Planning a wedding day is no easy feat! One of my main goals as your wedding photographer is to help you prepare with a sense of peace and to help you plan accordingly. So I provide a welcome package with an 80 page guide, my monthly bridal newsletter, sample timelines, robust communication and more. I also like to provide a preferred list of wedding professionals whom I know are reliable, serve well and provide a top level of product and service. As a Charlottesville Wedding Photographer (and beyond!), I work with wonderful professionals in the area who love to serve as a part of a team, working together to help make your day special.
When it comes to choosing those things, I have listed ten factors to consider when planning as well as hiring the folks you want to serve you on your wedding day.
(Lindsey and Reid at Brandy Hill Farm)
I think it goes without saying that this is my first area of priority. Big surprise! As a photographer, wife and mother, I can confidently tell you that the photographer is the most important hire of the day. You want someone experienced because you never know what weather, lighting or family/guests scenarios might pop up. A photographer with the right equipment is essential. I use full frame digital cameras and a medium format film camera as well as top of the line lighting equipment including strobie units to keep that natural lighting feel even indoors during the reception.
(a little before sunset at Megan and Chris’ Winchester Wedding!)
Another key factor is education. Online training and self-training is good. But as a former teacher, I can’t stress enough how in-person training and some formal education makes a huge difference in knowing how light works, all the technical aspects of photography and how it all comes together. Some other aspects that come into play is how the photographer interacts with your guests, how you connect with him/her and interpersonal and other people skills. A good photographer needs to think fast under pressure, position large groups quickly, stay calm and joyful and have an arsenal of prompts, organic movements, suggestions and other ways to engage you as a couple and individually during photographs.
(Kristen and Alex’s Wedding Party at Airlie)
Some of my couples spend 10% of their budget on me and some spend 80% of their budget on me…all in all, they each value the photography. A few stats regarding the couples who hire me:
(Katie and Dan’s Five Year Anniversary Session at The Gardens at Waterperry Farm)
I love photos of the bride and her ladies preparing for the big day as well as the groom and his men enjoying time together before the “I Do’s.” When considering your wedding venue, it helps to look at the rooms you will be preparing in. Some of the most fun and very sweet moments take place in these rooms. So it helps to have some natural lighting flooding in (although I do bring the light as well!).
(Alyce at the Bridal Suite at the Inn at Mount Vernon Farm)
Also essential, is to have the room clean and without clutter (remind your bridesmaids before the big day of this!). It certainly helps to also have enough room to move around in comfortably. I provide a comprehensive list of all the details you need to have on hand waiting for me in this room when I come to greet you and having a place for these is also important.
(Detail of a freshly cleaned ring!)
This is so very important. It is one of two things I wish I had done differently on my wedding day (although it was perfect!). Hiring an experienced, insured, reliable and reputable day-of-coordinator and/or planner is worth every penny. Not having to be concerned about the details of the day and not burdening friends and family members with this responsibility is such a key factor to really enjoying your day and making sure they do too!
(This amazing set up at Early Mountain Vineyards was possible with the coordination and planning provided by Main Street Weddings along with the amazing cater Roadside Chive and florist/planner The Posey Detail…it takes a team!)
So this is the other thing I wish I had done differently on my wedding day and for many reasons. I loved my hair…a talented friend did it. But I decided to do my own make up because I wasn’t a “make up person” and didn’t want it to look unnatural. So I ended up spending money on high end make up that I never wore again and I ended up looking paler than normal. Arg. I could have spent the same amount of money to be pampered, maybe get some false lashes and guess what????…look more natural!
(Hair design from Salon E’mage with florals from Good Earth Flowers)
Another huge component of this is YOUR WEDDING DAY TIMELINE. A good hair and make up artist has you ready on time or early. If he or she doesn’t have the experience needed to do a great job on time, then it alters your timeline for the entire day. A trial run is also highly recommended and you can do that on the day you do bridal portraits!
(Megan’s soft, ethereal look is courtesy of Yisell Santos Hair and Make Up)
Gorgeous florals involve so much more than folks are often aware of and your florist works hard to make sure they are hearty and beautiful. The most important thing to remember is to find a florist you TRUST. If you don’t have as much of a budget for florals as you wish, a great florist can help you by taking your color palette and creating something beautiful.
(Bouquet by Good Earth Flowers)
And the most important thing is YOUR BOUQUET. I can do soooooo much with it in our photos!
(Bouquet by The Posey Detail)
This may sound trite, but comfy shoes are a MUST on your wedding day. If you are accustomed to wearing heels and pumps, then go for it! But if you are a flats girl, don’t try and get used to those high heels in a hurry. It won’t be fun on the actual day. A few tips if you want a heeled look but can’t imagine actually doing it: First, look into kitten heels where the heel is small and it begins in the center of the heel bed, not the very back end. Second, consider wearing heels JUST for portraits and then ditching them the rest of the day!
Catering. First, let me begin by saying that when pricing a date night quality meal, first think about what it would cost you to go to a swanky place, have a couple of drinks, order a couple appetizers, a full meal and possibly dessert. Then add in the tip. Now imagine that same quality and price, only all the wait and cooking staff is also now bringing all that food to an off-site location in their vehicles with all their gear. It would definitely cost more than a couple of Alexander Hamiltons per person, right?
(Roadside Chive always delivers some amazing appetizers…all their food tastes as good as it looks and the staff are as sweet as pie!)
The age old saying is true here…you do get what you pay for…and a catering company is a business run and staffed by people who need to make a living and support their families as well. So don’t be surprised by what you initially may think is a high price tag. Whether you have a plated meal or a buffet, you need adequate staffing as well to clear plates, provide drinks, etc. I will say it again…take a close look at your guest list. Who are you inviting that will still be in your life five or ten years from now? Those are probably the folks who might make the list when consider the cost of feeding them well!
(Lizzie and Josh served a family style meal from Reid’s Cafe and Catering at their High Country wedding.)
This is a tricky area. Sometimes couples just want a low budget videographer just to get the RAW footage of the ceremony. I totally understand that. I mean, we have a pretty decent video from our wedding day from a professional. Of course, it’s nothing like what you see now, but still…we NEVER watch it. We do, however, look at the photos much more…especially the ones on the wall.
That being said, a lower budget videographer has risk involved. They may be too intrusive with too many videographers with little experience, greatly impeding your wedding day timeline and making you feel like you have an unwanted paparazzi. In my opinion, if you are going to have videography at all, get someone good, with great experience, whom you really like. Otherwise, set up a small camera (not in the way of the photographers!) and make a simple home video of the ceremony. I recommend three outstanding videographers!
(Kristen and Alex’s Wedding Day video can be seen here…as well as a flash of lightning not caught by my camera!:
OK…so you may think this seems out of place. But seriously, folks…isn’t a thank you note just the perfect touch to thank your guests? I LOVE getting thank you notes from my clients and love it when they include a photo too! If you work with a calligrapher or printer, then they can help make this much easier for you as far as addressing things go, too. It is absolutely worth asking! And this Charlottesville Wedding Photographer loves some paper and stationery products!
(Beth and Chris’ Invitation Suite was stunning thanks to Mayla Studios…and can you just picture a thank you note?!)
(A well addressed envelope is well received thanks to Farmstead Design Studio!)
There are so many different styles of DJs ranging from polite and quiet to highly engaging. I have some excellent recommendations and I love to help my couples hire just the right style for them and for their budget. Your planner should also a wiz at this as well…matching you with the right style DJ for your day is important!
I hope this helps you plan, prioritize and consider the things that make the day special!! Happy Planning!
And check out this older blog post on Designing the Day: Five Strategic Planning Tips to Make Your Wedding Day Photos Fuller and Stretch Your Dollar Further.
Michelle Lieb with Lieb Photographic is a Virginia Wedding Photographer, Charlottesville Wedding Photographer, Culpeper Wedding Photographer, Fredericksburg Wedding Photographer, Washington DC Wedding Photographer, Phoenix Wedding Photographer, Destination Wedding Photographer and a wedding photographer in the surrounding areas.