I always get lots of questions from my soon-to-be brides and grooms about what the first steps are in getting ready for your wedding (besides a photographer).

You want people who know what they're doing, and the last thing you want on your special day is to get frustrated with yourself or anyone else because you couldn't do everything.

Having 30+ weddings under my belt now, I have sort of picked up a pattern of what gets missed during the pre-stages of getting ready for a wedding and what is vital. Being a vendor as well as an onlooker, I see some items matter more than others--all depending of course on what size the wedding might be or how long it is, or even where the wedding might take place.

Bride Gabi with her wedding planner Bridgett Reagan of B's Custom Occasions. Shot taken by Amanda Swanson Photography©.

1) Get a WEDDING PLANNER or SOMEONE you can trust to have some control on the wedding day with you (that is not your partner)

GET A WEDDING PLANNER FIRST. I'm not trying to sound crazy, but it's DIRE that you have one for your day. Very dire. Unbelievably dire.

This amazing being will be the backbone and connection to all of your vendors. They will be able to watch the clock for you while you enjoy and have fun during the day, and if any mishaps or changes happen they are sure to know before you do.

And they will also have your timeline for you and set for all the vendors before the wedding!

This means YOU won't be having to trudge to the DJ booth and ask the DJ to get the dance music started once you return to your seat, for example. Your wedding planner should have that all handled for you and more.

And let's say you don't have the budget for a wedding planner and you want one? Get a family member you trust. I have done multiple weddings where the wedding planner is an Aunt or a Cousin who knows what they are doing. Either way, just obtain somebody other than your partner. PLEASE.

Wedding venue for Bride Staci and Groom Brian at The Common House in Chattanooga, TN.Shots taken by Amanda Swanson Photography©.

2) Choose your Wedding Venue and Reception Place (Preferably with a crew that can set up and take down your wedding and preferably where you will get ready at)

For a wedding, you always need a location.

Pretty self-explanatory and highly recommended you have some places in mind once you start planning. (I've never had a client have issues with finding a spot, knock on wood.)

I've done many weddings where they have venue/reception setups like these:

  • Wedding at a church where there may be family/sentimental ties, and reception with food at a lovely location like at a Pavillion or Event center

  • Wedding outside of the venue, like at a barn, and the reception with food inside the barn

  • Wedding outside of a venue like a fun boutique hotel, food after like a brunch near the same spot of the wedding, large break during the day, and the reception with drinks and dancing later in the evening

Just to name a few!

Wherever you choose, figure out set-up and break-down procedures with the owner (or owners) so you have a clear idea of what to expect on your wedding day. Some owners are even able to allow it to be set up the day before, just depending!

And make sure you confirm with them for start and end times, some venues may charge overtime fees, other times you may have the place all day to yourself.

Photos taken by Bradley Cantrell of Amanda Swanson at work.

3) My favorite part: Choose your wedding Photographer/ Wedding Videographer

Something you absolutely have to have, a wedding photographer and videographer.

Preaching from experience and my job, without one of us you'll only have iPhone memories to remember your special day by where you might not even like the angles or the quality when you're wanting to print.

When it comes to choosing your Photographer or Videographer, you want to consider:

  • Style
  • Pricing
  • How many images you get back
  • Contract rights
  • Reviews

All four are very important when looking over a potential Photographer/Videographer. Style so you like how your images look, pricing to fit your budget, image count to know what all you are getting with your package, contract rights for printing and reposting, and reviews for what their previous clients have said to get an idea of who you're working with.

Photographers and videographers aren't just your normal vendors; they are artists with passion, and they want to make your wedding day comes to life in pictures and video for all to see in the future. They want you to look back and go, "Wow, that was our perfect day".

And I'm going to preach one more thing: Please do not pay someone cheaply for this service or someone who does work like this for free. Wedding photography/videography is a big and extensive job, and I have been to and seen weddings where the couple gets a photographer who is a close friend or someone with no idea what a contract is, and one of two things happen: 1) They get the pictures back and the quality shows through social media posting that it's not professional or 2) They don't get promised images back, or none at all.

Be sure you're paying an actual business person or someone who aims to do this as a business and not someone who does this 'just for fun' or to gain popularity.

A lot of full-time photographers/videographers will agree with me on how upset we get when we see couples get wronged on wedding days by inexperienced or unprofessional/unkind photographers.

Lovely assortment of many types of foods from weddings I have shot.Shots taken by Amanda Swanson Photography©.

4) Get yourself your food caterer!

Choose something tasty! Some venues will have food carers come with them!

What I recommend the most when choosing your food caterer is knowing how much you'll get, and knowing there is variety for all tastes including vegetarians, vegans, and health-conscious folks (like me haha). Always look into the budget for this too, and consider your final headcount after your RSVPs come back in for your amount of food.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with having leftovers.

DJ of Brian and Staci's wedding getting the crowd hyped to dance. Shot taken by Amanda Swanson Photography©.

5) Choose who will take care of your music

Whether you need someone who will turn on your playlist for you from their speakers when you walk down the aisle, or someone who will be playing live covers during your reception for dancing, you'll need someone for ambiance. I have done many weddings where music is different ways such as:

  • Guitarists play a lovely ballad as the ceremony takes place
  • A DJ plays the perfectly selected songs for each person of the bridal party as they come into the reception, some dancing or doing funny moves to their picked song
  • A local DJ with speakers and lights plays everything from slow dances to line dancing all night for everyone to dance and do funny sing along with all night

Music is very important in its own way from a sense of mentality and what you and other wedding attendees may feel or remember from the wedding. Knowing that your true chosen picked song is played on time as a bride or groom walks down the aisle is key and too important to miss.

Multiple lovely brides getting makeup and hair done.Shots taken by Amanda Swanson Photography©.

6) Choose how you'll look with your makeup artist and hairstylist

This is mainly for the ones who want a little more primping up of course for the wedding day, but choosing a makeup artist and hairstylist will make your day go by even smoother, even if it's just you yourself needing it for the day. Knowing that you won't have to lift a finger for your hair or face will make you feel much more at ease with a trusted artist. It also gives a definite effect of confidence feeling like you're being done up for something special, which you will be~

Multiple locations decorated by wedding decorators. Shots taken by Amanda Swanson Photography©.

7) Consider a wedding decorator

When you want your wedding to have a great theme or well-executed aesthetic, getting a decorator will be key. Being able to talk with the right decorator or wedding stylist can help you get a great perspective of how you really want your place set up. I've seen everything from weddings decorated with home items that have been chosen by family members to weddings decorated in the nines to chic shapes and lights that make the place look like a fashion runway. Just don't lose yourself when you want to decorate for your special day. Keep it to your soul's want whether it be simplistic or extra.


And that covers it from my experiences!~

Be on the lookout for blog posts like this on preparing for your wedding day properly and with as little stress as possible! I hope this helps you in some fashion if you're planning on a wedding soon! Let me know in the comments if you'd like to see anything more from me!


Current Mood: Excitement for the new year

Current Favorite Drink: Yogi Elderberry and Lemon Tea with Honey

Current Favorite Song: Gimme Little Sign by Brenton Wood

Current Favorite Location to Photograph At: Bay Mountain Park in Kingsport,TN

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