The Six Month Engagement

As the average age of today’s bride creeps up, the length of engagement seems to be shrinking at the same rate.  Increasingly, I find myself working with couples who are planning a 10, six or even four month engagement.

And it’s totally possible, y’all. I did it, with little to no wedding planning experience (my husband I married shortly before I immersed myself in the wedding industry), and you can as well.

When directed to helpful wedding websites and blogs for a “planning timeline” the bride is faced with the usual 12-18 month planning spreadsheet. Well, that’s an awesome way to start things off… 6 months or more behind.  What a great way to spend your engagement – just catching up.

Endless blog posts scream how you can still “pull off” a “short” engagement… and “overcome” a “whirlwind” timeline. Talk about creating panic in the heart of a new bride!

Let’s look at the pros and cons of a shorter engagement, instead of focusing on how “behind” you will be if you choose this route. Continue reading


Offers of Help

Let me level with you -wedding planning is no easy task.  Whether you are planning a gala style dinner for 500 or an intimate backyard wedding for 50, or even a tiny celebration for 12, pulling together all the details is quite an undertaking.

If you are lucky enough to have a supportive family and tight knit group of friends, offers for help will start pouring in.

Your Aunt wants to make your four tiered cake (her cupcakes at Jakey’s third birthday were pretty cute after all..)

Your college-attending,  party animal of a sister wants to host your bridal shower and your bachelorette party.

Dad wants to make your ceremony arch (he took woodshop in high school).

Your bestie wants to help with your invitations. She does have great handwriting, after all.

And so on.

If you find yourself blessed enough to have offers of help, you want to say yes! As a new bride, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings (even though the previously mentioned Aunt has only made one baked good that was worth eating… everything else seemed better for using as ammunition against an impending Zombie attack.)

piontrest fail.jpg

So what’s a girl to do?

Be honest. Be thoughtful. And be humble.

Let’s talk about honesty.  Sure, your cash strapped sister might have all the good intentions, but should you task her with the responsibility of your Breakfast at Tiffany’s themed Bridal Shower and Girls Gone Wild stag night? Here is where you can accept part of what is being offered, but delegate the rest.  Sisters know many of your family and girlfriends, so what better person to help you set up the invite list and to plan the stag night, instead of taking on the entire cost and planning that goes into both events.   Here is where you can use the, “I don’t want you to take on so much, both time-wise and finance-wise” line.  It allows you to be honest, but hopefully not hurt her feelings.

crooked ceremony arch.jpg

Be thoughtful.  Dad wants to make you a ceremony arch, but you were hoping for a rustic door backdrop at your wedding ceremony.  Take a look at what Dad is really saying – I want to create something with my hands, to frame you while you declare your love and loyalty to the man that will replace many of my duties as your father. swoon Can you incorporate his idea? Maybe have your rustic doors behind your sweetheart table instead? Think of the pride he will feel, walking you down the aisle, seeing you, in all your beauty, surrounded by love and the beautiful, albeit slightly crooked, arch that he made with his own hands.

And you also need to be humble.  The task of wedding invitations, for example, is a pain in the ass.  Collecting names, starting spreadsheets, triple proofreading* the final draft before going to print, hand addressing the envelopes, etc.  Are you really up for all that? Or, does having your bestie spend five or six hours on this project free you up for other tasks? Sometimes even the most Type A brides have to admit that they simply cannot control everything – and the payoff can be liberating both time-wise and stress-wise.

I had to learn to be humble when planning my wedding.  It hit me when I had 10 or so family members assembling my centerpieces from the flowers that I purchased at a local grower.  I wanted them just so, the stems cut just right… At one point I realized that not only was my untrained, but very well meaning family not able to make my centerpieces look like high end $500 arrangements, but I wasn’t capable of it either! So I tried to give direction, but also let them have some artistic freedom (I said, some! Yes, I could have / should have given more, but learn from my mistakes here!)

Young man with glasses take off his headphones making faces.

As for the offers of help for cakes, DJing, photography, catering, aka cooking – here is where I recommend you go with the experts.  I frequently have couples who tell me that the are having a “friend with a good computer be the DJ” – oh, the friend that is petrified of a microphone? Who is going to direct your guest’s attention to your first dance?  And if this person is such a good friend – don’t you want them to be a part of the celebration, not just cheap labor?  Aha! There it is.  That’s the line I encourage couples to use, “Cousin Peter, we love your Instagram pics, and agree that your fancy pants SLR camera that you tote around is amazeballs, but we want you to be able to enjoy yourself and attend as a guest.  We want you to be pampered.” I also like to recommend you throw in a, “I’m turning into a bridezilla anyway and wouldn’t want you in the crosshairs!” Self deprecating humor goes a long way in cases like this.

Of course, there are exceptions.  Maybe you are planning a 150 person wedding on a $1500 budget – then I would take advantage wholeheartedly of the family that is offering help.  But most of the weddings that I facilitate, are working with a larger budget – but yet a budget that isn’t limitless, so we are always looking for ways to save – as are most weddings these days, I’m sure.   It’s the difference between a $800 dress and a $3800 dress. To me, that’s where you make the cut, not your wedding photography, which will be shared for a lifetime, or on your DJ, who dictates the tone and helps keep your event timeline running smoothly.

The offers for help can seem overwhelming, and may come from many angles.  Thank the person for their interest, support, and promise to follow up with a phone call that week to discuss what they are offering.  Then you can set clear expectations as to what you would like, and see if what they are offering is a good fit.

And that humble piece… Let that be the part that grounds you.  That centers you.  That reminds you of how lucky are you to have a group of people that want nothing more then to support you during such a big undertaking.  A little crunchy cake never hurt anyone.

Here are a couple links to traditional tasks that parents and siblings take on during wedding planning. Enjoy!

Mothers of the Bride and Groom Tasks

MOB tasks – great tasks for sisters here as well!

Bridesmaid DIY Projects

Fun Bridesmaid Tasks




*for frick’s sake, yes, triple check your invites before printing them AND have some Type A friend look at them as well.  I see at least one typo on at least a third of the invites I see.  Anything from a misspelling of a name, to an extra space in the address. This isn’t a tiny blog with 20 readers! These are your wedding invitations! Take T. I. M. E. with them! I like to give a copy of whatever I am proofing to a group of five of so people and offer a prize to whomever finds the three mistakes.  You might think they are perfect, but by saying three mistakes, people will look and look and look until they find something.





Holy Crap it’s almost February

Oy!  I’m too new to say I was on hiatus… so can we blame that little absence on engagement season? Pretty please? The header picture is just one corner of my otherwise overflowing office.  This time of year it looks like a wedding-war zone in these parts!
Last weekend I attended the Seattle Wedding Show and met LOADS of amazing people.  We are gearing up for our Bridal open House at Canterwood, so a majority of my time was spent talking up the event to potential brides and grooms. Here’s a picture of our booth.
2016 wedding show
But did you see my DOORS!!!  Here’s a shot after our facilities guy built stands for them.  I picked them up off a guy on Craigslist.  From his basement.  On a dark and rainy night.  The things I do for my couples…  So now that they are all amazing and (will be) repainted, they can be rented for ceremony’s at my Club.
doors in progress
During the Wedding show I also met a few new vendors to collaborate with and finalized plans for the Open House with my Jen from Jen’s Blossoms and Beyond the Blossoms.  She did all the floral for our booth and boy, am I lucky she is in my life.
If you are in the area and want to stop by, here is the info on our open house.
Bridal Open House (2)
Even if you have your venue booked, it’s a great chance to meet photographers, DJs, taste cake, etc. Get yourself organized for your 2017 wedding or finalize the details for your 2016 wedding all in one place.
Happy Planning!

Quick Tips: Understanding the Acronyms

So you FIL2B doesn’t like your BM’s GF who happens to be your MOH because she was rude to the MOG at the E-Party?

Eeep.  Navigating the new language spoken by the wedding world can be quite frustrating at first.  It seems like everyone – from your florist, recently married friends, online blog communities and pinterest are using acronyms and speaking their own dialect of “wedding-speak.”

Hopefully this list can help you navigate the waters!

Basic Prefixes:

S =Sister, B = Brother, M = Mother, F = Father

G = Groom, B = Bride, H = Husband, W = Wife

OOT = Out Of Town (Guests, Gift Bags, Reception, etc)

Basic Suffixes:

“IL” = in law suffix (SIL = sisterin law, BIL = brother in law, etc..)

OG, OB = Of the Bride, Of the Groom (FOB = Father of the Bride)

Other Prefixes:

D = Dear/Darling (as in DH = Darling Husband)

F is also used to mean “Future,” so FFIL = Future Father In Law

Misc Crazy Talk:

JP = Justice of the Peace

STDs = Save The Dates (I promise!)

MUA = makeup artist

WP/WV = Wedding Planer, Wedding Venue

RB = Ring Bearer

FG = Flower Girl

JB = Junior Bridesmaid

MOH = Maid or Matron of Honor

BM = Best Man

SIL, BIL, MIL, FIL – Sister, Brother, Mother, Father in law

FOB, FOG, MOB, MOG, SOB, SIG = Father of the Bride, Father of the Groom, Mother of the Bride, etc, etc, 

Hope this helps! Feel free to add your own in the comments!







5 Steps to Finding YOUR Wedding Venue

Starting the search for your perfect wedding venue can be intimidating, tedious and frustrating.  Follow these 5 steps and you will be on the road to wedding venue bliss.

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Set a Target Budget, Guest Count and Date Frame

Without these, there is not much you can do – and not much your venue consultants can work with. I have toured so many couples who come in and have no idea of how many guests they plan on inviting… I don’t need to know an exact amount, but have a target, say +/- 15%.  So, 60-75 people or 90-110, or 180-220, 450-550, etc.

And so many couples don’t know what time of year they are considering (yes, it’s GREAT to have multiple dates, but to not even know the season? You might not be ready to start planning – and that’s OK, you do not have to plan your wedding the day after you become engaged!).  Talk with your fiance and set up your date parameters – Any Saturday in June or July. Or, sometime Labor Day weekend, with the following weekend being an alternative.

Get real about your budget.  And be comfortable talking about it.  Have a number.  A range. Something. Be wary of saying you want the least expensive option, and then plan to add upgrades – a venue might only here “I want something cheap” and prime dates might suddenly be “booked” or you might not meet their published minimum.

Here’s the deal.  Pretend you are shopping for a house and I am your realtor.  I have no idea what houses to show you if I do not know your budget.  If I show you a $200K house, when your budget is $750K – you will be disappointed and not think the housing market is high end enough for you and the luxuries that you want are not attainable. On the flip side, if I show you a million dollar house and your budget is $100K, you will think I am crazy and just trying to get you for your money. Truth is, I have plenty of $100K houses, I just didn’t know what to show you, so I guessed.  I tell my couples that it is not my goal to get you to spend over your budget and send you home broke. My goal is to maximize every penny that your budget allows (if not, just under) and get you everything we can cram into your (comfortable) spending cap.

Think your budget is embarrassingly low and unrealistic? I’ve dealt with less.  I promise.


Start Searching Online – And with an open mind

I recommend that you start your search on the major wedding websites –,, and other wedding websites.  Most of these sites feature reviews, unaltered by the business (I can tell you from experience that most sites do not permit altering or deleting a review, unless the company can prove it fraudulent or threatening). These sites also showcase pictures of venues, videos, packages and sometimes special pricing.  I recommend you decide the geographical location that you are looking for, and start your search.  At this point, I hope you are sourcing out about 15 places.

request info

Ask For Information – then wait

Nearly all venues have an online information request form, or something similar, to let the venue know you would like information emailed to you.  There is usually a spot for you to free-type specific questions – I recommend you put something there (ie. “looking for a gluten free wedding,” “do you allow sparklers?” something… you will see why later) Most will also ask for your phone number – which I recommend you submit.

Now Wait.

and Wait.

and Wait.

How many of the 15 venues responded to you in a timely fashion? How many responded at all?  Here is where you can start to weed out the list.  If a venue didn’t get back to you, but you really wanted to learn about them, I recommend you try calling (once) and see what sort of response you get back. Otherwise, off the list they go.

This first point of contact is crucial.  Did the venue rep pick up the phone and call you, asking questions and sounding genuinely interested in what you have to say?  Did they respond to your email with a personal greeting and specific commentary on your date/guest count and/or an answer to the question you posed?

Or did you get a canned email with no personalization? Or did you get stood up, with no response at all?

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Tour. Tour. Tour. – go at it alone (or alone-ish)

Once you make the initial contact with a venue, (and like what they have to say) set an appointment to go out for a tour. Hopefully, you are narrowing down to 5-8 venues to tour.  By.  Your.  Self. (for the most part.  This is not the time to bring the whole fam-damn-arella, maaayyyybbeee bring your fiance – but only if they want to be super involved with planning)

Split this over two days (so it’s all done together, but not one exhausting day). Take notes, take pictures, ask questions,  and see how you like the venue person (ie event coordinator, sales person, etc).  And ask for a custom quote THAT INCLUDES ALL SERVICE CHARGES AND TAXES.  *I should note that I am working on a detailed post about the actual tour itself, and hope to publish it next week, so keep your eyes out for that!* The reason I recommend you go at it alone, is to narrow down your choices.

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Go Back with Your Entourage

Dad needs to see the venue before signing off? Bring him.  Fiance skipped the first round of visits? Bring fiance.  Future Mother In Law needs to feel like she is a part of things? Let’s go baby.

I recommend that you return to your top three wedding venues with the “decision makers and check writers” for another tour – for a couple of reasons. More details in the aforementioned follow up post, but basically a second viewing gives you a chance to control the number of options that the decision makers have, to see your venue (and venue staff) on another day of the week and/or time of day, and to make sure the venue is what you remember.

Then go home, spread the three quotes in front of you, drink a glass of wine, and make your decision. I promise you, it’s that easy.

More on your wedding venue tours to come!






Gym + Homecooked Dinner EVERY day

Author’s Note: Many of my brides (and grooms!!) talk about eating healthy and getting fit for their big day… While I don’t think you should crash diet just to fit in a dress, I do think that planning your wedding might be the perfect catalyst for a healthy body overhaul – and a lifestyle change. Here is a little insight into my meal plan, which affords me the time to stay healthy at the gym.

Yes, you can go to the gym and serve a healthy home cooked meal every day.  And you can do this while working outside the home, too. It’s the perfect mystery that challenges men and women every day – how do I maintain my professional life, while providing nourishment and quality time to/with my family and still have time to keep myself healthy and de-stressed?

As Super Why would say… “the answer to our SUPER big mystery is”… PLAN AHEAD!

This is mostly about the food.  I’m hungry.

Once a month my bestie and I spend an afternoon creating freezer-crockpot meals – this is our hybrid meal planning mastermind,  a bastardization of dream dinners, crock pot recipes, family secrets and willingness to throw whatever into a pot and see what happens.

A little context: My BFF and I both work full time during the day, and our husbands work swing / late shift.  So, generally speaking, we are responsible for cooking dinner for ourselves and the kids roughly 5 days out of the week.  For those of you taking notes, she cooks dinner 7 nights a week, 5 or so from our freezer meals.  I am home for dinner 5 nights a week, and cook maybe 3 new meals and re-create leftovers for the other two.  She has two almost elementary-aged kiddos and I have a pre-schooler. We combine families one or two nights a week, sometimes bringing extra food, other times stretching one crock pot meal to feed everyone. In other words – we adjust to life around this flexible meal planning system.

We started pre-kids, after attending a few dream dinners nights.  The concept is simple:

dream dinners infographic

And the results were AMAZING! Super quick dinners, happy husbands and no takeout.  But at $16-22 per meal, it was still a little spendy.  Yes, we were getting more variety (creating these meals from scratch, from the grocery store would run more like $25-40 a meal, since it would not be a bulk purchase), but the cost was still a little high.

This is what a dream dinners store looks like in action…

dream dinners in action

So we scratched our heads and started messing around with making our own freezer meals.  And you know what? It totally worked.

We bought our ingredients in bulk, created a massive assembly line in my kitchen, and armed ourselves with Ziploc bags and foil containers. I forget what we spent, and how many we made, but ten hours later, we both had freezers full of dinners and spent around $15 a meal.  Plus, we found our portions were larger then the ones we got at dream dinners.  We were getting a dinner, plus loads of leftovers.

The meals were thawed ahead of time, popped into the oven / cooked on the stove and voila! a home cooked meal (baked for an hour, or actively cooked on the stove for 15+/- minutes).  Gone were the days of slaving in the kitchen for an hour plus, after working all day.  Gone were the days of having a trashed kitchen to spend 30 minutes to cleanup after cooking dinner. Miracles really did happen. And we were saving money. We actually ate at decent times, and the grocery bill was lowered.

The main trick is that you are pooling your money for silly things like capers.  At $3-5 a jar, your Italian Chicken meal gets pricey (plus the $4 breadcrumbs, new $7 olive oil, $6.99/lb for the small pack of chicken, etc, etc.).  Then you throw out the rest of the capers in two months after only using a tablespoon and the breadcrumbs are worthless in six weeks.  And cardamom.  Ever bought that little jar of ground up gold? Good Lord.  At least now, when we found a recipe that called for it, we were splitting the cost! Chicken in bulk is more like $1.99-3.99 a pound. Breadcrumbs from Costco are less by the ounce – and by sharing, you CAN use up the 55 gallon drum they come in.

Things we learned from phase one of our meals:

  1. Don’t waste money on foil containers to freeze then bake your meal in.  Throw it in a Ziploc bag and call it good.  Then, use that casserole dish your Aunt got you for your wedding (trust me girls, you have one coming in the mail at some point before you tie the knot). The exception is a layered casserole. Foil containers are a must there.

  2. Don’t get overly creative with veggies on the front end.  Buy a bulk bag of green beans, split into little ziplocs and call it good.  Steam and season as you see fit when preparing your meal.  No one missed the gym because they had to season their green beans. We pepped all these fancy sides and at the end we realized we did way too much work.

  3. Do be willing to go outside your comfort zone and get away from chicken.  Pork, salmon, beef and ground turkey all freeze quite well, but the recipes take a little more searching. The other day I read a blog that mentioned kangaroo, I’m not sure if she was serious.. but the point is.. push your envelope! Lamb or goat maybe? (no joke, my neighbor is raising TWO goats for meat…)

  4. Do take chances.  The worst thing that can happen is you have to order pizza.  Not the end of the world.

  5. Do label your meals. You might think you will be able to remember / tell the bags apart… Guess what, you won’t!! I promise.  We have had several “I have something working in the crockpot. I couldn’t tell you what the hell it is to save my life, but it smells amazeballs” conversations.

A couple of years passed, we both relocated a couple times, both popped out kids and suddenly we were living a mile apart, having the same problem with dinner – now multiplied by the need to feed the kiddos something healthy and before 10pm. Here is where we entered phase two of our meals.

This time we spent about 6 hours, $400 and made a total of 28 meals, plus tons of “veggie sides.”  We both have pretty stocked pantries for things like brown rice, these healthy-ish boxed mashed potatoes (don’t laugh! they are chemical free and work for a weeknight meal!) other starchy sides.  How’s your math? $14.25 a meal.  And we had larger portions then our retail experience.  14 meals each, lasting about three weeks.

And then my bestie re-discovered the crock pot – in the form of this All-Clad slow cooker.

michmashs crockpot


I wrinkled my nose and we cooked independently for awhile.  Then she brought up our freezer meals. But this time there was a catch – she wanted them to be crock pot friendly.  Ugh. I hated crock pots.  Dry, tasteless mushy food.  No thanks! But she insisted.

And we all know, sometimes you just have to let your BFF win.

So we had another freezer meal session, this time, making recipes that were crockpot friendly.  Somewhere in the process, her mom heard about this, and sent me a new Cuisinart Crock Pot.  So, I gave it a try.

my crockpot

Ladies, I shit you not, I use this thing three to five times a week.  It has been a godsend.

Last month, we tipped the scales at about 30 meals for under $350.  $11.50ish for dinner, plus sides with leftovers? Sign me up. All in about three (yes, three) hours of prep.  We go back and forth the week before meal prep, hunting down recipes, debating old favorites to use or to cut,  creating a master grocery list and splitting up the shopping.

And get this – because you throw everything in the crockpot before leaving for work, all you do is toss some rice in the cooker and veggies in the microwave when you get home.  Tell me that isn’t the easiest thing you have ever heard of. Faster than delivery, healthier than takeout, cheaper than going to the store on the way home.

Here we are mid prep! Well, here the kitchen is, at least. Not pictured is my prep station on the kitchen counter(s).  We have settled into a Lizzy Mae dices, slices and browns (veggies and meat) and the BFF measures and assembles.  I’m a fast fox and she is meticulous at following rules.  Know each other’s strengths and capitalize on them.

meal prep.jpg

What do we do with this extra time? Hit the gym, of course! No, seriously. Now we both have time to go to the gym on the way home from work.  You see, if dinner only take 15 minutes from walking in the door to serving on the table, you can get off work at 5, gym from 530-630, home by 645, dinner by 7.  Adjust for your schedule, of course, but you get the message.  By planning ahead for the week, we know what to thaw, when to combine forces, and what nights to make a gourmet meal from scratch (aka, gym rest day).

And gone are the $50 trips to the grocery store and hour of prep for a home cooked meal.

A few notes and things we have learned in phase two:

  1. Thaw. Your. Meal. Proper thawing prevents mushiness.

  2. You don’t need a fancy programmable machine.  I thought I wanted a delay start, but since the meal I put in the pot is cold (thawed, but cold), it can simmer for 10 hours and be OK.  Or, I have hubby start it for me.

  3. Washing the crock pot itself is a pain in the ass.  But less of a pain if you do it while the pot is still hot/warm.  Not slimy and cold, sitting in the sink overnight.

  4. Double up  / triple up on meals you really like.  After all, this is a month +/- of dinners, so you CAN have sweet & spicy meatballs twice.  And no one has ever said no to balsamic chicken for the third time in a month.  Activate your bulk-buying power!

  5. Alternate the master grocery list creation! BFF uses a spreadsheet and I use a list.  Either way, no one’s feelings get hurt.

  6. Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Yes, I can break down 15 onions in five minutes, but I struggle to follow recipes exactly, and get bored easily.  Enter my bestie, who keeps us in line by actually taking the time to measure the salt, instead of just throwing in “whatever.”

And it’s fun! We let the kids run around the house, laugh and tell stories, agree to disagree about certain cooking techniques, and look forward to providing reasonable healthy nourishment for our families.

I think this spring, we will transition into Phase Three – we are looking at buying a pig or half pig (locally raised and slaughtered) and possibly a side of beef.  I really want to do chickens (some for eggs, some for meat), and have my dad help me put in raised beds for an extensive herb & veggie garden. We also have a neighbor that raises goats, and I would like to talk to him about that… Now that we have the science and mechanics down, I hope we can focus on being local, sustainable and organic.  After all, it is the PNW and that is how we roll!

Does that give you some insight as to how we make time to hit the gym and spend time out of the kitchen?  Do you meal prep? Have you tried it with a friend? Have any great recipes to share?











Seven Wedding Day Photographs Not to Miss

Slow your roll – This is not a complete list of every single wedding photograph that your wedding photographer should try to capture on your wedding day. Perhaps someday I will make a nice little list of what shots are recommended and which to skip.    But today I would like to single out seven specific pictures (or variations thereof) that I have had several brides and grooms tell me are “must have wedding day photographs.”

Communication is key – if your photographer doesn’t know you want these (or other) specific pictures, they might not get to them.  Remember, your photographer (and other vendors, for that matter) are not mind readers, and every couple has different expectations as to what pictures they have to remember such a special day.

And note that I wrote, “your wedding photographer should TRY to capture”… no one is going to get a shot of your mom and step mom together, frolicking through fields of lavender, if they are feuding.  And sometimes an important candid is missed, because your photographer is capturing another, just as important, shot at the other side of the room. Be realistic.  And maybe consider a second shooter.  (And family therapy? Too soon?)

  1. The First Look (yes! I want you to SEE each other before the ceremony!)
Someday I will write about the pros and cons of the first look, but the gist of it is this – a couple decides to see each other prior to the ceremony *GASP*. Before you go booing me off stage, keep in mind a first look makes pictures much easier (more wedding photography finished before your ceremony! less work to be done during cocktail hour!) and gives you a very private moment with one another before declaring your love in front of everyone and their mother.  (And in some cases their mother’s mother’s mother.  Quick generations, I suppose #nojudging.)
The first look is a tender moment.  Raw.  Personal.  Want to make your future husband tear up? Have him wear a blindfold and take it off of him when you stand in front for his eyes to take you in.  That’s some raw emotion.
 (photo credit:  Canterwood Golf & Country Club, Unknown Wedding Photographer – if this is your work, please let me know so we can credit you!!)
(variation) FINE.  You don’t want to see each other. You want to stay traditional.  Pfffffft.  Just kidding, I don’t hate you.  But at least trade handwritten notes around a corner.  Or grasp each others hands and pray together.  I want you to hear your fiancé’s voice and he/she to hear yours.  I want you to know that you are both in the moment, together.
2. Parental Figure and Offspring Unit. (aka “dad and daughter” “mom and son” etc)
It’s a picture of the bride or groom with the person they have selected to walk them down the aisle, before all the pomp and circumstance takes off.
I want the parental figure (dad, step mom, uncle, grandma) to have a moment with the bride/groom – and I want a picture of it.  So do you, I promise.  One of the most tender moments I saw this summer was of a sister (bride) and brother (escorting her down the aisle).  I didn’t know the backstory of why her dad or step dad was not a part of this tradition.  She choose her brother – and in the moments leading up to the ceremony I could see why.  The proud look he had on his face – his older sister, about to commit to an amazing man for the rest of her life – was touching.  And when she scrunched up her face and fixed his tie, I completely started crying.  Lump in ‘ma throat, choking back tears.  And I am not  huge crier at my weddings anymore. That’s a picture to hold on to forever.
When I get married, we didn’t really get this “must have wedding photography” shot pre wedding ceremony – but we had a great moment when my parents were walking me down the (beach sand aisle).  The minute my heeled feet hit the sand, I realized that I couldn’t walk across the sand in my fancy white shoes.  Physically I could have pulled it off, but I wanted to be more grounded – more… me (barefoot whenever possible).  So I stopped my parents (my mom just about crapped herself until she realized what I was doing), and I kicked my heels off.  All three of us were laughing our butts off.  And that moment… completely organic and unrehearsed, is one of my favorite wedding photographs.
 wedding shoes off.jpg
(photo credit: Author’s Personal Collection, David Royal Photography)
3. The Photographer’s Signature Shot (aka, why you hired this person in the first place)
If I had a dollar for every time I told a couple “relax and let me do my job,” I would at least be able to pay for a few months of Netflix.  And I don’t mean it in an asshole-y way.  I mean it genuinely.  Yes, you will have enough chairs at your wedding, because I know your final guest count – relax, this is why you hired me.   The same goes for your photographer.  You hired this person because they had a style that spoke to you (unless you hired your cousin with a fancy camera, and that’s a whole other blog post…).
So let them show their style through your wedding photography.  It might seem silly for you to stand on a concrete balcony in the wind. On a cloudy day – but you might get a shot like this.
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 (photo credit:  Canterwood Golf & Country Club, AiP Creative Photography Wedding Photography)
Or you might balk at the idea of standing outside, in the rain, in the pitch dark – but you might get a shot like this.
 (photo credit:  Canterwood Golf & Country Club, Jenny Storment Wedding Photography)

*for the record, our rainy night bride, Taylor, was 100% all for doing this shot, such a trooper, as it was raining and about 40 degrees that night!!*

4. The Serious Shot (aka, who can rock the better b**** face?)
 I know, I get it… you want your wedding photography to convey “happily ever after” – but that doesn’t meet you need to have a “s”-eating grin in every photo.  The serious faced shots envoke a high fashion feel, and can catch your audience off guard.  They give gravitas to this important event – and force you to slow down and be in the moment.  Plus, you will be so hopped up on mimosas and adrenaline, trying not to smile may actually lead to a few candids of you and your future spouse (or family) laughing hysterically. Win/Win. How gorgeous do these ladies look? Proud.  Strong. United – and stunningly beautiful – all while skipping the smile!
  (photo credit:  Canterwood Golf & Country Club, Jenny Storment Wedding Photography)
5. We Did It! (aka, let’s party!) 
I love the “Holy Crap, We Did IT!” look that my couples get at the end of the ceremony.  Shoulders up, a mile-wide smile, and an almost mischievous look.  Here is where having a second shooter is such a plus.  One wedding photographer can capture your family and friends’ jubilation with a nice long-shot of the entire audience, and the second photographer can be closer to the happy couple – and catch that fresh and delirious moment as it happens.  This is one shot that cannot be re-created in wedding photography – you have to catch it right when it happens.
Kati and Juan Carlos-Blog Ike and Tash s Favs-0073.jpg
 (photo credit:  Canterwood Golf & Country Club, Ike & Tash Photography and Motion Wedding Photography)
6.  Small Children Dancing (aka wedding photography GOLD)
Yes, you paid $70 for the kids meal -and it’s chicken strips.  Yes, the flower girl smeared her lip gloss (really, she’s 3) on your dress. Yes, the ring bearer threw a tantrum before delivering the rings to the alter (really? you let him walk with live rings?? smh).  But at the end of the day, those little munchkins are wedding photography gold.  Flower girls in a circle around the ring bearer on the dancefloor? Swoon. Your 2 year old nephew, in a tux, passed out in mom’s arms, as she laughs with your *new* sister in law? Priceless. The awkward 13 year old nephew asking your best friend’s kid for a dance? I die.
Trust me – invite kids to your wedding and make sure to capture them in pictures.  When you look back at your wedding photography in 5, 10, 50 years, it will be such a joy to see the little ones so… well… little.  More on why kids are a vital part of any wedding later (from the girl who once said, “I am going to hire a gaggle of kindergartners to be at my wedding”) at a later juncture.
7. Your Vision (aka, I saw this on Pinterest, my favortite blog, my BFFs wedding, etc..)
Mine was a picture of my husband and I, silhouette from the back, with our hands up.  Each hand was to form a letter.  L. O. V. E.  We failed.  Not epically, but definitely not what we had envisioned.  But we took the shot.  And it is not haunting me to this day (if only we had time to take that one picture…).
Pick that shot / pose / angle that you are in love with and try to recreate it in your wedding photography – BUT (and its a big but) – promise me you won’t think the entire wedding day was a waste if it doesn’t work.
You might be able to recreate something you saw, and loved…
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  (photo credit:  Canterwood Golf & Country Club, Tasha Owens Wedding Photography)

Or you might fail.  Epically so, like we did.  But meh.  It was fun to try and who cares.
There is no magic potion for must have wedding photography.  But by singling out a few important shots, you can start to build your idea portfolio.  I invite you to be honest with your photographer – and hope they will return the favor (No, we cannot create a city-scape with glittery lights silhouette shot at your 11am beach wedding, but this is what we CAN do…).  Communication is key.  Use Pinterest or other wedding photography image resources convey your dreams to your photographer if words fail you.  And let them know in advance, so no one is taken by surprise. And above all, enjoy your day.  Be in the moment and savor every minute.
Commenting? Tell me what other Must Have Wedding Photography shots I might have missed!