Shelly Pate

Unique Wedding Planning Tips for a Smooth Wedding Day

couple exchanges vows at outdoor Virginia wedding

As a wedding photographer, I never know what kind of wedding day experiences I will encounter. Even being part of your entire planning process doesn’t guarantee that the wedding won’t include surprises. It’s my job to be prepared for anything and able to go with the flow if there are unexpected mishaps! These are my top wedding planning tips from my weird and unexpected experiences to help in your own wedding planning!

deep fall colored wedding bouquets

Wedding Planning Tips: How to Avoid Commonly Encountered Problems

First, we’ll start with parts of the day that commonly cause issues but can be easily avoided. Having both checklists for the wedding day and a wedding planner to oversee it helps prevent any hindrances to your day!

When to Feed Your Photographer & Videographer

Working with your caterer on providing a meal for your photographer at the right time is a very important step. Honestly, this one is the biggest problem I consistently encounter. Caterers can give photographers a hard time about this, so it’s best when this instruction comes directly from the couple.

couple kisses during sparkler wedding exit at fall wedding

Generally, your wedding photographer and videography work in tandem. The ideal time for both of them to eat is when you two do either before the reception or before guests have received their food. This is crucial because otherwise the entire wedding reception timeline can get disrupted. Instead, your photography and videography team will be done eating before speeches and special dances begin. We can use a short break to sit and regroup in order to capture the best images for the rest of the night!


couple walks through forest at outdoor fall wedding venue

A wedding day can become the perfect storm of family drama, little details gone wrong, and important parts of the day being ruined or missed. Even if you have prepared well for the day, there are unpredictable elements like the weather that ultimately are out of your control! The greatest of these that may work against you, is time. One of the most common time delays is due to transportation.

Whether the wedding day is rural and includes shuttles or urban and includes some walking, you need to plan and buffer in extra time for transportation. Transitions can take longer than you expect especially with larger wedding parties. Allot a minimum of 15 minutes more than you think you need in your wedding day timeline.

Backup Rain Plan

couple exchanges vows at fall forest wedding venue

It’s OK if something goes wrong on your wedding day. Actually, it’s expected. Having a rain plan so that you don’t have to make big decisions on the day is one of those crucial wedding planning tips to follow!

  • Rain may unexpectedly become your reality so when choosing your venue make sure you also love the rain plan location. Some venues’ rain plan spots change the ease and vibe of the day.
  • Purchase clear umbrellas (or black) for all wedding party members as a backup. Return them if unused or incorporate them as their gift!
  • Practice shooting in the rain plan location to make sure that the lighting still works!
  • Here are more tips for how to plan for a rainy wedding day.

Wedding Planning Tips: How to Make it Easy to Capture Beautiful Photos

couple kisses at fall forest wedding venue


Getting the best photos on your wedding day is all about the lighting. It is important to take note of what the sun and shade are doing at your ceremony location. Your photographer cannot move you around (unless you are eloping and they’ve picked the spot for you!) during the ceremony so it’s best to follow these wedding planning tips for lighting:

  • Ideally be in the shade or have the sun behind you to avoid harsh light and shadows on your faces.
  • If you can’t avoid being in a spotty sun area, you should both be in the sun or both be in the shade.
  • Rehearse at the same time as your ceremony so you can see what the sun will actually be doing! I’ve been at venues where the couple ended up with spotted light on their faces from nearby trees.
  • Don’t place the groomsman in a super dark basement for their getting-ready space. At the very least have an alternative area that can be used for photographing the groom putting on his accessories.
groomsmen stand with groom at outdoor fall Poplar Springs wedding

Quick Wedding Photography Tips

couple kisses with wedding party cheering at outdoor fall Poplar Springs wedding
  • Take as many pre-wedding photos as possible. This allows you to be more relaxed during the actual ceremony and have time to either join your guests at cocktail hour or have some alone time.
couple exchanges vows at outdoor fall Poplar Springs wedding
  • ALWAYS opt for a lapel mic on your officiant over a handheld mic with a stand (even though you can still use a handheld for the readings). Otherwise, people’s faces get blocked by the mic and it’s distracting in photos.
couple kisses during wedding exit using wedding planning tips
  • Stop and do a kiss halfway down the aisle and/or CELEBRATE as you walk out from the ceremony! This is always one of my favorite moments (same method if doing a sparkler, bubbles or other kind of exit).
  • Alert family and the wedding party to not wear transition lenses because they can appear as sunglasses and hide the eyes.
bride has help getting into wedding dress
  • Tell all family and the wedding party to leave their Apple Watch at home since it is a distraction in your photos. Your eyes will only be drawn to the watch in your photos. Do you want that to be the focus years down the line?
white and gold table settings with florals incorporates wedding planning tips
  • If your reception space is close to the ceremony/cocktail hour area, then have your day of wedding coordinator keep that area closed. Guests will try to set their stuff down which means personal items will be in your reception space photos. You guys spent so much time creating this space that it deserves to be photographed without clutter!
flat lay of wedding details as part of wedding planning tips
  • Coordinate with your florist: when are personal details being delivered? Does this align with the wedding photography timeline for getting ready and detail photos? Make a specific plan of where they will be delivered, especially the boutonnieres (which are often difficult to locate) and extra flowers for flat lays.
  • Write letters to each other, your wedding party or to other family members like this bride did for her dad first look! It’s a great way to bring out some beautiful emotions in the photos.

Take it Straight from Another Couple Like You

couple exits ceremony at outdoor fall Poplar Springs wedding

A quote from bride featured here on handling mishaps during their wedding day: 

“I just wanted to say thank you for making yesterday such a special day for Chris and I. With the running behind and all that–I am so thankful for your flexibility. We also both tend to be very camera shy, but it just flowed so nicely during the entire event!”

If some of these wedding planning tips struck a chord, then let’s chat all about how to make your wedding day the best it can possibly be!

Wedding Vendors

Venue/Caterer/Coordinator | Poplar Springs Manor
Photographer | Shelly Pate Photography
Dress | Lazaro
Florist | Bee Inspired Floral & Event Design
Hair & Makeup | MAB Artistry
Cake | Cakes By Happy Eatery
Catering & Cake | Corcoran Caterers
Video & DJ | DJ Topedo & Company


Wedding Tips Series

Part 1: Make the Most of Your Wedding Morning Getting Ready
Part 2: Best Wedding Day Tips: How to Plan a Relaxed Wedding
Part 3: Private Moment Inspiration: More Than Just Your Wedding First Look
Part 4: Wedding Photography Packages: Knowing How to Choose the Best Fit
Part 5: Getting the Best Wedding Day Photos – Tips & Ideas for Wedding Photo Poses
Part 6: Unique Wedding Planning Tips for a Smooth Wedding Day

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