3 Tips for a Lazy, Do-it-Yourself Wedding

Yesterday my friends Ryan & Jenna were married.  I was fortunate enough to not only attend their wedding, but to also help them assist them with flowers and set-up.  Tomorrow I will have a tutorial for the 6 hydrangea + peony centerpieces for $50, but today I wanted to give a recap of tips I learned for a diy-wedding.  

1. Please use disposable wares.  When you’re hosting a crowd, it’s so much easier and faster  to toss the plates, cups, napkins, etc. then to have to wash and store them.  If you’re having a caterer, it will also be cheaper to use disposable wares.  If you’re not having a caterer, your friends and family will thank you for sparing them hours of soapy water and dish rags.  There are a ton of uber-affordable yet still classy options – look for substantial plastic, as in here and here.  A great eco-friendly option is to use biodegradable forks.  Regardless, when clean-up and break down time comes around, your friends and family will thank you when they are able to simply throw much of the mess away.

2. Pick a Pretty, Convenient venue.  Here I’m talking about the basic logistics: does your venue include ample, nearby parking? Are there bathrooms on site? Sufficient kitchen facilities?  All of those things are expensive to bring in and can add stress to oversee.   Also, consider the overall feel of the room – is it pretty as it stands?  The general “look” of the venue will dominate about 80% of your decor. (A highly precise number that I pulled from here.)  You can add flowers, of course, but unless you’re planning on re-carpeting the floor or replacing the artwork, the overall look of the room should be pleasing.

3.  Add Lighting.  I believe that lighting is often overlooked as a decor element.  Warm, inviting lighting can truly transform the feel of a room – much more so than expensive flowers.  Warm lighting is created with up-lighting (about $750 for a small room to be professionally lit, or about $225 if you rent the pot lights yourself).   Another option is to add candlelight, to open or close blinds on windows, and to dim any light that is directly overhead.  If you add candles, however, plan on adding a lot.  A single tea light is puny, but grouped in clusters of 8 or 10 they appear magical.  Inexpensive tea lights are available at Ebay or the Dollar Store, are easy to set-up (simply need to place them in a holder), and easy to clean-up (simply blow out and toss in the trash).   Below I have a before and after picture of the fireplace we decorated last night – it’s clear that the candles we used make the fireplace a warm focal point for a room for very little expense or effort.

Adding Candles to a Wedding Altar

Before and After: Adding candles to a Stone Fireplace

Weddings 101: Everything you need to Know to find Your Wedding Photographer

Choosing a wedding photographer is most likely one of the most important decisions you will make planning your wedding.  If you’re anything like me, you want a wedding photographer that can somehow charm your in-laws and convince your flower girl to stand still – all while making you look like Angelina Jolie’s sister.  Finding the photographer that can do all this while also balancing budget constraints can be difficult at best.

Tomorrow I will offer specific recommendations for wedding photography costs, forming a budget, specific photographers and DIY-options.  Today’s post, however, will walk through the process of determining who your perfect photographer is, how to find potential photographers, the right questions to ask to vet photographers, and ultimately the ability to pick the best wedding photographer for your wedding.  

The following 3 factors were helpful in determining our ideal photographer:

  1. Professionalism – You should trust your photographer to respond promptly, arrive when scheduled, have professional-quality equipment (and back-up equipment!), deliver your images post-wedding in a timely manner, and charge an amount commiserate with their experience.  Don’t be afraid of seeking out new talent – it’s a great option when you’re on a budget.  Just be sure to vet them with the questions I have outlined below to ensure you’re satisfied with the outcome.
  2. Style – Your wedding photographer’s portfolio should move you.  Are you falling in love with the brides in their weddings?  Do you find yourself hoping your photos turn out the same way? You should like most, if not all, of the photos you see. Take time to discover the aesthetic that you love.
  3. Price – You will want to know what you are paying for.   At a minimum ask about the hours of coverage, whether you receive the rights to the photographs, if you will be given a digital copy of all the images (usually on a disk), and anything extra offered such as albums, prints, engagement sessions, etc.  

Of course, identifying what you are looking for in a wedding photographer is only half the battle – you now have to actually find the photographer!  When I started my search I started a Google Spreadsheet to keep track of the different photographers.  An Excel sheet would also work, the point is to ensure that you have a record keeping system.

 My top ten techniques to find potential wedding photographers:  

  1. Your network.  Ask coworkers, friends, and family, all of which will have opinions and want to help you find the perfect photographer.  As a bonus, someone may offer a friend connection that will result in a discounted price!  
  2. Google.  Your location, venue, state, and style – all of these can help you find photographers in Google searches.
  3. Review sites. Weddingwire, Weddingbee, The Knot, Yelp and other review sites are invaluable in making decisions.
  4. Other vendors. Ask your other vendors for recommended photographers.  As an added bonus they will often know who is easy to work with – they aren’t likely to recommend someone who will make their own job more difficult!
  5. Craigslist.  An excellent place to find new talent and budget-friendly options.
  6. Other photographers.  Ask other (unavailable or too expensive) photographers whom they would recommend.
  7. Social Media.  Twitter, Facebook, and blog communities are an excellent way to find potential photographers.  Many blogs, such as One Wed and Style Me Pretty, offer recommended vendor lists.
  8. Local Schools. Art Institutes and liberal arts colleges are full of enthusiastic photographers working to build a portfolio.  With a little luck, you may find an amateur that is both professional and affordable.
  9. Wedding Shows. Bridal expos and shows are a great way to meet a ton of photographers in one day.  You will be able to get a grasp of their personality as well as view a sample of their work – and there will often be incentives for signing-up at the show!
  10. Magazines. While not my first choice, bridal magazines can still be a good option to find vendors.  This is especially true for the online version of the magazine. 

Once you have collected the names of potential photographers, I suggest selecting your five favorites based on the sample of their work and pricing information if available.  The next step is to contact each photographer.   To maximize efficiency, I made sure to include the date of my wedding, the location, and the approximate number of guests.  I also included these questions in the initial email: 

My top ten questions to ask a potential photographer: 

  1.  Do you offer packages? If so, what are they? Do you have a pricing sheet?
  2. What is the charge for 6 hours of coverage? For 8 hours? Do you have a minimum fee?
  3. Will I receive rights to my photographs?  
  4. Do you preserve a copy of my wedding photos?
  5. Approximately how many weddings have you shot? Do you have experience working at my venue?
  6. What equipment do you use?  What is your back-up equipment?
  7. What type of editing do you offer? Do you offer prints or albums? If so, can I see a sample?
  8. Describe your photography style?  
  9. Why do you shoot weddings?
  10. What is the emergency plan in case you are unable to work the day of the wedding?

Once you have the answers to these questions then you will be able to start comparing and narrowing down your selection of photographers.  Cut your list ruthlessly.  Eliminate photographers who are more than a third over your budget, eliminate those who are unable to answer the above questions fully, and eliminate those who are unavailable for your wedding date.  Realize that a $5000 photographer will most likely not work for $1000 – go ahead and cross them off and move on to the next photographer on your list.  

Schedule a consult with the photographers on your narrowed down list.  Do you like their personality?  Remember, the more at ease you are around your photographer, the more natural and gorgeous your wedding photos will feel.  Trust your instincts.  And, above all, be prepared to relentlessly search for the wedding photographer that will both inspire you and fit in your wedding budget.  (If for no other reason, because you do not want this to happen to you.)

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How to find Your Wedding Photographer at Abuttercreamwedding