The five most important things to consider for your wedding


Ok, Ok- Maybe I really mean, “The five most important things to consider for your wedding photography”, but let’s be honest for a second- Your wedding photography is how you’re going to ultimately remember your wedding day, so if you don’t consider these five things, it will affect how you view the day in the future. You can plan an absolutely wonderful wedding that everyone will rave about, but if YOU don’t ultimately soak up the moments and feels like a sponge, lock them in your mental vault, and recount them daily, time will erode the details of the day little by little. “But Nathan, I have a memory like a steel trap. I’ll absolutely remember everything, and besides, everyone else will be taking cell phone pictures of the day”. I can speak from experience- When I got married a little over 10 years ago, I though I would remember the day perfectly as well. Folks, it flies by. For real. It is impossible to soak it all up, and let me tell you, most of the cell phone pictures people are going to be taking on your wedding day are going to be selfies. Can you say duck face?

Now let me back up for a second here. I want to get a few things out in the open so that you’re not wasting your time over the next few minutes thinking I am trying to pull the wool over your eyes or sell you something. After you read this, you’re not going to hear some bush league pitch as to why you need to contact me asap to book us for your wedding because of this reason or that reason. I’m not going to tell you that I am the only photographer that meets your wants and needs. Frankly, I may not be and I’m not going to try to earn your business if we aren’t a good fit anyway. There are tons of fantastic local photographers that will do an exceptional job for your wedding, and I want nothing more than for you to find the perfect fit for you. I want to shoot straight with you  before we get into the meat (or the tofu if you’re into that) of things. Who you pick to photograph your wedding is likely going to be one of  your biggest decisions, and possibly biggest regret, from your day. You’re going to be in one of three categories after you get your wedding pictures; 1) “Holy cow! These are so incredibly bad. What in the world was I thinking booking that photographer?!?!” 2)“Ehh, I guess they’re Ok. I’ll check them out again in a year and hope they help me relive the day.”, 3)*jaw hits floor* “I don’t have enough walls in my house for all of these pictures. I can’t stop looking at them!” Which category do you want to be in?

A month or so ago, Christelle and I were celebrating our 10 year anniversary in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Because I absolutely love what I do for work, I don’t “need” vacations like some do. Yeah, it’s great to sit beachside (in the shade- don’t want to get my lobster on), with a drink and book in hand… But then 10 minutes later, I am daydreaming about getting back in the studio and how I can take Nathan Desch Photography to the next level. I have a pretty effective system in place in order to serve my couples, but with anything, there are blind spots. While on the beach, I had a minor panic for a few seconds, “What if there is something I am doing that is a complete turnoff to my couples. What if there is a wrench somewhere in my process of finding couples, meeting with them, prepping for their day, shooting their day, editing, and delivery that is preventing me from growing the brand? What blind spots do I have?” I had to know. A lightbulb went off in my head– *I need to send out an extensive survey to couples from the last several years*. I wanted to know some basic yes/no things from their day and make sure we were exceeding expectations on those fronts, but more importantly, I wanted to have them look at their wedding and the process of planning in retrospect, to glean from them what I could process, improve on, and change for the better. Some things were as I assumed, while some other things I found really interesting and became part of what I am about to share with you. There were some clear trends that I really think you’ll benefit from.

 This list is designed to help you determine what your priorities are for your wedding, how to select a photographer that will best capture the day, and help you avoid the “I wish I would’a…” feelings. Here we go.

1. Planning a wedding is a lot like buying a house.

First time home buyers have this strange panic that comes over them when they decide to hit the market to buy a house. Initially, they think it is a simple process where they just hit up Zillow, find a house that they think they can afford, call up a realtor and make an offer. Maybe for some, that is the case. But for many others, who, you know, have to get a mortgage and stuff, the process is a little more complex. It involves deciding which realtor to go with, which lender/broker to choose, what your actual budget is and what you can actually get a loan for, school districts, taxes, up-front cash, etc etc. Thats all in addition to getting your financials together for the lender and all of the paperwork that you need to sign. And we haven’t even begun looking at houses yet. We have to go through this process when buying a house because most of us aren’t throwing down $300k in cold hard cash- we need to go through the process. With all of these decisions, you have voices in your ear saying “My brother is a realtor- use him”, “John’s sister works at XYZ bank, check them out”, “Move into my neighborhood, there is an awesome rancher at the end of the road”… On and on it goes and frankly, it becomes overwhelming. You need to tune out the noise at times and talk about what YOU want. You are the one who lives with the decisions you are making so make them wisely. Eventually, you find your house, and if you didn’t settle on your standards along the way, you’re thrilled. That is much better that the alternative. Weddings are similar in that it’s the first time you’re going through the process of planning. Everyone has an opinion on what you should do, and while some may be valuable and worth listening to, it can become incredible overwhelming if you’re trying to please everyone. As soon as you’re engaged and start to think about setting a date, get together for a little while and brainstorm about what is actually important to you both. What parts of the day mean the most to you? Are there non-negotiables? How many people do you want at the wedding? Answering some of these questions early will help shape how you approach the planning and decision making process. The list of questions to ask yourself isn’t fixed and is more than likely completely unique to you. It is YOUR wedding. Don’t rush into decisions that you don’t want to make because someone else said you should. Figure out what YOU want, and go from there.

2. Make a list and check it twice, because, you know, timing.

Confused? Let me explain. This sorta piggybacks off of the 1st item. Writing down your ideas and scenarios can really help to get organized and stay on track. Many couples find that certain parts of the day get a lot of mental planning resources, while other parts are completely forgotten about. You will have a lot more fun in the planning process if you stay on top of your game. Some things to consider very early on in planning are determining how many people you want at the wedding and the type of location you’re looking for. This affects more of the day than you realize so let me deconstruct it a bit. The more people you have, the more mouths you have to feed, the more chairs you have to rent, the bigger the venue you need, the more favors you need to make, etc etc etc. I am very pro having people at your wedding obviously, but start by making tiers of people in order of importance and then determine where the cutoff is. Keep in mind that each person you invite, you’ll likely want to connect with them at some point on the day. Likewise, the location of your wedding is a major decision also. If you are having hair and makeup done at one location, getting dressed somewhere else, heading to the church, somewhere else for pictures, and then going to the venue for the reception, you’re going to spend way more time in a vehicle than you want to. Increasingly more of our couples are planning weddings that happen at one location start to finish for that very reason. In fact, over half of our couples who responded to the survey I mentioned earlier fell into this category. Time is one of the currencies you’re dealing with on your wedding day and that part is fixed. Having a huge budget isn’t going to buy you extra hours in the day, so making sure to plan properly is absolutely key. When meeting with vendors, specifically the ones who are with you the entire day, ask them how they handle timing for the day and how much they need from you. This is another question that doesn’t have an absolute right response. Some may say that they require you to have a first look and give them several hours for pictures. If that works for you and everything else is how you want it, go for it. Some might say they don’t do any formal pictures, so they’ll just be a fly on the wall throughout the day… If that works for you, great. What you don’t want to happen though is to be in a situation where in order to get the results you want, you have to give up more time than you’re willing to. This is why asking questions and finding out what the vendor’s wedding day workflow looks like is key. Find the ones whose style and approach fit what you are going for. The flow and timing of your day will play a big part in how enjoyable it is for you. Think about the things that will take up your time.

3. Try the cake, hear the band, and for heaven’s sake, have an engagement session.

Can you imaging planning a wedding where you have your closest friends and family in attendance celebrating with you? You tie the knot and it’s time to move into the reception to start eating and dancing, and in that moment, you realize the band you hired is incredibly awful, the food was cooked at 9am and has been sitting in a hotbox for 11 hours and tastes like rubber, and the cake looks and tastes like it was made in an easy-bake-oven. Those are the things wedding planning nightmares are made of. I’ll bet you dollars for donuts that you tried the cake, went to a catering tasting event, and at least heard the entertainment a bit before the big day, yet roughly half of our couples who responded to the survey didn’t have an engagement session. I tell this to all of the couples I meet with in the studio: The single most important thing you can do for your wedding photography is have an engagement session. Want to know why? Because having a couple photographers following you around on your wedding day, where all of the eyes are already on you, is a bit odd at first- Especially if you’re not the biggest fan of having your picture taken. Listen, I’m right there with you- I hate having my picture taken. I resist it every year when it’s time to do family pictures, much to my wife’s chagrin. But guess what, the more you do it, the better it gets. After you narrow down your selection of photographers and find the perfect fit for you, spending a few hours with them and their process, and getting to know them a bit will melt wedding day picture jitters like a hot knife through butter. “But Nathan, what if we have an engagement session, hate the images, and think our photographer is obnoxious?”…well, you just saved yourself a lot of frustration and headache for your wedding. I know a lot of photographers- I don’t know of any that if they knew their couple had a terrible experience with them, and hated the images, the photographer wouldn’t bend over backwards to make it right. In some extreme situations, that might mean letting the couple out of their contract. Hopefully that isn’t the case, but by not having an engagement session, you’re leaving a lot up to chance. Most wedding photographers work for themselves and aiming to please their couples is their top priority. If you’re engagement session leaves you with concerns, use it as an opportunity to talk about what specifically you are and are not looking for. More than likely though, you’re going to come away from the session with images you absolutely love, have confidence in the process your photographer has, and be all the more excited for your wedding pictures. In 10 years of shooting weddings, I haven’t had a couple who regretted their decision to have an engagement session.

4. Paula, puppies, pies, and peach trees.

“What in the world are you talking about Nathan?!” Let me explain. In our survey to past couples, one of the things I asked couples to share feedback about had to do with things that they wish I would have known before the wedding. You know, the type of things that they didn’t think of communicating/I didn’t ask about/etc. The overwhelming response I got had to do with specific people, things, locations, etc that were important to them, but weren’t necessarily part of our regular shooting flow. You see, after having shot 275 weddings give or take, I’ve developed a regular flow for how I capture things. It is a way for me to keep a mental inventory of what I need to shoot and what I have already gotten. Every single wedding is unique, and we treat them as such, but each and every one of them has some similar dynamics; prep, ceremony, family/bridal party/bride and groom shots, and reception… You get the picture. Sometimes there are situations and circumstances that are meaningful to the couple, but as an outside observer, I have no way to know it. Now don’t take this as a permission slip to hand your photographer a list of 782 “must have shots”. Rather, communicate ahead of time if there are some specific things you want coverage of that are not standard wedding shots we do at every wedding. For example, your friend Paula who traveled from out of the country to be there, special puppy decor because you love to volunteer at the local shelter or locations that have sentimental value, like the peach grove that reminds you of your grandma’s famous pie recipe. I think you get the idea. Some of these things we’ll get naturally, but we’d rather play it safe and have you communicate with us regarding these things. Any photographer worth their salt is going to get shots of the dress, prep, first kiss, etc etc etc, but without being told, we may miss over a special person, item, or feature that we don’t know has meaning to you. When you fill out your photographer’s questionnaire, make sure to think of these things.

5. If you hate your wedding vendors, it’s going to be a loooong day.

The wedding industry cracks me up a little bit. There are a ton of venues, gazillions of photographers, bajillions of caterers, zillions of florists, and a dime-a-dozen DJs. Most of them do a great job and are going to make most of their couples happy on the wedding day. Some though are just out to make a quick buck. I know some “florists” that hit up Costco’s flower department on the day of the wedding, “photographers” who just got an entry level camera from Walmart at Christmas, and “DJs” who show up with a laptop and sound bar for their weddings. You don’t want to hire someone that is just getting their feet wet in the industry and is using your wedding as practice. I think that is pretty straightforward. There is a sneakier culprit that can make your wedding vendor selection equally regrettable. That is if you happen to book someone that annoys you, doesn’t respond to emails, rubs you the wrong way, and/or is super uptight. It is going to drive you nuts from now until after your wedding and make you regret the day you booked them. When I get together with couples and we’re getting to know each other a bit, there is a lot of back and fourth questions being asked. “How did you meet?”… “How long have you been a wedding photographer?”… “Tell me what your dream wedding looks like?”… “Talk with us about your typical timeline/workflow”… Some of it is smalltalk to get a feel for each other, but I think more of it is analyzing whether or not you want to spend the next several months or a year talking and working with this person/these people, and then spending an entire wedding day with them. Take time to meet your prospective vendors in person to make sure you hit it off. Sometimes meeting can’t be in person, but take advantage of Skype or FaceTime to connect. Just having email contact may be ok for some things, but for your photographer, DJ/band, cinematographer, and coordinator, you really want to have a connection with them. I met with a groom a couple weeks ago at the studio and after a little while, I asked him where he was at in the planning process and he told me that his fiancé and him had already decided they wanted to move forward with us, but that he just wanted to meet in person to confirm I wasn’t a “weirdo”. I get it. If you get to the point where you find a vendor whose work you like, is within your budget, and is available for your date, but after meeting with them, you don’t connect or want to be around them for 12 or more hours, you likely want to keep searching. Last year, one of my brides was on Facebook and began a rant about one of her vendors. She was irritated and needed to blow some steam. I shot her a message to see if there was anything I could do to help and she informed me that her caterer was being incredibly difficult to work with and was making the planning process no fun. People: Hear me on this one- The wedding planning process, from the earliest stages of talking about marriage with your significant other, your engagement, through planning, all the way to the wedding, is supposed to be a blast. If it is zero fun, you need to step back for a second and figure out why. If there is a vendor that you realize you hate working with, address it. Better yet though, don’t book them to begin with. It’s not worth the headache and hassle. Remember, there are an infinite number of vendors you can work with and I promise you, you’ll be able to find the ones that fit you like a glove.


In one, five, ten, or twenty-five years from now, do you want to look back on your wedding day with vivid detail, vibrant emotion, and without a loss of memory from the day? Of course you do. Take time to plan your day with these five tips in mind and you’ll set up your day to be a major success. They’ll help you set your priorities, schedule your day, and pick vendors you’ll love working with. In turn, you’ll love your images and get to relive the day over and over again recounting how awesome your wedding truly was.

Wherever you are in your planning process, it isn’t too late to right the ship and refocus your planning to set yourself up to have the wedding of your dreams. As always, if you have any questions or need some extra insight, we’re always here to help.