1. Setting your Date
The first thing you need to decide on is the date when you are going to tie the knot! Holiday weekends tend to allow for more guests to make it to town by allowing them to take that 3 day weekend. However, room rates tend to be higher on holiday weekends, as well as flights. If you are local, these dates actually can cause a problem and lower your wedding attendance if some friends and family end up being scheduled to go out of town. If you have a small intimate wedding, this won’t affect you quite as much.
2. Any day but Saturday
Whether or not you are booking your wedding 1 month or 1 year in advance. Considering any other day than Saturday lends to more vendor availability (like photographers) and even lower rates at your wedding and reception site of choice. Many Country Clubs in town actually have better rates on other days because Saturdays fill up fast. If the reception hall is empty on Friday or Sunday, they are essentially losing money on unused space. This isn’t always a hard and fast rule but some places in town do offer discounts on historically low volume dates, allowing you to save some of that hard earned money or give you a bigger budget somewhere else.
3. Scope out the landscape
Las Vegas is really dry and even our Golf Courses (which have green grass) often have a hint of desert landscaping mixed in between. Make sure you research your country club very well and decide if the other areas of the venue match your taste and allow for variability for your photos. If possible, try and visit the course before making the decision, since many photos online will show green fairways but the rest of the landscaping may be more “Deserty” than you think. Which is fine with me as long as you know what to expect come wedding day.
4. Scope out the Inside
Not all Country Clubs are created equal. Find out where you will be getting ready and if there is a special place for the Bride. There are two options with getting ready photos, you can either take them at the Hotel before you head over or you can get ready on location. Many photographers prefer to use natural light and dark rooms without windows make it more challenging. I can take a photo in any lighting but if I get to choose, natural lighting is my preference for a more real and in depth look. This is also the place where your photographer may want to take some detail shots of the dress, so choose wisely. Many Country clubs have small locker rooms with small windows and limited lighting choices. These photos are so important, so please discuss your options with your photographer so that you both can know what to expect as far as getting ready photos are concerned.
5. Location. Location. Location
Most Las Vegas Country Clubs are very accessible to our visitors by being located off the main Freeways and streets. The big question is how close is your getting ready location (most likely a hotel) to your wedding site venue? Once you do enough weddings you realize that everything takes longer than anticipated and many wedding schedules get behind at one point or another. Doing your homework ahead of time will help you pick not only a beautiful hotel for getting ready photos but a close drive to your ceremony and reception location. Being close in proximity really helps everyone stay on schedule because it reduces variables like traffic and construction which in Vegas can be totally unpredictable.
6. Rain or Shine? Usually Shine…
Expect a sunny photo session on your wedding day. Las Vegas is known for little amounts of rainfall and you can put your money on clear and sunny skies. Even a green Country Club has limited amounts of shade. This can affect your photographer’s ability to get good photos and limits locations especially if you are getting married mid day and the sun is up high. Keep tabs on the upcoming weather report as your day approaches. If on the off chance it is cloudy or does rain, it is nice to bring an umbrella or consider different shoes that are better for navigating slippery sidewalks.
7. Check when Sunset is
Who doesn’t love a good wedding at sunset? Depending on the time of year it may get too dark for pictures at 4:30 in the winter and 7:30 in the peak summer if you have your ceremony right at sunset. This is great if you do your pictures beforehand but when the light gets low and you are shooting families and big group shots, it doesn’t yield as nice as lighting for photos. The best time for these photos are the last hour of the day but cut it too close and you can count on having flash exposed photos for the rest of your portraits and family photos. Discuss the ceremony time with your photographer so that you can work out the details especially if you are not doing any before the ceremony because you want the first time he sees you to be when you walk down the aisle.
8. Outside Ceremony setup
This is one of my most important topics. Vegas Country Clubs don’t have too many trees and many times, people set up the chairs and alter without any regard for what the sun is doing. Since it would be silly and impossible for me to move the bride, the guests or the sun during a ceremony, proper setup is key to a well photographed outside wedding ceremony. Ceremonies scheduled right when the sun sets allow for a beautiful soft glow and no harsh lighting, but they only give you about 10 minutes of adequate lighting and that can leave your vows pretty short and don’t even think about having enough time for family photographs afterwards. So, most of the ceremonies I shoot end up being in full sun an hour or so before the sun sets, which is totally okay if you know how to set up your ceremony. Here is what you need to know, keep the sun away from your direct left or to your right when you are walking down the aisle and as long as you have the sun somewhere behind the alter or behind the party when coming down the aisle you will have more amazing pictures than you could ever imagine even in direct sunlight. Here is the app I use to find out exactly where the sun will be on your wedding day. Sun Seeker App
9. Let your guests be guests and
…..not the photographer. I am all for letting your family and friends take pictures but when uncle “Bob” brings their nice SLR camera to the wedding and keeps interrupting so they can get a shot too, this can be very distracting and cut into your actual paid photography time. You paid good money for your amazing professional photographer and it would be a real shame to have those photos be limited because someone else wants in on the action. I can understand the excitement but let your guests enjoy being guests and let the professionals do what you hired them to do.
10. Consider a Phone free ceremony
There was a really great article that started floating around about this a few years ago showing actual ruined photographs from multiple wedding ceremonies because phones got in the way of the photographer. I could have thrown in one or two myself that just were completely unusable because the view of the Bride and Groom were blocked. So, I will ask you to consider a phone free ceremony. I have seen this actually done, where the guests valet (check in) their phones before the ceremony (Don’t worry they can handle being phone free for less than a half an hour), make sure they are turned off or to silent and let your photographer do the job. Trust me, we want to! I can’t tell you how many times I have had someone stand right in the aisle and get in the way of a really great shot because they wanted to take a photo so badly. I almost never shoot a wedding now where at least one or two people don’t get their phone or Ipad out and hold it up to take a picture during the ceremony itself. Trust me, it is distracting and can seriously effect your ceremony photos. Happily give them their phones back afterwards, so they can take pictures the rest of the night and upload fun stuff to Instagram, you will not regret it! Luckily this picture was still usable!
11. Take 10 minutes
One of my favorite things to do is sneak the Bride and Groom away from everyone right when the sun sets. The next ten minutes or so after the sun goes down allows for beautiful even lighting that make every spot on the Course beautiful for a photograph. Sometimes You can even get great Sunset shots and the amazing photos you can get are just stunning. Don’t be afraid to schedule that time in. Some of my favorite photos are taken during this time of day.
12. Research your photographer
Is your photographer experienced enough to handle the strong Las Vegas sun? Do they have backup equipment? Do they store your photos properly and back them up? What happens if their camera stops working? Weddings are not easily repeatable like maybe an engagement session could be if something happens to go wrong. It is a go, go, go type day and there can be many twists and turns. Put your trust in a professional and remember to LOVE their work. You want them to be good fit for you personality wise since they will be your third wheel all day long!