Robyn Brown Photography | Your Photographer's Guide to Wedding Planning


You finally found a true insider's guide to how your wedding day is going to go! How you want it to go. You know that you need to consider your guests, but you also want the day to be all about you! Your wedding coordinator is absolutely amazing, but she just doesn't "get it." Neither does your bestie maid of honor, even if she has already been down the aisle. Neither does your mom, as much as she cares. Your wedding photographer, however... I'm not one you'd usually consider consulting for timeline planning, or what is really going to matter when the day gets here. What is going to actually be memorable

When we first meet, you'll hear me say "I'm with you more on your day than even your soon-to-be spouse." I'm also with your guests for much of their celebration. I've seen coordinators sit and enjoy the reception when it finally arrives, but she's been so busy...coordinating.

Does she see how your final preparation touches will go? How you feel during your First Look. How stressed you are about getting to enjoy your cocktail hour. How important is your big send off. 

Who will tell you if your guests will mind if you're late walking down the aisle? (Yes.) Do they care about the wedding cake taste or appearance? (Taste.) What about if it might be cold, can't they just wear a sweater? (No.) How do you get them to dance? (Table layout.) 

So, here it is: Your Photographer's Guide to Wedding Planning. One part Q&A. One part insider tips. It all draws from my personal experience, so please post questions and comments for more. Keep in mind - these may not apply to you. You get to do what works for you and your day. 


The Biggie - First Look vs. Walking Down the Aisle

The funny thing about this answer is that it not only depends on your adherence to tradition, but also on your vision for your cocktail hour. First, consider the tradition. Yes, historically couples saw each other for the first time walking down the aisle. This sounds romantic, but is it really? Maybe it's just fraught with stage fright. You arrive to the front of the aisle and get to see each other. But all the eyes are on you and the formality of the ceremony. Now, what about a private moment with your soon-to-be spouse? A moment for just the two of you, to embrace and whisper how nervous and excited you are. I'd argue that this is the new tradition. Yes, there are many other things that are on-trend, but this one is here to stay. I've seen brides, and grooms, shed joyful emotional tears at their first look. You can share so much in this relatively private moment. Just check through my photos! 

Second, consider the practicality of your timeline. The photos of the two of you taking a romantic stroll around your picture-perfect wedding venue are the ones that will make it to the cover of your wedding album. They're the pics that you'll frame for your walls and share with your friends. This can be successful both during your cocktail hour or during a first look. The advantage of the first look is it allows for a more relaxed and less rushed photo session. You also have the opportunity to get all of the other formal photos done. We'll follow your couple's photo shoot with shots of the entire bridal party and the immediate family. Once the shot that Great Aunt Gertrude requested of you with your second cousin is taken, you'll be free to enjoy the rest of your day just as you want, without any more pauses for a photographer-led photo shoot. After your ceremony I can certainly do a few more structured lifestyle shots, but you can then get to your cocktail hour and enjoy your party! Just think of how many guests you'll have time to greet! 


Pro Tip #1 - Be on Time

This one is incredibly obvious, and you don't need me to tell you. Yet, from your photographer's point of view, this is huge for photos of your family and guests. There is (almost) nothing that irks your guests more than waiting for you to walk down the aisle. They've come from across the country and from overseas to see you in your wedding dress. That last swipe of mascara or last minute hairstyle change is not going to have nearly as big of an impact on the happiness of your day as walking down to greet your soon-to-be-spouse on time. I say this from a handful of unfortunate experiences, and the photos of the grumpy guests tell it all. The same goes for all of your wedding pros. Will your florist be on time? Your caterer? Officiant? Photographer? In case you're wondering, I'm always at least an hour early. I leave in time to detour around unexpected road closures in front of a cabbage farm. True story. 

Do whatever it takes to prep for your day so you're at the ceremony site well ahead of schedule. Test your make up. Wear your hairstyle all day to make sure it stays. Call or email your vendors the day before. Put a bridesmaid in charge of scheduling and a groomsman in charge of emergencies. 

Remind your groom to pack his pants. Another true story. 


How much DIY? 

This is another predictor of your day's success that couples often don't see coming. How much of your decor and preparations do you take on yourself, and how much do you leave to the pros?

It depends on the type of DIY and your skill level. I'll leave all those little details to other planning and decor blogs, but will let you know about the mood of the bride if she's done too much. There is a direct relationship between the number of DIY projects and the stress of the bride on the wedding day. Even if you're an accomplished florist or world-class baker, those are last things you want to deal with on the morning of your wedding! By the time your Big Day gets here, you're only going to be concerned with saying "I Do." (btw-did your write your vows yet?) 

Maybe you've planned to purchase lovely and economical stems from TJ's and have your artistic bridesmaid arrange them all for you. Maybe you've spent more time at your craft store in the past year than you ever thought possible. Most venues allow for about 2 hours before the ceremony for set-up. Relying on even your super-reliable friend to pull off your vision of a perfect wedding day is going to stress you out! 

When I arrive at a bride's getting ready location to find her frantically sorting through craft supplies and calling friends at the reception site, I know it's going to be a difficult start a our photo session. When I arrive on your wedding day to see you cool, relaxed, and ready then you are going to get some spectacular glowing bridal portraits! 

DIY can be done right. If your mom is a pro at welding stained glass candle holders and photo place card holders, then please, go for it. If she's a talented seamstress who can flawlessly fit your bridesmaid's dresses, then she should absolutely be taken up on her offer to sew. This couldn't be a better example of when couples should save some cash to personalize their wedding. On the opposite side, if your kitchen table is overrun with ribbon and you can't get your bouquet to wrap perfectly, then save your stress and enjoy your day! 

A naturally beautiful wedding venue is always a no-fail way to get a romantic backdrop without all the fuss. 


Pro Tip #2 - Stay Close to Your New Spouse

In your search for wedding inspiration, you've seen tons of candid photos of newlywed couples stealing kisses and looking adoringly at each other. It's true that many of these are planned by the photographer, but the really, really good ones are natural. They're unmistakably true photojournalistic images of the moment. The catch? I can't get these if you're not near your new spouse. 

This probably sounds painfully simple, but it's easy to get carried away greeting your guests and enjoyed all of the reception traditions. By the time you make the rounds you'll realize you haven't seen each other all night. So greet guests together, share your first dance and then a few more, eat together, get up to get drinks together. This whole day is about you! 


Should I worry about the weather? 

Yes! This one unfortunately comes from my experiences, both personally and professionally, of otherwise beautiful weddings which were either ruined or defined by unexpected weather. Do you really want the only thing your guests remember, or that you remember, is that the A/C went out? Or that it was so cold they were ready head home at the earliest possible chance? What if the outdoor space you choose is perfect, but the backup indoor choice is a nightmare? 

Plan for your day expecting the worst. Outdoors spaces are my favorite, they can be absolutely perfect. Even better than that are spaces that are just as jaw dropping indoors. I can offer my suggestions in the Baltimore area or your wedding coordinator is the best person to help you scope out the exact space of your dreams. You're not stuck with a drab ballroom! 

Trying to coax the outdoors into cooperating can help, but it won't always be enough. The outdoor space heaters cannot warm sufficiently the pavilion in early March. Moving the ceremony under the tent at the last minute is often a great choice, but not if it's overcrowded with reception tables already. (Extra pro-tip: don't have your guests move furniture.) Make sure the venue's air conditioning can handle a barn full of people on the hottest day of the summer. This one is a little less predictable, but that's what your planner is for!