Wedding Planning 201: Book the Big Two!

Welcome to Part 2 of my January series all about wedding planning! If you missed part one, you can find it here. I’d definitely recommend reading that one first!

Today we’re going to talk about where to start when planning your wedding- what I like to call the Big Two. Wedding planning can be overwhelming because there are so many tiny details to think about, but it’s easy to get caught up in the details without first completing the Big Two! However, I promise you that once you’ve booked your Big Two, you will feel so much more relaxed and all the smaller things will begin to fall into place. So….. what are the Big Two?!?

1. Book your VENUE.

2. Book your PHOTOGRAPHER.

And a free piece of advice: Don’t arbitrarily pick a wedding day without booking your Big Two.

When most couples get engaged, they already have an idea of about when they want to tie the knot. So, chances are you probably know whether you want a spring wedding vs. a fall wedding, or a six month engagement vs. a year long engagement. But unless you’re dealing with special circumstances, you have an open window of at least a month or two full of potential wedding dates. I happen to believe that your choice of venue/photographer has a much bigger impact on your wedding than the actual date you choose. So decide the time frame you want… and then begin the search for your Big Two!

The venue and the photographer are most likely going to be the items with the two biggest price tags, and not to mention that your venue and photographer will set the entire tone for your wedding day. If you have a dream venue or a dream photographer, find out which days they have open and snatch them up! 🙂

Tips to Remember when Venue Hunting:

1. Ask about Fridays! Most couples assume they will get married on a Saturday, but for some couples, Friday weddings are perfect! Many venues offer cheaper rental rates for weekdays.

2. The devil is in the details! A venue may seem extremely affordable on the surface, but they may include only the space and leave you on the hook for setup, teardown, and even rental fees for tables and chairs! On the flip side, a venue may look way too pricy but actually include everything you could ever want. If your budget allows, I would recommend choosing a venue that has staff who will take care of most of the details for you. Your families will appreciate being able to actually enjoy your wedding day, instead of spending all day working!

3. If you’re planning on having your ceremony and reception at the same location, make sure you ask the venue coordinator potential locations and clarify any extra costs. Some venues charge per space, so if you’re going to be using the patio for the ceremony and the banquet hall for the reception, your venue cost may double.

4. Have a rough estimate of how many guests will be in attendance. You may find a venue you love, but it only seats 100 guests and you’re expecting to have 300. Plan accordingly!

5. Consider the time of year your wedding will be. You might visit a gorgeous outdoor location in June, but if your wedding is planned for October, take into consideration that it may be much colder and will be getting darker much earlier.

Tips to Remember for hiring your Photographer:


1. Hire the best photographer you can afford. I really can’t say this enough times! There are lots of places where you can cut corners to save a few pennies… but please, please don’t compromise when choosing a wedding photographer. When the wedding day is over, you will walk away with a wedding band, a new husband or wife, and some photos. That’s it! Hire a photographer you can trust to deliver images you will LOVE, that will provide you with gorgeous images of those little details that you spent so much time perfecting! A great photographer can make even a low-budget wedding look amazing, but unfortunately the opposite is also true. An inexperienced photographer will make even the most luxurious, high-budget wedding look cheaper than it really was.

2. Find a photographer who you want to be friends with. Really! On your wedding day, you will probably spend more time with your photographer than with your husband-to-be. They will be there from the beginning to the end, capturing each moment, telling you how to stand and where to go, gently reminding you during the reception that it’s time to cut the cake. A great photographer will be your biggest ally on your wedding day! They will tell you if you have lipstick on your teeth, fluff your dress to perfection, and run to find the toss bouquet if it’s gone missing. They will treat your family like their family. A great photographer will make your day flow like a dream.

3. When reviewing wedding package options with your potential photographer, don’t just automatically pick the cheapest one. It can be tempting, trust me, I’ve been there! When you’re already overwhelmed at the size of the check you are about to write, it’s easy to just choose the package with the smallest number next to it. Instead, ask your photographer to clarify what the different options include. I always recommend booking coverage for at least eight hours, and purchasing a package that includes high res digital images. Both of these are included in every Michelle Joy wedding collection option, because from my experience, I know that I don’t want any of my couples to do without! Too few hours of coverage can create stress because it squishes too much into a smaller time frame, and since we’re living in the digital age, every bride wants digital copies of their images. Make sure your photographer provides both of these options!

4. Check out the photographer’s portfolio and make sure their style matches yours. Editing styles vary immensely, from extremely light/bright to dark and full of contrast. Just because a photographer is popular or falls within your price range doesn’t mean they are necessarily right for you! Find a photographer whose images you can’t stop staring at, because you love how they look every single time.

I hope this has been helpful! So to all you brides who are recently engaged and feeling overwhelmed with the wedding planning… divide and conquer! Book your Big Two. Find a date that your dream venue and photographer and both available, make your deposits, and then breathe a huge sigh of relief. You’re well on your way to planning the wedding of your dreams!

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