How to Plan a More Meaningful Wedding

How to Plan a More Meaningful Wedding

Many wedding photographers like to give advice about planning for a beautiful wedding, or for the best possible photos. There is a ton of advice out there that boils down to making your wedding day essentially revolve around the photography. However, I am more interested in talking to you about planning for a meaningful wedding day filled with wonderful memories. The best photos will truly come from documenting great memories. Secondly, your experience of the wedding day matters far more than the photography. So let’s focus on that!

It’s easy to get lost in planning the practical details of your wedding day, like what the decor will look like and what the seating arrangement will be like. Today I encourage you to give yourself a break from those tasks and zoom out a bit. Take time to brainstorm about how you can plan for a very meaningful wedding. Specifically, how can you create memorable moments at your wedding?

Some of the most meaningful moments begin from a place of expressing gratitude. A lot of my advice below will revolve around that!

1. Write a letter to your parents

Just before walking down the aisle, this bride called her parents into a room to have a sweet moment with them. She wanted to acknowledge her parents and their loving support throughout her life. Sitting down by a window, the bride handed each of her parents a separate letter to open and read. Both parents teared up while they read their letters and squeezed their daughter’s hands. That was her last moment as an unmarried woman, and it became a really sweet memory for the family.

Acknowledge someone who raised you and find a way to show them gratitude. A heartfelt letter in the midst of your own important day  is one of the best ways to show someone how meaningful they are to you.

how to have a meaningful wedding

2. Surprise each other

Paul surprised his bride and everyone in the room when he stood up during the dinner reception at their wedding. He walked over to a microphone placed at the end of their long banquet table and pulled out a hidden guitar. Jenna (and the rest of us) teared up as Paul sang a love song he had been secretly writing for her.  I hope that neither Paul or Jenna will ever forget how they felt in that sweet moment! I know I won’t!

Maybe you don’t have musical talent, but there are a million ways to surprise your beloved on your wedding day. Create something meaningful- a painting, a poem, a slideshow, or even choreograph a flashmob with the help of your friends.

groom surprises bride with love songwedding surprise ideaswedding surprise flash mob dance

3. Honor the elderly guests

Joyful tears happen when a whole room of people watch the groom gently spin his wheelchair-bound grandmother on the dancefloor. More tears happen when his brothers and mother join in.

Make some memories with those elderly guests while you are lucky enough to still have them in your life. Whether you plan a special dance, ask them to help you button up your dress, or acknowledge them with a toast, consider creating a way to honor them. Life takes unpredictable turns and these are the kinds of moments you will want to have photographs of.

grandparent dance weddingemotional wedding photos grandmother with groombride with grandmother wedding

4. Offer a toast to a family member or best friend

It is tradition for parents and best friends to offer a toast that highlights the best qualities and moments of the bride and groom. What if you also offered your own toast to one or each of those people? Weddings are just as much about your relational support network as they are about you. These are the folks who added meaning to your life  in one context or another, and they are all here in one place for a rare, simultaneous gathering. Wouldn’t it be great to give a public shoutout about the people who mean the most?

wedding toast emotional candid photobride and groom wedding speech

5. Gather your families in a room before the ceremony

Have you thought about how you will spend the last moments before you walk down the aisle? Consider creating an intentional space to gather with your immediate families or alone with your partner. Talk about the future and the past. Flip through old photos or love letters. Say a prayer together if you are spiritual. Meditate for a few mintues. Do something that will set your mind and heart into a place of calm gratitude before you head to the ceremony.

wedding prayer before ceremony

6. Arrange a “first look” with a parent

By now you may have thought about whether you will do a “first look” (i.e. see your partner before the ceremony… I’ll discuss that in another post entirely!) But you may not have considered setting up a kind of first look with a parent. 

Your parents have probably imagined your wedding day to some degree since you were first born. They watched you grow up, greeted your first prom date and maybe even helped you survive heartaches. Even if your parents aren’t especially emotional on the outside, they would probably love to have a specially planned, private moment to see you all dressed up in your wedding clothing before the day really gets going. 

When I am invited to photograph these moments, I stand back quietly with a long lens to give you your space.

father of bride first look weddingemotional moment father of bride weddingfather of bride tearing up wedding

I hope these ideas were helpful in planning for a more meaningful wedding! The moments are the going to be the most memorable aspect of your day- not how your wedding looked.

Looking for more advice: Check out this post about creating an heirloom with photographs


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