Category - Atlanta Photographer

How to Plan a Cruise Wedding

How to Plan a Cruise Wedding

How to Plan a Cruise Wedding – Our Experience



A little bit about us


My fiance and I are wedding photographers based in Atlanta, GA.  This is how we planned our cruise wedding.  This article will continue to be updated as we navigate through this experience together.


At the time of writing this article (September 2018), we have been engaged for almost 2 years.  We have put off planning our wedding time and time again due to a variety of reasons including personal finances, family health problems, and the paradox of choice that comes with having too many options available to you.  With my dad’s cancer now in remission, and our finances in a better place, there never seemed a better time to start planning for our wedding!



Why plan a cruise wedding?


We  started brainstorming all of the possibilities. Being active professionals in the local wedding community in Atlanta for the past 10 years, we knew we always wanted to plan a destination wedding.  We had initially thrown ideas around like an intimate wedding in Vegas, or an all inclusive resort in Mexico, etc.  With all of our ideas floating around, we knew we wanted our wedding to be affordable for family and friends to attend, and we wanted to provide an amazing experience for those who chose to come out.


It came to me in a dream one night!  Of all the places to find wedding inspiration!  The next morning I contemplated the logistics of planning a cruise wedding.  It seemed to check off all of our boxes.


  • Cool destination? Check.
  • Affordability?  It’s possible depending on the cruise line, check.
  • Non traditional & non cookie cutter? Check.
  • Does it provide a unique & awesome experience for our guests? Check.



How to choose the best cruise lines for weddings


Ideally we were looking to plan a shorter cruise over a weekend.  Weekday cruises & longer cruises are less affordable, and would require our guests to take off more vacation time from work.  We also wanted to choose a port that was close enough to drive to if our family and friends preferred not to fly.


We chose our cruise line and port based on availability.  When we started looking at the nearest ports within driving distance, we were limited to just 3 (Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa).  When we looked at the cruise lines available at these ports that offered 3&4 night cruises, we also realized we only had a couple of options available to us.  Between Carnival, Disney, and Royal Caribbean, we personally had the best experiences with Royal Caribbean in the past.


We looked at the Royal Caribbean cruises available at the time of year we wanted to get married that matched our criteria (3 or 4 night cruise, over a weekend, and cool locations!).  With only 2 or 3 cruises available, there was clearly one winner with the best cruise itinerary that covered 2 islands in the Bahamas within 3 nights.


Cruise wedding reviews : Should I get married on a cruise?


Once we had a fairly good idea of the cruise we wanted to get married on, we started to research Royal Caribbean Wedding reviews, and just cruise wedding reviews in general – we wanted to cover all of our bases.  What we found was a very mixed bag.


There were absolute nightmare horror stories posted online highlighting terrible experiences with various cruise lines that dropped the ball when planning weddings & terrible customer support stories.  There were also equally great experiences and stories highlighted.  After reading as many cruise wedding reviews as we could find, we came to a consensus.


The most disappointed brides seemed to be the ones with the highest expectations.  As wedding professionals, we know all too well that anything that can go wrong will go wrong on a wedding day.  Wedding professionals do the best they can to prepare for mishaps in advance, but sometimes there are circumstances beyond anyones control that can influence how a wedding day might unfold.  In an ideal world, we wouldn’t let those things ruin our day and ruin our precious memories.  We would take it in stride & focus on what’s most important to us.  We would focus on enjoying our day and creating amazing memories & experiences with the ones we love.


Another thing we read about in the various cruise wedding reviews we stumbled upon is that cruise weddings are not for everyone.  Many wedding packages with cruise lines are fairly restrictive in nature – including the times and dates available for ceremonies, the legality of the ceremonies, the vendors available, etc.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  For the super laid back bride who doesn’t want to plan anything, this is ideal.  For the more type a bride looking for a higher level of control and more options for customization, cruise weddings might not provide the best experience.


When we contacted Royal Caribbean’s wedding team, we were prepared for anything!  We received a copy of their wedding packages & deliberated on the one that might work best for us.


To be continued!




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How to Save Time on Your Wedding Day

How to Save Time on Your Wedding Day

How to Save Time on Your Wedding Day

4 Tips to Save Time on Your Wedding Day


Wedding days can be LONG – as the one vendor who arrives while you are getting ready in the morning and doesn’t leave until after you leave, we, as wedding photographers, probably know this more than most!


As you start to plan out your special day, you might soon realize just how long that day becomes.


If the Wedding Photography Collection you purchased comes with a limited number of hours, you might be debating whether it’s worth it to add on more time with your photographers, or if there are things you can cut from your wedding day timeline to make it work with the number of hours you’ve purchased.


How to Save Time on Your Wedding Day


While this decision is entirely personal and might be based on a number of other factors, we’ve put together a couple of sneaky tips and tricks to help save you time on your wedding day!



1)  Streamline & Prioritize the Getting Ready Photos


What moments during your getting ready process do you want captured? On the wedding day, our wedding photography studio tends to photograph ANYTHING and EVERYTHING as it unfolds. But when pinched for time – are there unique and specific moments you’d like to prioritize over others?



How to Save Time on Your Wedding Day


If considering cutting back hours, we encourage our brides to prioritize and focus on the moments that matter the most to them.


The wedding day is a combination of stylized portraiture (both candid & posed in nature) as well as unique and special moments that tell the story of your day.  Our advice is to prioritize the key portraits and moments that are the most important to you, and to cut back mercilessly on the lackluster moments that may be devoid of emotion or meaning. These are incredibly personal decisions to make – and decisions that only you have to be happy with at the end of the day.


How to Save Time on Your Wedding Day

2)  Limit the number of Wedding Day Locations


Another factor to consider in shrinking back a photography timeline is to reduce the number of locations used on a wedding day. With fewer locations, come fewer opportunities to travel and fewer opportunities to get stuck in traffic. Every time a new location is used, time is required to break down and pack up gear, lug said gear into a vehicle, drive to the next location and maybe get stuck in traffic along the way, get to the next location, find a parking spot/ pay to park, unpack said gear, and get gear set up and established before photos can be taken again.


By limiting the number of locations used on your wedding day, the less time will be spent in travel & re-establishing gear again.


How to Save Time on Your Wedding Day


Fewer locations = less travel time & more photo time!


3) Group reception activities together


There are two ways to schedule your reception events (ie: first dances, cake cutting, toasts, bouquet/ garter toss, etc) – You can spread them out throughout the evening or schedule them back to back.


This decision might very well depend on the amount of time you have allotted for this portion of the day.  After cocktail hour (1 hour) & dinner (1 hour) is done, how much actual reception time do you have left?


How to Save Time on Your Wedding Day


If you have 3 or 4+ hours left after cocktail hour & dinner, you have a longer reception!  Spreading out your events throughout the evening is a nice way to break up your time.  Rather than having 4+ hours of endless dancing, you have an event to look forward to every hour or so.


On the other hand, if you have 1-2 hours left after cocktail hour & dinner is said and done, spreading out your events throughout this 2 hour window will result in a break every 10-30 minutes.  You’ll have just enough time to start a conversation with a friend before being whisked away for the next event.


If you find yourself with 1-2 hours left for your reception, we highly recommend scheduling your events back to back (where it makes sense).  This ensures you’ll have at least an hour – hour and a half of uninterrupted dancing time, and uninterrupted time to mingle with the family and friends who came to your wedding.


How to Save Time on Your Wedding Day


Examples of grouping like events together would mean that your first dance, father-daughter dance, and mother-son dance happen back to back.  If you held off until scheduling these dances for after dinner, you could also add in the cake cutting & toasts immediately after.  As an added bonus, you & your guests would also get to eat dinner immediately after cocktail hour.


4) Stage an early send off/ No send off


The last tip we have for you to save time on your wedding day is to stage an early send off or go without one.


If you don’t care much for send off photos, you can cut your photographers’ coverage at some point during the evening once enough reception photos have been covered.


If you would prefer to have these send off photos, you also have the option of staging a send off earlier in the evening.


How to Save Time on Your Wedding Day


During a typical reception, the crowd tend to thin out as families and elderly guests start to leave.  Staging an early send off will often act as a cue for these people to leave at that time, leaving the fun party animals behind to dance the night away!


If you have a smaller guest count to begin with (less than 100), staging an early send off will ensure there are more people to see you go & you’ll have send off photos with the majority of your guests.




At the end of the day, you always have the option to add on more time with your wedding photographers.  However, if you would like to stay within your purchased number of hours, you have several options available to you if you’re looking to save time on your wedding day.


How to Save Time on Your Wedding Day


  1. You can streamline & prioritize the photos taken during the getting ready portion of the day.
  2. You can limit the number of locations to reduce travel time.
  3. You can schedule your reception events back to back.
  4. You can stage an early send off, or cut it all together.


I hope these tips and tricks help!



What is a first look?  First Look Wedding Pros and Cons

What is a first look? First Look Wedding Pros and Cons

What is a first look?  First Look Wedding Pros and Cons

When planning your wedding day’s photography timeline, you may ask: Should we do a ‘first look’? Many of our couples are initially unsure about what a first look means and if it’s right for their wedding. They often weigh the pros and cons, discuss it, and then search for more information to make an informed decision.

What is a first look

What is a first look?

A ‘first look’ is a cherished moment on the wedding day when a couple sees each other privately before the ceremony.

Beyond the emotional connection, opting for a ‘first look’ offers practical advantages. It introduces flexibility into your timeline, allowing for earlier couple portraits, combined bridal party shots, and even family photos if you wish.

This means more freedom later in the day to savor experiences and moments as they unfold – you can enjoy a private moment  after the ceremony to bask in the joy of being newlyweds, join your guests during cocktail hour, or even kick off your reception festivities early, maximizing your time spent with loved ones!

If you’re leaning towards the traditional route, we encourage you to consider the combined emotional and logistical benefits of a ‘first look’. It’s an option that resonates with many, blending heartfelt memories with smooth day-of logistics.

reasons to have a first look

5 Reasons to Consider a First Look (Or Skip It!)

When evaluating the benefits and drawbacks of a ‘first look’ versus a traditional wedding photo timeline, several aspects need consideration. Here are several factors we often discuss with our couples:

1) Sunset Timing: How Does It Align with Your Ceremony?

Have you checked the sunset time for your wedding day? A quick online search can provide this information. Is your ceremony timing fixed? The sunset’s relation to your ceremony often influences 99% of our couples’ decisions regarding whether to do the ‘first look’. If your ceremony concludes just as the sun sets, portraits of the family, bridal party, and the couple would occur in very low light, even in complete darkness in many cases. If you’ve envisioned capturing naturally lit sunset photos during your portrait session and can’t adjust the ceremony timing, it might be worth considering the ‘first look’ option.

wedding first look or not

2) Consider Your Personality

When pondering the ‘first look’, it is so important to consider your personalities! It might seem unconventional, but understanding yourself and how you’re likely to experience different stressors on the day can greatly influence your wedding day flow.

reasons to have a first look

Over the years, many of our couples (whether they identify as introverts or as meticulous ‘Type A’ personalities) have expressed tremendous gratitude for introducing the concept of the new ‘first look’ tradition.

For introverts, the idea of being the center of attention can be overwhelming. The ‘first look’ provides an intimate space where the couple can share a private moment, away from the vying eyes of guests. It’s a serene interlude where the focus is solely on the bond between the two of them, rather than the spectacle of the entire wedding ceremony and all of the guests in attendance.

first look wedding tradition

On the other hand, those who identify as the ‘Type A’ personality might find themselves extra stressed out on the morning of the wedding, considering all of the details that go into planning the wedding day. Seeing their partner for the first time, feeling their touch, and sharing a moment of connection can instantly dissolve layers of stress, reminding them of the day’s true essence: their love and commitment to one other.

first look wedding pros and cons

The First Look offers a moment of calm and connection amidst the day’s hustle, catering to both emotional well-being and seamless event logistics.

3) Emotional Moments: Will There Be Tears?

Emotions and personality often intertwine, especially on important significant occasions like weddings.

Consider this: Do you or your fiance anticipate a wave of emotions that might lead to tears upon seeing each other for the first time on your wedding day? The depth of the day’s significance can evoke strong feelings.

If you lean towards sharing this tearful, joyous moment in private, the ‘first look’ offers an ideal setting. Additionally, it provides the advantage of the chance to touch up your makeup again before the ceremony, ensuring you look your best throughout.

On the contrary, if your first glimpse of each other is during the ceremony and emotions run high, you might not have the same opportunity for touch-ups.

first look wedding photos timeline

However, if you believe neither you nor your fiance are likely to shed tears, this aspect may not influence your decision on the ‘first look’ tradition.

4) Your Time Spent with Loved Ones

How much time would you like to spend with your loved ones on the big day?

Opting for the ‘first look’ can offer a practical advantage. By capturing most of your portrait photos before the ceremony, you open up opportunities to fully enjoy the post-ceremony festivities. After exchanging vows, you can seamlessly transition into the cocktail hour, steal a private moment with your spouse, or even kick off the reception early. The ‘first look’ empowers you to maximize your time, ensuring you can savor every precious moment with your loved ones during the reception.

wedding first look or not

5) Tradition

The final question to ponder revolves around tradition—how much does it matter to you? For many, tradition holds a significant place in the wedding day narrative. If adhering to tradition takes precedence over the previously discussed factors, then a ‘first look’ may not be the right choice.

What is a first look

If tradition deeply resonates with you, choosing the traditional path could lead to some unique considerations:

Your family, bridal party, and couple portraits might unfold in the dark, and the light and airy/ dreamy sunset photos you envisioned may remain out of reach.

Additionally, you may find yourself managing pre-ceremony jitters a little longer compared to those who opt for a ‘first look’.

There’s also the possibility of capturing candid, emotional moments with tear-stained cheeks during the ceremony without getting the opportunity for touchups beforehand.

Furthermore, embracing tradition may translate to less time mingling with family and friends during the reception, as most of your portrait sessions will occur after the ceremony.


In Summary: Making Your First Look Decision

Deciding whether or not to include a ‘first look’ in your wedding day timeline is a personal choice, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It involves a thoughtful consideration of several essential factors:

first look wedding pros and cons

  1. Photography Priorities: If capturing stunning wedding day portraits is a top concern, consider the timing of sunset in relation to your ceremony time. This can significantly impact the quality & overall style of your portraits.
  2. Embracing Your Day: Prioritizing enjoyment means taking into account your personality and how much time you want to spend with family and friends. The ‘first look’ can enhance your overall experience by providing flexibility and private moments.
  3. Honoring Tradition: For couples who hold tradition close to their hearts, there’s value in following established customs. This may mean that certain photographic moments happen in different lighting conditions or that you experience heightened nerves leading up to the ceremony.

first look wedding pros and cons

Ultimately, the choice to have a ‘first look’ or not should align with your unique preferences and wedding vision. It’s a decision that should resonate with your emotions and values. Remember, your wedding day is a celebration of your love, and it should unfold in a way that feels right to you and your partner.