I’ve photographed one or two weddings, and seeing as it’s the time of year when everyone is getting married, I thought I’d put together the definitive guide to getting married. Okay definitive might be an exaggeration, but I’m sure you’ll find some interesting stuff here. So here’s how to have a successful wedding:
1. Find yourself someone to marry. Sounds like a no brainer I guess… I thought so too, until I Googled ‘can you marry yourself’. Man, we live in a weird world.
2. Get engaged. This is where the man ‘man’s up’, gets down on one knee, and pops the question. There’s gonna be backslaps, high fives, teary grandma’s and one very happy lady. Congratulations. Now announce it in the newspaper.
3. Choose a date. Give yourself and everyone around you plenty of time to plan for it… rush the process and you’re looking at a registry office ceremony with no guests. Which is cool -if you’re eloping in Timbuktu.
4. Marriage is a legally binding contract, which obviously means there are certain Legal Marriage Requirements you have to meet. Unsure of what they are? This website is a good place to start.
5. Decide on whose going to be your Maid of Honour, Best Man, Bridesmaids, Groomsmen, flowergirls and pageboy. Give them as much forewarning as possible.
6. You’ve got two options when it comes to your wedding planning – do it yourself, or get a wedding planner to help you out. I’d recommend Steph and Renata from P2 Marketing and Events. Sisters who get the job done.
7. Doing the planning yourself? Go to a bridal exhibition. There’s always good deals on offer and it’ll help give you perspective on the industry. Try the Bridal Expo, held every June at Burswood.
8. Decide on your budget. The average cost of a wedding in Australia is now around the 50,000 mark. That’s a lot of money – plan early and plan well and you could save yourself a whole lot of cash. Money saved on a wedding is money you could spend on a honeymoon…. or something sensible like a deposit on a house.
9. Sort out who is paying for what. There’s generally a few parties involved in this – yourselves, parents, grandparents etc. Avoid confusion and establish early on who is going to cover what costs.
10. Chose a ceremony location. A lot of this has to do with the kind of ceremony you’re having. If you’re religious, it’s likely to be in a place of worship. Other options are Gardens, parks, beaches, and so on… just remember to check the weather forecast if it’s outdoors.
11. Choose a reception location. Kinda goes hand in hand with the point above. Make sure the two locations aren’t too far apart!
12. Find a photographer. Styles, budget, availability are all things to consider… hey why don’t you give this guy a call. He’s a winner! (note: blatant self-promotion fully intended)
13. Decide on whether you want a pre-wedding photography shoot done. These get you used to being photographed as a couple, and getting comfortable in front of the lens. It’s also a good opportunity to get to know me, err, I mean your photographer.
14. Get a nice portrait of you and your betrothed done. Use it as a feature on the day, and put it on outgoing stationary such as invitations.
15. Want cinematic memories of the big day? Hire a videographer. With the technology these days a good videographer can give a Hollywood-esque shine to your wedding video. Just remember there’s a lot of cowboys out there.
16. Ah, the wedding dress. The most important dress you’ll ever wear! Choose wisely… the photographs will be hanging on your wall forever. Check it still fits properly close to your wedding day (weddings and weight loss are very good friends).
17. Got the dress? Get the bling to match. My advice would be not to go over the top on the jewellery. ‘Sublime elegance’ is the way to go! It’s completely up to you, and your budget of course.
18. The ultimate piece of bling, the one everyone is going to want to see, are the wedding rings. A lot of shopping around is required – prices on these things can be a tad on the fickle side.
19. To pull off the aesthetics of the day, your bridesmaids need to look as good as you do. Put as much thought into their dresses as into yours. Match them to the décor of the day. Maybe link them in some way to what the groomsmen are wearing, such as green dresses and green ties.
20. And following on from this, you obviously need to organize suits or tuxes for the groom and groomsmen.
21. You’re probably going to spend a lot of money on your florist. Make sure you pick one that knows what they’re doing. Flowers that rock up two hours late may as well not have turned up at all.
22. Going for a certain colour scheme at your wedding? Double check the flowers you want are in season.
23. The bride, the bridesmaid and the flower girl(s) are all going to be sporting beautiful bouquets. Or are they? Ensure the bouquet design meets your standards… they’re going to be a feature in many of your wedding photographs.
24. So you don’t fancy a bridal party that look like Rob Zombies back up dancers? Then choose an established and experienced make up artist -and they don’t come more established and experienced than Elsie Tan.
25. When choosing a hairdresser, don’t pick your mate’s sister whose has only ever cut her own nose hair in the mirror. Find someone with talent and know-how.
26. Make sure your hairstyle is matched to your wedding gown. Beehives and mini-skirts don’t go – that was the 70’s deary.
27. Perfect skin and a glow of vitality are possible thanks to Mia Shilkin’s range of anti-ageing products. Give her a call on 0417846221 and she’ll show you how to rewind the years.
28. Make a beautiful statement with some unique jewellery and wearable art from La Belle by Claire. From necklaces and earringsto beautiful headpieces, Claire’s work is sure to dazzle your guests!
29. The guest list is always a tough one. You never want to offend people by not giving them the nod, and then there’s that crusty old uncle who always gets too drunk and makes a scene. My advice? Be ruthless.
30. They’re cute, they’re magnetic, they stick onto the fridge. They’re ‘Save the Date’ fridge magnets! Organise them a few months in advance, and those who have made your list have no excuse for rocking up at an empty church.
31. Create and send out wedding invitations closer to the big day. Michelle at Pierre Designs Graphique can help you out with this if you’re in Perth.
32. Set up a gift registry at any of the large home superstores. Inform your guests that its there, and then they can check the gift they have in mind for you hasn’t been bought already. This means you’ll get less double ups!
33. Never underestimate seating arrangements. They can make or break a wedding for certain guests. If Uncle Steve and Uncle Joe had a fight over Aunty Betsy thirty years ago and none of them talk to each other, put them on separate tables.
34. Catering. A photographer I know shot a wedding where the main meal was takeaway stir fry chicken in a box, delivered on the night. Don’t let that be you! Food can make or break the wedding… choose a catering company who you know will get it right.
35. Serving alcohol on the night? Decide what will be available. Choose your red and white wines, organize a few kegs of beer, and don’t forget the champagne! Not everyone will be drinking at your wedding, so make sure you get some soft drinks too.
36. Organise professional barmen to handle the bar. Don’t leave it in the hands of your friends. If friends are behind the bar you’ll run out of booze early, and things will probably get broken.
37. Table decorations help create that initial ‘wow’ factor when your guests walk into the reception room. Choose classical and sublime decorations would be my advice. Stay away from bright blue plastic pudding bowls filled with soil from your favourite riverbed. (Seen it before).
38. Your wedding transport is a nice feature of the day. It can be classy (think stretch limos), rustic (think trams) or old fashioned (horse and carriage). Rocking up in Grandma’s Daihatsu ain’t gonna cut it.
39. Remember you have a bridal party to transport too. If you’re not getting a limo for all of you, hire a nice sedan or borrow someone’s people mover. Maybe someone you know just got a new Mercedes they want to show off.
40. The bridal party will obviously be feeling very honoured to be there for you on this big day. Make them feel a little more special, personalised with small gifts to remind them of your wedding. Something engraved always works well.
41. The first dance is always a memorable occasion. The song goes down as the soundtrack of the evening, and all eyes are on you as you dance. So make sure you get the right song, and maybe practice a coupla dance moves.
42. Your reception music needs to be spot on to be a success. It has to range from unobtrusive to being a real party starter, so you need to decide on a DJ or musician who you know can provide this.
43. Many weddings these days have other entertainment organized, such as a group of dancers or performers. Have a think about whether something like this would fit in with your day.
44. You want a wedding cake so good it would seem a shame to eat it. And one that tastes so good that when you start eating it doesn’t seem a shame anymore.
45. There are a couple of extras that go along with your wedding cake to think about. The knife, for a start, and then there’s the little adornment on the top. Small details I know, but something to think about!
46. Heard of ‘trash the dress’? Why not try its culinary equivalent, ‘trash the cake’? This turns the ‘cutting of the cake’ into one big food fight. Just cut the cake, and start throwing it around, starting with one big slice in your partners face! Fun times!
47. Depending on where you have your reception, a lot of preparation is required, and this includes hiring equipment (if you aren’t just getting a third party company to organise the reception for you.) Things that you might need to hire includes tables, chairs, cutlery, crockery, a marquee and much more.
48. Meet with all your suppliers a couple of weeks before the wedding, and make sure all payments have been made and received. A no-show from a supplier because they haven’t received a payment could paralyse your wedding!
49. Remember your guests coming from out of town are not familiar with the area. Offer them assistance and advice with accommodation for your wedding night. Or set up some big tents in your garden!
50. Google Map your reception and ceremony locations. Save the maps as a pdf or jpeg, and email them to your guests. Might save some confusion (and petrol) on the day!
51. This ones for the groom… if you want a bucks party that will be spoken about in hushed tones with knowing winks, get your best mate to organize it. If you want to make it through your bucks party with dignity intact, organize it yourself.
52. Fairy wings, revealing outfits, champagne, giggles, and an unending supply of phallic-centric jokes: welcome to the Hen’s Night! An essential ‘bonding’ moment for the bride-to-be and the girls in her life.
53. Honeymoon plans often get pushed to the backburner in favour of the more pressing wedding issues. Take some time out from wedding planning and make sure everything is in order with your honeymoon! That way you won’t end up in Mogadishu instead of Madagascar! Speak to Hollie at Student Flights Fremantle, she’s the best travel agent in the West.
54. Pack for your honeymoon a week before your wedding. One less thing to worry about on your big day.
55. Put together a ‘wedding dress emergency kit’ with needle and thread, safety pins, and some double-sided tape in it. Preparation is the key to a smooth event. Extra stockings are also a good idea.
56. Your wedding shoes are likely to be brand new, and thus may be uncomfortable. Take some bandaids along to prevent blistering.
57. Beautify yourself with a fake tan (no orange please ladies), new nails and any other confidence boosting additions.
58. A rehearsal of your ceremony is essential, preferably with all your bridal party present. You’ll be sans wedding dress, so pin a sheet to your body to learn how to navigate your wedding train.
59. Have ushers at your ceremony to help with seating people. Make sure they’re familiar with the seating arrangements and the timetable of the ceremony.
60. Try and keep the bride preparation and the groom preparation locations close together. This gives the photographer time to take prep photographs of both parties.
61. Talk to your photographer about getting the timing right for your day. They’ll want to try and have the photoshoot in the late afternoon or at sunset because of the soft light. It’s a really romantic time.
62. Go to the extra expense of organizing some classy Bonbonniere at the reception. You know – potpourri, chocolates, liqueurs, sugared almonds, that kind of stuff. They add a touch of distinction to proceedings.
63. Gold fish bowls on the centre of each table are a nice touch, beause they have the effect of magnifying whatever you place in them. Hint – it doesn’t have to be gold fish.
64. Put a disposable camera on each table and ask the guests to take photos with them. This’ll get you some fun reception shots your photographer won’t have the chance to get. Remember to make sure the cameras have a flash on them.
65. Why not personalize the bottles of win you have on the tables? Customised labels with pictures of the two of you on and the date and a short message are an elegant touch.
66. Candles can be representative of a lot of things at the reception: unity candles for the marriage, memoriam candles for passed family members, and just plain pretty candles to add to the ambience.
67. On that note, remember to have some boxes of matches lying around to light up the candles. Just put them out of reach of the kids.
68. Losing weight and getting married are very good friends. I’m sure you all look absolutely fabulous just as you are, but if you did feel the need to tighten up a bit, Amy at Move Fitness Specialists will put together an attainable fitness schedule for you.
69. Hop online and check the weather forecast for the day. If it looks like rain, and most of your wedding is outdoors, then have a plan B to fall back on, like a nearby building or a marquee.
70. Make sure no big event is happening near your wedding location on the day of your wedding, like a parade, a fair, a rally a festival and so on. These generally create traffic and noise chaos.
71. Don’t forget to organize accommodation for you and your betrothed on the night of your wedding. You don’t want to rock up at the hotel and find someone else beat you to the honeymoon suite!
72. Take the time to write your speeches. Impromptu speeches seem insincere, and there’s a high chance you’ll forget to thank somebody.
73. You know what – this is your big day, the most important one of your life. So take time out to savour it. Don’t try organize everything, leave that to the people around you. Step back, chill and enjoy.
74. The day itself is going to be a long one. Don’t forget to eat and drink. Get an esky with some snacks and cold bottles of water, and have it near at hand all the time. The last thing you want to do is faint from dehydration… not a good look at the altar.
75. A handkerchief. You will cry.
76. You want to stay looking your made-up best throughout the day, so carry a little makeup ‘touch-up’ kit with you throughout the day.
77. Speak with your wedding photographer and come up with a list of family shots you would like taken. Ideally family photographs should take around 20 minutes. You don’t want to drag them out… nominate someone with a big voice who can organize everybody.
78. Do something charitable with your wedding day. Donate the leftover food to a kitchen for the homeless, or ask people to donate to a charity instead of giving you a wedding gift.
79. Don’t forget the garter and the bouquet toss! I’m sure you know the drill about these moments. They’re fun, they’re a talking point, and they can have the effect of getting the party started!
80. The first kiss is an important photographic moment. Your photographer isn’t going to be happy with a little peck on the cheek that lasts two seconds. Take a bit of time, let the kiss linger, gaze into each others eyes. Its also a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
81. Another important moment is the exchanging of rings. Take this slow, and make sure the finger you are putting the ring on is slightly raised above the rest of the hand, so it’s visible to your wedding photographers lens. Angle your bodies towards the crowd too, so people can see what’s going on.
82. At the ceremony or when seated at the reception, the bride always stands on the grooms left. In the old days, this was so he could protect her from kidnappers with his sword in his right arm!
83. Getting married on your backyard? Make sure you declutter it! Some extra fertilizer and water for the flowers wont hurt either. Your photographer will love you for it!
84. I’d advise to stay away from glitter. It reflects the flash and comes up as tiny dots on your skin which can look really weird.
85. A Wedding Guest register is the book everybody signs with a personal message to the bride and groom. A nice keepsake, and a reminder of everyone who was there!
86. Releasing balloons, butterflies, or doves adds a memorable touch to the ceremony. Personally, I’d go with balloons on this one. Doves have unpredictable bowel movements, and butterflies are pretty fragile little things. No one wants crushed butterflies at their ceremony.
87. Do the right thing by the environment: plant some trees to offset the carbon footprint of your wedding. Or pay a company to offset it for you.
88. Decide on whether or not you want kids at the wedding. If there are going to be kids present, maybe have someone in charge of minding them. Someone good with children… not Great Uncle Freddy with the weird little moustache.
89. My advice – don’t throw rice. It’ll get in your hair and eyes. Blow bubbles instead… they make for great photos! Just get the soap mix right :)
90. For dorky photos of your mates holding up messages written on toilet paper, get a Photobooth! Lots of fun during the wedding, and looking at the pictures afterwards.
91. Nominate someone responsible to look after gifts and other keepsakes when you leave the ceremony, and for while you’re on honeymoon. Mothers and new mothers in law are normally quite handy here!
92. You’re going to have to set aside a day to sort through the gifts, figure out who they’re from, write a list and send out some thankyou cards. Relive the moments and enjoy!
Anything I’ve missed out? Have you got useful ideas of your own? Please add them as comments below!