10 Secrets for Planning a Wedding That No One Will Tell You

(Yeah, that’s right. What’s the deal with that???)

Terrain Garden Cafe Wedding

 Terrain, Glen Mills, PA

Hello, bride-to-be!

waterworks wedding photo bride

Congratulations on your engagement! I have put together a list of ten items to help you on your journey; ten things that are rarely discussed in the beginning stages of planning a wedding.

After shooting weddings for six years, these are some things that I tell my brides up front, and they always react with gratitude because they are things that they wouldn’t think about otherwise.


So without delaying, grab some ice cream and start taking notes!!! Happy planning!

Knowlton Mansion Vintage Winter Holiday Wedding

Philadelphia, PA

1. Skip the receiving line.

Don’t know what a receiving line is? A lot of couples aren’t familiar with this tradition that most of our parents used on their wedding day. It is NOT the exit, where guests line up and you walk or run through guests blowing bubbles, holding sparklers, or in rude cases, throwing tomatoes.


A receiving line is the line formed on your way out of the church (or venue) after you and your party make their way back down the aisle in order to greet the guests. If the line forms, guests will automatically say their congratulations and give their hugs as they leave for the reception. This takes much longer than you will anticipate, and will take away from either the time slotted for formal photos or eat into your cocktail hour.

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Inevitably, Aunt Ida will choose this time to tell your groom about the time you ate spaghetti-o’s in your birthday suit, and there goes 10 minutes.

INSTEAD, greet the guests at the end of cocktail hour and during the lull in dinner at the reception.


2. The receiving line will happen anyway unless you have a designated room or area to hide out in after the recessional.

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Specific instructions need to be given to the bridal party and ESPECIALLY to your parents on where to go while heading away from the guests. It will be natural for them to hang out in the church entryway or venue hallway and greet the guests because that is what they are accustomed to. Plus, this will give you a little private time with just your close group of friends and your immediate family.

Translation: Time to smooch.

The Merion Vintage Fall Wedding

Cinnaminson, NJ

3. Buffer time in between the ceremony and cocktail hour if you are not doing a first look.

knowlton mansion winter wedding first look

I can’t stress how important this is. First looks are not always what a couple wants to do, and I would never pressure anyone into doing one. BUT if you are not seeing your groom before the ceremony, you’ll need to plan carefully. There are ways to still have a leisurely time doing formal photos, but all of those ways include either extending the cocktail hour or planning for a break in between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of cocktail hour.

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In other words, if you have a ceremony that lasts from 4:00-4:30 and guests need to travel to a venue, instead of planning your cocktail hour to start at 5:00, start at 5:30, or consider extending the cocktail hour.

Afraid guests will get impatient? They won’t. They will enjoy grabbing that $5 coffee that they have been hankering for all day. Actually, you are actually doing them a favor. You’re welcome.

4. Don’t send your photographer a multi-page shot list.

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If you have hired a seasoned and skilled photographer, he/she will know to look for the desired moments such as the groom’s face as you walk down the aisle, the first dance, etc. DO include a detailed family formal list and any other unusual shots that you would like, such as “photo of me and my high school friends,” or “photo of Billy Bob Joe and the groom dabbing.”

Knowlton Mansion Winter Wedding ReceptionKnowlton Mansion, Philadephia, PA

5. Hire a videographer.

waterworks wedding father crying

Even if you don’t want all of the bells and whistles, this is your only opportunity to capture these moments in live time.

Forgo the elaborate centerpieces and hire a professional to put those memories on film.

6. Be picky about your videographer.

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Your photographer can probably recommend videographers who are good at what they do, but also who play nicely with other vendors. I have worked with wonderful videographers who are aware of where they are and who want to work with me and not against me, and I have worked with difficult videographers who have caused me to completely miss shots because of placing themselves in my way during times such as the giving away of the bride.

Not cool, Bob, not cool.

7. Think about your future generations when making decisions.

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Not planning on ordering an album? That’s fine, as long as you are someone who knows for SURE that you will make one yourselves. Technology changes so fast that the way we share images may not even be around ten years from now (think floppy disks), and then how will you pass your wedding photos down to your children and grandchildren?

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Another thing to think about as far as future generations go is stressing to your photographer to focus on family, and to attempt to capture images of as many guests as possible. You may get caught up in the trends and forget that years from now the people attending your wedding will be gone, and you will treasure the family images much more than you will when you are first married and caught up in the excitement of the creative shots of details and dresses. Think about looking through your images with your children and showing them family members who they will never meet.

Great, I have made you sad and now you are scarfing down that ice cream. ON TO THE NEXT SECRET!

Terrain Wedding Ceremony Photography

Terrain Garden Cafe, Glen Mills, PA

8. Set aside or purchase a nice hanger for your dress (and one for the groom’s suit).

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Even if you DESPISE the fancy hangers with your name twisted onto the wire, or don’t even want the disembodied dress photo, the dress WILL show up hanging up in some image in your gallery.

Also, it will look 10 times better in real life if you have anything other than a plastic hanger for your dress. It is a good idea to have your groom borrow a nice hanger as well.

9. You will have to decide whether you want to arrive at the venue super-early, or just in time to walk in the door and down the aisle.

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There’s always that one guest that arrives a gazillion minutes before your wedding starts.

But typically guests start arriving 30-45 minutes before the ceremony, and you’ll want to decide before making your timeline with your photographer about when you will arrive.

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Some brides like to be at the venue/ceremony location early and catch a breather in a quiet room, and other brides like to arrive in the limo about 5-10 minutes before the scheduled start time and wait to get out until it’s time to walk down the aisle. There is no right or wrong way, just totally preference, but it will affect the beginning of your timeline, so try to make that decision early.

TIP: If you are doing a first look or formal portraits at the venue ahead of time, plan to head inside to hide about 45 minutes before the ceremony.

Terrain Garden Cafe Wedding

Pennypacker Park, Haddonfield, NJ

10. Now, time for the best tip of all… drumroll, please:

Wedding dress secret: There is a loop on the inside of your train made for a hanger… but the best use for it is to slip it onto your wrist while you are walking around during the day. WUT??? 

I tell you the #truf.

new jersey wedding dress photo

It may not seem like a big deal now, but I watch as brides put their gorgeous gown on only to realize that they will need to lift up the train somehow in order to walk. The loop (in most cases) is perfect for holding that train up, and the wrist is the perfect spot for that to slip onto. Who knew???

Finish your ice cream yet? Ready to start planning? Go for it, and enjoy.

the waterfall delaware sparkler exit

Getting married in New Jersey or the Philadelphia area? Looking for a photographer?  Browse through my portfolio and send me a note below if you’d like to chat more about your own wedding….

…or ice cream,

or chocolate…

or bacon. 🙂



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