Tales of a Wedding Planner

110 Must-Have Wedding Photos ChecklistTricks of the Trade

Posted by Tara Ybarra Sat, June 30, 2018 10:06PM

Every couple getting married should have a photo checklist they send to their wedding photographer as well as their videographer roughly one week before their wedding date. Usually the photographer and videographer will be working side-by-side, capturing your important moments.

Here are 110 Wedding Moments you should capture on film!

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Getting Ready

Wedding dress on a hanger
Wedding invitation
Engagement ring and wedding bands
Bride and bridesmaids' bouquets
Bride's jewelry
Bride’s Shoes, Garter, something old, new, borrowed, blue
Gifts to each other
Family memorabilia, e.g. heirloom jewelry
Bride & Bridesmaids in robes/PJs
Bride applying makeup
Bridesmaids and/or mother of the bride helping the bride into her dress
Putting on the veil
Bride looking at herself in full length mirror
Groom tying his tie
Groom’s Shoes
Groom pinning boutonniere on his father
Father pinning boutonniere on the groom
Leaving for the ceremony

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Before the Bride and Groom See Each Other

Bride alone
Bride with mom and dad
Bride with dad
Bride with mom
Bride with immediate family
Bride with siblings
Generational shot: Bride, mom, sister(s), grandmother
Bride with mom and mother-in-law
Bride with mother-in-law
Bride with bridesmaids
Bride with maid of honor
Bride with flower girl(s)
Groom alone
Groom with mom and dad
Groom with dad
Groom with mom
Groom with immediate family
Groom with siblings
Generational shot: Groom, father, brother(s), grandfather
Groom with father and father-in-law
Groom with father-in-law
Groom with groomsmen
Groom with best man
Groom with ring bearer(s)

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Photos Together

Bride and groom
Bride, groom, bride's immediate family
Bride, groom, bride's parents
Bride, groom, groom's immediate family
Bride, groom, groom's parents
Bride, groom, both sets of parents
Bride, groom, both immediate families
Bride, groom, siblings
Bride, groom, all grandparents
Bride, groom, each grandparent (or set of grandparents)
Bride and groom with extended families
Bride, groom, maid of honor, best man
Bride, groom, flower girl, ring bearer
Bride with groomsmen
Groom with bridesmaids
Bride, groom, full wedding party

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Anticipation of 1st look
The 1st look
Room shots at ceremony
Aisle arrangements, e.g. floral on arch, hanging vases, aisle petals
Ceremony signs
Wedding party and parents walking down the aisle
Ceremony musician
Bride walking down the aisle
Groom’s face as he waits/sees her
Bride and groom at the altar together
Altar or canopy from the back during ceremony
Wide shot of audience during ceremony, from bride and groom's point of view
Faces of bride and groom as they exchange vows
Bridesmaids at the alter
Groomsmen at the alter
Close-up of the exchange of rings
The first kiss as husband and wife
The recessional
Congrats shots: bride and groom hugging, laughing, and crying with good friends
and family
Ketubah signing and/or signing of marriage certificate
Bride and groom in limo backseat

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Cocktail Hour

Guests Mingling
Table décor
Cocktail tables
Special Entertainment

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Room shots at reception
Wish you were here table
Cake/Dessert Table
Close-up of all signs, e.g. bar, welcome sign, guestbook sign
Close-up of seating-card display
Close-up of centerpieces
Close-up of dinnerware on table
Specialty drinks/champagne
Grand entrance
The Toasts
The first dance
Father/daughter dance
Mother/son dance
Sunset photos
Band & Dancing
Food prettily plated
Special entertainment, e.g. people using photobooth
Kids playing/dancing
Parents Dancing
Grandparents Dancing
The cake cutting
Bouquet and garter toss
Parents of bride dancing
Parents of groom dancing
Couple’s departure

Here is a PDF Wedding Photo Checklist free for you to download:

Guestbooks: A thing of the pastUniquely You

Posted by Tara Ybarra Thu, August 03, 2017 12:01AM

Sometimes I hate watching traditions die out, but in some cases I will shoo it happily out the door. I don't know about you, but I am really loving all the alternatives for the traditional guestbook that have been rapidly gaining popularity. In comparison, the traditional guestbook has become almost obsolete. Not in the sense that it no longer has a use, but there are now so many different options that are more useful/desirable. Almost no one ever looks twice at their guestbook. It ends up in a box (like mine) or on a shelf collecting dust. In addition to you enjoying your guestbook and getting more use out of it in the future, your guests will enjoy signing it more.

The guestbook alternatives also give yet another opportunity to add some personality and creativity to your wedding. I am definitely a fan of making it your own! Listed here are some of my favorites from weddings I have worked.

The Wishing Tree Guestbook

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This guestbook alternative has so many different style options. Real tree, fake tree, wall art. Sometimes the signatures/wishes are on tags, sometimes on wooden hearts or leaves, sometimes they're a thumbprint. I like that this can be displayed, or (if a live tree) planted in your yard.

Signed Matte Guestbook

Blog imageSometimes the Matte is surrounding the couple's wedding date, sometimes it's surrounding their engagement photo... either way it's nice to have something to hang on your wall to make you smile every time you look at it.

State/Map Guestbook

Blog image I think this option is so cute. It's perfect for destination weddings or you can even order the entire USA and connect locations with hearts or dotted lines.

Signed Corks Guestbook
Blog imageThis guestbook is particularly adorable for Vineyard weddings. If you ask in advance, most wineries will save corks for you and then you can have a collection of corks from the venue where you got married! Add signatures of your loved ones, put them in a glass vase, and you have a perfect contribution to your mantel.

Globe Guestbook
Blog imageI am a huge fan of globes. If I had space for them I would probably own 20+. If I had thought of it at the time, I probably would have done this for my wedding with a little sign that read, "Please share some worldly advice". The I would have an excuse to own a globe! Apart from my own happiness.

Games and Puzzles Guestbook

Blog imageThis Guestbook alternative is truly genius! You can choose whatever game you like and have the guests sign pieces or parts of the game board. You can even get a custom puzzle made and have the guests sign the pieces. Displayed with a little sign reading "Our puzzle is not complete without you", it would be perfect!

Sign a Heart Guestbook
Blog imageThere are a ton of different shadow boxes custom made with little slits to fit the wooden hearts in the top. Some of the shadow boxes can be ordered with your initials and date, or your monogram, or some are even a frame for a photo!

Polaroid Guestbook

Blog imageYes! So happy Polaroid Cameras are back! This guestbook alternative is perfect! It allows guests to add such a personal touch, and get a bit goofy! A variation to the Polaroid option is to have a Photo Booth that prints doubles. One for the guestbook and one for the guests!

Buffet vs. Plated and Everything inbetweenTricks of the Trade

Posted by Tara Ybarra Mon, July 24, 2017 10:06PM

Everyone wants the food at their wedding to be amazing. Wedding Guests always remember the food. They will remember if it was good, if it was bad, if it took too long and they were starving... they'll remember if there wasn't enough and they were still hungry even after eating.

Having the right type of food plus the right style of service is important. BBQ Buffet dinner gives a more casual feel than a Plated Filet Mignon dinner. It will help set the tone of your wedding. That being said, there are a lot of options of how to serve dinner.

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Depending on your experiences, you may already have a preference for the way food at a wedding should be served. I am here to compare the options and maybe even give you new options you didn't know existed!

I am a fan of buffets. It is great for a more relaxed environment, and people can pick and choose what they would like on their plate (and how much). It's quite a bit less work for you and your caterer too. No need to send out the extra invitation inserts of "chicken or fish". Buffets are great for large groups, but it is time consuming to get everyone through the line. One way to help, is to set up multiple lines. I like to have up to 4 lines depending on the wedding guest list size. We can get (give or take) 250 people through a buffet in 30-40 minutes with 4 lines. (This obviously varies greatly depending on the guests, venue, and set up.) Then, once it gets to the final table, instead of a group of friends of the bride/groom that are starving and wondering if the flowers in the centerpiece are edible, they are pleasantly surprised that it's already their turn for the buffet.

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What I like even better than Buffets though, are Soft-Open Buffets! Soft-Open Buffets are similar to buffets, but instead of having the guests sit down, and dismissed table by table, the buffet is available straight from cocktail hour. It's a bit quicker because we save the first migration time to the seats. Normally, as the wedding planner, for a traditional buffet, I would go around at the end of cocktail hour and ask everyone to find their seats. 15-20 minutes later the guests would be seated, and we would have the bridal party grand entrance, then dismiss by table. With the Soft-open, usually the grand entrance fits nicely at the end of cocktail hour, then I would go around telling groups the buffet line is open. For some reason, it generally only takes them a few minutes to get in line! *wink wink, nudge nudge* The migration time is much shorter, and the hungriest guests will be the first in line. They also only have to go to their seats once!

I do love the sophistication of plated dinners though. It's so elegant and they're garnished beautifully. It is an opportunity to really treat your guests to fine dining. You would think it is faster than buffet, but generally it takes about the same amount of time to get all the plates delivered to the guests. Here is where staffing is crucial. You need to have enough staff to get the food to the tables at a good pace.

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Probably my favorite way to serve food at a wedding, though, is Family Style. (However, it still depends on what ambiance you are designing.) Family style is the perfect balance between Plated and Buffet. Every table is brought food in courses. An example would be, the catering staff would bring each table big bowls of salad. As each guest is helping themselves to salad, the waiter is getting the next course to trade out the salad bowl. The things I like about this serving style, is you feel more like a family when you interact at a dinner table this way, it is the fastest way to get food out, and you are not waiting in line, so it feels like you're at a restaurant.

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Really, the styles all vary greatly, and not all Caterers offer every option. Every style of service fits everyone differently as well. More than likely, you know how you want your wedding day to feel, and the food can help that feeling transpire.

Too Silent, Too LoudUniquely You

Posted by Tara Ybarra Sat, July 22, 2017 01:37PM

I love when couples are completely made for each other. Usually the phrase "made for each other" is reserved for describing the couple mentally. All their experiences and personality traits have made them grow into the perfect person to support and love the other. This is what I run into most often, but recently, I had a bride and groom with unique circumstances. This made planning their wedding a truly unique experience for me. The Bride had a condition that caused her to not be able to speak above a whisper, and the Groom had an inner ear injury that caused loud noises to unbearably hurt his ears. I still can't even believe that they found each other! What are the odds of that! Their situations perfectly fit like a puzzle!

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They came to me in search of a solution. The Problem: They couldn't have a traditional Wedding Reception with music and dancing; the Groom wouldn't be able to sustain the noise. They had a lot of family coming into town from out of state, and wanted to give them a wonderful wedding experience, but they were at a loss of what to do for entertainment. So we brainstormed our options.

I started the planning process with all the typical questions, and the result was so beautiful. We talked about their likes and dislikes, any interests they have. As we were talking, they each expressed their love for the Bo-ho style and wanted to incorporate it into the day.

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The vows: The couple was frustrated because the bride could not speak loud enough for her vows to be audible to their wedding guests, and they could not use microphones because the amplification would hurt the groom's ears. One solution we tossed around was having their vows projected on a screen, but ultimately we decided to order programs with the vows included. The property had such a beautiful backdrop and it was an outdoor ceremony, so we didn't want to obscure the view with a giant screen.

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The clapping: The groom was nervous about clapping and cheers from the wedding guests. There are a lot of moments throughout a wedding when family and friends support the couple through enthusiastic cheering. The solution we came up with were Ribbon wands! Traditionally there would be bells attached to the end of the wands as well. The bells stem from an Irish tradition and the noise was rumored to ward off spirits. But to reduce noise, we opted to make them without the bells. Guests were instructed to wave the wands in lieu of clapping or cheering. In order to make sure guests did not forget, the Officiant made an announcement, and we encouraged the closest family members and friends that were familiar with the grooms condition, to wave their wands early and quickly, so others would see them and remember to wave theirs as well.

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The Meal: Even the clinking of silverware on dinner plates was too painful for the Groom. Plastic dinnerware doesn't really say "wedding", also not environmentally friendly, so we needed a quiet and elegant alternative. After searching around a bit, we found wooden dinnerware. It was beautiful, and fit our theme and requirements perfectly. Glassware, we still went with glass and encouraged guests not to clink while cheering the couple. We spaced the tables out farther than we normally would as well, to minimize concentrated noises levels.

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The Speeches: Without amplification, speeches were a challenge. How would we make them audible for all the guests? Luckily for us, the reception location was a bit windy. we used that to carry sound. We placed the bride and groom upwind from the rest of the wedding guests, and the guests formed a semi-circle around them. It worked out really well, and it was more intimate with everyone gathering together, rather than staying in their seats. (P.S. The wind helpful in this respect, but not so helpful when it came to the wooden plates. They were light, and kept blowing off the tables. We tilted water glasses to weigh them down. Problem solved!)

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The Music: The couple still wanted to have a First Dance as husband and wife. I'm glad they still shared this moment, because it is one of my absolute favorite moments of a wedding. We rented a speaker and hooked an IPod to it, with the groom setting the sound to a comfortable level for him. This is what we used for the Ceremony and First Dance. After the First Dance, there was just one more official dance, so guests could join the couple out on the floor. I put on my DJ hat, starting and stopping the music when necessary.

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The Alternative Entertainment: This was probably the most difficult part of their wedding to plan. We thought about the possibility of lawn games, but were worried about the noise level escalating if guests were enthusiastic about winning. (Especially after a few drinks). Going with the Bohemian theme, we wanted to create a relaxing environment. The most relaxing thing I can think of is massage. We hired a traveling masseuse to set up a chair massage for the wedding guest, and also hired a henna tattoo artist to tattoo guests. It was all set up under a lit canopy with a Bo-ho throw rug underneath. It set the perfect ambiance. Most of the guests were from New York, and coming to California, it was a fun experience for them to be submerged in our slower paced, relaxing way of life.

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Other details were of the more classic wedding traditions. The ceremony was a fusion of Jewish, Hindu, and Celtic traditions. There was a coffee and tea bar to accompany the Bo-ho feel. A cake cutting, adorable wedding favors, a non-traditional guestbook... and it was all absolutely lovely.

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This wedding day came together so charmingly. I cannot express the fondness with which I remember the day. I can only imagine how warmly the guests remember the day. It will forever be a favorite of mine.

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Venue: Beltane Ranch, Kenwood, CA
Photography: Jade Turgel Photography
Catering: Park Avenue
Floral: EV Floral Design
Masseuse: Wine Country Mobile Spa
Henna Tattoo Artist: Hayet Amatullah
Hair and Makeup: Sculpt Hair

Sewing EmergencyExpecting the Unexpected

Posted by Tara Ybarra Wed, July 05, 2017 04:48PM

As a Wedding Planner, I make sure to be prepared for any possible scenario. You never know what will pop up and I always try to minimize the problem as quickly as possible. Most often I can do this without the bride/groom ever noticing anything happened. But every once in awhile, their noticing is unavoidable. Every once in a while, something goes a bit awry. Such was the case when I had to tailor the bride's dress during the cocktail hour.
Blog imageThe bride and groom were getting ready for their first dance as a married couple. It is one of my favorite parts of a wedding! I came over to bustle her dress, and as I was searching, found that the bustle was missing. I searched around a bit more, (man those tailors are good! Most of the time you cannot see the bustle at all!) and after speaking with the bride, found that she thought her dress included the bustle when she purchased it. No biggie! I always have a sewing kit ready to go. Bustles are not included because they don't know what height they will have to bustle to, so all alterations take place after the purchase. This particular bride was extremely lucky, because her dress didn't require extra tailoring. It fit her perfectly. The corset to helped a lot with that fact too.

It all turned out wonderfully. I sewed in a few buttons and loops and got her dress bustled and ready for dancing in less than 5 minutes!

Never underestimate the need of the emergency kit!

* Photography courtesy of: Luke Snyder Studio

Coffee WeddingUniquely You

Posted by Tara Ybarra Wed, July 05, 2017 04:10PM

Your Wedding Day is an opportunity to represent yourselves as an official couple for the very first time. What better way to do that, than to put a little bit of your love story into the decor? I like to sit down with my engaged couples and learn a bit about them.

I had a couple come to me upset because they didn't want their wedding to look like every other wedding. They wanted something off-trend. Rustic is gorgeous, and I personally love it, but the couple was worried that it would date their wedding just like the 80's weddings were dated by their Bows, Puffy sleeves, and Lace! Oh yes! Who doesn't love marveling at the 80's trends! Just be thankful Bridesmaids dresses have evolved!

We met at a coffee shop of their choice. I sat down with the couple and asked them to tell me a bit about their lives and relationship. They insisted they were an average couple (what is average anyway!), they didn't have anything to make them unique, and they were a bit stressed that they couldn't think of a theme or any decorations they liked. Now, you don't always need a theme, but if you want one, I am determined to find the perfect one!!! I assured them, of course they were unique. No one is the same.

The bride replied matter-of-factly, "The only things I like are my fiance, and my coffee." Huh, she likes coffee... I can work with that. They were both self-described coffee snobs. They had also met while working in rival coffee shops. This was a constant throughout their daily lives and a shared passion.


Blog imageWe had coffee beans everywhere. The Centerpieces were vanilla candles in hurricane vases with coffee beans at the base.
Blog imageThe bride and groom each chose their favorite coffee bean flavors and guests got to make their our roasts by scooping their beans of choice into their favor bags. Blog imageThere was a coffee bar with Baileys and Kahlua, as well as a coffee desserts bar. The opted to have a brunch wedding in order to stick to the theme, and had a waffle bar as well. Blog imageWhen I say coffee was in every detail, I mean every detail! There were even coffee beans in the bouquet!

The couple was amazed with how much you can with just one spark of an idea. Together we had developed the beautiful and relaxed ambiance the couple had been searching for.

Over the years there have been many themes, but this one will always stick out in my mind as one of the best smelling weddings I have ever had the pleasure of planning.

Caring for your Wedding RingHoneymoon is over...now what?

Posted by Tara Ybarra Thu, June 29, 2017 08:42PM

Wedding rings… not only are they one of the most expensive pieces of jewelry you own (if not the most!), but they hold immeasurable sentimental value! Not to worry, there are easy ways to care for your rings, no matter the intricacies of design, or type of metal.

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First and Foremost, it is always a good idea to get your rings insured. It is easier than you think, and relatively inexpensive. The cost is usually $1-$2 per every $100 you bought your wedding ring for. This is usually an annual fee you will continually pay. Some stores include ring insurance in their policies as long as you meet their requirements, so always check with your jeweler before getting insurance. These requirements may include bringing the ring in every 6 months for a cleaning and to check the settings, or something similar.

Cleaning your rings... Your rings, especially rings with a lot of detail, collect dirt, dander, oils from your skin, and lotion. Caring for your rings is easy! All you need to do is follow these steps:

1. Make a solution with really warm water, almost hot, and liquid dish soap. (The dish soap will help to break down the oils).

2. Soak your ring in the solution for about half an hour.

3. Gently scrub ring with a soft bristled tooth brush. I like to use a baby tooth brush.

4. Rinse under warm running water, and Voilá!

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Using this soap and water method is the best solution to use for all ring and metal types, but there are also different products you can buy. When buying a Jewelry Cleaning Solution, make sure to check it's contents. It should be chemical-free and non-abrasive. Chemicals can damage or discolor your ring.

If you choose to clean your ring yourself, you should still bring your ring into a jeweler periodically to get the setting checked. You don't want to have to replace the stones unnecessarily! Wearing anything daily, it is bound to have wear and tear. The prongs on your ring should be checked roughly every six months.

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