3 ways to simplify your wedding (without cutting your guest list)

Ah, wedding planning. So fun. Yet at times so overwhelming. You want everything. Yet you also want to actually enjoy yourselves and your people on your wedding day.

As a wedding photographer, I've been part of a lot of weddings. And it's in my vested interest to help my couples enjoy a great day. My photography centers quite a bit around the people and the emotions of the day, and I've observed that the best pictures and happiest couples seem to come out of the simplest weddings. The good news is there are a couple of uncomplicated options that can help you move that direction, reduce stress and leave more opportunity to focus on the things that really matter to you.

Weddings are all about moving parts. The more you can reduce the parts - or reducing the moving - the easier your day will be. Here are three insider tips for some options to consider that can make your wedding run as smooth as oat milk even if you want a big fat wedding with 300 of your closest friends.

Leave time between your ceremony and reception

The simplest schedule for a wedding day is getting ready followed by the ceremony, followed by a generous gap for photos and video (preferably late afternoon but before dark) and then the reception.

What often happens is that the ceremony runs right into the reception. This is planned before the photographer or videographer are hired. Then you have to figure out when to take pictures. Often the only option is before the ceremony.

This is perfectly fine, but does add a layer of complexity. The easiest time to take your family photos and bride and groom portraits is after the ceremony. Your family will all be there in one place. Then after the ceremony is behind you and the family photos are taken, you will be WAY more relaxed for your own photos.

When the photos are done before the ceremony, there is more risk that a family member or bridal party member will be late or lost. The light is not as good early in the day for natural light photos. And you will be more nervous because the ceremony is yet to come, and the nerves will sometimes show in photos. For this reason, even when all of the photos are taken before the ceremony, I like to photograph the bride and groom again, even if briefly, after the ceremony. The reason is you actually look different after you are married. It's true. Most couples visibly relax as soon as the ceremony is over.

Limit locations

Here is the ideal when it comes to a simple wedding day - get ready, get married, take your pictures and have your reception in one location. That is as simple as it can get.

Compare this to the norm: You get ready in one location, have your ceremony in a second location, take your photos in a third location and have your reception in a fourth location. I photograph this all the time. It's totally doable. But... eliminate bustling people from place to place, the travel time, the logistics of getting everybody from point A to point B and you've already made your day so much easier. And you'll save some money. Many vendors (photo and video for example) charge mostly by the hour. Reduce the amount of time they have to drive around and you get more pictures or a lower price.

Keep the bridal party small

I know you want to include your 15 closest friends and family. But studies have shown each additional bridal party member multiplies your wedding day complexity by a factor of 7.3. I made that up. But still, the more in your party, the more dresses that need to be picked out and fitted, the more suits or tuxes needed, more ties, more shoes, more makeup, more hair, more people to wait for when one of them is late, more drama, more stuff to trip over when you're getting ready.

A popular option these days is no wedding party. Instead have all 15 - or 50 - of your besties dress in matching colors. I call it the optional bridal party. The ladies are on their own to select a dress they like and take care of their own hair and makeup. If someone is late or doesn't show, it doesn't matter so much. You can still have all your girls. You can still have group photos taken. They will still feel loved. And nobody feels left out.

So there you have it - three no-cost tips to keep your wedding minimal and wonderful and yet fabulous. Consider all three or just one. You may love the results.