Real Wedding Guide
The 3 Best Steps for Planning Your Wedding

Nearly 40% of all wedding proposals in the U.S. happen between the holidays and Valentine’s Day. Which makes this—right now—prime-time wedding-prep season. So what better time to share with you my 3 best steps for planning your wedding?

Because in the Washington D.C.-Baltimore metro area, just like all over the country, newly engaged couples are right now making lists, guesstimating budgets, and starting to search online for venues and wedding planners.

If you’re one of those brides-to-be, grooms-to-be, or marriage-partners-to-be, you’re already discovering the three key realizations that hit you rapid-fire when you try to search your way to your ideal wedding: 

  • “Oh my God there is so much information!”
  • “Oh my God there is too much information!”
  • “Oh my God I have no idea where to even begin!”

Part of the problem, obviously, is likely that you’ve never gotten married before—it’s really hard to do something well if you’ve never done it before.

The other big challenge is that the stakes are so high: Your wedding is likely the biggest party you will ever throw, and most of your family and friends will be there. 

So you want to do it right.

So you: 

  • Double down on your double espresso.
  • And sit down with your screen.
  • And resume searching.
  • And resume screaming. 

Because it’s exhausting: There’s so much contradictory, ad-infested content about weddings online that it’s impossible not to feel overwhelmed.

And just because you have to start somewhere doesn’t mean that you should start throwing darts blindfolded.

So, to start you off on the right foot: 

The First 3 Best Steps for Planning Your Wedding (and why they're so crucial to start with)

1. Hire a Wedding Planner

And do it before you do literally anything else wedding-related.

I mean it. 

And I say that as a wedding photographer: Pick your wedding planner before you pick your photographer. 

Before you pick your DJ, your caterer, your anything. Even before you pick your venue.   

Why?

So many reasons, but how about these to start? A good wedding planner will:

  • Save you time.
  • Save you money.   
  • Save you from worrying about an experience you deserve to enjoy to the fullest.

And when I say worrying, I mean beforehand, yes, but also—and even more crucially—on your wedding day itself. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned my camera toward a bride or groom or wedding partner to capture their expression in a joyful moment, only to see instead a preoccupied look clouding their features as they worry about whether some wedding detail or other is happening as it should. 

One anecdote to illustrate: I once heard one bride say to her bridesmaid in the middle of something unexpectedly going off the rails in the middle of her wedding, and which she had to deal with herself because a planner wasn’t hired: “Yeah, uh, I guess this is why people hire wedding planners…”

2. Find the Wedding Venue That’s Right For You. 

Finding a venue with the right feel, the right location, the right size—and the right budget—is crucial: It can make or break your vision of what you want your wedding to be. 

Why? 

Because your venue will:

  • Literally be the space in which you and your beloved will be pledging your troths.
  • Set the tone—for better or for worse—for an event that your family and friends alike will forever associate with you and your partner.
  • Represent the biggest chunk of your wedding budget.

That last item should particularly give you pause. 

Unless you choose wisely, your venue may eat up even more of your budget than it should, squeezing out other wedding priorities that are also important to you before you even get a chance to choose them.

So how do you know which is the right venue for you? 

Start by looking at a complete list of what’s available within your price and travel range.  

Where to find such a list? See No. 1 above: Hire a Wedding Planner. Because they’ll know about new venues, lesser-known venues, closer-by venues, and well-run venues that are within your price range, (but not necessarily within a pay-to-play wedding-vendor listing service’s ads).   

And besides, do you really want to leave the decision about where you get married to a search algorithm? 

Get Wedding Smart: The 3 Best Steps for Planning Your Wedding

3. Find a Wedding Photographer Whose Work and Personality Resonate With You

How to choose a photographer? (In addition to referring you again to No. 1 above.)

I’d say this: You should choose your wedding photographer the same way you chose your fiancé or fiancee: You’ll know when you’ve met the right one. Their photographic and personal style will click with you. 

Why should the personality of your photographer matter? 

Because on your wedding day, the only person you’re going to be spending more time with is the person you’re going to be marrying. And how your photographer treats you, your friends, and family will show on everyone’s face in your wedding photos.

I have a friend who—as soon as she found out I was a wedding photographer—went on a tear about how much she regretted not meeting ahead of time with her own wedding photographer years ago.

On her wedding day, she recalls, “[The photographer] was running around giving orders like a little dictator—she actually added to my stress level!” 

My friend still remembers this vividly 5 years after the wedding, and that memory stains the memories of her wedding itself. She doesn’t even go near the photo album from that day. 

So of course it makes sense to start with the photos in a photographer’s online portfolio: 

  • Do you see and feel yourself represented in the photos? 
  • Do you see real smiles and genuine emotions, or mostly zombified looks on faces? 
  • Are you drawn to mysterious and moody images, or bright and airy? 
  • Do you like photos posed, nothing posed, or somewhere in between?

But you will also want to meet the person behind those photos (and in the case of larger wedding-photography companies, you will want to make sure the person whose work you admire is also the person who will be there on your wedding day).

At the very least, you will absolutely want to talk to the photographer before you sign with them. (I start my interactions with a couple not with a sales pitch, but by asking them and listening to what’s most important to them on their wedding day.)  

Why These 3 Best Steps for Planning Your Wedding?

So you may be wondering: Why prioritize these 3 categories? 

Why focus first on nailing down a wedding planner, a venue, and a photographer?

Because their calendars fill up the fastest. 

And they fill up the fastest because, owing to the extent of their involvement on the day of a wedding, they generally have to commit themselves to just 1 wedding a day. (Makeup artists, florists, officiants, and all of the other indispensable professionals who make a wedding happen can often handle multiple weddings per day during the peak of wedding season.) 

Speaking of: 

  • Do you know when the peak of wedding season is? (And that you can often get a great rate at an otherwise out-of-reach venue if you book off-peak?) 
  • Do you know which 5 questions to ask when talking to a wedding photographer you’re considering?
  • Do you know which 3 wedding details you can absolutely save money on (and which you really really shouldn’t)?

Don’t worry—there won’t be a quiz. 

But there will be a wedding. Yours, in fact. 

And to echo what I said at the top, it’s really hard to do something well if you’ve never done it before.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were somewhere you could get that information first hand? 

From someone who knows the area’s wedding world personally?

An inside source who can share focused, curated, and practical information from top wedding pros, including:

  • Wedding Planners
  • Makeup Artists
  • Venue Owners
  • DJs
  • Caterers

Instead of second-hand or third-hand information, wouldn’t it be great if you could get bite-size pro tips directly from these wedding professionals themselves?

That’s what this blog is all about: Equal parts info, inspo, and tips & tricks for making your wedding authentically your own.  

Why Listen to Me?

And why listen to what I think are the 3 best steps for planning your wedding?

Well, because, as a wedding photographer, I’m not just an expert at wedding photography: It also means I’ve gotten to know and work directly with a lot of top people in the Washington D.C.-Baltimore area who are experts at other key elements of your wedding.

I’ve gotten a chance to see these vendors’ work, both behind the scenes and up close. (I’m often editing wedding images at 300% magnification, so I can see who really will do the best makeup work on your mom, and whose flowers are really the freshest.) 

Because of what I do and how many weddings I’ve photographed, I know:

  • Which DJs would resonate best with your theme. 
  • Which great area venues in the area are also great deals. 
  • Which florists actually hand-pick their own flowers fresh from the fields.

And I’ll be sharing their tips, tricks, and lessons learned—directly from them.

And because weddings are all about love, I’ll also be sharing some of my own favorite wedding and engagement images, complete with insights that will help you make sure your wedding photography resonates authentically with you and truly reflects your unique style.

That’s the knowledge and inspiration I’ll be sharing with you in this blog. Because I believe quality, value, and excellence should be lifted up and shared with those who are looking for them.

Imagine how much more confident and relaxed you’ll feel in your wedding planning process when you have a steady stream of no-nonsense tips and inspiration like these you could draw from.

That’s my goal: To give you the confidence that comes only from knowing what you’re doing, because you’re getting it from the professionals who do what they do best.

Stay tuned.