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ULTIMATE WEDDING PLANNING GUIDE

Couture Bridal Photography Wedding Planning Guide

Wedding Planning timeline

Introduction


NOTE: THERE WILL BE A DOWNLOADABLE E-BOOK AVAILABLE WITHIN THE Next 2-3 weeks with downloadable WORK SHEETS AND PLANNING TOOLS


This wedding guide is a compilation of best practices to look over when you start your wedding planning. I always advise couples to use a professional wedding planner and at the minimum a day-of wedding planner. Having a wedding planner work out the finer details of your wedding day, and be present on the day off your wedding to deal with vendors and last minute snags will relieve you of a ton of stress. This being said, feel free to contact me if you're looking for a wedding planner in South Florida and Puerto Rico, where I have worked with the best and also the most reasonable. 

Keep in mind that every wedding has it’s own unique and personality. No two weddings are alike and various types of weddings may require additional time, additional planning and even a different wedding planning timeline. For example, a destination wedding might require Save the dates and invites to go out earlier to allow family and friends to budget for travel and/or make arrangements for children and dependents, especially if your wedding might take place during the school year or they have an elderly parent to care for. It also allows additional time for guests to renew passports or even apply for a passport if your destination wedding requires. 

Just remember this Wedding Planning Guide is intended to be just that a guide. A DIY wedding will be a little different than a destination wedding or even a formal wedding at a venue, hotel or resort. I will be including some worksheets to help you with Wedding day Timelines for both Formal & DIY Weddings, Guest list Spread Sheet, Wedding weekend Spread sheet, a packing list, Important people contact list, Vendor list and Wedding Photography shot list. 

I hope this guide helps you and saves you a little money since wedding planning books are quite expensive and contain a lot of fluff to fill pages. You can easily download this guide, print it and place in a binder for review and to carry around as you go about planning your wedding and meeting with vendors. Additionally many of these forms will be in Excel format, so that you can work on them and share back and forth with family, friends and your vendors. 

I hope this Wedding Planning Guide and I hope you choose Couture Bridal Photography for your wedding day photography anywhere in the world.

You just got engaged! What now!

Wedding Planning timeline


You just got engaged and you're feeling the bliss and excitement of a new future with the person you love most and can’t wait to spend the rest of your life with. Up until now, you may have spent years thinking of and dreaming of your dream wedding. The few months after becoming newly engaged is a rather fun time and full of great memories. You may do some traveling together, move in together, and discuss some ideas as to what, where, why and how you will put together a wedding day. This is the time to start taking notes and sharing ideas, preferences, how much money you can budget, locations, time of year, and dates. 

With an overall idea of what kind of wedding you would like to have you can begin the process of setting a date. Most couples choose a date 12-18 months out in order to plan and put together the wedding that best reflects their ideas, vision and taste. 

To start with a good foundation there are 3 key items you need to start off with that will decide the kind of wedding you can host and afford. So start your planning with this:   



  • Mission Statement - What kind of wedding do you want? Black tie, Semi-casual, Beach, , Elegant, Elopement, Religious, Ethnic, Hotel, Resort, Wedding venue, Backyard, DIY, Destination Wedding, etc.


  • Budget - How much can you afford? How much will family contribute? Are you going to or willing to take out a loan? Are you going to cash-out investments? 


  • Guest List - How many guest are we or can we invite and who do we invite?

These 3 Wedding Planning foundation items will give you the big picture to your wedding planning project. Starting with the above will help you stay on task, inside your budget and reduce the stress of planning your wedding. 

After you’ve decided on the Mission Statement, Budget and Rough Guest list you can move on to looking for your venue selection. Having the aforementioned items will allow you to visit venues prepared to answer key questions catering managers or sales managers with the vital information to move forward with pricing your wedding. If the venue includes catering having a budget and rough guest list or number allows you to instantly know if you can afford a particular venue and how much you would have left within you budget for other necessary Wedding vendors. 

Note: Venues will give you a variety of catering, seating and decorating options to choose. All these items will change the cost of your wedding.



At this point you you can move on with your wedding planning and it should look like this:                 

So by now things are getting serious and don’t be surprised as days, weeks and months seem to fly as your wedding planning starts to take place. Take a deep breath though, because no matter how it appears, everything will fall into place as planned. Just make sure you stay on task and use the check lists. A lot of couples use a dedicated Wedding planning book or create an excel file. I have included everything you’ll need to put together the most amazing wedding day possible.

Take note I am a very organized person and extremely passionate about weddings and wedding photography. I increased the timeline buffer a little which helps reduce stress and gives you a little more flexibility. As a very thorough Wedding Planning Guide, I am also taking into account that destination weddings may need a little more time, so where most wedding planning guides say, “10 - 12 months”, I’ve made it 12 - 14 months. 

Keep in mind destination wedding planning may involve multiple trips prior to wedding day to meet with Florist, DJ’s, Caterers, Decorators, Photographers - although I hope you take me, Videographers, etc. This also may affect your budget initially, so try and schedule your meetings with vendors in advance to help cut travel costs. 

Tip: When selecting a wedding date check the historical data for that date and location. I use https://www.wunderground.com/history/ to see what past rainfall was on a specific date to know well in advance what the weather might be. It’s not a 100%, but knowing what the weather might be like on your wedding day

So let’s move on to a rough time line to tackle each part of your wedding day master plan!

Wedding Planning Timeline

Wedding Planning: 12-14 Months 


  • Work out your budget and establish your top priorities — where to save/where to splurge.

• Get your creative juices flowing. - Pinterest as well as bridal blogs and magazines to identify your wedding style and color palette. 

• Compile your preliminary guest list (you'll need that guest count!).

• Choose your wedding party—who do you want by your side at the altar?

• Find a venue for your ceremony and reception, and reserve your date. Know what questions to ask when evaluating a wedding venue.

• Do you need wedding insurance? It’s something to think about.

• Now that you have a date, tell everyone to save it! For destination weddings or weddings around a holiday, consider sending out Save-the-Date cards or emails. Or create your own wedding website, and let your invitees know about it.

• Say yes to your wedding dress (or tux!) and begin assembling the perfect accessories.

• Already feeling overwhelmed? Consider hiring a Wedding Planner.

     • Find your vendors. Assemble an all-star vendor team. I would start with the following:

◦        Venue

◦ Photographer / Videographer

◦ Catering

           ◦ Dj/Band

Make sure you get written quotes and everything in writing. Please read and understand all contracts before signing on the dotted line. 

Note: In the Wedding industry you will typically be paying a retainer and not a deposit. Any last minute changes might result in you losing you Retainer. Check with your local laws and how they apply to you

Wedding Planning: 6 - 8 Months


Continue researching, interviewing and booking vendors that you already haven't booked:

  • Decide on arrangements with your Floral Designer.
  • Do a tasting and choose your wedding cake with your Cake Designer.
  • Hire the DJ/Entertainment for your ceremony, cocktail hour and reception.
  • Discuss the style and wording of your wedding invitations with a Stationer.
  • Create your gift registry (and don't forget to update your wedding website!).
  • Arrange hotel room blocks for out-of-town guests and book your own suite for the wedding night.
  • Shop for bridesmaid/flower girl dresses and give your attendants clear instructions on how to place their orders.
  • Arrange and book any necessary transportation.
  • Go over bridal shower/bachelorette details and the guest list with the person(s) hosting your party
  • Mail out Save the Dates - I suggest as soon as you book a venue if your having a destination wedding or you have family traveling from far away!

Tip: It’s a good idea to find your wedding photographer and schedule and engagement photography session. Your engagement photos can be used for Save-the-Dates, invitations, or large portraits at the entry way to your ceremony or reception. Another fun idea is a custom Guest sign in book with photos from your engagement session to create an heirloom keepsake.


Wedding Planning: 4 - 6 Months


• Book the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner location(s). If you're including   entertainment or specialty details like a groom's cake, now's the time to lock in these elements.

• Put together your rehearsal dinner guest list.

• Make childcare arrangements for your guests' kids.

• Reserve all necessary party rentals and linens.

        • Order wedding favors for your guests.

• Shop for and reserve men's formalwear.

• Concentrate on finalizing the following :

Guest list - Get everyone's mailing address.

Invitation wording - Confirm your invitation text with the Stationer, and consider additional stationery (programs, menu cards, place cards, thank-you cards, etc.). Schedule a pickup date for your invites.

• Ceremony reading and Vows

• Menu, beverage and catering details

• Timeline of the reception formalities.

• Do a Makeup & Hair trial and book your stylists. While you're at it, come up with your own beauty and fitness regimen to be camera-ready for the big day.

• Shop for and purchase your wedding rings

• Finalize honeymoon plans and obtain all necessary documents (are you sure your passports are up to date?).




Wedding Planning: 8 - 10 Weeks


• You're getting close…. Mail out those invitations! Earlier if your having a destination wedding. Have a game plan for recording the RSVPs and meal choices.

Tip: Assign and Number RSVP’s and Guest with the same number. You will be surprised how many RSVP’s won't be returned with a name and address and it will drive you absolutely nuts. If you get one without a name, it'll be a breeze to match the number to the guest!

• Touch base with your vendors to confirm dates, deposits/Retainers and Details.

• Start researching marriage license requirements and name-change paperwork.

• Begin your dress fittings. Be sure to buy the appropriate undergarments beforehand.

• So you think you can't dance? Consider taking a dance lesson with your fiancé—a good way to break in your bridal shoes!

Tip: Purchase surgical shoe covers to protect the bottom of shoes if your taking dance lessons and break in your shoes for maximum comfort on wedding day!

• Give the wedding party a nudge—make sure they've ordered all necessary attire.

• Write thank-you cards for shower gifts and any early wedding gifts received.


Wedding Planning: 4 - 6 Weeks


Send out rehearsal dinner invitations. If your get-together will be informal, feel free to send an Evite.

Finalize and confirm the final details:

Wedding vows and readings with your Officiant.

Discuss your shot list with your Photographer/Videographer.

Song list for ceremony, cocktail hour and reception with your DJ and/or Band/Musicians.

Timeline for the reception and who's giving the toasts.

Wedding night and honeymoon accommodations.

Obtain marriage license and complete name-change documents, if applicable.

Pick up your wedding rings and proofread any engraving!

If you're the traditional type, do you have something old, new, borrowed and blue?

Purchase your guest book, toasting flutes, cake servers, unity candle, and all that good stuff.

Buy gifts (optional) for the wedding party and parents of the wedding couple.

Have your final dress fitting. Bring your shoes and accessories for the full impact.

Sigh. Hunt down whoever hasn't RSVP'd yet.

Wedding Planning: 2 - 4 Weeks


Give your caterer/venue the final guest count.

Arrange seating and create the seating chart and/or place cards.

Pick up your gown. Swoon.

Confirm arrival times and finalize the wedding timeline with vendors and the wedding party—make sure your MOH has a copy, too.

Put together your own Bridal Emergency Kit.

Speaking of emergencies: Check the weather report, and if things look iffy contact your venue to make sure a contingency plan is in place.

Start packing for your honeymoon. (See "weather report" above.)

In desperate need of a facial or massage? Now's the time to squeeze one in.

This is the time to relax a little with a glass of wine. By now you've cringed, cried, laughed, lost your mind, and blown your top. Although no wedding is the same, putting together a wedding no matter how big or small is a lot of work. Try and take some time to regain your senses because the realization that this is happening will settle in. 

You've accomplished so much and experienced a wide range of emotions, but now everything is in place and you're ready to have the best day of your life. 




Wedding Planning: The Day Before!


Make sure all wedding-day items are packed/laid out and ready to go! (Don't forget the rings and marriage license!)

Figure out tips and final payments for vendors. Put them in clearly marked envelopes and give them to the Best Man or another person you trust to hand out at the reception.

Assign someone to pack up your gifts/belongings after the reception (don't forget the top tier of your cake!).

Thank your BFF for agreeing to return your groom's tux and other rental items the day after the wedding.

Enjoy a mani-pedi.

Attend the rehearsal and dinner. Now's the time to give out wedding party gifts.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more. There is nothing worse than passing out at the alter because you didn't drink enough water. I always advise to start hydrating a few days before wedding day.

Try to go to bed early…you need your beauty sleep tonight.




Wedding Day Advice! You made it!


Try and stay in bed a little later for the added rest you'll need

Eat a good breakfast and stay hydrated

Allow plenty of time to get ready.

Do the rounds at your wedding—greet everyone and thank them for coming.

Take a deep breath. Stop to appreciate your new spouse and the day that you spent so much time planning!

After the honeymoon and Back to reality


Write and send thank-you cards. 

(Don't procrastinate!)

Complete your registry and exchange any unwanted or duplicate gifts.

Have your wedding dress cleaned and preserved by a reputable company.

Keep in touch with your Photographer/Videographer to work on albums, DVDs, etc.

Enjoy the wedded bliss…

How to Budget Your Wedding

6 Simple Steps to Setting A Wedding Budget


Setting your wedding budget can be a challenging task. For most couples paying for a wedding is a huge investment and stressful endeavor. It would be great to skip this step of the wedding planning process and go straight to the cake tasting, but creating and sticking to your wedding budget is the most crucial part of planning a successful wedding.

Regardless of how big or small your wedding budget is, there are some important guidelines that will help you dictate what you can spend, and what you'll want to save or splurge on.

Let’s start with breaking down the wedding planning budget process in to 6 easy steps:

1: Who's Contributing

It might be just you and your fiancé. Or sometimes parents or family members might chip in. Regardless, finding out  and knowing who's eager to help you finance your wedding is the first step in figuring out your overall budget.

Figure out how much others might be willing to donate, or what aspect of your wedding they would like to take care of or contribute towards. (Example, maybe Grandma has her heart set on buying you a wedding dress.)

I know conversations with family about money and fiancés can be really  awkward, but knowing who and what they will be contributing is necessary to figure out your Weddings bottom line. Approach conversations about money in a respectful way, and be prepared to  hear "Sorry, I'd love to help but I can't." 

2: Run The Numbers

Now that you know who will be contributing and how much you can figure out what you can come up with for your wedding.

• How much can you and your fiancé honestly —and reasonably afford to spend considering your real-life expenses you have to cover right now, through to your wedding day and after your wedding? 

• Based on your income, how much can you both save between now and the wedding? 

• Can you, or would it be a good idea, to pull from an existing savings accounts, investments, or take a loan? 

Note: Remember some withdrawing from certain investments may have end of year tax implications!

You can create and rough estimate of how much you can invest on your wedding once you answer the above questions. Add any other financial contributions that you're confident are coming your way in Step 1.

There you go! A rough wedding day budget. Congratulate yourself… and move on to Step 3.

3: Figure out a Rough Guest Count 

Now that you've created a rough budget, you'll want a rough guest count.

The cost of a wedding is very much based on how many guest your have. (Read that sentence again and let it soak in.) The number of guests you plan to invite will determine the size of your venue, how much food and alcohol you'll need for your wedding (which, by the way, just happen to be two of the biggest wedding expenses).

Looking at your wedding as a "per-person" expenditure will put your wedding planning costs into perspective. The guest count will dictate the number of items you'll need to budget and pay for—including invitations, table and chair rentals, cake slices, and wedding favors.

Do your best to be strategic about who you invite is the best way to cut down on wedding expenses from the beginning.

4: Carefully Select Your Non-Negotiable's

You and your fiancé will probably may have different ideas about what wedding items are worth splurging on. Your fiancé might want an open bar, but you prefer to avoid getting your guests drunk in favor of spending the money on a 5-course gourmet meal. 

One question you will need to conquer together is: What one wedding item is at the very top of your priority list?

Tackle this together and as my friend Mike Winship of Winship Productions in Charleston, S.C. says “don’t forget the married, while your planning the wedding!” and budget for those two items immediately. (Obviously, if you're blessed deeper pockets, you can both choose more than one.)

Once top priorities are identified, you can set aside a larger percentage of your wedding budget to them. You now can see how much money you'll have left for the other wedding items that aren't so super important to you. 

5: Research

There are a lot of expenses involves in putting together a wedding, some are obvious, others are hidden some might be unknown until later in the wedding planning stage, you'll have to consider before setting in stone where your wedding budget will leave you. As an example, you often can't just buy a wedding cake; you may be required to pay a cutting fee, or providing alcohol for a signature cocktail might require a corking fee for each bottle.  Some venues my require paying more than just a venue rental fee; there may also be setup and breakdown charges. Keep in mind, there’s a whole slew of vendors you'll be expected to tip. Can you see where we're going with this?

As you can see, it’s not hard to go over your budget! Educate yourselves about “hidden" costs or just ask each vendor if there’s any other expenses to expect, you’ll have fewer surprises and be able to stick closer to your wedding budget.

Keep in mind the price of wedding items, vendors and venues in your chosen geographical area and season. Wedding costs fluctuate based on season and even the day you choose to host your wedding on. A wedding in a New York City hotel is going to cost a lot more than a wedding on a beach or park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Hosting your wedding on a Saturday in June versus a Wednesday in March can dramatically change the cost of your wedding. Conduct research on the type of wedding you want, Where your want it, and day you want and be honest as to whether or not it fits into your wedding budget, and adjust your plan accordingly. 


6: The Math

After going through all the above 5 steps, it's time to do a final reality check: Does your budget breakdown match the actual cost of your ideal wedding?

When your estimated wedding budget and your ideal wedding day come pretty close to each other, create a spreadsheet and set aside a dollar amount to each aspect of the event. I recommend using Google Sheets, but using Excel or Apple Numbers works, so that you can easily share your spreadsheet with your fiancé, parents, and anyone else who is contributing or helping you stay on budget.

Don't Go Into Debt To Say "I Do"

If you want a blissful marriage (and who doesn't?), don't start out drowning in debt. Think beyond the "big day" to your "big life" and be wise, as well as reasonable. Tension, stress and aggravation is no way to start a life long commitment.

Remember,  If you can't afford it, chances are you don't need it. And trust me when we say, you can have an amazing champagne wedding on a Budweiser budget. Be creative and focus on the feeling of your wedding rather than the wedding’s price tag.

Spending Tip 1: 

Start putting aside some savings as soon as you get engaged.

Spending Tip 2:

 Use your credit cards responsibly. It's tempting to rack up credit card points during wedding planning, but try to pay off the balance immediately so that you don't accrue interest!

Spending Tip 3: 

Open up a separate wedding checking account so it's easy to see exactly where the money is going.

Try to remember it's not about how much money you spend, it's how much fun, excitement and joy you’ll both feel:For what it’s worth, choosing to get married for $50 at City Hall in a simple white dress (or suit!), I guarantee it’ll be an incredibly beautiful and meaningful wedding.


The Guest List


7 Tips To Taking on Wedding Guest List


Other than you and your fiancé and a little sheet of paper from a courthouse that makes getting married official, the guest list may be the most important aspect of your wedding. After all, it includes the name of every single person in the world that matters most to you and your fiancés life.

Compiling a wedding guest list should seem pretty simple, but of all the details you can possibly deal with during your wedding planning, The guest list is the one thing couples around the world struggle with. 

Take it from me, as wedding photographer with an extreme passion for weddings and working with hundreds of couples, with a little prep and organization, you can put together your wedding guest list like a wedding planning pro.

1. Know the type of wedding that you want—and your budget

Before starting on your guest list, you should have already decided on what type of wedding you want and where.  You should already have a rough wedding budget that can handle. Are you going to plan black tie luxury wedding, Destination Wedding in the Caribbean, or do you want  intimate elopement? Will it be during peak season or off-season based on your geographic region or destination? Will children be in attendance or an adults-only wedding? Casual buffet or 5 course seated served dinner? Making these decisions at the beginning will allow you to establish a solid wedding budget and determine how many wedding guests you can have in attendance.  

2. Talk with close family members (namely your parents!) about who they’d like to invite.

Try not to make the classic mistake of not sitting down with your parents at the beginning to ask for the names of people whose attendance is important to them, as well. The subject might come up a few times over the phone, so make it a point to actually had “talk” with them about who they would like to be there. This will prevent your guest list from creeping up slowly, as well as your blood pressure. 

Bottom line: Make sure your wedding guest list has everyone that needs to be on it. Then review, because there’s a good chance you missed someone!

3. Invite your A-list…and keep your B-list handy.

Start with a a must invite list first. This list should include immediate family and best friends. Take a look at the count and if it’s under your wedding guest limit, you can now consider your wedding guest wish list, “the B group”, which can include co-workers, as well as more distant relatives and friends you love but haven’t stayed close with over the years. At this point, feel free to add as many B-listers as you can realistically accommodate. 

As a word of advise though, when it comes to people like second cousins and co-workers, it’s better to invite the entire group or leave those people off the wedding guest list altogether. This prevents prevents you from hurting anyones feelings and awkward family get togethers.

4. Take into consideration any “Plus-One” invites you want to extend.

Everyone wants to bring a date to a wedding, but you’re not obligated to pay $50 or more per person to wine and dine a bunch of people you’ve never met and might not ever see again. If one of your wedding guests is engaged, a part of your bridal party, or in a long term over several years relationship, I’d be inclined to extend a plus-one invite. Otherwise, it’s your decision, so don’t feel bad for inviting some wedding guests solo. You’re treating them to , fun, food and free champagne, after all! If you’re concerned with solo guests feeling lonely or awkward, a “singles table” is always a great way to get solo invites together so they have a great time.

5. Color code that Wedding Guest list. 

Your fiancé’s family, your family, hometown friends, co-workers, college friends, distant relatives. Color code everything. Being able to visualize each group by color helps you figure out who may have been forgotten.  Color coding your wedding guest list will also save you tons of time when you tackle the infamous seating chart.

6. Use your guest list for more than just a head count. 

Use your wedding guest to keep track of addresses, RSVP’s and gifts you receive, along with who’s invited to the wedding shower or rehearsal dinner, etc. If you didn't catch the tip earlier in this wedding planning guide, number your guest list, and then put each guest’s number on the back of their RSVP card when you send them out. This way, when that one forgetful or inattentive family member sends in a blank card, you won’t lose your mind trying to track down and figure out who’s RSVP you received. You will be happy to be able to make that call to verify that blank RSVP, like a boss!

7. Party it up.

Enjoy your wedding day, everyone is there to be with you!

RSVP Tips

Are you ready for this easy one!


If you missed this one really mind, soul and life saving tip, here it is again. Put a number on the back of each RSVP card to correspond with each person on the wedding guest list. 

You will be stunned by how many people return their RSVP card without writing their names on them! This little tip will save your sanity, if a guest fails to write their name(s) on their RSVP card, because if you don’t use this tip all you know is 2 people are coming and they both want the chicken,  or you can look at the number on your RSVP and see whose RSVP it is.


Wedding Day Emergency Kit


Here’s a list of items I recommend every bride and bridesmaid have handy in as part of a wedding day emergency kit:

1.  Fashion tape

2.  Sewing kit

3.  Extra jewelry and earring backs, in case anyone forgets their pieces or something breaks and you need a replacement.

4.  Tide To Go pen, baby powder and white chalk to remove or hide any stains

5.  Bobby pins

6.  Mints

7.  Tampons

8.  Advil

9.  Band-Aids 

10. Super glue 

11. Clear nail polish

12. Travel lotion

13. Travel hairspray

14. Sole inserts for high heels (your feet will thank you).

15. Nail file

16. Lipstick, lipgloss and Chapstick

17. Oil blotting sheets for your face: I love them because they take the shine away without loading on another layer of makeup.

18. Travel deodorant

19. Static Guard 

20. Small brush or comb

Questions to Ask: Wedding Venues


Here are some questions to ask and tips to help you when searching for the perfect Wedding Venue


The following questions and tips will help you make sense of your Wedding Venue/location search. Use them when you’re talking with a Catering managers, event directors or whoever you will be working with at venues you visit. Always note who you are speaking to location/venue and contact information to follow up at a later date.  Also add any questions that relate to your particular wedding, example: “Can my dog be the ring bearer in my ceremony?” 

Always be sure to get everything and anything offered in writing and make sure its in the final contract! Don’t forget to bring along a notebook, planning binder or smart phone to take pictures and jot quickly jot down notes when necessary, also so you can record answers to all these questions.

  1. What dates are available in the month I’m considering?

2. How many people can this location accommodate?

3. What is the rental fee and what is included in that price? Is there a discount for booking an off season date or Sunday through Friday?

4. How much is the deposit/retainer, when is it due, and is it refundable? What’s the payment plan for the entire bill?

5. Can I hold my ceremony here, too? Is there an additional charge? Is the ceremony site close to the reception site? Is there a bride’s changing area? How much time is allocated for the rehearsal?

6. Is the site handicap accessible? (To be asked if you have guests with mobility issues.)

7. What’s the cancellation policy? NOTE: Some places will refund most of your deposit if you cancel far enough in advance, since there’s still a chance they can rent the space. After a certain date, though, you may not be able to get a refund.

8. What’s your weather contingency plan for outdoor spaces?

9. How long will I have use of the event space(s) I reserve? Is there an overtime fee if I stay longer? Is there a minimum or maximum rental time?

10. Can I move things around and decorate to suit my purposes, or do I have to leave everything as is? Are there decoration guidelines/restrictions? Can I use real candles? TIP: Keep the existing décor in mind when planning your own decorations so that they won’t clash. If your event is in December, ask what the venue’s holiday décor will be. What time can my vendors start setting up on the day of the wedding? Is it possible to start the setup the day before? How early can deliveries be made? How much time will I have for décor setup? Does the venue provide assistance getting gifts or décor back to a designated car, hotel room, etc. after the event has concluded?

11. Do you provide a coat check service (especially important for winter weddings)? If not, is there an area that can be used and stated for that purpose?

12. Is there an outdoor space where my guests can mingle, and can it be heated and/or protected from the elements if necessary? Is there a separate indoor “socializing” space?

13. Do you have an in-house caterer or a list of “preferred” caterers, or do I need to provide my own? Even if there is an in-house caterer, do I have the option of using an outside caterer instead?

14. If I hire my own caterer, are kitchen facilities available for them? NOTE: Caterers charge extra if they have to haul in refrigerators and stoves.

15. Are tables, linens, chairs, plates, silverware and glassware provided, or will I have to rent them myself or get them through my caterer?

16. What is the food & beverage cost on a per-person basis? What is the tax and service charge?

17. Can we do a food tasting prior to  finalizing our menu selection? If so, is there an additional charge?

18. Can I bring in a cake from an outside cake maker or must I use a cake made on the premises? Is there a cake-cutting fee? If I use a cake made on site is the fee waived? Do you provide special cake-cutting utensils?

19. Can I bring my own wine, beer or champagne, and is there a corking fee if I do? Can I bring in other alcohol?

20. Are you licensed to provide alcohol service? If so, is alcohol priced per person? By consumption? Are there additional charges for bar tender ? Is there a bar minimum that must be met before the conclusion of the event? What is the average bar tab for the number of people attending my event? 

NOTE: Some facilities (private estates and wineries in particular) aren’t licensed to serve hard alcohol. You may need to get permission from the location to bring in an outside beverage catering company.

21. Are there restrictions on what kind of music I can play, or a time by which the music must end? Can the venue accommodate a DJ or live band? 

TIP: Check where the outlets are located in your event space, because that will help you figure out where the band can set up and where other vendors can hook up their equipment. You don’t want the head table to block the only outlet in the room.

22. Is there parking on site? If so, is it complimentary? Do you offer valet parking, and is there a charge? If there is no parking on site, where will my guests park? Are cabs easily accessible from the venue? If a shuttle service is needed, can you assist with setting it up? 

TIP: You should have the venue keep track of the number of cars parked for your event and add the total valet gratuity to your final bill so that your guests won’t have to tip.

23. How many restrooms are there? 

TIP: You should have at least 4 restrooms per 100 people.

24. Do you offer on-site coordination? If so, what services are included and is there an additional charge for them? Will the coordinator supervise day-of? How much assistance can I get with the setup/décor?

25. Does the venue have liability insurance? 

NOTE: If someone gets injured during the party, you don’t want to be held responsibl. If the site doesn’t have insurance, you’ll need to get your own. Professional wedding vendors will be fully insured and if not, I would consider them questionable.

26. Can I hire my own vendors (caterer, coordinator, DJ, etc.), or must I select from a preferred vendor list? If I can bring my own, do you have a list of recommended vendors? 

TIP: Research the venues preferred wedding vendor list, but remain skeptical. I have come across several venues in South Florida, where Preferred Vendors paid to be listed and vendors who aren't listed still have to pay to perform services. This is a very personal decision, but if you have a wedding vendor that you must have, don’t let the venue talk you out of it. Unfortunately, there is a complete under the table business taking place at some venues and your best interests may very well not be their motivation. 

27. What overnight accommodations do you provide? Do you offer a discount for booking multiple rooms? Do you provide a complimentary room or upgrade for the newlyweds? What are the nearest hotels to the venue? 

TIP: Some venues have partnerships with local hotels that offer a discount if you book a block of rooms.

29. Do you have signage or other aids to direct guests to my event?

30. Do you have a recycling policy?

More Tips:

• If you really love the site, ask the venue representative to put together a proposal with all the pricing and policies—including the tax and service charge—so you have an idea of the basic cost.

• Bring a digital or video camera with you when you visit locations. You can mention each location and its event spaces as you video a site; if you’re using a digital camera you’ll need to organize the photos by location name when you get home. After seeing a series of places it’s easy to confuse them. Having a photographic record will help you remember what was special about each site.

• Pay attention to the venue as a whole: Check out everything, including the restrooms, the foyer, the dressing rooms, the outdoor lighting and even the kitchen. You want to be sure your vision can be realized at this location. If possible, make arrangements with the site representative to visit the venue when it’s set up for a wedding.

  • GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING. Your date is not officially reserved until you sign a contract and, in many cases, give a deposit—even if a site contact says you don’t need to worry about it. Once you’ve found THE PLACE, make sure you ask what is required to get your booking locked in and then follow through on satisfying those requirements. DO NOT assume that because the site coordinator said you can have 4 votive candles per table you’ll get them. Before you sign a contract, read the fine print and make sure it includes everything you and the site contact agreed upon. 

As new items are added or changed in your contract, have the updated version printed out and signed by you and the site representative. Also, document all your conversations in emails and keep your correspondence.

Wedding Vendor Guide


Wedding Photography: The Big Picture


Photography is probably the most important aspect of every wedding for many couples. Although brides tend to be the ones that are most enthusiastic and selective about their engagement and wedding photography, grooms not only want their bride to be happy, but also look and feel their best with their bridal photography.  

A wedding is a once in a lifetime experience and the only way to relive it and share their memories of the beautiful wedding day they experienced is with carefully captured, curated and edited professional wedding photography. There is a wide variety of wedding photography styles and formats couples can choose from regardless of where in the world they are, and regardless of where your decide to host their wedding. 

As an award winning and published Fort Lauderdale, Florida based International Wedding Photographer and owner of Couture Bridal Photography, this section of my Wedding Planning Guide is extremely important to me. I will start this guide with what to ask and look for when seeking a wedding photographer, explain wedding photography styles and discuss how to get the very best wedding photography for your wedding day. Remember, after the music stops, the food is gone, the dancing ends and you return to reality a blissfully married couple, all you have to remember your wedding day experience, is your pictures. 

Figure out your Wedding Photography budget

You might have no clue as to how much to budget for your wedding photography. Of the most difficult tasks of planning your wedding few will be as difficult as meeting with a photographer. More so when you haven't really understood how much of your Wedding budget will go towards your Wedding Photography. As reported by The Knot, the average budget allocation for Wedding Photography is 10-12% of the total Wedding Budget with the average Wedding costing approximately just over $35,000. Just to help you understand $35,000 US dollars is the average cost of a wedding nationally, meaning couples hosting a wedding in NYC are paying upwards of $78,000 for their wedding and others paying $20,000  for their wedding. 

Now consider the average investment cost for a wedding photographer is just over $2,700 for a day of wedding photography coverage which is typically 6-8 hours. This may seem a bit expensive, but what a truly professional wedding photographer provides after your wedding will last you a lifetime. 

Keep in mind, that the average cost of  Wedding Photography in the US is $2,700, but what if you decide you want above average Wedding Photography with a distinct and unique artistic style. As a highly sought out  and consistently booked award winning published international Wedding Photographer that’s currently listed among the World’s best wedding photographers on FearlessPhotographer.com, I average $3,500 to $4,000 per wedding. I am considered a bargain, because there are wedding photographers throughout the US that average $8,000 to $20,000 per wedding, even here in South Florida. 

I can personally and professionally say, that I personally become invested in your Wedding Photography just as much as my couples get invested in their wedding. I am unique in the Wedding Photography industry, since I am fully employed as a Firefighter/Paramedic and don’t survive solely from my Wedding Photography business. I have a deep passion for the art of Wedding Photography and travel. 

My Wedding Photography business came into its own after photographing a friends Wedding and I developed a very distinct artistic documentary style with a mix of fashion, editorial and illustrative photography. Tied in with a very personalized Wedding Photography experience and one other lead Wedding Photographer, I appeal to a large and diverse, both geographically and economically, group of couples throughout the US. 

Independent Wedding Photographer Vs. Wedding Photography Studio

You may be wondering, what the difference between an independent Wedding Photographer and a Wedding Photography studio? Well on a personal level and from my experience as groom, there is a significant difference. 

Get ready as I am about to divulge industry secrets to help you get the best Wedding Photography possible. I will also discuss the 2 main Wedding Photography business models to fully educated you on the Wedding Photography business.

Independent Wedding Photographer

So I advertise as a Wedding Photography Studio, but I am really a home based independent Wedding Photographer. I work out of my home, I handle all my the business aspects such as answer phones, marketing, advertising, website building, Website SEO, writing this guide, customer service, answer questions, respond to leads, create quotes, create contracts, perform venue walk-throughs with couples, photograph engagement sessions, photograph weddings, edited photographs, design wedding albums, order prints, pay insurance, maintain my computers, attend photography education and seminars, and create informative content for potential clients. 

Yet, my focus on your Wedding day is capturing the most precious moments, emotions and excitement throughout your wedding day, as they take place. I have developed a style of photography and editing that stands out from the vast majority of Wedding Photographers in Florida and throughout the World, and a wedding shot list hinders my ability to truly provide the style of Wedding Photography I am hired for. 


Wedding Photography Studio or with more than 3 Photographers

So the difference with working with an independent Wedding Photographer might not seem like much to the untrained eye, but with a little knowledge not to hard to spot yourself. It might not even matter depending on your preferences, budget and vision, so read along and I will do my best to explain the differences. 

 A Wedding photography studio or business with more that 3 photographers may not necessarily be overly passionate about the wedding photography they produce. For the most part, a Wedding Photography studio with 3 or more wedding photographers is more concerned with cranking out weddings that building life long relationships. They may also employ inexperienced budding Wedding Photographers, so they can one day have a portfolio and experience to go off on their own. 

Depending on your Wedding Photography expectations this might not be bad though, as most larger Wedding Photography studios that have multiple photographers on staff provide a more budget friendly service. So for some couples who want some really nice photos that document their day, this is more than sufficient to make them happy. 

Another factor that might stand out with a larger Wedding Photography studio is the extensive use of Wedding Photo shot lists. Since many photographers working for a larger studio might not be as experienced they will request you to provide a shot list or ask if they can create one for you. 

The wedding shot list also serves as a guide to keep the photographer on task, as what needs to be photographed and where. The other use of the shot list is to keep a bit of consistency between weddings for the studios advertising and marketing needs.

What I don’t like and what many experienced and professional artistic Wedding Photographers do not like is a Wedding Photography shot list. The reason for this is, if I am paying attention to a piece of paper or a device to see what I’m supposed to capture during the Wedding day, I’m missing fleeting moments, emotions and intricacies that are taking place at that very moment. I also feel that since no couple or wedding is the same, why would I treat each wedding and shoot each wedding at the same. 

Most independent professional Wedding Photographers would agree that each wedding should be photographed as a new experience each and every time with a new set of eyes, fresh ideas, unique composition and with our unique and distinct style. 

Wedding Photography Styles


 Photojournalism/Documentary

Photojournalism or Documentary wedding photography is a style of photography where every aspect of the wedding is captured as it happens. The wedding ceremony and reception portion of the wedding day is when photojournalism will be the only photography taking place. Hiring a Wedding Photojournalist, would mean hiring someone that will only be focused on capturing candid moments from the getting ready to the end of the evening. 

Some couples love this very candid style of wedding photography and there are quite a few photographers that strictly adhere to this style, but for the most part most photographers employ a combination of photojournalism along with another style to capture your wedding day. There are no predetermined poses as photos are taken in a candid and spontaneous way.

 If you like contemporary and spontaneous photography, then this is the wedding photography style for you.

There are no predetermined poses as photos are taken in a candid and spontaneous way.

Advantages

• If you are one who hates posing for pictures, then this style of wedding photography will favor you greatly as you will only be required to enjoy the moment and not try to pull off an intricate pose on the big day.

• Photojournalism/Documentary wedding photography, differs with other wedding photography styles, captures sincere moments of tears and joy and allows you to replay your wedding by going through photos.

Disadvantages

• The major issue with this style of wedding photography is you won't know what to expect, especially if the photographer is not experienced or properly equipped for Wedding Photojournalism.

• You most likely won’t get the standard wedding portrait from a photojournalist photographer, so if that is what your looking for, this style of Wedding Photography is not your best bet. 


Traditional Wedding Photography Style

Those Wedding portraits you’ve seen in grandma’s house or maybe your parents carefully posed. Yep,  That’s what traditional wedding photography style is. Every photograph of the bride groom and guests is posed and meticulously organized by the Wedding Photographer in static locations. This is the oldest form of Wedding Photography and has been around since the beginning of wedding photography itself. It isn't to hard to find a Wedding Photographer that provides this style of wedding photography.

Advantages

• One good side of this sort of photography is that you get what you pay for. The same photos you saw in the sample are what you get. The photographers work with a list and take shots based on the arrangements on the list.

• Unlike Documentary Wedding Photography, you have all your relatives in the shot and no one complains of being left out of the picture.

Disadvantages

• The major disadvantage of traditional wedding photography is consistency. You can look at this as a positive aspect, but having the same kind of images as other clients and similar to your parents wedding photos can be pretty boring. There is no uniqueness, artistry or wow factor with this style of Wedding Photography

• If you are looking to go all out for your Wedding Day, this style of Wedding Photography should not be your first option.


Illustrative Wedding Photography 

Illustrative wedding photography combines various elements of both traditional and photojournalistic Wedding Photography. An illustrative Wedding Photography uses a mix of Photojournalism and provides guidance to the subject to create images where ever possible. A skilled Illustrative Wedding Photographer can alter the lighting, background and suggest actions for the couples to carry out to create creative images.

Advantages:

• An advantage of this kind of Wedding Photography and its popularity is photos taken in this style offer creativity and variety. 

Disadvantages:

• A downside to this style of Wedding Photography is a photographer not experienced in posing, may over manipulation by not properly adding motion, as well as emotion that can take away the authentic feel  along with candid moments.


Fashion Wedding Photography Style

When you see Wedding Photos that highlight the brides wedding dress and various fashion items as well as the grooms at the wedding? This is  Fashion Wedding Photography. Fashion wedding photography places the focus on the attire and making couples appear glamorous, sexy and chic. Wedding Photographers that use a Fashion Wedding Photography style have to be extremely skilled controlling various lighting situations, as well as creating dramatic lighting to create dramatic compositions and scenes with each image. This style of Wedding Photography is great bridal portraits and Engagement sessions,  where the photographer has time for lighting setups and can take the time to heavily direct every aspect of the composition.

 Advantages:

• The popularity of Fashion Wedding Photography is that visually stunning, high-class, dramatic and chic photographs. 

Disadvantages:

• A disadvantage of Fashion Wedding Photography is many wedding photographers aren't equipped or skilled to capture these kind of images or get the required model expression needed from couples is not an easy task given that couples are not supermodels.

Editorial Wedding Photography Style

Editorial Wedding Photography is very similar to photography you on glossy magazine covers: Wedding Photographers who offer this style of Wedding Photography likely have experience with high-fashion Photography. Creative lighting, mood, scene and posing is directed by the photographer throughout your session. Editorial Photography may incorporate elements of traditional wedding photography, and  Photojournalism.

Advantages:

• Editorial Wedding Photography images tend to a bit more creative than a regular photojournalistic photography.

Disadvantages:

• There’s a lot of posing involved with Editorial Wedding Photography, so if you don’t enjoy posing, this might not work for you.

• Editorial photography doesn't always include traditional family wedding portraits you might want. 

Alfred Valentine Wedding Photography Style

I have to plug myself here, I couldn't help myself!

My Wedding Photography style incorporates a little of each style previously discussed. I mix photojournalism, illustrative, fashion and Illustrative photography throughout the wedding day, using natural light and artificial lighting from Flash, Video light and high power strobes. 

I am able to blend these styles effortlessly throughout the wedding day with an advanced understand of posing. I set the stage for moments to take place and I gently direct and guide my couples so they look their best. I anticipate moments, seek unique compositions and using my innate understanding of various light sources, most couples don’t appear posed and sometimes they don’t even realize Ive posed them. 

My distinct Wedding Photography and Wedding Photography editing style is what has blessed me with a fully booked wedding calendar year after year since 2006. 

Hiring a Wedding DJ or Band?


Everything you need to know to hire a Wedding DJ or Band


The next most important aspect after hiring your Wedding Photographer is your Wedding DJ or Band. Following your wedding ceremony, your wedding reception is where the celebration and fun take place. Aside from the food and drink, the most important aspect of your wedding reception is the music. Around the world and across the United States, it is very common to use a DJ to provide the music and MC at wedding receptions. 

Finding the right DJ for your Wedding reception can be a challenge, but with the following information I will provide you will help ease the stress of this finding the perfect Wedding DJ. Also note, a popular option for longer Wedding Receptions is the use of a Wedding band and DJ to create a completely different experience. Also some bands work with a DJ to provide music during cocktail hour and in between sets. 


I am going to provide you with some east to follow do’s and don’ts to finding the right DJ for your Wedding Day. I’ll cover, the option of whether a DJ or a band is right for you, how to choose a wedding DJ, what to expect and what you need to ask, I will touch a little on contracts, and some common issues to look out for and get ahead of.


Should I use a band or a DJ? 

There are many pro’s and cons to deciding on whether to use a band or  DJ to provide music at your Wedding Reception. The decision is based on what kind of musical experience you want to provide and how the choice will affect your Wedding Budget. Let’s discuss Wedding Bands for a moment and see if a Wedding band is something appealing to you, then discuss DJ’s. The process to hiring a Wedding Band or DJ is pretty much the same. 

A live band provides a dramatically different music experience for your Wedding reception and may cost significantly more. Live bands have a much larger sound, different dynamics and bigger presence. A Wedding Band can interact with your guests and provide a constantly dynamic experience, a bit differently than a DJ. Wedding bands typically play requests and MC the reception very much the same way as a DJ can. 

An experienced Wedding Band knows how to keep Wedding guests moving, excited, keep people dancing and do all the traditional, intimate things like traditional dances for the bride and her father, groom and his mother, etc. The negative aspect of a Wedding Band, is dealing with a group of people instead of just one or two, a lot more equipment, which means theres more opportunities for mishaps, so Wedding Bands are not seen as reliable as DJs tend to be. A D

The advantage to a DJ is a smaller presence, The sound from a Wedding DJ will be different, but high quality equipment with the right Wedding DJ can provide a phenomenal sound experience. A good Wedding DJ and MC team will engage and entertain your guests at a lower cost. 

An experienced Wedding DJ will work with you to create a song list to really make your Wedding reception special and personalized. Experienced high-end DJ’s will have an extensive library of music grant song requests. Wedding DJ’s are less expensive and you’ll only deal with one or two people, so something going wrong is unlikely. 

The downside with dealing with one person is, if something does go wrong you only have one person to work with. If something does happen leading up to your Wedding Day with your Wedding DJ, you can end up with nobody or just a really long, really bad day. Experienced Wedding Bands and Wedding DJ’s typically have an emergency replacement if someone can’t make it.

A phone call to your band or DJ a month and again a week before your Wedding Day, to confirm dates and times, is a good idea.

Many of the problems mentioned or bad equipment I mentioned above will rarely happen, if you do your homework, use due diligence, and choose experienced, established and well known Wedding DJ’s and Wedding Bands.


Questions to Ask when meeting a DJ

  1. Is this your full-time business? Are weddings your primary focus? What clubs, lounges, and corporate clients have you performed for in addition to weddings?

Its better to find a Wedding Dj that is well rounded and experienced in a variety of environments and a variety of music styles. Ask if they've ever performed at your venue and ask for reviews.

  1. How do you customize the music experience for each couple? Can you help with song lists and providing suggestions?

Ask if they provide a song list, stick to a genre or go with the flow of the wedding. Make sure they will have your style of music. Also see if they're experience with your cultures or religions practices and traditions. Do they offer your cultures music?

  1. How do you get the crowd pumped?

Do they have an MC that engages your Wedding Guests or are they solo and do it from behind the mic. I always recommend an MC and DJ duo, as it makes for a much better Wedding Reception experience. 

  1. How do you handle song requests?

When, how or do they take song requests. Is there a particular point and time where they open up for song requests. 

  1. Can I hear some examples of mixing and blending different tracks?

Ask for some video or even audio to sample a Wedding DJ’s style and transitions between songs. 

  1. What sound equipment do you utilize? Do you have back-up equipment?

Do they have the right equipment and back up to perform weddings. Do they use a mixer with a laptop or are they only on a laptop. Do they also provide lighting or have equipment for a ceremony and cocktail hour at the same location, but a distance from each other. 

  1. Have you played at our chosen wedding venue before? If not, can you make a site visit beforehand?

Ask if they have performed at your venue and how many times. Ask them what they think of your venue selection. 

  1. Do we have our choice of DJs to select from, or is one automatically assigned to us depending on date availability? What happens in case of an emergency? 

Will they be performing at your wedding reception or do they have employees that show up. Do they have a back up in case of illness or injury.

  1. What other services do you offer (e.g. lighting, HD video screens)?

Do they offer lighting, photo booths, uplighting, video, dance floors, party items, dancers?

  1. Why should I choose you as my wedding DJ? 

Finding an experienced and competent Wedding DJ is essential to a great wedding reception experience, hire a bad one and it will ruin your whole Wedding day! An inexperienced Wedding DJ can make your Wedding reception a complete nightmare, so make this as an important decision as your Wedding Photographer.

Couples typically choose to hire experienced Wedding DJs because it’s easier and less expensive than hiring a live Wedding band. 

You will find a lot of Wedding DJs in your area, and range in experience from casual guys that moonlight and do it on the side to professional wedding and corporate DJ companies that come equipped with their own light show if that’s what you want. 

Be wary of casual moonlight Wedding Dj’s and never hire a DJ or Wedding vendor from Craigslist or the like.

Ask your wedding venue if they have a DJ they recommend or get a word of mouth referral from a friend. Also ask if you can stop in at a Wedding and take a peek. Do everything possible to be sure they can and will perform as expected on your Wedding Day.

Finding a Wedding Florist


Guide to Floral Design for your Wedding

First of all, it’s important to note that there are different types of florists and services available out there:

RETAIL FLORIST:

Even as flower shop continue to vanish from many city streets, these shops are the perfect choice if you want to stop in for a bouquet of roses, make a small order, and sometimes even work with for big orders. They are great sources for small orders and items but not always equipped for servicing large weddings. Most flower shops will do funeral display pieces, but more often can only handle small weddings.



FLORAL DESIGNER:

 The dedicated floral designer is the florist you will most likely need and deal with for your wedding day flowers. They specialize in artistically combining beautiful flowers into bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces, and decor pieces for your Wedding. Floral designers are typically creative/artistic people who can customize their style to each clients wedding they are hired for, or at least, they should be. When you work with a floral designer you are paying for their flowers, their labor, and their creative artistry. Most floral designers can provide you with candles, vases and other decorating elements that go with their floral design. Many are also skilled at adding live flowers to you wedding cakes with advanced notice and planning with your baker, as well. 


BEFORE YOU START LOOKING FOR A FLORIST

Before contacting local florists trying to find one who will help you with your wedding, here are some important considerations to consider:


FIGURE OUT IF FLOWERS ARE A PRIORITY:

Depending on how long between your engagement and wedding along with how important flowers are to you, you may want to begin looking at florists early in the wedding planning process. Many florists/designers are one-man/woman shops who can only serve one wedding weekend, and they can book up rather quickly, especially during the height of wedding season.

BALLPARK YOUR BUDGET:

It might be a little difficult early in your wedding planning to figure out how much you can budget for floral design, but if you start contacting florists without a budget in mind, you could end up with quotes that range from $1,500–$15,000, and that isn't helpful or encouraging.

IDENTIFY YOUR STYLE:

Before reaching out to florists/floral designers,use Pinterest, Instagram and wedding guides to start getting an idea of the styles and types of flowers you like. Much of what you will choose is dependent on season and the geographic location of your wedding along with how much your of your budget allows. 

FIGURING OUT YOUR FLORAL STYLE:

Now that you’ve decided what kind of flowers you like, now its time to put some words to your ideas so you know what to ask for when speaking to  potential florists.

 Here are some of the most common floral styles you’ll see:

Realistically most floral design styles overlap, so don’t worry about figuring out the exact term for what you like. Instead, use pictures and colors palettes as a guide when researching and communicating with your florist/designer.


READY TO RESEARCH

Now that you have a style, color palettes, some inspiration, and a budget in hand, you can start seeking out florists/designers. 

Here are some recommendations to finding a florist/designer

  1. Although Google is amazing for many wedding related searches, florists and floral designers isn't one of them. Google delivers the most popular search results, which means your results will be national chains and their affiliates. If you want a local florist, the best place to start is asking your wedding venue, friends and family who may have had a recent wedding.
  2. Use wedding websites to help you hunt for vendors that are trusted and reviewed. You can also ask your Wedding Photographers, since many florists/designers rely on wedding photographers to provide them with images from past weddings for marketing and advertising. 
  3. Now that you have a few options, look at their websites, reviews and portfolio. You should known rather quickly if they can offer what your looking for.  Keep in mind: Most reputable florists should have the ability to accommodate a variety of styles, some designers may specialize in just one. Keep looking for variety. For example, if you’re looking for modern flowers and notice that one of the florists you’re considering has a portfolio full of loose, whimsical, natural-looking arrangements, and nothing else, you might want to consider looking elsewhere.

4. Check pricing. Many florists/designers work on a customized pricing basis and don’t display pricing on their website. Some will list a minimum price to help you determine immediately, if they can work in your budget. Also worth noting: Those minimum prices are typically for full wedding flowers (bouquets, centerpieces, other arrangements, etc). So if you’re just looking to get small personal items (bouquets and/or boutonnieres), then minimum prices listed may not apply. I

5. Once you’ve potential florists, reach out for quotes. Be honest about your budget, so the florist/designer can work with you. I recommend meeting with anyone you’re seriously considering. You most likely won't  be working with them extensively on the day of, but you’ll want to make sure you get along and understand each other. This is the time to start pick their brain about their style, vision for your wedding, and ideas they might have in mind. If you’re not sure what to discuss when you meet, here are some questions to help you figure out a potential florist’s style:

What is their design process? Can they share Pinterest board?Do you just tell them what you like and let them do their thing?

If they are creating centerpieces, do they have a variety of containers you can rent? or Will you need to provide your own?

Do they setup, or will you need to arrange a pickup? are there delivery fees?

If they provide containers for your flowers, will they pick them up after the wedding or will you need to return them yourself?

What do they do if they can’t provide something you’ve requested and theres a shortage of lack of availability, what’s the process?

Do they offer a showing sample? Is there and additional cost?

THE PROPOSAL:

Now that you found a florist/designer you like and you have agreed on a budget and design style, you’ll will get a proposal, which becomes your contract when signed. This is extremely important, since there are many variables that can factor into the final product you receive on your wedding day. So pay extra attention any provisions in the proposal before signing, and make sure you’re satisfied with how the florist will handle things like shortages and unexpected changes. Don’t be afraid to negotiate or ask for any changes if you’re not comfortable with something in the provisions.





All Images & Content 2017© Alfredo Valentine - Couture Bridal Photography 954-399-0741