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Wedding TipsPage 7 of 19Prev   Next

Finding a Great Wedding Photographer

Publish On 2014-12-09 , 3:11 PM

Unlike the work of your other wedding vendors (music, flower arrangements, cake), photographs aren't things you can hear, smell, taste or even see at first -- you don't really know what you're getting until after the fact. That means careful research and selectiveness regarding professional skills, artistic style and personal demeanor are extra-important when choosing your photographer.


Step 1: Settle on a Style
Before you begin researching photographers, you'll need to first decide what type of photography style you prefer, as that will help determine which kind of photographer you'll want shooting your wedding. Do any of the following appeal to you?
Documentary: Instead of a series of posed photos, these are candid or spontaneous pictures (read: not styled) of people, decor and the action. Typical shots might include the lavish raw bar before guests start digging in, your motley crew of cousins dancing or you and your bridesmaids laughing, champagne in hand. With a purely photojournalistic photographer, you'll very rarely see people staring at the camera -- the photos capture the moments exactly as they happened, and together they tell a story.

Portraiture: If you prefer classic portraits (think: your parents' wedding album), go with a traditional photographer who specializes in portraiture. These are posed shots of the two of you, friends and family in front of various backdrops. That's not to say there isn't room for creativity in this category. While some photographers will pose subjects in more traditional spots (like at the ceremony altar or out on the lawn of the country club) and in more formal poses (standing as a group together), other photographers take portraiture further into the creative realm with a more dramatic composition (the couple sitting on a lounge chair at their hip hotel reception venue, or the couple holding hands in the middle of a nearby dirt road with the mountains in the background).

Fine Art: Though it's similar to documentary photography, this style gives the shooter greater artistic license to infuse their particular point of view and style into your photographs. So while the shots reflect reality, it's the photographer's reality. The photos are dramatic and gorgeous, but are -- or look as though they were -- shot on film with a grainier, dreamier, more muted appearance. Usually the object (or couple) is in focus and the background appears to blur. Motion also looks very natural in this style of photography. The few wedding photographers in the world who shoot only on film tend to fall into this category, and typically they shoot in black and white, though some will do a mix of both. That said, a photographer using a digital camera can still capture this style with the right gear and camera lens. And some photographers will alternate between digital and film. Not all photographers who take a fine-art approach shoot portraits, so if it's really important to your mom to have posed family shots, look for someone who does both, or consider hiring a second shooter for the portrait sessions.

Edgy-Bold: This style of photography, an offshoot of fine art, is marked by outside-the-box, tilted angles (called “Dutch angles”) and unconventional framing. So instead of a straight-on shot of the couple exchanging vows at the altar, the photo might look tilted, with an object like an altar arrangement or a candle in the foreground. Or the photo of the bride having her makeup done might be shot from above, with an emphasis on the eye shadow brush rather than on her face. Even a single portrait of a bridesmaid might be shot so that her face takes over only the bottom right of the photo and the rest of the space is filled with the wall or whatever's behind her.

Many wedding photographers can do a blend of portraiture and documentary-style shots, and will do a mix of black-and-white and color images, but if there's a special style you love, make sure to focus on photographers who specialize in it.

Step 2: Do Your Homework
Start your search by reading reviews from recent brides and browsing hundreds of local listings. Carefully review potential photographers' websites and blogs to check out photos of other weddings they've shot, which will give you an idea of their style. The design of the website may also give you clues about the photographer's personality and sensibility. Check out their Facebook and Twitter pages too, if possible -- is the feedback from clients good? How does the photographer respond?

Step 3: Set Up Interviews
This is not a decision that can be made on looks alone -- you must meet your potential photographers in person. If you like what you see on their sites -- and their fees are in your ballpark range -- call to see if they're available for your wedding date. If the photographer is already booked on your date, you may want to see if they have an associate or can recommend another shooter with a similar style. Set up in-person meetings with three to five potential photographers who are available on your wedding date to look at more of their work and assess whether your personalities mesh. Be prepared to talk about your venue, your wedding style and what you envision for your photos.

Step 4: See a Few Full Wedding Albums
Don't base your decision solely on what you see in a photographer's highlights gallery or album. For good reason, photographers show prospective clients a portfolio of their best pictures, all from different weddings, so you're seeing the best of the best. The problem with that is you won't get a well-rounded idea of their work. Ask to see two or three full galleries from real weddings they've shot (not someone else at their company) so you can get a better idea of what your complete collection of photos might look like after the wedding. If you see that the full gallery photos are just about as good as the ones chosen in the highlight gallery (that is, they're all so good it's impossible to choose!), you're on the right track. And ask to see at least one or two complete albums of weddings that are in similar settings to yours. For example, if you're planning an indoor affair with dark lighting, don't just look at weddings shot outdoors in natural sunlight. And if you're planning to say “I do” on a beach at sunset, you'll want to see examples of that.

Step 5: Review Albums With a Critical Eye
When reviewing a photographer's album, look for the key moments you want captured: Did they get photos of both the bride and the groom when they locked eyes for the first time? Also look for crispness of images, thoughtful compositions (does a shot look good the way it was framed, or is there too much clutter in the frame?) and good lighting (beware of washed-out pictures where small details are blurred -- unless that's the style you're after). It's also very important that you detect sensitivity in capturing people's emotions; make sure the photographer's subjects look relaxed, not like deer caught in headlights. While you two are, of course, important, you want to see smiling shots of your friends too.

Step 6: Make Sure Your Personalities Mesh
Don't underestimate the importance of liking and bonding with your photographer. Is the photographer excited by your vision when you describe it? When they make suggestions, do they present them in a clear and respectful way, or are they timid? Are their mannerisms off-putting? In order to get the best photos, go with a pro who has a firm grasp of social graces but is bold enough to go out hunting for great images and who, above all, puts you at ease and doesn't irritate you in any way. Remember: They'll be shadowing your every move, and the more comfortable both of you are with the photographer, the better the photos will turn out. Likewise, you don't want the photographer to offend or annoy any guests, but to shoot them in their best light in an unobtrusive way. To get the best photos, your photographer needs to be assertive enough to seek out great moments, cajoling enough to coax relaxed smiles and natural stances from guests and calm enough to be a positive force. They should ask lots of questions and be a good listener.

Step 7: Confirm Your Shooter(s)
Many larger photo studios have more than one photographer on staff, and unless you specify it in your contract, the lead photographer may not be the one shooting your day. Since every professional has a different style, technique and personality, you need to make sure that the one you interview and "click" with will be the same one who works your wedding. Also, include specific stipulations in the contract about who will cover for the photographer should something happen on the actual day. Check whether the photographer will bring any assistants to your wedding, and if so, how many? If you have room in your budget, consider hiring a second shooter. Many top-notch photographers include a second shooter in the contract, but if this isn't a part of the deal, you may want to ask about the possibility. The main benefit to having two shooters is that you, of course, get twice as much coverage. For example, during your formal photo session, one photographer can capture the formal photos, while the second one can get behind-the-scenes, photojournalistic photos, like your guests mingling. If you're having a larger wedding (250 guests or more), you might even want to ask about having three shooters so that your photography team can be sure to capture the event from all angles.

Step 8: Compare Packages
You won't be able to nail down an exact dollar amount until you're sure of what you want, how many albums you need and where your photographer is based, and packages range from $2,500 all the way up to $15,000-plus on the higher end of the spectrum. When interviewing candidates, ask for a general range based on the photographer's standard “shooting fee” and package, plus their standard rates for the type of album you think you'll want and the amount of coverage you're hoping to book them for (day-of, full weekend). It's important to find out what's included in the standard package, plus the basic range for any extras you may want, like an engagement shoot, special effects or additional coverage, so you can compare rates. In particular, find out exactly how many hours of coverage are included. Ideally, you want your photographer to be there for your full wedding day: from when you start getting ready until after you make your grand exit from the reception. While packages vary, most include about 6 to 12 hours to cover everything from preceremony events (getting ready with your bridesmaids or first-look photos) to the end of the reception. It's usually better to pay for more coverage if there's a chance you'll run over and you definitely want your photographer there until the end (overtime is usually charged at a higher hourly rate). Also consider whether you'll want to do an engagement shoot or have your photographer shoot other events during your wedding weekend (the guys' golf outing, the bridesmaid lunch).

Step 9: Ask About Your Rights
Most contracts stipulate that the photographer owns the rights to all photos taken at the wedding, even the ones of you. In other words, the photographer can use them promotionally (on their website or blog, submit them for publication and even use them in ads). That also means that you can't just post the digital proofs they send you -- most photographers have a policy that you can only share watermarked images or images with their credit on them. Also, unless you negotiate otherwise, if you want to print the images yourselves or order an album from another source, you'll have to buy the rights to the images.

Step 10: Get the Postproduction Details
It usually takes at least a month to get all those photo proofs back from your photographer. Why? Your photographer is shooting enormous raw files far bigger than your typical JPG. Shooting raw files gives your photographer greater ability to correct the photo, but it also takes a longer time to upload, process and edit all those files (in order to correct color levels and so on). It varies, but many photographers say that they spend an additional 40 hours editing images from a single wedding, so it can take up to six to eight weeks (or longer, depending on the photographer and how busy they are) to get proofs back. Here's what to ask: How many images should I expect? Will they be high-resolution or low-resolution? Will I be able to get prints made myself, or does the photographer retain the rights to the images? Will the proofs I see be the retouched versions, or does that happen after I select the photos I want? Speaking of retouching, ask about retouching options and special effects (which can range from simple white balancing to beauty retouching and stylized art effects like super-saturated colors) and the additional cost for both.


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How to choose a Master of Ceremonies (MC) for your wedding?

Publish On 2014-12-16 , 2:30 PM

Why have an MC at the wedding?

The Master of Ceremonies (or MC) plays an important role at a wedding. The main responsibilities of an MC include:

  • introducing guests, family members or bridal party
  • keeping track of time and schedule
  • facilitating entertainment activities (speeches, party games, photo album slide shows)
  • making things run smoothly (and sometimes taking care of any unforeseen incidents during the evening)

Most of the time, we at observe couples asking one of their friends or relatives to perform the duties of an MC (sometimes, this responsibility falls onto the best man). This is, of course, the most cost effective option. Another reason to prefer a close friend to act as an MC is because the bride and the groom want a more personal and unique wedding experience. After all, a paid professional will use a predefined "script" to run through the evening and will only have the same old standard old jokes you've heard at all other weddings.

That is understandable and forgivable - a hired MC will not know the bridal party and guests well enough to provide a truly personal approach. On the other hand, because a professional Master of Ceremonies has gone through tens or hundreds of weddings, they will most likely offer a much "smoother" wedding experience, the jokes will be well-tested, and the expert will be better with time management.

How to select a person in charge of entertainment at the wedding

If you decide to have your friend or relative act as a Master of Ceremonies, choose someone who is easygoing, comfortable in large crowd and has plenty of public speaking experience (especially with large audiences). Being an MC is a big responsibility, so even if your potential MC has public speaking experience and has known all of your guests for a very long time (i.e. is among close friends), they will likely still feel jitters simply from the weight of the responsibility you put on them.

When choosing your MC, look for someone responsible and accountable who has demonstrated these traits consistently in the past. The last thing you want is for your MC (who may be a charismatic "social butterfly" that enjoys public speaking) is to get side-tracked by the food, wine and good company and even fall asleep on a couch outside the reception (you may laugh, but this has happened in the past!).

Humor and creativity are important for the MC

Finally, it's great when your MC of choice has a good sense of humor and can insert jokes into their speeches. It's not so great if they are the only ones who find those jokes funny, or better yet, when the jokes offend someone in the audience ("Dear Steve! Let's hope you won't cheat on your new wife the way you cheated on your previous girlfriend").

The best way to avoid these or any other potential pitfalls is to either review (and revise) your MC's speech well in advance, or, if you want the MC's speech to remain a surprise to you, enlist a few trustworthy friends or relatives to help review different parts of the speech. Whomever you hire or invite to be your Master of Ceremonies, be it a professional MC or a friend, walk through the entire wedding day with them multiple times to ensure you have the same vision of what your big day looks like to avoid any unpleasant surprises.


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What to look for in a wedding dress

Publish On 2015-01-06 , 2:12 PM

How to choose a wedding dress
The one main thing to remember when choosing a wedding dress is that it's about how the dress looks on you rather than how it looks in a catalog picture or a mannequin. While it seems trivial, it's surprising how many brides make the mistake of finding their perfect "style" in a magazine, racing to the store to find this same or similar type of dress they like so much and trying it on only to be disappointed in how they look.

The next thing that usually goes through their mind is something like "If only I was skinnier / taller / more shapely / etc." No wonder wedding dress hunting becomes more of a chore rather than the fun experience it's supposed to be! Well, learning from our own experience (as well as a countless number of our friends and a large number of brides here at who recently got married), here are a couple of tips on how to choose your perfect wedding dress and skip on all the frustration.

Find your unique dress style
Each body is different, so it only makes sense that the same dress will look very different on different people. Thus, the best way to figure out what type of dress will look best on you is to try as many different types, styles, and colors and see which patterns emerge. Instead of going through countless bridal magazines, make a few trips to actual bridal stores. Start with the largest stores (think David's Bridal vs. small boutique) that carry the largest variety of wedding dresses.

At first, don't be picky. Try every imaginable style and dress and begin the process of elimination. Take notes on what features of a dress look good on you and which ones simply don't. For instance, a "mermaid" style dress might make your hips look big (in which case, scratch that one out) or this same style might make you look shapelier and sexier (in which case, it's a keeper).

At this step, don't pay attention at the price - you are still in the "discovery" phase simply looking for the style of dress that looks best on you. Once you've figured out your unique style, you are 90% done. The next step is to visit bridal shops with that particular picture in mind and simply find the dress that would suit your budget.

Find the perfect wedding dress
Hunting for your perfect wedding dress will take longer than you expect. Most brides assume it won't take more than 2-3 waves of bridal shop visits to find their perfect dress. They are greatly underestimating the effort! In a quick pole we took, brides made an average of 9 trips to different bridal shops and tried and average of 8-10 dresses at each store. That's 90 different dresses tried on... daunting isn't it?

One thing to remember is not to settle because you think you will never find a wedding dress you will be 100% happy with. After all, you found your perfect man, why can't you also find your perfect dress :)? Remember that it's not just you - unless you are wearing your mother's dress to the wedding, finding your wedding gown may take a few months.

Here is an advice from us at be patient and take as long as you need. It's worth it, given that your wedding dress (as captured in wedding pictures) will literally be looked at and remembered by generations to come (including your children and grandchildren).

Bring a camera to a bridal shop
Definitely bring a camera to each dress fitting and take pictures of every dress that you try on from every angle. Not only will this help you to later remember which dresses you liked the most/least, it will also help you:

  • see how your dress will look in wedding pictures (objects in pictures and real life don't always lookidentical),
  • compare different styles of dresses and how they look on you side-by-side,
  • share these pictures with your bridesmaids and girlfriends and ask for their opinions.

Enlist help of friends to find the dress

Don't go to the fittings alone! Bring your bridesmaids or friends and ask them what they think looks best on you. Take lots of pictures, share them online and ask your friends to vote on the top three dresses they like best. Although everyone has different tastes and opinions, you will soon see a trend that will help you figure out which style of dress looks best on you.

Happy hunting for that perfect wedding dress!


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How to pick the right shoes for the wedding for guys

Publish On 2015-01-14 , 1:55 PM

Ok, so shoes are not a big deal for guys, right? Right.

The only thing you need to be able to do in your shoes is look good in your photos and dance your first dance. Still, do plan to buy new shoes.

The two show color options that people like the most when looking back on the photos after the wedding is over (these are your wedding memories that you'll post all over Facebook and will be showing to your grandchildren one day) are:

Option 1, typical: black leather
Option 2, premium: dark "red" leather. These are suitable for some attires, but not all. They do look black from a distance, but look very expensive up close. Try a few options on and see how they look on you.
That's it - no other options! No beige, creme, grey or any other colors you might want.

Also, you might not think of it too much, but pick a high heel - you'll look taller and more impressive, both at the altar and in the photos. Remember, you will be standing next to other men in suits - your buddies - and you want to look better so that it's crystal clear to everyone who's getting married today. Every small thing counts. How tall you appear usually is one of the most important factors to you looking "impressive."

Finally, pick comfortable, thin synthetic socks, and pick up an extra pair. Thin socks work well for long days like your wedding day will be, and should it rain on the day of your wedding, you will likely be taking plenty of photos in the rain - you will need a dry spare if your feet get wet.


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Choosing wedding attire color palette

Publish On 2015-01-21 , 2:26 PM

You probably thought there are many options, and you just cannot choose among so many colors, right? Well, here is the simple empiric breakdown for you of what couples end up with:

  • About 50% of guys wear a white tie on their wedding (white shirt, plus solid whitesolid white or woven silk tie, for guys and a white dress for girls)
  • About 25% of couples go with a purple theme
  • About 15% of couples choose aquamarine theme
  • The remaining 10% wear other color choices

It's that simple. You can experiment a bunch with different color options, but statistically, we bet you'll end up with one of these three. So check them out right away to save time!

From the trends perspective, "white tie" option has been one of the most popular ones. Surprisingly, many grooms have been picking that in the last wedding season. This color choice has by far the largest number of votes among grooms. That leaves brides with two other accent colors for their bouquet and bridesmaid's dresses - purple or aquamarine.

Bright colors are great for skinny bridesmaids, and darker purple colors work well on all bridesmaids.

For guys, the common way to match brides' and bridesmaids' colors is:

  • Purple shirt and dark purple tie
  • Aquamarine vest and tie, plus white shirt

Thinking of choosing the classic plain black and white? Not really in style recently. While you might not care about "what's in style" right now, seeing yourself look "plain" in photos after the wedding is over is not really a fun thing.


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