Wedding Traditions You Can Skip - The Fancy Dinner


WHY THE fancy dinner IS OPTIONAL 

It’s easy to stress out about the wedding dinner. You want folks to eat, drink, and be merry, but catering is a big cost, and to be perfectly honest, most fancy dinners at weddings aren’t all that amazing (from my experience attending hundreds of weddings). It’s okay if you want to go super fancy, but if you’re stressing out about it, it’s also okay not to go super fancy!

Cake and punch receptions are gaining popularity again for a reason. Wedding dinners are super expensive, and as lovely as they are, if you're on a tighter budget, or wanting a more casual wedding day, don't be afraid to opt for the cake and punch or an hors d'oeuvres only reception, OR go with something casual but delicious, like tacos, BBQ, or pizza from your favorite local pizza place, all of which will likely go over well with your guests!

Here are a few other perks of skipping or adjusting this wedding tradition: 

  • Cake and punch receptions, or going for more casual fare, is considerably less expensive than a fancy sit-down dinner, and in all honestly, people will probably like it more

  •  Going casual or making it an afternoon cake and punch reception makes it easier to accommodate a wide variety of dietary needs without breaking the bank or makes it almost a non-issue if you’re just doing cake and punch

  • Less to plan equals less stress for you, and I’m all for that!

So feel free to skip the fancy dinner, and whatever you decide, just make sure to let people know what to expect ahead of time via the invite!


9 Things that Drive Wedding Photographers Crazy


Let's get real here...

Photographers, even the super nice and helpful ones, are still human, and we have some shit that bothers us a little, or worse, makes our jobs harder. Read on to find out what those things are! 

1. Not padding your wedding day timeline 

We totally get it! There's so much you want to fit into your wedding day, and so many moments you want your photographer to capture, but not padding your wedding timeline enough will leave you, your wedding party, and your photographer(s) feeling stressed. If your photographer is a pro, they won't show it, but I guarantee that everyone will feel better and have a nicer time if you don't try to pack too much into the wedding day timeline! 

2. Aunt Judy's ipad

Okay, so maybe your Aunt's name isn't Judy, but if you're like most couples, I am positive that you have at least one Aunt or extended family member who will definitely show up with a giant iPad pro and want to use it to take photos during the ceremony. Any other time, we'd say knock yourself out, but we really recommend an unplugged ceremony so that your guests can focus on what's important (the wedding!) and avoid stepping immediately in front of the photographer(s) you're paying to be there while they're trying to photograph your wedding. Let the professionals be the folks with the cameras during the ceremony and you won't regret it. 

3. Not having seats at the reception 

Of course your photographer isn't going to be seated for your entire reception, but we do have an awful lot of equipment generally, and it's nice to have a designated place to set it down, as well as a 'touchdown' station for super important things like water and dinner rolls to help us keep up our energy and hydration during the reception. It's also very helpful if the seat is near the head table when possible, so we can capture those impromptu kisses and things, even while we're eating fast enough to break the speed of light. Also, even if you don't plan on doing 'assigned seats', it's a great idea to reserve a few spots that are specifically for your close family members (parents generally) and for your vendors. Trust me, your photographer(s) will thank you! 

4.overly restrictive photo rules at venues

There are some venues, largely of the more religious variety, that have some really restrictive rules around photography, including significant restrictions on where photographers can stand, and even what they can take photos of. No joke, we've done weddings where we actually weren't allowed to photograph the first kiss. Now, if the couple knows this about their chosen venue and is cool with it, great! But we find these rules and restrictions are normally communicated only to the photographer(s) and only on the day of, not in advance. For that reason, we strongly recommend that couples check with their venue about photography rules ahead of time, to avoid any unpleasant surprises on the big day! 

5. Pinterest 

Okay, I like Pinterest as much as the next person. That said, most photographers will cringe inwardly (sometimes outwardly) if you say something like "I'm going to send you my wedding photography Pinterest board!" Here's why; you very likely hired your wedding photographer because you like his or her style, and not because you want them to recreate another photographers images frame for frame. It's totally fine to have ideas of stuff you'd like to have photographed, but it's a really good rule of thumb to try not to recreate something you've seen on Pinterest (or Facebook, or Instagram, etc.) and instead work with your photographer to get your own unique photos that are representative of you and your partner! 

6. Creepy or Rude wedding guests 

Okay, I hate that this is true, but it is. Sometimes guests (or wedding party members) can get a little creepy. It can be inappropriate comments,  unwanted touching (seriously Dad of the Bride, I don't need a back rub), or any number of other creepy-dude type things. Also, sometimes guests can get a little rude, even if they're not being creepy. This includes things like touching our photography equipment without permission (seriously, just don't), making out loud derogatory comments about us 'taking up table space' or 'eating' (I don't know why some guests really struggle with thinking it's weird to feed your vendors or rude of vendors to take you up on the offer of food during a long day), or just generally being jerky. Normally, your photographer(s) can handle themselves and are super used to this kind of behavior, so you should know that if it rises to the level that your photographer has to say something to you about it, it's a big deal, and should be taken very seriously. You should also know that most photographers/vendors have clauses in their contracts about a zero-tolerance policy on harassment. If your photographer (or any vendor), lets you know about a creepy or crappy situation, please take that seriously and assign someone to talk with the offending party about the importance of good behavior. 

7. Overly complex Formal Shot Lists

I'm all for folks getting the formal photos that they want to have, but sometimes, in an effort to make sure they didn't miss anything, couples can go a teeeeennnnyyyy bit overboard by building in every conceivable combination of the same 20 people into their formal shot list. Now, this is an interesting pet peeve because the photographer really doesn't care, it's more of an issue because the more combinations and more extended family being worked into the formal shot list, the longer the formal photos take, and the less time there is for things like fun couple's photos, candid shots, etc. (you know, the stuff you'll actually be excited to look at later) AND the more likely it is that family members will start getting cranky or hangry or both (and not just the children) because photos are taking forever. Always do a once-over on your formal shot list to examine whether there are any photos that are essentially duplicates and that you could pare down to make the experience faster and better for everyone (yourselves included!) 

8. "We're just going to Wing it" 

You should never use this phrase in relation to your wedding day. No seriously. All photographers who hear any version of "We're just going to wing it!" come out of couple's mouths want to run for the hills (but we won't, we'll just stay and watch the train wreck happen, unable to look away). The truth is that weddings are a big deal, and there is a LOT of planning that goes into them, so it's best to either take the time to plan out the details (break it into chunks to make it easier or hire a wedding planner) or to decide that if something is too stressful to plan, you will just leave that thing out of your wedding day entirely. 'Winging it' normally means timelines that don't work, cranky and confused guests and wedding party members, and a couple that's actually more stressed out than if they had just planned ahead or hired a professional to do that bit of planning. Trust us, preparedness is key to things going smoothly! 

9. Ghosting your photographer 

Okay, so like, I know that your relationship with your photographer(s) isn't really something you think about much after the wedding day, but for photographers who love wedding photography, and are super invested in the couples they work with, I can't tell you how disheartening it is finish editing a couple's wedding, be SOOOOOOO excited for them to see it, hit that send button, and then.... nothing. *crickets* Like... you literally never hear from this couple again. I also can't even begin to describe the crippling self-doubt that sets in. "Do they hate the photos? Do they hate me? Did they get in some sort of horrible car accident? Are they literally in a coma right now?!" I've learned over time that it's normally just because the couple got busy, and kind of forgot to say thanks or provide feedback, and not because they didn't love the photos. They viewed the whole thing as more of a transaction than a relationship, which is also okay, but dude, we're begging you, at least say you got the album! I'd also wager a bet that these are normally the couples that never quite get around to sending their thank you cards either. Don't be that couple. 


Hopefully this has been insightful, and allows you to avoid some of these pitfalls when planning your own weddings! ;) 




Representation Matters, Especially in the Wedding Industry


Why it's important to represent more than just straight white couples 

Don't get me wrong, we love straight white couples! But if there is one type of couple that the wedding industry loves to represent, almost exclusively, it's straight, able-bodied, thin and conventionally attractive white couples. 

Here's the problem with that... When you only represent one type of couple, you leave so many other types of couples feeling left out and undervalued. I remember talking with a friend, who is also in the wedding industry, about her experience planning her own wedding and how as an African American woman getting married to a white man, she had a really hard time finding any wedding magazines, blogs, etc. that had any couples that looked like her and her fiancé. I've heard the same thing from countless couples we've worked with, and that fucking sucks. 

So, while checking my Instagram insights recently (I know, I live a very exciting life), I was overjoyed to see that out of my top 6 most liked photos ever on Instagram, 4 of them were of LGBTQ+ couples and 2 included people of color. This tells me two things... 1) That I have the right audience on Instagram for the type of work I want us to be doing (yay!) and 2) That people are thirsty for wedding photos and inspiration that aren't just straight, white, able-bodied, thin and conventionally attractive couples. People want to see wedding inspiration and wedding photos that look like them, and surprise, people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and orientations and gender expressions!  

We've had couples hire us because not all of the weddings we blog are of super skinny people. We've had couples choose us because we're so vocal about how much we love LGBTQ+ weddings, and so they felt very valued by us. We've had other couples hire us because we understand some of the unique challenges of a wedding day when one or both people in the couple suffer from a chronic, debilitating illness. We've had couples hire us because we have experience taking beautiful photographs of folks with darker skin tones. Other folks have hired us because of our work with Our Lives magazine or the fact that we're super cool working with non-binary and trans clients or because we're cool with poly or ethically non-monogamous couples. Ultimately, people want to know that a wedding vendor, particularly a photographer, is excited to work with them specifically. 

Recently, clients of ours shared a really powerful story with us. This couple has a family friend whose child came out as non-binary. They showed this friend and their child the blog post about Miles + Daniel's non-binary, queer as hell wedding (check out the photos here) and seeing a non-binary person (Miles) so happy and supported, celebrating a wedding, was really powerful for this kid. They said that it helped them see how they could live authentically as themselves, and gave them hope for what an adult life could look like as a non-binary person. I was brought to tears when our clients shared this story with me. Representation matters. It can make such a difference in ways you can't even recognize right away. 

As a small business owner, and as a human, it is so important to me that, to the best of our ability, we're representing those who are traditionally underrepresented in the wedding industry. That's why our focus has long been on diverse and offbeat couples. In particular, serving the LGBTQ+ community is important to me as a person who identifies as queer. That's also why we love the Offbeat Bride site so much! They do a great job of representing a wide variety of folks who don't get much love in the more traditional wedding industry. I want our business to be like that, but specific to photography. I want people to come to our website or social media pages, and be able to really see themselves in the images and stories they find here. 

I want to give so much gratitude to our amazing clients, and thank all of you for putting your faith in us to tell your story in a way that is authentic to you. (I'm not crying, you're crying). 

-- Sam 

p.s. If you have any suggestions for us on how we can continue to strive for that goal, please drop us a line!

Wedding Traditions You Can Skip - The Receiving Line


Why the Receiving Line is Optional

Okay, I'll admit it... I'm not a fan of receiving lines. Generally I'm a very live and let live kind of person when it comes to wedding day planning and preferences, but receiving lines are one thing I think of as being not only optional, but in most cases, better off being skipped! 

Here are a few reasons why receiving lines and I do not get along: 

  • They take forever. Seriously, like forever. And if you're on a tight wedding day timeline, a receiving line could take up to 45 minutes of your post-ceremony picture time (or more), and cut into you enjoying your cocktail hour with your guests! 
  • Receiving lines have very little visual variety, from a photography standpoint. After about the first half dozen pictures of hugging, all the photos look the same because the couple (the subject of the photo) isn't moving, so there's no visual variety to shake things up! 
  • Receiving lines don't just take forever for the couple, but also for their family and friends. Do you know what kids dislike just as much as needing to be quiet for the entire duration of a wedding ceremony? Long lines filled with grown-ups. You know what grown-ups dislike? Also lines. 

I know what you're thinking... "Don't hold back, tell us how you really feel!" But, I'm not all doom and gloom! Here are some nice alternatives to the traditional receiving line that are more comfortable for your guests, and provide more visual variety for your photos, while still ensuring you get to greet everyone and that every aunt in attendance gets to pinch your cheek and give you a hug! 

  • Couples can dismiss guests from their seats. This allows guests to remain seated, rather than awkwardly half-standing/half-sitting like you do when you're trying to get in a traditional receiving line. Dismissing guests from their seats also ends up going a little more quickly than traditional receiving lines, so that's a bonus!
  • Couples can skip both the traditional receiving line and dismissing guests and go straight to any after-ceremony photos so that they can meet back up with guests during the cocktail hour! This plan has a lot of bonuses! For one, you get nicer interactions with your guests after they've had a bathroom break and have drinks and snacks. For two, you get way more visual variety in your photos, and more relaxed, casual and fun interactions with your guests. Win/win!

Regardless of what you decide to do, planning is key, so make sure to build plenty of time into your wedding day schedule for whatever method of guest-greeting you plan on doing, enjoy the day, and feel free to skip the receiving line! 


p.s. If you'd like to read more on planning a wedding day schedule, click here! 


Wedding Traditions You Can Skip - The Wedding Party


Why the wedding party is optional 

Now don't get me wrong, I think the world of wedding parties! Whether it's bridesmaids, groomsmen, bridesmen, groomsmaids, or non-binary wedding party pals, the friends who stand up with you at your wedding are a very special group of people. 

In large part, wedding parties are there to help you plan, set up and tear down, and celebrate! In short, they're your wedding support network, helping ease wedding planning stress, helping with random errands, and helping to keep you sane in the months leading up to the wedding.

So why am I saying this tradition is optional? 

Because your friends love you, and will help you anyway if you ask. It's as simple as that!

Here are a few other perks of skipping this particular wedding tradition: 

  • You won't have to pay for occasion-specific dresses or suit rentals and your friends won't have to pay for them either! 
  • You instantly lower your wedding floral budget by cutting down the number of people who will need bouquets and/or boutonnieres!
  •  Avoid the stress of feeling like you're either leaving someone out or that your wedding party is getting too big because you didn't want to leave anyone out
  • No need to worry about between Ceremony & Reception transportation for the entire wedding party (party buses or limousines can get expensive!)
  • Less people to plan for equals less wedding planning stress overall for you!  


With all that said, if the thought of a wedding party is kind of stressing you out, or there are logistical issues, feel free to skip this one, safe in the knowledge that your friends will love and support you with or without the title! 



5 Wedding Budget Tips for Couples


Focus on what is important to the two of you!

Wedding budgets - kind of icky to think about, right? It wasn't my favorite part of the process either, so we wanted to provide some tips to couples looking for ways to reduce costs and focus on what's important about their wedding day; the celebration of their marriage! 

Tip # 1: Pick your top 3 budget items

This is going to look different for every couple, but working with your partner to identify your top 3 budget items will go a long way to helping you prioritize where to spend and where to save during the planning process! For Adam and I, our top 3 were photography (duh), food/drinks, and hotel rooms for our immediate family. For others, it could be venue, wedding planner, and food/drinks, or photography, venue, and flowers. Once you pick your top 3, those can be  your guiding points in decision-making during the planning process, and will help things go a lot more smoothly! 

Tip # 2: Wedding Flowers

If flowers wasn't in your top 3 (see Tip # 1), then this is a great area to save money in. Most cities in the US have farmer's markets where you could pick up flowers the day of, or, if that sounds too risky to you, you could work with a local flower farmer (yes, that's totally a thing) to get a few buckets of flowers that you can arrange yourself, and they can look to meet your color/style preferences where possible. In Madison, Mad Lizzie's Flower Farm is a great place to check out! Depending on the size of your wedding, your flower budget could look a little more like $250 than $2500, depending on the size of your wedding, and if exquisite and specific flowers aren't in your top 3, this is a great way to save while still getting beautiful, fresh flowers. Plus, you're buying local! 

Tip # 3: Wedding Bands and DJs

Again, if this is killer for you, and you want your guests on the dance floor all night, then do it up! We can recommend some great people! But let's say you're not super into dancing, and want a more quiet and intimate reception evening with your guests. If that's the case, don't feel like you need to have a wedding band or DJ just because it's what you usually see. You do you, and if 'you' involves an iPod (do they still make those?) and a playlist you and your person made together, well then that's freaking fantastic, and can save you some cash. :) If you want an intermediate solution, ask a friend to emcee the evening (announcing dinner, first dances, etc.) and then you've got the best of both worlds! 

Tip # 4: Dinner 

Here's a good tip, because even if great food is a super big priority for you and your partner, don't feel like you have to break the bank to provide it! As a person who has eaten a lot of wedding food, let me assure you that more expensive does not necessarily equal better tasting. Sometimes the opposite. You know what people love? Tacos. Pizza. BBQ. You know what's cheaper to provide than fancy plated meals that don't taste that good? Tacos. Pizza. BBQ. If you're in Madison, think of all the great places you could go with! Tex Tubb's Taco Palace has an amazing catering buffet that works for meat eaters, vegans, vegetarians, and those who are gluten sensitive, all without doing anything special! Ian's Pizza is iconic Madison food, and delivers! Smoky Jon's caters (although make sure to have a vegetarian or vegan option if needed)! There are tons of wonderful, local restaurants you can use that will provide fantastic food, at a fraction of the normal 'wedding plated meal' cost. Check them out! 

Tip # 5: Venue

This tip might be more geared towards weddings under 50-60 guests, but is still valid. Wedding venues are expensive, and if you're not attached to a particular venue, then you can get a little creative with where your wedding will take place. Your friend's backyard? Sure! A small local art gallery? Why not! At a State Park? Sign me up! Take into careful consideration whether your off-the-beaten-path venue can comfortably support the number of guests you'd like to invite, but otherwise, go nuts! 

In the end...

The two of you get to decide what's important to you. Figure out what's at the top of your list for your wedding day, and remember that your guests are going to remember celebrating with  you more than they're going to remember anything else, so try not to stress out too much, and just know you don't have to sell your first born in order to have a beautiful and fun wedding day! 



Top 5 Recommended Portrait Locations in Madison, WI


When it comes to any kind of portraits, one of our most frequently asked questions (besides "What do we wear?!", which we cover here) is how to choose a portrait location. In no particular order, here are our top 5 recommendations for portrait locations in and around Madison, WI, with some helpful information about each choice. As always, if you have a spot that is special to you, that is a great choice for portraits! 

1. The UW Arboretum

The UW Arboretum is an amazing gift to the Madison area, and a wonderful place to have photos taken! The expanse of the property has many photo settings to offer, from wide open prairies, to evergreens, to densely wooded areas to lake views. This is one of our all-time favorite spots! Just note that there is a $30 permit fee per session at the Arboretum unless your photographer has an annual Photographer's Permit. 


2. The Willy Street Neighborhood 

Just as the UW Arboretum offers a wide variety of natural settings, the Willy Street area offers a great variety of more eclectic urban settings, all within short walking distance. If you're looking for something a little more offbeat and quirky, the Willy Street area probably has just the place for you! Just make sure you're not planning portraits on festival days! 


3. A Favorite Coffee shop, Restaurant, or Pub

Okay, so this recommendation is a little more personal, because the where is really up to you. Do you have a favorite hangout with your person? Same coffee shop every Saturday or same neighborhood dive bar every Friday? Why not work some of your personal story into your portraits and go to a cherished place for photos, and hey, it's always a great idea to have an inclement weather backup plan in Wiscosnin! 


4. Downtown Madison

It may be obvious from our choices that we like the option for variety! So if you want some variety, there isn't a better place to go than Downtown Madison. The options are practically limitless in the Downtown area; You've got the iconic Capital building, the hustle and bustle of State Street, the classic lake front views of the Memorial Union Terrace, the magic of the Allen Centennial Gardens, and after you're all done, why not get some ice cream from Babcock hall? Just bring your walking shoes!



5. Your Place 

Sure, why not? I know no one really likes cleaning their place before folks come over, but Lifestyle sessions are all the rage, and they're comfortable and meaningful. You don't have to leave your house, you get to hang out with your sweetie or your family and just chill and have fun! You can play board games, you can play Mario Kart, you can snuggle in bed, you can dance around your living room; Whatever you want to do! It's a great way to have more intimate portraits and save yourself some drive time. 

Hopefully this helps gives you some ideas for where you might have your next portrait session, and if you need more ideas, feel free to reach out to us! We love helping folks plan their photographic adventures! 



The Wedding Reception: How to Set Your Photographer Up for Success


You want amazing wedding reception photos, and your photographers want to provide them to you! 

Here are some ways you can help your photographer out, giving them the setup they need to wow you with reception photos! 

Tip # 1: Reserve Seats for Your Photographers

Reserving a seat for your photographers, preferably near the head table, gives them space to set down their heavy equipment, grab drinks of water, and eat a quick meal before the toasts, all within easy line of sight to the head table so that no important impromptu moments are missed! A special vendor table is fine, as long as it's still close to all the action! Even if you aren't assigning seats at your reception, we strongly recommend  you specifically reserve seats for your photographers. 

Tip # 2: Have Your Photographers Eat at the Same Time You Do

Let's face it, no one wants pictures of themselves eating. Having your photographers eat at the same time as you makes certain that there are no pictures of you eating (except at cake cutting time!) and that your photographers are done with their meals well before the toasts begin, so they can be ready to snap away. On that note, please know that every photographer I've ever talked with sure does appreciate the courtesy of a meal on a long work day (remember, there will be no other opportunities for your photographer to eat). It's also a good idea to check with your photographers to see if they have any special dietary needs (Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, etc.) so that they can actually eat the meal you're providing them with. They will absolutely appreciate the courtesy! 

Tip # 3: Follow the Light

Nearly all photographers prefer to shoot by natural light when possible, so if any part of your reception will be during daylight hours, you can take advantage by doing things like setting up the head table across from (not in front of) a window (so that you're well lit, not back-lit), setting up your dessert table in an area that has some pretty natural light, and making sure that all of your family and couples portraits are completed while there is still light to spare! 

Tip # 4: Don't Surprise Your Photographer

If you're, say, having Bucky Badger come and surprise your wedding guests, or having someone jump out of a giant cake, or any number of fun and awesome surprise wedding reception events, just make sure that your photographer is in the loop on what's happening, and when it's happening, so they can best position themselves to get great photos. 

Tip # 5: Designate a Go-To Person

This could be the Best Man, the Maid of Honor, the DJ, the Wedding Planner/Event Coordinator, or just some nice friend, but the person you designate as the go-to person for your photographers should be in know on reception timing and events, and be able to answer questions that arise, so that you can just sit back and relax, and your designated person can answer any questions that arise for your photographers on timing, events, etc. 


If you follow these tips, your photographer will thank you, and you'll also get more amazing photos because of it! 



7 Wedding Day Traditions You Can Skip


Do what makes sense for the two of you

When it comes to your wedding day, traditions are all fine and well, but it's important to remember that it is your day, and you want to make it a true representation of your personalities. Sometimes, that means skipping more traditional aspects of a wedding day in favor of something that feels more authentic for you and your partner. And that's okay! 

You hereby have our permission (not that you needed it) to skip any wedding traditions that don't feel good for you, but here is a short list of traditions you may not have thought of as optional! 

Tradition #1: The First Look At the Ceremony

Okay, if you've followed the blog (or Instagram, or Facebook, or basically ever talked with us about weddings), you'll know that we're HUGE fans of doing the first look ahead of the ceremony for sooooooo many reasons. Check out a more in depth blog post on this topic here. In short though, this tradition is one you can totally feel safe skipping. Why spend half the day avoiding the person you're about to spend the rest of your life with? Why not see each other early and have a nice, intimate moment to bask in each other before the hectic nature of the wedding day takes over, and then knock your formal photos out before the ceremony even starts, so you can enjoy cocktail hour with your guests? 

Tradition #2: the WEdding Party

Wedding parties, (a.k.a. your bridesmaids, groomsmen, bridesmen, groomsmaids, or non-binary wedding party pals) are awesome for so many things, including supporting you through wedding planning stress, help with random errands, and generally keeping you sane in the months leading up to the wedding. Here's the thing, I promise, your friends will still help you with wedding stuff, even if you don't have an official wedding party. And here are some great reasons to skip the wedding party concept altogether! 

  • No paying for occasion-specific dresses and rentals that will only be worn once (your friends will thank you!) 
  • Instantly lower your wedding florals budget by cutting down on the number of people who will need flowers! 
  • Less people to plan for equals less wedding plan stress for you overall (you can also then skip things like wedding party transportation logistics!) 

Feel free to skip this one, safe in the knowledge that your friends will love and support you with or without the title. 

Tradition #3: the Receiving Line 

This is probably the easiest tradition (in my personal opinion) to skip! From a purely photographic standpoint, there isn't a lot of visual variety to folks standing in a line getting hugged after the first few pictures, and let's face it, even for something as awesome as congratulating a couple who just got married, people hate standing in line! Here are a few alternatives to the traditional receiving line that will make for better pictures, and less line-waiting for your guests! 

  • The couple can dismiss people from their seats, allowing people congrats and hug time then! 
  • The couple can skip a receiving line and have meaningful interactions with their guests during the cocktail hour! 

There are lots of fun options that get you up, moving about, and having awesome conversations with your family and friends! 

Tradition #4: the Wedding Favors 

Yes, I know these are thought of as absolutely 100% mandatory, but you know, other than the getting married part, nothing about a wedding is mandatory. Some people love the idea of giving favors to their guests, and if that's you, then awesome! But if it's not you, remember that your friends and family came to celebrate with you, not for the chocolates, or cards, or whatever other little trinket you could give them. So do yourself a favor (see what I did there?) and skip this tradition if it doesn't speak to you, especially if you're on a budget. If you like the idea of doing something for your guests, but don't like the favor tradition, you can go outside the box and make a charitable donation in honor of each of your guests instead! 

Tradition #5: the Dinner 

Cake and punch receptions are gaining popularity again for a reason. Dinners are super expensive, and as lovely as they are, if you're on a budget, or wanting a more casual wedding day, don't be afraid to opt for the cake and punch or an hors d'oeuvres only reception. Just make sure to let people know what to expect ahead of time. 

Tradition #6: the Wedding Cake

When we think of weddings, we pretty instinctively think of wedding cakes as being quintessential, but take it from me, a person who doesn't like cake all that much, there are so many other options! There are pies, cookies, brownies, ice cream, and other pastries to choose from. So if you're not a cake person either (hi-five!) you're not alone, and you don't need to suffer through cake at your wedding. Pick your favorite dessert, and have at it! 

Tradition #7: the First Dances

You don't have to do anything you want on your wedding day, and if you're not a big fan of public dancing, don't feel pressured to have first dances, or any dances at all! First dances are a great opportunity for pictures, but then again, so are wedding trivia games, lip-synch competitions, and lawn games! So if dancing isn't your thing, it's cool! Figure out what your thing is, and celebrate with your sweetheart and your guests the way that makes you feel comfortable. 


If you take anything away from this post, let it be that it's your party and you can do, or not do, what you want. Make your wedding as unique as the two of you, and you won't be able to help having an amazing and memorable day, that you can take joy in for the rest of your lives! 



Five Tips for the Perfect Wedding Day Schedule


Wedding Day SCHEDULING 101! 

If you're planning a wedding, creating a wedding day schedule that works well and takes into account all the moving pieces of a wedding day is one of the most important things that you can do to help your day go smoothly. Here are five tips to help you craft the perfect wedding day schedule! 

Tip 1

If you plan on taking any outdoor photos (pretty please take outdoor photos!) then the first thing you want to look at and plan around is sunset. The absolute best time for photos is the hour to hour and a half before sunset. It isn't known as the Magic Hour for nothing! Once you know what time sunset is (and make sure to take Daylight Savings Time into consideration), you know when your most important photo window is and can plan accordingly! The Magic Hour is the best time for formal photos and more intimate couples photos. 

Tip 2

Let your vendors help you! Even if you don't have a wedding planner, I can guarantee that your wedding vendors (photographer, venue, DJ, caterer, etc.) will all have some great advice on how to make the most out of your time. After all, the reason you hired them is that they are experts on weddings, so why not tap into those resources to get advice on your timeline? Your photographer is going to be your go-to person for planning the timeline up through cocktail hour, while your DJ (and your caterer/venue) is going to be your best resource for planning the events and timeline of your reception. 

Tip 3

Do you plan to do a first look? We're BIG fans of first look photos (click here for a more in depth discussion of why we love first look photos!) If you are planning on doing a first look, this frees up your timeline, and allows you more flexibility with your schedule to do things like knock out formal photos before the ceremony so you can enjoy your cocktail hour afterward. Also, you won't have to spend half the day avoiding the person you're about to spend the rest of your life with! 

Tip 4

Consider skipping the traditional receiving line so that you can spend more time mingling with guests in a meaningful way either at the cocktail hour or the reception! Your photos will have more visual variety, and you won't spend a half an hour to an hour standing in one place shaking hands! 

Tip 5

While every photographer is different, we ask our couples to plan for at least 30 minutes for photos of just the two of them, 30 minutes for wedding party shots, and 20 minutes for family shots. (Most couples only include parents, grandparents, and siblings so this is totally feasible within that timeframe!) Mileage will vary depending on each couple's circumstances, wedding party size, and a whole host of other factors. This is where (per tip #2) vendors can really come in handy to make suggestions that are relevant to your unique situation! 

We hope these tips help you as you start looking at your wedding day schedule, and happy planning! 

-- Sam 



The Importance of Photo Editing



Hint: It's VERY important! 

My current profession, in some ways, is very similar to my old profession as a coffee-slinging Barista. In either of those careers, there is an artist who crafts her masterpiece with love and tailors it to suit the needs of the individual customer. 

I won't go into the complexities of how such a feat is accomplished with coffee, although I could, but I do want to dive into the creative processing that goes into infusing a digital image with enough heart to make people gasp and smile from ear to ear when they see it. 

So let's start at the beginning...

A person paying for photography services often thinks of their interaction with the photographer (emails, phone calls, pre-event consultations, the day of the wedding, the hour long portrait session, etc.) as the bulk of the photographer's working day, and that when they are paying a photographer, they are paying them just for the time they 'show up', but that couldn't be further from the truth. I can't speak for other photographers, but for Rob and I, we expect that for every one hour of photography there will be four to eight hours of editing and post-processing, and other miscellaneous business tasks associated with that event or session.  

So yes, technically I suppose we do get paid to show up. But just showing up, while monumentally important, isn't where the magic happens. Magic happens when you, as the photographer, establish a connection with your customer, and then in turn with any of their friends and family that you interact with. Magic happens when you use that collaborative connection with your customer to influence the way you edit and present your work to them. You take what you've learned about them, their preferences, their motivations, the things that make them excited, to help you present them with a better finished product. One that is uniquely theirs, and completed with their happiness and wonderment in mind. And doing that, being open to the individual needs and desires of each person you work with, is not always easy, but it is rewarding. It is joyful. It is magic! And that is what you're really getting for your investment. 

I've got plenty of other blog posts (both already on this blog and also in my brain) about what the actual wedding or portrait session is like, so I won't spend too much time on that, and I'll skip straight to post-processing, and why it's important to the overall finished product, and how it is an extension of our connection with each customer. 

As a photographer, there is a fine line between presenting things as they happened and presenting things as they felt. We edit pictures for the emotion. For how the moment felt when I was there, and how I imagine, using the superpower of empathy, the moment felt to those who were more actively participating in it. I'll show you an example of what I mean. 

Here is one example of the original, unedited picture of ours (you should feel super special right now because I never show unedited photos to anyone): 

Good picture, even if the shade we were in made it a bit dark. But the title picture for this post, the edited version of the above photo, is the way I remember that moment feeling.

Our goal isn't to be entirely accurate about the way things looked at the time I took the photo, our goal is to capture how things felt. To capture the essence of the moment, of the person, of the day, and distill it into something you will want to look at over and over and over again, because it reminds you of a feeling and because it brings that feeling back. 

The reason post-processing takes so much time, and is so valuable, is that with each photo, we're gauging what subtle adjustments would allow the emotion of the moment to shine through. Things like crop, white balance, brightness, contrast, and color versus black and white all determine how a finished photo feels when you look at it. Rob and I don't do any batch editing. None at all. Zip. We lovingly edit each individual photo that makes the cut, to perfectly capture all of the beautiful things that were happening at the time we took the original photo, both the tangible and the intangible. 

Nearly anyone these days can pick up a camera and snap some pictures. What is valuable and fulfilling about what we do is the artistry and effort that goes into taking those photos and creating something more than just a snapshot. Creating something you will cherish, something that will take you back to that perfect (or wonderfully imperfect) moment and fill you with all the love, hope, and joy of that moment all over again. 

That, right there, is priceless. 


p.s. Enjoy a few before/after examples that show the power of editing! 




Formal Shot Lists: A How-To Guide


Your wedding day is fast approaching, and you're humming along, taking care of all the final details leading up to the big day. Go you! But now you're staring at your to-do list and you see an item you've been skipping over for the last few days (okay, weeks); The formal shot list. 

What is a formal shot list? It's a list of must-have formal (i.e. posed) photos to be taken with your family and wedding party either immediately before, or immediately after, the ceremony. (I vote for before, in case you're wondering.) 

You've been putting it off in part because you're just not sure what to include! You know you don't want to be taking formal photos for forever, but you also don't want to miss anything important. 

First, let's dispel a few myths about formal photos, then we'll get into the meat and potatoes (or tofu and potatoes, for my fellow vegetarian friends) of how to craft the perfect formal shot list! 


Myth #1: You should always include extended family in your formal shot list.

Reality: The reality is that most formal shot lists only need to include your immediate family (parents, siblings, nieces, & nephews) and any living grandparents or godparents. The larger the group of people, the tinier the faces are in the photos, the more likely it is that someone (or multiple someones) will be blinking, the longer the photos take, and the likelier it is that folks will be cranky when they're done (or before they're done in some cases, *ahem* Uncle Joe *cough cough*).

What You Can Do: You can choose to only include your immediate family and any living grandparents or godparents, as well as your officiant, in your formal photos, and rely on capturing fun, candid, and real moments of your extended family throughout the reception. This helps formal photos go by quickly, and makes sure your time is spent connecting with people, instead of standing in a line not talking to them! 


Myth #2: The family who are in pictures will know that they're supposed to be in pictures. 

Reality: Sadly this is just not accurate (and we really wish it were!). Other than perhaps your parents, the rest of your family will have no idea if they're supposed to be in pictures or not. They also will not know when to show up for pictures, and even if they do, not all of them will be on time. 

What You Can Do: To make sure everyone is on the same page, email or message your formal shot list to all family members who will be taking part. Let them know where they should meet for formal photos, and tell them to arrive 15 minutes before the photo start time to give yourself some wiggle room. 


Myth #3: Formal Photos are boring. 

Reality: Okay, this one has a kernel of truth, because, let's face it, a lot of times formal photos can be a little boring. But they don't have to be! A lot of this depends on what's important to you during formal photos, the number of photos you need to get through, and the number of people in the photos. The smaller the number of people (immediate family, grandparents, godparents, and officiant only for instance) the more time you'll have to get a little creative! 

What You Can Do: The easiest way to shake things up a bit is to do something fun with your wedding party photos! Consider other locations within easy driving or walking distance (notable places nearby make for great photo opportunities!) If you have immediate family members (or grandparents and godparents) who have mobility issues, or families with young children who would have a hard time traveling to other locations for photos, consider doing your family photos before the wedding party photos so that once your family members are done, they can rest, take a break, or just head to their next destination a little early! Then get the rest of the gang to a fun spot to hang out, and take some more candid photos, like at a local pub for a round of drinks, a favorite hangout spot for coffee, or an iconic spot nearby (Capitol Building or Memorial Union Terrace in Madison, anyone?) 


Okay, now that we've dispelled a few common formal shot list myths, let's talk about how to build your own wedding formal shot list! 

  • First, look at what formal photos will be most important to you, and who should be in them
    • Tip: Consider limiting your formal shot list to immediate family, grandparents, godparents, and officiant to allow for more time in your day, and less cranky extended families being kept from appetizers! 
  • Once you have your list of people, type up your list of photos, making sure to list each person by name, and how they're related to you
    • Example:
      • Bride, Groom with Jake & Sara (Bride's Parents) and Emily (Bride's Sister)
      • Bride, Groom with Jake & Sara (Bride's Parents)
      • Bride, Groom with both sets of parents
      • Bride, Groom with Bill & Anne (Groom's Parents) 
      • Bride, Groom with Bill & Anne (Groom's Parents) and John & Tara (Groom's Siblings)
  • Once you have your list of photos, try rearranging them in order of most number of people to least number of people (first on your side, then on your partner's side, or vice versa) so that folks who are only in one or two photos can be done sooner 
  • Consider where you would like the photos to be taken (and when!) 
    • Tip: Busy backgrounds can detract from formal images, so think of places where there can be an unobtrusive background (such as a row of evergreens, the front of a church, in front of an autumn field)
    • Tip: If you will have more than 10-12 people in a single photo, it's good to also look for places that have stairs so that folks can be staggered for the photo! 
  • Consider if you would like to go to any additional locations with you and your partner or your whole wedding party! This can be a super fun way to get in some non-traditional pictures with your closest friends and best wedding-day cheerleaders! 
  • Share the list with your photographer first to see if they have any suggestions or input
  • Once you've chosen a place and time for your formal photos (and any wedding party photos taking place at a different location) and run that list by your photographer, make sure to communicate that info clearly (and often!) with the necessary family members and wedding party members so that things go smoothly on the big day! 

I hope this helps demystify formal shot lists, and helps give you the confidence you need to craft yours to be exactly what you want it to be, and still have time to do all the fun things on your wedding day!

-- Sam