Learn From Our Decades of Experience as Wedding Photographers
As a wedding photography and cinematography studio, we get married every weekend in Philadelphia.
Planning a dream wedding is a difficult task, but from our experience, the best weddings have the most preparation. There are many factors to consider when gathering hundreds of families and friends to celebrate your love! A wedding is the most beautiful day of your life, so take every detail into consideration.
Wedding photographers anticipate the moment when capturing emotional photos. Wedding planning involves anticipation, too. Since most couples are novices to the wedding world, they often forgo details that would make the event much better.
Though you may encounter obstacles, all weddings are different because the love that shapes them is different. Follow our guide of tried-and-true wedding planning tips to improve your big day.
1. Start as soon as possible.
Get the ball rolling!
Other couples are locking in dates and committing to vendors as you read this. Starting as soon as possible allows you to plan better. Find a day that works for you and your fiancé to organize a plan, research wedding ideas, and find inspiration.
Couples that linger on wedding planning may encounter some dysfunction. Booking venues and vendors is near impossible when your wedding is just around the corner. Start right now and start thinking deep into the future if you want your dream wedding to come alive.
2. Make a guest list.
Type a numbered guest list on your computer because you’ll need to edit it.
Each spouse should write a list of their closest family members, extended family, and friends. When you both finish your separate lists, add them together to get the total number of guests at the wedding.
Ask yourself the honest question: who will probably miss it? Highlight their names and subtract this total number to find an average range of guests attending the wedding.
Knowing this range will narrow your wedding venues options.
3. Choose a best man, maid of honor, groomsman, and bridesmaids.
As a couple, compile a wedding party from your most trustworthy friends and family. Choose a best man and a maid of honor that you can rely on to help you throughout the wedding day. Typically, the maid of honor carries the bride’s dress train, coordinates other bridesmaids, and acts as a second pair of hands. A best man is often responsible for keeping the rings, taking charge of the groomsmen, and helping the groom dress.
When you invite them to take on the role, ask if they’re comfortable giving a speech at the reception. This will avoid any last-minute confusion about who is giving a speech. Make sure your best man or maid of honor have time to write the speech, too. Everyone in the room can recognize a lazy speech.
It is popular for brides and grooms to choose their best friends to join the wedding party. Whoever it is, make sure that they’re responsible enough to understand the magnitude of this important celebration.
4. Choose a venue that accommodates your needs and fits your style.
We could write a novel on how to choose the best wedding venue. In fact, we wrote a brief article about Choosing the Best Wedding Venue for you.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a wedding venue, such as price, size, parking, food, and proximity. Make sure that you visit the venue and ask many questions to decide if it fits your needs.
Several wedding venues that our photography and cinematography studio services includes: The Bellevue Hotel, The Logan, Fitler Club, and Union League.
Regardless of price, make sure that you connect with the wedding venue. Consider what you love about it from an aesthetic point-of-view. This is a location that will live in your relationship forever.
Locking-in a venue that you love is the first step on your wedding shopping list. Once you have an official date and location, then it is time to see which vendors are available.
5. Schedule food tastings.
The food tasting is one of the highlights of getting married. Couples eat small portions all day to prepare for the food tasting. This is an enjoyable experience that excites couples and provides them with an evening to relax.
It’s funny because the food tasting is usually the only time when the bride and groom eat their food. At the wedding, the plates on the sweetheart table get cold because the couple is dancing or greeting guests.
6. Make reservations for a rehearsal dinner.
It is common practice for the groom’s family to organize the rehearsal dinner, but wedding traditions do change.
On the night of your rehearsal, the wedding party and families visit the venue to practice their role. Afterward, dinner reservations are made at a local restaurant for everyone to converse before the wedding day.
Check with your wedding venue to see if they provide a rehearsal dinner package.
If you need to make reservations at a restaurant, then do this well in advance to get a private room. Sometimes dinner guests give toasts and speeches here, so having seclusion means you’ll avoid disturbing other restaurant patrons.
7. Book a photographer and cinematographer.
Photographers and cinematographers preserve your wedding memories for generations. Finding a production studio that fits your style is its own marriage. Meet your wedding photographer and cinematographer in their studio to see albums, view wall art, and discuss your vision.
An in-person consultation will build your relationship with the photographer. Remember: wedding photographers are with you from start to finish on your wedding day (so make sure you like them)!
Wedding photography is an investment for the future. Decades after the wedding, your family will look back on this beautiful celebration when everyone was together. Reliving these glorious moments becomes a priceless experience as time progresses.
View more wedding photography and cinematography by our studio and contact us to schedule a consultation.
8. Hire a florist and decorator.
Florists are oftentimes overlooked by clients. Designing a room requires a lot of labor, and for this reason, the price reflects it.
There are many moving parts that transform a room, but on top of it all, the bride and groom are investing in the florist’s artistry.
Seeing the guests react in amazement as they enter the spectacular room is a sweet thrill.
9. Install professional lighting at the venue.
In the world of wedding photography, lighting is everything. Hiring a professional event lighting company sets the mood at your wedding and creates that showstopper appeal!
Appropriate room lighting makes your wedding feel more elegant.
Venues use ceiling lights or chandeliers to fill the room, but the best lighting should illuminate the wedding day action. Most of the action occurs on the dance floor, by the wedding cake, and at the decorated tables.
Pinspot light on the dance floor will elevate the reception. While photographers do bring their own lights, having a professional lighting service install their high-quality lights makes every photo better.
10. Hire a wedding band and a DJ for music entertainment.
Aside from your preference of sound, find a band or DJ that knows how to lead a party and read the room. The DJ or band leader needs to create energy that connects with the couple and their guests.
There are a lot of musicians who can perform great on stage, but wedding receptions require more teamwork and experience.
A mediocre DJ or band will feel like they’re simply marking off a check list of songs and toasts. On the contrary, great music motivates your wedding guests to groove, forget about everything, and dance the night away. As a result, photographers are capturing the best wedding reception photos and cinematographers are filming fun moments.
If you're having a live wedding band, then make sure to add a horns. The fusion of horns, drums, keyboards, a bass guitar, and real vocals makes a big difference in sound quality.
But when it comes down to it, having a phenomenal band leader will elevate the wedding reception.
11. Take engagement photos.
Engagement photos are the best way to acclimate to your wedding photographer before the big day.
Oftentimes, the bride and groom are a deer in headlights when the photographer enters the room for getting ready photos. Capturing engagement photos with your wedding photographer is the best way to break the ice and get camera ready.
This is a chance to capture photographs in casualwear before the wedding arrives. If you’re getting married in the Summer, then schedule engagement photos in the Fall.
This approach will give you photographs featuring the best of both seasons. Pick a significant location, plan a favorite wardrobe, and have fun capturing romantic pictures together!
Engagement photos make beautiful save-the-date cards.
Wedding photographers create a photojournalistic guestbook with these photographs to display at the reception. On the wedding day, guests have the option to sign their congratulations inside of the book.
12. Capture an engagement video.
An engagement video does the same thing as engagement photography. The wedding cinematographer accompanies the photographer to capture the couple’s romantic adventure.
Also, engagement videos sit each couple for a one-on-one interview about their relationship. They speak about how they met, share memorable stories about their love, and express their anticipation for the big day.
Having an engagement video documents more priceless moments that future generations will cherish forever.
Footage from the engagement video can appear in the final wedding movie, too.
Oftentimes, couples play a short video at the reception before their introduction to enter the ballroom. Playing a short clip before the introduction of the bride and groom makes the moment more of a spectacle.
13. Get a guestbook to display at the wedding.
A guestbook is another chance for couples to make the most of their engagement photos. Since most family and friends only see a few engagement photos, this is an opportunity to view the best pictures at the wedding.
Much like wedding album design, the guestbook contains the full story from the engagement session.
It features blank pages for guests to sign their congratulations when they arrive to the wedding venue. Guests love taking a moment to flip through the book.
Years after the wedding, the guestbook becomes a memorable keepsake containing the notes and signatures of loved ones.
14. Send out save-the-date cards and invitations.
When you both have a date locked in at your wedding venue, you should quickly send save-the-date cards. This will ensure that family and friends have ample time to mark your wedding date on their calendars.
Sending out save-the-date cards too late may force guests to skip the wedding.
Make sure to include both of your names, the wedding venue, and the wedding date on your save-the-date card.
Afterwards, the formal invitation should follow in the mail, and provide more information such as ceremony time and dress code.
We recommend hiring a professional to design a beautiful invitation that matches your wedding aesthetic.
The formal wedding invitation makes a lovely detail to capture during getting photos. Arranging it next to other formal details such as rings, shoes, perfume, and jewelry creates a stunning wedding photo.
15. Stick to a healthy fitness and beauty routine.
Planning a wedding is often a stressful process with a lot of details to coordinate before a set deadline. This stress often causes brides and grooms to overlook their own health and wellness.
Find a stable routine where you’re exercising, cleaning your skin, and sticking to the dimensions of your wedding dress and tuxedo.
Stress is noticeable on camera. Facial acne, inflammation, and sleep deprivation make a difference in every photograph. It is better than having photoshop save you .
A healthy fitness and beauty routine is essential for looking your best at the wedding. Sticking to this will keep you sane through the stress of planning a large event.
16. Write letters to your future spouse and read them on the wedding day.
Penning a handwritten letter for your bride or groom on the wedding day is a romantic gesture.
Reading it aloud is also a great source of audio for cinematographers to use in the wedding movie. This is emotional moment worth capturing.
17. Have a location for getting ready or book a hotel.
Getting ready at a hotel is the easiest option for brides and grooms. If you’re getting married at the hotel, then ask about their spacious room packages for the whole wedding party.
Planning a wedding is most successful when the couple and wedding party keep everything close. Staying at a nearby hotel means less travel time to your photo destinations.
This is beneficial for devoting more time to capturing wedding photography.
18. Book a talented hair and make-up artist.
A key to stunning wedding hair and make-up is avoid over-doing it. You want to look back on your wedding day and appreciate a classic style.
Use waterproof make-up because tears will ruin the entire look. The bride needs to do her hair-and-make up before the bridesmaids, so that the wedding photographer can capture photos of her in the dress.
Start hair-and-make-up as early as possible and plan for a one-hour session with your artist.
19. Visit a trusted barber or hairstylist a few days before the wedding date.
Stick to a barber or hairstylist that you regularly visit and trust to give you a top notch cut. The last hazard that you want on your wedding day is a blade nick or bad hair.
A clean cut or beautiful hairstyle that you know looks good will help your camera confidence.
We recommend getting a cut ten days prior to the wedding, and then heading into the salon or barber shop for a quick trim.
This approach keeps the hair looking natural because it has some time to grow. Oftentimes, day-of haircuts look obvious on camera.
20. Surprise your groomsmen and bridesmaids with a wedding gift.
It is common tradition for the groom and bride to gift their wedding party with small gifts in the morning. Wedding photographers capture their candid expression as they open the presents.
After the day is over, the wedding party has a memorable gift to represent the couple’s appreciation.
During formal portraits, wedding photographers capture the bride with each bridesmaid and the groom with each groomsman. The couple can print these photographs and attach them to a personal “thank you” note. This is an ideal gift that integrates wedding portraits.
21. Break tradition with a first look.
A first look is beneficial because couples capture an emotional reaction together.
If the entire wedding day is occurring at one venue, then do the first look. You’ll have more time for wedding photos and the chance to enjoy your party.
If you plan to explore multiple locations with your wedding photographer, then start the ceremony earlier and have the reception later in the evening.
22. Think about photo locations.
Consider the realistic travel times and moving people, such as the wedding party and production crew, with transportation. It may take five minutes to visit Dilworth Park from your wedding venue, but with Saturday afternoon traffic, it could take longer.
Once you arrive, think about the time a photographer needs for photos, too.
Wedding photographers will review a timeline and map locations to visit with their couples.
Try to keep the list narrow. The more time you travel, then the less photos you capture.
Choose one location, and let a great wedding photographer work their magic to create glamorous portraits.
23. Embrace the wedding day weather.
They say if it rains on your wedding day, then you’ll have less tears in your marriage.
Inclement weather may limit most opportunities, but it gives photographers another avenue to capture creative wedding photos.
For example, kissing under a clear umbrella is a romantic photograph, as well as a reflective puddle on the ground. Rainy wedding days should excite the bride and groom.
Some weddings are too hot or cold for outdoor photos, but each wedding day has its own personality, and weather influences this. Just make sure that the ceremony and reception are taking place inside your wedding venue.
24. Purchase and print your photo location permits.
Make sure to apply for a permit early. Follow this website link to obtain a permit for wedding photography in Philadelphia: Wedding Permit Information
Failing to show the park police a wedding photography permit is an embarrassing moment. In the event of this, the authorities will tell you to leave.
Many historical locations require wedding photographers and their couples to show proper permits to capture photos there.
The community requires permits, so they can control the location. Anyone can snap an iPhone image there, but when expensive cameras and lighting equipment are set up, this raises alarm.
25. Plan your ceremony traditions.
Many modern wedding ceremonies are super quick. Quick ceremonies fail to create the best raw wedding emotion, which photographers are always searching to snap with their camera.
The wedding ceremony and its traditions are the reason you’re both here. It is the reason that your family and friends are in the audience supporting your love.
You may regret rushing this.
We recommend planning a wedding ceremony that displays your love and connects with the guests. Take the time to appreciate this once-in-a-lifetime moment.
26. Find the right wedding ceremony officiant.
Some wedding couples employ close friends, family pastors, rabbis, or a professional officiant at the ceremony.
The most important quality in a wedding ceremony officiant is the ability to speak in public. Officiants must do this, while also speaking from the heart.
This will captivate the audience to really understand the relationship and marriage.
Some officiants simply read words on a page and lack an intimate understanding of the couple. Great officiants connect with you, know keywords, and read with an authentic tone that makes the parents start to cry.
27. Write your vows.
This is where the wedding emotion pours out.
Take the time to write about how this person improves every second of your life and makes a difference.
We recommend keeping it at about 500 words. This length is good because it is short enough to express real emotion.
Avoid overwhelming your significant other and the audience with an essay that drags on. Keep the vows simple, concise, and authentic to you. Recall details that will make your future partner emotional in the moment.
28. Buy a wedding dress.
Finding the perfect wedding dress is a big decision for the bride. It may take some effort and several dresses to try on. Eventually, you’ll have that “ah-ha” moment and know you found the right one.
Read an article where we collaborate with a local wedding dress boutique in Philadelphia to share our tips on buying a dress shopping. Here is the link: How to Choose the Best Wedding Dress for You
29. Buy a suit or tuxedo.
Your selection of formalwear depends on the wedding dress code and style. Personally, our studio prefers a tuxedo for grooms on their wedding day.
Order your tuxedo or suit about six months or one year from the date.
The tuxedo is a classic statement. A black or navy-blue tuxedo will always look timeless when you look back on the wedding album years from now.
30. Remind your groomsmen and bridesmaids to get their attire.
The groom needs his tuxedo and the bride needs her dress, but the wedding party also needs their attire, too. Their busy lives tend to get in the way, so make sure that they prioritize getting their suits and dresses.
One of the best ways to do this is to plan it as an event. Invite the groomsmen and bridesmaids to the boutique for a fitting, and then go out for lunch afterwards. This ensures that it gets done.
The worst scenario would leave groomsmen and bridesmaids scrambling to get their dress on time. Sometimes the suit or dress is wrong, or it still needs an alteration.
There are many stressful situations that could arise from this, so it is best to ensure everyone has their clothes.
31. Steam and iron your clothes before the big day.
Do this on the night before your wedding. Removing the wrinkles on your clothes is necessary for looking and feeling your best at the wedding.
Wrinkles show in photographs and they’re difficult to remove in post-production. Devoting time to ironing the shirt or steaming the dress can eliminate this problem.
Clothes are fabric and will crease. This is natural; however, clothes with a lot of wrinkles are avoidable.
Use a high-quality steamer to remove wrinkles on delicate surfaces. Make sure to keep the iron from damaging the clothes, too.
32. Organize an emergency wedding day kit.
The maid of honor or best man should have an emergency tool kit for the bride and groom. As a wedding photo studio, we bring a small tool kit containing bobby pins, fashion tape, binder clips, and more. In the event of a wardrobe malfunction, this tool kit is a life saver.
The maid of honor or best man can save the wedding with a pair of scissors, spare button, or hairspray. Avoid having anyone in your wedding party make a pitstop at the local pharmacy.
Here are a few ideas of items to place in the wedding kit:
- Travel Sewing Kit
- Lip Balm
- Rice Paper
Weddings are fast-paced events, especially with photography and cinematography in the mix. This emergency wedding day kit will come in handy when on the move.
33. Use a shoehorn.
You could say that we shoehorned this step into the list.
Grooms should use a shoehorn when putting on their wedding day shoes. It is classier, photographs better than using your hands, and prevents the shoe from creasing.
We recommend buying a simple shoehorn or using a custom one. The shoehorn is a beautiful additional to detail photos along with other accessories, too.
34. Buy wedding bands.
The wedding bands seal the deal. They are an everyday symbol and representative of your love.
We’ve captured various wedding bands that have phenomenal details with personable engravings.
One of the best methods to photograph wedding bands is standing them together or leaning them against one another. Another method is placing the rings on the invitation or above a reflective object.
35. Get a marriage license.
Obtaining a legal marriage license varies by state. Research the requirements in your state.
Some marriage licenses call for mandatory blood tests, a waiting period after applying, a buffer period before the wedding date.
When you develop a better understanding of your state’s marriage license requirements, then it is time to visit the courthouse. Here, you will fill out paperwork with your future spouse. You’ll also, most likely, need a witness present at the courthouse.
36. Put your boutonnieres in the refrigerator overnight.
Boutonnieres had more character to your suit. It is a subtle wedding detail that matches the bridesmaid’s flower bouquets.
We recommend having two boutonnieres. It is common for the flowers to fall or break, and it never hurts to have a spare.
Placing them in the refrigerator overnight keeps them fresh for the big day. Make sure the boutonnieres are in a safe spot.
When you wake up on the wedding day, they will look photo ready. Sometimes you receive boutonnieres on the morning of your wedding. If not, then this is the best way to keep them fresh.
37. Figure out family portraits.
If your family is large, then you’ll understand how hard it is to keep everyone together. During family portraits on your wedding day, this is the most challenging part for the photographer.
It is best to capture family portraits before the ceremony. Once cocktail hour begins, most of your family is lost in a sea of wedding guests and hard to find.
When reception starts, the jacket is off and they’re sweating from dancing, so you can forget about capturing a formal portrait. The next best option for wedding photographers is a quick photo on the dance floor.
The immediate family takes about fifteen minutes for each side. Adding the extended family increases this to about thirty minutes for each side.
38. Book a transportation service with enough space for everyone.
The bride and groom need to account for wedding transportation. Think about how you’re going to get to the hotel, your photo locations, the wedding venue, and finally, the airport.
It is a glamorous wedding experience to have a classic car or limousine drive you.
Make sure that the transportation service can accommodate the wedding party and production crew. It’s efficient to exit the trolley at the photo location, devote fifteen minutes to capturing portraits, and then hop on.
39. Include your pets.
Find a way to capture wedding photographs with your dog or cat. If you’re getting ready at home, then this is worth the time.
There are professional handlers who will transport your dog to photo locations and handle them at the wedding.
If you’re going to capture photographs with your pet, then have a lint brush at the ready. Dog or cat fur on a beautiful suit or wedding gown is an easy fix with the right tool.
40. Hire a special musician for cocktail hour.
Cocktail hour is where the guests intermingle for the first time.
A harpist, pianist or violinist will create an elegant mood at your cocktail hour. Wedding guests will enjoy the harmonious music as they eat hors d’oeuvres and socialize at the venue.
Creating a comfortable atmosphere at cocktail hour is ideal for starting the party. Guests love to connect with others at cocktail hour and explore the food options.
A classic musician occupies the guests as they float around the room.
41. Enjoy your cocktail hour (because you did a first look)!
A first look is beneficial because it finishes photographs with time for the bride and groom to attend their party.
If you did capture a first look, then you can greet your guests and enjoy hors d’oeuvers at cocktail hour.
When brides and grooms pass on the first look, then wedding photographers devote cocktail hour to capturing photographs at the venue.
Sometimes couples prefer this because they have a chance to escape the spotlight, while others want to mingle with the crowd.
As wedding photographers, we think it is important to enjoy your own wedding. Cocktail hour is a great opportunity to welcome guests before the music and dancing begins.
42. Pick a song for your first dance.
Choose a song that connects your relationship. It should feel romantic and cause you to recollect everything that brought you to this moment.
Communicate this with your DJ or wedding band, so that they know how to prepare for the first dance.
43. Enroll in dance lessons with your fiancé (and keep it a secret).
Enrolling in dance classes for your wedding is one of the best investments that you can make. Adding dance lessons makes your first dance a lot more engaging and photogenic.
When brides and grooms keep their epic first dances a secret, wedding photographers capture the best raw reaction photos. Guests laugh and cheer because they least expect this.
Through dance lessons, you’ll bond with your significant other and share one secret at the wedding that nobody else knows.
44. Tell your wedding speakers to keep their speeches around 2 minutes.
Let’s face it—there are a lot of great things to say about you!
Wedding speakers have the pressure of entertaining the crowd with their speech and making an impactful statement. When speeches drag on, the wedding guests start to lose interest.
If you have a lot of speeches at your wedding, this time can start to add up fast. 2-minute speeches are a comfortable length.
If you tell your speakers to keep the speech around 2-minutes, they’ll most likely go over this time limit. However, it does remind them to keep it concise.
45. Space out the speeches during the reception.
A common flaw at weddings is having speeches and first dances right next to each other. When the speeches and first dances are over for the night, guests dance until the night ends, which gets exhausting.
Spacing out your wedding speeches gives guests a reason to direct their attention to the dance floor again.
Plan for speeches in-between dances and dinner courses. This will keep the wedding reception more interesting for guests.
Usually, when a great speech ends, the next speaker apologizes for their inability to do better. Spacing out the speeches wipes the palette clean, so that new speakers have the spotlight to shine.
As wedding photographers, brides and grooms always ask us “now what?” when we finish photos. We tell them to enjoy the party!
Weddings are events rather than photoshoots. This is a big celebration, and couples should get the chance to live in the moment.
Become the star of the show while wedding photographers capture you dancing with family and friends.
47. Get a wedding cake.
Depending on the couple’s preferences, the wedding cake is from a custom baker or through the catering company.
Either way, the most important part is cutting the cake. This is a sweet wedding photo moment that makes the day feel more like a fairytale.
Make sure to cut the wedding cake with enough time to plate it and serve your guests. If you have a large headcount, you’ll probably want to cut the cake early.
Another option is boxing the cake and giving it to guests as a take-home dessert.
48. Capture an evening photo towards the end of the night.
After the cake cutting, wedding photographers want to get their epic night-time photograph.
There is often a 50/50 chance that the bride and groom will have enough energy for a final wedding photo. Usually, the couple wants to party or relax, but it is worth capturing.
Wedding photographers should think ahead to prepare this grand finale shot before asking the bride and groom to do it. Planning this ahead makes the entire process quick and easy.
This is a dramatic photograph that will end the wedding album.
Photographers should kindly ask the couple for a minute of their time away from the party. We recommend taking the time for one last photograph to end the night on a high note.
49. Provide your guests with a keepsake gift.
Every bride and groom want to show appreciation for the people who support them on their magical wedding day. A pleasant way to do this is providing guests with a keepsake gift.
These keepsake gifts make a beautiful wedding reception detail photo. They’re a fantastic way for wedding guests to always remember your day.
Couples should keep the gift small and cute. Think of it as a token of gratitude for coming to the wedding.
50. Mail your “Thank You” cards.
Sending a “Thank You” card is necessary. The newlyweds should pen a personal note in each letter to show greater appreciation for their guests.
Oftentimes, couples ask their photographers to design a “Thank You” card using wedding photographs.
This approach gives you more ways to use your wedding photos and create a custom artistic design using high-quality materials.