2016 was an amazing year. I got to be a part of so many wedding days. 59 to be exact—and I learned a whole lot of new things this past year.

One big thing that hit me this year, many brides are overwhelmed with so many choices today.

One of the most important things often overlooked is knowing the depth of your photographer’s skill. If your just looking at highlight images from many different wedding's your not seeing the whole picture. Ask to see the whole wedding. Often times, photographers show their best work but not the entirety of their work and this could lead to unexpected results after the wedding. Do your due diligence. Shooting outdoor portraits, formal church family portraits, and shooting inside dark reception halls are three totally different skill sets and you want to be sure your photographer can handle them all!

2. Make up and hair

You should do a trial run of make up and hair. Get a preview so you aren’t surprised the day off. Working with so many brides this past year I started seeing that great light make a poor job look great. It's crazy how it's taken me six years to start seeing that. Lighting is the key to great skin tones even when the make up is not exactly what you expected. The difference between putting a bride in good light vs great light can make even poor makeup shine. 

3. Preparations

The best wedding photographers will guide you so you never have to worry. They are inherent leaders when they need to be. The best thing I learned last year about preparations is that once you truly understand light, even under the toughest light conditions the photographer will have the additional lighting needed to transform a difficult light situation into a space with better lighting and that is so key to getting great getting ready shots. 

Another thing, have your details prepared in advance and ready to be shot when the photographer arrives. This will help the photographer streamline the process and get things done quickly and efficiently. Time is the most important thing on your wedding day and you want to make sure that you make the most of it!

4. Flowers

I was never a flower person until I started photographing weddings. The simplest of weddings can truly be brought to life with beautiful flowers. Even if you aren't a flower person, I can guarantee that you'll love your bridal party photos even more with nice bouquets! 

Another thing regarding flowers, I can’t tell you how many brides have had their flowers show up on a wedding day and they flat out hated them. Make sure you get a sample in advance and confirm with your florist that it’s exactly what you want. It might cost a little extra to have the sample made, but seriously, what’s the point of having your flowers show up and you hate them. They are a part of so many pictures and I can guarantee you will always remember that you did not like your flowers every single time you go back and look at your wedding pictures.

5. Ceremony & Formal Portraits

The best time for bride and groom portraits is about an hour before sunset. It's important to take the time to look up the sunset time for your wedding day & try to plan your ceremony accordingly. Mid day ceremonies in the summer are most often a tough time to get great shots because the sun is pounding. Not only that, your guests will not be thrilled with the heat and your skin tones will suffer. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes the timing can’t always be exact and having a good photographer is gonna really help with this. Mid day or mid afternoon sun is a challenging time to shoot and if the photographer is not experienced enough shooting in these conditions you might end up getting images that you don’t like on the day of your wedding. A good wedding photographer know’s how to shoot great portraits at all times of the day so if you don’t have much control of your ceremony time, a good photographer will really help here. 

Another thing I love to communicate with my couples is planning for family formals. I have a document online that I have all couples fill out 7-10 days before the wedding. This ensures that no family member is left behind, and helps keep us organized and efficient when photographing family formals. 

This part of the day can be the most stressful for many couples if it isn't planned out well. Make a list (and check it twice) Then make sure to share it with your family prior to the wedding day. Many times, my couples share this list with their family at the rehearsal dinner. That way, each family member knows they are needed and don't disappear after the ceremony during portraits!

6. Weather

Weather sometimes get’s in the way of a wedding. I have definitely experienced all sorts of crazy weather on a wedding day! From rain, to annoying mist, to intense winds, to gorgeous sunshine, I've witnessed it all! Weather changes and things happen, but it's so outside of our control so in reality you should not worry about it. Here’s where hiring a well experienced photographer is going to make or break your wedding album. A good wedding photographer know’s how to shoot no matter what the conditions can bring. They make seemingly challenging situations shine. If you have the unfortunate luck of getting rained out on your wedding day, hiring the right photographer is going to ensure you still get great pictures. No matter what, a good wedding photographer can get the job done well and make the best use of the conditions provided to them on a wedding day. 

7. Sweating the details 

One more really important thing, seriously, don't sweat the small stuff. Just like the weather, wedding days can be unpredictible. Stuff will happen, and handling those situations with patience and grace will make all the difference. My hope is that you wake up on your wedding day feeling calm, relaxed, and confident. You're marrying your best friend, don't let anything steal your joy that day, and remember a good photographer is gonna get the job done no matter what. 

I hope some of this helps put things into perspective. But even more so, my hope is that you enjoy this process. It goes by so fast, and at times you'll wish it away so that you can just be married already. Please know that you're not alone in feeling the stress & feeling overwhelmed. I’ve met so many brides that stressed all the way up to the wedding day and managed to let go of things on the day and I’ve met some that could’t let go on the wedding day. Trust me, it shows in your pictures. Even the best photographer can’t hide a stressed out bride, so take my word for it, spend it feeling joy and excitment. 

At the end of the day, your wedding day will be perfect for you and your husband. No matter rain or shine, it’s about family, friends, and you guys as a couple, not all the other stuff.

Here's to planning a wedding that will go down as one of your favorite days in your life.