Wedding Planning

The first 5 things you need to do after you get engaged

A groom hugs his fiance while she shows off her engagement ring during their engagement portrait session in Waco, Texas - Jason & Melaina Photography -

Woo-whoo! You just had the most magical moment of your life and have a sparkly ring on your left hand to show for it! But after the initial shock wears off, you may look at all the wedding planning to do and wonder, "What do I do next?"

So in this installment of our Bride Advice series, we're sharing the first 5 things you need to do after you say, "Yes!" Read on to learn from our experience as wedding professionals, and as fiances who planned our own wedding!

A groom dips his fiance and kisses her during their engagement portrait session near the Suspension Bridge in Waco, Texas - Jason & Melaina Photography -


It can be tempting once you get a ring on your finger to immediately start wedding planning. But before you do, take a little time to enjoy the excitement of getting engaged! You just had the love of your life ask you to be his wife and spend the rest of your life with him. Don’t let the planning process overshadow the significance of what just happened!

And don't just enjoy it now, figure out how you can keep enjoying this time! Wedding planning can get stressful. There are a lot of decisions for you to make, and everyone will be looking to you for answers. But it doesn’t have to be a stressful process if you keep the big picture in mind. You’re not just planning a big party, you’re planning the celebration of your marriage. So vow now to enjoy the process, and when stress comes, to take a step back and look at the big picture.

A groom kisses his fiance's cheek during their engagement portrait session in Dallas, Texas - Jason & Melaina Photography -

2. Plan for your marriage

Speaking of big picture, the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do immediately after getting engaged is not wedding planning, but marriage planning! Seriously, if you get nothing else out of this blog, remember that. Maybe you and your sweetie have already had long conversations about the type of marriage you want...or maybe not. But either way, now is the time to plan for the success of your marriage. Take some marriage courses, meet with a marriage therapist or your officiant for some premarital counseling, or at the very least, have some honest conversations about what you want your marriage to look like. We believe this step is so important we gift our Sweethearts a copy of The 5 Love Languages to help them have these marriage-planning conversations. Because when the ceremony is over and you have all your wedding images in an album on your coffee table, the daily task of living in your marriage begins...and keeps going day-in and day-out for years to come.

A view from the balcony during a catholic wedding ceremony in Sweet Home, Texas - Jason & Melaina Photography -

3. Determine the type of wedding you both want

There are as many unique wedding styles as there are couples, so start talking about what you like...or what you definitely don’t. A massive party in a hotel ballroom with hundreds of guests? Eloping on the side of a mountain with just you two, your officiant and a photographer? Something in between? Talk through what type of couple you are and what ceremony is perfect for y'all.

Decide what season you want to be married in, or if there is a specific date you'd like as your wedding date. Think ahead of life changes coming up in your calendar (i.e., graduations or new jobs) and figure out how those affect your wedding planning and/or date.  Realistically consider how long you need to plan to achieve the wedding you want. If your busy schedule or the type of wedding you want doesn’t allow for a quick planning process, you may need to push the wedding date back a few months or into next year.

A summer wedding ceremony at Stone Hall at The Springs in McKinney, Texas - Jason & Melaina Photography -

4. Budget!

The next thing you really, really, really should do is create a budget for your wedding. We know, budgeting is not exciting or glamorous. It’s so much more fun to pick out a wedding dress or go taste-testing for your cake. But trust us, having a budget allows you to make smart decisions when planning your wedding. Every consultation you have with wedding professionals will go so much more smoothly if you have at least a ballpark idea of what you can spend on their services.

Having a budget also helps you know what’s important to you. Because if you’ve always dreamed of having certain flowers at your wedding and then discover it’ll cost hundreds more than you thought, you can decide if there are other areas of your budget you can adjust...or figure out an acceptable alternative for your floral arrangements.

So talk with your fiance, talk with your parents (if they’re contributing to the budget), and figure out what you realistically can and want to spend on your wedding. If you need help figuring out your budget, you can reach out to wedding planners for a budget consultation. This is a meeting where you can talk about your wedding plans and an expert will help you craft a budget for your big day. Two central Texas planners we love who offer this service are Taylor Bible Weddings and Karla McNeill Events. A planner’s knowledge of the realistic cost of weddings in your area is extremely valuable, and they can even help guide you in the best ways to get the most out of your budget and have the wedding of your dreams.

A groom and bride embraces with a sunset behind them on their wedding day at Bear Creek in Gatesville, Texas - Jason & Melaina Photography -

5. Book your big 3 wedding professionals

Once you have a budget in place, you can now start ticking off all the actual planning to-dos on your list. But of all your tasks, there are 3 big wedding professionals' services you need to book ASAP after getting engaged.

  • Your venue - Where you are going to get married is one of the first decisions you need to make, because this is a huge factor in the date of your ceremony. If you have a specific date in mind, you’ll need to find a venue who has that date available. If you have a general time of year in mind for your wedding, picking a venue will help you pick your wedding date based on their availability. Some venues, particularly ones whose main purpose is weddings, book months or even a year out. So you don’t want to wait in securing your venue, especially if you want a certain date, or a certain venue!

  • Your planner/day-of coordinator - We’ve already highlighted the obvious and not-so-obvious reasons you should have a wedding planner on the blog, so we won’t discuss that here. But if you’re even thinking you need a planner or day-of services with a wedding coordinator, you should hire this wedding professional very soon after getting engaged. She or he will be able to help you plan your budget, design your dream wedding, and help connect you with the perfect-for-you wedding professionals who will make your dream a reality.

  • Your photographer(s) - We don't list your photographers next because we’re photographers and we think we're the most important. Trust us, we don't think that. No, the reason you should book your photographers ASAP is because our calendars get full fast, especially if you are getting married on a popular day (like say, Saturday 8-18-18). Most other wedding professionals have a team working for them and have the ability to commit to more than one wedding any given day. But unless your photographer has associates working for them, they can only photograph one wedding a day. And once they’re booked, they’re booked. So you really don’t want to wait to book your photographer and then not be able to get the one you want because they’re already photographing someone else’s wedding on your day.

    (Not sure how to pick out the perfect photographer for your wedding day? Stay tuned for our blog post covering that topic next week!)

If you do these 5 things ASAP after getting engaged, you'll set you and your Sweetheart up for success and have great memories of the time you planned your wedding!

Did any of these 5 steps seem surprising, or super helpful? Let us know in the comments below!

Should you have an unplugged wedding?

We’ve been blogging our answers to different questions we’ve been asked by our J&M Sweethearts. In previous posts we’ve talked about should you hire a planner, should you do a first look, and tips on what to wear to your engagement session. We’ve even shared some wedding planning advice from former brides.

In today’s Bride Advice blog we’re going to help you answer the question, “Should we have an unplugged wedding?” There’s quite a few articles out there written by photographers to explain why they would like you to have an unplugged wedding. But here we’re going to talk about reasons you as the bride and groom may want to consider having an unplugged wedding. But first…

A wedding guest takes a picture of a bride and groom with his cell phone during a wedding ceremony-Should you have an unplugged wedding?, written by Texas Wedding Photographers, Jason & Melaina 


If you haven’t attended an “unplugged” wedding yourself, or haven’t come across the concept in your wedding-planning Pinterest searches, you may have never heard of an “unplugged wedding.” An unplugged wedding is a wedding where the couple asks their guests to put away their cell phones, iPads, and cameras, and refrain from taking pictures. Most often this is only requested during the ceremony portion of the day, but could potentially be a request for the entire ceremony and reception as well.


Being fully present

Imagine it’s your wedding day. You’re standing up at the altar with your sweetheart, preparing to say your vows and commit your lives to one another. You look out into the audience at all the most important people in your lives who have come to witness this day with you. And all you see is a sea of cellphones, tablets and cameras aimed at you, hiding the faces of those most important to you. Or people looking down at their phones as they post the picture they just took on their social media account.

Having an unplugged ceremony invites your guests to be fully present with you during this important moment in your love story. It allows you to lock eyes with your friends and families, truly cherishing this special once-in-a-lifetime moment you’re all sharing. If the thought of missing that connection with present guests makes you sad, you may want to consider requesting guests to put down their devices for your ceremony.

A wedding guest takes a picture of a bride and groom with her cell phone during a wedding reception-Should you have an unplugged wedding?, written by Texas Wedding Photographers, Jason & Melaina

Public sharing of wedding images

Speaking of posting pictures to social media...If you consider yourself a more private person in what you share on social media you may want to consider an unplugged wedding as well. Guests are excited to share the pictures they have taken at your wedding to their Facebook or Instagram accounts, and will often tag you in the images. So it’s possible images of your wedding ceremony, your first kiss or first dance, or even you in your dress before the ceremony could be shared online for a lot of people to see before you’ve even seen pictures yourself. It could even be possible an excited guest or member of the bridal party will snap a quick picture of you before the ceremony and share it to social media, potentially ruining any sort of surprise you wanted to have in what your wedding gown and hair/makeup looks like. And if you didn’t do a first look and your groom-to-be happens to be scrolling social media on his phone before the ceremony and sees the post? Well that’s a bummer!

Less accidental photobombing

Our first two reasons for having an unplugged wedding dealt with the actual wedding day, but this last reason deals with the images and video footage you receive after your wedding from your photographers and/or videographers. I took the following image of Jason at a recent wedding as sort of a behind-the-scenes shot for our business. But it highlights the potential problem of well-meaning guests accidentally photobombing your photographers and/or videographers.

A photographer in the aisle during a wedding ceremony-Should you have an unplugged wedding?, written by Texas Wedding Photographers, Jason & Melaina

I wasn’t worried about Jason taking this position in the aisle because 1) I knew Jason was aware I was behind him and was going to stay crouched down so I could photograph over him, and 2) I knew Jason wasn’t going to stay posted up in the center of the aisle the entire ceremony so I was still going to be able to get my shot of an empty aisle with the bride and groom at the altar.

However, we don’t always know this with guests at weddings. Excited guests who want to record those special moments, like your dad walking you down the aisle or your first kiss as husband and wife, may not realize they’ve accidentally stepped out in the aisle in front of the photographer or videographer you’ve paid to professionally capture that moment for you. Your guest may be so excited to capture video of your dance with your dad they step out onto the dance floor to get a better video, placing themselves in the frame of the sweet moment your photographer or videographer was trying to capture.

Granted, we can often move our position or change our framing of the moment. Or we can strategically crop the image later. And we’re often on the look out beforehand for guests with cameras or phones, taking into account their potential movement into our shots during pivotal moments so we can limit the number of accidental photobombs.

But sometimes, moving quickly is difficult for us, especially if the venue limits our mobility already as some chapels and churches do. Or the guest stands up the entire ceremony to film with their phone and there’s never a way to not have them in the wide-angle shots we do of the ceremony. Or lastly, your guest themselves may not end up photobombing the image, but the flash they used on their camera to take a quick picture of your kiss at the altar ends up completely throwing off our lighting settings for our cameras, and then it’s impossible to edit the bright flash out of that image later.

We can do a lot to make sure we capture those important images for you with as little photobombing as possible. But having an unplugged wedding drastically reduces the chances of any accidental photobombs during your wedding day.


We know your family and friends are going to want to take pictures with you and of you during your wedding day. And we actually love that! We love that your families and friends will be able to capture moments from their perspective on your wedding day, and be able to share those images with you. We also think it’s really fun when our couples have a wedding day hashtag and encourage guests to post images with it, so our Sweethearts can search that hashtag after their wedding to see all the fun their guests had that day. So if you can't wait to see all the different images from your guests documenting your full wedding day, then maybe an unplugged wedding isn't for you. 

A wedding hashtag signs-Should you have an unplugged wedding?, written by Texas Wedding Photographers, Jason & Melaina

But if you find yourself torn between wanting to have guests use a hashtag but also wanting to have fully present guests who won’t accidentally photobomb your wedding photographers or videographers, a great compromise could be having an unplugged ceremony. It could be as simple as having a sign at the entrance to the ceremony or something printed in the program asking guests to be fully present with you in this moment and put their phones away. You could even have your officiant make the request before the ceremony begins. And then, as guests head into the reception, you can have signs up or cards on the tables sharing your wedding day hashtag and encouraging guests to get those phones and cameras back out. Then it's a win-win!

What are your thoughts on an unplugged wedding? Leave us a comment below to let us know!

Should you hire a wedding planner?

Bride's wedding bouquet

You want to know a little secret no one will tell you when you first get engaged? Planning a wedding is a lot of work! It involves making A LOT of decisions, like your wedding date, your budget, your venue, your colors, your dream dress, your flowers, your bridal party lineup, your cake design...the list goes on and on! And making those decisions and doing the work they require on your own is not for the faint of heart, or the unorganized.

So for this post in our Bride Advice series, we’re going to talk about people who can help you with all those decisions- wedding planners and day-of consultants.

But before we dive in, let’s break down what we’re talking about with some definitions.

Planner - this is someone you will hire ASAP after you become engaged. S/He will help you plan your wedding, create your budget, articulate your wedding day vision, pick out your vendors. A planner, or someone on her/his staff, will also do all the tasks of a day-of consultant leading up to and on your wedding day.

Day-of consultant - Don’t let the title “day-of consultant” confuse you. This wedding professional is actually someone you’ll meet with a month or two before your wedding day. S/he will help you create a wedding day timeline to ensure everything you want to happens will happen. S/he will be the main contact for all the wedding vendors you’ve hired, and will be the person “in charge” on your wedding day. S/he will make sure everyone sticks to the timeline and will handle any emergencies that arise.

Okay, now that we’re all on the same page with who we’re talking about, let’s chat about obvious and not-so-obvious problems planners and day-of consultants will help you solve. And hear some insight from trusted wedding planners in Central Texas!

Purple wedding invitation suite

Obvious Problems


Having a timeline for your wedding day is essential! The timeline keeps everyone on task, and ensures every event you want to happen will. Timelines are so critical to us as your wedding photographers that if any of our J&M Brides do not have a planner or day-of consultant, Melaina will meet with her to create the perfect timeline for her wedding day. But by having a planner or a day-of consultant, our brides have not only a perfectly crafted timeline created by a professional wedding organizer, but will also have a person tasked with keeping everyone on the timeline the day of the wedding. 

A large part of my job is to make sure that the specifics of the day happen according to the timeline in order to create smooth transitions throughout the day. The bride and groom (and family) are unaware of time on that day, as it should be! They are allowed to enjoy every minute of this special event while I keep it moving along flawlessly!  - Shauna Pittman, Wedding Day Consultant

Coordinating vendors

If you haven’t figured out by now, there are a lot of wedding professionals who will be a part of your wedding day team- photographers, videographers, baker, caterer, venue staff, rentals, florist, etc. One important way a planner serves you is by helping you find the perfect team of professional for your vision within your budget. You can trust their recommendations and know they are recommending quality professionals. In addition to that, a planner/day-of consultant will then take on the role of “point person” for your team of professionals. Vendors will check-in with him/her with any issues, and s/he will ensure every professional arrives with all the correct things to make your wedding day a success. Your consultant allows you, your fiance, and your family to relax and enjoy the day.

Hiring an event planner ensures that you have a consistent point of contact throughout the planning process. Having an organized professional event planner allows all the vendors to also receive the same coordinated, perfected timeline and point of contact which allows them to focus on doing their best work. - Kathy Thorman, Before I Do

Helps you create your dream wedding

A planner and consultant will be well-educated on the different trends and styles of weddings, and will be able to help you envision and coordinate a wedding that perfectly depicts you and your sweetheart. S/He will have a great network of vendors who will fit your style and be able to recommend accordingly. And if you are feeling overwhelmed by your Pinterest board, s/he will help you narrow down and focus on the elements of your wedding that will help your personalities shine through.

Spring wedding decorations

Not-so-obvious Problems

Budget control

Some couples (and/or parents of the couple) have a wedding budget already set up, while others make it up as they go. A planner specifically can help make and keep you on your budget. S/He can help you book the perfect wedding vendors within your budget, and even point out areas where savings can be made and then redistributed to other areas of the budget. A great example of this is when our friend, Karen Bohanon at Posh Events, told us of how she recommend one of her brides not spend money on programs for her ceremony, which would be left on the floor or ignored by guests, and instead put that money into her flower budget to help her get the flowers she really wanted. Such a great idea!

Save you from wedding day fails

We’ve photographed enough weddings and talked with enough of our wedding planner friends to know things can go wrong at weddings. And your wedding day is supposed to be a time for you to focus on marrying your true love and celebrating with your family and friends, not running around trying to put out fires, figuratively or literally. Kathy Thorman of Before I Do told us of a time she salvaged an altar made of tree branches with mason jars filled with wildflowers that was blown over and destroyed by the wind. Karen Bohanon noticed one of her bride’s cakes had begun melting in the Texas heat, so she had it put in the fridge and used flowers from a display to expertly hide the melted areas of the cake. In both of these situations, the bride was completely unaware of any issue because these ladies acted quickly and perfectly to keep their bride’s wedding running smoothly. Saving you from wedding fails is a HUGE way a planner/consultant serves his/her couples.

Be a neutral voice

There are often quite a few people involved in the planning of your wedding, and even more who will attend. Having a neutral voice in the planning process and especially on the day of your wedding is such a huge service you may not know you need. A professional wedding planner can help you deal with the various opinions you will receive while planning, providing a neutral voice as you and your fiance navigate through the ideas of family and close friends. A day-of consultant can also serve as a neutral enforcer of your wishes to friends and family on your actual wedding day. 

[A consultant] takes the heat so the bride and mother do not have to. And if needed, friends and family may be mad at her but since she doesn't spend birthdays and anniversaries with the family, it shouldn't affect those special events. - Lois Ferguson, Wedding Day Consultant
Large floral arrangement for spring wedding decor 

So should you hire a wedding planner?

We've seen time and again how a wedding planner or a day-of consultant have saved our J&M Sweethearts a lot of headaches. Their expertise, their connections with quality vendors, and their servant hearts all aid our J&M Brides especially in having a stress-free, dream wedding day.

So if you've never considered hiring one of these talented professionals, or if you easily dismissed it as an option thinking it wasn't in the budget for you, you may want to reconsider. They may end up being the best wedding planning decision you make!


We'd like to thank the amazing wedding planners and consultants who took a moment of time and contributed their thoughts and words to this post. If you're a central Texas bride you should definitely check out these wonderful ladies!

Karen Bohanon of Posh Events

Kathy Thorman of Before I Do

Lois Ferguson of Wedding Day Consultant

Shauna Pittman of My Wedding Day Consultant