"When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
-Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally
Pretty cool change of pace for this blog post. I'm excited to open up our blog today to my close friend Amanda Reed from Bates-Reed Brides. I have been so blessed to work along side her and her business partner Amy Bates for years with some of the most beautiful events I've ever seen. After years of us doing this together we thought we'd post about this wedding a little differently than we usually do. Heather + Jason's wedding day was amazing and the story definitely deserves to be told - however for once we're going to let the images do the talking and instead of go into all of the neat little things we love about the two of them, use this wedding as a chance to explain a few of the things they did SO right that set us all up for success. This last weekend was a beautiful day to watch two beautiful people get married. Read ahead for a few tips on things you might not be thinking when planning, shooting, or designing your wedding day! (Everything from this point on in italics is Amanda speaking.)
Co-written with my dear friend Amanda Reed from Bates-Reed Brides Everything in Italics is her viewpoint on these ideas!
1. Make the day long, the drama short, and the experience fun for everybody.
We harp on all of our couples about the idea of stretching out the memories. Sometimes months, even years of planning goes into crafting every single detail and we all want to make sure that every inch is captured. It’s so cheesy for photographers to get too hung up on all of these once in a lifetime things, but the reality here is that if you want a ton of candid photos you’ve got to stretch out the time that the photos are going to happen. I know you might picture all 6 of your girls and you standing in a room with perfect light and big beautiful laughs, but in reality getting that to happen may take a little more time than you’d think. So plan ahead to give plenty of time for all of the stuff that matters most to you. This is where careful planning and time management is essential. Maybe it seems like being in full hair and makeup at 11am for a 6pm ceremony seems ridiculous, borderline insane! But so many things happen in the hours leading up to (and immediately following) the "I-do's," it is vital that every minute is carefully accounted for! To us, the most important part of the whole day is your time with your fiance. This is a whole day about the two of you and even though the industry as a whole would have you believe that the wedding party and the family photos and even the decor are what will set your wedding day apart the photos that are most likely to make their way on your wall are the couple’s shots. Don’t let that part be an afterthought and don’t make an overly emotional decision about whether or not to do a first look. (sidenote: we have never had a couple say "Gee, I really regret choosing to do that first look. Those pictures just weren't all that great..."). Remember - the key here is timing. Time together, time of day, and enough time for organic and real emotion to settle in so that you guys don’t feel posed or rushed on such an important day. Throw two families, a dozen friends, and a few hundred personalities in one room and mix a couple of cocktails together and you’re bound to have at least a little bit of drama boiling just under the surface. If there’s one thing I’d suggest beyond anything else on your wedding day is that you set yourself up to enjoy it. Squash any awkwardness ahead of time, and then ignore it on the day of. This is a huge day for two people - and if you’re one of them just enjoy it!
One of the very best parts about this particular wedding was the willingness Heather + Jason had to just let us do our jobs. They simply wanted to enjoy the day and knew that we shared that priority so all of the photos and the timeframes were deliberately pretty generous, allowing time for those "stolen" moments to be some of the favorites we captured during the weekend. They made their lists of must-haves and handed them over to the professionals. YES Heather was dressed and ready several hours ahead of the weddings, and YES Jason saw Heather before she made her way down the aisle. But here’s the important thing to realize - when he saw her it was intimate, organic, and completely unscripted. He didn’t share that moment with 200 people and his anxiety didn’t get the best of him. He remembers every second of how she looked at him and how she looked to him and though Heather had an early morning with hair and makeup - she spent all day playing princess in a dress she only gets to wear once. This time spent together early in the day not only allowed them to kill the nerves, it also provided the setting for one of the most honest and emotional (and funny) ceremonies we have seen in a long time.
2. Take time to be together and give your planner time to surprise you with the design.
This piggy backs off of the last tip perfectly. But we’re not necessarily just talking about your couple’s session here. We’re talking about just time together in general. If you’re planning to spend the day celebrating you two committing your lives together, then why would you spend almost all day apart? So many couples make their way down the aisle and then are pulled here and there for the entire reception hugging their guests. The brides end up "Shaking it Off" on the dance floors and the grooms end up outside sampling the carefully crafted signature cocktails. If you want to look back on this day as the “best day ever” then find a way to share it. From your first look, through the ceremony, and at the reception experience the day together. Dance, laugh, hug, smile, and share every moment you can together. It’ll be better for the photos of course - but it’ll be better for the memories as well.
If you’re hiring a good planner it’s going to take them some time to do your vision justice. I’ve seen planners spend 8-10 hours setting up a room and the one thing that will slow them down more than anything else is a bride who’s trying to micromanage. I get that this is a huge investment and that it’s a big day but if you’re hiring a good planner make sure several weeks ahead of time that they know exactly what you want, and the areas that you want them to be creative and then on the day of - check out. Don’t even peek if you can help it! The greatest surprise in the world is seeing the art that is created when a room is transformed by a good planner. We get to see these moments week after week and this wedding in particular was a perfect example. Heather hired the best. The best florist. The best planner. The best venue. But we’ve seen all three of these things so many times that it takes a lot to surprise me. When I walked into the Great Hall at Crystal Bridges for this wedding I was blown away at the elegance and the creativity behind the design. I could tell that Heather had helped dream up the colors and the layout but could also tell that the team: Amanda (one of the best planners I've ever met) Steve (the lighting guru) and Tanarah (the florist extraordinaire) had been given quite a bit of room to be creative. If you love an artists’ work - try as much as you can not to get in their way and they’ll love you for it. Honestly, Heather and her mom (and to his credit, Jason) gave us an incredibly unique and sophisticated juxtaposition of a palette to work with but then literally handed it over and offered the greatest compliment I can receive as a designer - carte blanche. Tell me what you want, give me a clear illustration of what you love, and then trust me to make the executive decisions that will ultimately support the overall look and feel of the event you have been dreaming of. Did Heather have creative control? Absolutely! She picked out almost every single item in the space. But she afforded me the trust to fill in the blanks with lovely little unexpected surprises not even the bride herself saw coming!
3. Plan Plan Plan, until you let go and trust somebody to carry the weight so you can enjoy yourself.
This point picks up right where the last one left off. If you picture a wedding as simply choosing colors, your dress, a venue, and a dj you’re missing out on a lot. We see a few poor girls each year lose hair and gain wrinkles because they don’t realize how much work goes into a wedding until they’re about 90 days out and way behind. That's the beauty of a planner. Let them carry the worry, and help prevent the problems that can keep you up at night. No one needs those dark circles.
he reason wedding planners are expensive is because they are not only your liaison between all of your vendors (think general contractor in building a home) they’re also your expert, your shoulder to cry on, your reference for anything wedding, and often your punching bag (yup) should anything not go exactly right. In reality a lot of wedding planners don’t earn their keep - but there are a few that do. Hiring a planner should allow you to speak in broad ideas and have somebody hear you in fine details. All that said - there’s a lot of planning to do whether you’re planning a multi million dollar event, or squeaking by with less than $10k. The investment isn’t important here - that’s completely up to what you can afford. But what is important is that if this day means a lot to you, you hire people you trust to help you remember the things that matter. Don’t be mistaken, I adore jaw-dropping flowers and love eating amazing food. I love a good band or a killer dj and have a blast dancing the night away and I’m in no way suggesting that those are not important vendors. But I would say (and I think most of my vendor friends would agree) that your priority should be in two pretty simple things: Where you’re getting married, and how are you going to remember it. If you do enough planning up front all of the details will fall in place but the most critical thing here is that you know when to check out. Lay the groundwork early on, then trust that your planner is doing his or her job to execute the event of your dreams - the one you didn't even know you wanted! Loads of behind-the-scenes details happen in the last few months and weeks of the wedding, but those things are what the planner has to be concerned with. You should be off writing thank you notes for all your fabulous shower gifts!
The morning of your wedding isn’t a good time to go shopping. The reason it’s called a wedding day is because it’s a whole day. If you’re planning up until the time you walk down the aisle you’ll likely miss the moments that you can’t get back.
4. Light is everything. if your vendors can’t agree on light, your ideas will fall apart
Truth be told I could write a book about this point. But the overall idea is pretty self explanatory. The idea here is that for all of the ways brides “picture” their wedding feeling - what matters is how that “feeling” looks in pictures. We walk into weddings all the time where the chapel is full of candles and the ambiance is amazing. The problem is that our eyes can see things that a camera never can so taking time to dream up how your wedding day will look and feel through a lens is a pretty important step. All light isn’t about photos however and one of our favorite things to see when we walk into a room is light that literally exists just to set a mood. All too often “mood” lighting just means dark. But in reality colored lighting, light mapping, ceiling lighting, and even perfectly placed spot lights can give a room an entirely different feel even without the decor. Start by opening up some dialog with your photographer and your planner about how you want everything to feel. Then find a lighting expert that can bring those ideas to life in a way that doesn’t squash the photos! I am so guilty of this! There have been occasions where we worked so hard to set the perfect, romantic tone only to have the photographer (I'm looking at you, Miles) glare at me and just say, "No." A tremendous part of my job is understanding everyone else's job and helping them to create the very best product possible, so I am constantly absorbing what may seem like odd tidbits from all my vendor friends - ask me about the five different terms for one type of light bulb, an obscure variation of a specialty orchid, how to properly wrap a floral stem or sear a lamb chop... Am I hoping to up my Trivial Pursuit score? Sure, but I am really asking all these questions to make certain I have a broad understanding of what they do, and what makes them successful, so that I can offer that to them. That being said, lighting is one of those tricky elements I have to consider when designing and planning for an event. Dark pictures are dark pictures whether on your iPhone 6+ or a fancy $10,000 Nikon. And you don't want pictures taken on the Nikon to look like they were taken on an iPhone!!!
5. Plan to be on time all day but schedule plenty of time to do nothing.
It’s an amazing part of a wedding day when you get to that place on the schedule that says “drink wine and laugh." The key here is making sure that time is actually scheduled. So many brides picture their wedding as a day full of laughing with friends and having fun but without a schedule built out to allow it so many weddings end up being a check list of to-do’s. You won’t ever see us griping about time with our couples, but I will say with 100% conviction that the weddings that have extra time have better photos. This wedding was a kind of perfect example of time. Up until just a few days before this wedding we were editing and tweaking the schedule to get everything in but what we managed to pull off was beautiful. 3 photo locations, a first look and couple’s session, family photos, and plenty of down time all before the ceremony started. The amazing part about scheduling a day like this : not only was the entire morning a blast but Heather + Jason got to enjoy some alone time during the cocktail hour instead of bombarded by family photos. There are lots of little "stolen moments" I try so hard to schedule in the planning of a wedding day. Few couples understand until they experience the fast pace of a long wedding day how important those moments are. You are pulled in a million different directions by a million different people for a million different reasons. Allow yourself some time to breathe, take a bite of that spectacular dinner you so carefully curated and paired with that perfect Cabernet, and just enjoy the view (even if it is a broom closet)! You're married, and this is your night!!!