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The Wedding Planning Guide




Wedding Planning

Wedding Planners are glorious, the end. Hiring a planner at the beginning can help you with your venue search, vendor search, budget and contract organization. Some planners offer partial planning, month of coordination or day of coordination services in addition to full planning.

Day of Coordination

A must! Your venue coordinator is not your planner, they work for the venue. You need someone for you, making sure your vision is brought to life, someone coordinating with your vendors and venue, someone who will handle everything behind the scenes before and on your wedding day.

Your Wedding Team

Your vendors may all be small businesses but on your wedding day we should come together to be a team, all on the same page when it comes to your wedding plans. You need to trust them. I promise when your wedding team is on the same page it makes for a phenomenal day!


Read your contracts, all of them. I know it's so much reading but contracts outline the process, terms and expectations of every client/vendor relationship. Create an email introducing all of your vendors to each other and make sure the timelines are shared so everyone knows what to expect. In general, us vendors know the ins and outs of weddings but it is best to have an open line of communication.

Alicia Wiley Photography
Alicia Wiley Photography





Have it ready for me

Your details are what I photograph when I first arrive. Have the dresses or suits hanging with all of the pins, stuffing and tags removed. Everything else should be in one spot for me to grab, it's helpful to have a bag or small box to put it all in. Please have the all the rings at the location that I will be at.


Think about getting a wooden, metal or acrylic hanger for your dresses and suits. They photograph well and are great keepsakes for years to come.

List of ideas

Here's some ideas of what to have for your details photos:

  • rings (engagement and wedding bands)

  • keepsake ring boxes

  • earrings, necklace, bracelets, watch

  • suit, socks, tie/bowtie

  • shoes, veil, hairpieces

  • perfume, cologne

  • invitations, printed pieces

  • gifts, letters

  • bouquets, loose florals/greenery

  • boutonnieres, corsages

  • lace, fabric, ribbon

  • heirloom pieces, cultural items


getting ready​




The getting ready space is just as important as your venue. Hotel rooms typically are not the greatest if they have a bed in the middle of the room. The getting ready location should be spacious and if at all possible match the vibe and look of the day. Consider an AirBnB, hotel suite, getting ready at home or a room at the venue, if they have one. Space and natural light are important for both the beauty and photo team.


I typically arrive 1 hour before the ceremony to capture details, the end of hair/makeup, candids and getting dressed. Pad your timeline in case hair/makeup runs late. It is important to not to feel rushed as it causes unnecessary stress at the beginning of the day. 


The ideal getting ready space is spacious and bright with window light. Turning on lights in the room can cause a yellow/orange tint and I prefer to having natural sunlight shining in. 

Keep it clean

Please, please, please try to keep the clutter to a minimum. I know there is a lot going on but if you can confine it to a corner or closet your photos will look so much better! Bags, beverages and clothing sprawled everywhere does not make for an amazing backdrop. 

Alicia Wiley Photography


first look​



What is it?

A first look is when you see each other before the ceremony.

when you should do one

A first look should be done if we will have no sunlight after the ceremony for formal portraits. Personally, I think it's a great way to have a private moment alone.

you'll get more photos

If you do a first look we will be able to do wedding party and family formal portraits before the ceremony. Leaving time after the ceremony for any extra or extended family photos and more of you two! 

Get into cocktail hour, woo!

Cocktail hour is reserved for formal portraits indefinitely, BUT if all your portraits are done then you get to mingle with your guests and enjoy the yummy hors d'ouerves and signature drinks you picked out! 


I wander around your venue to find the best light, I will coordinate it.






If your ceremony is outdoors, to plan it for 2 hours before sunset so that your formal portraits can be done during golden hour.


Please don't have a big microphone stand in front of you, if it has to be there then stand on the outer side of it. Have your officiant use a hand-held or lapel microphone. If your videographer has microphones then they usually attach it to you in a discreet way. 

The Kiss

When you kiss for the first time hold it and kiss twice! A quick peck can easily be missed and holding it offers different variety of photos of your first kiss. Meet half way to avoid scrunched necks. Throw in an extra kiss before you exit the aisle too!


A really amazing way to exit your ceremony is with biodegradable confetti or flower petals. If you're having a night ceremony consider glow sticks!


I'll be honest, the phones in the air and blocking the aisle will happen, your family and friends are going to take photos. If this is a hard nope for you then consider a sign and having the officiant make an announcement for an unplugged ceremony.

Have guests sit down

Seasoned officiants usually know to tell guests to sit back down when the ceremony is about to begin....but not all of them remember so there's this awkward time where everyone is looking around wondering what to do.

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cocktail hour​



Are you attending?

Unless you do a first look this time is exclusively carved out for all your formal portraits. I agree that it would be amazing to attend cocktail hour to mingle with your guests BUT your reception is the longest part of the day and you will party with them then! You want your portraits, trust me, you want them. We can work fast to get you in to cocktail but your photos are very important.

Reception Details

If we plan the timing right and get you into cocktail hour then I use this small window to photograph your reception setup completely untouched!

Photo Booths

I know photo booths are typically setup during the reception but cocktail hour is a great time for your guests to enjoy it too! Book yours here.

Stuff to do

Aside from the usual drinking, eating and mingling you can give your guests some fun activities, games or entertainment during this time.


formal portraits: family + wedding party



If you can coordinate everyone before the ceremony, this in an option for having more cocktail hour time. Gathering after the ceremony can be time consuming so consider creating an email with all family and wedding party explaining the timeline and expectations.


It takes about 20-30 minutes for these photos. I cannot stress this enough: YOU WANT THESE PHOTOS. Please do not skimp on your formal portrait time, it is usually the shortest time of the day and the photos that are treasured most for lifetimes, you want these photos. 

The List

I provide a portrait list of standard groupings and I have you review it on your timeline before the wedding to make changes if needed because everyone has a different family dynamic. I encourage you to keep it simple and add names, being able to call out the names of people in each grouping makes a world of difference :)

Ask for help

This can be a lot of people to herd, ask someone to be the designated 'people gatherer'. Make sure they are someone who knows everyone on both sides. My typical portrait list includes parents, siblings and grandparents. If you want photos with whole sides of the family adjust for more time and we should do them first! This way extended family can head into cocktail hour and immediate family sticks around. 

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Alicia Wiley Photography


couple portraits




If you want to do a First Look set aside 15-20 minutes for this. I will capture your reactions to seeing each other and then you can have a few minutes alone together.


After the wedding party and family portraits we need around 15-30 minutes to get the good stuff, I'll be directing you for poses. Ideally this would be sunset but is dependent on your wedding timeline.



Night portraits! About 15-30 minutes before my coverage ends I like to step out and take photos using a flash setup. It creates dreamy and cool portraits! 


How to make it amazing

I do everything in my power to create amazing portraits. Give me at least 30 minutes during golden hour or enough time to setup lighting for night/indoor photos and yes you will get those bomb ass photos you see in my portfolio. I am not here to take over your wedding day and make photos the center of attention but you are also hiring me for a reason and I want you to have the best photography experience.






While there is a general timeline for receptions, it is flexible unlike the rest of the day so you can finally relax and unwind! Remember, wedding photography in itself is 80% candid and the reception does have formalities but this is generally the most candid part of the day!

photo ideas

Take portraits with any decor displays (seating arrangement, entertainment, photo booth, head table, etc.)


Dinner is supposed to be an enjoyable time to eat + converse. Nobody wants to be photographed while they are eating and I do not photograph people eating. This is downtime to catch out breathe, run to the bathroom,  hydrate, change batteries + memory cards and prep lighting for the reception events. For timing purposes, the best time for your whole vendor team to be served their vendor meal is when you are served so no time is wasted.



It is time to party! The dance floor is one of the most fun times of the day and I love getting on the floor with everyone to capture those flawless dance moves. A great way to get photos with all of your guests who don't make it onto the dance floor is to go around to each table for a group photo.

Alicia Wiley Photography
Alicia Wiley Photography_0210.jpg


lighting tips


Indoors & Outdoors

I am seasoned in shooting in any lighting situation. I work with a flash setup indoors, no need to worry about dark spaces. Keep in mind that a daytime wedding in bright sunlight is going to look different than an evening wedding in softer sunlight. 


Sunset is usually around 7:30pm making 5-6pm the ideal ceremony start time to get the great golden sunlight for portraits. 


I live for the long days but they usually last until about 9pm so that often means some hot harsh light for your outdoor ceremony and formal portraits. Be prepared to sweat through expensive clothing.


This can go one of two ways, before daylights savings there will still be bright lush greenery outside and sunset around 7:30pm again, but after daylights savings the leaves have changed to their Autumn gloriousness and the sun goes down around 4:45pm.


It's darker, it's colder. The trees are bare, it's usually cloudy and the sun goes down around 4pm. Plan for most, if not all, photos to be done indoors. I love to brave the cold for photos if you are down.

Night Portraits or Exit

Night portraits are some extra couples portrait we can do outside with a flash setup. It takes around 10-15 minutes. This is a great time to pop some bubbly, grab umbrellas if it is raining or even include your wedding party. Fun ways to exit your wedding is to give your guests something to hold or throw on queue. Ideas: Sparklers, glow sticks, LED balloons, biodegradable confetti, streamers, light sabers, bubbles, flower petals or cut up greenery.

tips + things to remember


Advice + Tips

Any advice or tips you read on the internet or social media is a combination of  personal experience, personal preferences and personal opinions. With that said, this guide is from my experience photographing 300+ weddings and what I think is helpful to achieve the photographs you see in my portfolio.


The reason for it all

It's easy to get lost in wedding planning, color palettes, details and design elements. So much goes into a wedding from the fonts on invitations to the food you eat, it's a lot. Your wedding should be scheduled around your ceremony. Think about it...this is the first time all of your guests see you, this is your commitment to marriage, this is the center of your wedding. 

First Look

If you do choose to do a first look keep three things in mind: lighting, location and being done at least 30 minutes before the ceremony so nobody sees you. Bonus! You get almost double the photos.

Travel Time + Timelines

Coverage is consecutive. Factor travel time into your day if your getting ready, ceremony or reception locations differ. Consider traffic and delays as well. I am chill about things running behind but I watch the clock for 2 reasons: 1. light, I stalk the sun and weather, 2. because there are so many vendors and elements that make up your wedding day. Everyone has a job to do and running really late affects everyone in attendance. 

You want these photos 

If you are a person that does not like being photographed, remember this: your portraits are just one hour out of the whole day and then there is hours of reception time to party. After the day is over you have gorgeous photos for the rest of your life to print and share with family + friends. The day will go by quicker than you think and it can sometimes be a blur, so in the moment you may want to decline certain things suggested to you but: 

Your wedding attire will get dirty

Accept it and embrace it. If it touches the ground it will drag across any floor or the ground. Avoiding spills pre-ceremony is a priority but once the party starts....just factor a cleaning into your budget because worrying is an unnecessary stress. Have fun!

Making it happen

I provide direction when needed but my goal is to photograph your day as it unfolds. I cannot photograph what is not there and what is not provided for me. I capture what is in front of me and work around whatever circumstances, lighting situation or cooperation I am given. No two weddings are alike, each unique, as they should be. 

Fun Ideas

add a fun twist + unique details for an epic party! 

  • clear tents

  • open air receptions

  • greenhouses

  • industrial buildings

  • neon signs

  • fringe backdrops

  • floral backdrops

  • macrame backdrops

  • balloon installation

  • wedding maps

  • live paintings

  • jumpsuits

  • colorful veils

  • ombré dresses + veils

  • capes + cape veils

  • food trucks

  • floral ice cubes

  • smore's bar

  • doughnut bar

  • disco balls

  • furniture rentals

  • piano bar

  • custom illustrations

  • signs with clever puns

  • leather/denim jackets

  • sequin suits

  • colorful suits

  • floral suits & ties

  • statement earrings

  • bold lip colors

  • mix-match wedding party attire

  • floral gorgeousness: ranunculus, anemones, thistle, dahlias, ferns, monstera, palms, pampas grass, dried florals, craspedia, anthurium, campanula bells, toffee roses, protea

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