This bride guide is your wedding planning step by step to put you at ease throughout the whole process all the way to your wedding day. You can go to a specific section by clicking on the titles below, but if you are just starting your research I highly recommend you to read it all.
You’ll thank me at the end.
Let's get started!
How to Choose The Right Wedding Vendors
Engagement and Other Things to Consider
Wedding Planning: What's Next?
Still a Lot of Wedding Planning to Do
RAW, UNFILTERED ADVICE
This guide is divided into four parts to make it really easy for you to find the information you need.
This page is the result of more than eight years of wedding industry experience and it is full of unfiltered advice you won't hear anywhere else. This is not your usual wedding planning guide. Our studio has been fortunate enough to have worked in over 300 weddings so I guess we learned a thing or two. Sit back, grab a cup of tea, and get ready to take some notes. We are about to make your wedding experience a breeze!
YOUR WEDDING "MUST-HAVES"
I know what you are thinking … wedding insurance? It's so un-romantic! Yes, it is, but it's so commonsensical as well, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
I know that wedding event insurance will probably not cover pandemics while under one. Still, you have so many other scenarios that can go belly up when you are planning an event 12 months in advance. Wedding cancellation insurance seems very reasonable as it can protect you against postponements as well.
The best wedding insurance companies offer policies that cover several common wedding misfortunes; for example, in case a guest gets hurt, things are stolen or lost, vendor problems, and liquor liability in addition to general liability, which covers unexpected situations out of your control.
I highly recommend you get one and have peace of mind about everything as wedding insurance can cover a lot of things throughout the whole wedding planning process, from cakes to rehearsal dinner.
Talking about insurance ... I haven't mentioned, but I'm sure you know that it wise to have your engagement ring insured, just in case. Just saying ...
why wedding insurance is a good idea
Think of it this way. If you had a lifelong dream and wanted to make something that will last forever like a movie, would you hire an inexperienced writer and director to portray your vision? How about the producer, actors, make-up, wardrobe, and all the other crew members that play crucial roles to make a motion picture happen? I’m sure you wouldn’t.
You would want the best professionals your budget can hire to make sure you’ll launch a blockbuster. Guess what? Your wedding day IS your blockbuster to be eternalized in memories, photos, and motion picture, for all generations. And just like in the movie-making business, many things can go wrong during all production phases. And that’s when having a five-star wedding vendors team will make all the difference.
The only significant variance between you and Julia Roberts is that she has the luxury of doing retakes! Your wedding day is your rehearsal and premiere all in one. Wedding problems happen, and they will occur no matter how experienced a wedding vendor is … trust me!
And that’s precisely when you need a team of seasoned wedding professionals who stabilize any problems without you or anyone knowing that you had one. Having a team of wedding vendors that are in tune with your vision, individuality, taste, and budget can be critical to a successful wedding, freeing you to play movie star!
WHY SHOULD YOU PICK A PROFESSIONAL OVER A WEEKEND WARRIOR wedding vendor
At this stage, you have two essential jobs. The first one is to make your wedding day "must-haves" list together with your husband to be, and the second is to master the ancient art form of compromising. I know … it doesn't seem fair to do it before you get married; however, it will keep you guys in sync and on track of your wedding budget.
My suggestion is for you guys first to make a "dream-wedding" comprehensive wedding spreadsheet and take your time doing proper research to give you a realistic ballpark.
It's okay to miscalculate wedding vendor costs initially. They are not common knowledge, and they vary greatly depending on the location, vendor's time in business, expertise, reviews, equipment, materials used, and the list goes on.
Your most important task at this point is to tweak your list according to your priorities. What is important to you guys on your wedding day? Serve lobster to your guests? Have a killer live band? An incredible venue with unforgettable views? Would you rather reduce the number of guests for you to have the wedding of your dreams? Or do you guys prefer to share your wedding day with everyone you know and take down a notch on food and other areas? It's a lot to consider.
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A good thing to keep in mind is to book your non-negotiable "must-haves" 12 months in advance, as they very likely will be the ones to be booked solid already if you wait too long.
I know that you might be thinking that I am not the best person to give you fashion advice, being a dude and all … but remember that I am an expert on what looks good on camera, and the most important thing you should keep in mind when choosing your e-photo session outfit is: how good this will make me look on camera.
As I mentioned before, your engagement photos can be used in several different ways, and it can suddenly become your invitation or the cover of your wedding day guest book. With that being said, it would be beneficial if you had your wedding theme and wedding color scheme already picked. If you haven't settled on that yet, you probably have a good idea of what color scheme you'll be more inclined to use on your wedding day. And that's where you start.
In my experience, neutral colors that complement each other will always look good and romantic, but your outfit should translate who you guys are as individuals, and also what kind of couple you are together without matching. If you plan on having a beach wedding, it will look out of place if you dress up for the Oscars.
With your wedding theme in mind, your photographer will probably suggest a few locations and times that he knows have the ideal conditions for engagement photos. As you pick your clothes, keep the backdrop in mind as well as you don't want to be wearing green floral if you choose to have your engagement shoot at the Botanical Garden.
At the end of the day, if you consider these tips and wear something that helps you be yourselves without clashing each other's outfit and the environment, you'll have an engagement photoshoot full of fun, calm, relaxed, and loving moments eternalized on camera.
Remember, your engagement phase is a unique period of your lives where you guys are madly in love and are not under the wedding day stress. Just be yourselves and let the photographer be a fly on the wall.
WHAT SHOULD YOU WEAR TO YOUR ENGAGEMENT SESSION
It is not because I'm a wedding photographer that I'm saying you should have an engagement session. Besides the fact that you'll be freezing one of the happiest and exciting times of your life forever, there are a series of cool practical uses for your engagement photos, and in the end, you'll be happy you did it.
By now, you are probably creating your wedding website if you haven't done it yet, and having your engagement photos posted on your website is an elegant way to announce your wedding plans.
You can also use your engagement photos to customize your "save the date" cards, have prints or canvases displayed on your wedding reception, and use them on souvenirs and invitations. Another idea is to have them as part of a slideshow played on your wedding day, use them to create a wedding guest book, share it on social media, and many other uses.
From a wedding photographer's point of view, it will make an enormous difference in terms of wedding images outcome if you get to know your photographer before the big day.
The e-session works as a wedding day photo session rehearsal. You have the chance to be alone with your fiancé in a more relaxed environment, away from your guests looking at you, and released from the time pressure of following the wedding day scheduled timeline.
Being at ease and looking natural as a couple under the camera's constant eye is not an easy task. Breaking the ice with your photographer will give you the necessary confidence and assurance that you guys will look chilled on your wedding photos.
You'll be able to ignore his presence, allowing him to eavesdrop your candid moments, registering your genuine emotions. And in case you would like to have traditional poses, you would have already practiced the ones you guys feel more comfortable, making you look like a pro on your wedding day!
WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE AN ENGAGEMENT SESSION
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From helping update your wedding website to tackling the invitations, running errands, making calls, doing research, being a witness on your marriage license, planning showers, and parties, and driving you to a vendor, to the very day of your wedding, you can count on your them as your “partners in crime.”
Your wedding party is an aid system that will be there for you before, during, and long after your wedding ceremony. These are the people that are most invested in your wedding day and your marriage, making sure you guys are not alone, and they do it all based on love and friendship being family members or not.
Your wedding party offers invaluable support on your wedding day and from my experience is the kind of support that a wedding planner cannot provide. I’ve seen bridesmaids say magical calming words to brides making their stomach butterflies disappear in thin air.
Make sure you acknowledge your wedding party’s dedication and patience during your wedding planning endeavor with a big thank you. They sure will appreciate you recognizing their efforts and contribution to your happiness. That is all they care about!
Should you hire a wedding planner or not? It is not a million-dollar question, but it can likely save you big bucks while giving you a massive piece of mine at the same time. Obviously, like everything in modern society, this and all the other hiring questions will be answered by your budget first, instead of by you.
However, based on my years of experience photographing weddings with and without planners, I can tell you first hand that wedding planners are usually highly talented and skilled multitasking individuals. Their main job is to hold your dream-wedding flag until everyone is gone, and no souvenir is left!
Wedding planners love what they do; therefore, they are typically heavily invested in every detail important to you and the commonly critical ones to keep the ball rolling on your wedding day.
Being part of the “backstage” team and working closely with them, I’ve personally witnessed a few near-disaster situations that were so majestically and quietly handled that neither the wedding couple nor the guests ever knew about it.
When I talked about engagement sessions, I suggested you should have your wedding theme set or at least the preferred color palette of your wedding, when choosing your outfit.
Remember, when I talked about hiring the best crew, your money can buy to make you dream a reality, turning your hypothetical movie a blockbuster? Well, now is the time to assemble your unbelievable crew, I mean wedding vendors that will take all the guessing game away from you and get the job done.
TIME TO PUT together YOUR WEDDING TEAM
You guys need to be prepared to invest some careful time on choosing the wedding venue since it will be the backdrop, scenario or set piece of your wedding, setting up the whole atmosphere from start to finish. Besides, it can be the item that will eat a good slice of your wedding cost.
A few critical things to consider when selecting your wedding venue are:
1. Do they let you bring your own vendors, or you have to use theirs? Some venues don't allow you to bring your own team. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure some of their vendors are very good, but you should have the flexibility to pick and choose your own if you don't like whom they offer for some reason.
2. Do they give customized package options allowing you to fit within your budget and wedding style? Again, elasticity is key when you are trying to cross all t's here. Having the venue as a blank canvas is your best option to achieve your dream wedding goals without upsetting your vision. A lot of wedding venues have the dining ware built-in in their price, but do you want to use it if it clashes with your wedding theme?
3. How about your guests? Will they fit comfortably? Your guests should have plenty of room to carry their drinks and lift their elbows to eat without knocking each other down.
And from a wedding photographer's perspective, I can tell you that you will always have more delightful reception and cocktail photos if we have more room to work with. I recently decided to stop working in a particular venue because they still allow too many people inside besides the fact that it is poorly lit, affecting the quality of the photos.
4. What is their contingency plan if it rains? No matter the season, time, or the day you are getting married, you should ... I repeat, you should always have a very well thought plan "b" for your wedding day in case Mother Nature comes to give her last-minute blessings.
5. How good and how effective are their air-conditioning and heating systems? Trust me on this one, if you don't ask they won't tell you!
6. How many bathrooms they have, and how close to the reception are they? I can't stress enough about it ...
7. Big wedding day tip: double-check your wedding date to make sure nothing major is going on in the city that day, close to your venue or even worse, in your venue. Major local events will dramatically impact your wedding in terms of access to the venue, parking, and outside noises.
8. Be aware of venues that are not easy to get in contact with, the person in charge is always too busy or gives you belated responses. They should be welcoming, flexible, and straightforward to talk to.
9. In this day and age, everyone reads everybody's online reviews, but amid the will-like wedding planning list of things to do, you might forget it. Don't.
Although these look like common sense pieces of advice, you'll be surprised to know how many couples only focus on getting a "cool place" and regret not getting to the nuts and bolts when choosing their wedding venue. These are just a few basics to consider to get you going on things to ponder.
If you chose to hire a wedding planner, they could give you other vendor referrals and recommendations of whom they think would be a good match for you based on your wedding style and personality. You can obviously do research on your own going online or ask your newlywed friends. With your wedding theme, colors, and vibe in hand, it should be pretty easy to narrow down the wedding venues that will fit the bill.
My advice is to hire the best caterer and/or order the best food your money can buy. If you cannot hire one, make sure that your Aunt Clair brings her best game on prepping your family’s favorite tidbits. It really doesn’t matter who is cooking as long as it is enough for everyone and of course, it has to be mouthwatering!
In case you want to hire a professional wedding caterer, I recommend you pay close attention to how interested they are in what you want and not the other way around. It can be scary to trust someone you never met to serve food to the people you care about at the greatest and most significant party of your life. That’s why your research here needs to be extra thorough and careful. Read ALL reviews, ask for references, call former clients, and of course, taste the food.
Food quality is sine qua non to your wedding reception’s triumph. Its presentation can be appealing to the eyes, but it all comes to freshness. Anything your guests savor should taste newly made and lip-smacking like it was just freshly done. Thus for that to happen, you need a veteran wedding caterer who’s experience guarantees precisely that.
I don’t know about you, but food is my favorite part when I go to celebrations, and more often than not, it’s a crucial matter that can be decisive in the success of your wedding reception. Think for a moment, and try to remember when you left a wedding telling your best friend, “OMG, the chairs were so comfortable and the décor’s color scheme, very pleasant to the eyes!”
As she replies, “This is nothing compared to the curtains, I went head over heels for it, stunning.” Let me guess? It never happened. The conversation was probably something like, “I am so stuffed! I couldn’t stop eating that little shrimp canapé. Did you try it? Gosh, they fed us so well, I can barely walk!”
Your bestie comes back with, “I know, right? I had no room left for the cake. Now, … that is a wedding!”
How did I do? I have a feeling I nailed it, simply because we all love to eat good food, and we all feel the same about it. That’s almost all we care about, at every single party we attend, so why would it be different when it comes to wedding food? It’s not.
Wedding food is prepared several hours before your guests will enjoy it, and until then, it can be transported, arranged, and manipulated a few times, so make sure that your wedding caterer delivers unspoiled scrumptiousness goodies every single time that tray comes out of the kitchen.
Your caterer should also create a menu that aligns with your wedding theme and vibe respecting your preferences and your guest’s nutritional limitations.
One crucial detail to consider is to make sure your caterer provides full wedding service, meaning – they bring the food, serve the food, and clean it all up afterward. Some not very reliable wedding caterers only deliver the food! Crazy, right?
Additionally, ask if your wedding caterer has a bar license. You might be able to kill two birds with one stone and avoid hiring another wedding vendor, which can make your life easier; however, it shouldn’t be a determining factor in hiring your caterer.
Last but not least, a highly professional caterer company should be literally invisible. That’s right. You and your guests should remember how yummy the food was, how unbelievably happy and beautiful you looked and what a great time they had and not how clumsy or rude a server was.
I understand it might seem that you haven’t done much, but you’ve accomplished a lot since he popped the question! You chose a date; you have a wedding budget on a spreadsheet and know who is paying for what, you have a guest list, and so do all your parents. If they are funding part of the wedding expenses, it’s not only customary but also fair to let them invite a certain percentage of guests.
Now is an excellent time to pick and choose your wedding parties such as the maid or matron of honor, bridesmaids, best man or woman, groomsmen, ushers, officiant, flower girl, ring bearer readers.
These roles are obviously the basic traditional ones. Depending on your religion, liking, family tradition, and wedding style, it’s very likely you’ll be adding or subtracting roles as you see fit.
At this point, having your wedding party assembled and confirmed is vital because no joke; you will be relying on them to perform a plethora of wedding-related chores. These are people you love and trust dearly to support and give you sound advice during this process.
WHAT SHOULD BE NEXT IN YOUR WEDDING PLANNING
With the right key players on your team, you are making sure that you are not only offering an unforgettable experience to your guests but also focusing on fraternizing freely with them, taking your wedding day all in with your new hubby. And that is priceless!
WEDDINg dj and musicians
From all the wedding vendors that you should be hiring by now (about 12 months out), wedding musicians and DJs are the "trickiest" to find.
When you hire a wedding photographer and wedding videographer, for example, you can actually see their work and talent printed on paper or online. The same happens to wedding planners, venues, and florists.
The ephemeral aspect of the musician's work makes it hard to register during an event, making comparisons a tricky task. The fruit of their labor simply disappears when the lights go off; therefore, you'll have to rely heavily on friend's recommendations, online reviews, and onsite performance visits.
Many professional wedding musicians have a demo of their work, though, but it is still not the same as witnessing a live recital.
From the get-go, I can say that having your wedding venue already locked in will help you narrow down a couple of things, such as the type of instruments they have onsite and how broad your wedding band can be. Remember that you'll have to decide what kind of music ensemble you want for your wedding ceremony and the same thing for your wedding reception.
Your wedding ceremony's overall atmosphere will be significantly influenced by the kind of music played and the instruments used. A string trio (1 cello and 2 violins) can create a classic, sophisticated ambiance, for example, where the acoustic instruments with its earthy sounds can lend an informal tone.
How about your wedding reception? You'll want a wedding band or a DJ? Or a combo of both? More on this later.
Not to get technical here, but acoustics play a big role when choosing your wedding music. Be aware of where your wedding ceremony and reception will take place. Is it indoors or outdoors? If outdoors, is it tented or out on the elements? Will it be speakers in place?
A ceremony near the ocean can be greatly affected by the sound of the waves if the water is a bit agitated that day, not to mention the wind. If it is indoors, how big is the room? Also, how many people you want the sound to reach?
Again, we know that your budget will guide many, if not all, of your decisions when hiring wedding vendors, and with wedding musicians, bands and DJs, it will not be different, so make sure you do your due diligence and read all the little details. From how many songs and hours they will perform to what kind of outfit they will be wearing.
Your wedding music will be an enchanted veil that gently weaves your wedding premise, bringing together your vision and evoking genuine emotions in everyone's hearts. Choose wisely.
Wedding Planning Timeline Checklist 1
- Engagement: announced
- Main date and two other possible ones: chosen
- Budget spreadsheet and who pays for what being: determined
- Wedding website, taking shape: maybe done
- Engagement ring: insured
- Guestlist: getting there
- Photographer and Videographer: locked in
- Wedding planner and other vendors: interviewing
- Flirting with dresses and styles: looking good
- Engagement photos: booked, done and delivered
- Decision between two favorite "Save the Date" card designs: done and ordered
- Wedding: insured
Wedding Planning Timeline Checklist 2
- Wedding Planner: already helping a lot
- Wedding venue for the ceremony: got THE one
- Wedding venue for the reception: happy with the choice
- Everyone loves the engagement photos (Vitor Lindo shot it, yeah!)
- Guestlist: closed and working on addresses
- Songs lists: hum ... though choices
- Wedding dress and the whole shebang: in the closet
- Honeymoon places and planning: narrowing down a dream list
- Wedding party attire and other things: chosen
- Hotel options for out of town guests: better hurry
- Wedding invitation and stationery: looking, looking, looking
- At least 3 gift registry stores: researching
Are you having fun with your wedding planning? I hope you are. While planning your wedding is an exhilarating time of your life, it can make you feel overwhelmed, and that’s why we are here for you even if you don’t hire me as your wedding photographer and/or your wedding videographer (although I would love to have the honor.)
Chin up lady, you got this! Let’s keep moving …
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Believe it or not, I am a flower guy. Yep! You read it right. I chose to live in the countryside of Savannah area because I always wanted to have orchards, grow herbs, vegetables and flowers, tons of flowers.
I do not consider myself an expert, and I'm no wedding florist though, nonetheless as you can see, from my personal experience, I am very familiar with the subject.
Wedding florists know their trade and their wedding flowers. Usually, they are on top of their game in terms of knowing what flowers will be available on and around your wedding day and season. As long as you do your homework and the wedding florist style matches the look you are aiming for, you can literally tell them what you want and trust they will come up with great designs for your approval.
You don't really need to know all the flower names like I do to get the wedding flowers you want and nail your meeting with your wedding florist. However, it will be helpful for you if you have your ideas previously organized in sketches, inspiration boards, or even on a series of photos put together from magazine clippings and Instagram posts.
The most essential thing you need to keep in mind when gathering clips and photos to show your wedding florist is your wedding theme and colors. Do you see a trend here? Once more, I'm always coming back to it because that's what will guide you through the process, narrowing down your options and objectively getting you to your final decision.
It's very common for brides to have a flawless idea about their dream wedding ornamented with immaculate flower arrangements and impeccable centerpieces, hand-painted in pristine romantic hues, just one or two tones darker than their dress color, with a hint of fuchsia and so on. You get the picture.
Stop for a second, take a breath, and rewind a bit. I hate to break it to you, but Mother Nature has the final say when it comes to wedding flowers. If you trust your wedding florist, she/he will deliver as close to your picture-perfect impression as it can be naturally possible (pun intended.)
Talking about flexibility … please be conscious that we wedding photographers and videographers do color correct our photos, so grasp the fact that what you see in magazines and on Instagram is Nature enhanced in "Technicolor." Keep that in mind, when you ask your wedding florist to find you "this exact hue!"
You noticed that I haven't mentioned your budget since it's obviously expected it will dictate what type of flowers, arrangements, bouquets, centerpieces, and décor you can or cannot allow.
Wedding flowers are an expensive, yet indispensable wedding item. According to their type and color, secular beliefs say that flowers symbolize beauty, purity, passion, abundance, and happiness. The list goes on, so it's common practice to spend about ten percent of your wedding budget on your flowers. Still, of course, nothing is set in stone. It's your wedding; you have permission to dictate the rules!
There you go, now you have an A-Team assembled and working around your wedding theme, color scheme likes and dislikes and probably communicating with each other towards fulfilling your dreamlike wedding. Get ready for your "red carpet" (I mean wedding) photos!
When choosing your wedding planner, I suggest you interview a few and choose the one that understands your style and what it’s essential to you in terms of overall feel and vibe. Consider someone who clicks with you on a personal level as this person will be the executive producer of your movie, aka wedding day. You are about 12 months away … if you don’t like them, it will be a rough ride.
Before interviewing a wedding planner, you should have all of this already decided so they can help enhance your vision with their ideas and give you an actual budget; otherwise, it will be a waste of everyone’s time. Also, knowing what you want will help you narrow wedding planners by style as many specialize in rustic or beach weddings, for instance.
My last piece of advice is for you to be extremely detailed about your likes, dislikes, and ideas and marry them, no pun intended. Things that might seem little to you frequently spark a chain reaction that can end up being heavy on your pocket and extra laborious to the wedding planner.
They handle the logistics of everything and aim for all to happen according to plan. Avoiding an eleventh-hour increase in the number of guests, for example, can definitely prevent the domino effect of needing more invitations, more tables, more food, more space, and more flower arrangements … you get the picture.
We put together a thorough list of the best wedding vendors in the South to help with your search. Enjoy!
- Hair and make-up: time to investigate and try ideas
- Catering: time to do some tasting
- How to get to and from wedding venues: choose and reserve
- Officiant: interviewing time
- Wedding invitation and stationery: pick and order thank you cards and elect the winner invitation once and for all
- Get together with the wedding planner (if you have one): reserve all necessary rental items
- Musicians, DJ’s and Songs: time to close the deal (songs too)!
- Best man wardrobe: done
- Bachelorette and Bachelor party: separate one weekend
WEDDING PLANNING TIMELINE CHECKLIST 3
Pat yourself on the back and enjoy your progress. The bulk of your wedding planning is done in terms of hiring the leading wedding vendors, and now it's time to concentrate on other details.
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I'm not going to lie to you and say that I'm the best person to talk about choosing the best makeup style and hairdo for your wedding day, but I sure can give you some pointers.
I've seen many brides have their wedding jitters sink below the floor and then their confidence catapult to the moon after having the right wedding hair and makeup done.
It's something very feminine about allowing yourself to be all dolled up and look your best to "give yourself" to your man. The "getting ready" moments when you are lost in reminiscence recapping why you are getting married to "this guy" and how your life will change from that day on, usually produce the best wedding photos.
In my humble opinion, as a guy and wedding professional, the right hair and makeup styles are the ones that make you feel more comfortable, enhances your beauty, and allows you to be yourself. If you usually don't wear much makeup, your wedding day is probably not the best day to try the new smokey eye's trend.
WEDDING MAKEUP AND HAIR
To avoid surprises and possible disasters, I strongly suggest you do a trial hair and makeup test with whoever will be working with you on your wedding day. Yep, the whole nine yards exactly how you want it. It's a well-spent small extra cost.
On the practical aspect, make sure that whatever style you choose, you won't be bothered about worrying if your makeup is melting or your hair decides to go home early.
Another detail is to keep your wedding theme in mind once more for obvious reasons. You don't want to have a loose hairdo style if your wedding is formal or if you are getting married at a windy seashore.
One important thing a wedding makeup artist and hairstylist can do for you on your wedding day is to be there on time and keep it on schedule. During your interview process, please pay attention to their punctuality and ability to keep things moving.
You don't want to have the whole production to be late because of one person, especially when several vendors get paid for specific hours of work.