Engagement sessions are one of the best ways to prepare yourself for having your photograph taken all day on your wedding day. Since most people aren’t professional models and don’t have experience being photographed by a pro photographer, the engagement session is a great opportunity to warm up and get used to having being in front of the camera ahead of time. It’s also a really great time to get to know your photographer better (and let your photographer get to know you!) so by the time the wedding rolls around, you’re all comfortable with each other.

Engagement Session Tips

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your engagement session with us!

Choose a unique location. I think it’s great when couples put time into thoughtfully choosing locations that are unique or have some kind of meaning to them! The images are so much more special and meaningful if they’re done somewhere that you love. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box! We’ve had couples choose to cook at home, get ice cream at their favorite ice cream shop, and more. I generally suggest sticking to 1-2 locations to make the most of your time so that you’re not spending the duration of the session traveling.

Arrive on time. I schedule engagement sessions with our couples to begin 1-2 hours before the sun goes down (depending on session duration) because that’s when the light is ideal for shooting. If we have to start late, that may limit the amount of time we have to shoot.

Have your hair and makeup done professionally. One of the key components to being “photogenic” is being confident. When you’re feeling good about yourself, it shows. Your engagement session is the perfect excuse to treat yourself to having your hair and makeup done. Heck, while you’re at it, get a manicure too! I’m happy to recommend hair + makeup artists to clients who are interested in hiring a professional. If you don’t have your makeup done, it’s a good idea to apply your makeup more heavily than you normally would so that it shows up well on camera. Fake eyelashes are also encouraged! I personally don’t get professional photographs taken without them!

Consider including personal props. Clients ask me about props all the time and I LOVE it when they decide to bring some. Props can add an element of style to your engagement photos. They’re totally not necessary, but they’re so much fun and can personalize your session even more. Some great ideas for props are things that highlight who you are as a couple. Additionally, consider hiring a professional to style your shoot if you’re not crafty! There’s a great post here with some wonderful tips for styling your own engagement session, but if you aren’t up for it, feel free to reach out to me for some suggestions of folks you can hire to do the dirty work for you!

Take care when choosing what to wear. As mentioned before, feeling confident is key when you’re having your photograph taken. With that in mind, I suggest that above everything else, you choose outfits that make you feel amazing! This is a great time to get dressed up. Many of our clients choose to wear two outfits…one more glam/dressy outfit and the other a little more casual. This helps give you a variety of images to choose from when you’re picking for your save the date cards. Some of my favorite places to suggest for looking for outfits for sessions are: JCrew, Rent the Runway, Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters, Madewell, H&M, and ModCloth.  Also, don’t forget to add fun accessories! This is a great reason to splurge on a new pair of cute shoes or a fun statement necklace you’ve had your eye on. Here’s a pin board I created with some ideas.

Be sweet to one another. I believe there’s a time and place for PDA and your engagement session is one of them! Don’t be afraid to cuddle up, get close, and pretend like we aren’t around. I realize that this is easier said than done and it doesn’t always feel natural to get super cozy together in front of people, but I promise you the best engagement session images are of couples who are willing to get into it a little bit.

 

One of my favorite mottos in life is “Work smarter, NOT harder”. One of the biggest reasons I became a business owner and photographer was because I wanted to be able to create a lifestyle for myself where I was able to spend more time living LIFE and less time sitting behind a desk, filing papers, etc. So it stands to reason that I’m always looking for ways to improve on my productivity and get lots of work done the easiest way that I can. One of those things that I’ve come to love is Align Album Design!

I love graphic design and I really enjoyed putting spreads together of my couple’s wedding days…it was really rewarding to me to see the images we took throughout the day become a story through the layouts I created. The only negative was, it was pretty time consuming. During wedding season especially, I have to be very careful with my time if I want to turn each wedding around within the deadline I’ve set for myself. Adding in creating album designs (and then tweaking them until I think they are PERFECT) was causing a bottleneck in my workflow.

I like to be as efficient as possible, so whenever I get to a point where something isn’t working, I try to find a solution as fast as I can! I decided to try out Align to see if it was for me and ended up really loving the experience. Not only is the service they provide amazing in itself, their customer service is wonderful as well. They treat me the way I would treat my own clients, and that’s something that I really appreciate! There are some companies out there (that I won’t name) that I would never work with because they make me look bad! But Align makes me look so good!

Favorite things about Align:

  • It’s easy to share images with them. If you use PASS or Pixieset, you can share your gallery with them! Since I already make a folder called “Katie’s Favorites” with blog images and other faves from each wedding, this means I don’t even have to go back and cull a separate folder for album shots!
  • The designs really fit my style! You can choose from three different styles of designs. I choose the “Classic” style for my weddings. I like that they’re clean, modern layouts that put the focus on the images. And the designers I’ve worked with have had such a great eye for design! I really loved their work!
  • Fast turnaround time. I love this because their fast turnaround time makes me look so good to my clients! It’s definitely a win for them in my book that they’re able to send me first drafts so quickly so I don’t have to keep the clients waiting too long.

Here are a few of my favorite spreads from a recent album:

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Lastly, if you’re thinking of trying Align, you should check it out! First orders are 50 percent off. But, I know if you try them, you’ll love them!

 

 

02.02
2015

Moving In

Today marks the seven years since the day that John and I first started living together, so I thought it would be fun to share that story here with you guys to this fun anniversary! I love sharing bits and pieces of our story here on the blog. Even if no one else reads this, I’ll always have a place to come back and read it again and again when I’m feeling nostalgic :)

California Wedding Photographer

It started the weekend of the Superbowl. We had been dating since the beginning of September 2007, but we’d been friends for about a year by then. Moving in together (especially so soon!) obviously wasn’t something we had planned, but I’m so glad that it happened that way. Have you ever heard the saying “you really don’t know someone until you live with them”? I think that’s such a true statement. And once we began living together, we learned so much about each other and grew closer very quickly. Looking back, I think the whole thing sounds crazy. Ludicrous. At 20, it was CRAZY to move in and start living with my boyfriend of 5 months. If I had a daughter who was trying to do that, I think I’d have a thing or two to say to her! Twenty years old is so young! You have so much growing to do at that age. I’m so different now, seven years later. The whole thing could have ended in disaster, heartbreak, or BOTH. But I think we were lucky in that we were able to grow up together and support each other through the many changes we’ve been through over the past seven years. For that, I’m grateful.

It happened while I was at work. Back in 2008, I was working as the Visual Coordinator for the Old Navy in our town, which meant working semi-frequent overnight shifts to reset displays and things like that. In those days, I actually really liked overnight shifts! You could get work a lot of work done and they would usually lead to overtime, which meant MORE MONEY. The managers at the time must have not been football fans at all, because I found myself working one of these crazy overnights on Super Bowl Sunday, of all the nights. Back then I could care less about football. (I told you, you change a lot in your 20s!!) I remember it so clearly. I was up on a ladder digging through a stack of jeans in the men’s section denim wall when my cell phone (a flip phone, circa mid-late 00s…I had a polyphonic ringtone of the song “Bartender”) started buzzing. Of course, I wasn’t supposed to check it at work, but I was 20 years old and in love with this guy who was probably texting me something funny. I had to look at the message!

I wish I remembered exactly what the text said, but iCloud wasn’t a thing yet then so there was no way to save it, and sometimes you don’t know that something pivotal and life changing is happening to you until way later. This was one of those instances for sure. That text (and the reply I sent) changed my life, but at that moment I had no idea.

The gist of it: John: “my apartment was broken into” Me: “That’s crazy! Are you ok? You can stay with me for a while if you want to”. And in two messages, less than 160 characters each, our lives changed.

We never planned to move in together forever. At that point we had actually planned on John just staying with me for a while as he looked for another (safer) place. Days turned into weeks and then months til eventually I felt myself feeling like I wasn’t ready for him to leave yet. I hated living by myself and having my best friend/boyfriend there made life so much more fun. We must have felt the same way, because before too long John’s lease was ending and we were moving all of his things in and starting a life together as an “us”. There was no big, dramatic moment when we decided to start a life together. We just kind of came together and knew that life was so much better, so much more, together than it was apart.

I remember how weird it seemed to merge our things together back then. There was a much more distinct feeling of “your stuff” and “my stuff”. Over seven years of sharing a home together, there’s a lot less “mine” and “yours”. Most everything (except clothes…we definitely can’t share clothes…haha) is ours. I think back to that time in my life when I didn’t overthink as much and I just invited someone I cared about to live with me for a while. That one snap decision really changed my life for the better. There were SO many reasons why NOT to make that decision, but I’m glad that 20 year old me, just followed her heart and did what she wanted to do. I think back on this whole story and hope that I can be as open to love, to new possibilities, and to saying YES as much as possible in life because we are living proof that you never really know where saying yes might take you!

So that’s the story of how we moved in together! I have no idea who won the game that year, or even which teams played, but I’ll never forget that Super bowl Sunday.

The weather this time of year is always so unpredictable, which means it’s usually a lot slower shooting wise. Case in point, we had to reschedule Saturday’s engagement session because it was freezing and raining all day! Luckily, the next day was perfect shooting weather (at least, for January) so Amy and Mike didn’t have to reschedule too. These two chose to have their session in downtown Annapolis, which is where they live and where Mike proposed!

Here are a few of my favorites!!

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Style is something that’s incredibly important for photographers. It defines who we are as artists and sets us apart from other photographers who are similarly talented. You’d think that finding your style would be pretty easy…and maybe it is for some people, but personally, I struggled to find my style in the early days of my business. I got caught up in the idea that my style should be X but the images I was producing were more like Y. I constantly felt like I was trying to push a square peg through a round hole trying to make a certain style “fit”. I think more often than not, your style will find YOU. Style is based on so many elements outside of just editing. I think everything you do as a photographer lends to your style…so much so that I would consider editing only a fraction of it.

 Modern Virginia and Destination Wedding Photographer_002

Because I’ve totally been there, struggling to find myself as a photographer, I wanted to blog about all of the different elements that I feel go into creating a style. Here’s a few of the things I think are key to creating your own!

  • Light. The kind of light you prefer to shoot in directly affects the look of your photographs. I personally love flat, even lighting…overcast days and open shade are my favorite types of light because they’re very clean and flattering. I also prefer a slightly cooler image, which is probably why I choose that kind of light to shoot in. I’m always seeking out open shade or some kind of even lighting on wedding days and at sessions, and this lays the foundation for how my images will look!
  • Consistency. Part of the key to creating a “signature style” that people recognize and say “Oh, that’s a Katie Nesbitt image” is consistency. Really honing in on what you do well and doing that consistently will create brand recognition for you, but it’s also important from a client’s standpoint. Your clients are hiring you based on the types of images they’ve seen you create before. Couples who hire us can pretty much tell the types of images they’ll receive, because our work is very consistent. Keeping our style consistent ensures they’ll be happy with their images since they’ve seen the quality of our work and obviously like what they see.
  • Types of lenses you’re shooting with. I tend to shoot almost everything with one of two different lenses. I just love these two guys (my 50 1.2 and 35 1.4) SO MUCH. My images tend to take on a certain look since I use similar focal lengths for a lot of them. I’ve also noticed that images I’ve taken on some lenses just look SO different because of the optics of the lens, the color and clarity, etc. I prefer the look of my two favorite guys over almost anything else in my bag and I think my images reflect that!
  • Compositions. The way that we compose our photos has a lot to do with creating the look of our style. You might like lots of negative space or prefer closer cropped images. We all have a tendency to prefer certain compositions over others and over time this will lend a pretty consistent look and feel to your work.
  • Posing. The same with how we choose similar compositions, the posing has an effect on the overall style and mood of the photos you create! I personally like to use poses that convey joy and romance. So you don’t see many of those “angry bride” images in my portfolio :)
  • Editing. Obviously how you edit has a direct affect on your style, but it’s the last thing you do to your images. I personally think that you can’t start really digging into your style until you’ve mastered both how and why you shoot the way you do. Why is that? Because editing a properly exposed photograph is a lot different from editing something that needs work. I think it’s also important to sit down and learn how each control in Lightroom (or whatever it is you use) directly affects each image so that you can learn to edit consistently.
  • Things that inspire you. I also feel that who you are as a person strongly affects your style as a photographer. Quiet, introverted people take different types of images than extroverts who have punchy personalities. Where you came from and your personal story also affects how you see things and interpret each couple that you work with. I personally draw a lot from my relationship with John as inspiration for my work. Our friendship turned sweet romance definitely colors the way I see things and how I approach photographing weddings! That’s why happiness is such a key theme I feel runs through my images. A feeling of being at peace with the one you love also is something I feel I bring to my photography because I feel like John brings that to my life. You have things that affect how you shoot too! We each have our own little things that affect how we shoot and contribute to our styles. Defining them will help you better understand yourself as an artist.

Lastly, I wanted to end the post by reminding you guys that styles will constantly grow and evolve over time as you change as a person. I feel like I’m in one of those growth spurts right now and instead of feeling kind of scared and apprehensive about it like I did back when I first started out, I feel excited for growth and change! Don’t be too hard on yourself as you discover your own style. Remember that the journey is often as much fun (or more) than the destination itself, and that you’ll get there!!

If you like these posts, check out my workshop and mentoring site here! The 3/8 workshop is sold out, but sign up for the mailing list to get first dibs on a seat at the next one!

 

01.26
2015

EVERNOTE

Ever used Evernote? Haha. I was dying to type that! Now that it’s out of my system, I can act like an adult.

Maybe.

Anyway, jokes aside, I recently signed up for Evernote and downloaded the iOS apps onto my phone and computer. I had heard so many wonderful things about it from friends who use it, so I decided to give it a try. I am huge on organizing my life in the “cloud” so to speak because I’m terrible at keeping paper notebooks going. I don’t carry a big enough purse for a planner and I’m always on my phone anyway. I’m a tech girl. I can’t help it!

I’m already a big fan of the plain ole’ “notes” app on iPhone and of the Clear app (which I blogged about here) but I’m still working on figuring out how to incorporate Evernote in what I do. Right now my favorite feature is being able to sort my notes into “Notebooks”. I have several right now, which is awesome. I used to scribble notes on every page in my paper notebook and then frustratedly flip through it looking for something specific related to my business…or to find my grocery list or something. Evernote reminds me of a Kindle, but for notebooks. Instead of carrying seven notebooks in my bag, they’re all on my phone, which I already take everywhere!!!

Evernote

Now I need your help! I’m in search of tips on how to use Evernote better. Tell me what you use it for and why it makes your life better and I’ll give one random commenter a $10 Starbucks gift card in return. Make sure you comment with a valid email, because that’s what I’ll be using to contact you!

I’m just now starting out on my third week of training for my second half marathon and all of the time I’m spending running has given me a LOT of time to think and let my thoughts run wild. (Pun intended). One thing I’ve learned about running, or really, training in particular, is that there are TONS of metaphors for daily life (especially my business) everywhere I look. It’s kind of funny actually…a lot of the lessons I’ve learned as a business owner have appeared again and again to me on my journey as a runner.

View More: http://katienesbitt.pass.us/personalimages

Yesterday I got to thinking about something people say to me all the time. When they hear I ran a marathon, they say “That’s AWESOME. How did you do that? I could never do that!” Which, I mean, makes me feel like I’m amazing and that I really accomplished something special (which, I did), but it reminds me that like every big accomplishment that you work really hard for, people think they couldn’t do it too because no one ever sees how hard you really worked to get there. From the outside, you always just look like you’re super talented, badass, hardcore, etc. When people think about running a marathon, they think “Wow, 26.2 miles. That’s REALLY far. I can barely run three!”. But what they forget is, no one started out being able to run 26.2 miles. Even Olympic athletes started from somewhere. Drake made a whole song about starting from the bottom! All of the amazing people that surround you? They weren’t born able to book 100 weddings a year, or (insert whatever accomplishment you want here). They worked HARD for those things. They struggled and fought for them.

The struggle is real. Like, really real.

And okay, let’s be honest. For some people, the struggle isn’t really as hard as it is for everyone else (and I wrote about that here), but for most of us, it is. And let me tell you something that is so true that it makes me tear up still to watch the video of myself crossing the finish line: the struggle is what makes it all worth it. I know there are some days where that sounds like the biggest load of crap you’ve ever heard in your life. It especially feels like that when you’re right in the hardest part of the struggle. I know, I’ve been there MANY times. But all of the training miles that I logged, all of the long ass runs in the freezing cold, in the rain, til my legs hurt so bad I could barely bend them anymore, the blisters, the windburn, and all of the other challenges made finishing 26.2 so much more worthwhile than it would have been if I just woke up and was able to do it. When my feet crossed the finish line that day, I wasn’t just finishing the marathon, I was finishing months of hard work and lots of sweat and tears. Another thing I realized was that although I HATED the struggle of training (does anyone like running in the freezing cold and then taking an ice bath??) without it, I wouldn’t have been able or prepared to run the marathon. So, as much as you hate the struggle and how real it is, it’s a necessary part of life. You might as well make peace with that now.

So, the moral of this story is: if you’re watching other people achieve crazy awesome things and feeling like you could never do that? Guess what? YOU CAN. You just have to be willing to put in the work and go through the struggle like everybody else. Secondary moral: When you DO get there, it’s important to remember every single mile you ran to get there and appreciate the struggle for preparing you to make it through the marathon. Without struggle, we wouldn’t get very far at all. It’s like the saying says, “No pain, no gain”.

 

 

If you’re a wedding photographer who shoots with all prime lenses like we do, having a shooting bag is pretty much an essential. It’s nice to be able to carry a lens or two on your person so that you’re ready to swap them out when you need to make a quick change. In addition to our Pelican case, which we take to every wedding, we also both have shooting bags. A couple of years ago I reviewed my shooting bag here on the blog (I have a Kelly Moore B Hobo…you can read the review here, if you’re interested!), but I never blogged about John’s bag! Last year at the end of WPPI, I was able to get an amazing deal on an UNDFIND bag on the last day of the conference. I had no intention of buying a bag while I was in Vegas, but after seeing one of their bags that one of our friends had bought, I went to check out their booth and was super impressed by the bags and their attention to detail. The bag that John has (the 10 inch One bag) has about a bajillion different little features that make it so practical and so wonderful to have handy on a wedding day. My favorite is probably that the cover (which you can swap out if you prefer a different look, or want to match your outfits or something) has pockets for CF cards and doubles as a lens cloth! SO handy. Especially for when we travel with this bag!

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Another handy feature if you travel a lot, like we do for weddings is the amazing luggage strap on the back. Being able to slide the bag onto your suitcase and secure it is awesome for when you’re lugging a lot of things around. I can even see this as being nice on a wedding day if you shoot alone a lot and carry a shooting bag and a bigger roller bag with you.

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(It’s also Cat-Approved, if that matters to you!)

One thing that John’s bag has that I wish my camera bag had, is the incredibly comfy, squishy, shoulder strap! My bag doesn’t have the most comfortable strap…which isn’t a huge deal, but towards the end of a long day, I get really jealous of John’s squishy strap.

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The only small negative I can think of is that the clip that attaches the strap to the bag has a tendency to squeak. John sprays his every once in a while with WD/40, which definitely helps. Honestly, if we had known the hinges would get a little squeaky, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker for us, because the bag suits John’s needs in every other department!

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 All in all, I feel like this bag was an excellent buy for the price. It’s versatility alone is what convinced me to buy it (and one of the things that makes us love it more and more with every wedding!) but we’re also really happy with the quality! Wedding photographers’ bags definitely take a beating, so having a bag for an entire year that still looks new is a win in our book!

It’s been three years and we finally have a wedding album! I always encourage our couples to order albums with their package ahead of the wedding because as I know all too well from personal experience, it’s really hard to dedicate both the time and money into it AFTER the wedding day. Regular life seems to have a way of getting in the way! We finally decided to give each other the album for our anniversary last Spring, and I’m so happy we did. There’s nothing quite like seeing your pictures in print!

Since I love to show off our couples’ albums here on the blog, so I thought it would be a lot of fun to share ours too! Here’s a film of it I made recently:

Wedding Album from Katie Nesbitt on Vimeo.

Photos in album by Jodi Miller Photography

 

If there was ONE thing I would say that all wedding photographers should be doing to make the wedding day run more smoothly for them, it would be client questionnaires! (And maybe carb loading the night before….or having band aids at all times. Band aids can be crucial on wedding days.) In all seriousness though, implementing a questionnaire has been one of the best things I ever did for myself and for my clients! And this is something that I think would benefit ALL wedding vendors, not just photographers.

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Here’s why:

  • The questionnaire helps ensure I’m on the same page with each of my couples. After I get a completed questionnaire back from a client, I go over it and then set up a time to have a conference call with them to discuss anything I might have had a question about. That way, on the wedding day, we’re both on the same page regarding our game plan (family formals, etc).
  • All of the important info is in one place. Specifically, I like having all of the family shots I know I need to get, as well as any other random tidbits of info all in one place in my bag on the wedding day for me to reference. Since we photograph between 20-30 weddings every year, it can be kind of tricky to remember some of the finer details from week to week, but printing a copy of the questionnaire and keeping it with me makes this a breeze!
  • I never forget to ask things. In the days before I had an online questionnaire, I used to call my clients and ask them a lot of the questions on the questionnaire. The problem with that was, it was super disorganized and sometimes I would forget to ask a certain question and have to email back anyway. Having a questionnaire is easier because everything is in the same place! And I can’t forget to ask any of the questions! Thank you computers. And Al Gore, for making internet.
  • I feel more prepared. For me, preparation is the key to success. I like being able to look at the questionnaire and timeline the night before and being able to think up a game plan in my head for how I envision myself photographing the day. Maybe that’s weird, but it helps me!
  • It helps me manage expectations. One of the biggest components to making your clients happy, is managing their expectations. Using the questionnaire to gauge their expectations will help you have certain conversations in advance. For example, if your client booked a wedding collection that has 7 hours and they also answered YES they will be having a sparkler exit at midnight (And their ceremony is at four!) you’ll definitely want to have a chat with them about adding hours to their package ahead of time. That way you can handle any potentially awkward situations ahead of time, such as if they forgot how many hours were in their collection, etc.

While the content of everyone’s questionnaire will be different based on how they run their business, how they shoot, etc, I think there are some important things to have on your questionnaire. Here are a few of the ones I consider really important:

  • Time and place of the wedding. Duh
  • Driving distance between locations (getting ready, ceremony, reception, etc). This helps me determine whether or not the timeline that I’ve been given is realistic. If I think it isn’t, I’ll bring it up with the couple so we can make changes before the big day.
  • Vendor names and contact info. I share the images with the vendors so the couple doesn’t have to worry about it. Asking for their wedding vendors with the questionnaire works really well for me because they’re already working on something for you anyway! I keep this information for submissions and for sharing after the wedding.
  • Bride and Groom’s phone numbers. I also ask for an alternate wedding day contact so I can bug that person instead of the couple if I end up needing to get in touch with someone.
  • When the reception decor will be set up. This also helps me determine what suggestions to make about the timeline if necessary. I photograph the space before guests are allowed in, so making sure there is time for this on the timeline is key.
  • Whether or not there will be an exit. If the couple has only booked us for eight hours, normally coverage will last until about an hour or so into dancing. So if they say on the questionnaire there will be an exit, I will ask them if they’d like to add time to their package if those photographs are important to them.
  • Are there any surprises or special traditions happening (Also, are there any special family situations I should be sensitive to?). These are important to be aware of ahead of time so you don’t miss anything or create any awkward situations with family who might not get along.

Like most things in relation to my business, my questionnaire is constantly evolving. I re-evaluate the questions all the time. Sometimes I’ll add new ones or change the wording on the old ones if I think it makes sense to, or if I see the need for a new question to add to the list. When I’m ready to send my questionnaire, I use Pixifi, which is an online studio management software (check it out!! You’ll thank me, I promise!). I love Pixifi because I can very easily create templates for the questionnaires and sending them is simple as well. Before I was using Pixifi, I did a PDF that clients would print out and mail back or fill out and scan back to me. Pixifi is a lot easier, but there are all kinds of ways to do a questionnaire, including Google Forms and other things! You can do questionnaires a million different types of ways. The key is to find something that works for you.

If you’re not doing a questionnaire, try it out for a few weddings and see if it helps you feel better prepared! If you are doing a questionnaire, tell me…what questions are YOU asking that you feel are super important? I’d love to hear your best ones in the comments!