101 Wedding Planning Tips from a Wedding Photographer
Ultimate wedding planning advice [Updated 2021]
101 Wedding Planning Tips from a Wedding Photographer
This wedding planning tips article has been on my to-do list for a couple of years now. I have always wanted to write a really useful guide to share everything I know with couples who are planning a wedding. So here you go.. tips and advice from a wedding photographer who has photographed and attended more than 600 weddings.
Just a little background on the types of weddings I do. When we lived in Sydney we photographed every type and style of wedding imaginable. Massive Lebanese weddings, extravagant Jewish weddings, 5-day Indian Sikh weddings and lots of elegant weddings for couples on the North Shore, Northern Beaches and Eastern Suburbs. Now that we have moved out of Sydney, I photograph lots of country and vineyard wedding and elopements. And this is the style of wedding I really love. Weddings that take place in a beautiful, natural location with a fun, adventurous couple and their very closests family and friends.
Wedding planning can be a massive job for any couple. There are so many factors to consider. Some weddings require a hell of a lot of work. And some are really simple and easy. You can make a wedding as extravagant and expensive as you want. Or you can go to a park with a celebrant and simply say your vows.
Every wedding and every couple is different but I see a lot of couples having the same issues and worrying about the same things on their wedding day. So I have decided to write some wedding planning tips to share with couples on how to plan an awesome wedding!
These wedding planning tips are obviously my own personal opinions and are based around the types of weddings that I prefer to photograph. And the tips are definitely more photography related for obvious reasons. So use the tips that you like and ignore the tips that don’t work for you. Please bookmark Enjoy!
- 101 Wedding Planning Tips from a Wedding Photographer
- 101 Wedding Planning Tips from a Wedding Photographer
- 1. Wedding or Elopement?
- 2. Do it your way!
- 3. Wedding Traditions
- 4. DIY Weddings
- 5. Best season to get married in Australia.
- 6. Choosing a wedding date
- 7. What to book first
- 8. Should you hire a wedding planner?
- 9. What I look for in a wedding venue
- 10. Venues with natural character
- 11. Customer service from wedding venues
- 12. Choosing the right wedding dress
- 13. Let your dress live!
- 14. Wedding Shoes
- 15. Wedding suppliers
- 16. Engagement Photography
- 17. Your wedding or bridal party
- 17. Weddings at home
- 18. Wedding Photography Gift
- 19. Save $1800 on your wedding
- 20. Wedding photography factories
- 21. Have you shot at my venue?
- 22. Second Shooters
- 23. Overestimate timings
- 24. Hair & Makeup
- 25. Fake Eyelashes
- 26. Photo checklist
- 27. Get ready together
- 28. Get ready close together
- 29. Bow Ties
- 30. Don’t ‘fake’ things
- 31. First Looks at Weddings
- 32. Choose an awesome celebrant
- 33. Bring your Dog to your wedding
- 34. Pets at Weddings
- 35. Wet Weather weddings
- 36. Outdoor Wedding Ceremonies
- 37. Insects and bugs
- 38. Have an unplugged wedding.
- 39. Phones in pockets
- 40. Arrive on time for your wedding ceremony
- 41. Include your Grandparents
- 42. Walking down the aisle
- 43. Write your own vows
- 44. Don’t hide or suppress your emotions.
- 45. Frozen during the ceremony
- 46. Do a long kiss
- 47. Have people throw stuff at you.
- 48. Have two people helping with family photos
- 49. The traditional big group photo of all your guests
- 50. Location photos
- 51. Re-creating photos
- 52. Photos at sunset
- 53. Photos with your Wedding Cars
- 54. Reception lights
- 55. Don’t sweat the small stuff
- 56. Wedding bomboniere & favours
- 57. Speeches
- 58. Feeding your photographer & videographer
- 59. Cake Cutting
- 60. Wedding first dance
- 62. Father-daughter dance
- 63. Wedding DJ’s
- 64. The Top 10 Countdown
- 65. Take a timeout
- 66. Night Photography
- 67. Sparkler exit
- 68. Honeymoon advice
- 69. Order a wedding album?
- 70. Thank your wedding suppliers
- 71. Wedding planning tip seventy-one
- 101. Final thoughts on wedding planning
1. Wedding or Elopement?
Before you start wedding planning, you really have to ask yourself what you really want. Do you actually want a wedding and everything that it entails? There are other options. You can elope, have a small wedding or a micro wedding. Not every couple is suited to a big Aussie wedding.
A standard wedding in Australia is 80 to 200 people watching you get married followed by photos, diner, speeches, cake cutting, first dance and then some crazy drunk dancing.
An elopement or micro wedding is 10-20 of your closest family and friends, in a beautiful location, watching you get married, followed by whatever you want.
There is no right or wrong, but just make sure you choose the style that suits the two of you best. I have seen so many couples that have a big wedding look stressed out, anxious and really nervous the whole day. They just can’t let their guard down and relax. This is supposed to be the happiest day of their lives and you can tell that it having the opposite effect.
There is another option…
Have a really small wedding ceremony with just your family and a few friends, and then invite everyone to the wedding reception afterwards. I have done this a few times and couples really enjoy themselves. It takes the stress and anxiety out of the day. The couple can have a beautiful, intimate ceremony and then have a massive party with all their friends.
2. Do it your way!
It is your wedding, you can do whatever you want! There are no rules.
The only thing you really have to do is the legal stuff… paperwork by an authorised person… aka the wedding ceremony. So have a wedding in a barn, on a secluded beach, in a ballroom, in your backyard. But have a wedding that reflects the two of you. Don’t have or do anything because you think you have to, just because it’s a ‘wedding’.
Well-meaning family & friends will tell you what you should do… but it’s your wedding, not theirs. Listen to their opinions but do what works for you.
When planning your wedding, think of it as if you are organising an awesome celebration or party with your closest family & friends. Because that is what it is. An awesome celebration with some marriage vows thrown in.
3. Wedding Traditions
Don’t do stupid wedding traditions because you think it’s a ‘wedding’. Have a wedding that reflects the two of you.
Most wedding traditions that we do these days first started way back in Ancient Rome or Old England and are based on some sort of superstition and/or religious beliefs.
Weddings have so many traditions involved and depending on your culture, there may be many more ceremonies and traditions. But that does not mean you have to do anything just because it is a wedding. Don’t do or have anything that is not you and does not fit within your own personal beliefs. I strongly believe that. Don’t do a ‘first dance’ if you hate dancing. Don’t do a cake cutting if you don’t like cake. If you think the garter and bouquet toss are outdated, then don’t do them. You don’t even have to wear a white wedding dress.
Do the traditions you like and skip the ones you don’t. Or better yet, start your own traditions.
4. DIY Weddings
DIY weddings could be one of the worst ideas for young couples looking to save a few dollars. Could be??
You book a wedding venue that is a bit of a “Blank Canvas”. So to save some money and because you are a bit of a control freak, you decide to decorate the whole damn place yourself.
Do you have any idea how much work is involved??
You spend every waking moment searching Instagram for inspiration. In the months or even years leading up to the wedding you go out every weekend and source rustic decorations, wooden stands and mason jars. You take your Grandparents armchairs and couches because they look vintage. You buy a pallet full of alcohol. Then on the Friday you get your moving truck and load all your tables, couches, signs, lights, plates etc into the truck. You get to your venue Friday at lunchtime and assemble all your family and bridal party to start the process. Everyone gets to work and at 11pm you realise you all forgot to have dinner and damn there is a lot of work to do. 7am on the Saturday, while everyone is doing the finishing touches, the boys make a mad dash to Bunnings in town, to find all the things they forgot.
Then your photographer arrives and you are almost in tears and look exhausted.
On Sunday… oh damn… you have to clean up and pack up everything!
But hey… maybe DIY will be better for you ;) ?
5. Best season to get married in Australia.
In my opinion, the best season to get married in is Autumn. Because of the colour, climate and light. Followed very closely by Spring and Winter. Coming in last is Summer.
The best light for photos is 100% Winter. The sky has so much more colour and is more dynamic. Even an average sunset in Winter is pretty awesome (unless it is pouring with rain of course).
The worst time to get married, in my opinion, is Summer. The light is harsh and it’s frickin hot! If I do another wedding in the Hunter Valley in Summer and it hits 40°C, and the couple says… “I didn’t expect it to be this hot”… I’m gonna *&%#$^* (insert angry emoji here).
6. Choosing a
This is such a personal decision, but if you currently have a day that is your “anniversary”… go for this one. We were together 8 years before we got married and now I have two dates I have to remember :)
The peak season for weddings in NSW is Spring & Autumn. My busiest months of the year are normally March & October. Dates that are always popular are during school holidays and over long weekends. So you might have to book well in advance to get your date. Popular venues and dates tend to book out 18 months and even 2 years in advance. So your wedding date might also be dictated by what the venue has available.
Also, consider getting married midweek (Mon – Thurs). There is generally more availability and it might even work out to be cheaper for you.
7. What to book first
You have to book your wedding venue first and it is one of the biggest decisions you have to make. Be aware that the top wedding venues in each city/region will book out 12 to 18 months in advance. Saturdays are the most popular day and Saturdays which coincide with long weekends and holidays are even more popular. Fridays are also extremely popular.
The next thing you should book is your wedding photographer and marriage celebrant. Because they will also book out 12 to 18 months in advance.
Once you have locked in these 3 key vendors you can start making your way through the rest of your list.
8. Should you hire a wedding planner?
Do you need a wedding planner? The answer is obviously no because you can plan a wedding without one. BUT should you hire one… well… maybe?
In Australia, the vast majority of couples don’t use a wedding planner. Often they will use the venue manager or venue owners will act as the wedding planner. And for some people and places, this works perfectly. But there are a few reasons why I think wedding planners are a good idea.
- A good professional wedding planner will take all the organising stress off your hands. They will take your vision, style and budget and help you plan an amazing wedding. If you are stressed out by the thought of organising a wedding, then maybe a wedding planner is right for you.
- They will source and shortlist the best wedding suppliers that will suit you and your wedding and you will still be able to choose the final vendors. So instead of trying to find a florist from the hundreds to choose from, they may give you their top three that would suit your style and vision best.
- They will coordinate every part of the day and ensure everything and every wedding supplier is in the right place at the right time. From the accommodation, transport, ceremony and reception venue set up. To the moment your speeches happen and the food goes out. Having one person overseeing the entire event means the only thing you have to do on your wedding day, is to enjoy yourself.
- You will probably actually SAVE MONEY by hiring a professional wedding planner. You will get experienced advice on what works best and what you should spend your money on. They may even be able to get your better deals for you.
9. What I look for in a wedding venue
Gone are the days where you have to travel all over town to have a wedding. There are so many places now that let you do everything… from beginning to end… onsite, or at least very close proximity. So if possible, have everything in the one location.
I love venues where the entire day can take place at one location. It makes it so much easier on and your family & friends. Once you arrive at your venue, you are there for the weekend or the day. You’ll spend less time travelling and more time with the people who matter most.
I look for venues that have:
- Accommodation onsite.
- Nice location for the wedding ceremony.
- Nice locations for photos afterwards. It’s great if you don’t have to drive somewhere else to get photos.
- Reception onsite.
10. Venues with natural character
I love wedding venues that are totally unique and have their own natural look and charm. I hate venues that are just 4 four walls with curtains and a chandelier. A room that looks like it could be any ballroom in any hotel or function centre anywhere in the world. You know those big city (wedding factory) venues I am talking about. Choose somewhere unique and perfect for you, even if it’s in your own backyard.
11. Customer service from wedding venues
If a venue manager or owner isn’t particularly friendly, accommodating or professional when you meet with them, they are not suddenly going to be amazing on your wedding day.
Go with your gut instincts. If I had to choose between my dream venue, that had poor service or my 2nd or 3rd choice with amazing service… I would go with the people with amazing service every time. Because they will work their butt off to make sure you have an amazing experience with them.
12. Choosing the right wedding dress
Choose a wedding dress that not only looks great on you but one that you are actually comfortable wearing.
A wedding dress can look amazing when it is all spread out and you are standing still and not moving. But can you walk it in, can you sit in it, can you dance in it?
If a dress makes you uncomfortable or self-conscious when you sit, walk, stand, move or if you can’t walk in it unassisted… then it will just annoy you all day and night.
Also, please choose a dress that you love, not a dress that your Mum thinks you should wear. Yes unfortunately I have heard this many times.
13. Let your dress live!
I want to say one more thing about your wedding dress. Your wedding dress only has one day to live before it spends the rest of its life in a bag or a box! One single day.
Don’t be scared that it might get a little dirty. I know that this is probably the most expensive dress you will ever buy, but you bought a dress that drags on the floor. It is going to get dirty. That’s a fact.
Take your dress on an amazing adventure… run on the sand, roll on the grass, stroll the city streets. Let it live!!! It only has one day.
I’ve seen Brides spending all day and night worrying that their dress might get dirty… and they seriously don’t look like they are having any fun. Get your money’s worth and have fun with it.
14. Wedding Shoes
Choose shoes that will work with your venue and location. High Louboutin stilettos will work perfectly for a city wedding. But they will not work if you are having a garden wedding where you have to walk or grass.
If you don’t wear high heels all the time, don’t try wearing them on your wedding day. You probably don’t realise it, but you will spend most of your day and night standing. And I have seen many a crippled Bride because of her shoes.
If you have to have your beautiful wedding shoes, bring some flats or thongs, sneakers, gumboots or boots along so you can actually walk and dance. You will have much more fun, be so much more comfortable.
15. Wedding suppliers
Damn… how do you choose all of your wedding suppliers? That is a hard job! For instance… do you know how many photographers are on google… there is exactly 100 frickin million… seriously.
My advice would be:
- Ask your recently married family and friends who they used and who they loved. But just because they loved them doesn’t mean you will love them… but it’s a good place to start.
- If you have booked your venue, photographer and celebrant then you should ask them for who they recommend. Again, they may not suit your tastes but I think their choices would be closer to your tastes.
- Then lastly you can fall into the black hole that is Instagram, Google, Facebook and Pinterest and search endlessly.
Book the vendors you trust and trust the vendors you book.
16. Engagement Photography
I highly recommend doing an engagement shoot prior to the wedding. There are a number of reasons why.
Firstly, milestones in your life should be documented. This is the moment in your lives when you are just about to get married. Show future generations a snapshot of your life and the love you have for each other.
Secondly, it is nice to have professional photos of the two of you where you are not all dressed up in your wedding attire. You are just being yourselves, dressed more casual and more comfortable.
And lastly, it’s an awesome way to hang out, shoot and get to know your photographer before the wedding day. It will get rid of any nerves that you might have had about getting your photo taken, and you will realise that it is actually pretty fun. You basically just relax, be yourselves and have fun with your partner. Then on the wedding day, you can really be yourself, relax and enjoy the whole day.
17. Your wedding or bridal party
Here is a crazy thought! Have a small wedding/bridal party or none at all. Yes, I said it… none at all!!!
It’s a weird ancient tradition where Bridesmaids & Groomsmen dress up like the Bride & Groom to confuse vengeful spirits or real-life jealous suitors. In a modern wedding, you are basically choosing your best friends. And do you need to show everyone at your wedding who your best friends are??? Just celebrate with everyone.
You don’t actually need them in the morning helping you get ready and to help you keep calm etc. You can have them if you want, but you don’t need them. Having lots of people getting at the same time actually makes everything more stressful.
If you do have a Bridal party, they don’t all need to be dressed exactly the same, they don’t have to be even numbers, and they don’t even need to be of the same sex.
Don’t choose a Bridal Party out of obligation… because you were in their Bridal Party, your partner’s siblings, or to fill in numbers. And try to choose only happy, positive people that you really want by your side. Negative people in a wedding party will drain the energy and mood of everyone else.
17. Weddings at home
If you or your family owns a farm or a semi-large property, you should definitely consider having your wedding there. I love weddings on family properties or homes. It may not actually work out as cheap as you think, but you will have photos no one else will have. And the photos and the memories you create will mean so much more to you.
18. Wedding Photography Gift
Don’t let a friend or Uncle with a good camera, “gift’ you with your wedding photography. You can still take terrible photos with an awesome camera. It could be a really shitty gift.
19. Save $1800 on your wedding
Want to save $1800 right away? Take ten people off your guest list. ($180 per head is the average price of a wedding venue in NSW).
If you have to be introduced to them at your own wedding, then maybe they shouldn’t be there?
20. Wedding photography factories
Stay away from ‘wedding photography factories’. These studios and have many photographers on their books and may have multiple weddings every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In my opinion, you will get much better work from an individual artistic photographer whose name is his or her business, than from a contracted photographer getting paid $50 per hour.
An individual photographer will work their ass off for you and you will get their style and vision in the images.
21. Have you shot at my venue?
Don’t book a photographer based on if they have shot at your venue before. Just because they have shot there before doesn’t mean that they took the sort of images that you love. They may have taken a lot of average photos at your venue. And it is not a good way to compare photographers.
A good photographer will scout your venue and locations before or on the day, so they have a good idea of photo locations. Plus the light on the day will also dictate where you take photos. Having photographed at a venue before means absolutely nothing to the final product.
22. Second Shooters
Do you need two photographers at your wedding? Not all weddings need a second shooter. Not all photographers need a second shooter to create beautiful images. Sometimes do you need them, particularly if you have two events happening at the same time. Plus they are a good backup. But I personally shoot 95% of my weddings solo and feel I work better like that.
23. Overestimate timings
Overestimate how long things will take on your run sheet. By overestimating you will give yourself space and breathing room if things do run late. And if things run early, then you can just hang out with your family and friends for longer. Win win.
24. Hair & Makeup
These phenomenal people work their butts off on the day to get you and your bridesmaids ready. And they do amazing work.
The one tip I would give you here is to get your hair & makeup scheduled to be finished earlier rather than later. One of the main reasons for a bride running late to the ceremony is because hair & makeup runs late. This is much less likely to happen if you hire an experienced pro. But still, it can happen.
I recommend you ask them to finish all hair and makeup an hour before you are due to leave for the ceremony. This gives you breathing room. Plus it always takes longer than you think to put your dress on and do last minute things. Running late leads to stress, and you don’t need that on your wedding day.
If your hair and makeup finish early then you can just relax and drink champagne.
25. Fake Eyelashes
Ok so a male photographer is going to talk about eyelashes. Here we go….
But I am speaking from a purely photographic point of view. There are two things I dislike in regards to fake eyelashes. Firstly, when they are too thick and secondly, when fake eyelash strips are used.
When eyelashes are too thick it looks unnatural and can create an almost racoon look on your face, particularly if you are shooting outdoors. I have seen makeup artist put two or three layers of eyelashes on and in my opinion, it makes the whole eye area look darker and unflattering.
Fake eyelash strips also look unnatural, particularly if you are shooting close-ups of the face. You can really tell it’s a strip. And more often than not, it starts to come off at one side.
My advice is to get individual lashes put on. They may take a little longer to put on, but they look a million times better.
26. Photo checklist
The old photo checklist. Wedding blogs and magazines may tell you to, but it is totally unnecessary to give a professional photographer a ‘photo checklist’. A list of hundreds of standard wedding photos you want to be taken during the wedding i.e. walking down the aisle, ring exchange, first kiss, close up of flowers etc
You have hired a professional photographer because you love their work and their style. You don’t want them looking through a list instead of photographing the action that is in front of them.
Instead, I do recommend that you give your photographer a very specific and small list of photos that you want, that may not be obvious to them unless they are pointed out. A small detail such as dad’s funny socks you gave him or the wedding date you had embroidered on the grooms inside jacket. Or if there are certain people you definitely want a photo with, such as your best friend from high school etc.
27. Get ready together
Here is another crazy thought… get ready together!!
Getting ready together is often overlooked but would have to be my absolute favourite way for couples to get ready. The photos seem so much more meaningful and intimate.
It amazes me that couples, that have spent years together, spend most of the day away from each other on their wedding day. So break tradition and get ready together.
There is something really special when you photograph a couple helping each other get dressed for their wedding. Spend time with the one you love on one of the most important days of your lives.
28. Get ready close together
If getting ready together is too crazy of an idea, then the other tip I can give you is in close proximity to each other.
Get ready on the same property. Either in neighbouring cottages, in the same hotel but on different floors. Or perhaps stay in a large house and get ready in different sections of the home.
That way I can just walk between the both of you. Spending more time photographing you and not travelling in a car.
Go onto Stayz or Airbnb and choose a place with lots of natural light and lots of room. (Your makeup artist will love this too!)
Also check out our “How to get Better Preparation Photos” article, where we go into much more detail.
29. Bow Ties
Guys… if you are wearing a proper bow tie… and you don’t know how to tie one… don’t wait till the wedding day to learn how to tie it. And don’t rely on one person to do them all. Because sometimes that one person is not as good as they claimed ;)
Proper Bow Ties are tricky to do and every wedding I have done with them has ended with the guys watching YouTube videos on how to tie it. So have a practice before the actual wedding day.
30. Don’t ‘fake’ things
Don’t ‘fake’ things or pretend to do anything on your wedding day.
There is nothing more awkward than when a well-meaning person suggests to pretend to do something, just for the photos.
For example, someone may suggest that Mum just pretends to put the boutonniere on the Groom, or just pretend to cut the cake. I say, just do it, don’t pretend!
Do you really want photos of you pretending to do something? Keep it real and authentic.
31. First Looks at Weddings
If you haven’t heard the term before, here is the definition of a ‘first look’:
A first look happens before the ceremony and is when the couple sees each other for the first time in their full wedding attire.
It can be a lovely emotional moment for the couple as they see each other in private without everyone watching them. It can get rid of nerves and you can spend more of the day together. A first look is normally followed by photos. And couples will often do all their portraits at this time, instead of doing it after the ceremony.
Do you need to do a first look and is it something I would recommend?
In Australia, I would only do a first look for two reasons.
- If you are eloping and you are driving to the ceremony together. So first look makes total sense.
- If you are having a Winter wedding, and there won’t be enough light after the ceremony.
The light in Australia is so harsh and doing a first look, followed by photos, means you will be taking photos earlier in the day when the light is harsher. You might get more photos of you (which is cool if this is something you want), but I would prefer to shoot for 20 minutes around sunset rather than 2 hours in the middle of the day.
32. Choose an awesome celebrant
I can’t tell you how important it is to hire an awesome celebrant. A good celebrant will be the difference between a ceremony where people are falling asleep and a ceremony where everyone is laughing or in tears.
And it is a difficult vendor to book because you can’t necessarily see them in action. I have seen some celebrants that have a good website and look good on social media, but their ceremonies were a disappointment. And then there are some celebrants where I just know the ceremony is going to be boring and old-fashioned… and it is.
What I like in a celebrant and a ceremony:
- Confident speaker with a positive nature.
- Sense of humour and ability to think on their feet.
- Ability to control the crowd. Get people seated and excited for the ceremony.
- Relating the ceremony to the couple personally. Not just doing some reading about love and what marriage is.
- Professional equipment. The amount of times the microphone doesn’t work is incredible.
- A ceremony that doesn’t go on forever but doesn’t finish in 5 minutes.
- Gets out of the way for the first kiss.
It’s pretty standard stuff, but sometimes hard to find. So how do you find an awesome celebrant?
- If you have been to a wedding and actually seen them in action, then it is easy for you.
- Ask your photographer. Wedding photographers see celebrants in action every week. They know who the best ones are.
- Check out their website and socials and see if you like what you see.
- Have a chat with them and see if you guys are a good fit.
33. Bring your Dog to your wedding
If your dog or pet is a part of your family, then bring him or her to your wedding.
There are wedding suppliers that will help with everything. They will bring your pet to and from your wedding and look after them for you. So there are really no excuses anymore.
If you love your pet, there is no reason they can’t be there. Even for just part of the day. Plus I love taking photos of couples with their furbabies.
34. Pets at Weddings
In fact, you can bring any pet to your wedding. If they are an important part of your life, it is totally possible to bring them along. Even if it’s just for part of the day.
I have had donkeys, a huge Macaw and I’ve even had a red-belly black snake (although he was more of a wedding crasher). But seriously think about it and if you want it to happen, it can happen.
35. Wet Weather weddings
If you are planning an outdoor ceremony, you have to have a wet weather backup plan. Don’t just cross your fingers and pray. Because it could end in tears. And I find that couples that plan for wet weather, buy umbrellas etc don’t need to use it.
Otherwise don’t worry if it rains on your wedding day. Dark clouds and rain can be awesome in photos.
I’m not saying that I want it to rain on your wedding day, but if it does rain, it won’t stop me from getting beautiful photos. Especially if you embrace and enjoy the elements. Some of our favourite weddings have been rainy day weddings.
Check out our “Wet Weather Wedding Tips” here.
36. Outdoor Wedding Ceremonies
Photography wise, it’s all about light and direction of light for outdoor ceremonies.
The sun can give really harsh light so to combat this:
- Have your ceremony late in the day, so the sun is lower in the sky and a bit softer. 2 maybe 3 hours before sunset gives us enough time for the ceremony, family photos and 1 hour for location photos. Go a bit earlier if you have a long ceremony planned or if there is travel involved. If course this is probably impossible for summer weddings when the sun doesn’t set till 8pm or later.
- Shade is beautiful in photos. So try to have your ceremony in the shade if possible or at the very least you should be in full shade so the light is even on you.
- Rotate the ceremony so that you are backlit by the sun (the sun on the celebrants back). It will make the light more even in photos.
See our “Outdoor wedding ceremony tips” article for more tips.
37. Insects and bugs
Have Aerogard/insect repellent available for outdoor weddings in Australia. Yes, for flies & bugs and even for mosquitos at night.
On a side note… little bugs in the grass love a wedding dress with lots and lots of layers.
38. Have an unplugged wedding.
An unplugged wedding means that guests are asked not to take photos during the wedding ceremony. I would say 90% of my weddings these days are unplugged and it really is lovely. It means I am not competing with guests for a photo, they don’t jump in the aisle during the first kiss, but most importantly it means that they are actively watching you ceremony with their heart and eyes. Not through the back of a phone.
So please ask your guests to be fully present at your ceremony and have an unplugged wedding.
You don’t want to be walking down the aisle to a sea of phones and cameras.
Check out our ‘Should you consider an unplugged wedding‘ article.
39. Phones in pockets
Quick tip for the Groom and Groomsmen. Guys, don’t carry phones or wallets in your pockets… unless you really want a bulge in your pockets ;)
40. Arrive on time for your wedding ceremony
People always say that “The bride is always late”, “you are suppose to be late”. They are just saying that because they don’t want to stress you out. Arrive on time for your wedding ceremony.
Your fiancé and your wedding guests will be grateful. Plus your celebrant may have to go to another wedding. If you’re late it will only cut into photo time afterwards.
If you are worried about guests being late, I totally get it. At every wedding there is alway one couple or family that arrives as you are about to walk down the aisle. My tip here is to write the start time on the invitations, 15 minutes earlier than the actual start time.
41. Include your Grandparents
I think Grandparents are so often overlooked at weddings. If you are lucky enough to still have Grandparents around at your wedding, include them in some small way.
Ring bearer, make a speech or get them to sign your marriage certificate. You’ll thank me later, I promise you.
42. Walking down the aisle
Dad doesn’t have to be the only one to walk you down the aisle. This is a seriously outdated practice.
If both of your parents brought you up equally then Mum & Dad should do it.
But it doesn’t have to be a parent. Many couples have complicated family dynamics and situations. So know that it can be anyone you want. It’s your wedding, your rules.
Here are some things that past couples have done:
- Many brides have had their brother or sister walk them down the aisle.
- An uncle or close family member.
- One bride had her stepfather walk her halfway down and hand her off to her biological father to walk her the rest of the way.
- Another bride had her parents walk her halfway down the aisle and hand her to her groom who walked her the rest of the way.
- One bride had a very long aisle and had 4 different men in her life walk her down. Four men that were father figures and very special in her life.
- You can even walk down on your own or with your fiance.
You don’t even need to walk down the aisle if you don’t want to. You can greet your guests as they arrive and then just start the wedding at the front. It’s your wedding, do what works for you.
43. Write your own vows
Write your own vows and read them out at your wedding ceremony.
Reading out your vows and promises to your partner will be soooo much more meaningful than letting your celebrant say and do everything.
You don’t have to memorise it, and it’s doesn’t have to be particularly well written, it just has to be from the heart.
44. Don’t hide or suppress your emotions.
It’s natural for people to hide their emotions when in front of people. And I hear well-meaning family or friends saying “Don’t cry, you’ll ruin your makeup”. This leads to couples putting up walls during the ceremony. They go through the motions and don’t emotionally connect.
This is a once in a lifetime event. Let you walls down. Live in the moment and make an emotional and personal commitment during your wedding ceremony.
If you do cry and you are worried about your makeup, have a hanky or tissue and dab, don’t wipe.
45. Frozen during the ceremony
When couples get nervous during a ceremony they often just stand completely still and just look at the celebrant. Frozen like a deer in headlights
If you get nervous, and you probably will be, look at each other, hug each other, laugh at each other, even kiss each other. I think its more important to stay connected to each other during the ceremony than it is to listen to every single word the celebrant says. It also makes for better photos.
46. Do a long kiss
Do a looong first kiss, and even do two or three kisses.
Long kisses are a crowd pleaser and will always get everyone cheering. Everyone will love it, and you will love it too.
A long kiss also can give me the opportunity to get a close shot and then a wide shot of the kiss.
47. Have people throw stuff at you.
Have your guests throw flowers, lavender or confetti at you as you walk back up the aisle.
Why? Because it’s really fun and it looks great in photos.
Use colourful petals or confetti. White petals or confetti tends to blend into the sky and can be hard to see in photos.
Also, you can’t have too much. Have more than enough for everyone… not just the people in the aisle… the more the merrier!
48. Have two people helping with family photos
Family photos usually happen after the wedding ceremony and can be a fast and painless event, or they can be frustrating and take a long time.
Write a list of the photos you want, so that you don’t miss any important combinations. This is particularly a good idea if you have complicated family dynamics.
Have two loud family members or friends help with the whole process. One person to call out the names and the other to round up people. It will greatly speed up everything, because let’s face it… other than your parents, I probably have no idea who anyone is.
Check out our other family photo tips here.
49. The traditional big group photo of all your guests
I am not a huge fan of the traditional big group photo of all your guests. I do it all the time because I am asked to, but I’m not a fan of it. I think it’s not a great photo and here’s why:
- It stops the flow and vibe of the wedding as it requires me to use a big loud voice and interrupt everyone’s conversations to tell them to move to a certain spot because we are taking a photo.
- Often there is very limited space, particularly around church grounds.
- It can be tricky getting even light on the entire wedding.
- A photo of 40 – 200 people all looking at the camera is not a great photo. You will see the first row of people well, and you will see the faces of the second row, but you can barely make out everyone else behind.
A better option, in my opinion, is to do group photos of your guests ie your work friends, your uni friends, your school friends etc.
50. Location photos
This is my favourite part of the day. You guys can relax and celebrate and we get to hang out and create some beautiful images to cover your walls for years to come.
We recommend around an hour for these photos, plus also factor in any travel time needed. Give your photographer some time to create a collection of beautiful images for you. If you only leave your photographer fifteen minutes, you may not get the sort of images and the variety of images you see in their portfolio.
Light is so important in photography, so the closer to sunset the better. The light in Australia is really harsh and contrasty. Photos that are taken in the middle of the day (or even in the afternoon in Summer) will be nowhere near as good as they could be.
Midday is not a great time for photos. So please don’t get married outdoors in the midday sun. Or schedule location portraits at midday.
If you are having a summer wedding, where the sun doesn’t set till 8 pm, I would much rather spend a little less time doing photos after the ceremony and head out for photos at 7.40 pm so that you get the most beautiful light of the day.
51. Re-creating photos
Pinterest, Instagram and social media can give couples exciting ideas for their wedding photos, but they can also give couples unrealistic expectations for their wedding photos.
Photos on these social media platforms are taken at a very specific time of day, with very specific lighting conditions, very specific locations, specific moments with very specific cameras & lenses… but most importantly these couples are not you! Your relationship is totally unique and trying to re-create someone else’s wedding photos will ultimately leave you with photos that have little ‘real’ meaning to you. When you look back at the photos, you will think… “this is the photo we re-created from someone else’s wedding photo”.
It also defeats the purpose of hiring a creative photographer to document your day, as the photos will never be the same due to the light, the time of day, time of the year, the weather, the couple, the photographer and the location.
You can say that you’d love photos in a field or on the beach. But trying to recreate an exact photo on that beach is not a great idea.
Just be yourselves, put your trust in your photographer, their style & vision and you will get much better results and the photos will have sooo much more meaning to you.
52. Photos at sunset
Put some time aside for photos of the two of you at sunset!!
Let me say that again… PUT SOME TIME ASIDE FOR PHOTOS OF THE TWO OF YOU AT SUNSET!! Sorry for yelling, but it’s important :)
The light is soft, golden and sometimes dramatic. It is the best light of the day.
Find out the sunset time on your wedding day and schedule some time on your run sheet. They will be the best photos of the day, even if it’s just ten minutes.
Read our “Golden Hour” article here.
53. Photos with your Wedding Cars
This is the photo I probably hate the absolute most out of all of the outdated traditional wedding photos. I hate the whole idea of standing next to a strangers car and getting photos next to it. It is awkward, boring and just awful.
Here are my thoughts on wedding cars.
If you need transport for your wedding so you don’t need to worry about parking and getting around from here to there, then, by all means, hire a beautiful wedding car.
BUT, you certainly don’t have to hire a wedding car just because it’s a ‘wedding’. You can use your own car as well. It doesn’t matter if it’s old or just ‘normal’. It is yours! Throw a ribbon around it and it’s a wedding car.
I think it’s a strange tradition at weddings where people think they need to get photos standing next to the cars they have hired.
Imagine looking back at your wedding photos in 15 to 20 years time, with your three kids and dog, and seeing your old car in all the wedding photos. It will have more meaning.
54. Reception lights
You can never have too many fairy lights, festoon lights, string lights or candles at your wedding reception.
Having lots of fairy lights means that the main lights in the room can go nice low and the fairy lights and candles create a magical atmosphere in the room and we still have enough light to capture everything.
Also, put them in any outside areas to help light them up. Go crazy… put them on trees, vines, fences, walls etc.
55. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Try not to get too caught up in all the decor, decorations and styling. Don’t get caught up in trying to outdo your friend’s wedding or trying to make sure everything is absolutely perfect. In the
It’s such a good idea to simply hire a stylist to do all this stuff for you.
56. Wedding bomboniere & favours
Wedding bomboniere & favours… do you really need them? Think of how many weddings you’ve been to and what you’ve done with the ones you have got. They seem like a wasteful endeavour.
If you really want to do them, maybe look into edible wedding bomboniere options. Or maybe wedding bomboniere plants.
I really like splitting the speeches up between courses, instead of doing one long stretch of speeches. If you have a lot of speeches, you can even schedule a couple of speeches during the pre-dinner drinks & canapes part of the day.
Please tell your speakers not to get their speech or wedding jokes off Google! I hear the same speeches and jokes at so many weddings.
Make your speech personal, real and from the heart with a couple of funny stories. The best and most memorable speeches are the ones where someone opens up and speaks from the heart.
And don’t forget to tell everyone you ask to do a speech not to get their speech off Google. Dads and Best Men are notorious for it ;)
58. Feeding your photographer & videographer
We normally get a supplier main meal from wedding venues which is alway lovely and greatly appreciated.
But here is my plead to couples. Can you please tell please your wedding venue to feed your photographer and videographer at the exact same time as the bridal table.
Here is my issue. Wedding venues always feed us last. Always. And I understand why. Because they are looking after their guests first and the suppliers get the leftover food. But it is in your interest to feed us the same time as you
We should eat when you eat, because we won’t take photos of you eating. It’s just not a flattering photo. Once you have eaten the couple will get up and walk around the room chatting to people. If we have eaten, then we can catch those moments and interactions. Also we will have eaten by the time speeches start.
What normally happens at weddings is that the bridal table is served, the guests are served, then about 20 minutes after you were served then the supplier meals come out. But if they are slow at getting food to us, or your MC is keen to get speeches started, then we miss out on our meal. Some venues are very good and will make sure no speeches start but others don’t really care.
The best case scenario is that we are fed but don’t catch those interactions with your guests after dinner. Worst case scenario is that we don’t get fed and you see us walking around with a sad face :(
59. Cake Cutting
How good are cakes? Some of the wedding cakes being made today are simply amazing and so tasty. But if you are not a cake fan, there are more options available to you.
There is the the doughnut wall, doughnut cake, lolly tables, cupcakes, chocolate fondue fountains, ice cream stands or cheese wheels
When you cut the cake, don’t just cut it and walk off. Cut a slice and take a bite. Traditionally sharing the cake with each other is done to symbolise your union… but photographically it is just more fun if you eat some as well :)
60. Wedding first dance
If you are not dancers and the whole idea of dancing in front of all your family and friends fills you with dread, then you don’t have to do it… there are options.
Here is my tip… just don’t do a first dance. Cut the cake and tell the MC to say something like “Now everyone get on the dancefloor and let’s party!!”
There are a couple of alternatives to a first dance, if you are looking for something symbolic to kick off the dancing. These are a few of the things I have see:
- For Star Wars fans, do a fully choreographed light sabre battle set to music. There is even a Jedi Academy you can go to for training… seriously.
- Get the MC to ask everyone “who has been married the longest?” Get the top 5 or 10 couples up to do a slow dance.
- Do a wedding party dance. Get the whole wedding party up and either dance in couples or dance as a group.
- Sway back and forth for 30 seconds and then get the MC to invite everyone in.
62. Father-daughter dance
This is one of the traditions that doesn’t sit well with me if you just do a father-daughter dance. Why shouldn’t your mum dance with you as well? What about the grooms mum?
I would say that the father-daughter dance is becoming less popular as the years go on. It does seem to be a bit outdated. I really think you should just dance with both your parents. And it doesn’t have to be this big event where everyone stops and looks at you. You can just dance with your parents throughout the night. Request your mum or dads favourite song and dance with them to that song.
If you really want to do a father-daughter dance, then include the groom and his mother. But again, family dynamics are complicated so do what works for you and your families.
63. Wedding DJ’s
I like a good DJ as wedding photographer. Because if a DJ is not good then my night is boring. If they are good and get the crowd pumped, then I get cool shots.
There are two kinds of DJ’s I see at weddings.
The first is the glorified button pushers that simply fade in fade out songs. They barely think about what song will work next and go from a R&B to an 80’s ballad to the Grease medley. There is no thought process and that are just going though a playlist. With this sort of DJ you will see mass people exiting and entering the dance floor depending on the song.
The second is the genuine DJ who is passionate about their work and what they do. They mix songs together and read the crowd. Songs seamlessly melt into one another and the dancefloor remains packed all night.
I’ll give you an example if an amazing DJ I had at a wedding. The couple had asked for R&B music on the dancefloor. So all night this master of his craft played maybe 30 seconds of a song before mixing it with another one, then mixing it with another one and so on. It was incredible! It was like he was playing massive party hits every 30 seconds. And the dancefloor was absolutely packed all night and it never ever got boring. That is a true DJ!
64. The Top 10 Countdown
I’ve seen this at a couple of weddings and it is a sure fire way to get the dancefloor absolutely packed for the last hour of the wedding reception. Here is how it works:
- When you send out the wedding invitations, ask your guest for their top 5 favourite party songs.
- Get the invites back and put the results together and make a list of the top 10 favourite songs of your guests.
- Talk with your DJ about using the top 10 results for the last hour or so of the reception with the last song finishing when the reception finishes.
I have found that when the top 10 starts and the DJ says that this is YOUR top 10, the dance floor gets more and more packed.
65. Take a timeout
One time during the night, I highly recommend that the two of you duck out for a few minutes and take a timeout. The wedding reception is like a roller coaster. It’s a crazy fun ride and it’s over before you know it. And you probably haven’t really even spoken to each other much at all.
Then watch your reception from a slight distance and remember… that this moment is probably the last time you will have all of your very favourite people all together in the one place again at the same time. Weddings are pretty special events.
66. Night Photography
Duck out for a few minutes during your reception for some night shots in the dark. The results can be pretty cool.
67. Sparkler exit
A sparkler exit is an awesome way to leave the wedding reception. If you are planning one, please use the long sparklers… we don’t want it to turn into a dark fizzle… (insert awkward face!)
Check out our sparkler exit article that has more advice and tips.
68. Honeymoon advice
The only honeymoon advice I am going to give you is to go to a “bucket list” destination. Go big and go for as long as you can. Because trust me… once you have kids a trip to the Maldives at $2,000 per night seems like a distant fantasy.
69. Order a wedding album?
Order a wedding album from your photographer. You’re not getting an album just for you, but for your family, your kids and their kids. Think of it as a family heirloom that will be passed down to future generations.
If you don’t get an album right after the wedding, chances are that you won’t ever get around to it. Life gets in the way… you buy a house… you have kids… and you are even busier and a wedding album goes very low on the list of things you need.
Don’t let your photos live on a computer screen or device.
70. Thank your wedding suppliers
The wedding industry is full of small businesses that work their ass off to give couples the best experience, product and service possible. And it is amazing how many couples never say thanks. Giving them a thumbs up on their Instagram post isn’t saying thanks.
I can’t tell you how important and how much they love to hear from happy couples. And they work in a highly competitive industry where there are thousands of other people doing what they do.
So if you loved the work that your wedding suppliers did for you, there are two things that every small business would greatly appreciate.
- Give them a glowing written review somewhere. Ask them what they would prefer (Google, Facebook, their own website etc)
- One of the best ways you can say thanks is to actively refer other engaged couples to them. Word of mouth from happy couples is the absolute best!
71. Wedding planning tip seventy-one
Wedding planning, wedding planning, wedding planning, wedding planning….hmmm
Thanks for reading this far. As you can probably tell, I didn’t quite make it to 101 tips. So maybe we can call this “a work in progress” and if I get any amazing lightbulb moments I will add them to this page.
I could change the title to 70 awesome wedding planning tips…. but I really like the sound of 101 hahaha. So I’ll just skip ahead Thanks for reading.
101. Final thoughts on wedding planning
Forget everything you ‘think’ a wedding should be. Do things your way and make your wedding unique and perfect for you.
On the day, try not to get caught up in caring so much about every little detail, table settings, who’s sitting where, the colour of the flowers etc because in the long run, they really don’t matter.
What matters most is the tender moments between the two of you, the extra tight hugs from your parents, your grandparents holding your hand & kissing your cheek and the connection and love you feel for everyone at your wedding.
Hey, I’m Adam. A wedding photographer who loves to shoot fun, relaxed couples in a natural and candid way.
I shoot weddings all over Australia, so if you are engaged and looking for a photographer, please check out my work. If you can see yourself in these photos, feel free to get in contact to check my availability. Thanks :)