Should I Get Engagement Photos? Top 4 Tips from Wedding Pros Who Know

Should I Get Engagement Photos? Top 4 Tips from Wedding Pros Who Know


Are you confused trying to decide if you should get wedding engagement photos?

Every time you get close to deciding if the photos will be worth the time, money and effort, something happens and you end up back where you started.

Not this time.

Because this time you’re going to be armed with the same tips, tricks and secrets that the  professionals know. What is the most popular questions couples ask us about wedding photography services?? “Do I really need engagement photos?” And when managing an “average” or smaller than “average” budget, one might wonder “Are engagement photos worth it or should I save money and ask the photographer for a credit?

These top tips can help you weight the pros and cons to help you decide if you should spend the time, energy and effort to prepare for engagement photos:

PRO- Tip 1: You Can Use Them For Your Invitations and Save the Dates.

If you want your photo to be included with your invitations, a really nice, good-quality, romantic photo will make it go a LONG way towards making a good first impression with your guests.

PRO-Tip 2: Engagement Sessions Let You Show Off Unique Your Style.

Example: Years later you may find yourself looking back at your engagement photos and thinking “Wow, I love being able to see our love through these photos with just the two of us.” Your personal style and the way you interact as a couple will shine through. Your wedding day pictures will encompass your entire day and all the details, but engagement pictures are a small moment in time you will cherish equally.


PRO- Tip 3: Engagement Pictures Can Allow You to Get Creative.

Time constraints on the wedding day don’t always let you go to the park where you met, or the overlook where you like to watch sunsets, or even your house. Engagement pictures are fun because we can go ANYWHERE. You could take a road trip to a national park if you wanted. The options are endless!

PRO- Tip 4: An Engagement Session Will Allow You to Get Comfortable for your Wedding.

Along with helping you relax in front of the camera, an engagement session can help you get to know your photographer. Photographers truly enjoy doing engagement sessions with couplesGetting to know you, personal style, and building a relationship with you  helps the photographer get the best results on your wedding day. They can be a quiet friend in the background and give you the cues that you responded to during your engagement photos.

So…to engage or not to engage?

Engagement photos are a great way to create memories with your fiancé that will last a lifetime – definitely worth the investment.

They can add to the bottom line of your wedding budget, of course but check with your photographer about special offers or if they are included in their wedding packages. It’s not unusual for engagement sessions to have a special price as they are so fun and a great way to get to know your photographer and for your photographer to get to know you.

Get started now – you’ll be glad you did.

Wedding Photography by Trene Forbes Washington D.C. Lincoln Memorial

8 Little Known Tips To Ease Your Wedding Sticker Shock

8 Little Known Tips To Ease Your Wedding Sticker Shock


If you’re like most couples, when figuring out the steps to plan a wedding, you are always looking for smart and effective ways to keep wedding costs affordable. It seems impossible with the overwhelming amount of flowers, wedding gowns, centerpieces,  wedding ideas and decor options available with a click of a button.

The glorious, glorious wonders of Pinterest, countless blogs, magazines and Instagram have single handedly raised the bar for weddings and social celebrations everywhere. And thank goodness!! After being in the wedding industry for over 26 seasons, one can safely say long gone are the days in which an event planner would have to spend countless hours trying to convince a couple getting married to rent floor length linens, or use any color other than white in her decor scheme; simply because it was all included in some hotel “wedding package”.

Shiny sparkling sequin linens, colorful glass beaded chargers, chic reception chairs, and amazing food. Oh the delicious indulgences. Hors d’oeuvres passed on trays served in mini tasting spoons to handcrafted signature cocktails, amazing entrees to desserts. Now go ahead and factor in setting the mood with lighting, fabulous flowers, and finally all those family and friends who you’ve invited to witness the joyous occasion. You’ll soon discover that the costs add up quickly, very, very, quickly. What couples don’t realize is that all of those elaborate elements you want to add in your wedding shopping cart cost money, and lots of it. And this is why weddings are expensive AF.

Good news: now you can learn to tackle expensive weddings and keep costs affordable by following these 8 wedding tips:

  1. Table Decor: Use patterned linens if table décor is lacking.
  2. Wedding Venue: Host your reception at a restaurant.
  3. Select a hosted bar vs. an open bar.
  4. Avoid the “Why rent when you can buy.
  5. Some wedding myths are just that, myths.
  6. Reduce your guest list.
  7. You don’t know what you don’t know, go consult a wedding pro
  8. Understand who is in charge of what.

stick·er shock n. NORTH AMERICAN informal – astonishment and dismay experienced on being informed of a product’s unexpectedly high price. Let’s take a deep dive and look at each of these tips for planning a wedding in a little more detail…

Tip 1: Wedding Decor for Tables – If guest table top décor is sparse, use patterned linens.

This first trick is pretty simple, affordable, and used by seasoned wedding planners everywhere. It can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, with your wedding decoration expenses. 

A lot of couples tend to end up with extra space (or what the pros like to call real estate) due to lack of that expensive wedding decor. 

If the cost of all the things for table decor – candles, florals, decorative plate settings, upgraded glassware, etc., make you want to pass out when reading the decor proposal from the rental company, then you should select a linen with a print, texture, or pattern instead of a solid color.You want to be sure your guests are focusing on all the decor that is at your wedding reception rather than what is not. A busier linen with a fun flare will break up the negative space and draw the focus to the patterned design, giving the illusion of a fuller table.

Tip 2: Wedding Venue Selection-Consider hosting your reception at a restaurant.

Yes, hosting the reception at a beautiful hotel or unique space is the ultimate dream. However, if you have a modest budget or a smaller guest list, instead of Googling “Wedding Venues Near Me” consider a restaurant as a fantastic option for a venue. Restaurants are built to be beautiful, located in a convenient location and employ some top notch chefs who can create amazing cuisine. They are affordable, designed beautifully, and typically don’t charge a rental fee – only requirement is for you to spend a minimum for food and beverage. As a bonus, the meal cost per guest is typically much more affordable than a hotel plus tables, chairs, linens, servers, and bartenders are included in the price.

Tip 3: Reception Bar – Opt for a hosted bar vs. an open bar.

Are you wondering how much is an open bar at weddings? A bit of wedding planning education for you first. 

To utilize this tip, you first need to understand the difference between a hosted bar and an open bar. 

If you opt to have a “hosted bar”, this means you are paying for beer, wine, cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages based on actual consumption only. First they ring then they bring. That means you are charged for each drink (around $4-$8) your guests order and not a flat fee. 

While an “open bar” sounds sexy and appealing, you often end up overspending on your wedding bar package which makes this option more expensive.

Here are some other differences: An open bar package works by charging you a flat fee for your guests regardless of how many bottles of beer, glasses of wine, signature cocktails or non-alcoholic beverages each person consumes. Typically, this amount has a very high average (around $50-$100 pp). 

I’m sure I know what you’re thinking,  that your guests will leave you with a hefty bar tab but the secret is you are able to set a limit on how much you would like to spend. If you do not wish to exceed a certain amount for alcohol, you can decide to set a limit for the tab. The bartender will then charge for individual drinks. Your guests will appreciate the complimentary beverages, but can decide to continue drinking on their own tab if they would like. 

To understand the difference, do the math:

If you have 100 guests and everyone has 3 cocktails at $8 each this could cost you about $2,400

If you have 100 guests and your open bar package is $50 this could cost you about $5,000

Tip 4: Avoid the Wedding Planning Myths Like “Why rent, when you can buy?”

One word of warning: This is one of the oldest sales tactics out there aimed at brides who are anxious about the next steps and are not  familiar with planning  a wedding. We’ve all seen it in big neon letters flashing WEDDING DECOR SALE on a million websites and in your favorite craft stores. Sure, it might seem logical to buy at first but then you have to consider how many pieces of one item do I really need. Yes, you can buy hundreds of candles, tons of glass cylinders and vases to showcase florals,  but what will you do with it all afterwards? Not much, unless you plan on being a professional caterer. Of course you can sell it, but have you considered going through the hassle of listing each item and looking for a buyer? Plus, chances are whoever buys the items from you will not pay full price despite the fact that it’s only been used once.  Do yourself a favor, rent your wedding decor unless you have storage and plan on entertaining hundreds of guests at home.

Tip 5: Understanding why certain wedding myths exist.

When you hear about a wedding planning tactic and it sounds too good to be true, you wonder why no one else has done it. Well, keep wondering.  

On most occasions, wedding magazines are more concerned with grabbing your attention than providing facts. Do your homework before you start spending and signing on the dotted line.

Tip 6: Make your guest list more intimate.

This is single handedly the most cost effective way to save your budget. For every person you invite, you are going to need to add on another chair, plate of food, beverage, glass, silverware, napkin, favor, invitation etc.. the list goes on. Keeping your list to an intimate number will no doubt help free up some of your budget.

Tip 7: Consult a wedding planner or virtual wedding planning coach.

Do you know how much geometry and math is involved? It also helps to be familiar with legal contracts, interior design, psychology, horticulture, rentals, food, beer, wine pairing and mixology. I love bridal tv shows but watching them in order to prepare for planning your wedding is like watching Grey’s Anatomy to prepare to be a surgeon so you can operate on yourself, for the first time [solo].

Tip 8: Understand who is in charge of what.

Wedding planners are like a personal shopper and a personal assistant (for your wedding) all in one. You give them your idea of your perfect wedding and your budget, and they use their resources to make it happen in a snap! They get their couples special discounts, proprietary treatment from wedding vendors and creative partners, insider perks and lots of free stuff too. A lot of couples believe wedding planners are not a necessity but simply an added cost to their budget. But a seasoned planner can save you so much money and protect you from overpaying! There’s a good chance you will save more than what you’ve paid as their fee. Oftentimes when couples look back, they say “We would pay double the fee for our planner”. A couple’s  best friend.

Overcoming your wedding budget shock in a nutshell.

Whether you have a modest budget or you are planning a luxury six-figure soiree, every couple is seriously surprised when the proposals start rolling in and the budget calculator starts adding up.  Cha-ching! Keep your chin up and don’t get discouraged if the “dream” wedding you envisioned costs much more than you expected.  Adding all your wants and needs together with a hefty guest list may  cost you more than anticipated, but with this new knowledge you will be able to better navigate your planning decisions and bring your vision to life within your budget!

Now there’s just one thing left for you to do – take action! 

Which wedding price tag shocked you the most?

5 Quick Tips for Getting Fit for Your Wedding (Mind, Body & Spirit)

5 Quick Tips for Getting Fit for Your Wedding (Mind, Body & Spirit)

So you’ve been trying to balance physical and mental wellness and fitness while planning a wedding with your hectic schedule for a while now. 

You see others do it. And it seems like everyone makes it look so easy. 

But for some reason, success keeps eluding you. Every time you get close to balancing work life integration of sticking to your wedding planning timeline, workout regime, and sticking to the promise you made to yourself about keeping your sanity, something happens and you end up back where you started. 

Not this time. Because this time you’re going to be armed with the same tips, tricks and secrets that the  fitness experts know. So give these tips a try and see if they don’t work for you too…

Tip 1: Never set unrealistic expectations.

WARNING: When someone sets unrealistic expectations regarding health and fitness prior to their wedding, they are easily discouraged when those goals are not met. For example, you cannot decide two weeks before the wedding to implement a workout routine that is not attainable. Ideally, 12 weeks is needed for a diet and training plan to be effective and see results. 

Tip 2: Avoid assuming you need to set aside hours out of your day for an impactful workout. Thirty minutes a day is an efficient time to fit in a workout of HIIT workouts with compound exercises.

Our friends at did a deep dive into the boutique fitness studio scene to round up the top fitness studios for your wedding workout. Take a look at 32 Best Boutique Fitness Studios for Your Wedding Workout across the country.

Tip 3: Be sure to choose alcoholic beverages wisely, some are better than others regarding calories.

Bonus Tip: The lowest drink in calories is a vodka soda or water with lime. Another healthier alternative is a glass of white or red wine – low sugars of course.

Tip 4: Do take nutrition seriously and eat healthy, when possible.

Example: Keeping a balanced diet and eating healthy will help produce quicker results. Reducing refined sugars, eating good carbohydrates and maintaining portion control is essential.

Tip 5: Allow for a good night’s sleep.

NOTE: Rest is a basic human function, which is why uninterrupted sleep is important for couples, particularly while taking on the stress of wedding planning.


Setting up realistic and attainable health and wellness goals is actually fairly simple when you apply the above 5 tips. So let me leave you with one last tip… 

Planning a wedding is hectic. Create a mindful, positive mentality. Go into your health and fitness journey with a positive outlook. In order to focus on your fitness goal, it is important to stay mindful of building healthy habits while staying present and enjoying your wedding season with your partner, family and friends. 

Are you ready to be happy and healthy for your wedding (mind, body and spirit)?

The Secret of Planning a Destination Wedding

The Secret of Planning a Destination Wedding

If you have ever wanted to get married in a fantastic far off destination, then you’re in the right place. That’s because you’re about to discover my critical steps for planning a destination wedding that most couples fail to take.

The good news is that taking these 3 crucial steps will guide you to plan a better wedding even if you have no idea where to start in the wedding planning process.

Killarney Oaks Hotel—Kerry, Ireland

With the rising popularity of non-religious destination wedding ceremonies, more and more couples are choosing to host their wedding in hotel venues. This guide in collaboration with the Killarney Hotels Group from Kerry, Ireland offers expert advice on how to plan a hotel destination wedding.

Sounds good??? Well, read on my friend…

Step 1: Considering a Wedding Venue: The Benefits

Many couples who are new to destination wedding planning do not even realize that they need to do a lot of research and deep dive before they can effectively pick a venue and confirm their date. That is why a lot of couples who try to plan a destination wedding without a skilled destination wedding planner or travel agent end up failing – they are simply missing this crucial step. 

So, the first thing you need to do is consider the abundance of reasons why you should host your wedding abroad in a hotel setting. If you do not have a lot of extra time to research all there is to offer we believe a hotel setting is a great idea! Hotel venues offer incredible versatility and can cater to celebrations of all sizes and styles.

You’ll find that this part of the process goes much more smoothly if you consider these facts: 

  • With hotels, you will have plenty of options to choose from no matter what kind of wedding you are planning.
  • Another big plus is that hotels look great in photos, especially those that are based in picturesque locations.

Once you’ve researched a few hotels as potential venues, then you can move on to the next step…

Blue Orchid Event Design

Step 2: Compare Wedding Venues: It’s About Apples to Apples

The next thing you need to do while searching for a hotel wedding venue, is to confirm your date, budget and guest list. While looking at hotels, make a point of recording their availability, cost, capacity, location, style and catering options in a special spreadsheet. You should also find out if the hotel has wedding experts on-staff who can help you plan your big day.


When I first started teaching couples how to pick the perfect location for a destination wedding, I saw a lot of mistakes. And now  that I’ve helped others do it, I see a lot of couples have a tendency to make the same mistakes. 

In order to save your sanity, I would like to share with you the top 4 mistakes couples make when planning a destination wedding and how to avoid them: 

  • Not making an appointment for a site inspection to see the venue before the wedding. It is extremely important to make an appointment with the wedding salesperson to ensure all wedding questions are answered and that you have seen the wedding ceremony and reception locations before you sign a contract. Couples skip this to avoid spending money but failing to see the venue before you book might leave you feeling disappointed in the end. Most hotels will offer you an exclusive discounted rate for your accommodations if you schedule a site visit to see what they have to offer.
  • Creating a guest list after the venue is booked. You should have a rough idea of how many guests you plan on inviting to ensure no one is crammed, uncomfortable or to make sure the room is too big to accommodate your guests properly.
  • Many destination venues are fabulous; however, they are often off the beaten path and lack nearby accommodation options. Consider how remote the location, area transportation and if the venue can accommodate anyone with special needs before you book. You want your guests to be comfortable, especially since they are travelling all that way!
  • Not having a weather backup plan. Guess what? Unless you know Mother Nature personally, the weather is out of our control. A couple’s Plan B weather backup protocol should be discussed with the venue despite the time of year. Too much sun, wind, rain or a sudden thunderstorm can make or break your dream wedding. Make sure to ask about additional costs that may occur with a backup plan, such as renting a tent, heaters, or air conditioning.
Engage! Summits

Step 3: Knowing Key 10 Questions to Ask Your Destination Wedding Venue

At this step you’re likely to notice the overwhelm of trying to plan a wedding abroad (this is where a seasoned destination wedding planner or travel agent comes to save the day!). What you need is to make sure you ask the right questions:

  • What responsibilities does your venue coordinator handle?
  • What are the catering options offered by the hotel? 
  • What is the venue’s cancellation policy? (Especially during COVID)
  • Is the hotel accessible for guests with mobility issues or special needs? 
  • Does the hotel provide transportation from the airport for guests? 
  • What decorations, if any, are provided by the venue?
  • Is there a minimum number of days/nights guests must stay?
  • Do they offer a special rate for hotel rooms for wedding guests?
  • Do you allow multiple weddings or events to take place at the same time?
  • Will you be doing any remodeling before my wedding day?
  • Where are the best spots for indoor and outdoor photos? 
  • Am I free to select my own wedding vendors or will there be an outside vendor fee?

Planning a Destination Hotel Wedding Conclusion

And there you have it – a 3-step guide that spills all the secrets for planning a destination hotel wedding. Now that you know how to consider the benefits, understand venue contrast and comparison and what to ask, there’s just one thing left for you to do: take action. 

So get to it, and soon you too will be on your flight, sipping a little celebratory bubbly, cheersing to your beautiful destination wedding!

Where will your destination hotel wedding be?

Wedding Planner vs Venue Coordinator – What’s the Difference?

Wedding Planner vs Venue Coordinator – What’s the Difference?

A few months ago, a colleague, Jenna Tracy, made a blog post about wedding planners versus venue coordinators. Maybe you’ve already read it. If not, you can take a look at it here.

Basically, Jenna’s premise is that oftentimes, brides make the mistake of thinking they do not need a wedding planner if there is a venue coordinator. Due to this misconception, Jenna dives into the differences between the two professions. And while I agree with Jenna’s viewpoint, I’d like to delve a little deeper into the topic to give you an insider’s viewpoint. 

You see, while Jenna has been working in this industry for quite some time now, I  have a slightly different perspective because I have been in the hospitality industry over 25 years (Gasp! That’s a long time, I know) and I have extensive knowledge of the “nitty-gritty”  when it comes to wedding planning.

Here are three of the crucial points made in  Jenna’s post.… 

Point #1: With a wedding planner, Y-O-U are the client! Whether virtual or in-person, a wedding planner is in charge of the same tasks. An event coordinator works for the venue and is typically looking out for their best interest. 

Jenna made an extremely important point here, one that I’ve made a fair number of  times myself. The crux of the matter is that a wedding planner’s focus is entirely on the couple. A common overlooked option is a virtual planner; however a virtual planner gives more flexibility regarding schedule and time.

Wedding planners often only accept a certain number of clients a year to ensure their undivided attention is given to clients during the planning process and on the wedding day. Venue coordinators are responsible for all events happening on-site; it is not their job to focus entirely on every couple’s event. And while Jenna feels that the venue coordinator could possibly take the initiative to contact vendors for the reception, that is a high risk. Too much responsibility is being placed on an employee of the venue when tasks being asked of them are not in their job description.  I see ensuring an efficient wedding planner is hired to handle the event coordinator as a better solution to this problem. 

In other words, I’d take it a step further and handle all communication with the venue coordinator. This would streamline the process, helping to set expectations upfront and schedule communication with preferred vendors. I would  negotiate on my client’s behalf, with their best interest in mind.

Point #2: Wedding planners help plan and execute every detail about the day, as well as all the details leading up to the wedding. It is essential for wedding planners to ensure the couple knows the planner’s role and responsibilities, as well as why everyone should be hiring a planner!

Here’s another important point that’s been championed by some of the biggest names  in the industry, including Colin Cowie, Mindy Weiss and Sarah Haywood. It is not the venue coordinator’s responsibility to handle styling, timelines, guest management, and all those stressful factors that come with wedding planning. A wedding planner’s purpose is to seamlessly (in the bride’s eyes) pull off her dream wedding.

Now don’t get me wrong:

I support brides who choose not to hire wedding planners too. However, a point which I feel bears repeating – is that we can’t keep assuming brides know the difference between wedding planners and venue coordinators. The invention of web searching gives brides an inaccurate portrayal of simplicity in taking on wedding planning and all it entails.  Planners must properly communicate with brides to help them understand the significance of hiring a wedding planner; you cannot have a lack of understanding without eventually risking unnecessary stress and more work for the bride. 2020 has only increased demand for virtual wedding planners and brought to light the fact that this option is practical. An added bonus: meetings can be just as efficient and can be done from the comfort of your own home!

So here are the guidelines I suggest that industry leaders follow whenever they are asked why their services are necessary:

  • Keep the bride calm and assure her you will help bring her vision to life.
  • Make brides feel comfortable and clearly identify the extensive knowledge you have of the industry (beyond surface level questions!)

In addition, I think it’s also a good idea for venue coordinators to recommend wedding planners to brides. Doing so will help the bride delegate time-consuming tasks to someone else while increasing the chances of having a smooth, successful wedding day.

Point #3: Communication is often unlimited with wedding planners; however, with venue coordinators, communication is typically limited to business hours.

Finally, I’d like to just briefly touch on this point, because effective communication between bride and planner is essential in creating the wedding vision and ensuring all details are being properly taken care of. Again, location of clients and planner should never be an issue for concern. Let’s take advantage of the technology available and not let distance interfere with hiring the best suitable planner to handle your wedding preparations.

Overall, I agree with Jenna that we should offer additional hours to brides and be in constant contact. But once again,  I’d go the extra mile by giving my brides access to a personalized wedding website that allows them to see the event details and status throughout the planning process.


In summary…

Jenna Tracy really did this industry a great service when she brought up the  topic of understanding the difference between a wedding planner and venue coordinator. 

I’d just add that in addition to understanding the benefits of hiring a wedding planner, virtual planners are equally as effective and dedicated to you. Couples  should be fully aware of the advantages and benefits. After all, the goal of any planner is to turn a vision into reality! 

Will you consider using a virtual wedding planner?