The holidays have come and gone. We’re full of food, possibly alcohol, but most of all joy! Where does that joy come for you? Was it from seeing your family, your friends, maybe even your pets or is it… OMG IT IS! You got ENGAGED!!! Congrats are definitely in order, what an exciting time. And that ring? oh hot damn they done good now didn’t they? Did your heart flutter? Were you in total shock? And after it happened, did your brain go into over drive and start planning and thinking, nay! Dreaming of all the endless possibilities? And then you realized, crap, I have no idea where to start!? Well I’m here to help you get things started. You might already have a pinterest board full of ideas, a little all over the place, but ideas none the less. The issue is, pinterest doesn’t plan weddings… Omg what, it doesn’t? No my friend, it does not. Pinterest wont tell you about hidden fees, or timelines, or vendor qualifications, or any of the important stuff, it’s just…pretty. Believe me, I’ve been sucked into it for hours dreaming of my day but we have to be practical here so let’s start with the basics:
Date, Venue & Budget
”When do we want to get married? Oh and where do we want to get married? ” Time of year and weather can definitely be something that dictates when you’ll have your wedding. If you’re like me and hate the cold, then winter is definitely out. Are you wanting to stay away from potentially super hot sweaty days? Well maybe July & August isn’t necessarily for you.
Once you’ve decided what season and narrow it down to a month then it’s time to look into venues! Popular venues can book up to two years in advance so you really need to get your buns in gear for this one. To narrow down your options you should A) Pick a season/month that you’d ideally like to have your wedding as previously mentioned. B) Discuss a budget with your fiancé(e). Does this budget reflect venue only, or does it need to include your rentals, decor, etc? C) Pick a ”look” or theme for your wedding. Do you want more of a rustic look? A glamorous Gatsby feel? Figure out how you want your day to look and feel and to reflect you guys as a whole D) Narrow it down to your top three venues. Contact them, get pricing, set up site meetings, ASK TONS OF QUESTIONS (this goes to say for all your vendors).
Some Venues offer multiple packages ranging in price to be able to accommodate more people such as ”all inclusive” packages. Want a 4 course meal, all the linens and decor included, alcohol? These may seem like costly packages but in the end you can save a lot of money by going this route. Love the venue and food but not the decor. No problem. You can hire a decorator or DIY. Want a completely open canvas? Find a venue that offers the space and create the wedding of your dreams from scratch. There isn’t anything you can’t do! Make sure you ask about any hidden costs i.e open bar vs. cash bar, is there a limit? etc. Don’t forget to ask about savings, can you save money in off season, will it be cheaper if I have my wedding on the Friday or even a week day?
Here is a list of some of the Ottawa and Surrounding area venues just to get you started:
Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm
Sala San Marco
The Horticulture Building
Museums: Nature, History, National Gallery
Second shot for the lovely Charlotte Northrope
Up next, my favourite(I’m not biased, right?) is:
Alright so the next thing you should be booking after your venue is photographer. Photographers capture your day in a way that will allow you to revisit all the memories, moments and emotions in 10, 20 even 50years. I myself have booked up to over 2 years in advance so just like the venue, you’ve got to get on it quick! When looking for your photographers, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
Although your budget is super important, and believe me I know it is, this is the one keepsake (other than your actual marriage) that you will have for the rest of your lives. Invest in your memories, invest in someone who’s style is attractive and beautiful to you, who’s work speaks for itself, and who will provide quality. But also look for someone who provides a proper service to their clients and who invest in themselves to better that service. Investing is key.
Look at a full wedding, not just their ”top photos” on their site. This will show you what to expect out of your final gallery. I can’t stress this one enough! When I was first starting out, a friend of mine was looking for a photographer for their upcoming nuptials. I’d found a photographer on instagram that had pretty work so I sent my friend the info. They met with her but didn’t ask to see more of her portfolio, she also didn’t answer all of their questions but we put it down to her being busy. Needless to say after the day came and went (which I questioned some of what she was doing on the day of but I figured I was just being OCD), we were disappointed in the final product. Yes some of the photos were pretty but only a handful of them were quality work, the rest seemed so rushed and not reflective of her style portrayed on her instagram. I now tell all my friends and family to ask to see more of their work beforehand because I never want that to happen to anyone.
Take the time to chat with them, photographers (experienced ones) are a wealth of knowledge and you have access to it when you hire us! Tell us your dreams and ideas and let us dream them with you!
Re-adjust your thinking. I say this as nicely as possible; You don’t need 12+hours of coverage! A lot of people go into this thinking they need every minuscule moment of the day captured, but it really isn’t the case. Unless you really do, then by all means go a head and hire someone for that amount of time but at the end of the day it can really be a waste of money and weddings are so expensive as it is. I want to help you invest in your memories but in a smart way. The average wedding coverage is 8hours and over the past two years I’ve noticed a shift and that a lot of couples are now going for 6hours of coverage if the timeline allows it. Talk to your photographer about it and they’ll help create a proper timeline for you! Which will then allow you to chose the appropriate amount of coverage needed, possibly saving you money in the process. I’m telling you, we’re one of the best investments, I promise.
Get to know each other. I love meeting with clients either via skype or in person. It allows us to get to know each other and to make sure our personalities are a good fit. You want to make sure that you and your photographer mesh well and can have fun together because you’ll be spending the majority of your day with them!
But you want a video too? No problem. Invest in a really good videographer! Photography isn’t the only way to capture your memories anymore. Over the last 5 years videography has seen quite the boom in the wedding industry. But just like your photographer, you should invest in a proper videographer. Someone who knows what they’re doing, who will work cohesively with your photographer and who will also offer you a quality product to look back on in 20years time.
Hair & Makeup
I’ve noticed a trend on facebook last year. People booking their hair and makeup artists like 2 months before their wedding…WHY? Do not wait till the last minute to book any of your vendors, but especially the ones who are going to be in charge of your appearance. I recommend booking them between 8-12 months out from your wedding. Just like everything else in this industry, the good ones go quick! Make sure you discuss with them the look you’re going for but also any issues you may have i.e allergies. Also ask questions, is their kit cleaned after every application, do they use one time use applicators etc.
Wedding Planner or Day of Coordinator
For those who stress easily, who are scatterbrains, who need help, who are lazy, who don’t know what they want, a wedding planner or day of coordinator will be your saving grace. They will take care of either a portion of what you need help with i.e day of coordination or the entire thing! From visiting venues, asking the hard questions, coordinating everything, working within your budget, these people can be legitimate angels. Some venues offer coordinators which is absolutely amazing but for those that don’t, this can easily be one of the best investments of your wedding day if you just don’t have the time and energy to put your all into it. You can book wedding planners 12months in advance when you’re starting the whole process or day of coordinators up to a few months prior to the wedding.
Florist & DJ
Are flowers super important to you, do you want that magical big ass bouquet you’ve been seeing all over instagram, or are you more of a traditional type of bride? Either way, your flowers can be that extra pop you need to make your wedding day complete and there are so many options! Research the flowers you want, pin those bouquets, talk to the florist about your ideas and listen to what they think could be more realistic for you, or maybe they can make all your pretty dreams come true.
DJ’s or a Band are what’s going to keep your guests going throughout the night. Make sure you talk with them about the style of music you want for dinner, what music you’d like to stay away from, but most of all ask for referrals. Unless you’ve seen them hard at work first hand, it’s a little harder to gage if they’re going to be a right fit for you. Unless they decide to spin for you on the spot haha. General rule is to book your Florist, DJ or Band about 10months out from the wedding.
As an ex Bridal salon consultant, I can tell you that people have no idea when to buy their wedding dress! And that’s okay, that’s what I’m here for. A lot of things factor in when choosing your gown and how long it will take to come in. General rule of thumb thought for most salons is minimum 8months to order the dress. You also have to factor in alterations which can take anywhere from 2weeks, to two months to complete depending on the amount of work that needs to be done. I definitely recommend giving yourself 10-12months to order your dress. There are certain designers that carry more stock than others so there is a possibility of getting your dress in sooner or possibly getting a rush on it, but it’s better to be safe.
This can vary depending on the store and designer just like the wedding gown. Only difference is bridesmaids dresses are typically less complicated in terms of fabrication therefor they take less time to make. It’s recommended to order these within 6months prior to the wedding. Some thing to keep in mind if you want everyone in the exact same colour is to order the dresses from the same designer and at the same time. This way the dresses are all cut from the same fabric and there are no colour discrepancies.
People often forget about this one but you need someone to marry you! Some people want something more traditional which isn’t as hard to find but other wants custom ceremonies. Something that’s more personalized to the couple and their love story. Research your options and chat with potential officiants to see how they plan to approach your wedding and to see if they’re willing to make changes. Give yourself about 8months to book them.
LAST 6 MONTHS
The last 6months before the wedding are a mad dash. Here are a few vendors not to forget and who should be booked 6months out: Cake. Don’t forget the yummy desert to feed your guests. Rentals, if you need anything from rental companies, now is the time to reserve them. Transportation such as limos. You need to get to certain locations don’t you? Suits, the guys need to be dressed too, I think? Invitations, you need guests right? Wedding bands, those would be nice to have!
At the end of the day weddings can come off as expensive and stressful, but they don’t have to be! Just give yourself time, breathe, do your research and ask questions. Communication is super important throughout the process so just take your time with it all.
There are things to be cautious about however, like with anything else in this life. Find reputable businesses, this is one of the most important days in your life and you don’t want it ruined by someone who is a no show, or a photographer that hasn’t worked in darker lighting situations and has no idea what to do once the sun sets (there are a lot of amateurs out there that advertise as professionals so this is a big one). You want vendors that are perfecting their craft and that offer quality products and services that will make your day memorable and not for, lack of a better word, a shit-show. For that I also say, stay away from ”all in one” vendors. The ones that offer dj services, cakes, photography, and everything under the sun. It takes years of practice and experience to be able to master just one of these things, I couldn’t imagine someone trying to juggle all of this while still trying to offer the quality couples are looking for!
Everything in this blog post is purely from my experience as a photographer in the industry for the past seven years. There is no affirmed timeline for anything, but these are observations I’ve made as well as research I’ve done throughout the course of these past few years. I have even more knowledge for anyone looking for help with their big day. I always said I should have also been a wedding planner because of my love for everything weddings but alas, photography had my heart from day one.
I hope this helps those of you starting out the planning journey or even those of you already in the thick of it and not quite sure where to go anymore. For anyone with questions, feel free to email me, I’ll gladly give you a hand xo