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Top 10 FAQs for Planning Your Destination Wedding

Top 10 FAQs for Planning Your Destination Wedding
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Featuring Tips and Photos by Forevermore Films

You did it-- you got engaged and are planning a destination wedding to the Southwest!  Whether you're considering Utah, Nevada, California, or Arizona, we've put together some top FAQs from former couples (answered by seasoned vendors) to help you make the planning a little less stressful.

Planning a destination wedding in the Southwest?  Trying to figure out how to start booking a venue?  A photographer?  Perhaps even where to have your formals?  Well, the good news is you're not alone to figure it out; we'll cover these questions and more in this post.  For answers to common questions we receive, we took a moment to interview one of the pros in the wedding industry, Brad Winegar and team with Forevermore Films, and asked their best advice for couples tying the knot in this beautiful region.

To all readers meeting Forevermore Films for the first time, they're a Utah-based wedding photographer and videographer team who provide customers with a top-level experience.  They've been serving the community since 2003 and have received numerous awards for their work in weddings.  They're a must-follow on Instagram for breathtaking photo and video inspiration.  With that, we'll dive right into their top advice for planning an amazing destination wedding in the Southwest.

Q. What would you say to a couple thinking about getting married in the Southwest?

"The Southwest is an incredible location to be married in. There are so many amazing options and types of scenery that you're able to get to. These aren't just great locations but the WOW locations that others from around the world travel to see. As I travel around the world capturing beautiful elopement and destination weddings, I see so many great places.

Other countries have nice old structures and buildings which are fun but if you just are looking for nature and beauty then Southwest is a perfect option. Here is the key, however. All of these locations Zion, Bryce Canyon, Moab, Sedona, Gig Sur, Lake Powell, Valley of Fire, Death Valley, etc. require you to be willing to do a little more than the average couple on the wedding day. Like any great location, it's only amazing if you are willing to go to the amazing spots in each of these areas. This is why you pick a location like this.

You don't want your wedding photos at a reception hall to have the same look. If you're looking at a Southwest wedding, you're someone that wants to see something epic and scenic with you in it. So just plan on spending more time getting photos and videos and doing a little more walking/hiking than the typical reception photos. It's not for everyone, but for those who want this look it's completely worth it."

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Q. What's a common question you get about planning a destination wedding?

"I'm always asked about the wedding dress getting dirty doing these amazing photo sessions. It's a valid concern and understandable. Yes, the bottom of your dress will get some dirt and dust on it. It won't be bad and we won't be walking in mud or anything. In most of these locations, we are working with hard petrified dunes and rocks versus dirt. That way the dresses stay looking nice after our sessions. There are a few tips to remember to keep your dress clean.

First, remember you don't have reverse in your wedding dress. Backing up will cause you to step on the back of your train and bury it in the dirt.

Second, if we are going to walk, we can hold the train up or ensure we are walking on a surface that won't damage the dress. I'm not a fan of bringing material to lay underneath the dress as it's time-consuming and never ends up looking quite right.

The final option is to do your wedding shoot or session after the wedding day so you don't have the same stress level in getting it dirty. Honestly, it's going to be dirty by the end of the wedding day much worse than anything we will do to it. When it's all said and done, you bought the dress to get married in and you'll want all the amazing shots of you in the dress to have forever.

So do whatever it takes to get those great shots in the dress, as it's a small price to pay for the photos.

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Q. How long would you recommend booking a photographer for on average?

"You really should plan to have your photographer with you from the end of hair and makeup until the end of the wedding in my opinion. So much happens during the getting ready part of the day. I always come at the end of hair and makeup so our couples are mostly ready and look nice and we can get photos of touch ups and robes etc. Then we also use this time to get all the details of the wedding. This is when we get shots of the dress, invitations, rings and jewelry, flowers and any accessories, gifts or special items.

You want to remember where all the time and money went and how things looked long after the wedding is over. Then we get the groom and bride getting ready shots and any other bridal party and family shots before the ceremony starts. This is at least a 2-hour timeframe in my estimation.

You also want to plan to get done early enough to allow your photographer and videographer to be able to leave and get ready for the ceremony before it starts. They are using different lenses and often multiple cameras so giving them a 15-20 min head start to the ceremony is preferred. Then you can sit back and relax for a few minutes, dressed and ready to just enjoy the day and what is about to happen."

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Q. What's something you recommend every bride does before they get hitched? (to relax, to get ready, etc).

"Ok I don't want this to come off the wrong way and I'll explain it a little more but doing a boudoir session as a groom gift is something I'd definitely recommend. I know this session isn't for everyone and that's fine. It's always something everyone is nervous about going into. But here are the benefits.

First, this session will leave you feeling more beautiful and confident than ever before. It truly is an empowering photo session. Second, you'll have worked with your photographer already, so having photos taken in a wedding dress will be a breeze. Now granted it won't help much with wedding day nerves about getting hitched but it definitely will put you at ease with your photographer knowing that you've worked together in the past and most importantly knowing that you're going to look amazing in all your wedding photos.

So all that's left is to just enjoy the day and trust the professionals you've hired to guide you."

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Q. What's something you think every couple should know about finding the right photographer?

"I won't go into too many details, but it comes down to your style and preferences. Every photographer sees the world a little differently. They all edit and take photos differently as well. So pick the photographer whose photos make you stop what you're doing and say "WOW, I want that for my wedding photo".  If you find this look and style then you have passed the first step in finding your photographer.

Second, after finding the style you prefer is to get to know the photographer's personality to make sure it's a nice fit for you on the wedding day. If you think about it, we will be with you the entire wedding day and if we have a bad attitude or don't mesh with your personality very well then it's going to affect your wedding day experience. So meet in person or do a zoom chat to talk with your photographer and make sure they are someone you feel connected to and would work well with you. Let's just say many great photographers don't have the personality to shoot a wedding.

Now along with personality, I'd also make sure they have experience and knowledge to shoot in the conditions your wedding day may present.

Finally, after you have found a match in style, personality, and knowledge you can price shop and compare packages between these photographers. It's not always as simple as who's the cheapest or most expensive. Some may have extra value in hours, some may have travel fees, some may have 2 shooters and offer a wedding album, etc. This is a harder thing than just looking at the price but if you've met them and know the personality of your photographer then it helps.

After that, just book that photographer ASAP as you don't want to lose your number one choice after doing all this research. Then relax and trust them to do the job."

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Q. What are 3 things that make a great photographer, including what you do for your clients?

"Beyond photos, my goal is to give couples a great experience. This is done by not stressing them over hours and small things on the day of the wedding. It's reminding them to enjoy the day. It's giving them space to experience the wedding without me right next to them. It's about saying a joke or something to lighten the mood.

It's caring for and becoming friends with the couples and thinking of them and not myself.

The second item that makes a great photographer is the understanding of light. Light is such a key in photography. You can use the same light and create an airy feel or dark and dramatic. It can draw your attention to something or create a mood. This is where a lot of photographers struggle. Understanding light. Now the light is light no matter the source. Being a master of light means you can shoot in harsh sunny wedding day conditions.

You can shoot in the dark using flash and ambient light. You can handle the reception dance floor and make it look great and natural. Lighting can give you soft features or harsh ones. So a true professional will know and can shoot in any condition and situation for your wedding day. They must be comfortable with natural light and flash. Lighting is one thing you can't fix in post-production and must be right when taken.

The third thing that makes a great photographer is also something that can't be fixed in post-production. That is posing. Being able to properly pose is huge in creating great photos. If someone is faced wrong or has bad posture, there isn't anything photoshop can do to fix that. Being able to see posture issues and unflattering angles and looks is a must for professional photographers. This comes with practice and experience for sure. Posing is more than just how you stand and look but also merges with lighting and telling couples to stand or turn a certain way that flatters and looks amazing.

I don't over-pose and would consider myself a hybrid photographer shooting suggestive posing and photojournalism. Simple things like rolling your shoulder back and lowering your hand and then boom it works. Again going back to my first characteristic of a great photographer in personality and working with couples. The way you communicate and pose on the wedding day is such a vital part of the wedding experience."

Q. What are your 3 favorite areas you've done Formals in the Southwest?

"Some of my favorite locations in the Southwest are Antelope Canyon, Snow Canyon and Valley of Fire. There are many more but these stand out and give some wow factors I love."

Q. What would you tell a bride about finding the right dress for her photos?

"If you are a fan of flowing veils, capes, and materials in photos you may want to have that as an option or accessory for your wedding day or wedding shoot."

Q. Thoughts on real florals vs. fake florals?

"Love love real flowers for sure. The smell, touch and feel is just perfect and helps get the bride in the mood for amazing photos. But I do have to say some of my favorite shoots have been with fake flowers. There are advantages for sure with them not dying and you can hike with them and use them all day and they will still look amazing."

Q. What tips would you give on finding the right venue?

"First, when selecting your venue you'll want to be able to envision the ceremony and how it will look. Think about the time of day and how the lighting will be. It's always best to have your ceremony in a shaded location for consistent soft light, but if it's outside and in the sun then you want to know the direction the sun will be during the wedding ceremony.

My advice is to make sure the couple getting married is in the same lighting. What I mean is they are both backlight or front light from the perspective of the audience. So the guests will either be facing the sun or have the sun at their backs. This gives the couple the same lighting and will make the photos even better.

The second thing that is overlooked is the bride's room when she gets ready. This is usually when you have nice dress shots and a few hours are spent there before the wedding starts. Many photos come from this room and it's often overlooked. But if you nail the ceremony and bridal room for a venue you are in great shape. Then of course you'll have the reception location and want to think about where we can do bride and groom photos on the day of."

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We're thankful to Brad and his team for taking a moment to help our Southwestern-bound couples plan the destination wedding of their dreams.  Nothing makes us happier than knowing you'll have the resources needed to find the right wedding vendors for you.  Whether you're headed to Zion, Moab, Joshua Tree, Sedona, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon or Big Sur, congratulations on your engagement and we wish you all the best from Zion Brides! 

Check out Forevermore Films
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