How to Plan a Wedding

by | Jan 01, 2020

Wedding Planning

So… what makes you an expert in wedding planning?

Good question.  I’m not a wedding planner, but I am a photographer who’s worked over 200 weddings.  As a photographer, I’m someone who will be with the couple for the entire wedding day.  I’ve seen all kinds of weddings, and I’ve seen all kinds of wedding schedules.  Some of them worked perfectly and some of them didn’t.  I’m a pretty good person to help you put the day together because I can help point out when something that might seem like a good idea at the time might not actually work out well in practice.

Where do I begin?

To begin with, congratulations on your engagement!  Now that the initial shock has worn off and everyone has congratulated you, the reality of the situation has started to set in.  Planning a wedding in Montreal is hard!  There are so many details to pick out.  Some of them will be obvious from the beginning.  Some of them are things you never thought of and are going to come up at the last minute.  If you’ve ever been to a wedding show (which is an adventure in itself), you might have been overwhelmed with the sheer volume of options that are out there. So where do you begin?

Pick a date

This part is obvious, right?  The first thing you need to do is to pick a date for your wedding.  Nothing else can happen until you know when it’s supposed to happen.  You should pick a date that’s far enough in the future for you to be able to meet with all the vendors you need and still have time to make informed decisions.  You don’t want to rush something because you didn’t have enough time, but you also want to make sure that your preferred vendors are available.  The more in advance you start, the better your chances of getting the people you want.  This is very important, because having the right or wrong people can make or break your day.

Prioritize your vendors

It’s a good idea to prioritize the vendor categories that you need to book first.  There are some vendors that can only book a limited number of clients for a given day (sometimes only 1), so you want to get them locked down first.  Your first choice should be your venues.  Reception halls can only book a small number of weddings on a given day (sometimes as few as 1), so your hall needs to be at the top of the list.  If you plan on having the ceremony itself at a venue other than the reception hall, such as a church, then you need to place them at the top of the list as well.

Follow the same rule for other vendors: who can only book 1 wedding a day? The photographer, the videographer, the dj, the band, the officiant… This applies to anyone who will providing the services themselves.  Having said this, yes, there are some companies that provide these services and can book more than 1 wedding a day.  A larger entertainment company or photography studio may have several people who work for them and can book more than one wedding on the same day, but each of those individual people can only work 1 wedding.  If you want a specific individual to work your wedding because you really like them (possibly they did an amazing job at a friend’s wedding), you need to prioritize them.

The earlier you can get these services checked off your list, the better your chances of getting the people you want.

To Wedding Planner, or Not to Wedding Planner?

I would say this depends on how big a wedding you’re planning.  If it’s going to be a small, simple ceremony and reception, you can do it yourself for sure.  But the bigger the day is going to be, the easier it will be with an expert helping you out.  A wedding planner can help you save valuable time (and even more valuable sanity), which will reduce your stress and make the experience more enjoyable.  Your planner will have a good sense of what vendors will suit your tastes best.  This means you’ll only need to meet with a short list of people instead of calling around to get information, leaving messages, scheduling appointments, etc.

A wedding planner can be especially helpful if you live out of town.  It can be a nightmare trying to schedule appointments around when you’re going to be able to come to the city you’re planning on getting married in.  If 1 person cancels at the last minute, you’ll have to make a separate trip to meet just with them or find someone else.  A wedding planner can take care of all the running around for you.  You can also schedule video-conference calls with the vendors who the planner has short-listed for you so you can get a chance to speak with them before coming into town.

Running the Gauntlet: How to Survive Wedding Shows

At some point between now and your wedding, you will probably brave the wilds of at least one wedding show.  Some of them are small, local events that only have 20-30 vendors, and some are massive extravaganzas that can have several hundred.  No matter the size, going to one will be a good idea.  If nothing else, it will give you some exposure to all the things that you could do for your wedding.

Make a Plan

Having said that, you don’t want to go in without having a plan.  You can get more details on how to create a strategy for going to a wedding show with our survival guide, but here are a few of the basics:

1:  Sign up for all you want, but don’t sign for anything.  There will be plenty of vendors who want your contact info in exchange for entering you in some kind of contest.  Go for it.  Anything you win is something you don’t need to pay for.  What you shouldn’t do is agree to book a vendor during the show.  These are big decisions and shouldn’t be decided on the spot.

2:  Don’t go alone.  It’s best to have a friend or 4 with you because they may think to ask questions that you don’t (especially if they’ve done this before).  Also, you’re going to be picking up a fair amount of samples and promo material.  Having a few extra sets of arms to carry all this stuff won’t hurt.

3:  Bring two bags with you.  While you shouldn’t agree to book anyone on the spot, you can certainly make decisions about who you want to talk to later and who you don’t.  You can separate the promo material from the “maybe’s” and the “I don’t think so’s” by putting them in different bags.  That way you’ll have less to go through when you get home.

Putting it All Together

Scheduling the Day

Fast forward a few months: you’ve got your date, you’ve booked the venue(s) and all the vendors.  Now you need to create the schedule.  You’re going to want to schedule a meeting with your photographer to help you with this part, as they’re going to be with you the entire day.  Here’s how I usually break it down with the couple during the pre-wedding meeting:

Groom Prep Photos:  45-60 minutes

Bride Prep Photos:  1-2 hours

Family Portrait Session: 20-25 minutes (if you’re looking for location suggestions, we have some here)

Couple Portrait Session (that’s you!):  20-40 minutes

Everything revolves around the start time for the ceremony.  Working backward from that will tell you roughly when the photographer will start (taking travel time into account).

Scheduling the Evening

Once the majority of the day is scheduled, you’ll also need to meet with your dj for the reception.  He/she is running the show, so you’ll need to go over the reception schedule with them.  This is very important as you’ll probably have several events planned throughout the evening (first dance, bouquet toss, etc.) and the hall will be serving several courses during the night.  It all needs to be scheduled so it runs smoothly.

That Was Simple…

And there you have it!  Your wedding is supposed to be a happy event, and it will be if you plan it out properly.  One more thing: don’t do it alone.  You’ve probably got at least a few family members or friends who would love to help you plan your big day.  Let them.  Don’t let them take over, but let them help.  Remember, it’s your day, not theirs.  If you find things getting stressful, take a look at this article about reducing some of your wedding-planning anxiety here.

If you’ve got any questions, we’d love to hear from you!  Give us a call at 514-965-0471, e-mail us at or fill out this handy contact form here.  We’re also available through Facebook (@cmimagesphotography) and Instagram (@cm_images_photography).

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