engagement session tips, timeline guidance, vendor recommendations & more!
A NOTE ABOUT THIS GUIDE
We’re so excited to be working with you and we can’t wait to get to know you better over the next several months! We know choosing the right virtual wedding planner is one of the biggest decisions you’re making for your wedding planning journey and we’re so honored you chose to work with us!
No matter whether you’re planning a large wedding or a simple wedding, there are likely still a lot of moving pieces left leading up to your big day.
Having planned weddings over the past 14 years, we tend to get asked the same things over and over again. So we thought it would be beneficial if we put together a guide that walks you through everything from timelines to engagement sessions and inclement weather.
Thank you again for choosing to work with us and please don’t hesitate to let us know if we can offer any additional guidance throughout the wedding planning process!
- The Venlist Team
Congrat! You’re engaged and now it’s time to embark on your wedding planning journey. There are a lot of moving pieces in wedding planning so this guide should help make it a little less confusing. This guide will cover all things wedding to include, including how to help consolidate your guest list to how to prep for your wedding day. Wedding planning can get overwhelming very quickly so the best approach to this guide is reading and conquering each item, one step at a time. Enjoy and if you have any questions, please make sure to add them to the wedding forum.
IF YOU’RE WONDERING WHERE TO START ON YOUR WEDDING PLANNING JOURNEY, LOOK NO FURTHER
You’re probably still on an engagement high and you should be! Now it’s finally time to get into the wedding planning groove.
Before you start going crazy on google, pinterest, the knot, wedding wire, zola, the list goes on, we’re going to fill you in on where to start first. Can you guess? Let me give you a hint. It’s three words. One starts with G, the other starts with C, the last word begins with B and they all have the same last letter. If you guessed Guest Count and Budget, you are 100% correct! Yeah, I know, not the sexiest of topics but are foundational elements of your wedding planning Journey.
So let’s dive into these foundational items!
ESTABLISH YOUR NOT TO EXCEED GUEST COUNT
The wedding guest count is one of the very first items to establish during your wedding planning journey. Deciding who to invite versus who not to invite can be very dicey waters to tread. We get it! Here are some questions to ask yourself to help guide you establish your guest list/count:
There are so many rabbit holes to go down when narrowing down the wedding guest list. Check out this Brides Magazine article for other considerations when working through your guest list.
ESTABLISH A NOT TO EXCEED BUDGET AND FIGURE OUT WHO IS PAYING FOR THE BIG DAY
Establishing a wedding budget is essential for any bride and groom-to-be. Before beginning to plan, it’s critical to determine exactly how much the couple is willing to spend so that everything after this point can be in accordance with their not-to-exceed goal. Gathering information such as accurate estimates from vendors and reviewing bridal magazines are all excellent starting points when putting together a wedding budget.
Additionally, speaking with family members or friends who have recently gone through the planning process themselves may not only provide insight, but also yield some helpful discounts! Ultimately, setting a clear budget right away will make the planning process not only easier, but more enjoyable too.
PRIORITIZE WHAT WEDDING ASPECTS ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU AS A COUPLE
One of the first steps of wedding planning is prioritizing what wedding elements are important. It’s important to be realistic and practical when wedding shopping, so it’s worthwhile to break down wedding expenses into categories, such as attire, venue, decorations, food/drink, entertainment and miscellaneous. Estimating a wedding budget first is key when deciding which elements you will prioritize.
Then look into what is most necessary for your wedding day vision in each category – an over-the-top wedding dress might be top priority, while a 200-person guest list may not make sense with limited funds allocated to food. Making smart decisions on wedding spending will ensure an unforgettable day while still keeping costs down.
BUILD A WEDDING AESTHETIC BOARD AND DECIDE ON YOUR WEDDING COLORS
Creating your wedding look is one of the most exciting parts of planning your big day! From finding the perfect dress to posing for your photograph, deciding on a color palette helps you make all these choices harmoniously. But getting started can be overwhelming and that’s where creating an aesthetic board comes in.
An aesthetic board will allow you to easily explore different colors, fabrics and textures which will help give you clarity as to what kind of vibe you are looking for in your special day – making it easier to commit when it comes time to decide on those final pieces. Pinterest is a perfect starting point for building the perfect tool for locking down those wedding colors and capturing the overall aesthetic for the wedding day.
WHO WILL MAKE YOUR DAY INCREDIBLE
Over the years, we’ve learned the important role quality vendors play in creating a stress-free wedding day. We’ve worked with many of the vendors below and we can’t recommend them enough! This is not a paid list – we chose these vendors for both the quality of their work as well as their professionalism on the actual wedding day. Although, some on service certain metropolitan areas, there are several that travel or are nationwide.
DJ & BANDS
HAIR & MAKEUP
WEDDING TO DO LIST+ TIPS FOR A GORGEOUS WEDDING DAY
Are you feeling overwhelmed with all the wedding planning to-dos? We know how it feels, trust us. But believe me, it doesn’t have to be that way! While creating your list of “must do” items for your special day, don’t forget these key elements that can make or break a great wedding. Today we’re going to share with you our favorite additional things on the wedding to-do list that are often overlooked – and trust me, they’re worth considering! From choosing a signature drink to enlisting help from family members—these ideas will help keep the stress levels low while ensuring lots of fun during your big day! So let’s jump right in and explore what else needs added onto the checklist.
WEDDING TO-DO LIST
Deciding on your signature drinks for the wedding day is usually a wonderful place to start – especially when wedding stress levels are at an ultimate high! Having a signature drink (s) available for guest is a great way to elevate your wedding guests experience. Here is a tip! Make sure to coordinate with your caterer or bartender to see if they can pass around either your signature cocktail or sparkling wine as guest transition from the ceremony to cocktail hour. This will help control long bar lines at the cocktail hour.
When it comes to wedding planning, another great thing to keep in mind is the weather. In order to avoid being too hot during the summer months or too cold during the winter months, we highly recommend creating a weather proof wedding day backup plan. Make sure you figure out where you and guest will enjoy the wedding if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Many engaged couples don’t remember to get their marriage license until the last minute. To avoid unnecessary wedding stress, make sure to allot enough time prior to the wedding day to handle all of these important details.
Make sure to check out the additional to-do items to consider here!
IF YOU’RE WONDERING WHETHER A FIRST LOOK
IS RIGHT FOR YOU, STOP HERE
That moment the Bride(s) and/or Groom(s) see each other for the first time on their wedding day is magical. And this is true whether the couple chooses to wait until the bride walks down the aisle or chooses to do a “first look’ prior to the ceremony.
First looks—a private moment couples choose to spend together prior to the wedding ceremony—have become more popular over the last few years. About half of our couples this year have chosen to do a first look.
While we consider ourselves people who value tradition, there are definitely a few good reasons to consider a first look. Here are 3 reasons to consider a ‘first look’:
A FIRST LOOK CUTS THROUGH THE CHAOS OF THE DAY
Once the ceremony begins, the day takes off quickly. A ‘first look’ is an opportunity to enjoy some quiet time alone, enjoy each other’s company, and reflect on all this day means before your day takes off.
Wedding days can be a whirlwind and they tend to fly by. There’s much to do, and a lot of people to see and to catch up with. We always encourage our couples to take a few minutes every so often during their wedding to stop and soak in everything that’s happening.
IT MAKES MORE TIME FOR PICTURES WITHOUT SACRIFICING COCKTAIL HOUR
When there is no first look, the majority of the pictures have to be taken after the ceremony. Family pictures are generally done as soon as the ceremony ends because it’s the easiest time to round everyone up. Next up is full bridal party, and then bride and groom portraits. This generally runs into cocktail hour.
A first look opens up time prior to the ceremony for full bridal party pictures and, sometimes, for a few bride and groom portraits (although we prefer to do bride and groom portraits at sunset). This allows the couple to get the most out of cocktail hour, which makes the rest of the evening feel less rushed.
AVOID POSSIBLE BAD WEATHER AND/OR HAVE TIME TO FRESHEN-UP AFTER THE FIRST LOOK
If you’re expecting poor weather on your wedding day, it might be best to plan on a first look because it gives you more options for pictures. If it’s pouring rain after the ceremony, you’ll be thankful you had pictures done in advance.
And reason 3b is for all you cryers out there. If you know the tears are going to fly the first time you see your other half the day of your wedding, a first look will give you time to freshen up before the ceremony.
First look or not, the first time you see each other on your wedding day will be special.
BUILDING THE PERFECT
tips for a seamless wedding day timeline
Whether you choose to do a first look or the traditional “no see before the ceremony” making sure you have the best timeline and plan for images is essential.
If you’re choosing to go traditional, you’ll need two different sets of photo times: images taken before the ceremony and images taken after the ceremony.
You’ll need to plan for about one hour of pre-ceremony bridal photos (bridesmaids and bride’s/brides’ family) and about one hour of pre-ceremony groom photos (groomsmen and groom’s/grooms’ family) at separate times. You’ll also need 15 minutes of combined wedding party portraits, 15 minutes of combined family portraits and at least 30 -45 minutes of couple’s portraits after the ceremony if you’re not doing any portraits together until after the ceremony.
If you’re doing a first look, photos can be done all at one time, taking an average total of 1.5 to 2 hours pre-ceremony (although photographers also LOVE grabbing just the two of you for a few additional bride and groom photos at sunset!)
If you choose a traditional aisle reveal, all we ask is that you keep your ceremony time in mind when planning your wedding.
If you’re planning a sunset ceremony or an evening ceremony, it’s best to do all photos before the wedding, as daylight is crucial to getting amazing portraits for your families, bridal party and your couples portraits. Making sure we have enough time while the sun is up is a great way to make the traditional ceremony work.
If the forecast is calling for rain, fear not because rainy days can still be beautiful! If you don’t believe us, just take a look at Ryan & Ash’s wedding day. It rained the entire day and it was still beautiful!
If rain is in the forecast, we recommend ordering a few clear umbrellas on Amazon. It also might be good to re-evaluate portrait locations to make sure we can still shoot in natural light – even if it means heading offsite.
If you don’t own a pair of cute Wellies, now may be a great time to order a pair – even if you’re just wearing them in between shooting locations.
If you’re not working with a planner, it might also be a good idea to check in with your entire vendor team to make sure they’re aware of the weather. Hair and makeup may need to be tweaked to withstand humidity and if your wedding is outdoors, DJs and bands may need to take extra precaution to protect their gear. A quality rental team can also minimize the amount of mud at outdoor events.
While we can’t guarantee that rain on your wedding day is good luck, we can put a plan in place to ensure a beautiful day and beautiful images.
Rainy day weddings may require a little more flexibility and creativity, but there isn’t any reason why they can’t be as beautiful and as joyful as sunny weddings!
GORGEOUS PHOTOS + PRACTICE RUN FOR THE BIG DAY
Photographers love capturing all the little details you’ve carefully chosen to be a part of your wedding day! Once they arrive at your wedding, they need about 30 minutes to capture and style details. We recommend choosing a getting ready location filled with natural light and, if possible, please keep the space free from trash and clutter.
It would be wonderful if you could put all of your rings, jewelry, shoes, veil purse, perfume, invitations and other keepsakes together in one spot for photographers to access. Make sure to unwrap your dress but don’t worry about styling it – the photographer will hang it in a beautiful spot!
When photographers can, they always try to take a photo of your rings while you’re getting ready. If possible, try to have your engagement ring cleaned or clean it yourself.
To clean at home, soak your ring in warm water with dishwashing soap for 20 to 40 minutes. Then gently brush the stone with a soft toothbrush, rinse and repeat if needed.
GORGEOUS PHOTOS + PRACTICE RUN FOR THE BIG DAY
For family portraits, photographers will place you in the center of a large group photo with all of your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, godparents, etc. And then they’ll remove the extended family so it’s just grandparents, parents and siblings.
The photographer will keep removing family members and switch a few closer family members in and out so we get photos of you and your parents, you and your siblings, some with the groom and your family, etc. Then they’ll repeat the process with your spouse’s family. The whole thing will go quicker and smoother if you let family know how the portrait process will work ahead of time.
When photographers send out our pre-wedding questionnaire, they should ask you for a list of specific groupings, special situations (such as divorces or handicapped family members & more), but if you want to start brainstorming photos in the meantime, you’ll find they typical list below.
FAMILY FORMALS CHECKLIST
Please note that this list is just a starting point and that we’re happy to take any requested family portraits as long as time allows!
If you’ve been to a wedding recently, you may have seen a sign from the happy couple asking for their guests to remain “unplugged” during the ceremony.
And while it might seem like a strange requests to ask guests to put down their phones, there’s a pretty good reason for it! You made a big investment in photography and we’re sure one of the last things you want on your wedding day is for our photos of your ceremony to be filled with obtrusive iPhones, iPads and relatives standing in the aisle with their own cameras. In order to help us do the best possible job capturing your wedding, we recommend asking guests to unplug during the ceremony.
DON'T FORGET THE SNACKS
If you’re getting married in the summer months, a “not-so-heavy” snack or lunch time before portraits is always a good idea for you and your bridal party to avoid hungry bellies and passing out!
PREP FOR THE HEAT
If it’s going to be hot, a cooler of cold waters and frozen washcloths can help keep a wedding party cool – especially if your men are wearing lots of layers.
Make sure and have your bouquet delivered in time to make an appearance for the detail shots and for your first look. Often they are delivered in water and need to be dried off before use. Having towels handy can help.
FIRST LOOKS FOR PARENTS
If you’re planning on having a first look with your bridal party or a parent, they often feel more comfortable being fully dressed in their wedding attire.
If your reception is at a separate venue, add some “fluff time” so that we can run over to the venue to capture it while it’s still “untouched” by guests.
HIDE THE BRIDE
We always recommend the bride go into hiding 30 minutes before the ceremony at the absolute latest. Guests typically arrive early to weddings.
MAKE A LIST
Family portraits go smoother when both sides of the family have a chance to have their input on what portraits they’d like before the wedding. If you supply us with a list ahead of time, we can go over it and make sure we shoot things in an order that is efficient and won’t leave anyone out.
During the cocktail hour and the reception, we’ll follow you around. Anytime you’d like a photo with someone, grab our attention. We love being your personal paparazzi!
WE'RE HERE TO HELP
We’d love to help you plan your timeline. If you’d like our input, don’t hesitate to email or call!
We’re big believers that images aren’t meant to solely exist in a digital space. One day, most likely, Instagram will be gone, your phone will be replaced and images that you can physically hold in your hand will be the best way to remember those precious moments we captured.
Think about this fact: twenty years ago, if we had delivered you digital images, they would have been on a floppy disk. With the fast updates to technology, you would have no way to access those images today. Even the online galleries we deliver will eventually fade away.
One of the best ways to make your wedding memories last is by ordering an album. These high quality professionally designed albums come in a variety of linen & leather colors. These aren’t the same albums your parents’ wedding photos came in. They’re modern, lay perfectly flat and look incredible on a coffee table.
Linen: $950 for Linen
Additional 2-page Spread: $50
DUPLICATE PARENT ALBUMS
Linen: $450 each for Linen
Leather: $700 each
Additional 2-page Spread: $40 each
After we deliver your gallery, we’ll work with you to order prints and design an album that will become an heirloom for your family.
Albums must be prepaid before design begins and typically take between 4 to 6 weeks to complete (including revisions).
With the exception of printing errors, all albums are non-returnable. Albums may be ordered anytime before or after the wedding day. The holiday deadline for beginning an order is November 1st.
We can’t wait to start planning with you and getting to know you! If you haven’t scheduled your engagement session yet, let’s get that in the books. Feel free to email us any time at [enter your email address here].
If you have any questions or would just like to chat, we’re here for you. We hope this guide helps make the process of planning your wedding details much easier and less stressful. We can’t wait to see you soon! Thank you so much for taking the time to read through our guide!