Do's and Dont's of a Wedding Day from the POV of a Wedding Photographer

I’m not here to tell you that you absolutely need to have a chapel veil or that you need to book a venue that houses both your ceremony and reception. This is simply a list of my Do’s and Don’ts that I have observed in my 4 years of being a wedding photographer. 

Weddings have recently started transitioning out of the stringent all-day affair that follows the formula of 1) wedding ceremony in a chapel, 2) family photos, wedding party photos, and couple portraits with the photographer, 3) reception entrance. The pandemic forced creative solutions to be born. Backyard weddings, elopements in the woods or on a mountain, or private ceremonies followed by a party with friends and family are just a few of the new formats we’re seeing. This list more so applies to the ‘traditional’ wedding format that we’re all familiar with.

What I’ve Seen Work (and Loved) on Wedding Days

Start Your Day Early

As dreadful as this sounds, my first piece of advice is to start your wedding day as early as possible. Now I don’t mean unreasonably so. Getting to your ‘getting-ready’ location early will give you time to relax and take in that YOU ARE GETTING MARRIED!! This is exciting and you want time to chat with your closest friends and family before the craziness starts, look at your venue (if that’s where you’re getting ready), and get final details together. This is the last time you have to depress before everything gets started.  

Both Wedding Parties Get Ready in the Same Location

Is this one largely out of selfish reasons? I plead the fifth. The stress of two locations means I have half the time (or even less) to capture the details due to travel and setting up my gear for a second time (or adding a second photographer to the mix). If you are someone who wants those nice flat lay shots of your details (shoes, jewelry, bouquet, etc.) and pretty dress shots, getting ready in the same location as the other party means I can have more time to do that. 

Have Snacks and Hydration

Now, this one seems like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised by the number of times I’ve had to supply snacks or drinks to my bride (which I’m happy to do) but I won’t be around every second. And when I say hydration, I don’t mean Redbull and champagne. Drink water! Have some cheese and crackers, and get some protein in ya. 

Keep Details Together for Both Bride and Groom 

I’m a sucker for the details, I want all the flower and dress shots I can get. I’ll spend a good 10 minutes (if I have the time) to arrange and re-arrange the perfect flat lay wedding photos with your wedding shoes, wedding invites, engagement announcement, bouquet, perfume, jewelry, and sentimental details to get the perfect shot. The easiest way to take care of this is have a designated bridesmaid who will keep track of these things. A new trend I’ve been seeing is ‘bridal trunks’ like this one here. Not only do you get to use them on your wedding day and have an aesthetic way to store them, but you can use it to store all your favorite wedding keepsakes for years to come.


Gift Exchange 

Gift exchanges are one of the sweetest details of the day. It’s a way for you to connect with your fiance before the ceremony if you aren’t doing a first look. The raw emotions I’ve captured for couples during a gift exchange are *chef’s kiss*. These candid moments will be missed, I promise you'll love these photos. It doesn’t have to be a particularly expensive or extravagant gift, a sentimental gift or a letter will create the experience we're looking for. I’ve never had a groom who didn’t sob while reading a letter from his bride. 

Have an Unplugged Ceremony

We’ve all seen the dystopian photos of every guest having their phones out and blocking the actual paid photographer from getting essential moments. I mean, what is your second cousin’s husband even going to use that photo for? 

Keep Your Guests Happy and Fed

If you’re sticking to the traditional wedding timeline, there will be 2-3 hours that your guests are unattended. If you have a separate location for both events, your guests can have time to meet with friends in your city, see sites, run errands, or grab a coffee. This is a really tricky one when your ceremony and reception take place at the same location. They walk a few feet and they’re at the reception. You definitely want to have refreshments for them in the form of hors d'oeuvres and drinks, you don’t have to have the bar open but if you are serving alcohol, your guests will be very happy with you if they have early access to the bar. 

Evergreen for Winter Weddings 

Are you planning a winter wedding? There’s somewhat of a tricky element to these. Especially in the midwest, no greenery. Evergreen is incredibly cheap and will add that missing piece to the day (and the images). Plus, it smells amazing.

Real Flowers

If your budget doesn’t allow for this, then there are great fake flower options. However, I’m a big believer in the real. It’s hard to put into words but real flowers are (for lack of a better term) the real deal.

Tell Your Wedding Photographer Every Little Detail 

Admittedly, this is another selfish one. This is another reason why I give my brides an extensive questionnaire. If it’s not on the timeline we create together, then it’s not in my mind (or on my excel sheet) to happen. Any little thing can throw the timeline off. 

What You Should Not Do On Your Wedding Day

Forget to Soak in the Day

This is one of those ‘easy to say, hard to do’ but I believe in you. Arrive early, breathe, and remember that you’re getting married today! Don't forget to have a great time on your special day and those memorable moments will happen.

Worry (LOL)

Okay, another ‘easy to say, hard to do’ but really no problem should reach you until it’s already gone through all of your wedding party. 

Not Feed Your Vendors

I hope you immediately cringed when you thought of someone *not* feeding their vendors. But the number of times I’ve shoved myself into a corner, ran to my car, or eaten in a storage room (yes more than once) shoveling on a quickly made PB+J or a smashed-up granola bar from the bottom of my bag is embarrassing.  

Invite Someone to the Ceremony but not the Reception (or Vice Versa)

Unfortunately, I have experience with this one from the guest side. And more than once. Cringe. It is not a good feeling to read that on the invite and go to a town I’m not familiar with to find a poor excuse for a Mexican restaurant and then later that night throw it all up. I bet the catered food wouldn’t have given me food poisoning. In all seriousness, it feels a bit like “Hey,  come to my wedding so you can experience this day with me and give me a gift, oh but by the way, I’m not feeding you even though you’ve traveled [x] hours to be here”. If they’re not important enough for you to feed them, then you can probably strike them from the guest list altogether. Being invited to the reception but not the ceremony is a totally different scenario and there are plenty of exceptions to this, maybe a number restriction that you can’t do anything about or you want a nice private ceremony with just close friends and family. 

Let’s Wrap Up 

I hate to be like “hey do this” or “absolutely don’t do this” and there are so many exceptions to everything for your big day! Especially with all the new ways there are to ‘do a wedding’. But from your friendly St. Louis wedding photographer, I hope you found a piece of advice here that will help make your day easier or give you an idea for a solution. If you liked what you read and want some more unsolicited wedding advice, let’s chat.