Re-run: DIY Weddings–Photography

March 27th, 2017

Today’s DIY topic is:  Photography.  I’ve updated the original post a little here.

You might look at the cost of professional photography (which can run from $1,500 on the very low end to over $6,000 on the high end) and you might think you’d be better off without a professional photographer.  You might be right.  Or you might be very disappointed.  It all depends on how important photos are to you.

Here's a photo I took with my point-and-shoot camera and limited photography skills.

Here’s a photo I took with my point-and-shoot camera and limited photography skills.

If having high quality photos of your entire wedding and reception is not your first priority, you can ask a friend or relative to document the day for you.  Someone with good photography equipment can probably take decent photos for you.

But if having professional quality photos is important, it’s difficult to get them without paying professional prices.  Professional wedding photographers have equipment and skills that ordinary mortals lack.  The best consistently take copious, excellent photos that capture the essence of your day.  They are on the spot and work hard so they don’t miss any important moments.  It’s also important that they are not guests, but are hired to work for the entire time, so they will be alert and sober until the time they leave.  They know what to look for and how to take good (and often stunning) photos of your wedding.

The same cake in a photo taken by Agnes Malorny, professional.

The same cake in a photo taken by Agnes Malorny, professional.

If you have a friend or relative take photos, they may or may not have the same equipment.  Unless they are professionals or truly talented amateurs, they probably don’t have the same skills.  And you won’t know until the wedding day if they will be paying attention (and sober) for the whole evening.  At some point, a friend or relative is going to stop working and start enjoying the party, which is an option a paid professional doesn’t have.

As with all DIY projects, think this one through before you make a decision.  There is a definite difference in quality between amateur and professional photos.  Decide what is important to you, and then pay a professional if you can’t live without those photos.

Re-run: DIY Weddings–Catering

December 12th, 2016

It’s time to revisit some articles about DIY weddings.  Here’s a good one:

Of all the things you might want to do yourself for your wedding, the one I would recommend against without hesitation is catering your wedding reception yourself.  You might think this would be obvious, but I have talked to people who thought they could do it.

Did I mention that presentation is a professional catering skill?  Photo courtesy of Artisan Events.

Did I mention that presentation is a professional catering skill? Photo courtesy of Artisan Events.

I have actually heard of self-catered weddings that were pulled off with a lot of help from friends and family.  I know it can be done, especially if there are people with special skills involved.  So, I won’t say you should never, ever do it.  I’m just going to give you a lot of reasons not to.

Caterers do a lot more than cook in quantity.  They also manage the kitchen; order and return rental items; keep the food (and so your reception) on schedule; hire and manage serving and bar staff; set up tables, chairs, and linens; set the tables; and clean up and take the garbage out.  Caterers also have food sanitation licenses, meaning there is a low probability of spoiled food or food poisoning from their kitchens.  They know how much ice to buy and bring.  Some of them own serving equipment that they provide at no charge.   And that is just the minimum of what a professional caterer has to offer.

On your wedding day, you are going to be very much occupied with, first, getting married.  Second, you will want to spend as much time as possible greeting your guests.  You’ll probably also want to have your photograph taken with many of your friends and family, not to mention with your spouse.  These things will take up most of your day, leaving you no time to be the caterer at your own wedding.

I would say that unless you are able to provide everything a caterer brings to the table, and unless you can also delegate all the catering on the wedding day to a trusted party, hire a professional and save cooking for a crowd for another day.

DIY Weddings: Officiants

August 22nd, 2016
A professional at work.   Photo courtesy of

A professional at work. Photo courtesy of

There are plenty of elements of weddings that are suitable for Do-It-Yourself projects, and some that are totally unsuitable.  When it comes to officiants, you can’t really do it yourself:  Another person is required to sign your marriage license, at least in Illinois.  The real question at hand is whether you should hire a professional or ask your cousin to get ordained at the Church of the Latter-Day Dude.  I have to say that I have been at weddings with both kinds of officiants, and there are advantages both ways.

Professional wedding officiants, clergy, and wedding celebrants all have some training in the art of ritual, which is one of the keys to a good wedding ceremony.  They can also elicit from you what you want in a wedding ceremony, and then follow through.  They are generally very polished public speakers, who won’t mumble and “um” their way through your ceremony.  Many of them are also trained counselors who can do pre-marital counseling, if you wish.

The advantage to having a friend or family member officiate at your wedding is that that person already knows you, will instinctively know what kind of ceremony you want, and will be able to add all sorts of personal touches because of your relationship.  If you want a more relaxed feel to your ceremony, having a non-professional officiate might be the way to go.

And, of course, some people are lucky enough to have clergy in the family so that you can get the best of both worlds.  If you do, be sure to ask them to officiate at your wedding.  They will likely be more than happy to do so.

Re-run: DIY Weddings–Planning and Coordination

September 29th, 2014
If you hire a good planner, this is all you should have to think about on your wedding day.

If you hire a good planner, this is all you should have to think about on your wedding day. Photo by MWD Photography.

I’ve written a lot about do-it-yourself weddings lately, and here are my final thoughts (probably) on the subject.  Should you plan and manage your wedding yourself?  Yes–and no.

Most people can do much of the planning themselves.  Hiring vendors is not difficult.  You will probably also want to plan the decor yourself so that it reflects your taste.  Of course, if you’d rather not handle all the details yourself, by all means, hire a full-service wedding planner!

The place where a lot of people get stuck in the planning process is scheduling the wedding day and the logistics of making everything happen.  It turns out that these are special skills.  And so you will likely want to have a professional planner on hand.  One of my favorite parts of this job is taking a tangled mass of good ideas and turning it into a usable plan.  Actually, I really like seeing the smile of relief on my clients’ faces when I do that.

Even if you are able to do the scheduling and logistics yourself, actually managing what happens on your wedding day is another matter.  I like to use a theatre metaphor to describe it:  You are the star of the show; you can also be the director and the producer.  But you need a good stage manager to make sure that you shine.  Also, on the day of your wedding, you should be able to focus on getting married, not on whether the flowers are delivered on time.

This might be predictable coming from me, but I have seen enough problems and near-disasters to know that it really does make a difference:  Make sure you have someone with practical, hands-on experience managing your wedding day.  Don’t try to do it yourself.