Top 9 tips for a meaningful wedding experience

Wedding planning can sometimes cause unnecessary stress, so I've listed the best tips I've come up with over the years for weddings. Although it's often recommended to start planning weddings x months in advance, I've also photographed small weddings that were planned just over a week before the event.

Think of the wedding day as a whole, as it begins from the moment you wake up in the morning and ends only when you go to sleep. The days leading up to the wedding also affect the mood of the day, so if possible, I recommend taking care of last-minute preparations well in advance, a few days before the wedding actually starts.

These wedding tips are written primarily from the perspective of photography, but they will positively impact the flow of the wedding day. However, the intention is not to change your plans, so if you've always wanted to do something in a particular way, trust your intuition.

Things you should know about my top 9 wedding tips

Written 12.02.2016. Updated 03.12.2023

How to plan your wedding

First Look is a moment when the wedding couple sees each other alone for the first time in a calm place before the ceremony.
The idea of a first meeting on the wedding day might sound forced, but it's important to remember that it doesn't have to be a big staged event. At its best, the First Look is simple, genuine, and intimate. In my own wedding, we didn't have a First Look, and I felt that many things remained unsaid to my wife in front of all those people and the officiant.

I recommend the First Look for three reasons:

1) It eases nervousness. The First Look calms you down and is a unique opportunity to enjoy the moment before the wedding and the official program.

2) It allows for easier expression of feelings. You can say what you feel, touch, and say things that might otherwise remain unsaid in front of an audience.

3) It eases the schedule and provides an opportunity to take portraits before the ceremony.

If you've always dreamed of seeing your future spouse only at the ceremony, then do so. It's your day!

3. What is a first look?

Makeup and hair:

I've noticed that when planning a wedding, it's important to consider natural light right from the morning. For wedding makeup and hair, natural light is the best option for both a natural makeup look and for photographs. Suggest doing your makeup near a large window for the sake of your pictures and makeup quality.

Hair salons may not always offer the option to be near windows, and the combination of artificial and natural light isn't ideal, so it’s a good idea to ask your hairstylist well in advance if they can come to you. This way, you can also enjoy the wedding morning atmosphere with your friends without the need to rush from one place to another. One potential option could be a rented apartment from Airbnb.

2. Tips for Getting ready on your wedding day

You will probably only once in your life call all your closest friends to celebrate with you, and from that perspective, the day is truly unique. So, before the wedding, think about what kind of party you would want to organize for your friends if it weren't a wedding?

Therefore, organize truly memorable celebrations and remember all the fun events (not just weddings) you've been to. Combine the best ideas from these events and use those that work best for you. You probably have many things to take care of months before the wedding, so let the small things take care of themselves. Weddings involve many traditions, and not all may suit you - so boldly celebrate your day just the way you want.

In wedding planning, it's worth considering things that make you uniquely you. If cocktails are your thing, arrange a cocktail event at your wedding. If you want to say 'I do' amidst nature, find out if you can have the wedding in your desired location. If there's extra time on the wedding day, do things you would normally enjoy together.

Whether your day involves traditions or not, by only incorporating elements you truly love, you're likely to be less stressed about the day's flow, feel less anxiety, and find scheduling easier. If certain wedding traditions are your thing, definitely stick to them, but even if the only wedding-related aspect is getting married and the rest of the time is just celebrating, it doesn’t diminish the significance of the day.

1. Plan a party - not a wedding

Let's get into the details! Here are my top 9 tips for weddings

Let's get the party started!

If you want group photos on your wedding day, the best time for family, bridesmaid, and best man photos is early evening. Everyone is ready, and no one needs to be searched for. Finding the right people for photos late at night is often laborious and time-consuming, and it may be too dark outside.

Plan the groups before the wedding, as group photos can surprisingly consume a lot of time. If there are only a few photos (parents, close family, bridesmaids, and best men), 20 minutes should suffice. Keep the list modest, as shooting many different groups can be taxing.

6. Group photos

Wedding portraits are often the only moment during the day when the couple gets to be alone, so it's crucial to make the most of this time. I always recommend shooting before the ceremony and a second set just before sunset.

Why before the ceremony? It allows us to shoot peacefully, and you can enjoy private moments without thinking about guests waiting at the venue.
Why just before sunset? Because the light is at its softest and shouldn’t be missed. Soft light beautifully illuminates the skin and honors the couple. Another great moment is right after sunset, when the light is also fantastic. In the evening, it’s nice to take a break from the wedding program and enjoy some time together, as it’s a once-in-a-lifetime day.

Scheduling two photo sessions is also wise in case something unexpected (like a downpour/storm) happens. The second session serves as a backup.


5. The wedding portraits

In addition to finding a reception venue, booking a church you like can be challenging, as some churches are reserved over 12 months before the wedding. Photography in churches can sometimes be difficult due to the lighting. Often, natural light floods in through the windows, but there's artificial light inside, and their combination doesn't look very natural and makes skin tones appear unnatural. When choosing a church, it's also worth paying attention to the lighting. Generally, it can be said that older churches are often built with natural light in mind, as there was no electricity. If a traditional church ceremony isn't essential, one unique and relaxed alternative is an outdoor wedding, for example, under a large tree, in a beautiful landscape, or by the water. Don't worry about rain; it won't ruin your wedding day but will make it memorable. However, it's good to have a backup plan in case the weather becomes impossible.

When the ceremony is outdoors, light and sun are some of the most important factors for photography. The bright, harsh midday light in summer is not an ideal option. If your wedding is outdoors near midday, I recommend positioning the ceremony site outdoors so that during the ceremony the sun either shines from behind or in front. Another option is to schedule the ceremony for later in the afternoon when the sun is lower.

If choosing an outdoor ceremony location is causing a headache, I am happy to help with the selection.

4. tips for The wedding ceremony

Sometimes it may feel like the wedding industry cares only about external things. The items you find on Pinterest or purchase bring much less joy than the experiences and actions on your wedding day.

I'm more than happy to help make your day truly yours, ensuring you have fun and enjoy one of the most memorable days of your life. The most important thing is that you enjoy and have fun. There are no rules on how to celebrate or others to please. The best way to have a wedding is to do it your way, as ultimately, your experience of the day is what you'll remember.

So, do things your way, and the photos will be magical!

If you found these tips helpful and you or a friend has a wedding coming up, save this checklist or send it to your friend.

9. My best tip

When you've invited all your closest people to celebrate your important day, I think it's crucial that they are present and enjoying the ceremony during the vows. At the same time, you can look directly into the eyes of those important to you, instead of their phones. As a bonus, the photos will be much better, as we see people's genuine facial expressions, not their phones or auntie's large iPad. This also makes my job easier, as occasionally a guest unknowingly gets in my way, and the photos aren't as successful as I would hope.

The simple instruction to "enjoy the ceremony and refrain from taking pictures" works excellently as per the couple's request.

Oh, and one more thing! I recommend telling your guests to throw something big and showy at you after the ceremony, like the largest natural flowers possible. In the picture above, guests are actually throwing elm "seeds" on the couple, but you can ask for suggestions on this from your local florist.

8. Consider Limiting photos During the Ceremony

Capturing the wedding's atmosphere is essential to me, so I use flash only late in the evening on the dance floor. For creating an evening ambiance, warm string lights from the market, along with candles, work wonderfully. However, candlelight alone or a very dark venue can challenge the camera's focus.
If you add extra or mood lighting, ensure the lights are similar, so the lighting tone (cool/warm) is consistent. Candles are also great and can never be too many. If lighting worries you, I'm happy to help.

Colored Lights
Colorful DJ lights might look great on the dance floor late in the evening. Without flash, though, they can make skin tones look unnatural and may not fit the evening's mood. Therefore, consider turning on colored lights only after the first dance, when I usually start using flash.

7. RECEPTION VENUE AND LIGHTING

Read more about me

Hi, my name is Jaakko.

I have been photographing weddings and elopements professionally for eight years, and photography has taken me from the fjords of Norway to the mountains of Switzerland and the small streets of London.

My photos have been published in some of the world's largest publications. In 2019, one of my photos was selected for the Junbug Wedding's Best of the Best collection, the world's largest wedding photography competition. I was also named Lookslikefilm's Artist of the Year in 2015 and 2019. I would never have experienced these things if I hadn't had a photography mentor to learn from.

Before my photography business, I graduated as a teacher from the University of Jyväskylä. Although I didn't stay in the teaching field, those years taught me an incredible amount about motivation, learning, values, and I did my thesis on the importance of interactive communication in learning.

I currently live in Jyväskylä's highest location with my wife Ida and my children Elsa and Eliel, but I travel regularly across Europe for work.

I'm incredibly excited that at this stage in my photography career, I finally have the time to guide and be a photography mentor for other photographers and entrepreneurs!

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