Category: Wedding Tips

Weddings by Watermark

Watermark has been in the business of private yacht charters in the Chesapeake Bay area for over 45 years. Their luxury yachts offer a stunning and magical setting for everything from rehearsal dinners to large weddings. With ports in Annapolis City Dock, the Baltimore Inner Harbor, the Eastern Shore, Weddings on the Bay by Watermark has something for anyone in any region.

Take a peek inside a Q&A with one of their recent brides, and check out the gallery below to discover all of the different possibilities for your special day!

Q: How did you and the groom meet?

A: We met at work.

Q: How did the proposal happen?

A: He had our dog bring me the ring at home. It was so cute, the best way since I am a total dog lover, and I was completely surprised. Needless to say, there was a lot of laughter and happy tears!

Q: Why did you choose to get married on the water?

A: As soon as I started looking at wedding venues, I knew that it had to be near or on the water. Both of us being Marylanders and living on the eastern shore, we love the bay and have spent so much time on the water. It was just a natural choice for us and I knew that no matter what, it would be a beautiful backdrop for a wedding.

Q: What made you choose Watermark?

A: I came across the Watermark website while browsing wedding venues on the Chesapeake Bay. The idea of a yacht wedding sounded so much fun. We met at the office, took a site tour of the yacht, and I knew it was the right choice for our wedding. The Watermark staff is absolutely incredible.

Q: What do you love most about Annapolis?

A: Annapolis is one of the best things about Maryland. We love the history of Annapolis, the picturesque views, and the most amazing dining options. There are always plenty of new shops and restaurants to check out as well as diverse arts and entertainment options for everyone to enjoy. It’s a family friendly, dog friendly, hip place that all ages can enjoy.

  • | Courtesy of Watermark
  • | Courtesy of Watermark
  • | Courtesy of Watermark
  • | Courtesy of Watermark
  • | Courtesy of Watermark
  • | Courtesy of Watermark
  • | Courtesy of Watermark
  • | Courtesy of Watermark

Ask The Experts

Congratulations, you’re getting married!!  I bet by now you are starting to realize that the wedding industry is just that — an entire industry that exists solely to service your big day dreams.  WOW, it can be overwhelming. Most couples and their families are busy people, and the thought of running around trying to coordinate several vendors can seem daunting.   Where to start? What to ask? How much to pay? These are all great questions that I would love to help provide an answer for.    

I had the pleasure of speaking with some of our very seasoned and talented local pros that had some great information to share.


Reception Site

  1. Your Name, Company, Title:  William Grace, Westin Annapolis Director of Catering
  2. What line of Business are you / your company in? Hospitality
  3. One thing you would like Brides and Grooms to know about your vendor category in general that they don’t already know, that would help them when researching your vendor category.  Always hire a wedding planner. They will assist in all avenues to make sure that your day is stress free. Our hotel is the only hotel that has an open air kitchen concept in the ballroom. The Annapolis Ballroom is a contemporary feel space, with windows throughout. If you are looking for a space that is a restaurant feel but wanting a ballroom is a perfect fit.
  4. What is an average price range for your vendor category? $120 per person and above for plated meal before service charges and taxes
  5. Your favorite thing you’ve  seen at a wedding: My favorite item that I have seen at a wedding is when a bride and groom make the wedding theirs, and not your typical ABC wedding.
  6. Anything else you would like to share: Annapolis is a busy wedding destination.  Make sure you do not take too much time looking at venues if your heart is set on Annapolis.  



  1. Name : My Flower Box Events
  2. Business: Event Floral Design Company specializing in Weddings and Grand Openings
  3. One thing you should know : You do not need to have picked everything out to come see a florist. Our creative consultation appointments  are ones of exploration and education on floral selection and design options.
  4. Average Price:. In the state of Maryland we advise couples to reserve 10 percent of their overall wedding budget for floral decor which includes ceremony and reception “ 
  5. Favorite thing:  Floating lotus pond as escort table



  1. Your Name, Company, Title – Christina Hamilton / Hamilton Photography / owner,photographer
  2. What line of Business are you / your company in? Photography (we specialize in weddings)
  3. One thing you would like Brides and Grooms to know about your vendor category in general that they don’t already know, that would help them when researching your vendor category. On top of high quality photography, make sure the company has superior customer service for both the ‘Pre’ AND ‘Post’ needs of your wedding!   It amazes me how many photographers only provide great customer service until the contract gets signed! You want great service from beginning to end! 
  4. What is an average price range for your vendor category?  It varies depending on quality, experience and what comes with the package but broadly speaking $3000-$6000. At Hamilton Photography, the average price a couple spends is $4000-$5000.
  5. Your favorite thing you’ve seen at a wedding? I love seeing weddings that have amazing family bonds.  When the siblings and parents are super excited for the couple and you can just tell that they have a great family life. It gets me every time.  
  6. Anything else you would like to share? Smile, laugh and be yourself around the camera. Capturing the joy and emotions of the day is what we do. Have fun, it’s your wedding day! 



  1. Name : Jennifer Reitmeyer: MyDeejay, President
  2. Business: Wedding entertainment
  3. One thing you should know : There’s definitely a “sweet spot” between respecting your music tastes and helping you to create the kind of celebration you want to have. A good DJ will partner with you to build a playlist that you love, and that will also result in the atmosphere and energy you want for your reception. That way, your dance floor will stay packed, while the soundtrack is one that makes you smile.
  4. Average Price: An average price range for professional DJs, depending on experience and quality, would be $1000-2000 for four hours.
  5. Favorite thing:  My favorite moments are anything that include an element of sentimental surprise – for example, when a bride has our DJ create a custom mix of special songs she can dance to with her dad, or when members of the wedding party plan an unexpected performance just for the happy couple. We’ve assisted with everything from flash mobs to choreographed toasts complete with original songs and dance routines, and the shock and joy on the newlyweds’ faces never gets old.
  6. Anything else you would like to share? I’d love for every couple to know that, in every vendor category out there, there are professionals who share their tastes and vision, and who will be so wonderful to work with that the couple will consider them a friend by the time the wedding is done. There are so many talented wedding pros, most of whom have tons of awards and great reviews – that personal connection and compatibility, on the other hand, can be much harder to find. Taking the time to get to know your vendors to be sure they’re a great fit for you can make all the difference, not only in how smoothly your wedding is executed, but also in how much you enjoy the planning.



  1. Name : Select Event Group – a full service party equipment rental, tent and event production and design company.
  2. One thing you should know : Planning a wedding can be a long and often confusing process.  Finding a reputable company that has the products you like is crucial, but establishing a relationship with a company that delivers outstanding service is paramount.  Selection, quality, and service will vary from vendor to vendor.  To ensure you understand the quality of product you are renting, visit their showrooms. 
  3. Average Price: With every rental equipment company there will be a range of prices.  The best sales consultants will help guide you towards making the most impact within your budget. There are many necessities but also extravagant extras that make your wedding pop, and it’s important to know where to cut back without losing your vision.  Working with a planner or a sales consultant helps!
  4. Favorite thing: When planning your reception, set aside a place for casual seating around the dance floor.  A couch or two will encourage guests to get up after dinner, mingle and join the party!
  5. Anything else you would like to share? The biggest change I have seen over many years in wedding planning is that there are no more “rules!”  Couples should make their wedding personal to reflect their style and vision.  Lean towards elegance, trendy touches are great, mix it up, make it romantic, and make it fun!

  • | Joy Michelle Photography
  • | The ShutterBee Effect
  • | Drawn to the Image
  • | Krista A. Jones Photography
  • | Tunji Sarumi
  • | Tunji Sarumi
  • | Kate Fine Art
  • | Rachel Kendall Events
  • | Robyn Brown Photography
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  • | Meghan Elizabeth Photography
  • | Audra Wrisley Photography
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  • | Kate Fine Art Photography
  • | Audra Wrisley Photography
  • | Hannah Lane Photography
  • | Wendy Hickok Photography
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  • | Wendy Hickok Photography
  • | Nicole Barr Photography

12 Days of Wedding Planning

Here are my 12 days of wedding planning — 12 steps to help keep you full of the joy you and your family experienced when you said YES!

  1. Lead with love, and the rest will fall in place, you’ll see! It’s easy to be said but more difficult to practice. If you simply keep this mantra in the forefront of planning, your relationships with family, vendors and guests will be stress-free.
  2. It’s all about compromising. After all, it’s about love. Love means compromise. I’ve planned weddings with budgets close to a million dollars and budgets of just a few thousand. No one party in wedding planning completely gets their way. If you can accept this as inevitable, it will make it that much easier when you get to those moments. If she wants the aisle covered in rose petals (very expensive for a complete covering) what about a lush line along the side of the aisles or even a cool pattern in the aisle? If she wants to rent furniture to put outside on the lawn for a lounge feel, create a lounge vibe by using standard tables and chairs but cluster them near a tree where you could hang a cool candelabra or a neat IKEA light. If he wants a 12-piece band, then maybe drop that fourth app or nix the premium bar. And if he wants chocolate and you want vanilla — well, they have four tiers!
  3. It’s important to know what type of event the couple would like to host. Garden? Ballroom? Intimate? Everyone? Grand? Simple? Be it strong or sublime; it’s important to write it down, and refer back to it during the planning process.
  4. It’s time to have a frank conversation about budgeting. No one can successfully set forth on a project without knowing an amount to spend. I believe any dream can be accomplished on any budget, it just takes some thought and compromise, as noted above.
  5. Ask yourself: how many can we feed? Fifty percent of your wedding budget pertains to food, beverages and site fees. Once you set an overall budget limit, you should do some preliminary research (internet and email) on some possible sites and caterers to get a ballpark idea of pricing.
  6. Refer back to one and two. This is where your planning experience has the most chance of going from fun to “Now I know what they were talking about when they said it was a nightmare.” Refer back to points one and two. You can do it!
  7. Let’s create a plan we can set forth and succeed. It’s important to put it in writing – a simple spreadsheet with line items for ceremony site, reception site (to include food and beverage), entertainment, décor, photography/videography, fashion (including day-of prep), cake, stationary and auxiliary events (bridal tea, etc.) And because these are very general categories, you should reserve 10 to 20 percent for “miscellaneous.” This can be the line item you debit for non-budgeted line items (transportation, etc.) or item overages.
  8. How are you feeling about your plan? Marriage is a commitment, and so is a budget. Everyone involved in the planning needs to review the plan/budget and feel about an eight out of ten on the happiness scale.
  9. Channel in number two again. I can’t stress enough that these days, albeit very difficult, are the most important. Any great accomplishment has had a well thought out plan. If you invest your first week in this diligent research and hard work, you have set yourself up for a tremendously less stressful next few months or even years. Do yourself a favor and get the hard conversations out right out of the gate.
  10. It’s appointment time. Now that you have a plan, make some appointments to see some ceremony and reception sites that interested you from the budgeting period. Because of your research, you’ll ask informed questions and have a mental Rolodex of material to compare the site coordinator’s answers with. I also suggest meeting with photographers and entertainment companies, as they often book up quickly and have limited date availability.
  11. Let’s make some reservations for vendors with glee. You’ve created your plan, done the research in meeting potential vendors, now it’s time to book, book, book! Obviously, I don’t think you will book all of your vendors within 11 days of beginning the planning process, but it is acceptable to expect a ceremony and reception facility to be secured with a deposit within one to three months after commencement of planning.
  12. Just enjoy the process. You are planning your forever!

These two were so fun, affectionate, full of laughter and photogenic! They really made the cold weather enjoyable!

Like most couples who have never been in front of the camera before, they arrived feeling a little anxious. Well, Casey did. Alex gets credit for being the calming influence in their relationship. But within minutes they were enjoying a romantic moment and laughing all the awkwardness away!

Casey has a naturally elegant pose, and Alex was more than willing to nuzzle just to keep his nose warm! These two were such a delight to work with, and Annapolis offered a more than perfect location for this engagement shoot. Historic brick facade, store fronts, a waterfront pier and just enough fall foliage. I could have spent hours more exploring the city with this sweet happy couple.

Congrats, and I can’t wait for your wedding next Fall!

  • | Robyn Brown Photography
  • | Robyn Brown Photography
  • | Robyn Brown Photography
  • | Robyn Brown Photography
  • | Robyn Brown Photography
  • | Robyn Brown Photography
  • | Robyn Brown Photography
  • | Robyn Brown Photography
  • | Robyn Brown Photography
  • | Robyn Brown Photography
  • | Robyn Brown Photography
  • | Robyn Brown Photography

Top Five Wedding Mistakes

It’s this time of year clients start to second guess themselves about the decisions they have made.  My advice is trust your gut, and trust your instincts! In my 14 years of service — I have learned the client is always right.  However this topic made me think, What do clients regret? And, what do vendors see that they want clients to know? I asked some of my most favorite clients and vendors for some great advice I could share with you and came up with at “top five” list of “wedding mistakes.”   With that being said, this list is more general guidelines and very unscientific! The goal is to only get you thinking, and in the end — remember — it’s about love. In the end — you’re married! and that is what counts. Which leads us to number 1…


  1. Sweating the small stuff

Remember it’s about you and your Fiance committing to one another for a lifetime.  This helps you to not sweat the small stuff. Mom insisting you have a chocolate layer of cake?  Just do it. Your groom has to have the bartenders wear Philadelphia Eagles bowties? (true story) Why not?  Your Maid of Honor doesn’t feel comfortable giving a toast? Let her off the hook. The happiest Brides and Grooms I work with let the small stuff roll off their backs and remember, in the end, they are getting married!  That is the real purpose of the gathering.

  1. Trying to please everyone — it’s impossible

If you are thinking this might be contradictory to #1 on the list –you are right.  There is a fine line. And only you can decide what is sweating the small stuff and what is trying to please everyone!  One great example is many couples struggle with picking the “right” wedding date. Can Aunt Millie Make it? Cousin Sarah is due around that time!  My college roommate can only come in the summer months! How do you pick? My advice: There is a 100% chance that not everyone you invite will be able to make your wedding date.  So speak to those that are nearest and dearest to you, as well as coordinate with your personal schedule, and pick a date that suits most. Know that not everyone will be able to make it — but if your nearest and dearest will make it — then your day will be a good one.

  1. Not spending enough for an important-to-you vendor category

I meet with clients all day long and each one almost always has a category that is important to them.  Flowers, to photography, food and beverage. Whatever your passion is, I encourage you to find it and fund it.  I had one of my most favorite brides tell me she wished she spent more on the flowers and the arrangements were bigger.  Another bride told me they loved their photographer’s personality but didn’t love their photos but went with them anyways– and they regretted it.  While I hate to hear of regrets — I think one thing rings true. If it is important to you, don’t be afraid to splurge and cut out something else that might not be as important. Or, find a way to get the best, but in a limited fashion.  For example, go for the high end photographer, but maybe only reserve a 6 hour package. Or, love the dramatic flower look? Get a fabulous florist and do amazing arrangements on ½ of the tables and do a glorious candle arrangement on the other half.  Fell in love with a 10 piece band? Why not seek out a great 5 piece band at ½ the price without compromising with a DJ? Love a high end DJ? Then skip the photo booth. Life is about choices and I encourage you to spend where you love but do so sensibly.

  1. Not taking the good advice of your qualified vendor team

I heard from many vendors –and the biggest complaint was couples who invested in their services but then did not listen to their advice.  This too, is a fine line, as I believe the client knows their audience best but if several vendors are telling you the same thing — you should strongly consider taking their advice.  I had a client that was having an outdoor wedding and all the vendors told the client they needed more lighting than just lights around the perimeter of the tent. They chose to only go with basic lighting and all the reception photos after sunset were in the dark.  I also had a photographer that was trying to tell the client they needed time to get to the reception site before guests arrive to take room shots (set up of the room before guests arrived). They had invested heavily in florals and linens and the room was stunning! The client did not want to spend more for a second shooter and was unwilling to do photos before the ceremony.  While we got many lovely photos during the reception, we were unable to get many shots with the beautiful table settings that the Bride had so carefully planned over the 16 months of planning.

4a. Not helping your vendors help you

This was something many vendors contacted me about, and something we occasionally experience at Wedding Savvy as well.   You’ve gone and hired a fantastic DJ — everyone says they rock!! But if you don’t get them your music choices with enough notice — they will be flying blind.  One DJ reached out to me to tell me about a client who e-mailed him his parent dances while he was in the shower getting ready for the gig. He was (as all professionals do) able to download the songs, but it turns out he downloaded the right song by the wrong artist.  He didn’t have time to check with the Bride and Groom before the event because he was given the information too late. At Wedding Savvy – we ask for a copy of all contracts two months before the wedding so we can confirm all the right details. When clients don’t give us the cake contract or the floral contract — we normally track it down from the vendor.  But in some circumstances –for example — a friend is doing the flowers and they don’t get back to us — we are flying blind. We have no idea if the flowers on the table are what you ordered. Do your vendors a favor and provide the details they ask for. It is for your best interest, and will help to provide your vendors with the tools to make your wedding –AWESOME!

  1. Not setting a budget before you set expectations, book vendors, and invite guests.

200 guests for $10,000?  completely possible for a casual BBQ party.  Expecting a plated dinner with china and steak?  Think again. Many clients decide on the guest list before they figure out what they can afford with their budget.   Talk with your family and figure out the type of event you are comfortable hosting and then be sure your budget can handle it for your guest count.  Often times, before clients book us they reserve a fantastic reception site but when they add up the amount of guests they want to have there and then add in a photographer, DJ, florals — they are over budget.  Take the time to research reception sites and plug those numbers in a budget for the amount of guests you are expecting. Then, research Entertainment, florals, and photographers to see if you can afford all your top choices.  If not, are you willing to splurge on a reception site and scale back on entertainment? If not, maybe look into another site that is more in line with your budget that allows you to get all the top notch vendors you’ve been dreaming of.  We had a client that was in love with a garden site at the tune of $6000, but that means she couldn’t have the DJ, photographer, and decor that she was in love with. In the end, she chose a less expensive site at $2000 and was able to get all the vendors she loved … and she was over the moon happy!

Things Brides Forget to Plan

  • Weather Accessories
    • handkerchiefs for men in hot weather (to wipe sweat)
    • Shawls or wraps for the ladies in the colder months
    • Cute umbrellas (black always work) for fun rain pictures — or even fun matching rain boots for the ladies (so cute!)
    • extra hairspray and bobby pins for windy days
  • Food for you, food for him
    • It sounds simple, but often times guys and gals will be running late or worried about fitting into clothing and don’t have time / choose to eat.  Or even worse, time for a pre- wedding dinner snack was not budgeted into your event timeline. We always suggest the groomsmen meet for a meal before getting dressed, and the ladies have lunch or refreshments during hair and makeup.  Plan a cooler and/or snack basket for your limo, trolley or party bus after the ceremony with water and snacks if you plan on taking photos / may miss your cocktail hour so your bridal party doesn’t show up starving.
  • Extra time: During hair and makeup, travel time
    • I cannot stress enough how important it is to have extra time in your day.  Plan for an extra hour to hour to an hour and a half depending on the size of your bridal party for hair and makeup completion time.  If you are done on time, you can use the extra time to relax with your bridesmaids and have a snack.
    • Transportation is another category where people often cut it too close.   It is better to arrive 15 minutes early than be 30 minutes late! Of course, please be mindful of your restrictions at the church/ reception site and don’t arrive obscenely early… but a little extra time to sip champagne in the limo at the church parking lot is better than sweating in your dress stressing about getting past a traffic jam!
  • What happens at the end of the night – your exit plans
    • I always encourage couples to plan their final moments and make an exit before the guests.  This allows the couple to bring the event to a close on a high note. The couple can always make plans to meet up with everyone after the event in a hotel lobby, downtown, etc!  Sparkler exits are very popular and well earned – it’s a very fun way to send the couple off with a BANG (or actually more like a sizzle!) I love the idea of all the guests coming together as a final capstone of the night to say goodbye.  Other options could be bubbles, or a classic car exit. All these options signal to the guests the event has ended and the couple has departed.

What I don’t suggest is the Bride and Groom lingering as the lights come up and the reception staff is cleaning up around them.  It’s hard for the couple to make an exit if they haven’t already and often times are the last ones there as they feel obligated to say a goodbye to each guest.  After a long day or night, this makes it even longer. AND it is anticlimactic. You can always meet up with guests at an after party!


5 Tips for a Stress-Free Wedding

When I meet someone new in a non-work setting and tell them I am a wedding planner, I am usually greeted with a few stories of wedding nightmares. I am amazed to find, that over my fourteen years of doing this as a career, this one part of my life never seems to change. Sometimes it’s wedding day nightmares: during the ceremony a killer storm popped up and ripped over the bay bringing lightning and hail, or the cake that was made by a friend and collapsed during the first dance (both true stories, by the way!).  Other times, it’s about the planning experience in itself: They hired a friend to help out who didn’t do anything, and the things she did do, she did wrong (she forgot to ask the rental house if they could host a reception there — they couldn’t — and they were out a $1500 deposit and needed to find a new reception spot). Or, they didn’t hire anyone and they bickered with their mother, mother in law, sister, maid of honor (insert role here) and are no longer speaking to them or their relationship has never been the same.  

I hate to hear wedding nightmares, because I and my staff get to be a part of so many successful weddings! I truly wish everyone could have an amazing wedding planning experience that leaves them with fond memories for years to come. That is why I decided to offer 5 simple tips for a stress-free wedding planning experience!

Tip #1: Hire a Professional, Experienced Wedding Planner

“A good wedding planner is worth his/ her weight in gold” – say EVERYONE

What I didn’t mention in my story above, is that there are always a few folks who meet me that RAVE about the positive experience they’ve had with their wedding planner. “She took care of everything so we didn’t worry about a thing” or, “A hurricane was set to hit the day of my wedding. My planner called all the vendors and made all the appropriate adjustments including making sure the band didn’t back out! We were so thankful for her”. How do you know you have a great planner?

  • They’ve taken some formal training – this shows they are committed to the industry and learning
  • They have great client testimonials – from more than just one or two of the same weddings
  • They have a diverse portfolio — they can do everything well, not just one niche
  • Vendors refer them – they have seen their work and think enough of it to send their clients to them!
  • Their pricing is fair. If it seems too good to be true — it probably is. An inexpensive planner sometimes can be over committed — which translates into a less time for you and your needs. This can be extremely frustrating, and I actually gain a lot of clients that have gotten fed up with the “great deal” of a planner they’ve secured.  Also, on the other side of the equation, A planner out of your budget range will leave you feeling jilted that you can’t get all the vendors and bells and whistles you want. A good planner will be upfront and steer you towards a package that is in your budget (hourly, day of, partial or full service) because they too want it to be a win win!

Remember when investing in a planner, they will not only help you stay in budget, but save you tons of time and energy. Well worth the investment at any level of service.

Tip #2: Hire other great wedding professionals and listen to what they have to say

It’s important you are working with the best vendor you can afford, and also you can reach a bit for a vendor you adore so long as you are willing to cut back elsewhere. Don’t overreach — that doesn’t leave anyone happy! How do you find a great vendor?

  • Get referrals from friends, other vendors, and online
  • Check references — not just online, but ask for some people to call
  • See samples of their work and find out what the cost of that service was
  • Pay a fair price — if you are wheeling and dealing with a vendor, sometimes you might not get the best service or the service that originally brought you to them. I’m not saying it’s impossible to bargain, but let the vendor lead and work with your budget. If it’s not a match — it’s better to find someone that is a match and will be happy with the amount you’re willing to spend.

Tip #3:  Set a Budget & Decor Guideline

I hear lots of complaints about overspending, or not spending enough. Just like any major project in life, I think it is important for you to decide BEFORE you start shopping how much you want to spend. When buying a house or car, you would never ask a realtor to show you around or step into a showroom without knowing how much you want to spend. With wedding planning, I ask you take it one step further and not only decide how much you want to spend, but break it down into vendor categories. I am happy to share with Hannah’s readers an exclusive look at Wedding Savvy’s suggested Vendor breakdown by clicking here. This is a general guideline and will need some tweaking as you start meeting vendors, but it is a great place to start!  

In addition to creating a budget outline, I think it is equally important to create a decor outline.  This can easily be done by creating a Pinterest Page you can share with your vendors! Please keep in mind that almost EVERY client has many or some ideas on the page that vendors are going to tell you- -are out of your budget range. However a good vendor can make suggestions as to how to fit your ideas into a realistic budget.

Tip #4:  Be a decision maker

Pink napkins or Fuchsia? Gold Chivaris or Black? You can drive yourself crazy by obsessing over small and large decisions alike. That is why I suggest creating the budget and decor documents to serve as a guiding force in your decisions. I always tell clients to trust their instincts, listen to great vendor advice, then set it and forget it. It’ s no fun obsessing over small details. If it is a very bad idea, people will tell you. If lots of people (vendors) are telling you a bad idea…. then start listening!

Tip #5:  Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Remember it’s about you and your Fiance committing to one another for a lifetime. This helps you to not sweat the small stuff. Mom insisting you have a chocolate layer of cake? Just do it. Your groom has to have the bartenders wear Philadelphia eagles bowties? (true story) Why not?  Your Maid of Honor doesn’t feel comfortable giving a toast? Let her off the hook. The happiest Brides and Grooms I work with let the small stuff roll off their backs and remember, in the end, they are getting married!  That is the real purpose of the gathering.

In her book Its Her Wedding and Ill Cry if I want to, Leslie Milk, who is the lifestyle editor of the Washingtonian, gives the following advise to brides: “Now that every Dick and Jane seems to have a digital camera, it is easy to underestimate the importance of having a true professional photographer with many years of experience.  Sure, anybody can take wedding pictures.  If they shoot enough of them, there are bound to be a few good ones.  But only a pro can light pictures to make everyone look good.” 

Styles of wedding photography that you might consider.   

  1. Photo-journalistic or documentary wedding photography…It is characterized by a natural approach from the photographer who follows the couple and the guests throughout the day while recording the events of the wedding as they happen in an unobtrusive manner. Minimal amount of posed shots are taken. Some photo-journatistic wedding photographers only use natural light for their photos.  Photos that are taken using only available light preserve the atmosphere and originality.  Some danger here as lovely natural light is not always available. Be sure that if you select this style be certain that the photographer will introduce artificial light using flash photography if needed.
  2. Conventional wedding photography…It is dominated by carefully posed shots of groups ranging from the whole wedding party to just the wedding couple themselves. 

These are combined with photo-journalism for the ceremony and reception. 

  1. Fashion wedding photography… It is partially inspired by editorial bridal magazine photography. The emphasis is on creating high impact visually interesting images. Although shots are set up, they are less formal or rigid. The photographer aims to find interesting spots as a backdrop and uses or creates strong light effects and unusual angles. The created images are often given further treatment in post-production. It is then combined with photo-journalism for the ceremony and reception. 

First be sure that you select a professional with years of experience. These pros are facing the challenge being created by those newcomers who have just purchased digital SLRs and are virtually unskilled in the fine points of photography.  Some have jumped into the market with the philosophy of shooting a ton of mediocre images and handling the bride a CD of images a short time after the wedding for a low price.  

Once again, Leslie Milk says it best. “ Here’s the most important thing you need to know about wedding pictures:  Book the best photographer you can afford as soon as you set the date.  The wedding music will fade, the flowers will die, and you won’t even remember if you ate, let alone what you ate, at the reception.  But the wedding pictures last forever.” 

A wedding album is the first family heirloom of a brand new family.  Think about the value associated with that statement. 


You’re in love with a soldier!  He pops the question and you say yes!  You dream of the location, the reception and, of course, the pictures! Immediately, you contact the Naval Academy because it is “the place” to get married in Annapolis in the Naval community. You send an email to the wedding scheduler and pray that a date is available since they book up quickly and don’t schedule more than a year out.  Once a date is secured, the planning begins and persons must complete pre-marital counseling. This is an overwhelming process, but exciting too. 

Once you determine your budget and nail down a venue, it’s time to consider vendors such as the photographer.   When it comes to getting married at the Naval Academy, there are a lot of rules to be followed by the bride, groom, the guests and the vendors.  The Naval Academy offers a planner just for the ceremony.  These planners are amazing at giving you information and making sure your day goes as close to as planned as possible.  One of the best parts of getting married at the USNA chapel is the portraits!  I am going to help set you up for successful portraits when tying the KNOT at the chapel. Gorgeous images can be obtained by focusing on Keepsakes, Naval Rules, On Site Locations and Time.  

Other than taking in the day and enjoying every moment (as quickly as it passes), brides and grooms anxiously await the images from their photographers to print, share and look back on for years to come. The keepsakes are priceless.  When planning a wedding, the couple should sit down and really think about what these keepsakes are worth and budget accordingly. When I got married, I held a smaller wedding (75 people) because I knew that I wanted amazing images. I researched and found a photographer that matched my style, my vision and my budget.  As a bride-to-be, you have to prioritize your budget and focus your efforts on what is most valuable to you. These keepsakes will last for generations and tell the story of your wedding day. This is a job that no professional photographer takes lightly because the moments only happen once and there is no “do over”.  

When it comes to getting married at the Naval Academy, there should be no surprise about the rules. The chapel is efficient and wants to maximize use so everyone who wishes to have their dream wedding there, can.  When you are working with your chapel event planner, be sure to ask for a list of the rules to pass on to your photographer. The photographer has to plan equipment and resources for the day.  For instance, the chapel has 2 levels.  Photographers are allowed to access the second level for portraits, but guests can not. Considering a second photographer is a must for this venue. Other rules include photographers must remain behind the cross-isle, they can’t use flash during the ceremony and group photos are not permitted in front of the chapel on the steps.  The images of the newlyweds are very limited in the chapel due to time constraints.  This is why it is so important that the photographer is on their game when getting those coveted images within the chapel. Additionally, the photographer has to have a background check and is subject to validation no less than 30 days before the ceremony. 

Because the chapel time is so limited, newlyweds and photographers should be creative with their after ceremony portraits. The grounds of the Naval Academy around the chapel are gorgeous with blooming trees, gazebos, waterfront and historical buildings. Most brides are unaware that they can be photographed at the Buchanan House Garden, which is right next to the chapel. It is the garden of the superintendent and it requires written permission. This garden is worth getting permission for. There is a gorgeous, clear view of the chapel steeple (capturing that iconic picture with the newlyweds in the foreground), the gardens are well maintained, colorful and there is a beautiful fountain. The vines are throughout and it is so romantic. The number of people allowed in the garden is limited to the bride/groom and two or so additional people. Another amazing building is Bancroft Hall. This building has gorgeous large deep wood doors, chandeliers and is open and airy. At the top of the wide staircase is a sign that reads “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”  This is a popular sign for newlyweds to pose in front of. There is no request required to take pictures in Bancroft hall and there is no time constraint.  Knowing the rules of the Naval Academy will help your day run smoothly and be as amazing as you envisioned it.  

Time is of the essence (as they say) when you have a Naval Academy Wedding. They run a tight ship and ensure that every couple gets their day in the chapel.  You only have 30 minutes from the time you start walking down the isle to the sword crossing finish (if you choose to have one).  They expect you to be on time and ready to go. The bride usually stages down in St. Andrews Chapel and the groom in a room lateral to the chapel.   From my experience, you will want the photographer to either ride with you in transportation to the chapel or ensure they have arrived in plenty of time to get through checkpoint at the gate and find parking.  Once the ceremony is over, the bride and groom will be taken to the second level of the main chapel to watch their guests exit.  I usually grab 2 shots from up top and then one shot in the middle of the chapel to show its grandeur prior to running outside and changing lenses/settings to get the newlyweds exiting the chapel to the front gate.  If you have approved planned pictures in Buchanan House Garden, you must be prompt. You can arrive at your scheduled time and have no more than 30 minutes in the garden.  Trust me, your photographer needs to be on point and ready to use every part of that time. The garden has so much to offer for romantic, meaningful pictures. Plus this allows for you to spend some time with each other before heading off to the ceremony.  

Getting married at the Naval Academy is such an amazing experience. To maximize this once in a lifetime opportunity, be sure to coordinate with planners and ensure your photographer has a plan! It can truly be a fairytale with keepsake images to look back on for decades to come.  

When thinking about wedding destinations, most couples often get locked into tropical locations or perhaps somewhere in the great outdoors. However, there is another option that is starting to gain in popularity with couples from all over the country. The hidden gem of a location I am speaking of is Annapolis, Maryland! If you’ve ever been there, you’ll understand why it’s a perfect venue for a destination wedding. Annapolis is a charming historic town on the Chesapeake Bay replete with cobblestone streets, flower gardens, quaint historic homes, unique shops, thousands of sailboats, great accommodations, fine restaurants, and has the feel of something between San Diego and Nantucket. It’s also conveniently located between Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD which is served by 3 major airports, so it’s very easy to get to.  Because it’s so close to Washington, it’s easy to arrange some sightseeing excursions to the nations capital for your guests, or even boating trips on the Chesapeake Bay. There are numerous unique wedding venues in and around Annapolis that offer a variety of options from beachfront ceremonies, to sites with a colonial feeling, and the option of having a sunset ceremony on a sailing yacht.   

A few of my favorite venues that offer the quintessential Annapolis Wedding experience are the The Annapolis Maritime Museum in the heart of the Annapolis Waterfront, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation Merrill Center located on a beautiful secluded beach just 5 minutes from downtown, and the William Paca House and Gardens in the Historic section of town. One thing all of these venues have in common is their close proximity to downtown which makes them convenient for your guests who would like to explore the charming town in their free time. With all of the local pubs and restaurants, you can have an after party within walking distance of your reception!   

The Annapolis Maritime Museum is a really fun venue located in the heart of the Annapolis city waterfront. It used to be an Oyster processing house, but has been turned into a museum with lots of interactive exhibits for your guest and has amazing views of the bustling Annapolis harbor. If you’re looking for a fun venue for your guests that is in the heart of the city, you can’t go wrong here. The Merill Center at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is totally unique in terms of it’s location and it’s environmentally friendly facility. The center is located on one of the last undisturbed beaches on the Bay in Annapolis. To me it has more of a southern California vibe and can accommodate weddings of all sizes. The Paca House and Gardens in the historic district is the venue to look at if you would like a venue with colonial charm. The beautiful colonial brick manor home is over 250 years old and opens up into a huge lawn and English garden where the ceremony and receptions are held! A wedding at any of these venues will give your guests an experience they will be talking about for years!  

If you haven’t considered Annapolis for your destination, you should do it quick, before everyone figures out what a great wedding destination this city on the bay is becoming!    

 Blog Provided by: Mike B Photography

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