wedding planning

Wedding Planning Advice from Former Brides | Waco Wedding Photographer

Bridal Gown and Teal Bridesmaids Dress hanging together in bridal getting ready room at Moon River Ranch

When we walk alongside our J&M Brides as they are planning their weddings, year in and year out, wedding planning becomes second-nature to us. But we know for the majority of J&M Brides, this is their one and only  wedding, and their first time planning a wedding. 

Even if you helped plan your sister's or best friend's wedding last year, the amount of decisions needed to be made for your own big day can still seem overwhelming. (Trust us, we remember our own wedding planning journey!)

So we reached out to some of our close friends and former J&M Brides to ask them what one piece of wedding planning advice they'd offer a bride-to-be in the middle of wedding planning. And we wanted to share those nuggets of wisdom with you. So let's pretend you just gained a handful of big sisters/BFFs who have gone down the aisle before you and want to help you learn from their experiences.


Groom sings to bride, emotional father-daughter dance, wedding photography in Waco Texas and Horseshoe Bay
"Hire a professional wedding photographer and videographer as soon as possible. Don't rely on your family and friends (unless they are professionals who you hired). When you hire professionals, they are focused on previous conversations y'all have had about what you expect from them. They won't be distracted by having convos with people they know at the wedding. They will be focused on the two of you and capturing beautiful moments that you would otherwise completely forget about! Unfortunately we did not hire a videographer and relied on a good friend with a nice video camera. We don't have a wedding video. Let's just say this is a topic we don't discuss even 8 years later! Hire professionals. That's what I learned!
Also, find a couple who had been married a while and ask them to mentor y'all throughout this engagement and first year of marriage. It's always helpful to have a couple in your life who is not family and has experience in marriage. The advice and wisdom they can provide for you will be priceless.  - Kelly


Waco Texas bride has hair styled on wedding day while bridesmaids look on
Stay organized and provide an agenda for the wedding weekend so everyone is on the same page. I'm a crazy planner (it's the teacher in me) so it made it so easy for everyone to know where to be and when to be there. I got complimented on this by a lot of our wedding party who had been in previous weddings where they would have to constantly text to figure out where they needed to be and when. Also create a spreadsheet of hair and makeup and times and give your bridesmaids the totals beforehand so they have cash or check ready to speed up that process. This made it a very smooth process and my hair dresser greatly appreciated it-especially since I had 10 bridesmaids, a junior bridesmaid, a flower girl, and mothers and grandmas that had to be done. - Ashlee
Bride and grooms look lovingly at one another during weddings in Waco TX and Victoria TX
Two things: 
It's ok to say you don't like something, like an idea or suggestion. It's your wedding. Just be gracious. Also, if something doesn't turn out the way you want it or you can't do something you wanted to, don't let it steal your joy. Choose joy!
Ok, three things, haha: Remember to cherish this time you have with your family and friends, during the planning process and in the day of. Remember to take "mental snapshots" of how you felt, how he looked at you, etc. You'll flip through those in your head over the years more times than you will a photo album. - Myka
Waco TX bride and groom hold hands before wedding ceremony at Carleen Bright Arboretum
We both picked three things that were important to us for our wedding. We really tried to make sure those things came out the way we wanted and it was ok if all the other details weren't exactly perfect. It helped us focus on what was important (the marriage) and also love our wedding without a lot of stress or unmet expectations. - Dache
Waco TX bride walks toward groom during a "first look" before their wedding ceremony

We hope these suggestions from real-life brides help you as you plan your dream wedding day. And if you, dear reader, have any other nuggets of wisdom for brides-to-be leave them in the comments below!

Unique Wedding Day Ideas

It's always fun to observe how different couples' personalities will shine through in the elements of their wedding day. With each ceremony, I always find one unique thing or an example of thinking-outside-of-the-box I wish we had incorporated in our own wedding years ago. Alas, Pinterest was not around yet to serve as a treasure trove of wedding planning ideas.

If you find yourself in the midst of wedding planning and are looking for some fun ideas to incorporate you and your fiance's' personalities into your big day, here's a collection of the most fun, touching, and unique wedding day ideas Jason & I have seen recently. 

The Wedding Time Itself

I'm not sure of the exact statistic, but I'd bet the vast majority of weddings occur Saturday evening with the reception lasting late into the night. Want to be really unique when planning your big day? Get married Saturday morning. One of our recent couples did exactly that. They took their love of coffee, and "meh"-feeling towards dancing, and had a lovely Saturday morning wedding followed by a brunch-themed reception. THEY. HAD. AN. OMELET. BAR. AND. STARBUCKS. COFFEE. It was such a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.

Meaningful wedding day gifts

If you aren't planning on doing a first-look, a great way to have a connection with your soon-to-be spouse is to write each other a heartfelt note before the ceremony. You can even send your photographers over to your future Mr. or Mrs. to hand-deliver the note and document the moments you read his/her sweet words.

During her bridal portrait sessions, one of our #JandMbrides had us take her picture holding this sign, under the guise it was to be a present for her dad since her mother was there with us. We got her the image and she had it framed, writing a sweet letter to her parents on the matte. Before heading to the ceremony on her wedding day, she gave the framed picture and letter to her parents. It was such a sweet way for her to share with them how much they meant to her on this special day. 

Before, During, and After the Ceremony

Have one final celebration with your bridesmaids before the ceremony by providing a mimosa bar in the morning. Sipping on mimosas while you have your hair and makeup done is a relaxing way to start the wedding day.

There are a lot of different ways to symbolize the uniting of two families in a wedding ceremony besides the traditional unity candle. But hands-down the most unique and most perfect personality-capturing unity symbol we've seen was a unity tree. Each set of parents poured soil into the large jar. Then the bride and groom planted a tree into the mixed soil. After their wedding and reception, the couple carried their unity tree with them to their new home in Oregon to be planted in their front yard. 

Some people cannot wait for the DJ to start spinning tracks and hit the dance floor. But some guests would rather do anything but dance. One fun option we've seen at a reception was to provide dozens of board games for your guests to play. Nothing brings families and friends together like board games!

Photobooths are really fun and a neat way to send guests home with a commemorative picture. But have you ever considered a personal caricature? One of our brides found an art student at Baylor University to draw caricatures for any of her guests during the reception. It was so much fun, and super popular. The artist had people waiting in line to get their caricature drawn. 

Looking for some unique entertainment for your guests during cocktail hour? One of our couples hired a local polka band to come play for the guests. It was so unique, and so fun. The kids especially loved twirling around and dancing to the music.

A lot of women wear super-cute high heels to weddings. While these shoes may look great with their dresses and be perfect attire for a wedding ceremony, by the end of the night these ladies may be unable to dance the night away with you because their feet are hurting. A great solution is to provide a stash of complimentary dancing shoes displayed in the women's restroom of the reception venue.

Speaking of dancing, everyone is aware of the traditional dances which open the dance floor at a wedding reception. There's the newlywed's first dance, then the father-daughter dance. Occasionally there's even a mother-son dance. But one of our tender-hearted brides (remember the picture she made her parents?) had a surprise mother-daughter dance with her mom. Her mother had no idea until the DJ called her to the floor. They danced for a little bit before the DJ called all the daughters and mothers on to the floor to join in the dancing. Luckily I was only holding our off-camera flash and not taking pictures at the time, because I was a blubbering mess. It was such a sweet moment and truly showcased this mother and daughter's meaningful relationship.

We love seeing how each bride and groom add unique elements to their wedding day to truly make it their own. Those are some of the most unique wedding day ideas we've seen recently. Leave us a comment below to tell us and other brides what you've seen. We'd love to hear it!