I don’t talk about this often, but I’m a professional wedding photographer. I started photographing my friend’s senior photos and local weddings in high school and evolved my business to support myself through college. Photography by Kara Harms is just a side business now, but I still end up going to more weddings each year than most people do in a lifetime. That’s why I was so freaking happy to attend Robin’s sister’s wedding back home in Madison as a guest, not as a photographer (photo of us below). It was so refreshing to actually relax at a wedding!
Because I have so much wedding tips stored up here (I just tapped my head), I paired up with wedding blogger Marquita aka The Pretty Brown Bride to answer some common wedding questions for all engaged ladies! Marquita is an amazing wedding blogger based out of DC and you should go check her out after this post!
Wedding questions answered by Kara and Marquita.
Q. You’ve seen a lot of different types of weddings, so what is your personal favorite wedding style?
Kara: Great question. I love weddings that are a party. Whenever family and friends ask me for wedding tips this is the first thing I say. Too many people are focused on themselves when planning a wedding, which ok since hey, it’s YOUR wedding, but you can’t ignore the guests. These people take off work, sometimes travel long distances to celebrate with you. Help them be able to celebrate.
Marquita: Kara, I agree! I believe that the best weddings are the ones that are beneficial to everyone! I think that although a wedding is a reflection of the couple, couples should considered their guests more when deciding on a venue, food, music, and decor. Weddings are way more memorable when everyone has a great time!
Q. Open bar, yay or nay?
K: YAY! Hands-down yay. The most awkward, uncomfortable weddings I’ve seen are the ones without the booze flowing. It helps all the distant relatives who may not know each other well to loosen up, dance and have a good time.
M: I love an open bar! Cash bars are a NO NO! Open bars are a special treat for the guests. It allows guests to unwind and have a great time!
Q. Kara, you’re a wedding photographer. What do you wish all couples knew when planning the photo portion of the day?
K: Think about the light! If your church or reception venue is dark, your photos aren’t going to turn out as well. Hate to break it to you, but there really is so much a photographer can do to bring in light, especially since many churches don’t allow flash during the wedding ceremony. When you’re booking venues, take note of the light. Warn your photographer if a venue is a bit dark and if windows are available, let the venue staff know ahead of time that you want the blinds opened. And be prepared to take photos outside. Little things like that will go a long way to ensure beautiful photos.
Q. What’s the best wedding favor to give?
K: My personal favorite was when the bride and groom gave out mini alcohol bottles wrapped up with a shot glass. The groom’s was whiskey and the bride’s was cupcake vodka. It’s my favorite since it’s something guests will actually be happy to use and is pretty cheap/easy to put together for the couple.
M: I think that my favorite wedding favor is a heart shaped corkscrew. I think this favor idea is practical and fun!
K: Oh, I love that Idea!
Q: There ceremony – indoors or outdoors?
K: I just love outdoor ceremonies, especially if they’re in the garden or have a pretty backdrop. Makes for really great photos! Just make sure the ceremony is in the shade so you and your guests don’t get too hot.
M: I love the natural decor and ambience of an outdoor ceremony. Outdoor ceremonies can be very pretty considering they come with their own lighting and a scenic background. If brides choose the perfect outdoor setting, they can slice their decor budget in half.
K: I never thought of it that way, but you’re totally right. All you need is chairs, flowers and a nice alter or arch and you’re set.
Q: The reception – indoors or outdoors?
K: I think outdoor receptions can be just beautiful, but it’s also risky and hard to plan. What if it rains? Are there any power outlets to plug in lights or the DJ stand? Will there be bathrooms? If you go outdoors, make sure to rent a tent!
M: Kara, I agree with you ! Outdoor receptions definitely have to come with a plan b.
Q: Marquita, how soon before the ceremony should you do hair and makeup?
M: I think that brides should deep condition or color a week before the wedding. As for the wedding day, your hair should be done three hours before ceremony. This leaves time for any pre-wedding photos.
Q: So, you’ve got a family who likes to voice their unwanted opinions about your wedding planning. What are some tips for handling the future in laws?
M: Great question! This is an issue that definitely will arise. I find that controlling the wedding details is the best approach. Discuss with them what you want to discuss. Redirect their questions to areas you don’t mind discussing. You can keep your in-laws busy by giving them a task, they will be so focused on that task that they will forget all about your other wedding details!
K: I agree on that task tip! I’ve seen couple give tasks to family members during the day, too (maybe for this reason). If you have a busy-body mother in-law, put her in charge of decorations or be the photographer’s buddy to round people up for photos.
Q: Cake or cupcakes for dessert?
K: I personally really love cupcakes. Not everyone likes the same type of cake, but with cupcakes you can have a few different flavors. Plus, I know I’m not the only one who hates waiting for the cake to be cut and served!
M: I like them both! As long as it tastes yummy, I don’t mind. However, I will say that cupcakes are a less messier option for a bride and groom when it comes time to cut the cake.
Q: If you have a limited budget, what are the most important thing to spend big on?
K: A good photographer! They’re usually more pricey, but are worth every penny.
M: A photographer, I always say this is your most important vendor. Without them, it’s almost as if the wedding never happened.
Q: No camera or cell phone policy for wedding guests at weddings- Yay or Nay?
M: Nay!!!!!! I have been a guest at a wedding and hated this policy, I understand the sentiment. I understand that couples would like to control the images that are posted on social media, but it can be a inconvenience to guests. What is the point of being a guest at a wedding if you can’t take photos? Guests are essentially walking away with no physical memories of the wedding.
K: As a photographer, I vote no on cell phones during the ceremony. I can’t tell you how many shots of the ceremony have been ruined because people step out into the aisle to take a photo and block my view, etc. I also hate being at the end of the aisle and looking down to see half the people watching the ceremony through their phones. Put them down for this part! Phones during the reception are totally fair game, though.
Q: DIY weddings – yay or nay?
M: Yay, I think that DIY weddings can be great , it all depends on the couple. If the couple has the time, patience, knowledge, and creativity, they can plan an amazing wedding. However, I think that the DIY planning should not extend to vendors. Some vendors, like photographers, are priceless and their job should not be left to amateurs.
K: Oh, totally. Don’t rope your friend into taking your photos just because they have a nice camera. You wouldn’t want me giving your a haircut just because I own a pair of scissors.
Q: What is your favorite style of wedding photography?
K: Same! The candid shots are my favorite to take.
Q: Why is a photographer considered to be one of the most important vendors on your wedding day?
K: Because we’re the ones that are by your side throughout the day! I see the bride’s happy tears as she’s getting ready with the gals, I sometimes even help zip her into her dress. I tell your husband how beautiful you look as I’m photographing him buttoning his jacket up. I carry your flowers between locations and learn your wedding party’s name. This could go on and on, but you get the idea and you get that your florist doesn’t do this. The photographer is going to be where you are, capturing the most important candid moments of your day. Invest in these guys.
M: Photographers capture your very intimate moments that you will treasure forever.
Q: Bridal party- large or small?
M: I love a party and a crowd, so I am fan of the large bridal party!
K: Yeah totally, the more people celebrating with you, the better! I was recently on “the inside” for the first time at my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding. The entire weekend was so much fun because we all could just hang out with the wedding party and, well, party together.
Q: Destination weddings- yay or nay?
M: Yay and Nay. I love the concept and beauty of a destination wedding. But, I think that there is so much to consider. Due to the time and cost, destination weddings can be burdensome to wedding guests. I think the best destination weddings are the ones that are fun and affordable to the wedding guests.
K: Again, think about your guests! When Robin and I get married, we’ll probably have to have the wedding in Wisconsin, where we are both from, since there’s no way that our families will want to all fly out to San Francisco. Although I love the idea of a winter wedding in Napa Valley, I have to be realistic.
Q: How long is too long for a photography break at a wedding?
M: Great question! I hate a long break in between the ceremony and reception. I once waited 3 hours for a break! I think that a break should be no more than 1 hour and during that time there should be something to entertain the guests like a cocktail hour, a performer, or icebreaker games.
K: This drives me nuts when a couple tells me they have a 2-3 hour cocktail “hour” during for photos. What are the guests going to do? What am I going to do for 3 hours in one location with you? I agree that an hour is enough. Even better yet, plan to take group photos either before the ceremony, or at the reception area to have more condensed timeline. The ceremony should flow right into the cocktails which should flow right into the reception.
Q: Last question: what’s your favorite wedding color and/or theme?
K: I adore pastels in weddings – pink, cream, light blue, etc. This combo is timeless and the flowers are stunning.