Written by Martin Neeves – Reportage Wedding Photographer Nuneaton
Your wedding is one of the biggest and happiest days of your life, but it is easy to make mistakes. The great thing is that you are not the first to get married or organise a wedding, so you can learn from others’ mistakes. These problems can start at the planning stage and continue right up to the day. Having seen a large number of weddings now, I thought you might want to know some of the things that I have seen that can be avoided.
Talk to Your Partner. It is usual for one or other of you to take the lead. But a word for the wise; make sure you talk to each other about the whole process. Make sure you agree what kind of wedding you want and what is going to happen. Remember it is both your wedding; do not let one feel they have been railroaded into something they are not comfortable with. It always helps the process if both of you regularly update on what was planned and what is happening
Random Setting of the Date. You will not be able to avoid all possible clashes of date, but there are some simple guidelines that help. Try to avoid important dates that are close like birthdays, major holiday periods. Also, think about the interests of the majority of your guests. If a large number of your potential guests have a common interest then try to avoid key dates in their calendar.
Understand Your Wedding Timelines. Some elements of wedding planning need to be planned in advance. Venues, photographers and similar providers are often booked up well in advance. Ideally, your guests will need some notice in order to “put you in their diary”.
Do not book a venue, before planning the broad outlines of your guest list. In the last paragraph I said that a venue is an important thing to book early. However, if you book a venue that is too small to accommodate your planned guest numbers you have to either cram people in or restrict your guest list. Some venues ask for as deposit and you may lose it should you have to rebook a bigger venue. I guess there is another factor as well, you don’t want to pay for lots of empty, unused space.”
Planning the guest list. Your budget may dictate the numbers you are going to invite. There is always the issue of who you do not invite as this often causes friction. I have seen some rather unfortunate occurrences when couples have invited people who have messed up the wedding. These have been ex-girlfriends or boyfriends, problem relatives or former friends you no longer get on with. If you really have to invite them then I recommend either not inviting them to the whole day, or having someone who can look after them.
There is often pressure to invite a lot of people, or you feel you want to have a lot of people to your wedding. Be realistic and stick to your budget. Once you have planned for a set number, do not go vastly over it. If you planned for 50 guests and then invite 150 then you may end up not having space, food or spending much more than you budgeted for.
Do not think that you will have total control over the guest list. You will want to invite those who are important to you. Be careful about allowing others to invite people to your wedding. They may invite folk you do not want to attend or they may invite more guests than you planned for.
Now that word – Budget. The given wisdom is that planning a wedding without a budget is a recipe for disaster. If you do not plan you could be left with a HUGE bill at the end of it that takes ages to pay for. Unless you really have a bottomless wallet, then plan – budget. Be realistic about your aspirations. It is important to have an idea how much money you have to work with before you start, but don''t take the costs that planning guides in the wedding magazines give you as gospel as they are often wildly out. There will always be a wide range of prices for every wedding service or product (from cheap and cheerful to top-of-the-range and exclusive), but only you can decide which services are more important to you (and therefore worth paying more for) and which are not so important.
There are things you must have and things you would like to have. Make sure the “must haves” are accommodated first. Also remember, the wedding is for you as a couple. Do not plan things in because someone else wants it – if it is not what you want then stand your ground.
One last word on the budget; do not forget to consider your parents. They may well want to spend on your wedding, but again be realistic. You and your partner may want to shoulder some or all of the expenses. But if your parents get involved don’t overburden them with too many demands. You should not assume that all your whims will be given to you. Read my article about budgeting.
Hiring Friends. This can be a sensitive subject. It can also be a problem area especially if they have “a great eye for it”. This can range from cake makers, flowers, photographers, videographers, DJs at the reception and many more. Even if you are on a tight budget, you're often better paying a professional for the major items.
Additionally, if your friend (or family member) is busy taking photographs they won’t be able to enjoy the day. And what happens if something isn’t delivered to a professional standard that can be very awkward. If you do hire a family member or friend then do make sure they understand what you want. Working with family can be tricky, but treat them like another person supplying services to your wedding – write things down.
Photography. Of course I am going to talk about this subject as it is close to my heart. Do not book a photographer based entirely upon price. Make sure you have seen examples of their work and they fit in with your requirements. If you think anyone can do wedding photography or it is something worthy cutting corners on just Google “bad wedding photographers”. Or even read my blog on “The Worst Advice I've Ever Heard About Choosing a Wedding Photographer”
Choose the style of photography you want to have. Do you want to have the standard posed photos or do you want a more unobtrusive style, usually called “Reportage”? Each requires a different amount of time to be set aside. Many conventional photographers will tell you that anything less than an hour isn't enough for a portrait session after the ceremony; sometimes even hour-and-a-half. If you chose this conventional style, what are your guests going to be doing for that time?
Getting Ready. Make sure that you plan enough time to get ready. Make sure you book appointments for hairdressers and makeup artists well ahead of the day. Make sure they have enough time to finish in time to get you ready. Most photographers, wedding planners, venues etc will tell you that timetables are usually too tight. A friend of mine is a caterer and she often finds that couples are late arriving at the venue, photographers take much longer than planned etc. That means that the food has to be kept warm or cold for much longer than planned, which will mean it is not at its best. Traditional wedding photographers are notorious for making the day run late, however that is not usually a problem with reportage wedding photographers (such as me).
Do not have too much to do for the morning of the wedding. You will have plenty to do getting ready. All decorating decisions should have been made. Do as much as possible before the morning of your wedding. If it has to be done on the morning, make sure it has been delegated to someone else.
Travelling Time. Remember travelling time needs to be built in. You will need time to get to the hair salon and back. Do not forget time to get to the ceremony, and then to get from the ceremony to the reception. Always assume that the 10 minute trip will take at least twice as long. Traffic is always worst when you want to travel. Cars can be late or not start. At one wedding I attended, the wedding was at a church and the couple decided on a horse and carriage to get to the reception. The trouble was that the reception was at a venue 10 miles away. All the guests went in their cars and were sat around for ages. Worse still it was an open top carriage and it rained for most of the ten miles. They had planned on it taking “about 20 minutes” – result one soaking wet bride and groom arrived much later than planned. I had a drenched pair to photograph and the food was prepared an hour before it was eaten.
If your ceremony and reception are at different venues, plan, test-drive it and add in “problem time”. Remember that vintage wedding cars cannot go as fast as your modern car, so allow for that in your timings. Try to minimize the in-between time that leaves guests wondering what to do. If a time delay cannot be avoided, then try to ensure guests know this and are looked after.
When you have planned your timeline effectively, why not let Martin Neeves take the pressure off you by letting him manage your wedding photography. Contact Martin Neeves Photography or call me on 01455 271 849 or on 07973 638 591.