Thoughts on having each others backs: Lop-sided or utterly one-sided planning was a persistent culprit in our experiences of celebrations gone awry. Sure, maybe one partner really is indifferent in every way, shape and form about what goes into the celebration but peel back the layers and you’ll find that those cases are rare. So much of life and relationship are hopes and expectations. Discounting this reality is foolish. Layer on the reality that weddings seem to bring out everyone’s opinions and ideas (remember second-cousin-twice-removed Edna and your parents’ neighbors’ best friend?) and, well, it was clear to us that our best way through all the complicated or not so pleasant bits of planning a celebration was to co-create a vision and clearly support each other through the planning process. (Side note: it also seemed like great practice for… wait for it… doing life together.)
What it looked like for us: We dedicated a lot of time to creating our vision before pulling others in. We read up on marriage traditions, and threw out most. We spent several weekend mornings apart with good coffee, creating individual lists of what we each did and did not want (nothing was too small or too big – life size purple triceratops? sure, we can discuss that…). (To be clear: we weren’t mean or dismissive. Parents were consulted about their perspectives on what was necessary to honor family or faith traditions. Well intended advice from close friends and mentors was cherished.) In hindsight, our attention to this co-creation had a two-fold effect. We were better able to graciously handle conflict and we were able to provide those helping us with clear direction and useable ideas. Jay knew from the get go that we wanted dramatic landscape shots, and we had a few examples from his and others work on hand to illustrate our vision. Jodi‘s younger brothers helped construct the tables and benches used during the common meals; we had plans and pre-scouted materials ready for review and were able to complete the bulk of this project in a day. Concrete questions and ideas allowed us to lock in a rental with Cottage Bend well in advance, and save a bit too. Our ceremony reflected gratitude for the privilege of being able to easily, legally marry and readings articulating life and love wisdom.
Thoughts on prioritizing: Lack of a firm budget and prioritization to stay within that boundary was the other factor we’d seen scuttle celebrations. Agreeing on the elements we were willing to go all in for and those that could be done well enough was a massive gift to ourselves and the process.
What this looked like for us: We boiled down our “musts” to three things: great food (we hosted three common meals, one fully catered and on-site at Smith Rock), relaxed connection with people, and spectacular photography. To allow our largest line items to be working with Jay, food, and renting a cluster of cottages, we cut corners elsewhere. Jodi‘s dress (J.Crew) and Andrew’s suit (Hugo Boss) and shoes were EBay finds. Jodi did her own hair and makeup. The tables and benches were made from recycled door frames and scrap wood a la BRING recycling and renovation leftovers. We went without fresh flowers, and music, and a dance floor. We decided rings could wait. We created our own Save the Dates and sent those via email instead of post. We found inexpensive and/or second hand cutlery, plates, and glassware (and have either now re-sold or incorporated items into our day to day use). We created our own website using Squarespace. Friends and family gifted cakes, pies, and cookies for the wedding dessert. We lucked out on ceremony venue cost, but also saved by adhering to Smith Rock’s high-risk fire season requirements in order to have the reception there too. We went without a wedding planner, instead creating an “A Team” of a few close friends who handled the day-of details on our behalf.
- Carve out time to rest and check in with one another. Even if you’re pulling off a wedding with only two months prep, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Downtime, non-wedding chats, and honest conversations about how you are each being impacted by the planning and this amazing but heavy decision will go a long way in sustaining you.
- Wear comfortable shoes. I (Jodi) opted for moccasins and hiking socks. I could walk the next day and had warm feet when the temperature dropped to 45’F post-dinner. If heels are your thing, sweet! But there is no rule that says a successful wedding equals blistered, aching feet.
- Think carefully about your relationship to holding something in your hands. I (Jodi) know I am not mindful about keeping bouquets upright and so crafted a bouquet that was meant to hang. Added bonus: non-flower elements equaled unique and non-wilting.
- Unless you’re really into prepping and sleeping in, get up early, get ready in a reasonable time frame, pare down family photos and set aside several hours with your photographer. We were amazed when Jay told us how rare it was to have 3-4 hours of photo time with the bride and groom. That struck us as a missed opportunity. Most likely you will have few if any other days in your marriage when you can dress to the nines and record memory after beautiful memory.
- For outdoor weddings, scout your location. We spent an afternoon at Smith Rock in July, noting sun angles, sunset, etc. which proved critical in creating a realistic timeline of events. (Add tacos and ginger beer: instant date!)
- Scout your food. Whether professionally or friend/family provided, if you want a certain taste day of, eat it ahead of time, and be honest if it’s not what you had in mind.
- We loved incorporating readings into our ceremony, and having those shared by family and friends.
- If you have the desire and can pull it off, plan a multi-day celebration. Potlucks, giving people plenty of prep time, and lots of planning make this entirely possible.
- Think about how you plan, or if you don’t , pull people in who do. Pinterest, Google Sheets, pen and paper lists, post its. There is no right way. More important, use what you’ll actually use.
- Ultimately, create a celebration reflective of your hopes, values, and relationship. There is no “right way” to celebrate the reality that you’re choosing to do life with a person you love and respect. Make a day (or days) you both are going to enjoy planning for, participating in, and reflecting back on.
Dani and Jordan’s wedding was packed. Packed with love, joy, fun. Packed with emotion and family. Packed with so many of the things that make for a killer wedding. It’s easy to look at the surface of a wedding, through the images, and decide whether it was “a good wedding” or not. There’s an entire industry built on that idea. I’ve had the privilege of seeing hundreds of weddings, and the most important component to a great wedding has nothing to do with Pinterest, a curated look, or being on-trend. It’s not perfect weather, perfect details, or the perfect dress. It’s love. A love that is so deep that it starts to feel like the word doesn’t quite do justice to what you have. Saying love made their wedding amazing might sound trite, but sometimes a cliche is cliche because it’s true and universal. If you want everything to be as perfect as possible, make a plan and go get it! Your wedding can be anything you want it to be, just pack it with love and have fun with all of the pieces.
I’ve known these (not) kids since they were in high school. I’ve photographed both of them before, individually, and watching them grow together as a couple is a reminder of what it was like to be young and in love. It’s been over 20 years since I married my wife, over 11 since we had kids, and sometimes the early 20’s feel like another lifetime ago. One of the things I appreciate about photographing weddings is witnessing these moments that almost feel like flashbacks to my own earlier days. This isn’t meant to say that marriage is better when you’re young. Marriage is just as good, if not better, and deeper than it ever was when in my early 20’s. It’s just fun to see youthful bliss, for the same reasons that sentiment can find its way to you through a yearbook, an old song, or a movie. Nostalgia is powerful, and if you let it, it might just help you practice gratitude. High five to the kids who keep us all young.
Clouds, cows, and a lot of emotion. That’s what I remember most from this wedding, despite there being no shortage of memorable pieces. Pulling off a surprise guest for the bride, guests wheeled in on flatbeds, keg stands a plenty. If I had to choose a single image as the tentpole for this wedding, it would be the couple on hay bails in the clouds. If I was pressed to select one moment… it would be the groom, Logan, taking his hat off, tears in his eyes, as he watched Deshea walk down the aisle. All the feels. An old school classiness that you just don’t see that often. It defined this wedding for me.
That brings up a couple points I think are worth mentioning. First, if you’re a bride or groom planning a wedding, deciding between a first look and waiting for the ceremony can be tough. It’s much more practical to take portraits before the ceremony, after a first look, but that may not be the way you’ve always pictured your day. Waiting for the ceremony still holds a sentimental place in the hearts of many people. Which is right? Which is better? It really depends on what is most important to you, and the constraints you have on your time. If you don’t have 1-2 hours to spare on portraits after the ceremony, do a first look. If you have always dreamed of seeing each other for the first time down the aisle, there’s your answer. Just know that I’ve seen plenty of wedding with an emotional reaction to a first look AND walking down the aisle (ahem, this one). You won’t lose anything if you find you really need to do portraits beforehand. I really believe that.
Secondly, have the wedding that is right for you. Chateaus, forests, or hay-bails. Elopement or 500 person event. Find the thing that makes you happy, and do that thing. You can make a field classy, and you can dirty up the dancefloor of the priciest ballroom with some Ludacris. Marry the right person, plan the wedding that suits you.