Vancouver Wedding Planning Guide

By Justin Ho Photography

Welcome to my wedding planning guide!  I'm so lucky to be a Vancouver wedding photographer - 7 years and counting! - because it's such meaningful and purposeful work that brings joy to people's lives. My greatest joy is creating images that capture raw emotion and adventure. My approach to capturing TIMELESS AND CREATIVE images is to first and foremost find AMAZING light. 

That feeling when you just get engaged and start the early stages of wedding planning can be so overwhelming! I'm hoping this planning guide will help you get on the right track as you plan your dream wedding.

She said Yes.. now where do we begin?

Are you here because "she said yes!" and now you're wondering where to begin in this whole wedding process? Before you start looking for Vancouver Wedding Venues, wedding photographers, and more, the first thing you should do is to figure out your guest list. It might seem like a decision you can defer until later, but having an idea of which venues can accommodate the number of guests you're expecting is so very important. You'll save time by narrowing down your potential venues early in the game. Check out my complete list of Vancouver Wedding Venues here! Some of my favourites:

Vancouver Wedding Venues

Wedding shows are great for inspiration early in the planning process. With so many vendors in one location, you'll get to see a ton of different themes, bounce ideas around, and talk to industry professionals. While Pinterest is also great for inspiration, wedding shows provide real-life details and exposure to upcoming trends that you might have not otherwise seen. Some of the top Vancouver Bridal Shows.:

Vancouver Wedding Shows

It can be quite daunting looking for the perfect wedding dress. Although New Westminster is a go-to location for most brides, you might want to check out Langley as well for even more options. They have a whole street filled with wedding dress shops! 
For grooms who are looking for tuxedo or suit rentals, check out these popular options below:

Vancouver Wedding Dress and Tux stores

Your ceremony will be brimming with so much emotion! I highly recommend having a great officiant who you get along with and can share your unique story in a compelling way that will have your guests engaged all ceremony long.

Vancouver Officiants

After many months of planning, you might want to let loose and have some fun! If you're looking to get your guests on the dance floor, check out the guys at I-DJ Services. For a live music experience, you can't go wrong with the phenomenal musicians at Side One Entertainment.

Vancouver DJ and live bands

Leading up to the wedding day, you want to be as relaxed as possible, so you can actually enjoy the wedding day! Whether you need a wedding planner to help you with day of co-ordinating, set-up and tear down, having a wedding planner ensures your friends and family enjoy the day as well.

Vancouver Wedding Planners

Need someone to help you spruce up your ceremony or reception space? Adding a bit of decorative detail or fanciful lighting can make a HUGE difference. Here are some amazing decor vendors:

Vancouver Decor and Rentals

This is the BIGGEST thing to consider for the "getting ready" portion of the day and the ceremony itself. Natural light can make a monumental difference in taking gorgeous portrait shots so I strongly recommend having at least one window in your prep area. You may also want to have your make-up artist place you in front of the window. Bonus: if the window has blinds to control how much light comes in, even better! 

If you're planning to do an outdoor ceremony, I would recommend scheduling it close to sunset if at all possible. Sunset gives the best possible light and helps avoid squinty eyes, harsh shadows, and uneven lighting on your wedding party. If you aren't able to make sunset work, at least check out the venue beforehand and try to find a shady spot or a place where the sun will be behind the officiant. 

It's finally here... your wedding day! You've invested so much time into this day and I want to capture every moment in the best way! In order to make this possible, here are some important tips for making your photos stand out.

Wedding day tips

1. Lighting 

Beyond lighting, try to make sure your "getting ready" area is a clean as possible. I'll be sure to do my best to clean and remove objects from view when I arrive, but the less time I spend cleaning, the more time I can spend capturing candid moments! 

Did you want to share a first look with your bridesmaids, dad, or other significant people in your life?  Did you want your mom, Maid of Honour, or anyone else helping you with final touches? It’s totally up to you! Just make sure everyone is ready on time so that you can keep to your wedding day schedule.

Once you have your dress or suit on, pause for a moment before putting on your jewelry and veil! I love capturing the moments when you're putting on the final touches of your beautiful wedding day look.

Bonus: try to use wooden hangers (instead of a plastic hangers) for your dress and suit for a classier look in photos.

Details tie everything together. Gather all the little details before your wedding day so that I can photograph them quickly at the beginning of the day. This makes shooting the wedding prep much smoother. If you have specific detail shots you want or want to make sure certain heirlooms make it into your wedding gallery, be sure to let me know ahead of time. 

2. Getting Ready and Details

For indoor locations like churches, make sure there are no coloured spotlights pointing towards the walls or directly at you. Sometimes these lights reflect on your skin, which can't always be fixed in editing. Neutral colours are okay.

For outdoor weddings in the summer, I can't suggest strongly enough to start the ceremony 2 hours before the sunset. The closer the sun is to the horizon, the better lighting there is for portraits. If you are choosing not to do a first look, and want portraits after the ceremony with your bridal party and family, then I would recommend having your ceremony 3 hours before. For more information on first looks, you can read more on WHY I think it's important and how it can benefit you.

3. Ceremony 

In order to make sure things run smoothly, timelines are super important. One common reason that wedding day schedules get delayed are group portraits. In order to expedite the process, it's best if this takes place right after the ceremony. It helps to have a designated friend or day planner who can gather the groups ahead of each shot so that I can focus on creating beautiful photos. Usually this person knows the groups pretty well, they have a loud voice, and they can round people up with ease. General rule of thumb is 3-4 minutes for each group photo. Groups of 10 or more expect about 4-5 minutes!

4. Group Photos

If you value portraits as much as I do, you may want to plan your wedding day around light (I told you light was #1!). Try to plan your portrait sessions with the wedding party around 1.5 hours before sunset. If you timeline doesn't allow for that, allot at least 15-20 minutes for portraits for just the bride and groom at about half an hour before sunset. I can get stunning shots in a shorter amount of time if the lighting is good! 

I typically recommend scheduling me (as your wedding photographer!) to join you when half of the bride's make-up is done. This allows me to cover details like the wedding dress, rings, and shoes before I switch my attention to you when your make-up is almost complete. I suggest chatting with your hair and make-up artist to get a rough idea on how long everything will be. 

4. Sample Wedding timeline

10 Hour Timeline: 
10:00am: Getting Ready Photos// 11:00am: Door Games//11:30am: Traditions ( tea ceremony)// 12:30pm: First Look// 12:45: Bridal Party Portraits// 1:30: Bride and Groom Portraits// 2:30pm: Touch Up// 3:00pm: Ceremony Starts// 3:45pm: Group Photos// 4:15pm: Cocktail Hour// 6:00pm: Reception// 6:30pm: Sunset Photos // 7:00pm: Reception | Speeches| Cake Cutting //8:00pm: First Dance | Bouquet Toss | Party

12 Hour Timeline
( recommended for bigger bridal parties and reception coverage): 

10:00am: Getting Ready Photos// 11:00am: Door Games 11:30am: Traditions ( tea ceremony) // 12:30pm: First Look// 12:45pm: Bridal Party Portraits// 2:00: Bride and Groom Portraits // 2:30pm: Touch Up//  3:00pm: Ceremony Starts// 3:45pm: Group Photos // 4:15pm: Cocktail Hour// 6:00pm: Reception// 6:30pm: Sunset Photos// 8:00pm: Reception | Speeches| Cake Cutting// 9:00pm: First Dance/ Bouquet Toss/ Exit

8 Hour Timeline: 
2:00pm: Getting Ready Photos // 1:00pm: First Look // 1:30pm: Bridal Party Photos// 2:15pm: Bride and Groom Portraits// 3:15pm: Ceremony Starts// 4:00pm: Group Photos // 5:00pm: Cocktail Hour //6:00pm: Reception //7:15pm: Sunset Photos // 8:00pm: Speeches | Cake Cutting

This is Vancouver so there is always a chance of rain! I know it's not always ideal, but there's no need to let it ruin your day. I really just need ONE window to get some beautiful and vibrant portraits. In the end, your day is about celebrating and spending time with your loved ones. If you're still looking for your venue, check out this article from Young Hip and Married on some fantastic rainy day locations!

If you choose to embrace the rain, I can also bring my own lights to create a beautiful and dramatic look for your photos. All you need to do is grab a pair of clear umbrellas, be open to getting a bit dirty, and have fun with your friends and family!  

5. What happens if it Rains on my wedding day?

I hope you found this wedding guide useful!  I was born and raised in this beautiful city of Vancouver so to be able to give back into this community is something I'm proud of doing! Wherever you are in your wedding planning journey, I wish you the very best and hope you're able to enjoy every step along the way.

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