How to Have the Best Wedding Day - Tips from Badass Wedding Photographers Around the Country

7 wedding/elopement photographers smile

Wondering who's qualified to give this advice?

This summer, I had the privilege of attending a photography workshop where I was able to connect with photographers from all over the United States. We all had 2 things in common: we specialize in weddings, and we're always looking for ways to help our couples have the best experience of their lives!

It was incredible to connect with others who share my passion, and even cooler to see how many different styles we brought to the table! Our perspectives on shooting and editing varied, our approach to the back ends of our businesses and the way we interact with our couples were unique, and of course, our personalities were all over the place. But we bonded over our dedication to our craft and our love of weddings!

We wanted to keep our relationship going, but more importantly, we wanted to combine our brainpower to provide valuable resources for our audiences around the country. So we came together to create this guide for you– how to have the best wedding day ever.

Marla from Marla Manes Photography says that

timing is key to having the best wedding day ever!

Seattle Washington Elopement Photographer

"If I could impart only one nugget of wisdom for all aspects of your wedding day, it would be this: plan for more time than you think you need!"

This is the biggest day of your life, one that you’ve been planning for months or years, and it goes by in the blink of an eye. And I promise you, no matter how prepared you are, not everything will go according to plan! The best way to combat that wedding day stress, AND ensure you’re making the most of your day even when it’s all going smoothly, is to plan for extra time.

When crafting your timeline with your photographer (and planner, if you have one), don’t count on the best-case-scenario. You know the one– you want to tell yourself that everyone will arrive on time, that there won’t be any traffic or weather delays, and that all of your vendors will be set in place before you can even check on them! (Wouldn’t that be nice!) But believe me, there’s always something– a wrong turn on the way to the venue, or a baby that needs changing, or a wardrobe malfunction that needs fixing. Fifteen minutes for wedding party photos turns into twenty, and then the flower girl needs a bathroom break… you’re going to be grateful that you budgeted a little wiggle room for these mishaps!

But there’s something even more important than anticipating these inevitable bumps in the road– allowing yourself the space and time to enjoy the day. You want to know how to have the best wedding day ever? Be present for it! Make sure you have time to stop, and to breathe, and to soak in the joy of marrying your partner. Slow down, kiss each other, sneak off at sunset. Have a private toast, or a secret first dance, or a place where you can eat some hors d'oeuvres in peace. Make time to look in a mirror and appreciate how amazing you look! Don’t let the day go by being rushed from place to place, checking off boxes on a timeline– it’ll be over before you know it, and you deserve to enjoy it.

Interracial couple smiles at each other at their urban elopement

I’m Marla, an intimate wedding and elopement photographer based in Seattle, Washington. I’m passionate about creating and capturing memories for the wildly in love in a way that is authentic and timeless. I capture all of the details of your day so that your gallery tells your whole story, while focusing on the one thing that matters most: you and your love! I’m frequently traveling around the Pacific Northwest and beyond, and would love to get to know you and your partner :)

Marla Manes Photography

Marla's instagram

Nate with New Adventure Productions:

The best way to stay organized during your wedding

planning process is to create a free wedding day email.

Indiana elopement photographer

"Stress is a huge part of our lives in this modern age. Wedding planning adds a totally new layer into that as well. So if you want to keep your stress at a minimum when you’re juggling 15 different vendors, contracts, invoices, and timelines, go create a wedding email."

I recommend Gmail because it has a ton of free storage (more on that later) and is easily recognized as a professional and easy to use system.

Gmail is my favorite because when you get your engagement and wedding images back, you can save all those photos into your Google Drive. Don’t run the risk of losing images on a USB drive or a CD/DVD (which is so 2003). Instead, save those images in the sweet arms of Mother Google, because we all know that if Google crashes, the world and life as we know it are over (so you won’t need to think about your wedding images anyway).

A few ideas for your wedding email are your wedding day hashtag followed by the year, the last name you’ve chosen + wedding + year, or honestly any sort of combination of things. Creating a new account also prevents spam and junk from accumulating and allows you and your partner to share it together and is easily accessible by both parties in case of a last minute need for referencing an invoice, guest count, or timeline.

Gay women smile at their elopement on a street near a mountain range

I’m Nate, owner of New Adventure Productions, located in Lafayette, Indiana. We specialize in intimate connections, candid prompts, and challenging the conceptions of traditional wedding day photography and planning by offering travel opportunities for our clients. Assisted by my associate, Megan, and my wedding coordinator wife, Felicia, we also offer inclusive elopement packages for couples so they can know how to have the best wedding day ever.

New Adventure Productions

Nate's instagram

Sam with Samantha Burke Photography:

Screw what everybody else thinks, and do whatever you want for your wedding day!

Indiana Elopement Photographer
It’s time to stop making weddings that are all about your guests, and start making it about you marrying your best friend!!

I recommend to stop following the trends and to stop trying to make everyone happy. Because you know what? No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to please everyone anyways!

When you realize that you’re not going to make everyone happy, and start planning your wedding for yourself without worrying about what others are going to think on your special day - there’s going to be a TON of stress lifted off your shoulders. I promise you. People have to start realizing that weddings are supposed to be about two soulmates proclaiming their love for each other and celebrating that proclamation. It’s not about having drinks with old friends, about making sure it’s at the most beautiful venue in the country.

For my own wedding, I had soooo many people tell me that my wedding was weird, and my colors didn’t go together, and that I couldn’t do this or that. I even had a florist straight-up tell me that I needed to buy the groom and groomsmen different suits because it was a dumb idea to have them wear Star Wars suits. My response? “I’ll be finding a different florist then.” So if you need permission from someone to make your day exactly how you want - I GIVE YOU THAT PERMISSION!!

Couple in formal attire near dramatic cliffs at their elopement

I’m Sam, the owner of Samantha Burke Photography, and based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota! I specialize in telling the stories of two soulmates while going on an epic adventure and having the time of our lives together!! I strongly believe that weddings are all about two soulmates proclaiming their love for each other, and nothing else. I offer inclusive elopement and intimate wedding collections and travel to literally any corner of the world you could imagine to have the best day ever ;)

Samantha Burke Photography

Sam's instagram

Laura & Drew with Laura Memory Photography

says constant and open communication is the key

to having the best wedding and elopement day ever!

Durham North Carolina Wedding Photographers
We’ve found that communicating hopes, fears, dreams, logistics, expectations, details big and small, with our couples, with other vendors, and with each other is our key to the best wedding experience ever!

As an international wedding photography team, we’ve seen all flavors, shapes, and sizes of amazing weddings and elopements! We’re super down to earth people, and one of the ways we’re able to be so chill on wedding days is because we love planning everything out ahead of time. We use all sorts of timelines and forms to get organized, and we love FaceTiming or meeting in person to talk through the entire day! This way, we can also give you our own tips for having the best wedding day ever!

  1. Communicate with your partner - Be open with your partner through the whole wedding planning process. Talk about what your visions are for your wedding day. What are the top 3 most important things or experiences to you? Be open, honest, and loving when it comes to tough topics like finances, family issues, and compromises. And always remember, wedding and elopement celebrations are about you two!

  2. Communicate with your vendors about who YOU are - Drew and I love talking, emailing, meeting up for drinks, and FaceTiming, to talk about not only logistics, but also getting to know you two! We are artists and we love tailoring each experience exactly to you two! The more we get to know y’all the more we vibe and connect! Then, wedding days are SO fun and easy because we’re just friends showing up with cameras! When you’re comfortable with us, your pictures are also going to look and feel so natural and effortless too!

  3. Communicate with your guests - Let those attending know what’s up. Especially with a global pandemic still a thing, last minute changes might need to happen. Let your guests know about safety precautions and what to expect on your wedding day. Make a wedding website or a group text so everyone can be informed and uptodate. Communicate with them about where to stay, weather, attire, any personal or religious preferences. On wedding days, let them know where to be and when. Appoint or hire someone else to be the coordinator so you and your love can enjoy your day!

Epic shot of a tiny couple underneath a big arch at their elopement in Moab, Utah

We’re Laura and Drew and we hope you found these tips helpful! We’re North Carolina based photographers, but we’re always down to travel anywhere for your super awesome wedding experience! We are adventurers and we love meeting new friends. We’re open books and we’d love to get to know y’all, so reach out if you have any questions for us :D Gracias!!!

Laura Memory Photography

Laura's instagram

Marissa Solomero with Marissa Rose Photography

says investing in what you want to cherish the most

from your day will give you the best day ever!

DMV area wedding photographer

Want to have a wedding or elopement you will remember for the rest of your lives together? Invest in the aspects of your day you care about the most!

Your big day only happens once and so you want to include the guests, items, vendors, etc. you want to look back on with fond memories and with that same joy and love you felt on that day. That means it's important to put focus and attention on the details of the day you know will last. Here are three things to keep in mind as you plan that special day:

  1. Don’t just think about how you want your wedding to look but also how you want it to feel - Decor, lighting, time of day, music are all details that help set not just the visuals for your day but also the mood. While, Pinterest and Instagram will give you examples of these extravagantly decorated weddings, remember this day is about the two of you and represents your love. Invest some time writing down words that describe your love for each other. Think about songs that make both you feel like getting up and slow dancing (or “bust a move” dancing because I don’t judge) in the kitchen together. Ask each other what color they thought the other liked when you first met and then compare it to your actual favorite color. These are just a few activities you can do to not only make planning fun but also tailor your wedding to your love.

  2. Think about who you truly want to share your day with. You may hear this from a lot of us photographers and vendors but you are allowed to invite or not invite whoever you would like to your wedding, seriously! When putting together your invite/guest list invest time to really ponder who has impacted not just each of your lives but also your relationship. Don’t be afraid to say no to the college roommate, distant cousins, or the twice removed uncle, and even the babysitter who watched you once when you were seven. Especially during this time of a pandemic and with many weddings having to accommodate for smaller guest counts it’s safer and better than ever to keep your celebrations intimate. Who shares in the celebration of your love on your wedding day also plays a part in shaping the vibe and mood of your wedding.

  3. Finally, think about the aspects of your wedding that will solidify the memory of your day. One of the quotes us photographers like to say is that “flowers wilt, food gets eaten, and the decor gets packed away, but the photos and videos of your day last beyond your special day” and it’s true! You want to make sure you can look back at the memories of your day and those photos or videos conjuring up those same loving feelings and emotions you had from your special day. Make sure to invest time into your budget so you can really invest in those special memories that will last long after your wedding has past!

Interracial couple embraces at their elopement

I am Marissa, the owner of Marissa Rose Photography and I am based in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area. My philosophy in my art and business has always been to capture the beauty in the diversity around me. I make sure that when people see my work they can see themselves within it. I have been capturing photography for 8 years and capturing weddings and couples for 3 years! I am all about capturing the authenticity of your love and all in-between moments and emotions of your special day!

Marissa Rose Photography

Marissa's instagram

Ellie McKinney with Ellie McKinney Photography

says choose if you’d rather have a wedding or elopement as your first step!

North Carolina wedding photographer headshot

As a wedding and elopement photographer who dabbles in both, I’ve had the opportunity to view many of each up close and personal. From large, lavish wedding days to intimate elopements, ya girl has seen it all!

And to be real, I can’t get enough of either! But what I don’t love is watching a bride-to-be trying to plan a wedding day when she would rather have eloped and visa versa. So, let’s start your wedding planning off on the right foot by exploring which route you should take.


An important question to ask yourselves is where you hope to place the focus on your wedding day. During an elopement, the focus is on the couple themselves, the romance between them, and most of the time- the location. It’s a chance to strip down all the extra stuff, leaving only the essentials.

On the other hand, weddings are great for couples who love big celebrations, complete with all the treats and decorations. So, if your wedding day wouldn’t feel complete without a big celebratory dinner, a wedding is definitely the way to go!


Speaking of the spotlight, how much do you enjoy being in it?

Elopements are far more low-key, couples have told me they feel less pressure during the planning and even the celebration itself.

However, if you enjoy being celebrated and loved on by friends and family, what better time to bask in that glow than on your wedding day?


When you close your eyes and imagine your ideal wedding day, whose faces do you see?

If the only face that matters is the love of your life and maybe a few loved ones, then an elopement could be the perfect way for you to say, “I do.”

However, if the idea of filling your wedding day with all the people you love most floods your heart with joy, then a full wedding day is probably your jam! If a laughter-filled morning spent getting ready, a chorus of cheers when you kiss your spouse for the first time, and a packed reception dance floor are important to you, don’t deny yourself that joy!


And finally, as a wedding/elopement photographer, we’ve gotta talk photos! So, when you receive your final wedding gallery, what are you hoping to see?

During an elopement, most of the photos are centered on the couple and their uniquely special connection. I am able to capture things I may not have the time to document during a wedding day, like the way your hands brush or the little, non-verbal ways you say, “I love you.”

At a wedding celebration, however, I focus on capturing as many of the guests as possible. I want to showcase the way you interact with all the friends and family who love you so well, so if your grandma’s smile and your college roommates epic dance moves absolutely MUST be in your wedding album, consider opting for a wedding over an elopement.

Above all, the most important thing is that you have the most amazing wedding day possible.

I’m Ellie, owner of Ellie McKinney Photography located in Winston Salem North Carolina. Through a style that marries rich, bold tones with gentle highlights, I fill galleries with images that earnestly document moments while ensuring you look your absolute best. I am passionate about capturing the true meaning behind delicate details and allowing emotional scenes to unfold sincerely. Forget about perfection-- Let’s transform realness into art. Cheers!

Ellie McKinney Photography

Ellie's instagram

Phew! There you have it– tips from some of the best professionals I know on how to have the best wedding day ever.

Be sure to check out their work, and if you're considering an elopement instead of a bigger celebration, see if that's for you here!