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Wedding Planning Tips

You are now engaged! Congratulations! Now, what do you do? Book a hall? The church? A DJ? Find a dress? It can be so overwhelming! The moment you tell someone you are engaged they are suddenly a wedding planner and each one has some different you MUST do right away!

As a professional Wedding Photographer, I have personally photographed over 400 weddings. As a studio owner, I have planned over 1000 weddings. We are here to help. Here are some insider planning tips to help you plan the Stress-Free Wedding of your Dreams!

There are two stages to wedding planning. The actual research part. Looking for your vendors, reading reviews, booking appointments, going to tasting etc. Then there is the actual day of planning. What time should hair and makeup start? How long does it take to go from your church to your venue? How long do family photos take? I am going to break down part 1, which is the Booking Your Vendors, and part 2 which is Making a Plan. To help guide you to planning your stress-free wedding.

Booking your Vendors:

Here is a list of the big vendors used on a typical wedding day, as well as an approximate time frame when you should book these vendors.

1st Venue (Book this Vendor about 1 - 2 years prior to wedding)

Venues get booked up very fast and they have limited availability, without this having your venue and a date locked in, you can’t move forward with any other vendor.

2nd Dress (Try to have a dress about a year prior to your wedding)

Most people do not know this, but it can sometimes take up to 9 months from the moment you select your dress to receive it. It is a good idea to start looking at wedding dresses sooner rather than later.

3rd Church (Book this Vendor about 1 - 2 years prior to wedding)

Churches get just as booked up as the Venue. They have limited availability as well but can perform multiple ceremonies per day. Also, without a locking in a time for your ceremony, you can’t plan the rest of your wedding day properly.

4th Photographer (Book this Vendor about 1 - 1½ years prior to wedding)

Photographers and Videographers are arguably one of the most important vendors of your day. A skilled Photographer & Videographer will be one of the first vendors booked aside from your venue and church. To ensure you have the Photographer or Videographer of your choice I would lock in your photographer at least a year in advance.

5th DJ / Band (Book this Vendor about a 1 year prior to your wedding)

Your DJ / Band will determine if your wedding is a fun event your friends and family will talk about for years to come. Or a snooze fest where everyone sat at their table all night. Just like your photographer, a skilled performer is going to get booked up earlier than a nonskilled entertainer. The earlier you book, the better chance you have of getting the best DJ/MC the company has instead of the last guy on their list.

6th Florist (Book this Vendor about 8 months prior to your wedding)

Flowers are either very important to you or not important at all. Some people spend thousands of dollars and some spend as little as possible. A florist is not like a Professional Wedding Photographer or a Professional MC, they are more of a product. Yes, you need skilled Florist to come up with beautiful centerpieces and the right combination of certain flowers to get the desired effect/feel but they can do put together many arrangements per day and do multiple events per day. With that being said, you still want to give them ample time to get in the specific flowers so you want to book this vendor about 8 months or so prior to your wedding.

7th Limo (Book the Vendor about 6 months prior to your wedding)

Unless you are booking a specifical limo, or need some type of very specific party bus Limos are typically one of the last vendors you book for your wedding. The prices vary greatly from company to company, my best advice for you is to shop around, choose a company that has good reviews and tries not to overpay. On a side note, a limo company that has an on premises auto mechanic is a good choice because they do all of the upkeep in the house.

There are always going to be other things you have to do for your wedding such as send out Invitations, choosing favors etc. These are usually left for almost dead last on the list of importance and can be booked/purchased inside the 6-month mark.

Also, this should go without saying, but you do get what you pay for more times than not. If you find a wedding DJ that is willing to DJ and MC your event with lights and all of the trimmings for a really cheap price, chances are they are crappy. Think about it, if you are a skilled professional, you are going to be pretty sought after. Why would you sell your services so cheap? Now, I am not saying to go out and pick the vendor with the highest ticket prices because prices do not equal quality. I am just saying to compare a few vendors and see what a reasonable price is. That price is going to vary state to state so do your research and don’t just pick someone that has a low price tag. Because then all of this planning is really worthless if you pick less skilled non-professional vendors that are going to mess up your wedding.

The Planning Stage:


Time is going to be the number one factor when trying to plan your wedding day. Not enough time for hair and makeup to do their job will result in you running late to your church. Not enough time to take your wedding photos will result in you missing cocktail hour. There are 24 hours in every day, and when planning your wedding, you need to make sure that each one is used to its utmost potential.

Every wedding is different. Some have churches, some have first revealed. Some weddings everything from the getting ready to the reception is done in one location, others have 5 locations. What does this mean? It means there is no cookie cutter way of saying this is how long everything should take.

Each vendor is going to need a certain amount of time to do their job. You are going to need to sit down with each vendor and ask outright, how much time are you going to need? Then plan your day accordingly. After planning 1000 weddings, I always air on the side of caution. Whatever time they are going to need, add in more time just in case.

After you have the approximate time, that each vendor is going to need to accomplish their duties, talk to your photographer. They are going to be able to help you coordinate your day so you get the most out of it. Why your photographer? Am I saying this because I am a photographer? Kinda, but the truth is, your hair and makeup person does her job and leaves. Your limo driver does his job and leaves, your DJ shows up almost at the end of your day. Your photographer is the one that is going to be with you ALL day long. He is going to be able to take all of the information from your other vendors and help you put together a timeline that works, not just for the beginning of the day, but until the last song plays.

I hope this helps you get on the right path to planning your stress-free wedding day.

Here is the number 1 biggest mistake when planning your wedding.

Not Sticking to Your Wedding Budget

Before you can make your magical wedding dream a reality, there needs to be a wedding budget. Wedding budgets are often abused during the planning process, but you still need to work out the details of a budget before you begin.

The “how much are you going to spend” question is part of every prospective bride’s narrative. And while you likely aren’t making the decision by yourself, it is still one aspect of a wedding that can get out of hand very quickly. If you aren’t disciplined and aren’t paying attention, costs can skyrocket, and this kind of stress won’t end when the sun sets on your wedding day.

Set a Wedding Budget and Stick to It

Setting a budget isn’t necessarily a challenge for most people, but the “stick to it part” is another matter entirely. If you find that you are continually upgrading elements of your wedding because it’s a once in a lifetime thing or it’s your dream, you may blow through the budget long before everything is completed.

It’s important to come up with a number that won’t put you and your new spouse in debt right from the start. Make an overall budget, and then allocate funds to different areas, so you can easily keep track of what you’ve been spending.

Open Communication All the Way

During the wedding planning process, one of the biggest points of contention between couples is often the wedding budget. One thinks it should be a simpler wedding to save because you’ll still be just as married as anyone else, while the other wants opulence and extravagance because this is their once in a lifetime day to celebrate their union.

There is no right answer, but it is wise to communicate openly throughout the process to avoid conflict and have the best wedding for both of you. This is also a good opportunity to practice how you will handle finances in your married life.

Give It a Trim, If Necessary

The “when in doubt, cut it out” principle probably won’t apply to most aspects of your wedding, but there should be some areas that can be trimmed without affecting the overall feel of the wedding. This is especially true if you encounter additional expenses that might take you over your budget.

Have a Slush Fund Built Into the Budget

There is no doubt that you will encounter unexpected expenses while planning your wedding. It is inevitable, and it is also something you can plan for in the beginning. When you create your budget, have some extra built in for incidentals because it’s never a good idea to try and budget down to the penny. A built-in slush fund will relieve stress and if you don’t end up using it, you’ll have some extra once the wedding is over.

Have You Read Your Wedding Vendor Contracts Carefully?

The thing about vendor contracts is, they are just that…a contract.

And just like any other contract, they will dictate the duties and responsibilities of each party as it pertains to the services provided. When it comes to wedding vendor contracts, many couples make the mistake of not reading them thoroughly, which sometimes has a negative outcome.

So, that is the first order of business. Whether it’s you or someone close to you that you delegate, make sure the contracts are read thoroughly and understood before proceeding. Here are some important aspects to consider about wedding vendor contracts:

What Are You Responsible For?

Determining the responsibilities of you and the wedding party is something you need to know. There can’t be any “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts” when it comes to who is responsible. This especially true when it comes to the venue, where they will have more responsibility than with other vendors.

What If Something Isn’t Right?

It’s nice to think that everything will work out perfectly through the entire wedding planning process and the execution, but reality may prove otherwise. Things don’t always go according to plan, so make sure there are contingencies and concessions built in to your contracts that cover any mishaps. Possible issues may include the wrong flowers being delivered, your hair & make-up not being able to start when you need them too, your limo not working properly, or turnaround time for your wedding photos.

Make Sure Your Venue Can Accommodate the Vendors

In the contract with your venue, make sure there is wording in there that allows for vendors to show up early if needed. Sometimes, florists will want to get there early to place flowers, DJs might want to set up or your wedding cake may need to be stored for a length of time.

Read the Fine Print

Whatever you do, don’t assume anything and always read the fine print. Your wedding vendors aren’t out to make your life miserable, but they are concerned with protecting themselves, which often comes at the expense of the other party.

Ask Questions

And if you are unsure of anything, don’t be afraid to ask questions or to ask for help. The language in even the most basic contract can seem confusing; so ask for clarification if needed. That way, you can feel confident that all the details are as they should be and you can continue planning your wedding with peace of mind.

What You Need to Know About Your Wedding Rehearsal

Your wedding rehearsal is a perfect opportunity to run through the ceremony before the big day; making sure everyone knows where they need to be at each moment and working out any kinks ahead of time. Here are some important points to cover during your wedding rehearsal:

Processional & Recessional

The processional (entrance) and recessional (exit) are two of the more important components of your wedding, and two you definitely want to get right. Many experienced wedding planners believe that the rehearsal should start in the middle, when everyone is already in place in the church or venue. This way, everyone can get the feel of where they need to be during the ceremony right from the start.

After it’s clear where all the people should be, then you can practice the recessional, covering the order in which everyone should leave. The processional can be practiced last, which should be easy now that everyone knows where they need to be for the ceremony. You will just have to figure out the order when entering the venue, but the placement will already be figured out.

The Seating Plan

Determining the seating plan ahead of time makes the rehearsal process easier, and will help the ceremony flow when it’s the real thing. There are several possibilities when it comes to seating everyone at your wedding, but you will want to make sure both sets of parents can see the faces of the bride and groom during the ceremony. Ideally, all close family members should be able to see your faces as you exchange vows.

Talk It Out

During the rehearsal, as you go through the ceremony draft, make a point of reading the headings out loud. This way, everyone in attendance will have an idea of the order of the ceremony. It will also help remind you to include any items that need to be there during the ceremony, like tables or candles. It’s probably a good idea not to read the vows during the rehearsal so they will be fresh and exciting on the wedding day.

Feel Free to Bend the Rules

If you aren’t interested in following a traditional wedding ceremony, feel free to mix things up and make it your own. The rules that state where everyone should sit and the order in which things should happen aren’t set in stone. If you have been following your own personality during the rest of the planning process, why stop at the rehearsal and ceremony?

What You Should Know About the Wedding Registry

The practice of giving and receiving wedding gifts should be about love, but it often ends up in confusion and disappointment. If your wedding guests are left to their own devices when it comes to choosing a gift, they will often select something they would want, without taking your needs into consideration.

And while the gesture may be heartwarming, having a roomful of gifts you have no use for is never a good thing.

Luckily, you can avoid this kind of situation and miscommunication by creating a wedding registry.

Should You or Shouldn’t You?

There is no right or wrong answer to the “should you or shouldn’t you” question. However, in the interest of having the wedding of your dreams and creating wonderful memories that will last the rest of your life, a wedding registry makes a lot of sense.

When you register at a specific store or through an online service, you are helping your guests by guiding them toward gifts you will truly love. You are also helping yourself by ensuring the gifts you receive will be in line with the overall tone and feel of the rest of your wedding.

Helpful Wedding Registry Tips

Far from being greedy or presumptuous, a wedding registry simplifies a process that’s going to take place anyway and makes it far more efficient. Here are some tips to ensure everything goes off without a hitch:

  • Register as early as possible for people that want to buy gifts early

  • Think outside the box and register somewhere that’s true to your personality

  • Make sure the process of the registry you choose is easy and hassle-free

  • Take stock of what you already have and what you need

  • Feel free to over-register and choose more gifts than guests to give them more choices

  • Know your guests and make sure the gifts you choose are within their budgets

  • Let your guests know in a tasteful way and include the info on your wedding website

  • Make it clear what you want so there is no confusion

Receiving Money

If you decide to forgo a traditional gift registry and would rather receive money as gifts, make sure you give the money a purpose. When you don’t have the money earmarked for as specific purpose, it’s very easy to use it for other things and watch as it dwindles without really doing anything meaningful with it. Whether it goes toward a down payment for a new house, a car, home furnishings or the honeymoon, give it a specific job to get the most out of it.

Making a Charitable Donation

More and more couples are choosing to use their wedding gifts as a way to give back through charitable donations. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, choose two charities; one that is close to your heart and one close to your partner’s heart and then let your guests decide.

When you get the wedding registry part right, it helps maintain that warm and fuzzy feeling and keeps the flow of your wedding process moving right along.

Are You Ready for Your Honeymoon?

As your wedding day draws closer, you will likely find yourself looking forward to the honeymoon, when you finally get to spend time alone with your new spouse. This will be your first time together as a married couple, and while some couples skip the honeymoon to save money, there are some tangible benefits to having one.

There is also the option of having a ‘minimoon’, which is a growing trend amongst newlyweds.

Reasons to Have a Honeymoon

If you’re wondering why to have a honeymoon at all, there are some compelling reasons why it’s a good idea. Firstly, it’s your first time together as a married couple, and even if you’ve been living together before the wedding, things are different now. It’s nice to get away from the rest of the family and your friends and spend time together.

Another reason for a honeymoon is to finally be able to exhale and relax after all the months of planning. Even if your wedding planning went smoothly, it was still hectic and there were ups and downs along the way. A honeymoon is the perfect transition from all of that activity to your new married life.

Where Should You Go?

If you are like many new brides, you will have picked out your honeymoon destination long before the wedding, possibly even before you were even engaged. If you haven’t already made a choice, then this is the ideal time to pick that dream destination you’ve always wanted. It may be a tropical island or a historic city, just make sure it’s what you want and is going to make you happy.

Introducing the Minimoon

The minimoon is a concept that has been growing in popularity for a number of reasons. A minimoon is similar to a honeymoon; only it is for a shorter time and closer to home. Typically, you’ll take a long weekend and spend it close to home, but not so close that you don’t know you’re “away”. A quaint bed and breakfast is a good example of where you may spend a minimoon after your wedding.

Benefits of a Minimoon over a Honeymoon

If you are all about tradition and want that full honeymoon, then by all means don’t let anything stand in your way. You’ve earned your one or two weeks away, and you should enjoy yourself. However, if you are intrigued by the minimoon idea, here are some benefits of making your getaway shorter and closer to home:

It’s Cost Effective – Naturally, a few nights away will cost considerably less than two weeks of luxury accommodations. Many couples see minimoons as the best of both worlds, where you can still get away and relax, but not have it cost a lot of money.

It’s More About the Time Together – While honeymoons are often focused more on the destination, a minimoon is more about the time spent with one another. With a shorter period of time and no exotic locale distracting you, the time is more about being together and you can just focus on each other.

A Honeymoon Coming Attraction – Some couples use the minimoon as kind of a lesser version of a honeymoon because a full honeymoon isn’t in the budget at that time. If you’re in that position, a minimoon makes a great stand-in as a getaway after the wedding before you can afford a longer getaway later on.

There’s Less Pressure for Perfection – Much like the wedding, it’s not uncommon for brides to have very high expectations when it comes to the honeymoon. From the destination to the room views to the food and drinks to the weather, everything needs to be just right. With a minimoon, you can relax your expectations and just enjoy your short time away.

Focus on Just Relaxing – On a minimoon, you won’t feel that you need to take part in every single activity that’s available. Much of the time, a newly married couple is even more tired after the honeymoon is over. A minimoon allows you to focus on clearing your mind because there usually isn’t a lot of other stuff to do.

A Good Transition – Instead of adding yet another major event onto your wedding schedule, a minimoon is a good way to start fresh and really get ready for your new lives together. They can act as the ideal gateway between the hectic activity of your wedding planning and settling into your new lives as a married couple.

Tips for Creating Your Wedding Website

Sharing your wedding day with friends and family as it happens is always special, but so is sharing special moments of your journey after the fact. In today’s digital world, you aren’t just limited to that one wedding album that is only brought out when people come to visit.

Now, you can create your very own wedding website so anyone that wants to, can browse through your photos and see how your day unfolded. The thought of creating a website may be intimidating for some people, but if you follow some basic steps and find a quality website creator, you’ll have a wedding website that makes you proud.

Reasons for a Wedding Website

Having a wedding website is a great way to share your wedding pictures with a wide range of people. It’s also incredibly convenient, as anyone can see them in the comfort of their own home whenever they like. If you have family that lives far away, being able to see your pictures anytime they want will be comforting if they miss you and want to feel that connection.

Common DIY Wedding Websites

There are a handful of websites creators you can use that will do the trick your goal is to share wedding pictures online. This is a decision that doesn’t require a ton of thought or research. Some options are free and some have both free and paid versions, but if you choose one that seems like it will work for you and has features that will appeal to you, then get started. Here are some of the most common ones:

Tips for Creating Your Wedding Website

Whether you are going to do all the work yourself or have someone else create your wedding website, here are some tips that will help you get the best results:

Know your limitations – If you just aren’t tech savvy, even with a DIY website, let someone else do it or ask for help.

Show off your personality – Use the features of the platform you choose to really show off your unique personality traits and make the website about you.

Make it easy to navigate – Most DIY websites have built-in navigational tools, but make a point of keeping the pages organized, uncluttered and easy to move around in.

Keep it conversational – You may or may not include any text in with your photos, but if you do, keep it light and conversational. This isn’t the place to be stuffy and formal. Just write how you speak.

Let your guests upload – If possible, allow your guests to upload images from your wedding that they took.

What You Need to Know About Changing Your Name

Although it’s customary for the bride to take her new husband’s last name after they are married, it isn’t a custom you need to follow if you don’t want to. More than ever, newlywed brides are keeping their maiden name or hyphenating, and it’s completely up to you how you want to proceed.

Here are some tips on the process and a couple of reasons why you should or shouldn’t.

Why You Should

Some of the pros of changing your last name after getting married include:

  • If you prefer your partner’s last name

  • To have one family name for everyone

  • Keeping with the tradition of marriage

  • To show how much you care about your partner

Why You Shouldn’t

Some of the reasons you do not want to change your last name after getting married include:

  • Your current name has a reputation behind it you don’t want to lose

  • You disagree with the historical reasons for changing it

  • You feel like you’d be losing part of your identity

  • You want to avoid the paperwork required

  • You don’t care for your partner’s last name or love your current one

Places You Need to Change It

If you are part of the “yes” group when it comes to changing your name, there are quite a few different places that you will need to change it. You will need a copy of your marriage license, which will be required to change your social security card. The number remains the same, but the name will change. You can mail in an application or visit your local office and fill out the paperwork.

You will also have to visit the DMV and get an updated version of your driver’s license. For this, you’ll likely need your current license, marriage license and new social security card. Some of the other changes that will need to be made include:

  • Bank accounts

  • Credit cards

  • Your employer

  • Landlord or mortgage company

  • Insurance companies

  • Utility bills

  • School or alumni associations

  • Doctor’s office

  • Dentist

  • Passport office

  • Attorneys

  • Investment accounts

  • Voter registration office

The list is a long one, but once they have all been completed, you will be established with your new name and you can begin your married lives as a family. There are also a variety of online services that can assist you with your name change activities for a fee.

How to Get Your Marriage License in New York State

Getting your marriage license is a crucial step in the process to make your marriage official. It’s required to change your name with various government agencies and like many other parts of your wedding, there is a bit of a process to get it.

If you live in the New York State area, here are some guidelines that will help:

Is There a Fee?

The current fee for a marriage license in New York is $35. You can pay by money order payable to the City Clerk or by credit card. A marriage license in New York State remains valid for 60 days, unless one of you is an active member of the military, in which case it’s 180 days. Your license can be used anywhere within the state, but not outside of New York.

Basic Outline of the Application Process

Here are some of the basics of the application process and what you can expect:

  • You can start the application online by visiting here, which will speed up the in-person part.

  • You must visit the Office of the City Clerk with your partner in person and together, regardless of whether you start the process online or not.

  • You can’t anyone else to fill out the application on behalf of either partner.

  • The application must be completed in the office and it will be processed while you wait.

  • Be sure to read it carefully so there are no mistakes.

  • Once you receive the marriage license, you must wait at least 24 hours before you actually get married.

Your Sworn Statement

The marriage license application is an affidavit, where you are making a sworn statement that there aren’t any legal impediments to the impending marriage. You have to list any prior marriages, including the date of your divorce (s) and your previous spouse’s full name. Any annulments or divorces need to be finalized before you can obtain a marriage license.