Tips on planning a personal + meaningful wedding
It's ok to skip some (or all, if you feel so inclined) of the quintessential wedding traditions at your wedding. I give you permission. There's more than one way to have a wedding and lately I've seen a big push towards planning intimate + personal wedding days focused on the couple's unique story and history. Those weddings usually include a few special traditions to the couple and skip all the other wedding day traditions. As documentary photographers, we love this movement.
Having an intimate and personal wedding with only the traditions that mean something to you personally (or creating new traditions of your own) is by far a better experience for everyone, you, your guests, your family. In our experience, the authenticity is definitely noticeable in comparison to a wedding chock full of societal traditions that don't fit the couple's personality.
I had a bride recently tell me that she wasn't one of those girls who knew much about weddings. Once she became engaged she said it became clear she “didn't know how to wedding”. We laughed but I took that as an opportunity to encourage her to harness her bewilderment. Not knowing how to wedding meant that she was starting with a completely clean slate. She'd just have to learn how to stand up to the pressures of fitting into that little wedding box.
Intentionality is key. Couples planning intimate and meaningful weddings are putting in a ton of work in the planning stages to ensure they have the wedding day they want. Intimacy and meaning doesn't just happen naturally although it seems like it should. It takes making intentional choices in the planning stages and finding ways of carrying out those choices during the wedding day to have a truly personal wedding. Our intention is to document you as you really are on the wedding day. We're inspired by the emotional and real moments that happen organically on the day (after lots of intentional planning beforehand) and we wanted to share some ways of creating a more personal and meaningful wedding of your own.
Get Ready Together
For this section, I'll speak from experience. I wish Justin and I had opted to get ready together in our home, like we do for every other event we've experienced together. One of the most intimate weddings we ever shot started with the couple having brunch together in their hotel suite followed by them helping each other get ready. With their favorite soft music playing in the background they had a relaxing and very normal-to-them start to their wedding day. We believe wholeheartedly that the standard of having a really out-of-the-ordinary day on your wedding day is backwards. Bus rides, hotel stays, splitting up for most of the day, jamming into a room with too many other people...it creates a sense of chaos. We think an effort to have a regular day with the two of you is totally worth it. At that wedding where the couple got ready together, the groom helped get the bride in her dress, zipped her up and even helped tie on her sash just as he would on any other normal day at home. We all had tears streaming down our faces.
See Each Other Before the Ceremony
If you can't get ready together, at least make a point to be together before the ceremony. Instead of doing a first look photo-op, just be together. With your mate everything feels right and there really isn't a better way to start your marriage than just being there for each other on your most exciting day together. From our standpoint, this makes logistics basically effortless and also allows us to document more of your unique story and moments that matter.
Be Intentional in Selecting Locations
This may be the most important element to creating a personal + meaningful day. So often we hear of couples choosing spaces based on what's available, what's close-by, what other people want without taking time to consider what they really want. First brainstorming what types of places will inspire you + tell your story + have your vibe is important. I would start that process by listing what that place feels/looks like before actually researching for any venues. Is it warm, industrial, outdoor, modern? Do you want it to feel high-end or comfortable? Is there a film that inspires the feeling you want? Make those intentional decisions and then go out and find that place. Intentionally selecting locations for getting ready, for photos and for the ceremony are equally as important as the reception space. Opt for an Airbnb instead of a hotel room. Opt for everyone to stay together in one place. Opt for an outdoor ceremony. Have your ceremony space created in your venue for an all-inclusive feel. For photos, don't just do what's been done; make sure it's personal to you. For us, we have a ton of questions we ask our couples before we nail down a photo location so that if something resonates with their story or history we can try to incorporate that into the day. But also not choosing a separate location for photos is sometimes the best option, your venue space may tell the story beautifully and make logistics simple.
Write Your Own Vows
This was my favorite part of my own wedding. It's the one thing we still mention to each other regularly, just in life. Wedding vows that are given to you are somewhat universal. They're blanket promises that are meaningful to everyone. For more intimacy and meaning, give your love your own words and promises. Even in a big traditional setting, writing your own vows is a simple modification. It also gives you something special to hold on to afterwards.
Let Your Guard Down
Experiencing the wedding for what it really is doesn't happen often enough. Many times we see a wedding go through the motions of what an intimate and personal wedding should be. Couples following timelines and traditions and not realizing the day is flying by without emotion. The best way to make sure that doesn't happen to you is to intentionally plan a personal and meaningful day AND by letting your guard down. Our intention is to document the deep-spirited story of your love, not a version of it for the camera or a contrived version you put on for your guests. We want the raw emotion and real moments. Resolving ahead of time to being in the moment, uncaring of the fact that you are the center of attention, fully immersed and participating in every emotion you experience throughout the day!
Select Your Music
A very simple and personal way to bring your history into your wedding day is in the music. First hiring the right person for the job, obviously, takes intentional planning. Putting together a mood for the day with music from your love story will not only give you all the feels but your guests will feel the uniqueness of your choices. The best weddings we've been to had a soundtrack that reminisced the couple's history together.