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Wedding photography typically accounts for a huge chunk of the budget, which means that you want your investment to yield amazing, beautiful, photos to share with generations. So, how do you get the biggest bang for your buck? Listen to your photographer. Take their advice on everything, including things you might not think they know about, like what color uplighting to choose (white, always white) and which way your ceremony should face during a specific time of day.

Straight out of the mouths of three top wedding photographers in New York City, keep these six tips in the back of your mind on your wedding day. From logistics to beauty, Amber Gress Photography, Judy Pak Photography, and brklyn view photography, spill their secrets learned from shooting hundreds of weddings.

unplugged wedding ceremony


A lot of wedding photos come with an unwelcome guest star: Brightly-lit smartphones. To combat this digital-age downside, consider asking your guests to stow their phones during your ceremony or reception. “It’s inevitable that you’ll be greeted with a sea of LCD screens instead of smiling faces as you walk down the aisle,” Judy Pak. “Sadly, the photos from your ceremony show likewise. Try an unplugged wedding to have guests enjoy the present and let the photographer capture the moment.”



You hired your photographer to take photos, not to gather all of your belongings. Make their job easier and more efficient by getting everything ready before they arrive. Judy Pak says, “Have all your details ready for the photographer to shoot on arrival (your dress, shoes, invitations, signage, heirlooms, flowers, etc.). This can help maximize the time your photographer has to take beautiful pictures, rather spending time gathering everything together.”

blonde bride


You are going to feel silly, but you’ll look great! Jaine, from brklyn view photography, has a special trick to make your chin look smoother: “…stick your head out (like a turtle) and keep your neck back and straight. It feels awkward, but looks great on camera…trust me!”


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Weddings are typically full of traditions. Everything from who walks the bride down the aisle to where your guests sit to what you serve for dessert have an expected tradition tied to them. In your planning process, I’m sure you’ve discovered that you agree with some traditions while wanting to do away with others. So what do you do when you don’t like cake and want to walk the aisle by yourself? You do what you want! Modern couples, like yourselves, want to put a personal spin on their weddings. In other words: Do away with some traditions and update others with contemporary flair. A good place to start? Giving the decor a personal touch.

film strip placecards

photo by Les Loups


Using long tables instead of the traditional round ones? Then you are definitely going to need place cards. Marking each guest’s seat makes them feel taken care of and comfortable. Use unexpected materials for your place cards that speak to something that you and your fiance love. One of my couples last year are both film writers. We purchased old movie reels of their favorite films, cut them up, and had a calligrapher write their guests names right on the film. Such a personal detail!

record table numbers

photo by hart & sol photography


To let your guests find their table, each table will need what is traditionally a number. Use this decor detail as an opportunity to infuse your personalities into your wedding! This couple loved the 1960s. We sourced real, vintage records all from the 1960s that had a love theme and used them as table “numbers”. Each escort card had a picture of the record instead of a number to help guests find their table. You can use cities you’ve traveled to together, names of your favorite foods, the restaurants you went on your firsts dates at, or even your best photos together.


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Are you engaged? Have you fallen in the never-ending black hole of wedding decor yet? The options are endless! Even more overwhelming are the quantity of tutorials online for DIYing everything from your wedding flowers and invitations to your favors. How do you know which projects will be worth taking on and which will end up giving you a headache and covering your house in glitter? I’m here to tell you.

You might decide to DIY your wedding decor versus hiring a professional for numerous reasons: to save money, to have creative control, because you enjoy it and to be able to bond with your fiancé over a special project. It’s wonderful to create a few special touches for your wedding with your own two hands. When the projects you take on are fun, simple, interesting, affordable and actually doable, DIYing your wedding decor won’t cause a huge headache. My experience creating custom decor for over 40 weddings in the last four years has taught me the types of projects that are simple for a novice (or even a skilled) crafter to complete. (Remember, I do this for a living.) Most likely, you have a full-time job and other life responsibilities besides planning your wedding. The best projects to do yourself are ones that you can fit into your everyday life without a bunch of stress. Here are my recommendations for what you can do yourself and what you should hire a professional for:


wedding diy signagePhoto by hart & sol photography

Practice your handwriting skills on a few special signs for your wedding. Use these chalk markers on these purchased chalkboards to be able to erase and re-do if you make a mistake. Create a welcome sign, a drink menu and a sign for your guestbook table. The markers, unlike chalk, won’t smudge in transport.


ceremony program booksPhoto by Kimberly Mufferi Photography

Booklet wedding programs are all the rage right now. Making only one is completely doable. Making 150? Not so much. Hire a local stationer to create amazing, booklet wedding programs for you. Use the inside pages to tell your guests where you met your bridesmaids, a thank you letter to your parents and even the story of how you met.


flag diy wedding programsPhoto by Erika Layne photography

Would you prefer simpler ceremony programs? Make them yourself. Use Microsoft Word or Adobe Illustrator to layout a very simple ceremony program. Print on my favorite card stock, cut into a flag shape and glue onto a wooden dowel for a fun, unconventional take on a ceremony program.

DIY or No? Find Out

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Let’s be real: Most couples aren’t working with an unlimited wedding budget. So, how do the rest of us decide where to spend the bulk of the floral budget, or whether to spring for fancier napkins? As a professional wedding designer, I’ve learned some things about when to go “all out” and when the basic option will do. Read on for my tips to stay within your budget and still wow your guests.

burgundy tablecloth reception


Those specialty napkins you had to have? As soon as a guest sits down, they’ll be dirty or on the floor. Save some money by using the standard, white napkins that your caterer or venue normally provides. To really make a design impact, splurge on upgraded tablecloths. You can rent specialty linens that are boldly striped, full of sequins or made from delicate lace.

dahlia bridal bouquet


I always recommend to my clients to put their money towards the items that will be in the most photographs. Your photos are what you will look at for the next 50 years. The bridesmaids bouquets will be in a few photos, like the ones of them walking down the aisle and a group shot. The bridal bouquet, on the other hand, will be in almost every photo of the bride, the ceremony, and the portraits. Ask your florist to propose smaller bridesmaids bouquets and then use the extra money to make the bridal bouquet extra special. It could be using more flowers, making it larger, or adding some beautiful French silk ribbon. Whatever you choose, that bouquet will live on in your photographs. For that reason, you want it to be as spectacular as possible.


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Sure, spring is still new, but another season is fast approaching: Wedding season! Whether you’re attending a friend’s ceremony or are busy planning your own big day (like Kayla and me!,) spring and summer are the most popular times to tie the knot. (If you’re as excited as we are, check out our new Wedding Survival Guide series!)

And the hottest color to be surrounded by while gettin’ hitched? You guessed it: cool mint green. From retro glassware to bridesmaid dresses to delicate French macarons, this color is everywhere. So, we’re naming April’s Color of the Month after the original mint green wedding fixture: Those melt-away wedding mints.

Succulent Wedding Bouquet
We’ve featured mint before, but Wedding Mint is softer with gray undertones — think of the soft green of succulent petals or a vintage jadeite platter. Isn’t this succulent bouquet gorgeous? (Confession: It’s already on my wedding Pinterest board.)

Mint Green Kitchen Design by Mark Williams

Design by Mark WIlliams

Okay, let’s say you don’t have weddings on the brain. This color is bright and cheerful, yet muted enough to cover all four walls. Here, designer Mark Williams painted this entire eat-in kitchen — even the trim — with a minty hue.


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The venue for your reception is the largest and most daunting purchase during your wedding planning adventure. It will most likely cost the most money and all venues are very different in what they offer. A few of my past clients have been disappointed after they booked the venue and found out later that they weren’t allowed to have some of the decor they hoped for or their pictures turned out dark because of the lack of natural light. These 5 questions are to ask reception venues when going on visits to avoid disappointment later on when you start thinking about catering, photos, and decor.

Green Building Wedding Reception

photo by Inbal Sivan Photography

Choose a venue based on what aspects of your reception are most important to you. Do you have 300 guests and want a black tie affair? Then a beautiful ballroom would work better than a barn in a field. Do you want your local BBQ restaurant to cater and crave bright, light filled photographs? Then look for all white loft spaces with tons of windows that allow outside catering. Make a list of 3-5 non-negotiable qualities you want in your reception and start your venue search from there. Once you’ve found a few reception spaces to take a look at, ask these 5 questions:

When Does Quiet Time Start?

You may have free reign of the venue all night long, but some spots have strict noise ordinances from the city that say the tunes need to stop as early at 10pm. Ask you venue about their rules to know how long your DJ or band can crank the tunes.

giant balloons reception

Photo by Clark + Walker Studio

What Can I Decorate?

I’ve had clients in the past who had their hearts set on pretty, hanging lights and garland, only to be crushed when the venue didn’t allow anything to be hung from the ceiling. If your Pinterest board is full of cafe lights, hanging garlands and large floral installations, don’t be disappointed — get the facts before you book.

warehouse wedding cafe lights

Photo by Sara Wight Photography

What About Glitter, Candles and Confetti?

Many venues, because of fire hazards, are doing away with real flame candles — they only allow LED candles. If your dream is to have a reception filled with a lot of natural candlelight, choose a space that still allows this. Same question pertains to glitter and confetti — because of the mess of cleaning that stuff up, is quickly going on many venues’ Do Not Bring list.

white tent wedding reception

Photo by Amber Gress Photography

Can I Use an Outside Caterer?

This is a big one: Find out if the reception venue allows only in-house catering. This means that they have a specific caterer who makes all of the food for all of their events. You’ll be held to that chef’s style of cooking, which is normally delicious, although might not be exactly what you were hoping for. I love to use in-house caterers when the venue is affiliated with a restaurant or when you don’t want the hassle of hiring another vendor. The all-inclusive nature of having a caterer and venue under one contract has its perks, but if you have a specific restaurant, style of food or dietary restrictions (think vegan or kosher offerings,) you’re better off choosing a spot that allows you to make your own pick.

romantic vintage wedding

Photo by Judy Pak Photography

How Many Guests Will It Accommodate?

Since you already have a rough guest count, use that number to find a reception space. A large space that can sit 300 people is going to feel like a ghost town with only 150. On the other end, you don’t want to pack so many guests in that your loved ones feel uncomfortably crowded. Ask how many guests the venue can hold for a comfortable standing-only cocktail party, a sit-down dinner at round tables, and a sit-down dinner at long tables. Using round tables can typically seat more people in a space than long tables.

Armed with this knowledge I’m confident that you will choose the right venue for your amazing reception. How’s your venue search going? Have you discovered any deal breakers when going on visits?

  • Tell Your Friends

Editors’ note: Today, we’re welcoming wedding designer and contributor Michelle Edgemont to share her wedding-planning savvy in a new series we’re calling Wedding Survival Guide. Recently engaged? Read on for advice from Michelle, and from couples who have planned a wedding — and lived to tell the tale.

You’re engaged…now what? You’ve shared the news with friends and family, so now it’s time to start some serious wedding planning. It can be very overwhelming to plan what is probably the biggest party of your lives. Learn from those who’ve done it before by consulting with newlyweds. A few of my past wedding design clients have kindly shared their tips for what to do first after the proposal.


brooklyn bride and groom at liberty warehouse

Hart and Sol Photo

Liz and Tim were married in an open loft venue, Liberty Warehouse, in Brooklyn. Liz says, “Our decisions were based on what had been important to us throughout our ten year relationship. Brooklyn was where we fell in love and lived together in our first apartment.” Use her advice and make a list of anything and everything that is important to you both or had a huge impact in your relationship. This brainstorming session can help you decide what city to be married in.


modern indian wedding ceremony

Our Labor of Love

In a multicultural event, Nisha and Brendan were married in a modern, Hindu ceremony. “We both really wanted an outdoor ceremony. Afterwards, we moved the party to a beautiful indoor reception space. The space perfectly accommodated our number of guests,” Nisha says.  Nisha makes a great point here about guest count. The number of loved ones you invite is going to make a huge impact on your ceremony and reception venue choices. Some spaces can’t hold over 200 people, while others might have minimum guest counts on weekends that wouldn’t allow for small weddings. Knowing a rough guest count before you start your venue search is key in finding the right event space for you.


colorful modern indian wedding reception

Our Labor of Love

Nisha, an Indian bride planning a colorful, whimsical wedding, loved looking at inspiration online right after she was engaged. A few months into the design process, she realized it was better to stay true to what they wanted as a couple instead of constantly looking at all of the wonderful wedding images online. I love this advice! After you get engaged, spend some time getting familiar with classic wedding decor by browsing blogs and magazines. Then, discuss what types of decor are important with your fiance. Make a list, stick to it, and cut your wedding blog browsing down to once a week in order to avoid getting overwhelmed with inspiration.


pink escort cards

brklyn view photography

Ah, the budget. This step is the most uncomfortable and the most important. How much money do you have to spend? Whether you are eloping or having a 300-guest black tie affair, your wedding is going to cost at least the amount of your marriage license. Decisions cannot be made in the planning process unless you know how much money you have. Talk with your fiance and both sets of parents about the amount of cash everyone is able and willing to contribute. No one likes to talk about money. It might be awkward. Someone might get upset/angry/disappointed. But, when the conversations are over, you’ll have an amount to work with. It could be $5,000 or $50,000. Either way, you’ll know where you stand, and what you can afford.

You’ll be glad you spent the time thinking about what you really want and can afford when the process gets rolling.

So tell me: Which of these steps have you taken? What wedding questions are stumping you? I’m here to help.

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