New Jersey Wedding & Portrait Photography

For a good chunk of our marriage we threw around the idea of planning a vow renewal for our 10 year anniversary. It may have something to do with being at weddings every weekend and feeling like we wanted to relive that special day all over again- on our terms. Our wedding was great but we look back at it now (especially the horrible photos) and realize it was just a regular cookie cutter day that wasn’t really reflective of us.

Since we got married pretty young, the next ten years of our relationship was definitely a time of learning, loving and growing and we wanted to celebrate that. Every season of marriage is different and we felt we were in the best one yet so what better thing to do than throw a party with our loved ones. After constant working, it was definitely time for us to let loose.

Planning a wedding isn’t easy but it is an incredible journey. In the 2 years we planned (we started in 2016!), we learned and re-learned 6 things about wedding planning that we wanted to share with you!

1. Make Your Day About You

We knew right away that we want a laid back and super fun party that was reflective of us. No elegant ballrooms or catering halls. We just aren’t those type of people and what was important to us was to just have a good time. We had fallen in love with barn weddings and that was our top choice in location style. Our coordinator and friend, Michelle Perez Events recommended Sterlingbrook Farm and after one visit we booked right away. It was a gorgeous barn with tons of land and horses. Absolutely perfect for the backyard party feel that we wanted to have.

Aside from the location, the other ways we customized the day was taking a lot of the traditional elements out. Because SBF is just the raw space, we were able to choose our outside caterers. We hired two food trucks, The Outslider and PizzaVita– trust us, it was SO hard to narrow down food trucks! We also incorporated other foods we love- a donut cake, a coffee bar and sweet treats from The Sweet Diaries. We also eliminated corny parts of the night- bouquet toss, garter toss, cake cutting, etc.- been there, done that! We didn’t want anything to interrupt the partying!

Having been to so many weddings, we love seeing the recent trend of couples making their wedding day unique and about them. It’s so rewarding to look back and be proud of the day you put together because you know it was about you and not what outside influencers want. Our friends and family raved about the party because it was the type of event they had not been to before. Used to catering halls and seated dinners, it was such a treat for them to be in a casual environment, walking the grounds, seeing the horses play and watching the amazing sunset behind the barn.

2. Hire a Planner

We planned our first wedding, which was an ok process, but times have changed and with a venue space that required us bringing in a lot of outside vendors, we knew we did not have the band-with to take on the project. Enter Michelle Perez Events. Being a control freak (Jenn), it was hard to let go and trust the process but Michelle planned the party to perfection. The only thing we had to worry about was finances and making final decisions on options Michelle brought our way. There were months where we were doing absolutely nothing vow renewal related but knew Michelle was making it work on her end.

Deciding on a hiring wedding planner usually depends on finances however, we totally recommend making space in your budget for one. Whether it be full or partial planning or a day of coordinator, the last thing you need to be worrying about is the logistics and coordinating with your vendors. That adds an additional level of stress and 9 times out of 10 is the reason why couples wind up not fully enjoying their day. Let your planner handle the limo that is late or the venue that is not quite ready for your reception to start. You should not be the point person for these problems on your wedding day.

3. Lower Your Expectations

When we started planning our vow renewal, we had a Pinterest board of ideas that we shared with Michelle. It was a grand vision of hundreds of candles, drapery, flowers, mini food stations, and more. This is when a planner comes in handy- she was able to immediately say what was possible, what wasn’t and explain what things cost. Who knew drapery could be over $500+? Not us!

Things add up QUICKLY and soon we had to start making cuts or finding alternatives (again- another perk of a planner!). Doing so didn’t damped the quality of the day or kill our vision, it just made us realize what was more important to us. That was having a good time with good food and dancing. We compromised on decor and that is okay!

4. Invest in Quality Vendors

The first thing people asked us when they learned we were planning a vow renewal was- “who are you hiring for photo?” Our top choice has always been Hoffer Photography. We have been following their work for years and love their creative work plus the moments they capture throughout a day. We knew we would be getting amazing photos from them and they did not disappoint.

The other big vendor for us was our dj and close friend Mike Music. We’ve worked with him in the past and he ALWAYS had us dancing and making us feel like we weren’t working. With a heart of gold and passion for music, there really is no better choice for DJ and we recommend him to everyone.

Being in the industry, and knowing first hand all of the long hours and work that goes into their craft we wanted to respect all of our vendors. We did not ask for discounts and made sure everyone was tipped at the end of the night. You get what you pay for when it comes to your wedding vendors, so why cheap out? Again, we compromised on decor so we can spend more on vendors that we knew would make the day extra special and provide a QUALITY product. To us, the vendors that you should always stretch on budget for is photo, video (more on that in a bit) and your entertainment. Photo and video lives with you forever- your flowers don’t. Entertainment is what people will remember and rave about. Have a party they will never forget!

Other vendors that were a part of our day and were super amazing: Evelyn of Make Me Up Eva , Veronica of Joy in Beauty, SiEspressoCasale Jewelers.

5. Video Matters

Our amazing friends at Yamean Studios offered their services to us as we will be doing their vow renewal in a couple of years and we are so grateful for them (Ben even played the role of officiant!). Videography can be a hot topic when planning your wedding and deciding on whether or not to budget for it. We wrote all about our feelings in regards to videography a couple of years ago and our feelings have not changed since. We CAN’T WAIT to see what Yamean come up with. It’s one thing to see your day captured in photos but a completely different experience to watch it- to relive the ceremony, hear the music, see your loved ones laughing and partying. You may not watch your video all of the time but there is definitely something comforting in knowing that it is there and that you can pull it up whenever you want.

6. It’s All About the Moments

Probably the most important post-renewal lesson we learned. The day goes FAST. You are having the time of your life full of extreme love and joy and all of a sudden its over. That’s why it is so important to enjoy it. Once it was over, we could not wait to see photos and video. Because it would be some time before we got our professional photos back, we asked all of our friends and family to share what they captured. Once our photos came in, we were so in love with our portraits but noticed that we got so much more excited to see the MOMENTS captured. Seeing the photos of our loved ones, seeing the tears, the laughs, the dancing. That was so much more important to us.

As photographers, you can get wrapped up in worrying about the creative photos or amazing portraits of the bride and groom but we have been seeing more often than not that the photos our couples share are the beautiful moments captured throughout the day. That is what accurately reflects what the day was like and what is important to them. That is why we work the way we do. We want our couples to have fun and not make their day a production. We make sure to get so many photos of the important people in their lives because that is what they cherish. It’s so crucial to soak in the day and create memories that you will look back in your photos and video for years to come.