Wedding Planning Tips from Montana Wedding Photographers

Our Montana wedding photographers have endless knowledge, years of experience and can help you plan the best day of your lives. Capturing the moments that will last a lifetime is what they do best!

Moreso, they have behind the scenes insight from shooting hundreds of weddings and learn first-hand what works well and what couples should avoid. We’ve talked to nine of our local pros, and here’s what they want you to know before your big day.

1. Don’t Feel Like You Have to Follow Traditions

If you don’t like certain traditions usually used in weddings DON’T do them!! It’s your wedding! Do a first look if you want to, don’t do first dances if you hate dancing, bouquet toss and garter toss isn’t absolutely necessary, write your own vows, get donuts, ice cream, pie or cheesecake if you don’t like cake and do whatever YOU want to do!


Tabby Miller Photography // Billings, Montana

2. Make a Plan and Stick To It!

For every wedding client, I make sure to create a wedding photography timeline well before the day of the wedding. I start with a wedding photography checklist, where the client checks off every set of photos they would like that are included in their particular package. Usually, we discuss this over the phone, but it can also be completed via email. Once the checklist is complete, we then discuss the timeline over the phone and start to piece together the timeline by plugging in each set of photos where they fit in the couple’s wedding schedule.

First, we put each set of photos in order, and then we set a time for each set as the couple solidifies their schedule. Once all of the times are set, I then make a final copy of the timeline and send it to the bride & groom, and both myself and my assistant or second shooter carry a paper copy and a digital copy on our phones just in case.

As far as my preferred order goes, it usually depends on the wedding schedule of each particular couple, but I always try to do family first, then bridal party, and I save the bride and groom for last. It seems to be easiest to start with the larger group photos first so that when it comes time for couple photos, everyone can relax because they are no longer waiting around.

I hope this helps in planning your big day!


Taylor Barrett Photography // Bozeman, Montana

3. You Always Want the Sun at Your Back!

It seems simple, and it might not even seem like that big of a deal, but it makes a WORLD of difference for your photos. Just that little adjustment, of having the sun behind you, instead of in front of or to the side of you will make your photos look 100% better, just by fixing that one little problem. So when you’re deciding where you want couple or family photos, or where you want the altar to be – keep in mind, the photos will always look better when the sun is behind you!


Adya Steen, Adya Marie Photography // Lewistown, Montana

4. Make Sure You and Your Photographer Are a Good Fit for Each Other

No matter how talented the photographer is, none of it matters if you aren’t a good fit for each other. You’ll be uncomfortable, they’ll be uncomfortable, and your pictures will definitely show it. This is why you MUST meet or Skype/Facetime with a potential wedding photographer. You’ll definitely get a feel of their personality and how they do business. Listen to your inner voice if it’s telling you that something just isn’t right, and move on to the next one. More than anything, the experience you have will color how you feel about your pictures. (1 of 5 tips published in Kelly’s guest article Choosing Your Glacier National Park Wedding Photographer – read all here.)


Kelly Kirksey Photograph // Kalispell, Montana

5. Don’t Skip the Details!

We, as photographers, LOVE the details from brides and grooms. When we get to the venue, we usually like to photograph all the little things, such as shoes and flowers. However, this doesn’t mean leave the important stuff at home! Some suggestions I give my brides of items to bring are perfume, earrings, necklaces, love notes, invites, grandma’s ring, Papa’s handkerchief tickets from your first dates, or really any item with sentimental value! These little pieces really bring together the gallery! So, don’t skip the details!


Amber Renee – Photographer // Billings, Montana

6. Have All Your Details Set Aside

Have all of your details in a bag or box so that when I arrive, I can greet you with a big hug, and I can get right to work on shooting your details! If I have all of the details like your perfume bottle, shoes, earrings, necklace, invitation suite, florals, the rings, etc. then I won’t have to bug anyone or waste time searching for different items while you’re busy getting ready! It’s a timeline dream to come to a wedding, and everything is set aside for me!


Kelly Van Dyke Photography // Helena, Montana

7. Your Laugh is Never Ugly!

Photographers want to catch those candid moments. Like when your soon-to-be-husband recites his vows and makes fun of the way you make a PBJ sandwich (is there a wrong way?).  That smile you make when you let out a big or little laugh is the one we want to capture. Don’t think about how many chins you have, if one eye looks bigger than the other, or if any part of your face looks crooked. We want you to look at that photograph and think of how you felt at that moment: happy. Enjoy your wedding to the fullest, and you will love your photos even more.


Marisela Hazzard Photography // Great Falls, Montana

8. Make a Plan to Mix & Mingle with Your Guests

I encourage all my brides and grooms to make sure they have time and opportunity to mix and mingle with their guests. Often the day is highly scheduled, and it needs to be, but creating opportunities to connect with the people who came out to celebrate with you is so important. There are two ways I love to see these opportunities promoted.

  • First, if you have a sweetheart table or even a head table, make sure it is placed among your guests rather than across the dance floor from them. Below is an image of this. It worked so well for this couple.  This allows a message to be sent that you are approachable.

  • Second, leave a bit of time between when you finish eating and the toasts where you can get up and walk among your guests and greet them. You going to them makes them feel so special, creates some fun candid photo opportunities, and sets an atmosphere for the rest of the reception.

I observe that more people dance when this is done, and stay longer at the reception because they feel warmly welcomed. I recommend this even if you did a receiving line because it is far more personal! In fact, receiving lines are rarely done these days (no complaints from me on that), so it is extra important to create more natural ways to connect with your guests.


Susan Beth Breuner, Elements of Light Photography // Bozeman, Montana

9. You Can Include Your Family in Your Elopement, Here’s How

You’ve decided to elope and make your big day as intimate as possible, but you also love your family. There is no reason you can’t include them in your elopement, even if your guest list is small or non-existent. Here are 3 easy ways to include them.

  • Preparations and planning – there is still a ton of planning that goes into your elopement day from finding the perfect dress to flowers to your dream location. Bring your mom or best friend along to help with all the details!
  • Have a few at your ceremony day – you might not be able to have your elopement day without your parents or best friend by your side. That is ok! Bring them along! No one ever said you can’t bring people to your elopement.
  • Plan an after-party or reception – this is the perfect solution to getting your day exactly how you want it to be, but also having all your loved ones be able to celebrate with you. Plan the party for the same day, the next day, or heck wait a month or two! It never hurts to keep celebrating your wedding day.

Nothing is off the table for your elopement plans. My biggest bit of advice is, BE YOU and plan the day how you want it to be! Happy planning!


Jessica Powell Photography // Helena, Montana

Final Thoughts

From gathering all the special details to capturing the genuine laughs, your photographer is ready to collect the moments you will treasure for a lifetime AND share valuable experience to really make your wedding day the best day ever.

What tips do you have to share – drop us a comment below, we want to know!

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Wedding Planning Tips from Montana Wedding Photographers