Cynthia Viola Photography

Wedding Prep

Ideal Wedding Planning Timeline

Wedding Photography, VendorsCynthia ViolaComment
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou
What to do before the wedding day

I will be shooting the weddings of five close friends and family members this year and as such, I've been a bit more involved in the planning of their big days. Along with that, I've found the same question keeps presenting itself in different ways:

"If I send my save the dates now, how long do I wait to send my official invites?"

"When should I expect people to RSVP by?"

"How early do I need to order..."

"When is the best time to..."

"At what point do I need to...."

"Is it too late to...."

Now, I'm certainly no expert here, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND hiring a wedding coordinator to help you with these questions, but hopefully this will give you some ideas for what might work for you. Particularly as it relates to your photography. :)

Please do not feel like you need to follow this exaclty...or at all, but if you're just looking for a place to start, hopefully you'll find this helpful. I am basing it off of a 12 month timeline. If your big day is in 6 months, cut the times in half, 18 months, you have a little leeway etc...

what to do 12 months before wedding

12-18 Months:

  • Start a binder to keep everything together (vendor info, price comparisons, receipts)  
  • Sit down with with your future spouse and any parents who might be helping with the cost and determine not only an overall budget but how much of it you'd like to designate to each area. 
  • Start a guest list, it will need to be adjusted as you go along (most likely cut due to costs) but go ahead and get a ballpark idea of how many you'd have there if everyone you loved came, this will help you choose your venue as some only hold a certain amount. 
  • Hire a planner.  (In St. Augustine, I love Heidi) This will save you SOOOO much stress. They are naturally good at details (that's why they're planners) and they know a ton about the industry and what vendors and details will suit you best.
  • Choose a season you'd like to be married in, and even a month, just don't set your heart on a specific date until you know your venue and other main vendors are available. 
  • Choose your Venue(s). Popular ceremony and reception venues book up sometimes two years in advance. Once you know your venue is available for the date you want, you'll be able to choose your other vendors accordingly and send out save the dates. Check to make sure they don't host multiple weddings in one day, that can make it stressful if you're trying to get in and out at very specific times.
  • If you like, Throw an Engagement Party! We will always take ANY reason to celebrate with the people we love. Just don't feel like you have to... especially if you'd rather save your budget for better options on the wedding day.
what to do 9 months before your wedding

9-11 Months:

  • Determine which vendors are most important to you and secure them for the date asap in order of importance. This will also deplete the budget the fastest, so if you know you can't live without a specific DJ, book them first and you can get a second choice caterer if the budget gets tight.  I personally think photography is most important because it's the only thing you get to keep after the big day besides your spouse, but definitely figure out what is most important to you and your future spouse.  
  • Register for gifts at various stores, most you can do online these days, Wedding Wire also helps streamline this process.  
  • Say yes to a dress. (or two for two brides both wearing dresses, double the fun!) It's fine if you're borrowing it, just know where it's coming from and whether or not it will need to be altered. This tends to take a couple months. 
  • Reserve a block of hotel rooms for out of town guests at 2-3 different hotels at different price points near the venue. 
  • Schedule your engagement session with your photographer. If you plan to use these photos for save the dates, you'll need to be closer to 11 months out, if not, I've shot them as late as the day before the wedding. :)
  • Launch a wedding website if you'd like, through a free service such as Weddingwire.com. This will be helpful for guests needing info leading up to the big day. (It's also fun to put it together, and you can show off photos from your engagement session if you choose to have one) 
what to do 7 months before wedding

7-8 Months:

  • Choose your wedding party. If you know for sure that, say, siblings will be in the party, feel free to let them know asap. But we chose ours while still in college a year and a half before the big day with friends changing constantly and by the time our day rolled around we weren't even sure a couple of them would show up! ALSO, don't feel like it has to be all women or all men based on your gender. If you want your brother AND sister standing by your side, do it. 
  • If you're choosing specific dresses for any ladies in your party to wear, get them ordered now, it often takes as much as six months for them to arrive, then you need to consider alterations. It's also common practice today to just choose a color and length and allow the girls to choose their dress, this way price point and body type for each one can be considered. 
  • Start planning your honeymoon. Do you need passports or shots?
  • Choose wedding shoes and begin your alterations, make sure to bring the shoes with you to each fitting. (It usually takes about 3 fittings) 
what to do 6 months before wedding

5-6 Months:

  • Meet with your officiant and decide if you'll want to do pre-marital counseling. I HIGHLY recommend this, regardless of your religious affiliation. Having a couple sessions to talk through some of the big things you can expect in your marriage will help you get through those tuff times so much better. 
  • Reserve your structural necessities. If an outdoor wedding, you might need a tent, portable toilets, extra chairs etc, it will depend on your venue, just make sure you check in with them. 
  • Florists can come a little later due to the fact that they can usually book multiple weddings in one day, but if you have your heart set on one, make sure you lean closer to 6 months. 
  • Arrange any transportation you might need for yourselves, your wedding party or the entire guest list if there will be heavy drinking at the reception. Consider trolleys, limos, busses and pre-paid uber passes. 
  • Finalize your menu with the caterer. 
  • Choose your cake or other desserts if your caterer does not provide them. Doughnuts, cupcakes, truffles and ice cream bars are all popular options as well. 
what to do 3 months before wedding

3-4 Months:

  • Schedule hair and/or make up artists and decide if you'll also be providing them for your girls/moms/sisters etc... It's a great idea to have them do your trial run the day of your engagement or bridal session so you'll know what to expect on the big day and whether or not you like the way you look in photos. 
  • Order favors for guests if you so desire, or welcome baskets for out of town guests. You can also plan gifts for those who helped out, like parents and wedding party etc. 
  • Purchase the wedding bands now in case you need any resizing.  
  • Nail down your guest list and send invitations. Feel free to get fancy with a calligrapher or keep it super simple with social media, either way, make sure everyone you want to be there has it in their calendar. RSVP cutoff is usually about 2-3 weeks prior to the wedding so you can inform your caterer of exact food amounts. 
  • If you're choosing to have a bridal session, now is the time to get it done if you'd like to have any images printed to canvas and displayed at the reception. Keep in mind you will also need to bump up the time your wedding gown is completed. (If you don't plan to have prints at the reception you can just make sure to set aside enough time for your photographer to take bridal portraits on the morning of the big day)
  • Rent or buy the attire for the groom (or grooms) as well as any men in the wedding party (or ladies wearing suits).
what to do 2 months before wedding

 1-2 Months:

  • Create a day-of timeline. This is best done WITH your coordinator and photographer to make sure you're on the same page with how long certain pieces take. They have experienced hundreds of weddings and can guide you. It is also good to send this to your other vendors to make sure they don't see any red flags. (If you accidentally only planned 5 minutes to hand deliver 300 plated meals, your caterer will catch that)
  • Book rehearsal dinner, day after brunch and any other venues for special meals before and after the big day for out of town and special guests. 
  • Make sure your DJ or band know what music you want played and more importantly, what you don't. Guests will inevitably make requests, if there's something specific you don't want to hear on your happy day, make sure they know to kindly tell your guests, "no."
  • Make sure you inform those you'd like to make a toast well in advance so they have time to prepare. Some will still "shoot from the hip" on the day of, but others appreciate having lots of time to write the perfect speech. 
  • Sometimes it's easier on planning to hold bachelor and bachelorette parties a month or two in advance, especially if you plan to travel somewhere like Vegas, but if all your friends are from out of town, it can be easiest to schedule it the night BEFORE the rehearsal so you have time to recover. :)
what to do 1 month before wedding

Month of:

  • Finalize the ceremony timeline as well as any readings, songs, or special moments. Make sure you are on the same page with the officiant and anyone else you'd like to participate.  Marriage licenses take about a week, so give yourselves some leeway. 
  • Confirm arrival times for all vendors and make sure you've exchanged answers to any final questions. 
  • Send out as many final vendor payments as you can so you do not have to worry about it at the reception while you're trying to dance. 
  • If any guests have not RSVPd by the cut off, it's a good idea to call them or check in via social media one last time to make sure. 
  • If you will be assigning seating for the reception, do this after your final RSVP date so you know exactly what you're working with. It can also be a good idea to plan a "did not rsvp" table if your caterer allows the flexibility. It's also wise to consider your vendors here, do you want your photographer,  officiant or band sitting with the guests and a plated meal, or will you ask the caterer to provide a vendor meal in the back. 
  • Write your vows if necessary, or letters to exchange with each other on the morning of. 
what to do 1 week before wedding

Week of:

  • Delegate small tasks like bustling the dress, paying and tipping vendors, giving out party gifts, bringing snacks to the getting ready suites, creating a getting ready playlist or anything else you don't want to have to fret about on the morning of. 
  • Send a timeline to the wedding party and answer any questions. 
  • Pick up your dress(es) and tux(es)
  • If you're doing a mani or pedi make sure it's booked for the morning of the rehearsal, or even the day before. A stress-relieving couple's massage is always a good idea as well. It will help you both destress. 
  • Pack for the honeymoon. 

Night Before:

  • At rehearsal confirm any readings, answer any questions for the family and wedding party and make sure everyone know where they need to be and when. (It's a good idea to tell them 30-60 minutes earlier than necessary if they tend to run late)
  • Pass out any gifts for the party or parents (especially if you expect them to wear them the next day). 
  • Bring anything to the ceremony site that you're allowed to leave (candles, programs etc)
  • Give marriage license to the officiant
what to do the day of your wedding

Day of:

  • Have all items you want photographed delivered to one of your getting ready suites so that your photographer can capture it all together (before you give the rings to the best man etc...)
  • Just take it all in. It will go by SO fast. Things are not going to go quite as planned and that is JUST FINE. As long as you both say, "I do" all the other details will work themselves out. Relax and enjoy watching all your hard work play out before your eyes. You're almost MARRIED!

Please do NOT feel like this is comprehensive or that you need to follow all or any of it. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to not stress about the big day but enjoy the process and love each other through all the decisions. 

No matter what decisions you make, who's opinions you heed to or kindly turn down - the way you treat your future spouse and all those trying to help you make good decisions will FAR outweigh what final decisions were actually made. No one will care that you had the most beautiful flowers if you yelled at them for not holding them the right way, they won't care how good you looked in your gown if you yelled at them for stepping on the train, they won't remember that your food was amazing if you told them their ideas for food were terrible.

Treat your people with kindness above all and everyone will remember what an incredible couple you both are and how you had the most beautiful wedding they've ever seen. 

 

Vendor Series - The DJ & Videographer - Damien Maass

Wedding Photography, VendorsCynthia Viola2 Comments
What I love most about this crazy life is the adventure of it.
— Juliette Binoche

As a way to better serve our couples, over the next few months I will be highlighting and interviewing a few of our favorite wedding vendors as well as others in the community who directly impact the new life of the young couple. I want to ask them why they love what they do, some tips for couples navigating this new territory and pitfalls that can be avoided. 

Damien Maass Videographer

This week I want to highlight one of my favorite humans on the planet. Damien and I met at a Bat Mitzvah two years ago and it's been quite the adventure ever since. He is one of the most genuine, kind, and cheerful people I've ever had the pleasure of working with. He never has a harsh word for another vendor or a client, he's easy to work with; if I want to try something a little crazy he's totally down whether he's DJing or holding the camera. He has the same mission I do...to work well together so we can serve the clients better. 

Patrick and Madi are part of his video team and are equally amazing to work with. Professional, lighthearted and so very talented. 

Damien Maass and Team

Once, we were doing a Bar Mitzvah together and one of my off camera flash batteries died right as Damien was getting ready to start the Hora dance... he and I locked eyes and he saw the panic in mine. Without a second's hesitation he backtracked and announced it would actually start in just a second then asked me what I needed. He gave me time to swap the batteries out and get back in place so they were able to get the best photos. Being a videographer too he is so knowledgable about everything the photographer needs and goes out of his way to accommodate, which only helps to serve our clients better. I would have him at every wedding I shoot if I could. 

Bar Mitzvah Hora

Here are just a few of the questions I asked about how he works and what couples need to know, he is always ready and willing to answer any and every question you may have though, just contact him on his website here. 

Q: How do you manage to DJ and Video at the same time at a wedding? What do you delegate to your team and what do you do yourself?

A: A lot of planning goes into a wedding as you know and when we are providing both DJ & Video services great teamwork is essential alongside all the planning. There are three main parts to the wedding day when we provide both services; Bridal Party prep, Ceremony and the Reception. I will shoot for the first part of the day before transitioning into a DJ and my two other videographers will take over full time from that point. It is very seamless and I am lucky to have an amazing team in place. Two of our team members are also FAA licensed drone pilots for our aerial videography. We work at our craft constantly to ensure things happen, as they should on the wedding day.

DJ Damien Maass

Q: Why is it important for a couple to have a cinematographer capture their wedding when they already have a photographer?

A: It’s funny but I hear it all the time from married couples who chose not to have one that they regret not having a wedding video. There is so much the couple will miss during the day. Photos & video tell the same story but in a different way and both if are done well, they are amazing keepsakes. A great video becomes something that you’ll watch over and over initially and then every anniversary you’ll get to revisit that incredible day in a special way. This isn’t your parent’s wedding video anymore either. We specialize in short-form wedding films, which means we focus on making amazing cinema style productions that you’ll want to watch over and over again. We use only the best possible cameras & lenses along with real storytelling techniques in our editing to make our films unique to whatever event we are filming.

Q: What do you think a couple will regret the most by not having a cinematographer?

A: So much of the wedding day will be a blur especially with everything that is going on so fast and a great wedding video can bring that amazing day back to life. To me there is nothing like capturing the emotion of day with not only video but with the actual audio. To hear the vows, people laughing, to see all the places you couldn’t be, it just brings the entire day to life in a fun, emotional and entertaining way.

Q: What are some of the biggest hurdles couples face when choosing a DJ that fits their unique style?

A: First and foremost: is this someone I want to work with on one of the most important days of my life! Will they listen to my detailed requests, can I choose my own music, do they work well with other vendors, are they professional sounding, do they use top sound equipment, etc. Every couple and wedding day is different and a big part of my job to be really good at listening to what couples want or don’t want. We take into account their venue, guest list, music tastes and what kind of party flow they want. We want to make sure that the reception is a blast with the music they want to hear and done in a style that fits in, without being over the top.

Damien Maass DJ

Q: What do you do to ensure that you play music the couple will love as well as the mixed crowd of guests attending?

A: One thing that experience does is give you the ability to read a crowd quickly, use the couple’s requests along with what you know will work to keep the dance floor popping! We have two very helpful online wedding planners that couples can use before the wedding to select music and plan the reception details. We try to stay as organized as we can so things come off as they should. These are things we go over with couple’s beforehand so they are comfortable and can look forward to having a great time. Guests requests are also important; and as long as those songs go with the energy on the floor I am all for it.

Q: What do you do if you get a crowd that just doesn't seem to want to dance? 

A: Great question and again this is an area where experience and honing your craft make a big difference. Whether it’s by playing a really familiar fun song, one of the many interactive fun dances, bridal party requests or even a great slow song to get the floor packed. Once you got people up build on it and keep it going!

The Oaks at Salem Wedding Reception

Q: What brings you the most joy at a wedding and brings you back for more week after week?

A: Its kind of cliché but this is a real passion for me. I hosted a morning show on radio for several years as well as acting, doing voiceovers but there nothing like a live event. And what’s better than being a part of a celebration? Seeing how happy these couples are and how much fun they are having during their wedding day is incredible and I feel so lucky to be doing this for a living. We started providing the wedding video part of the business about 5 years ago and that just opened up a whole new level of excitement and fun. I truly look at each event we do as unique and different. It’s a major reason why I decided to keep the business small so we can give each wedding the attention that it deserves. I love it!

I hope you find this helpful and you see why I give Damien all the stars! He, Madi and Patrick are so great to work with and I know they won't disappoint. I also wanted to include one of his highlights from the most recent wedding we all did together, enjoy!

 

The Best Decision You Can Make Before the Wedding Day

Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love.
— Tim Keller
The importance of pre-marital counseling

With such a popular response from the last week's post about healthy choices to make before the wedding, I decided to expand on the most important one. After all, your future spouse loves you just as you are and the people coming to celebrate your love do too. All the health conscious choices that give you clearer skin, a thinner waist or brighter smile won't guarantee that your marriage will stand the test of time and trials. 

A.J. and I have offered pre-marital counseling to several couples over the years, some while we were only a year into it ourselves, but it's something we knew we would do before we even walked down the aisle. I'm not sure how to explain it, we just get each other. We trust each other completely and have learned excellent communication skills over the years from our own marriage trials as well as owning different businesses together, attending 7 years of school (almost all the same classes) together, and leading a small church together.

Poor communication or lack of communication, we would insist, is the number one reason marriages (and really any relationships) fall apart. There may ultimately be financial issues, adultery, or abuse but it all stems from communication. We believe that communication needs to begin before you walk down the aisle and preferably even before your "just said yes" moment. 

 

There are several questions that should at least be discussed before you agree to give your lives to each other. Questions that are obvious and questions that are not so obvious that can be surprisingly detrimental. I'll expand on two I mentioned last week:

Holidays.

An example of a not-so obvious one is holidays. When you're dating and so in love you can't bare the thoughts of being separated for more than a minute, holidays are no problem. Both your families "understand" and are more than willing to accommodate the extra person, or allow their son or daughter to be with their love this year...after all, they'll probably be getting married. Even your first married holiday season together is understandable, everyone is willing to let you do your thing. But after that, lifelong expectations, traditions and rituals come into play and if your families are both unwilling to budge, the pull can be catastrophic. Add long distance and grandchildren to that mix and it's over.

UNLESS you've been communicating well all along the way. There is no right answer; you have to do what works for you, but you need to communicate with each other what you want individually and what you're willing to budge on, then communicate that clearly and sincerely to your families. Being able to do this before the big day makes the transition that much smoother. 

The importance of pre-marital counseling

Children.

Most couples broach the topic while they're still dating. One wants 3 kids, one thinks they want 1, but they assume they'll figure it out along the way. They say "I do." All of the sudden the one who wanted 3 realizes they're ready to begin trying right away, "why not?" they ask, "it'd be fun to still be young as the kids grow up." Panicked, the one who "thinks" they wanted 1 suddenly isn't so sure. "Right now? Like, now? I thought we'd wait at least 5 years before we got there...what about our jobs? What about money? What about living our lives while we're still young?" Reluctantly they agree to start trying. Five years, a surgery, ovulation regimens and fertility pills later, it's actually not possible. Now what? Devastated, do we foster? Adopt? Locally? Over seas? How will we pay for that? Four failed adoptions after that you find yourselves in the middle of mine and A.J.'s story. :)

If we had not discussed from the very beginning whether or not we'd be willing to adopt, he might have second guessed marrying me when we discovered we couldn't have our own. I was open from the beginning that my "system" was a little tricky, so we had discussed that it might be a possibility. He was open from the very beginning that he really wanted 3 kids. Had I not known that I would have been totally freaked out when he wanted to start trying right away, but I knew his heart and I knew he'd make a great dad. I was terrified, but I knew we'd figure it out together. Eleven years later we're still figuring it out. I've changed my mind a dozen times and he's been the most patient husband anyone could ever hope for; I don't deserve him. For now we have an awesome pup and more than a couple businesses to run so we're content, but it's important to keep the communication open.

The importance of pre-marital counseling

These are just two of the questions we go over when we're sitting in front of a couple and you can see how complicated they alone can be. There are dozens of things to consider. You owe yourselves and your marriage a fighting chance. Pre-marital counseling isn't going to solve all your problems, it doesn't make it divorce-proof, but it definitely shows you the value of communication and what you can accomplish together if you're willing to put in the work and stay humble. 

Many officiants require it as a part of their services, most at least offer it, you should definitely choose it if you get the chance. It's worth every penny. After all, you're spending thousands of dollars on this one day of your marriage, if it falls apart in 2 years those thousands were a total waste. If you're officiant doesn't offer it, talk to me, I'll be happy to make some recommendations.

7 Healthy Choices to Make Before the Big Day

Wedding PhotographyCynthia Viola2 Comments
Smile, breathe and go slowly
— Thich Nhat Hanh

I frequently get asked what can be done to cut off a few pounds, make teeth whiter or reduce darkness under the eyes when it comes to photos for the wedding day. Everyone hopes I have a magic photoshop tool, and the truth is, yes, for the most part I can "fix" all those things in post processing. However, I find people feel better when they know they didn't need to be photoshopped because they looked and felt great right out of camera. 

That said, as someone who is NOT a doctor, but IS fairly health conscious and has years of experience making people feel better about themselves, I have a few go to tips I like to offer my couples and families who are about to grace my lens. 

Drink ALL the Water.  I know, I know. If you're an avid hot beverage drinker like myself or just really enjoy a good fizziness in your cup, water can be a little difficult to stomach. BUT I am telling you, this is THE NUMBER ONE thing you can do to start feeling better and looking the way you want to. So throw some citrus or cucumber in it if you have to and just do it. The amount per day is different for everyone, you can measure the ounces if you like but I just try to drink at least one glass every hour. This one is so important I'm giving it sub points.

  • Water is the fastest way to get rid of dark circles under your eyes. (Without all the smoke and mirrors of make up and photoshop)
  • This much water through the day makes you feel fuller so you don't eat as much. If weight loss is on your agenda for the big day, this will be super helpful. (Anytime I start craving a snack I first drink a FULL glass of water. If I'm still hungry, I'll eat the snack, but most of the time I was just thirsty)
  • Water flushes toxins from your body making your skin clearer and acne-free on your big day. 
  • One of the first signs of dehydration is fatigue. Drink more water and you'll be more alert through the day. This is especially important if you plan to drink a lot of alcohol in celebration the week leading up to and during the wedding day. Alcohol dehydrates you almost instantly causing blurriness and headaches etc... water before, during, and after alcohol helps immensely with hangover. 
  • Water flushes out "debris" from your meals throughout the day, making your teeth whiter and reducing bad breath, making you extremely kissable for that first official smooch.

There are apps you can get on your phone to remind you to drink once every hour if you find that helpful, I used Waterlogged until it became a habit and now I don't need it. 

Tips for clear skin

Citrus for Clear Skin. Tons of studies show that Vitamin C is essential for collagen in your body, this makes the skin more "elastic-y" and younger looking. (Skin bounces back when stretched to smile... your body naturally has plenty when your young but it depletes as your get older making the skin not bounce back...causing wrinkles) It's also highly recommended when you're sick and need an immune system boost. So either take a supplement or add an orange or two (not juice) to your breakfast. 

Coconut Oil for Skin, Hair and Teeth. Similarly coconut oil has tons of antioxidants that help heal the skin. It's great for sun burn, dry skin rashes from winter weather and even inflammation from foods that cause it. (Gluten causes my skin to flare, coconut oil calms it down)

I also put it directly on the tips of my hair at night to heal any damage on the ends. (I've been bleaching and dying my hair for 8 years and it is still super healthy) I only do it at night because it does make your hair oily.

Coconut oil is great for your teeth, I find THIS VIDEO on Oil Pulling to be better at explaining it than I can. 

Tips for healthy skin

Yoga. I'll be honest, I used to laugh at yoga. It didn't seem like a "real" exercise and was only for people who "couldn't handle" sports or weight lifting. I was terribly terribly wrong. Not only can yoga be extremely difficult, but it makes you feel amazing after. The intentional breathing calms the heart, the focus on stretching clears the mind, the poses flex and stretch muscles making you stronger and more flexible. It's a great way to get you moving in the morning or unwind at the end of a stressful day. This can be especially helpful in the month leading up to the wedding. 

You knew it would be here... Diet and Exercise. Yep. I'm not about to tell you what is best for you, I'm not your doctor or coach, but if your health allows, you should try different types of exercise to see what fits your schedule, your abilities and your enjoyment. You might enjoy lifting weights in a gym or running, but a lot of people don't. If you don't, then seek out something fun just to be moving. Bike riding, ultimate frisbee, hiking, even choosing to walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator everyday will make a difference. If you want specific coaching on what would be best for your lifestyle, I'd love to refer you to my favorite coaches at Iron Tribe. They'll be happy to whip you into shape before you have to fit into the dress.

As for diet, I personally choose Paleo about 75% of the time but I know that's not for everyone. Just focus on eating whole (real) foods and limiting junk that was made by a machine or processed to the point of no return. Look at the label, if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it. Just get 75% of your foods from the produce and/or refrigerated sections. I'm telling you, you will be astounded by your new energy levels, your clearer skin, your drop in weight and bloating, and how much fuller you feel - decreasing the need to snack. 

Pre-marital Counseling. I cannot stress this one enough. One of the healthiest things you can do for your marriage is seek a pre-marriage counselor who can meet with both of you a couple times to help you work through some pre-existing expectations of what marriage will be. This can be your officiant but it doesn't have to be. Sometimes close friends who have a healthy marriage can be great, just take them out to dinner and ask all the questions. Great things to think through include children (what if you can't have them?), finances (will you have a budget?), holidays (which family will you visit each holiday), gifts (how much money do you spend on each other, family and friends), date nights, pets, religion, you name it, there are so many things to think through and considering them before you ever walk down the aisle will make a huge impact on how you deal with them when they actually arise later.  

Don't Forget Your Smile! At the end of the day the little details of how you look are not that important. Marylin Monroe used to say "A smile is the best make up a girl can wear." I couldn't agree more. Capturing your joy and excitement on this day is the most important thing to me, but if helping you look your best gives you more joy, I'm happy to do so. You are there to celebrate your love and mark the beginning of your most epic adventure yet. Soak it all in, enjoy the process and smile! Let me worry about the rest.

How to care for your People before the Wedding

Wedding Photography, PersonalCynthia ViolaComment
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted
— Aesop

Entering into the busiest season of your life can be daunting.

It seems like all my wedding couples right now are not only planning their wedding, but they're working full time jobs, they've just started graduate school, they're caring for their small children, they've just moved into a new home, or they're serving in the military all on top of figuring out what this whole new marriage dynamic is going to look like when it comes to bills and having a puppy and in-laws and responsibilities. 

It can really be so much. I've been there as a bride, I've been there as a bridesmaid, as a sister, as a best friend, as a pre-marital counselor and a photographer. I have seen over and over how much the stress can build up for months and explode at the worst possible moment on the big day.

Fortunately most couples also have a team of people who stand beside them to help carry the weight. Parents and college roommates and siblings and coworkers who work long hours in the weeks leading up helping you address invites, finish DIY projects, tell you how fabulous you look in every dress your try on, throw you epic bachelor parties, trudge through the mud to keep your dress clean, pray fervently for your marriage and bring you orange juice and cough medicine when you find yourself sick in the midst of it all.

This post is to remind you to care for them in return. It's easy to get overwhelmed and take out your frustrations on the people you know will forgive you, but don't take the easy road. Take the extra 10 seconds to breathe deeply before you say a harsh word and don't let yourself have regrets for taking advantage of the people you care for most. At the end of the day no one will remember if all the chair bows were tied perfectly, they'll remember how you treated them when you were stressed. So take some time today to write them a note or give them a hug. They'll love you forever. 

Boone North Carolina Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding