Category Archives: 05. Tips for Brides

tips for brides: {what to know when booking your DJ}

If you missed my last post about what to know before booking your venue check it out here!  In the next couple of weeks I will be posting more tips for selecting your wedding vendors.  This week I wanted to focus on booking your DJ.  Simply put: this person is going to have a microphone for the majority of your wedding day…choose wisely!

Okay, so how do you avoid hiring this guy for your wedding?  Here’s how:


Vendor Referrals

The wedding community is a close knit community.  Chances are you will hire 75% of your vendors based on a recommendation from another vendor.  Ask your venue coordinator or wedding photographer who they recommend (better yet, hire a wedding coordinator…more on that in a later post).  For your wedding day to run smoothly it is critical that your DJ is able to coordinate with both your venue and photographer.  We have all worked with some great DJs and some really not so great DJs.  So just ask, and we will be more than happy to recommend the good ones!

If you are considering booking a DJ that you found on your own ask for recent referrals.  I strongly recommend getting a referral from not only a recent bride, but also one of the vendors that the DJ worked with.  Good DJs coordinate with the photographer and venue.  They don’t announce the toasts without making sure that champagne has been poured and that the photographer is ready.  A good DJ also knows how to keep your reception timeline moving to ensure all of your events (cake cutting, garter, bouquet toss, first dance etc) are done BEFORE your photographer is scheduled to leave.  Ask to speak with either the last venue coordinator or photographer that they worked with to find out if the DJ plays well with others!

Meeting your DJ

I’ve noticed that many of the local DJ companies have several DJs working for them.  This totally make sense from a business perspective.  Their company can essentially be working 5-10 weddings all on the same day.  But is this the best thing for a bride?  Yes, ONLY if you are able to meet your DJ BEFORE your wedding.  Companies that have multiple DJs can be good because they are able to pair you up with a DJ that best fits your personality and the vibe that you want to have at your wedding.  Just make sure that you are able to meet with your DJ and work directly with them to put together your repletion timeline/music choices.

Equipment and Add-ons

Ask what kind of equipment they will bring to your event.  Brand name is probably not going to matter (unless you know your way around DJ equipment), but items like a lapel microphone for the ceremony, cordless microphone for speeches at the reception, and how they will mix the music will be important.  Most DJs are using their laptops to mix music and are able to access on-line music, such as iTunes, for anything they don’t have.  If your DJ is still mixing with CD or records you will want to know this ahead of time.  Be sure to ask if there are any extra changes associated with the equipment (e.g. second microphone charge, iTunes charge).

Many companies now offer lots of add-ons.  Such as up-lighting, dance floor monograms, additional entertainers (magicians, fire breathers etc) and photo booths.  Talk to your DJ about their other services.   The fewer overall vendors that you have to coordinate and contract with the better!


About 2 months before your wedding day you will want to meet with your DJ to finalize your reception timeline.  Before this meeting make sure you have the start time for the following events: ceremony start time, cocktail hour, grand entrance, dinner service, when your photographer leaves and any venue restrictions (e.g. when is your rental time up, are there any restrictions for music).  This will provide the framework for your DJ to help you put together your reception timeline.  It is so important to let them know when you photographer will be leaving to ensure that they schedule all of your events (first dance, cake cutting, garter and bouquet toss) before the photographer leaves.  This is why I send my photography timeline 90 days before your event…so take it with you when you meet with your DJ!

Side note: For my wedding we did the first dance right after the grand entrance and then the father/daughter and mother/son dance towards the end of dinner service.  Everyone is focused on the bride and groom for the grand entrance and by going right into the first dance it kept everyone’s attention.  By doing the father/daughter and mother/son dance towards the end of dinner service it allowed us to break-up the special dances.  This way we didn’t have 10 straight minutes of dances.  Your guests are there to support you, but truth be told their attention span is short.  Break the dances up and they will be more than happy to refocus for each one.  Also, start the special dances towards the end of dinner service.  Not when dinner service is over.  It’s perfectly okay if some guest are still eating.  If you wait until dinner service is totally over you will be consumed with saying hello and thank you to each table and I guarantee that your reception timeline will be at least 30 minutes behind schedule.  You can take a break from greeting your guests to do the special dances and then go back to saying hello to each table.

The play list and the DON’T play list

This is unique to each couple.  If you are a music enthusiast your might be more hands-on with your play list.  If not, talk to your DJ about the bands and songs that you like and the overall vibe that you want your reception to have.  Allow them to use their experience and crowd reaction to create the perfect playlist.  Whatever is topping the charts is always popular, but it never ceases to amaze me how the young and old will fill the dance floor in two seconds flat for songs like Journey-Don’t Stop Believing, Electric Slide, YMCA and hokey pokey.  Remember, a lot of people are not confident in their dance skills.  By playing some songs that they are SUPER familiar with it’s like a little security blanket out on the dance floor and they will be more likely to stay and dance.

The hokey pokey…sing it with me-put your head in and shake it all about!

If you do have a DON’T play list, be sure to communicate that to your DJ and what you want them to do if someone makes a request for that song(s).

Games-To play or not to Play

Games are a great way to engage your guests, especially ones that don’t want to dance, but I would limit it to one or two so it doesn’t start to feel like a kid’s birthday party. Talk to your DJ about whether or not you want  to play games at your reception.  If you are adamantly against it let them know.

The newlywed game is always a hit!

Cost and Contract

As with ALL of your wedding vendors, get the total cost in writing and READ the entire contract.  Be sure to know what the payment schedule/options are and the cancellation policy.

Share Contact Info

As soon as you have booked your DJ send one email to your DJ, venue coordinator and photographer letting everyone know that you have booked your DJ.  This way your vendors can start coordinating immediately!

Don’t forget to DANCE!!!!!!!

I have seen so many brides that spend the entire night greeting guests and they never make it to the dance floor.  I know it’s important to attend to your guests, but this is your wedding.  Get out on the dance floor and bust a move!  The more the bride dances the move energy the entire dance floor with have!!

Tips for brides: {What to know when booking your Arizona Wedding Venue}

Booking your wedding venue is one of the first vendors and most expensive vendors that you are going to book for your wedding day.  The venue is also going to be a big part of setting the tone, style and overall feel of your wedding day.  When I booked my wedding venue almost four years ago I received an education by fire.  I quickly learned that it’s not all about just loving the location.  It has to fit your wedding on many levels.  Here are a few things to consider when booking the perfect venue!

{Ceremony-I do!!}

Most venues have a separate fee for the ceremony site.  Often times they have multiple ceremony sites and may charge different rates for different sites.  If there are multiple ceremony sites there is a good chance that there could be more than one wedding going on in the same day.  Venues will do their best to keep wedding parties separate by placing signage around the venue to direct your guests to the right location, but there is a good chance that your guests will see more than one bride on your wedding day.  If this bothers you, you might want to look for a location with only one wedding per day.

You will also want to check and see what their policy is on the decor of the ceremony site.  When will the site be available for you/family/vendors to come and set-up.  I have seen so many times that the florist or family member shows up three hours before the wedding to decorate and the venue is not ready.  If the florist has another wedding that day they are usually on a tight timeline and need to set-up and move on to their next event.  This ultimately causes unnecessary stress and frustration.  Be sure to consult with your venue coordinator to put together a timeline that works for everyone.

{Reception-Let the party begin}

The reception is a huge part of your wedding day.  This is where you will dance your first dance as a married couple and where you will have a chance to mingle with your guests.  This is also where you will spend a HUGE part of your wedding budget.

You will start to hear phrases like food and beverage (F&B) minimum and room fee.  Some venues charge a room fee on-top of any food and beverage costs.  Next, there will most likely be a food and beverage minimum.  Meaning, you have to spend this minimum amount of money to book the room.  This ensures that the venue makes enough money on the event to make it worth having the staff, lights, air conditioning/heating etc going.  Your food and beverage cost will be calculated based on the food and beverage selections you make.  Usually the cost is presented as the cost per guest.  Kids and vendors count too!  Side note-please feed your vendors:)

If you plan on having a small wedding (say 50-80 guests) it might be difficult to reach the F&B minimum.  You can look at options of adding an open bar, additional Hors d’oeuvres or more expensive choices for your main course.

This brings you to the menu cost/options.  The venue should be able to provide a summary of all of their menu items from Hors d’oeuvres, salads, main courses and desserts (if they are providing the cake).  A bar menu/cost should also be provided.  This is usually presented as a cost per hour per person.  Check to see what drinks are  included (e.g. house beer and wine or mixed drinks as well).

{Aesthetics-Oh so pretty!}

This is so important, but so easy to overlook.  You take a site tour of the venue, love the lush plant life, the green grass and the beautiful lobby of the venue.  Everything about it is perfect and you book it!  8 months later your wedding day arrives and the plant life died in the summer heat, the grass is dead because they are getting ready to over-seed, the entrance is going thru a major remodel and the parking lot is a dirt mess.  This is not the venue you booked!!

Look closely at the landscape in general.  Is there a rose garden that you just love?  Will it be in bloom on your wedding date or will they have all died from the summer heat?  Ask for pictures of previous weddings scheduled in the same month as your wedding.  Be specific though.  If you wedding date is early October pictures from a wedding in late October may not be accurate.

Lots of golf courses provide a great location and backdrop for weddings.  The golf course staff and the wedding staff are not always on the same page unfortunately.  The golf staff is primarily concerned about their golf revenue and this means over-seeding the grass in early to mid October.  The grass is a brown ugly color until the new winter grass comes in.  When it does, usually mid to late October, the golf staff does not want any foot traffic on their grass.  This can limit the options for photographs, ceremony sites etc.  It is extremely important to know what the over-seeding schedule is when booking at a golf course (or any place with lots of grass).

Periodically, venues will go thru renovations.  This could be anything from replacing carpet, re-doing pools, updating the entire lobby, etc.  Be sure to ask if anything is planned and what the status would be on the date of your wedding.

{Dates/Discounts/Payments-Let’s talk money honey!}

Don’t be afraid to ask!

Is your date available?

Are there any discounts for different times of the year or days of the week?  In Arizona most venues will provide some kind of discount between June and August.  Friday and Sunday weddings are becoming more and more popular, so discounts for weekend days are more rare, but discounts for weekdays are still available.  You will want to consider your guests though.  If you choose a weekday wedding or a Sunday wedding most guests will be coming from work and have to go to work the next day.  This might damper their desire to stay late and party the night away.

Just like any other wedding vendor an initial payment will be required to secure your date.  This may be a flat fee or a percentage of your total estimated cost.  It’s important to know what the payment schedule is and the cancellation/refund policy.  Very few sites (if any) will refund any of your down payment.  If you cancel within 30 days of your event you may contractually be obligated to still pay for the entire event.  READ the fine print of your contract!!!

{What have we learned?}


  • How much does the venue charge for the ceremony site?
  • Are there more than one ceremony sites?  If so, what is the cost of each? Does this mean there could be more than one wedding at the venue on my wedding day?


  • Is there a room fee?
  • What is the food and beverage minimum?
  • What are the menu costs/options?
  • What are the bar costs/options?


  • Landscape-what will the landscape look like on the date of your wedding?  Are there any pictures available?
  • What is the over-seeding schedule?  Will there be any restrictions on the grass on your wedding date?
  • Is there any planned construction or renovations for the venue?  If so, what will the status be on your wedding date?


  • Is  your date available?
  • Are there any discounts available for different times of the year or days of the week?
  • What is the payment plan/policy?
  • What is the refund/cancellation policy?

You can click here download a PDF here of all of these important questions to ask!

Happy bookingJ

Friday FAQ: Wedding Albums

Warning: This is a loooong post.  You might need an energy bar or extra shot of coffee to get thru it all.

This week’s Friday FAQ is all about albums.  Every package that I offer includes a flush mount 20 page album printed by Graphi.  Some photographers don’t offer albums with their packages or offer them for an additional charge.  I think 20 years from now your album is going to be one of the few, if not only, tangible things you have from your wedding.  So, everyone should have one!

A little album terminology that we should cover is “Layout”.  A layout is simply the terminology that we use to describe the left AND right page combined since we don’t design each page separately.  So, in a 20 page album there are 10 layouts (every 2 pages counts as 1 layout).  Is your head spinning yet??

Flush mount album…what does that mean.  Well, this means that each album image is printed and then mounted to the page.  The page has a thickness around 1/16 of inch.  It makes for a really thick and sturdy album.

Now that we have the basics down let’s chat about album sizes.  I offer two standard album sizes (8×8 or 10×10) with my packages plus parents albums.  You can always upgrade your album size, but I think these are a good starting point.

The parents albums are exactly the same design as the larger album, just smaller (6×6).  These are GREAT for parents, grandparents or even the bride to stick in their purse and be able to show-off their wedding day.

Okay, so we have covered that everyone gets a flush mount album with 20 pages (10 layouts).  Let’s talk about design and how soon you get your album.  If you keep up with my blog you know that I not only design my own albums, but I also design wedding albums for other photographers.  So, would you believe I’ve been married for 2 years and still don’t have an album of my own wedding!  The reason being I can’t seem to pick the pictures.  I am too attached to EVERY picture.  This is so common for brides and it results in them getting their albums much later.  My solution to this is I pick my favorite images from the day and design the album.  This is merely a starting point for you to get an idea of what your album could look like.  I will post the design on-line.  You can review your album and make any changes that you want.  If you want to swap out different pictures, add pictures, delete pictures that is totally fine, but at least we have the process started.

I also design several additional pages so that you have plenty to choose from.  If you love all of the pages your can upgrade your album for $45/layout.  If you don’t want the additional pages that is totally okay.  All you have to do is decided which pages you don’t want to keep.

Your album design is on-line ready for you to review 4-6 weeks after the wedding.  Once you have approved the design it takes 4-6 weeks to print and be delivered to you.  Typically you have your album in your hands within 2-3 months of your wedding.

Some of the photographers I design for wait for the bride to pick their images for the album.  We typically don’t start the design on these albums until 6-12 months after the wedding because we are waiting on the bride.  You would have already had your album 9 months ago!

Your albums come in these nice white boxes.

Yeah, not to exciting…I know.  I originally thought I would invest in some really nice boxes with my logo all over them.  But I decided to go green.  You see, your album is shipped to me in these white boxes and they actually do a pretty good job of keeping the album safe.  If I re-boxed the albums then I would just have to trash these boxes which I didn’t think was too cool or too green.

This has been a very long Friday FAQ, bonus points if you made it all the way to the end without falling asleep!

Friday FAQ-How Soon Will You Get Your Pictures

Today’s FAQ is, “How soon will I have all of my images?”.

The short answer is 1-2 weeks for portraits/engagement sessions and 4-6 weeks for weddings.

The long answers is I grow thru and edit every single image and color correct and enhance the picture to ensure that each image looks great.  Some photographers only edit a certain number of images or only the images you choose for your album.  I don’t understand this practice.  Are you not supposed to look at the other 500-1000 images?  Shouldn’t they be the same quality as your album images?

For portrait and engagement sessions you can expect to receive 100-150 images.  Usually within a week of the shoot I will have a full blog post the includes some of my favorite images.  Within a week to two weeks of the session all of your images will be ready and uploaded to an on-line gallery that is password protected.  You will be able to download the images at full resolution directly from your gallery.  I do this for the portrait and engagement sessions because most of the time clients are anxious to get prints and don’t want to wait for a CD to be mailed to them.

For weddings you can expect to receive 600-1000 images depending on the number of hours and number of photographers.  Within one to two days I will have a sneak peak of the wedding on the blog.  This usually includes one to two pictures.  Within one to two weeks I will have a full blog post that includes some of my favorite images.  As a bride once myself, four to six weeks felt like FOREVER to wait for pictures, so hopefully the sneak peak and full blog post helps the anxiousness of the waiting.

Since every blog post has to have a picture here is a couple from a bridal shoot that I have yet to post!

That’s all for today’s FAQ…happy Friday everyone!

Friday FAQ – Engagement Session Locations

Friday FAQ a little early!

Today I shot Kandice and Nate’s engagement session and I thought this would be a perfect topic for Friday’s FAQ! So, today’s FAQ is, “Where to have your engagement session”.

The short answer is anywhere you want!

The long answer is that I can give you lots of ideas or you can choose a location that is special to you. If you like to golf, play tennis or have a special place that you always go for date night it’s great to incorporate these activities/places into your engagement sessions. Kara and Chris busted out their football jerseys for their session and I absolutely love these pictures!

If you need a little help with coming up with ideas here are a few favorites!

Yesterday we shot at Sahuaro Ranch Park in Glendale. There were lots of little spots to take pictures (like here and here)!

Downtown Scottsdale. The infamous LOVE statue is here, but that’s not all. Below are a few favorites from this location and you can see more here!

Tempe Town Lake offers lots of variety and is perfect for getting those sunset pictures. This is where Kristin and Ben had their pictures and one more here.

Since I graduated from ASU how could I not love shooting there! Love this cute little cottage on campus. Check out more pictures from ASU here and here.

An engagement sessions can really be anywhere! Your imagination is the limit, but if you need a little help hopefully this FAQ will help!

Also check out this post for “How to make the most of your engagement session”.