Le Wedding Mill is a wedding planning company in Montreal and is aptly named after its founder Michelle Mill. We chatted with Michelle about her business and how she works with couples to create a flawless wedding.
When did le wedding mill first begin? le wedding mill launched in 2017, but its roots dig a few years deeper than that. I have always been drawn to planning events, from bridal showers to retreats to galas. Over the years, I had had the privilege of being a bridesmaid several times and loved every minute of the experience. I was particularly excited about helping with the little design details. I also loved being able to take their stress away by quietly handling any logistical issue that arose.
Eventually, I dove into the corporate event world, learning the ins and outs of hospitality, client relations and logistics. At the same time, my bridesmaids duties escalated to planner duties at some of my friends’ weddings, then eventually I was helping friends of friends and so on. In 2017, my wedding season was shaping up to be a busy one and thus, I faced an exciting but frightening dilemma: Should I keep the security of my corporate job or whole heartedly pursue my dream of becoming a wedding planner? Needless to say, I took the leap and haven’t looked back for a minute. We are now a small but very mighty team of two, with a group of lovely helpers that lend a hand on event days.
How would you sum up your approach? As our tagline aptly states, we offer a fresh and fun approach to wedding planning. It’s no secret that planning a wedding is stressful. There are so many moving parts to think about, not to mention the emotions involved. At le wedding mill, we are very aware that our clients are busy, which is why our planning process is streamlined and efficient. We take the stress out of the equation so that our couples can actually enjoy their engagement and focus on the fun parts of wedding planning.
What challenges do you usually face during a wedding day? As there are so many moving parts in a wedding, the biggest challenge that we face is keeping everyone and everything moving at the same pace! For example, if hair and makeup take longer than expected, we need to make that time up elsewhere to ensure that the ceremony isn’t delayed too much, leaving guests in their seats for an extended period. Fortunately, we tackle this challenge by padding our timelines with extra time at specific key moments.
Another classic challenge that we face, one that we have not yet figured out how to control, is weather. Many of our couples have an outdoor component to their wedding, be it the ceremony, cocktail or the entire event. We monitor weather closely and always have a solid plan for inclement weather.
What are the differences between a wedding planner, a coordinator, a designer, and a venue coordinator? This is a very important topic as there is a lot of confusion about these roles. To summarize, a wedding planner is your guide throughout the entire planning process. He/she will typically be responsible for keeping the planning process running in a timely manner, recommending and contacting vendors that suit your style and budget, designing the event, and managing the logistics on-site. Essentially, the planner does all the legwork – you make the final decisions. At le wedding mill, we offer full planning as well as partial planning services to accommodate couples who want to some of the legwork, but not all.
A coordinator will step in later on in the process and tie all loose ends. He/she will confirm all the responsibilities with the vendors you have booked and will usually create your timeline for you. On your wedding day, a coordinator will be there to set up and manage the logistics. In this case, you do all the legwork and he/she will make sure it all goes according to plan.
A designer focuses strictly on the aesthetic and visual aspects of the day. He/she will relay with the vendors who impact the design, such as the florist or the rental company, and will set up the event so that it reflects what had been previously agreed upon. A designer will not; however, handle any logistics of the day and will usually sneak out well before the wedding starts!
A venue coordinator, though instrumental to the success of your wedding, is not the same as a planner, coordinator or designer. While every venue is different, a venue coordinator is usually responsible for ensuring that all-venue related tasks are being fulfilled. This can be anything from setting the tables to supervising the in-house caterer’s service times. In some cases, he/she will supervise the teardown of the event. However, there is a misconception that a venue coordinator will take on the responsibilities of one of the above-mentioned roles, which can lead to disappointment and frustration at the last minute. The best way to know for sure is to speak with your venue coordinator to find out exactly what they will and will not do on your big day.
What can brides do to help you to plan their wedding day in the best possible way? Communication is key! We encourage couples to overshare so that we are aware of every detail, nuance and pet peeve. On the wedding day, we are the couples’ eyes and ears on the ground and want to make sure that their wedding dreams come true. Whatever information we have will help us run the day smoothly and manage expectations.
How early do brides need to think about booking their planner? The sooner, the better! While all planners do their best to accommodate last minute requests, it’s not always possible on busier weekends. Our couples typically book us anywhere between 8 to 24 months in advance.
A Guide for Engaged Couples from an Industry Insider
It’s hard to pin down exactly how I became a wedding coordinator, but here’s what happened…
I was working for a catering company. I was new-ish, and just starting to get the better gigs – working in the client’s home with a few other staffers, increasing the likelihood of a good tip. I remember watching my co-workers handle a situation where the client was in a terrible mood from the moment we arrived, and complained about everything, including the cocktail napkins we had brought, saying, “These aren’t fit to use as toilet paper! What are we going to do?!” before opening a drawer full of her own fancy cocktail napkins. I watched how the chef, a notoriously calm dude, kept a steady gaze, didn’t interrupt. It didn’t help, but it didn’t make things worse. I watched as the other server grabbed a bottle of Grey Goose from the freezer, winking at me. Within half an hour, the client was soothed, and by the end of the evening, we had gotten her on our side. I remember she said, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” and that she tipped us handsomely.
It was in these intimate environments that I developed a skill for dealing with demanding, anxious, and frazzled clients. I relied on an even tone, and found empathy for people who wanted things “just-so”. I also fostered infinite patience for people who are not related to me. It was in part because of this skillset that I caught the attention of the coordinators with whom we worked, who are some of the most demanding, perfectionist, and sharp-eyed people you’ll ever encounter. I started assisting on their weddings, and of course, landed the highly un-coveted role as “bridal party handler.”
Let me tell you about the worst bride I ever met. I was warned I would have to corral her often, as she was notoriously bad at being on time. I was also quickly made aware of how incredibly vain she was and noted that whenever she saw an opportunity to be photographed, she would halt all progress. I had to get real with the photographer at one point: “Please, can you just go down to the car or she will never leave this apartment.” I begged. As her handler, all I had to do was get her to the ceremony on time, and after that, stick by her in case she needed anything. What she decided she needed was for someone to hold her train so that it wouldn’t hit the floor for the entire cocktail hour as she greeted her guests, many of whom were her new husband’s wealthy friends and business contacts. All of them gave me apologetic looks, and I did my best to keep a straight face as I inwardly rolled my eyes and giggled at how pretentious this woman was, and how bad a job she was doing of impressing those people she so badly wanted to woo.
Listen. You don’t want to be that person. This day is about you, and everyone knows it. You’ll be the center of attention no matter what, so it’s best if when eyes are on you, you’re the picture of serenity, and that you and your partner are the archetypes of love. Take it from me, the ringer they bring in when people are being difficult. Becoming a “zilla” is totally preventable. Here’s how.
GET YOUR GUEST LIST IN ORDER
Before you do anything else – before you check out venues or start crowdsourcing the best caterer, tailor, florist, and photographer – nail down who you want at your shindig. If you’re on the fence about whether you’re having a destination, intimate, or larger wedding, the guest list will help you nail that down. It will also get the ball rolling for a talk about the bridal party.
If your parents are helping you pay for the wedding (or paying for it entirely), they may feel that gives them carte blanche to invite all of their friends. This is a touchy subject but I’m going to bite the bullet: it’s your wedding. Try to set yourself up for success, which means no resentment towards your in-laws. My husband and I both have huge families and lots of close friends who live all over the world – the result of having lived together for a year in his native Paris. Our venue had a cap of 140 guests and both sides of parents had certain friends they had to invite, so we made a rule: we only wanted people in the room who love us (and we didn’t want to have to be fake-nice to anyone). It was a challenge, but I eventually whittled my parents’ lists down to a minimum of strangers. I’m happy to say there were just two couples at my wedding whom neither I nor my husband had ever met before.
If you have guests who’ll need to travel, a save-the-date minimum six months before the wedding is necessary. You can send this by email or even call them. If a guest is really important to you, don’t make them wait for the formal invitation.
Your guest list and your parents’ lists will also get the ball rolling to talk about your budget, and on that note, I need you to listen very carefully. Do us all a favour and…
BE WILLING TO PAY FULL PRICE
We all know that when suppliers hear the word “wedding” they jack up the price. A good coordinator will be able to tell you what a fair price is and get it for you. Coordinators have relationships with suppliers and while you will only get married once, they are the ones giving those suppliers repeat business. I won’t allow someone to gouge you for candles, for example, because I know where the supplier orders them and you can too.
Equally, as a coordinator, it is not worth it for me to damage my relationship with a supplier by insisting on a discount for you. If you aren’t using a coordinator, or if you have some friends in the business, you may want to try to nickel and dime them so that you can stay within your budget, but I sincerely beg you not to do this. It’s nearly always true that you get what you pay for, and on this all-important day, it’s at best not ideal and potentially catastrophic to have people on site who feel like they are doing you a favour by showing up. Just think about how you feel when you’re working overtime for free. Ever heard the expression, “they can’t complain”? Yeah. That’s you, on your wedding day, when the bar service shows up without bussers because your buddy owns the company, and his very limited staff left a huge mess and the venue charges you a $1000 clean-up fee. Pony up.
I’ve also had super easy clients who pay me upfront and even tip me in advance. I was so concerned that they would feel they had overpaid me that I kept my assistant a little longer and shared the wealth, and had no qualms about springing for little extras, like the long BBQ lighters we need to light floating candles. Be generous with people, and they will be generous with you. I try to charge fairly, and I will go above and beyond for my clients.
Conversely, clients who nickel and dime their suppliers leave them saying (how many times have I heard this?) “I’m not making any money on this gig.” This translates to cutting staff earlier than they should be (meaning no one is left to serve dessert or tidy up), annoyance about your last-minute requests (and you will have some!), and a general unwillingness to negotiate or throw in a few extras. I’m not saying you can’t call your coordinator as much as you need to, but take care with your tone and their time. I often joke that 90% of my job is being nice to people, because I will inevitably ask someone to do something that is outside their job description during the event, and I want their answer to be, “For you, Carrie-Ann, it would be my pleasure” and not “that’s not my job”. It could be as simple as asking the photographer to help me move the cake, or the caterer to set aside the vases for the florist. It’s just easier to get shit done if people don’t fucking hate you. (Remember: yelling at the caterer before they have served the first course never ends well.) People love a reason to gossip, so don’t give them one.
Re-work your budget so that you can pay people what they deserve, and don’t forget to tip. And then set aside even more money.
SET ASIDE AN EMERGENCY BUDGET
Give yourself a buffer so that you can throw money at a problem. Depending on the scale of your event, that could be $500 or $5000. Take the price of your wedding dress or custom suit: that is how much you need in your emergency fund. No, not your “oh let’s blow the budget and spring for a band” fund… your “it’s the week before my wedding and something went terribly wrong” fund. Note the distinction. In a perfect world, you won’t spend that money and you can put it towards the honeymoon. But something probably will go wrong, so on that note…
KNOW THAT SOMETHING WILL GO WRONG AND GET OKAY WITH IT
It’s important to accept, starting right now, that something won’t go the way you planned it. Your miniature-vase-place-card-holders may not arrive in time, or your dress might not fit because the store didn’t warn you that they were going out of business and your last alteration was three months before your wedding day. I had one bride who told me she’d freak if a baby cried while she was walking down the aisle, and I said, “Get okay with it babe, cause it’s gonna happen.” I can do a lot for you but I cannot control a crying baby. Or a power outage (although I do have something in my back pocket for that one). Or the groom dislocating his shoulder mid-hora. Or your officiant mispronouncing your name throughout the ceremony.
TRIPLE-CHECK-IN ON YOUR OFFICIANT
Traditional officiants perform a massive amount of weddings and other rituals, which means that, yes, they know what they are doing, but it also means that sometimes one event blends into the other. This can and does lead to them forgetting to mention something significant, or blindsiding you by turning your atheist ceremony super-religious (yup, that’s exactly what happened at my own wedding). Take the time to send them an email a few days before your wedding to remind them what is most important to you for the ceremony.
Here’s a sample email, based on one sent by a very organized bride I worked with last season after I told her some of my horror stories:
I just wanted to confirm everything with you for the wedding which is this coming Sunday!
Date: Sunday, June 10, 2019
Location: Ristorante Beatrice – 1504 Sherbrooke Street West
We will do a quick rehearsal at around 4 with the procession and then proceed with the Ketubah signing for 4:30pm
Ketubah: Provided by you!
We have the chuppah ordered, kosher white wine, wine glass and all other necessary items on our list!
Recap of family members:
Maid of Honour
If you are unsure of any details or want more information please free to email, text, or call me!
Thank you and looking forward to seeing you Sunday!
It’s really common nowadays, especially for secular weddings, to have a friend officiate the marriage. It’s a lovely way to add a personal and whimsical touch, but it has its own pitfalls. For example, someone who has never performed a ceremony might take it too seriously, and really milk their time with the microphone. (This is most common with MC’s, and I have nearly had words with an MC who would. Not. Stop. Talking. Every time he went to introduce a speech, he made a speech to introduce the speech. Too many speeches.) If it’s a friend, they may want to surprise you, and surprised you will be when they ask you to produce your handwritten vows that you don’t recall agreeing to write. And speaking of speaking…
REMIND YOUR SPEAKERS TO KEEP IT SHORT
Be careful who you invite to speak, including your above-mentioned MC, and be careful to remind them that shorter is sweeter. What do they want to say to you and 200 of your closest friends? Let’s get to dancing! Asking a trusted friend or family member to look over your parents’ speeches for too-embarrassing moments (like the time you stuffed your bra with tissues and then passed it out when someone sneezed) or lengthy stories that don’t lead anywhere.
Anything over three minutes can and should be said in a letter and there does not need to be an embarrassing slide show to go along with it. Your coordinator can protect you from unscheduled speeches, and then you don’t have to be the bad guy. If guests approach you and ask to speak (because I have told them I am not handing over the mic without your permission), just blame the “timeline” and admit it: you’re not in charge. Let go. Trust me to run it, and I will protect you from your friends who over-enjoyed the open bar. And that brings me to my final piece of advice – even if you’re simply getting married at city hall proceeded by an intimate dinner at a swanky restaurant…
HIRE A PLANNER
The most organized, efficient, best person to ever plan their own wedding still needs at a minimum a day-of coordinator, or they won’t be able to relax and enjoy the day. Think about it: you spent all of this time and effort and money to have a memorable day, and when it’s all over, you feel empty because you didn’t get to look your partner in the eye and celebrate it. You were stressed and lost your temper (and yelled at the groom during the main course so that when my boss asked me if the couple had eaten and could we start speeches I had to say, “No, they haven’t eaten yet… because the bride is browbeating the groom at the head table where they are seated with both of their families.”). You were busy worrying and not busy getting your guests on the dance floor by being on the dance floor. Your energy sets the tone of the event, and if you don’t have fun, neither will your guests. Make memories and let someone else worry about the timeline.
Your planner can also help you avoid logistical nightmares, like the bride I had who was determined to avoid rental fees by buying absolutely every item that went on her tabletop so she could try to sell it after. Or the panic of how last-minute some suppliers can be (they’ll know who to trust to pull it off, even if it’s last minute because surprise, you didn’t realize you picked Grand Prix weekend to get married).
A good planner will talk you out of doing things that will only stress you out, like insisting on a pre-ceremony sound bath and wishes on feathers and a silent meditative walk through the woods or having an outdoor ceremony in November. They’ll also remind you to enjoy your day, and let you make memories with your new husband or wife and see how much fun all your friends are having. Bottom line: your guests will have fun if you’re having fun.
A good planner will give you the benefit of their experience. In all likelihood, you haven’t done this before, and you don’t plan to be doing it again. Find someone who knows what’s up that you can trust to take the reigns, and it will be so much easier to be nice. As one planner I know often says, “Nice brides get nice weather.” She’s wrong, of course – we can’t control the weather… but we can control how nice a day you have. You catch more flies with honey.
Carrie-Ann Kloda is a wedding planner, a writer, and a yoga teacher. You can see her writing at heycarrieannk.com, take her class at Yoga Vieux Montreal, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now booking for 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Planning a wedding in 2018 can be a daunting task. We are all busy and it’s all too easy to allow things to become overwhelming. Couples should enjoy the whole process of getting married, including the planning, so many busy couples look for a relaible wedding planner to take some of the pressure off and make sure the day itself runs smoothly.
Liliane Yan runs L’S Event Creation and is a WPIC certified wedding planner based here in Montreal. She has a B.Com in Marketing and a certification in Event & Wedding Planning. Her team may be small but they say they are built for big events; tackling every detail to deliver any needs on your special day so that you don’t have to!
We caught up with Liliane to find out more about how couples and wedding planners work together to create something truly special.
Hi Liliane. What can you tell our readers about your business?
My name is Liliane Yan, I’m a certified event planner based in Montreal, Canada. I am working full time at an international organization and running my personal event planning business named L’S Event Creation.
How would you sum up your style?
I would say my style is minimalist with a modern twist. My pet peeves are trite ideas, tacky décor, disorganization, and dishonorable personalities.
What challenges do you usually face when planning for a wedding?
There are always different challenges in each wedding. My role in the whole planning process is to ease off the pressure on couples’ shoulder and make sure they can enjoy every little moment as the day went by and get a good grasp of the beautiful thing that is happening to them, their wedding.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Everything is an inspiration and each moment is a feast. I get inspired by everything that is happening around me, it could be a pattern on a floor, a quote from a book, a lyric from a music, and so on.
What advice do you offer couples in the run-up to the wedding day?
Setting up a realistic budget is very important and don’t wait to the last minute to consult with a wedding planner.
How early do brides need to think about booking their planner?
The sooner the better. It depends on what kind of services that the couple is looking for, is it a full wedding coordination, a month coordination or just a bit of help?
Life is a long journey and it’s about learning and experiencing. I hope I will have the privilege to be part of all the wonderful love stories and be able to create the dream day for future brides and grooms.
What do you do for fun when not planning events?
Sometimes I get really busy between a full-time job and special projects. If I don’t need to work or plan any events, I just love to stay at home, work on some home décor projects, drink a cup of hot tea, enjoy a movie and just chill. Well, I will never get bored since my active toddler always keeps me busy from Monday to Sunday. 🙂
It sounds like life is always full of adventure for Liliane and we would like to thank her for finding time in amongst all of that to chat with MTL Wedding Blog.
Let’s face it, most people have no clue what they’re doing when they first start to plan a wedding. They’ve probably never done anything slightly like it before in their lives, and soon find out that the whole thing can be somewhat overwhelming. That’s where an experienced wedding planner can become a lifesaver.
Montreal company Lily & Roses Events have been helping couples enjoy the ride and plan an event to remember for over half a decade now, so who better to give us some honest info and advice? We caught up with them to get the lowdown…
1. When did you first start Lily & Roses Events?
Lily & Roses began over 5 years ago in Montreal and we are now covering Montreal, Ottawa and beyond.
2. What were your aspirations for the company when you began?
To become a leading force in event planning and design across Canada (one event at a time!). We wanted to change the face of event planning by raising the bar for our clients and working as a one-stop shop for all aspects of an event.
3. How would you sum up your style?
Classy, elegant and timeless. We don’t follow trends and we’ve maintained our style throughout our time running Lily & Roses Exquisite Events.
4. What challenges do you usually face during a wedding day?
Every event and every wedding is different. No challenges are the same. We focus on just keeping the mood as light as possible and relieving the stress of the people involved is something that is foreseen in every event.
5. Where do you find your inspiration?
We get some ideas on Pinterest but not necessarily. We see something that jumps out at us, at another event, magazines, social media and go with it and we bring our own style and touch to what we see.
6. What can brides do to help you do the best job for them?
They have to understand that we are there to help and that we’ll do everything in our power to make things run as smoothly for them as possible. For example, if there is anything or anyone specific to look out for that the bride might know about but we don’t, it is best for the bride to let us know so we can do our job to the best of our ability!
7. What kind of wedding do you love to be involved with the most?
We’ve been so fortunate to have been a part of so many styles of weddings and multicultural weddings. From a classic middle eastern wedding to a same-sex wedding we’ve had a great time at them all, and when we are allowed to do all we can for a client it allows for a smoother day.
8. How early do brides need to think about booking their planner?
It depends. They need to decide if they want anything custom, full planning or day of coordination. It all depends on what they are looking for and on what kind of service or product they are looking to get. The sooner the better, of course! If it’s just for flowers and favours, they can contact us three months in advance. With our day of coordination service, the first meeting/consultation is six weeks before the wedding so anytime before that.
9. What common mistakes do you feel couples make when planning their wedding?
Not working on a budget from the get-go as well as not knowing the value of things on the market (like a photographer, for example). It is also common to assume that the wedding party will be there to take care of things the day of, but the people in the wedding party are their guests! We have had many instances when couples assume they have a coordinator for the day if their venue has a maitre d. But it is only a maitre d, they cannot do half of what planners do the day of. It all makes for confusion and chaos!
11. What do you do for fun when not planning events?
Researching and finding different ideas to grow our business. We are preparing to launch our apparel line of bridal tees and tanks and we just launched a line of couture stationery a few months ago. I sometimes keep too busy with home decor projects. I’m also my daughter’s talent manager, taking her between her ballet and swimming classes every other day. Life is beautiful chaos!
Life is indeed a beautiful chaos. Big thanks to the girls from Lily & Roses for their invaluable insights. Check out their website for more information.
Want to know the best questions to ask wedding photographers that will ensure you get the answers you really need to make an informed decision about who to choose to capture the your wedding day?
Steve Gerrard is one of the best wedding photographers around. Based in Montreal but originally from the UK, he has photographed over 400 weddings around the globe and has a whole list of wedding clients who have gone on to become good friends. A few of his UK couples have already been to visit Steve and his family since they moved to Montreal three years ago. When you go on to be real friends with your wedding photographer you know you chose wisely. So let’s chat to Steve to hear what he sees as the real questions couples need to ask before they choose their wedding photographer….
MTL Wedding Blog: Hi Steve, can you tell us, in your experience, what questions couples should be asking potential wedding photographers to make sure they find the right photographer for them?
Steve: First of all I’d say to invest some time researching photographers, not just in your area but further afield. These days wedding photographers are far more willing to travel. So just because a photographer you absolutely love may be in a different country from your wedding, doesn’t mean they’re not available. I’m now based in Canada but still shoot weddings in the UK all the time. And this year I’ve also been to Italy, Mexico, Las Vegas and Bangkok.
Experienced wedding photographers all have their own style. Some are super-creative whereas others maybe far more traditional. There are some really quirky wedding photographers around, and many that will take a purely documentary approach to your wedding. Think about what kind of images you’d like to have from your wedding and find a photographer whose portfolio reflects that the best. It’s only then that you need to begin to ask questions to ensure you have the same vision for the final photos.
MTL Wedding Blog: So once a couple has their shortlist of potential photographers for the wedding, what’s the first questions they should ask?
Steve Gerrard: I think the first question should be “How would you describe your approach to photographing a wedding?”
This gives the photographer the opportunity to clarify how they like to work on the wedding day. They may be the kind of person who likes a clear timeline and a shot list from the couple. They may expect a certain amount of time allocated for photography and you need to know if that’s something you’re happy to agree on.
Personally, I like to have a certain amount of time where I can escape with the couple to make some amazing portraits on the wedding day but my priority is always to capture the story of the wedding and to avoid taking the bride & groom away from their guests for any longer than is necessary. For me it’s not a photo shoot, it’s a day where the couple and all their favourite people come together to celebrate and have a great time. I like to document that in a creative way more than spending too much time doing group shots or portraits.
Another question we get asked a lot is “What kind of camera equipment do you use?” I think a much better question is “What kind of photos do you aim to create at a wedding?”
Most people are not professional photographers, so me telling them my favourite lens is a 35mm 1.4 and I usually shoot in Manual mode on my 5DMk3 is not really helping them establish why my photography will be better suited to them than the next photographer. Finding out what kind of images a photographer aims to create during a wedding will tell you far more about their approach and the kind of photos you’ll end up with after your own wedding.
There are photographers whose portfolio is filled with amazing portraits of couples in gorgeous locations but they don’t show the story of the wedding day. There are others whose portraits seem like they’ve been captured without the couple even knowing. Sometimes that’s even true. And many photographers these days are fantastic at showing a series of photographs that give a sense of how it was to be at the event.
For myself, I like to deliver a set of images that will transport the bride & groom back to their wedding whenever they look at them. I want them to remember how they felt and to relive the day through the images whenever they want to. But I still love to capture some amazing portraits that couples will frame on their walls. So for me it’s finding a good balance that suits the couple.
“Have you ever shot at our wedding venue?” is another question couples are often told to ask wedding photographers. For me a much better question would be “What kind of wedding venues do you enjoy photographing at?”
Many couples think that photographers who have shot at their venue before will know all the good spots for photos and be able to do a better job on the day. I disagree.
It’s rare that a venue is so huge that I can’t easily scout it out on the wedding day, or possibly before. And personally, I hate the idea that I’m going to shoot the same kinds of photos I took at a previous wedding. I much prefer to be inspired in the moment and to concentrate on what makes a wedding unique. That’s why I actually much prefer photographing weddings at venues I’ve never been to before.
One thing you may need to ask is if they are willing to travel to photograph your wedding. But maybe ask “Are you happy to travel to our wedding, and what other costs would be involved?”
Most photographers are more than happy to travel but most will charge extra to cover travel expenses, accommodation and extra time. Some will even ask that you cover the cost of their meals on all the days they’re away. I mostly shoot weddings in Montreal and the UK. For most of those I won’t charge extra for travel but may ask for one or two nights accommodation for locations where I need to drive long distances. For all other destination weddings I charge for all travel expenses (that may include car hire or taxis) plus three nights accommodation. I always arrive at least a couple of days before the wedding and will usually fly home the day after unless the couple book me to shoot extra days.
Most photographers will have information on their website to let you know how many hours coverage is included but make sure you check “How many hours coverage is included and what happens if things are running late on the day?”
Weddings rarely run on time in my opinion. And I always joke that the ones that don’t run on time tend to be the best weddings! So what happens if you’ve paid for your photographer to be there until 8pm but, when that time rolls around, you have yet to do your first dance, cut the cake or even have the final speeches? Do you really want to have a conversation on the evening of your wedding about whether you can afford to pay for extra hours of photography or not? As a wedding photographer, that’s not a discussion I’d be at all comfortable with.
Personally I like to cover weddings in their entirety and so I don’t limit coverage on the day. If you book me I’m there for the duration, capturing all the craziness of the party. Often I’m one of the last people to leave! But I totally understand that some photographers don’t feel the need to get too many photos of people on the dance-floor and would prefer to head home to their family.
One question that is important and I do recommend asking is “What happens if you are unable to photograph the wedding due to illness?”
A good photographer will always have a backup plan. I’ve shot hundreds of weddings and have never missed one yet due to illness, but nobody can guarantee they won’t be sick or break a leg the day before a wedding. With social media it’s now easier than ever to find a suitable replacement photographer at short notice if circumstances mean you really can’t do the job. As photographers we tend to help each other out rather than treating each other as the enemy. I know that a quick post in a Facebook group or on Twitter would result in a great photographer being willing to cover.
Speaking of backups, I’d also recommend checking “What backup equipment do you you take to a wedding?”
I recently heard about a wedding photographer posting on social media from the back of a church wedding because she only had one camera and it had started malfunctioning! She had no second camera and no backup gear! ALL professional wedding photographers should have at least two cameras, preferably more, as well as an assortment of lenses suitable to capture the wedding in the best way possible. This also means that if one camera or one lens fails to work, you have other options and nobody needs to know there’s a problem. And you won’t miss anything important that can never be repeated!
“How many photos will we get?” is a popular question but this is certainly an example of where less can definitely be more. I’d say to maybe ask “How many photos would you expect to deliver and will they all be edited similar to those in your portfolio?”
Do you really need 15 photos of you and your Dad? Or just two or three great ones? Do you need all the photos where you blinked or don’t look as good as you might hope?! Probably not. Allow the photographer to do what they do best and select the very best images that capture your story and show how amazing you looked on your wedding day.
But it is important to know that all the photos will be up to the standard you hoped for and match those you’ve seen on the photographer’s website. You want hundreds of beautifully captured images, edited in a way that brings them to life and works as a complete set. You don’t just want the photos that the photographer wants to feature on their blog to be the only ones that they edited properly.
One thing that changes the price point of wedding photography is “shoot and burn” photographers compared with those that provide you with fully edited images. If they are a shoot and burn photographer, they will shoot your wedding, download the images on a USB, and hand you that USB with images untouched by them. For me, the finished images should be as amazing as possible. The editing stage is a big part of what you’re actually paying for, not just the photography on the day.
After all this, it’s often your gut instinct that will make your final decision for you. Good wedding photographers will leave you excitedly wanting to share all the photos with your friends and family and mean you recommend them to anyone you hear is getting married. And maybe you’ll make a new friend in the process.
Thanks a lot to Steve for his insight. We hope this post will help you find the perfect photographer and guarantee a set of wedding photos you’ll love forever.