Looking back, one of the most pivotal changes in my work and my business was when I began working with wedding planners. I’ve rounded up some of the top wedding planners in the business to share some of their best business advice for photographers. Get the inside scoop on what matters most to luxury clients and planners below.
Each wedding, big to small, luxury to budget, has its own unique needs. And luckily for couples, there are a lot of options available to them to help with the logistics of a wedding. From venue coordinators, day-of coordinators to wedding planners and luxury planners and designers.
What I noticed in my journey is that when I began to photograph weddings that were planned with a wedding planner, things shifted for me. In the beginning, sans planner, I was often helping the couple make sure their transportation had arrived, collecting all the details like jewelry and florals, and overall helping to ensure things went well. And, while I’m still 1,000% a team player, and have an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to weddings, there’s no denying that a talented planning team allows me to focus on what I’ve been hired to do: create beautiful images.
In looking back at my work, you can see the swift change in quality of the images I create when working with an effective wedding planner or designer. As my career has continued, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the top planners in the world. And in addition to learning so much from them, I’ve been able to level up my craft while working alongside their talents.
Having an expert planner by your side makes all the difference in the world. It has allowed me to be able to create some of my most stunning images. And so, it’s vital that photographers learn how to work with planners. Ultimately, weddings are a team effort and when we have a talented and effective team leader, we can all perform better.
And with that in mind, I thought I’d tap into the wisdom of some of the top wedding planners in the business to share with you here. Whether you’re growing your own business or planning your own wedding, I hope you find their words helpful and inspiring.
For me, it took re-evaluating what was important. My career in finance was incredibly exhilarating but was incredibly damaging to my health and I knew I had to make a drastic change. Making the career switch to wedding planning took a lot of determination, courage and curiosity, nothing beats hard work, effort and focus. The wedding planning industry at the time lacked recognition, professionalism and regulations, so I felt there was an opportunity to build a company that could become the gold standard for the industry to emulate. Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.
A lot of hard work, late nights, and connections. Connecting with people and expanding my network is essential in building my business.
We are very careful about not promoting burnout culture because we believe that there can and has to be a balance that you find when you are building anything. That being said, we built our business and brand by immersing ourselves, our lives and our family’s lives in our pursuit. We are and were lucky enough to have worked directly with our immediate family members and to pass the baton when one of us needed to step in for the other, but we also collectively had a singular goal. That goal was to work tirelessly to prove to ourselves that we could produce the types of events we were passionate about and to build our company into a recognizable and sought after brand.
Hard work, determination, resilience, focus, using every opportunity to learn and manifest a better version of who and what we are and crucially, the service we deliver. We have also enjoyed a healthy little sprinkling of luck (but I have worked very hard – and for more than two decades – to be this lucky!).
We are constantly inspired by the design, the production and the clients that we meet along the journey. Every event or space that we design should evoke a new feeling and should be something that feels authentically both Lynden Lane and true to the client. Our goal is really to create immersive spaces and experiences that feel luxurious without the pretense. When we design a home it should be beautiful, but it should be approachable and comfortable. When we design a wedding it should feel like it was created with each guest in mind. These challenges keep us evolving.
The clients keep me inspired to continue to grow and do what I do. I love the client facing interactions and building out the vision for their big day.
Now it is as much for the team and the brand to continue to develop and thrive as it is for personal success. They go hand in glove. I want the Sarah Haywood team to continue to exist and grow long after I stop working and to leave a lasting legacy that elevates the perception of who and what the wedding industry is and does and the contribution we make.
I was pretty vocal during the pandemic and fought for our sector and learned so much. I believe we are undervalued by decision makers and business leaders alike. Our contribution is societal as well as financial and we generate significant tax receipts for governments around the world, yet the perception among many is that we are not serious businesses. We are, most of us, serious people running serious businesses. We are a female driven sector that is culturally and economically diverse. We are significant employers across the globe – and not just in towns and cities, but in rural areas and communities where our impact is felt right through the local supply chain who rely upon our business.
The pandemic hit us hard as a business so now we are licking our wounds, rebuilding, expanding and thinking about the bigger picture. It is an opportunity to think about what kind of service we offer and to whom (are there limits or will we cross blurred lines based simply upon the ability of a client to pay?). What kind of employer do we want to be and what kind of workplace do we want to offer? As I said previously, we are a female driven sector and are we really offering the kind of support long term that the 21st century professional needs to achieve their professional and personal goals? Big questions, but those of us who have enjoyed a certain level of its success need to lead by example. I truly believe that success brings responsibility.
Having built this business from the ground up, there is still so much I would like to achieve. The industry has expanded and the pool of talent is growing stronger than ever. Being part of this accelerating industry is exhilarating and encourages me to constantly innovate and challenge myself.
The clients we have the pleasure of working with continue to inspire me with their incredibly captivating stories and experiences.
Luxury means the best quality possible within a given budget.
For me, luxury means access to exclusive experiences, personalized service and unexpected moments of pleasure.
Luxury to our team is meeting all the touch points. True luxury creates an experience without feeling forced. It’s the hotel where every person knows your name, the paper that has weight, the carefully curated fabric and perfectly timed music or service. It’s creating the answer before there is even a question. Luxury is immersive and has a personality that is truly aligned to the client’s needs and vision.
Service, service and service. The elite seek the journey to their event, as well as the experience we create at the celebration to be personal, world-class and seemingly effortless. That requires flexibility and an attitude that we are here to serve.
They crave something that tests the boundaries of what is possible. They want the impossible made possible. No request is too out of reach, we’ve secured access to private islands, orchestrated weddings under the stars or high in the mountains. We bring their dreams to life.
Cohesive, effortless, and branded experiences.
The ultimate desire of luxury wedding clients is to create an experience like none other with one-of-a-kind experiences and personal touches.
The best piece of business advice I ever received is “know your worth.”
Two pieces of advice: #1) Feel confident in your value and learn how to explain that to your client.
Look at your work, the time and the budget of the wedding and understand that your stake in that game is massive. If you’re planning and executing a million dollar event, understand what perfect execution of that event is worth to the client.
#2) This may sound cliche but show who you are. We hesitated for a long time to use our voice in our brand, to speak our views and show who we were behind the projects. Authenticity is ultimately what changed our brand and our business.
“You are only as good as the people you hire.” We take that to mean not just our in-house team, but the team we assemble around each event. People make great companies, great parties and great weddings!
Our aim is to transform every detail, big and small, into a cinematic masterpiece. One of the most magical transformations we’ve done took place on an idyllic island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. A wedding on an untouched island in the middle of the ocean took years of hard work and impossibly detailed coordination. We carved out a mini logistics department, with team members solely dedicated to ensuring every piece of furniture, stalk of flower, rod and structure is properly numbered and arrives safely on location months before us. When transportation trucks don’t exist on this untouched island? We shipped on our own, via cranes. We constructed man-made water bodies to hydrate the tonnes of fresh florals flown in. The team worked relentlessly around the clock to create that one show-stopping moment. And that moment’s satisfaction alone makes it all worthwhile, and makes us go at it all over again.
There have been so many! Lady Kitter Spencer’s five Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda gowns would be right up there (and it was our first post-pandemic event). Creating a winter wonderland in St. Moritz for 850 guests on a car park (and the client asking us to “put a roof on it” three weeks prior); our only 2020 wedding which was planned just before the second lockdown, which was a 70-year old couple who just wanted to be married. But over these past couple of years the things I’ve really missed have been the simple things, like falling exhausted into a Viano with the team after an event and dissecting the event – usually to raucous laughter. The camaraderie is what I missed when we were prohibited from working. I can recall every wedding and every event we have ever planned and there were special, funny and infuriating moments in the planning and delivery of every single one. What a joy and a privilege it is to work with people for these extraordinary moments in their lives.
One project that stands out is a wedding we planned outside of Rome at Odescalchi Castle. There were a lot of nuances such as a lack of elevator for load-in which made some aspects of the event very challenging, but at the end of the day, a wedding in a castle that is over 500 years old is an incredible and unforgettable experience.
It’s so funny because every project we do at the end we say “damn that was really our favorite” as if it was someone else’s work. I think that is because we are really being elevated by all of the amazing creatives and hardworking teams around us. Every event gets pushed to another level and it just doesn’t seem possible to top, but then we work with some of these people that we had admired for so long. From floral designers to cinematographers to photographers to fabricators and we are in awe of the process still to this day.
This year we got the chance to say we built Italy for a Malibu birthday party and I will never forget Chad saying to us “what is this building normally on the property?” and saying “this didn’t exist two weeks ago…. we built it.”
That was one of the most amazing moments in our career.
Not limited to photographers: but at every event there is someone who did not read the crew briefing and fails to get themselves fed in the appropriate place at the appropriate time. Then they come to us – often we have had no time for a pit stop ourselves – and they complain that they are hungry and tired and can we arrange some food for them (please, always carry Trail Mix)!
We would say that in the beginning it was really hard to convince photographers to get the full event picture. The photos should tell the whole story and so many only focused on the couple, but in order for an event designer/planner to advance their career, for the photographer’s work to tell the whole story and for the client to have memories of every detail they need to work to capture everything and not just the big moments.
A few photographer peeves that come to mind include asking when the vendor meal is being served, when they don’t read the paperwork sent around in advance of the event, and last-minute requests and requirements.
Honestly, attitude trumps all. We’ve been fortunate to work with some of the industry’s leading photographers, and the way that they carry themselves professionally speaks volumes. Our clients are demanding and the vendors we work with should accept and understand that, willingness to go the extra mile, and remain composed are proof of a professional photographer.
On the wedding day, with 100 other things to focus on, having to deal with photographers (or any vendors really) who place their needs above our brides and grooms, is really unpleasant and unnecessary.
Style & Personality. We definitely want the vibe of the client and the photographer to match because the person the client really spends the most time with on their wedding is probably the photographer. If the couple is comfortable and connected, the photos are that much better.
As a planner, the ease of working with a photographer is key when crafting our list of suggested photographers. Quality of work, timeliness of deliverables, and ability to stay on schedule are also factors when choosing photographers to recommend.
Your photos should be a beautiful and timeless account of the most important day of your life and should help every bride and groom to relive the romance and excitement all over again. Choosing a wedding photographer can be a daunting process but hopefully these tips will give you something to consider when making your decision.
1 – Image quality/style – The quality of a photographer’s portfolio and their ability to offer clients a variety of styles, capturing the personalities of the bride and groom.
2 – Photographers Personality – To get the best images and a true account of the most important day of your life, it is imperative that you feel comfortable and relaxed in their presence.
Initially we like to understand what style of photography the client is seeking. Sometimes we have to tease that out of them. When we understand that, we look to direct them to the work of appropriate photographers at price points that reflect their budget. When we have narrowed it down to perhaps three at the most, we ascertain the photographer’s availability for their wedding date and arrange for them to either meet the client, or join a video call. At this level, everyone we recommend is more than qualified for the gig, so it really comes down to the relationship – which is the same when clients are interviewing us and comparing us with our competitors: do they feel we are the best fit for them?
We do have a few favorite photographers and we usually have an instinct as to who will be a great fit, but we also like to nurture new talent and are proud that some of the photographers we hired very early in their careers have gone on to achieve great success. For us, those who enjoy integrating into a team are preferred; we know from experience that the best events are those where the team we have assembled feel invested in the success of everyone, and not just the individual service that they are offering. That is when the extraordinary occurs.
I love to travel and see the world, so it is hard to pick just one destination. If I had to choose, Capri is among my favorites. I love the Italian seaside, landscapes, and cuisine.
We’ve been fortunate to travel to incredible locations, I really don’t have one and will always say that the next destination we do a wedding at is my favorite. But if you must insist, the azure sparkling blue waters of the Maldives will always hold a special place in my heart.
The ultimate dream is to organize a wedding in every continent. The pandemic may have slowed us down, but we are halfway there and determined to succeed.
Hacienda De San Antonio in Colima was by far and away the most unique experience of our career. The property and location is other worldly. We also love the Rosewood in Mayakoba, One & Only in Cabo and of course, closer to our home, the Rosewood in Montecito or the Parker Palm Springs.
I believe there are three things in life that we tend to hold back on doing until we are completely ready—to get married, start a business and to have kids. Ironically, these are the same three things that we often derive our greatest joys from. In hindsight, I wished I took the plunge to start The Wedding Atelier and The Floral Atelier earlier.
I wish that I had made my mistakes whilst working for someone else!
Had more help on the day of the event. We did everything for so long by ourselves and almost burnt out doing it. Every event to this day we think…yep 2 more people.
There are probably many things I could have done differently, people I could have spoken with, or jobs I could have taken when starting my business but every decision I made has led me to this point and for that I am thankful.
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've spent the past decade capturing love and chasing beauty across the globe, and I believe every story like yours is different and special, and deserves to be told exceptionally.
Drawing on years of experience in the fashion and editorial photography industry, my photographs are graceful, honest and boldly natural, while completely intentional. Whether it’s the opportunity to narrate the retelling of once-in-a-lifetime wedding days, or the ability to communicate issues of global importance, or all the stories in between, I look at photography as the method by which I get to leave the world a little better than I found it.
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