Hey there!! Thanks for taking the time to read through this, and I’ll give you a fair warning, this is a long read, so make sure you have enough time to sit down and thoroughly read it and take note of the things that stand out to ya. I’ve been to soooooo so many weddings, and I’ve gathered a lot of insight on how things work and how to make things look super incredible. I know that you may not apply everything in this guide to your own wedding, but I just ask that you consider some of it, because I want you to be able to look back at your wedding day with no regrets.
Y’all. GET YOUR ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS DONE. Do it do it do it. I could go on and on and on about why you should invest in engagement photos, but here’s the main summary of why you should. For one, it is so nice to be able to have photos of you and your honey in your everyday clothing, in a place where you feel totally comfortable and yourselves. You have so much more flexibility to get your photos done in the prime lighting, and it’ll be easier to go on a crazy hike to get the craziest views. Another great reason for getting them done, is that you can get used to being in front of my camera. I realize that getting your photo taken can be mega awkward, and so when you get your engagement photos done by me, you will know exactly what to expect when your wedding day roles around, so you won’t have to be worried at all about getting your photos taken! Also, it gives us a great opportunity to get to know each other even better. I want to be your friend, really truly. When I become your friend, I understand you way better, and through that I am able to capture your love so much better, and I want to be able to give you the best possible photos, especially on your wedding day. There are so many different options for your engagement photos. I live in the Black Hills of South Dakota, which I seriously believe is THEE most underrated place ever. It’s seriously so gosh dang breathtaking, and I know so many beautiful off-the-beaten-path places that would be incredible for photos. And I can take you to all my favorite icecream + coffee places so that’s a plus. 😉 And having your session in the Black Hills is also your cheapest option!! I grew up in Central Nebraska and I go back there often, so I have select few dates throughout the year where I charge for those sessions like I would charge for a session in the Black Hills!! And I know of some really great locations throughout the state that would be amazing!! I also offer Adventure Sessions!! So basically anywhere you could think of outside of the Black Hills of South Dakota (in the continental US), we could go! And I charge a set fee for Adventure Sessions. Wanna go to the coast of Oregon? Let’s go. The Rocky Mountains of Colorado? Let’s go. The vast desert of Arizona? Let’s go. Literally anywhere. And if you want to go somewhere cool but don’t know where, just let me know and I can help you come up with some ideas! Also!! I recently started offering weekend sessions and I think it may be the best thing I’ve ever done. Instead of just one evening of shooting, we get an ENTIRE WEEKEND together. So many more adventures and so much more laughter and so many more memories. And you can make your session a weekend whether it’s in the Black Hills, or Nebraska, or anywhere else! I especially encourage them if you choose to do an adventure session, because we get that much more time together to explore a new and beautiful place. I have a pinterest board with ideas of places to go linked below along with some examples of sessions in different locations!
INTIMACY + GUEST COUNT
I have had SO many brides tell me in the weeks before their wedding that they wished they had chosen to elope. Or that they had at least chosen to have wayyyyy less guests Seriously I’m not making that up. It’s so easy for your guest list to just grow and grow and grow. Especially when parents want to start inviting their friend’s cousin’s daughter and her family. But it’s YOUR wedding, not your parents, and you should be able to be in control of the guest list. I can’t even express how much I encourage you to pick a number of guests and then STICK. TO. THAT. NUMBER. It’s your big day! Don’t you want to spend it with the people you love most? Like ACTUALLY spend time with those people? When you have hundreds of people that you are trying to say hi too, and when most of those people are just your parents friends or people you haven’t spoken to in years, you end up leaving your closest humans on the sidelines. Your day will be so much more special if you have memories of being loved on by the people you love most.
HOW TO SAVE SOME $$$
Venues are SO. EXPENSIVE. But there are so many venue options out there that AREN’T. EXPENSIVE. And in my opinion, I find the cheaper options to be way more meaningful and beautiful than those big expensive options. So here are some ideas!! National Parks Obviously these are some the most beautiful places in the world, and why wouldn’t you want to say your vows in the most breathtaking place? All you need to do is get a permit, which are at most $400. You just need to make sure to have a ceremony set up that will leave the earth clean and beautiful. Airbnb or VRBO You have so many people coming to celebrate you and your love, why would you want to be separated by floors and elevators and key cards? Renting a big house to host all your guests opens the door for a way more intimate environment, and it gives you more time to be with the ones you love. From there you could have your ceremony + reception in the backyard, or at a state/national park near you!! Like this for example!! It has the most wonderful backyard that would be perfect for a ceremony + backyard reception.
Backyards or Campsites Weddings in backyards are the greatest thing ever in the entire universe. They are so meaningful and intimate and cozy and just all good things. I will never be able to talk these up enough, please please please consider having your wedding in your backyard. I have a Pinterest board showing you how wonderful they are, check it out, I have it linked below.
Public Lands This earth is so beautiful, and there are so many public places that allow you to have weddings on their land. Just do your research and make sure you get all the necessary permits, and also make sure that you leave no trace behind.
You really can make just about any location work, just make sure to do your research. And if there seems to be a problem with the venue, I’m sure you can find a solution! Does it not offer catering? Then bring in your favorite food truck! Is there no seating? If you have a short ceremony, then everyone can stand! One of the most beautiful ceremonies I’ve ever been to is when the guests stood in a circle around the bride + groom. I just encourage you to find a location that you truly love and that holds meaning to you. If you need some more inspiration, go check out some wedding blogs like The Venue Report, Green Wedding Shoes, Hey Hey Hello May, Rocky Mountain Bride, or other local wedding blogs.
Choosing to have a wedding weekend just makes your special day even more special. You have so many people coming to celebrate you, why not extend the celebration, spend more time with them and create more memories? Instead of having a rehearsal dinner you could have a night on the lake, tubing and swimming and night boat rides. Or you could have a BBQ + game night and laugh deep into the night. Or what about an evening of sledding and hot cocoa? Another idea is continuing the celebration the morning after the wedding. Why not have brunch at your favorite breakfast place or your parents house and then go on your favorite hike? Some other options are to have a sweet night before or morning of session in a cabin or on one of your favorite hikes. Or what if the next morning you get dressed back up and do a bridal session in some breathtaking location you weren’t able to get to on your wedding day? There are so many wonderful things you could do to continue the celebration of marriage. You really can make your wedding weekend anything you want it to be.
Please don’t cram. I want you to be able to enjoy your day to it’s fullest potential, so why cram and then be stressed? Things will go not as planned, it’s just how life works, so make sure to schedule in plenty of time so that you can be relaxed even if things are a little of schedule. I have a sample timeline below that shows how I schedule a day, and what each wedding collection (6 hours, 8 hours, 10 hours) will include.
This part of the day is so often overlooked, but it is so so meaningful, and I want to make sure you take advantage of that. Do you not care about tradition? Then go on your favorite hike with your honey, go to your favorite coffee shop, have breakfast in bed and cuddle with your dogs, or even get ready together. You can make your wedding morning what YOU want it to be. Make sure you’re very intentional about your getting ready space. So often people just resort to the easiest option. The church basement, that random room in the back of the building where all the random junk is, or that one hotel that’s next to the venue. All of those spaces often have really ugly colored walls that reflect off your skin to make weird skin tones, they have really crappy lighting, and practically no natural light. They are all easily (or already) cluttered, which causes for LOTS of distractions in your photos, and because of the awful lighting and weird colors, the photos often turn out to be not the highest quality they could be and I have to put them in black and white to make them look decent. Here are some examples of getting ready spaces that were dark, had bad lighting, and were super cluttered.
Why have that when you could have something as wonderful as this.
I encourage you to find a space that has TONS of natural light and beautiful, natural colors (white is of course always the best). Locations with lots of natural light will make your skin look absolutely beautiful, make the photos have the highest of quality, and it will honestly make you feel so much more relaxed. Think about it, would you rather get ready in a dark, cluttered, stuffy room, or on the front porch of your childhood home, surrounded by fresh air and beautiful morning light. Wherever you decide to get ready, a couple tips that will make any location look loads better : Make sure you designate one area of the space the “clutter-free” zone, and keep one space the “clutter-zone.” This way, I can have a space where I can take photos that won’t have that hot-pink duffel bag, or the maid-of-honor’s bra, or a random shoe box. Another tip is to make your “clutter-free” zone in the area that has the most natural lighting, which will allow your photos to be the most beautiful they could possibly be. And another super random tip, is to have a nice hanger for your wedding dress. Not that random plastic one that your christmas sweater was hanging on in the back of your closet. Click THIS link for one I found on Amazon. If you need some ideas for getting ready spaces, I have a pinterest board linked below. I also have different AirBnB’s and VRBO’s pinned to the board with their location in the title, so that if that’s the route you want to go, you can easily find the one’s that would look best.
CEREMONY + RECEPTION
This is another part of wedding planning that is often overlooked, but it is extremely important for good quality photos, and for the comfort of your guests. Here is a break down of each lighting scenario. Backlit This is by far the dreamiest lighting (and my personal favorite). You can get this lighting in the evening or early morning, while the sun is low in the sky. A negative of this scenario, is that it can be distracting for your guests as they will be looking right into the sun. A tip for how to achieve this lighting and also achieve comfort, is to set up your ceremony at a slight angle, so that everyone is comfortable, and so you still have that good lighting. If your ceremony will take place while the sun is low in the sky, but the light won’t be hitting the location, face the sun at your guest’s backs. Also, keep in mind that the sun is in different spots in different seasons, so if you are checking out a location to see what the lighting is like, I highly recommend getting the app called “sun-seeker.” It’s freaking magical. You can put in any date, and then it will show you where the sun will be at different times. Like I said, magical. And a life saver.
Uneven This is the worst possible lighting scenario. You often come across this scenario in the middle of the day in a wide open space. People’s faces will either be super blown out, or be super dark, or a combination of both. Photos will loose quality and detail, it will be super uncomfortable for guests in the bright, hot spots. And while some may find shade and be comfortable, the ones not in shade will be sweating like crazy. This light is definitely not soft and dreamy, but if you can’t avoid it, try to make it as backlit as you possibly can.
Shaded + Overcast Best case scenario right here. You will have the same lighting throughout the entire area, everyone’s skin will look mega-awesome, and it will provide a very comfortable space for your guests.
Indoor Make sure you have lots of natural light coming in from windows, and turn off the indoor lights of possible so that everyone’s skin isn’t a mixture of weird overhead orange light and beautiful blue natural light. If you have to keep the indoor lights on, make sure they are bright so that the photos won’t loose quality.
Reception It is very, very, very, important to have lots of string lights and candles. This will allow for better photos with higher quality. Low light = poor quality + super grainy + loss of detail. With photos taken in low light, I often have to put a majority of them into black and white so that they look decent. The more light you have, the more color there will be, and the better your skin will look. I can of course use a flash, but your photos will loose the soft dreamy look. Pro tip : christmas lights won’t give off enough light, you need string lights with bigger, brighter bulbs, like these from amazon!! Click the button below!!
WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT
By having an unplugged wedding, you’re asking your guests to be 100%, completely, totally present by turning off their phones and cameras. Way too often, I’ve been at a wedding where the aisle is filled with electronics. This not only ruins the photos, but it also ruins other guests experience. Do you want your grandma trying to figure out how to take a photo on her new iPhone while you say your vows? Do you want your soon-to-be-husband’s view of you walking down the aisle being blocked by a giant tablet? An easy way to go about asking people to put away their electronics, is having a sign at the entrance of the ceremony, putting it in your program, and also to have the speaker announce for everyone to put their electronics away before the ceremony starts and that people can get photos afterwards. Besides! Isn’t a photo with the bride and groom way more meaningful than the crappy iPhone photo of the bride walking down the aisle? And I’ll be sure to send sneak peeks of the ceremony that you can share with your family and friends so that they can still be able to post photos – photos that are way better quality than they could have gotten.
NEED SOME MORE INSPO?
I GOT PINTEREST Y'ALL
Do you have absolutely no idea where to start when it comes to planning out what your wedding will look like? No worries. I have pinterest boards loaded with different ideas. I got boards that range from hair ideas, florals, reception decorations, venues in the black hills, and on and on and on. If you have something you’re needing help with but you don’t see it on my pinterest profile, let me know and I’ll get a board started. I’m here to help you make your day as special as it possibly can be.
But most importantly, do what YOU want to do. It’s YOUR big day. Do you not want a rando pastor officiating your wedding? Then have your sister, best friend, or dad get ordained!! Just follow THIS link. Are you wanting to elope but also celebrate with your family? Elope and say your vows to each other in a beautiful, meaningful location, even bring ten of your closest family and friends. Then go home the next day, or even the next month, and party all night long with EVERYBODY. Do really like bonfires and smore’s and camping? Then ditch your traditional reception and do that. Do you not want to say your vows in front of everybody? Then sneak off before the ceremony and say them in private. Do you not like cake? Then get churros or donuts! Make sure you honor your family, but also remember that it is YOUR day, and you shouldn’t let yourself get caught up in making your parents happy. And remember that your wedding isn’t for your guests. They are coming to shower you with love, and in return watch you promise forever to your person. The most important part of your wedding is YOU AND YOUR PERSON. Don’t forget it.