Having been a full time life event portrait photojournalist since 2003, I can honestly say I have seen a lot of hiccups that could have been avoided on wedding days. There really is a way to under plan and over planning can be just as disastrous.
What do avoid. Full day coverage is explained here but shorter events are as important to consider these items.
Starting time: Your photographer should be starting at the time your make up begins, after your hair is completed. Yes, hair first. Bridesmaids should also already be mostly done so they will look their best in the photos. You will not want to look at 2 hours of bridesmaids getting ready photos, especially in today's very common 20 minute wedding ceremony trend.
You Don't Want a First Look: Yes, you do! That single moment that you both see each other before getting married is a very special time together. It's raw emotion. You may believe that seeing each other before is bad luck. I have no proof of that and likely neither do you. Please consider it. Even if you don't actually see each other completely or hide behind a door or simply hold hands from around a corner, you will be very happy you did this. Most ceremonies don't allow you to really interact with each other. The first look taking place at the ceremony is nice, yes. But you won't be embracing, laughing, crying etc. That can happen during a 15 minute shoot about 30 minutes before your ceremony. Exchange letters or gifts at this time if you want. Be close. Fall in love again right in front of the camera.
Don't you want to see what happened next?
Your Photographer Wants a List of Photos to Shoot From: Oh, no, we really don't. When it comes to doing the formals with family, that is fine, but a list of images or a Pinterest list is going to kill your photographers creativity. If they are trying to direct you around all day and trying to gather people up with will change your flow and your ability to really enjoy the day. Our job is to capture your day, not create it. Having said this, we do want to know what is most important to you. A photo of you and your grandmother or your nieces and nephews. But if we are told you want a shot of you and your grandmother by the waterfall and she can't get into the golf cart to get there... it simply doesn't help us. Let the day play out. If it happens it happens. If not, don't throw a fit. It's your wedding day. Something always goes wrong somewhere, trust me. So if you make a timeline that says 12pm photographer to take photos of the flowers and your flowers are not delivered until after your ceremony (it happened) then you are already upset and this just adds to the fire. Understand that copying others' work from a location or even another location can be an issue for copyrights. If you are hiring us you need to trust us to capture you. If you want to show us other's work to give us a heads up of what you plan to do, that's fine. A dip on your first dance etc., just make sure you dip the right way so you don't have your back to us. Make sure to discuss possible surprises with your photographer.
Mom said: It's time to let your moms know, you are an adult and you like her advice but it needs to be just that, ADVICE. This is your wedding day, not hers. It doesn't happen often but when it does all photographers cringe. Mom can be a force to recon with. Understand your vision and her vision might be two different things. Your wedding day is your moment to shine. Pouting about what your mom is doing to undermine you is not cool. Don't just give in. Especially if it is your mother in law to be. Stand your ground. They should be bending to your happiness, not the other way around.
This will be the best day ever!: This is a hard one to call a myth. But, I do have some words of advice. Keep your expectations in check. If you don't, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. I want you to imagine this. Your flowers don't show up. They are not just late, but they never arrive. Neither does your cake. And to top if off, your dinner is late by almost 1 hour because your venue had a shift change and forgot to tell you, so no one was there to make it. Shocked? All of these things happened at weddings I shot. 2 of them happened in the same wedding. Now, add no AC on a 110 degree day. Yes, I am still on the same wedding day. Okay, now someone passes away. That also happened, not on the same day as the other ones, but it did happen to one of my couples. I have the last photo of him alive as he passed 15 seconds later. So, before you start snapping at your staff who messed up the seating chart, be sure you think of these moments and ignore the little things and the big ones too. If you tell everyone you know about the chocolate waterfall you are going to have and it breaks down and never is brought out, then only you have to be in the know. If you did tell everyone, they will keep asking you "where is it?"
In the end, this will be your best day ever, up to this point in your life. We will capture it for you and you can relive it anytime you want by looking at the memories we capture for you. Have fun. Don't stress and please, just relax... oh and don't drink so much that you get into a cake fight with your spouse and mess each other up badly and laugh only to realize you exposed yourself while being wrist held to stop the madness. Yes, that has happened twice now. No, I will not show a pic of it. That's a memory we are all trying to forget. Having said that...
Cake Fights are Common: This is not true at all. If you do it, expect a disaster and hurt feelings. A little playfulness is fine. A dab on the nose of frosting is cute. Smashed cake in hair that took 2 hours to create is not how you want to start the night, let alone the rest of your lives together. Keep it clean and fun. Eat your cake, don't wear it. Oh, and don't get egged on by your brother or cousin in the background chanting "cake fight". Don't bring your reception to a screeching halt while you go redo your make up and clean your dress for 30 minutes while you cry and have to redo your make up again. If you do, make sure you hire our DJ/MC who will make them forget it happened and distract the guests while you slip away.