in the sand. Do not wear clothing with logos, graphics, or bold patterns. Don’t be too matchy-matchy! Instead, go for complementary colors. Also, do not wear explicit clothing – save those for your boudoir session. 99% of the time, your engagement session will be in a public space. You don’t want to spend your time covering up or attracting unwanted attention. Just make sure your clothing is appropriate. Try to avoid clothing that will become explicit with light wind.

For ladies – I recommend having your makeup and hair professionally done. Usually, this is an excellent time to have your makeup and hair trial run. Most engagement sessions are done outdoors. The wind can wreak havoc on your hairstyle, blowing it in your face and making you uncomfortable and your photos less flattering. Talk to your hairstylist about a windproof hairstyle.

Healthwise – even though your engagement shoot will be for an hour or two, you want to make sure that you are well-rested and hydrated. Make sure that you eat something substantial before the shoot. You don’t want to run low on energy in the middle of the shoot because you are hungry. Also, I strongly recommend that you take some cold drinking water with you.

Miscellaneous – guys, consider taking some chopsticks and a facecloth or facial tissue with you. Ladies, a makeup touchup kit and a small mirror would be good to have on hand.

Finally, the best piece of advice I can give you is to be yourself and have fun!

Wedding Insurance

Before we move on, let’s take a couple of minutes to talk about wedding insurance – what it is, and should you get it? As I have said above, a wedding can be an expensive adventure. In life, anything can go wrong and cause you to lose all the money you invested in your wedding. I don’t want this for you!

What is it? – wedding insurance protects your investments from circumstances beyond your control and reimburses you for expenses that you incurred. For example, if your caterer suddenly falls off the earth’s face and you can’t get a hold of them and your wedding day is in a couple of days, what do you do? Sure, enough, you have to find another caterer. Because it is so close to your wedding day, it will cost you triple times what your original caterer costs you. How about your limo service not showing up on your wedding day, or how about your wedding dress getting lost in airport luggage? These are wedding financial losses that insurance can help to protect.

Types of Wedding Insurance – basically, there are two types of wedding insurance, liability, and cancelation. Liability insurance protects you from responsibility from any accidents or injuries during your ceremony or reception. This includes alcohol-related accidents. Note that some venues will require liability insurance form you and or your vendors. Depending on where you are getting married, the local jurisdiction may require liability insurance for a liquor permit.

Cancelation insurance reimburses you for all money spent in the event your wedding has to be canceled for a legitimate reason. This type of insurance doesn’t cover you if you change your mind. You can’t just change your mind and request to be reimbursed for money spent. There are some exceptions to this, and they almost entirely apply to a third party paying for the wedding.

Wedding Insurance Cost – varies by location and companies. According to cost helper, general liability insurance range from $165 to $200, with a $1,000,000 converge for accidents. Cancelation insurance typically cost $95 to $1,000. If you had to buy insurance for your car, you already know how varying the prices can be – bottom line, shop around!

Do You Need Wedding Insurance? – maybe yes and no! You will need to check with each vendor to see if they carry insurance and what is covered. My experience has been that most vendors will let you know that you need to get insurance. I hold a million dollar general liability insurance plus equipment and business insurance. Because although I have multiple photo backup systems, equipment does fail from time to time – knock on wood, I’ve been very fortunate so far. Over all the years of capturing couples’ love stories all over the country and thousands of photos taken, I have never lost client photos.

Ok, I think we can move on. If you have any questions at all, please get in touch. I am here to help you in any way I can with planning the wedding of your dreams.

Wedding Day Timeline

The wedding day timeline is your blueprint for a smooth and successful wedding day. It should be a key piece of your wedding planning. After all, you have spent countless hours and a lot of money on having a fantastic wedding. The last thing you want is for things not to go smoothly and for you to be stress on your big day.

In general, the wedding planner will work with you and your vendors to create a timeline for your wedding. A rough draft is usually made a couple of months before the wedding day and then finalized closer to your wedding day.

The sooner you can get a handle on the timeline, the better it will be. You, your significant other, and your planner should sit down and run through your wedding day. Start with getting ready. For example, where will you and your girls, and the boys be getting ready? What time will you be in the makeup chair? When will the bouquets and boutonnieres arrive? What time is your ceremony? What time do you depart to the ceremony? You get the picture, right?

Tell your planner everything regardless of how insignificant you might think it is. I have done so many weddings where the wedding planner gives me a timeline, but on the day of the wedding, one or two events would occur that weren’t on the timeline. This is disastrous for your photographer, who was probably preparing for something else before she learns of this event.

If there are significant last-minute changes to the timeline, make sure your photographer knows about it as soon as possible. Having a good plan and an organized timeline will help to keep everything on track.

Now, here is a piece of sage advice from years of experience. Many people will tell you that your timeline is just a plan, and it is ok to run a little late or early (of the countless weddings I’ve photographed, I’ve never seen one run early).

Try your best to stick to the timeline. Running late throws your vendors off and add unwanted stress to your wedding team and your guests. It affects the overall tone of your wedding. You have worked so hard for this day – avoid been late and changing the vibe.

Five minutes late here and ten minutes late, there all adds up. By the time you get to the reception, you could be significantly later for your dinner, first dance, toast, and other events.

Some vendors will also have an additional fee if you go over the allotted time in the contract. Please, please try to avoid running exceptionally late ( 45 minutes are more). Running late throws your wedding team off and sets an ominous tone.

Case in point, I photographed a wedding a while back, and the ceremony was over an hour late. That pretty much wipes out the time allotted for the couple’s photo session.

We had to drive like a bat out of hell to get to the park, where they insisted on having their couples session. Plus racing against the sunset and total darkness while keeping track of time so that I could get the couple to the reception on time. Talk about been stressed!

A year later, the couple contacts me saying that they didn’t get enough photos from their couples session, and I have to gently remind them of the circumstance.

The point is, by all means possible, try to avoid running late.

Here is a sample timeline for an eleven-hour wedding day:

A Day or Two Before – Ceremony rehearsal and rehearsal dinner

11:00 a.m. – 12:25 p.m. – Photographer arrives and starts taking getting ready photos of the brides dress, shoes, jewelry, groom tux and jewelry, and any other little sentimental items. Other shots to be taken during this time include the bride getting makeup done, putting on earrings getting button up in the dress, Champagne toast, the groom getting dress, gift exchange, etc.

12:30 – 1:30 p.m. — First look photos. First look photos are primarily done with the bride and groom, but I have done first look with the bride and her dad many times.

1:45 – 2:00 p.m. — Depart and travel to the ceremony.

2:00 – 2:25 p.m. — Bride freshens up for the ceremony.

2:00 – 2:45 p.m. — Guests take their seats.

3:00 – 3:30 p.m. — wedding ceremony. Note that most religious wedding ceremony will take longer than thirty minutes. You want to build a little cushion between the ceremony and the next event so that the newlyweds can sign the marriage certificate.

4:00 – 4:30 p.m. — Family and bridal party photo session

4:15 – 5 15 p.m. — Travel to the reception. If this is a winter wedding here in Miami, it will already be dark, and I would have to use flash for photographing the newlywed if they didn’t do a first look.

5:30 p.m. — Bridal party grand entrance.

5:45 – 6:00 p.m. — Newlywed grand entrance and first dance.

6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Dinner served.

7:00 p.m. — Toasts

8:00 p.m. — Cake cutting

8:30 p.m. — Boquete garter toss

9:00 p.m. — Photographer departs

9:15 – 10:00 p.m. — Open dance floor

10:00 p.m. — reception ends, the bride and groom grand exit

Once you have the final copy of the timeline, please share it with the maid of honor and the best man. I’ve done too many weddings where the bridal party didn’t know what is going on.

Now let’s dive into the wedding day!

Photo Collage of Wedding Reception For Wedding Guide By White House Wedding Photography

Wedding Day Events

Congrats!!! You have made it. This is the day that you have labored so hard over and have invested so much money and time. It’s your time to relax and just enjoy it. Everything is already taken care of, and your fabulous wedding team is just buttoning up the final pieces. Your bridesmaid should be already dialed in on all the details and what is important to you. They should have your back, period!

The Morning Of – Your wedding day is going to be very long and tiring. It is crucial to have a good understanding of how your day will unfold. This is why you created a wedding day timeline. With that said, your day will typically start with you and your girls getting ready. Nevertheless, at some point before the Champagne toast, I strongly recommend that you make arrangements to have a healthy breakfast.

Having a healthy breakfast the morning of your wedding day will give you the energy to power through to at least the ceremony. Maid of Honor, listen up! Ensuring your bride is fed and properly hydrated is one of the most important roles you will play that day. Ensure you have some quick snacks and cold water on hand because it will be a long time between getting ready and the reception.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to eat and hydrate on your wedding day. This is an important day, and the stress of getting through the day can leave you feeling full and not wanting to eat.

The same goes for the boys! Best man or best lady, it is your job to ensure that your groom is well fed and hydrated. Generally, the boys will have lots of alcoholic beverages but no food.

I have photographed weddings in the past where the groom just totally ran out of steam during the ceremony or right after the ceremony. You don’t want this to happen to the groom.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of getting ready:

  1. Get a full night rest and refrain from drinking alcohol the night before. Alcohol opens up your pores and makes you look tired. I want you to look refreshingly beautiful and radiant.
  2. The same goes for the guys, get a good night’s sleep, and go easy on the alcohol.
  3. Have your bridesmaids collect all your accessories in one place and have them ready to be photographed. This means earrings, bracelets, necklaces, shoes, veil, garter, and anything else that you want to have photographed. Please include sentimental items, such as grandpas kerchief or a family bible, anything that has sentimental value.
  4. For the groom and his boys, gather up the suits and accessories before the photographer arrives. Also, make sure that the rings are readily available to be photographed.
  5. Be sure to set aside your wedding invitations before your photographer arrive.
  6. Have your bridesmaids unpack your wedding dress and the bridesmaid dresses and hang them somewhere beautiful before the photographer arrives.
  7. Use a beautiful hanger to hang the dresses. Typical wedding dresses will come with a cheap plastic hanger, get rid of that, and get a heavy-duty wood hanger or a unique design hanger.
  8. Consider having a little sewing kit on hand, some nipple patches, double-sided tape. These will come in handy when you or your bridesmaid need a bit extra fixing on the dresses.
  9. Have a bottle of Champagne and some glasses for a toast. If you have a big bridal party, consider sourcing some extra Champagne glasses. Often times, the resort will not have enough glasses or Champagne glasses in the room.
  10. Get matching robes for some getting ready shots.
  11. Make sure your makeup artist and hairstylist know precisely what time you have to get dress. Makeup and hair often run a little late, so add some cushion in your timeline.
  12. Have the bouquets and boutonnieres delivered to your room and to the groom’s room. The bouquets should be in a container with a little water to keep them from wilting.
  13. Boutonnieres should be sprits with water and keep in a fridge until they are ready to be pin on the jacket.
  14. Decide early on who you want to button you up in your dress. This can be your mother, sister, maid of honor, or all three.
  15. Whoever is buttoning you up should be dress before you.
  16. Leave all your jewelry off until you are entirely in your dress. This makes for some epic shots of you putting on your jewelry.
  17. Best man, if you don’t know how to tie a tie or bowtie, consider doing a practice run before the wedding day. Get a grip on those boutonnieres before the day of the wedding.
  18. Pin the boutonnieres on the left lapel of your jacket before putting your jacket on.
  19. Groom, don’t get dressed until your suit and all the accessories are photograph.
  20. Decide early on who is going to help you put your jacket on and tie your bowtie.
  21. Get your manicure and pedicure done a day or two before your wedding. Guys get your haircut done a day or two before the wedding.
  22. Sometimes the groom will give gifts to their groomsmen – consider doing this before the groom get dress. Also, do the Champagne toast before the groom gets dress.
  23. Once the bride and groom are dress, this would be a good time for gifts or letter exchange.
  24. Next, it’s off to the first look (see first look below).

The First Look – Let’s chat a little about First Look! What is it, and should you do a First Look? Traditionally, you would see each other for the first time as you walk down the aisle, and he is standing at the alter looking at you walk down the aisle. On the other hand, the First Look is the modern way of seeing each other before the ceremony. It is super awesome and beneficial. I love, love, and love the First Look, and I think you will love it too once you understand how sweet and helpful it is.

Some couples don’t realize how unique a First Look is. Perhaps that is because they get so caught up in thinking how untraditional it is that they just write it off. But I believe that what brides want more than tradition is a reaction. A bride wants her groom to be so surprised and overcome with joy as she walks down the aisle that he bawls like a baby the moment he sees her. And isn’t this every girl’s dream? Which bride wouldn’t want this?

Throughout my career as a wedding photographer, I’ve seen grooms become so emotional at the sight of seeing their bride that they literally breakdown and cry. My experience as a wedding photographer has led me to one conclusion. Brides who are not interested in seeing each other before the ceremony usually think that they will miss their groom’s reaction by doing so. They also assume that it won’t be as intimate and emotional as walking down the aisle, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Ok, I promise you, I will get off my soapbox here in a minute, but you need to hear this. The world knows that the wedding day is stressful for the groom and bride. Why? Because they are the stars for the day, all the focus is on them.

They have to be perfect, she has to be drop-dead gorgeous, and he has to be Mr. GQ, all while trying to figure out how to tie your bowtie and done your veil.

Hell, no wonder some couples just say to hell with it and elope. By the time the groom emerges from his sequester for the ceremony, he is a ball of jitters and emotional tension. And you know what? The bride is no different.

Sure walking down the aisle and seeing your man for the first time is magical, but what if you could have an intimate private moment, just you and him, before walking down the aisle? Do you think that would remove the pressure? Would you have fewer jitters and be calmer? How much better do you think he will feel seeing you coming down the aisle?

When you do a first look, the pressure is off, tension and jitters disappear, and you both can bask in the joy of your ceremony. Furthermore, when you do the first look, you will have more time for some fantastic photos, the type of pictures you will hang on your home’s walls.

I promise you his reaction will be amazing during the first look because he can actually see you and live in the moment without the tension.

One last thing on first look! Keep in mind that in the winter months, the sun sets at 5:00 p.m. Therefore, if your wedding ceremony starts any time after 2:00 p.m., you should definitely do a first look. Yea, that’s it. I’m done with the first look!

The Ceremony – Ceremonies can be simple or complex. Typically secular ceremonies are simpler than religious and cultural ceremonies. Whichever is your ceremony type, there are a few things that will help you keep things in control and move along.

  1. Whenever possible, have an unplugged ceremony. An unplugged ceremony is having your guests secure their phones and iPads for the ceremony. This gets your guests to focus on your ceremony instead of fiddling with their phones. It also prevents your guests from impeding your photographer and blocking his or her view.
  2. Do a ceremony rehearsal (a trial run) a day or two before. The rehearsal should include your entire wedding party so that everyone knows what is expected.
  3. Make sure you meet with the Officiant before you hire them. You want an officiant that you can connect with and one that will not impose a lot of restrictions on your ceremony. Religious Officiants may have lots of restrictions. Talk to them and find out what your photographer can and can not do. I photographed a catholic wedding once where the bride works for the church. She gave me a tour of the church and told me what I could and could not do. On the day of the wedding, I was given a completely different set of instructions by one of the church staff. I was restricted from photographing from the balcony.
  4. The procession (walking down the aisle for the ceremony) – choose a song, romantic music, string quartet, reggae, or country. Choose something that is uniquely you and have fun. That’s what it is all about. The procession generally includes the entire wedding party.
  5. Most wedding venues, particularly churches, have low lighting at the ceremony area. For the most part, you will not have control over the lighting, but what you do have control over is when your ceremony will happen. When I got married, my wife and I scouted our venue a year before our wedding because we wanted to have a sunset ceremony. We wanted to see what the lighting was going to look like on our wedding day.
  6. Consider doing a ritual that is meaningful to both of you. Some everyday wedding ceremony rituals are jumping the broom, unity candles, breaking the glass, wine unity ceremony, foot washing, blending the sands, and others. For my wedding, we did the blending of the sands.
  7. If you are reading your vows from your phone, make sure that your phone is fully charged and that your vows are accessible.
  8. One of the things that I absolutely hate about wedding ceremonies is when couples turn their backs to their guests. This is very common in catholic weddings. If possible, stand facing each other so that your photographer and your guests can see your faces’ emotions.
  9. When exchanging rings, slow down and take your time. If possible, tilt your hands towards your photographer so they will get a good photo.
  10. For the first kiss – hold it a little longer than usual so the photographer can get some good shots.
  11. The recession (exiting the ceremony) – have fun with this. Don’t be shy – play it up. Play an upbeat song and dance your way out as your guests clap and cheer. Have the aisle fill with bubbles, or wedding party poppers, or red rose petals. It’s all up to you to make it uniquely you. The photos will be stunning.
  12. Generally, after the ceremony, the Officiant will want to have you and your brand spanking new hubby sign the marriage certificate. This is usually done in a room away from your guests because everyone will like to come up and congratulate you. Your awesome wedding planner will direct your guest to the cocktail hour while your family stays back for the family portrait session.

The Family Portrait Session – The location for your family portraits should have been decided a while back by you and your photographer. Personally, I will have a meeting with my bride and groom approximately two months before their wedding day. This meeting ensures that I get a clear understanding of how the wedding day will unfold and an idea of where the bride would like to have the photos taken.

By the time we get to the family portrait session, your family will be excited and just can’t stop talking to you, congratulating you, and fussing about you. This is where a wedding photographer’s expertise is vital, especially if you have a big family. Your wedding photographer has to take charge and communicate what they want to have happened in a loud and friendly voice. This is no time for your photographer to be shy and timid.

When I’m doing family portraits at a wedding, I will try to organize the groups so that the older family members are photographed first. That way, they can get to the cocktail hour and relax. If you have a big family, I recommend designating someone who knows your family members very well to help the photographer gather up everyone. The more organize the photographer is, and the more cooperative your family members are, the quicker that family session will be. Depend on the size of your family, the family photo session generally takes approximately fifteen to twenty minutes.

Wedding Party Portrait Session – generally follows the family portrait session. Quite often, your wedding party will be with you all day, and at this point, they are tired and hungry and anxious to get to the cocktail hour. One thing I often see during the wedding party portrait session is the bridesmaids not having their bouquets. My experience has been that bridesmaids are eager to get rid of their bouquets. Remind them to hold on to them at least until the wedding party portrait session is over.

Cocktail Hour and Newlywed Portrait Session – The cocktail hour and the newlywed portrait session generally coincide. So let’s take a quick look at each of these events. Think of the cocktail hour as an upscale version of happy hour. It is where your guest goes directly after your ceremony to catch up, grab a bite, and have a drink before the big party (reception) started. The cocktail hour is usually held at a separate area from the reception area.

If you did the first look, the cocktail hour is where your photographer (me 😜) would step back and allow you to mingle and enjoy your families’ and friends’ company. But if you didn’t do a first look, your newlywed photo session will occur during this time, and you would completely miss out on the cocktail hour. Something to think about, right?

The newlywed portrait session is a photo session of just you and your new husband or wife. It is often referred to as the couples session. The newlywed/couples session is an opportunity for both of you to step back from all the demands of your wedding day and enjoy each other’s company. These are the photos that you will want to hang on your home’s walls and put in your family heirloom album.

During your wedding planning stage, make sure you give your newlywed portrait session some thought before picking your venue. You want to choose a venue with beautiful backdrops and lots of photo opportunities. Also, decide early on if you will do a first look or the newlywed session. I strongly recommend doing a first look, but it is totally up to you!

If you absolutely don’t want to do a first look, consider doing an earlier ceremony, especially during the winter and spring months.

Golden Hour Portraits – you may be asking what the heck is golden hour? In photography terms, the golden hour is roughly one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. During this time, the lighting is warm and soft, and light your face without creating shadows around your eyes. Photos created during this time are naturally beautiful, with warm colors and beautiful skin tones.

Depends on the location and timing of your wedding, I may steal you away for a few golden hour shots. The golden hour is just a fleeting moment on your wedding day. Your guests will still be there for you after the session, and you will have some amazing photos.

Grand Entrance – Ok – time to party! The grand entrance is a great way to enter your reception and kick off your reception. Here your options are limitless. Just don’t make it dull. Select an epic dance song to get you and your bridal party dancing into the reception and your guests cheering and clapping. Do some sparkles or smoke! Make it extraordinary, it is your big day, and nothing is off-limits.

In general, your DJ will act as an MC and announce the bridal party as they enter. A good DJ that is creative and fun can really help to set the tone for the evening. They will pump up the crowd and will have everyone standing and cheering when you and yours enter. Make it fun, and feel free to get wild. It’s your party.

First Dance – generally follow the grand entrance. In many cases, right after the grand entrance, the newlywed will go straight into the first dance. Pick a song that resonates with both of you or pick two different songs. If you select two different songs, your DJ will play a portion of the first song and then switch to your second song.

Once the newlywed first dance is finished, it’s time for the father and daughter dance, and the mother and son dance.

First dances are adorable, and some couples even took dance lessons to nail their first dance.

Dinner is Served – The food you serve your guests at your wedding is undoubtedly very important. It doesn’t have to be steak and lobster. It just needs to be delicious and filling. Serve crappy food, and I guarantee you that is all everyone will remember.

Basically, the two most common wedding dinner options are plated and buffet. Regardless of which dinner option you chose, the menu should reflect the two of you as a couple with an alternative choice for guests with dietary restrictions.

Plated sit down dinner is when all the guests are seated and served a formal dinner. It sets the tone for a more elegant affair. This type of dinner style is limited in the variety of food options. Usually, there are two entrees, an appetizer and a main course plus dessert. It generally requires more people to help with serving and plating, and therefore have a higher staffing price.

Buffet style dinner has long tables with a wide variety of food choices. This dinner style offers the most food options for your guests. However, it can be very pricy. When choosing a buffet-style dinner, the main thing to consider is how to get your guests through the food lines as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Toast – is an opportunity for families and friends to express in words the immense joy they feel for the newlywed and to congratulate them as they start their new life together. Anyone can give a toast, but traditionally it’s the best man, the maid of honor, the newlywed, and the newlywed parents. Be sure to set some limits on the timing for each toast. Some people will ramble on forever – take the mike from them! Just kidding 🤣.

Try to schedule toasts during the latter part of dinner. This will give your guest some time to eat and chat before the toasts are giving. The bride and groom are usually the last to give a toast. Their toast is usually a heartfelt thanks to the wedding party, their parents, and everyone who has helped them in their lives and their wedding.

Cutting The Cake – it’s a good idea to cut your cake as soon as the toasts are finished. This helps to keep the energy going and keep your reception running on time. The cake table should be in a location with enough light for photography and an uncluttered backdrop. There should be enough space around the cake for both of you to stand comfortably and cut the cake. A good wedding planner will know these things and make sure that they happen.

Before you cut the cake, make sure that the cake chef or the wedding planner tells you where is the best place to cut. You don’t want to cut into the cake only for it to topple over on you. In most cases cutting from the bottom tier of the cake should be fine. Be modest when you cut. You only need a thin slice for two bites. Also, make sure you are using the cake knife for a clean-cut and not the server.

Once the first piece of the cake is cut, you can feed each other the first slice, which symbolizes your commitment to provide for each other. After that, if you didn’t already do your first dance, then head to the dance floor for your first dance. Bear in mind that your DJ/MC will make all the necessary announcements to keep everyone in the loop on what’s the next event. If you already did your first dance, then you can start the bouquet garter toss.

Boquete and Garter Toss – the bouquet toss is a traditional event where the bride throws her bouquet to a group of single ladies. The single lady that catches the bouquet is said to be the next person to get married. The significance of the garter toss is similar to the bouquet toss. The groom must first remove the garter from the bride’s leg for the garter toss and then toss it to a group of single men. Whoever catches the garter is believed to be the next person to get married.

Although the bouquet and garter toss has been around for years and is still a popular tradition at weddings, some couples will choose not to have these events. These events can be fun if everyone is ok with them, but that seems to never be the case. The bouquet and garter toss are awkward.

No single lady or single man wants to be put on the spot at a wedding. Don’t worry, though! If the bouquet and garter toss is not your thing, you can replace it with something else or nix it altogether. There are hundreds of other games and activates that you can replace the bouquet and garter toss with. Trust me when I tell you that no one will miss the bouquet and garter toss.

The Grand Exit – like the grand entrance, the grand exit is one way to make a statement exiting your wedding day. This is the finale of your dream wedding, go big or go home 😜! Pump up the music, light them sparkles, throw those rose petals – whatever you choose to do, make it uniquely you.

Here are my two cents on grand exit, though. If you are going to do sparkles, get the big ones. The little ones burn out too fast. Make sure you have enough room to create a wide enough aisle for the photographer and the two of you. While sparkles seem to be the most popular grand exit activity and they make for some beautiful photos, I hate them. Here is why I don’t like sparkles for the grand exit:

  1. They are dangerous – my hair got burned a couple of times doing sparkle grand exit.
  2. The majority of your guests who are still around for the grand exit are drunk out of their minds. They shouldn’t be trusted with something as dangerous as sparkles. I kid you not – once I was photographing a wedding at a historic building in Fort Lauderdale. Everyone was given a sparkler and told to take it outside and don’t light it until they were told to do so. Would you believe that several people attempted to light their sparkler inside the building? I think this is the main reason why I hate them.

Some other options for grand exits are:

  1. Glow Sticks – just don’t get the little skinny ones. Those don’t seem to work as well.
  2. Rose Petals – this can be super beautiful and sweet, especially if you are using red rose petals. I wouldn’t recommend it for a grand exit tat night. If you are using it for a grand exit during the night, your exit area needs to be well lit.
  3. Confetti
  4. Streamers
  5. Bubbles
  6. Rice
  7. Sprinkles

Basically, your options are endless! Whatever you decided to go with, just make sure that it will work well in your exit lighting situation. Also, it is totally ok not to do a grand exit. Truth been told, from my experience of photographing weddings, by the time we get to the grand exit, the bride and groom are beyond tired.

Don’t feel like you have to do a blowout grand exit just because that is what other brides do or what everyone tells you to do. A simple heartwarming good by to those closest to you is sufficient.

The Honeymoon – honeymoon planning is separate from wedding planning. It is usually planned simultaneously with your wedding and could have its own planning guide.

The honeymoon is a romantic vacation immediately following your wedding. However, don’t get it twisted 😜! Just because it is a romantic vacation, don’t count on round the clock love making for your entire trip, especially the first couple of days. You both will be super exhausted and may want to take a couple of days just recouping.

My wife and I didn’t go on our honeymoon vocation until a year later, and that is quite alright for couples to do.

Whatever you decided to do for your honeymoon, know that your photographer (me) will be busy working on your gorgeous photos.

When Will Your Photos Be Ready? Different photographers have different workflows and different deliverable timeframes. Over the years, I have seen photographers delivering wedding photos from two weeks to two months. My deliverable timeframe is four to six weeks. I personally go through every single photo to make sure that it is beautifully enhanced and is the best it can possibly be.

The photos that I deliver to my couples are high resolution, no watermarks, and print-ready. I use a modern online photo gallery to deliver photos to my couples. This way, you don’t have to worry about burning copies on a thumb drive or CDs for delivery to family members. All you have to do is just share the link to your gallery with your families.

If you would like to learn more about how I can help you get some beautiful photos of your wedding, please get in touch. I don’t want to take away from this wedding guide by telling you about my services.

Let’s Recap What We Covered in This Wedding Guide!

Yippee! You have made it to the end of this wedding guide. It is a lot to soak in. Let’s take a couple of minutes to recap some of the essential points.

  1. Prepare to Plan – gathering up all the tools you will need to plan your wedding. Paper, pen, notebook, binder, spreadsheets, email, etc.
  2. Get a Perspective – sit down with your significant other and figure out what you both want from your wedding.
  3. Figure Out Budget – take stock of how much money you can contribute, then talk to parents and family members to see how much they will contribute.
  4. Pick Date – before you start hiring vendors, you must have a date.
  5. Identify Vendors Needed – before you start to research and hire vendors, make a list of all the vendors you think you will need
  6. Wedding Contracts – get an understanding of wedding contracts before you hire anyone.
  7. Hire Vendors – if possible, hire a wedding planner first. A planner will make your life so much easier. Try to higher priority vendors first, such as your venue, photographer caterer, and so forth.
  8. Wedding Insurance – what is it, and do you need it? Get a grip on insurance, make sure your investment is protected.
  9. Engagement Photos – how to get the most out of your engagement session
  10. Wedding Party – these are your favorite family members and best friends. They will be beside you, helping you every step of the way. Choose wisely!
  11. Wedding Day Timeline – This is the document that spells out how your wedding day will unfold. Work closely with your wedding planner and bridal party to create this document.
  12. Wedding Day – this is the day that you have planned for. Get plenty of rest the night before and don’t fore get to eat and have fun.
  13. Post Wedding – check expectations for your honeymoon vacation and enjoy it to the fullest. Remember, your wedding photos have to be processed, so be patient.

That’s it! I hope you get a lot of benefits out of this wedding guide. Please don’t hesitate to get a hold of me if you have any questions or need clarification.

Even if you decide to go with a different photographer, I still want to help you have the best wedding possible.

Cheers & Happy Planning!