On July 4th we celebrated 10 years since our first wedding as the official photographer. Over those ten years, we have seen trends come and go, experienced all kinds of wedding from an intimate guest list of 10 to a 400 strong raucous farmers wedding. We’ve travelled from Cambridge to Cancun and beyond. We’ve seen laughter and happy tears, and some not so happy (but only some…) We’ve learned from every single one, all of them. We’ve attended conferences, workshops and seminars, constantly striving to be better for our clients, and the next one is in November. We’ve won various international awards for individual wedding photos and overall as a couple. We had too had a wedding in 2014, allowing us to call ourselves one of the UK’s best husband and wife wedding photography teams (natch.) Lina has spoken about our work and brand at various conferences including the Fearless Photographers European Conference, for which she still pinches herself. She also had our logo tattooed on her arm after that, Tom…well not yet.
Our ten top tips for your wedding planning
So as we’re in this historic month for our business, and have just shot our 322nd wedding on the beautiful island of Guernsey, we are going to kick off a series of ’10 Years…’ blogs starting with the 10 top tips for your wedding, what we have learnt from all our experience. These are certainly not meant to dig at anyone, but rather convey things we see time and time again and hope to give a little tried and tested advice… So, in no particular order:
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff
In this Instagram world it’s easy to be led away from what your wedding is really about, into feeling like you need those bespoke glass charms you saw on that blog. Or Pinterest suggesting that no wedding is complete without that moon door, despite the fact that you chose your venue for it’s existing beautiful decor. Time and time again when we catch up with couples and they are a little stressed, it’s almost always feeling overwhelmed with the amount of extra and DIY items they have to do. Really think about whether you do actually need what you are planning, whether it will even be noticed or indeed used. Any venue manager or planner will tell you about the regular piles of unwanted favours that get left on a table. To reduce wastage, go for food or drink, these tend to be the most successful as they can be consumed and your guests don’t need to worry about putting them somewhere until they are ready to go home. Small alcohol miniatures are usually a great bet, just double check your venue allows it, as not all do. Even better? Go with a charitable donation to really make a difference.
2. Things going ‘wrong’ is OK
The problem with the wedding industry is this long touted idea that a wedding day should be ‘perfect’. This notion should just be left in fairytales. All you need is a loving ceremony and a great party, make it pretty if you want to, but just make a few plans and put your faith in the professionals you’ve hired. But if something does go wrong, along as it’s not life threatening and you still get married, does it *really* matter?? Do also note that bad weather should not be considered a disaster, some of the most creative work we’ve done has been in the rain!
3. Lose the endless group shots
Many couples ask us how many group shots are good to go for, and our first answer is always ‘as little as you can get away with.’ This is not because we’re anti group shots, on the contrary, we definitely believe there is a time and place for them as a record of people in history. But the truth is that for many of our parents’ generation (and I’m talking to you fellow Gen X-ers), the drinks reception was purely for photos, so having 25 or 30 was par for the course and guests just knew it was the boring bit. Well not anymore! The drinks reception is now there for the couple, for you to mingle and chat to your guests, and have that well deserved drink or two.
Those that don’t work weddings will always underestimate how long group shots actually take. Each shot will take at least 2-3 minutes and that’s as long as your guests are well behaved and come when called. It’s essential to choose someone who can run around and grab people to assist this, and will actually do it, being considerate to the fact we’ll be under time constraints. The standard drinks reception time tends to be an hour and a half after the end of the ceremony, so giving time for confetti, mingling and shots of the couple, we recommend not going over 10 groups. And the shot of everyone will take longer… By all means manage expectations with the parents, but you really don’t need every possible combination of the family and all with only one of you and then both of you. You’ll be married by then!
4. Celebrant led is the best!
Anyone who comes across us on social media will have noticed we highly advocate the celebrant-led wedding. Why? Because it’s the most personal wedding ceremony you can have that is truly about the two of you. Not about god, nor about the legal phrasing you have to say perfectly, it’s about the two of you and your story. It’s wonderful. A celebrant will devise a perfect script truly written to reflect you. It’s the only thing we would change about our own wedding now and consider it one of our main top tips for your wedding.
Whilst the battle goes on in government to make these ceremonies actually legal in England, you can easily skip off to a registry office a day or two before to sign the papers. Take loved ones with you and you can all go for a slap up lunch after. See, stick with us and you get TWO wedding celebrations…
5. Be yourself in your wedding planning
One thing that’s great to hear at a wedding is the phrase ‘this is so them!’ Weddings used to be traditional and predictable but now there is so much more freedom to have the wedding you want, whether that’s in the Mediterranean sunshine, a Humanist ceremony in the woods, a weekend festival, or an intimate ceremony and dinner for 10. Gone is the expectation the bride will wear white, that there will be a fancy three course meal that might not fill everyone up or that you have to have everything people told you to have at a wedding.
So if you have pink hair, keep it. Want to walk down the aisle yourself, do it. Want a three day festival to rival Glasto, plan it. In essence, bar doing the minimum to legally marry, the wedding world is your oyster now. This is definitely one of the most positive changes in the last ten years and another key top tip for your wedding.
6. Let yourself have fun and enjoy it
Sometimes we see control over the couple creeping into the wedding, which goes against the fact that they just want enjoy the day, It may be a parent saying something like ‘you can’t do that you’re the bride’. Or a well meaning bridesmaid being obsessed with picking the dress up at all times in case it gets dirty. Now I can understand this before the ceremony, but after that the dress inevitably get dirty so why fight it and risk not having fun. Not to mention how odd it looks having fully grown women tottering behind you constantly trying to pick up your dress, whilst trying not to fall over theirs, it also has a massive impact on your photos if you are not relaxed and having fun. The best shots come when you couldn’t care less about getting it dirty or falling over. So let’s all please stop thinking we need to act like princesses and have a jolly good time! [Note, we do know if you are reading this and are already a client or thinking of being one the above point likely doesn’t apply to you!]
7. Always get more confetti than you think you need
Ah the confetti shot, probably one of everyone’s favourite shots of the day. But we have two major lessons for you here: the first is to always have more confetti than suggested. Think 90% of the wedding guests having a good handful, or even two. Which brings us to our next point, forget the cones, bags and whatever else you think you need to put confetti in, you don’t need them! Apart from the obvious environmental wastage (little organza bags are the worst, sorry) you really only need a box or basket for the confetti to be passed around. 10L is a good place to start. We guarantee you more guests will pick it up this way too!
8. Give yourself time
People will tell you the day goes so fast, and it is true, so give yourself time to enjoy things. Some venues are terrible at just seeing the drinks reception as their room turnaround time and not actually seeing it as time for the guests and you to enjoy yourselves. Anything shorter than an hour and a half you will definitely regret, an even more so if you are bringing in garden games. Give yourselves the time to the take it all in and enjoy mingling with your guests, whilst still having time for group photos and couple shots.
And whilst we’re at it, give your friends and family time too. What do we mean by this? With the rise of the DIY wedding has also impacted on time for friends and family; we often see family members or wedding party missing whole drinks receptions because they are doing table turnarounds or putting so many other details together. Yes by all means rope in some trusted mates to help, but ask yourself if how much they are doing is fair. Yes it’s your day, but they are supposed to be there enjoying it with you too right?
[Bonus tip: if you are having a DIY wedding in a non wedding venue please please please hire an on the-day manager so your parents aren’t changing loo roles or the cake never gets cut. We see this over and over, it’s such a shame. You will be so grateful for someone to manage everything from suppliers turning up to making sure the generators are working – trust us! Many wedding planners offer this service, such as R and F Weddings.]
9. Feed well
Hungry guests do not party well let alone hard. Having tasty plentiful food and drink at your wedding will certainly be more effective in creating a great atmosphere than anything else you can do. Weddings are expensive to attend as a guest too so make them feel appreciated and everyone will be happy having fun with full bellies. Note: this doesn’t mean expensive gourmet food – we’ve seen some of the happiest faces tucking into hog roast buffets and grazing tables laden with deli meats and cheeses – yum.
10. Budget for your photographer!
Lastly, of course we’re going to talk about investment in wedding photography, because it rings true! It seems like every few months we are some article in the Express or Daily Fail about someone’s wedding photography being ‘ruined’ and then it transcribes that they paid two hundred quid for essentially an amateur. Now this isn’t about spending big, but absolutely about spending as much as you can afford within your budget and allocated sensibly. It’s also prioritising the right things. Deciding you ‘only’ have a budget of a thousand for photography but five times that for flowers doesn’t seem right does it, when chances are the flowers could be dead the next day? What if you have all the beautiful displays but not necessarily opening yourself to someone who is going to capture it properly? Nothing against the hard working florists there of course, flowers are pricey and labour intensive but hopefully you get our point. [And before you say it, there will be folks that just don’t want to prioritise the photography either over the dress or flowers, and that’s ok if it’s what they want!]
Of course this is a bit of a generalisation, there are plenty of photographers who are talented and not charging what they should be, usually because many have not properly worked out an hourly rate for the work they do like we have. As a guide, try to put aside at least 10 percent of your budget for your photography. If you want a two person team then 15% will give you more options. Then there are other factors such as experience and coverage. Over the years the most common thing we have heard from couples coming to us is seeing poor photography choices made by friends and family or experiencing a bossy or unnecessarily aggressive photographer. Meet with the person you are looking at, ask to see a full wedding, but above all make sure you like them as people! You only make this choice once, try to get it right not just for you but for your future generations… Don’t settle!
So there you have it, 10 top tips from 10 years of experience. Are we right? Have we missed anything? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and if you want to talk about us capturing your wedding day wherever it is in the world, get in touch.