Tips for Wedding Photography Planning for Couples

Wedding photography planning tips to make the day run smoothly.

Weddings are supposed to be a celebration, not a panic attack. Here are a few wedding planning tips to help you get timeless photos and still have time to down some champagne and party with your guests.

 

Know your photography style.

 
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Every photographer has a different style and it’s important to know what style you’re looking for.

Here are a few things to explore:

Dark and Moody vs Light and Airy vs True to Life

Posed vs Unposed

Choose how you want your wedding to be documented and how do you want to remember the day. For example, I am a true to life photographer. Yes, I edit, but my tones are almost exactly as they looked on the day of your wedding. I don’t blow out the sky and I don’t deepen the tones. I also do a combination of posed and unposed. I pose you when it’s needed, but I let it unfold and direct you into something natural and candid.

Who want’s to look stiff and awkward on the most photographed day of their lives?

My recommendation is to browse Instagram or Pinterest and see a little bit of everything. Once you know the tones and style you are looking for, you can narrow down the search for photographers and focus on the ones who can deliver your vision.


Choose a photographer you connect with.

Once you have decided on your favorite photography style, start considering personality. While there are obvious things you should think about when choosing photographers (prices, packages offered, location, availability), personality and vibes are sometimes overlooked.

Do you want a photographer who is barely going to chat with you after you pay your retainer or are you looking for someone who will be there to help you pick colors, set your timeline, and stalk you on Instagram?

I am quite often known to bustle dresses, pin boutonnieres, and jump on the dance floor. Most of my couples become close friends and we stay in contact for years after their wedding. I get to watch their families grow and happy cry when they ask me to photograph them on their anniversaries.

Honestly, this is what I consider the most important decision. If you are about to throw the celebration of a lifetime and spend a ton of money doing it – do you want some grumpy pessimist there to bring down the good vibes or do you want someone who actually gives a damn about you and your babe who will be standing at the back of the room crying while everyone pours their hearts out over speeches.

That’s what I thought!


Ask for your photographers’ opinion.

 
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Your photographers’ opinions can go a long way. I mean, hello, we do this for a living. I’ve attended more weddings than most people could even dream of. I can guarantee that I have seen just about everything and can help you sort out the details so that everything runs smoothly.

Some of the typical things I get asked include, my opinion about the lighting (super important), and whether additional lighting would be needed at the venue (no weird up lighting, please). Some couples also ask for my opinion on venue décor, hairstyles, attire, etc. Honestly, with most of my couples, I’m expecting you to ask me a million questions and I vow to be completely honest.


Don't give your photographer a shot list.

 
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The problem with those lists is that they're the stuff of imagination. The requests may be for things that never happen that day, making your photographer obligated to devote their focus on watching for those, so preoccupied with nailing your requests that they miss the spontaneous moments that do happen at your wedding. And those moments can be far more powerful, richer and meaningful to you, now and in later years, than any pre-conceived idea of what you imagine your wedding photos should capture.


Do, however, note important moments for your wedding photographers to capture.

There will be important moments that your photographers need to know about and giving them advanced notice will ensure a smooth day. For example, you might want to let your photographer know if you are doing a special exit, first looks with anyone and anything unique at your ceremony or reception. If you don’t tell us about it, we may not know it’s happening.


Please hire a day-of coordinator.

 
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Not planning on hiring a wedding planner? That’s fine. But, I typically insist that my couples hire a day-of coordinator. As convenient as it may seem, the DJ, the site (or venue) coordinator, and the photographers are not there to make sure the day runs smoothly. We are all a huge part in helping things run, but we cannot focus on our jobs if we have to make sure everything else runs smoothly as well. There are a ton of moving pieces behind the scenes that take a lot of attention to detail. And please don’t ask Aunt Sally to do it. I have watched family member after family member pull their hair out trying to make sure things run smoothly (and they typically never do). Don’t leave this to someone who should be enjoying your day.


Planning ahead of time makes a huge difference.

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Before the wedding, make sure the registrar/officiant/vicar allows photographers to capture the ceremony, and check the limitations (for example, how close the photographer is allowed to stand). You want to keep it sacred while still having it captured beautifully. This is something the photographer may need to know in advance in order to change what gear they bring to your ceremony or change how they approach the photos.

Another thing to think about is an unplugged ceremony. You could ask your guests to refrain themselves from taking photos during the ceremony, as sometimes it could be distracting and might potentially ruin the professional photos. Let them know that you hired a professional and they know what they’re doing.


The timeline is everything.

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Do you love the photos on my website? For those dreamy, glowy photos, plan on having your photographer outside during golden hour, which is the hour directly before the sun sets. During this time, the sun will be low enough to create those strong golden hues, soft shadows, and some serious sun love.

If you have an outdoor ceremony and you want to go the extra mile, plan the ceremony to be 2-3 hours before sunset, as this is the best time that the sunlight falls evenly on the skin tone without the harsh shadows. This will also allow us time to get family portraits, bridal party portraits, and couples portraits before the sun fades away.


Use can always add cafe lights.

 
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Lighting can be very tricky, especially if your wedding is outdoors and the reception is at night. If you need to have additional lighting, add cafe lights. It looks stunning, and with enough lighting, your photographers might not need to use their flash, which for me is always preferred.


Consider the ceremony backdrop.

 
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Many brides put a lot of attention to little details and the reception ambiance but forget to plan the ceremony backdrop.

While all of the details create a cohesive look for your day, they can be moved, rearranged, or I can come at it from a different angle. But during the ceremony, where the space is typically limited for your photographers to move around, having a gorgeous backdrop works wonders for your wedding photos.


Hire a professional hair stylist and makeup artist.

 
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There are some things you might want to avoid for your bridal makeup. My rule is to keep it simply natural. For example, while orange makeup can give you a gorgeous bronzed, tan skin look, it usually doesn’t photograph very well. Always consider hiring a professional, not just for yourself, but for your bridal party as well. You get the benefit of feeling like royalty all day long, and your photographer will love you for it. The editing process goes a whole lot smoother and quicker when hair stays in place and makeup doesn't run.


Plan to have all of your details in one place.

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On the wedding day, when everything is hectic, photographers will arrive in a chaotic room where everyone is rushing to get ready. Help your photographers save time and energy by having all the details in one place. For example, you can hang your dress and on its special hanger in the room, with the shoes, both rings, veil, accessories, garter, and all flowers nearby (a big bonus is to ask the florist for extra floral clippings from your arrangement for the photos).


Always set aside time for couples portraits.

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This is time dedicated to the couple. Newlywed couples typically remember this as one of the times they enjoyed the most on the day since it’s their opportunity to be away from the crowd and enjoy private moments as husband and wife after the ceremony.

Depending on your timeline, I prefer to set aside 30-60 minutes for portraits. This gives us plenty of time to capture that ‘just married’ bliss. If timed right, this should happen just prior to sunset.


Do what feels natural to you.

Being photographed all day long can be exhausting, and couples will often look stiff if being asked to pose all day. I recommend standing in a way that you normally would together. For example: holding hands or arms linked around each other's waists. The more comfortable you feel, the more natural it's going to look.


Show off the love, seriously.

 
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Nothing makes a better couple’s photo than genuine love and connection between them. So on your wedding day, be together, be present, and have intimate moments. Look at each other, smile at each other, dance together, and share lots of hugs and kisses.


Once it starts, forget the camera.

Once the ceremony begins, ignore the camera. The best photos are the ones that capture the moment and let it come naturally. Don’t think too much about how you look on camera. Your photographers will capture the moments. So relax, be yourself, and enjoy the moment.


Trust your photographer's instincts.

Know that if your photographer suggests one spot over another or doing some photos slightly later than you had initially planned, it's because they know best. They know that your photos are very important to you and they want to give you the very best.

After painstakingly considering everything you’ve done to get to this point, you must have trusted your photographers’ skills and ability to let loose and let them do the work. It goes by so fast. Live in the moment.

Timeless Gulf Coast Wedding Venues

Timeless Wedding Venues Across the Gulf Coast

A quick look at 20 timeless venues across the Gulf Coast from Mobile, AL to Panama City, FL

 

The Bellamy of Thirty A - Santa Rosa Beach, FL

 
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$$
Up to 300 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue 

A seamless blend of southern coastal charm and modern sophistication, The Bellamy welcomes guests into a peaceful retreat just inside its stately gates on West Scenic HWY 30A, seconds away from the white sandy beaches of the Emerald Coast. Formal dining rooms, peaceful courtyards and romantic gardens showcase a collection of museum-caliber fountain’s, while century-old Greek pillars stand watch over our, manicured lawns and an elegant ceremony knoll. The Bellamy also offers a beach ceremony option with a reception at The Bellamy.

www.bellamy30a.com
Wedding Guide


Bella Sera Gardens - Loxley, AL

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$$$
Up to 280 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue

Bella Sera Gardens sits on 15 acres featuring a picturesque courtyard with fountains, hanging day beds, a fire bar and a large pavilion perfect for any occasion. There are New Orleans style features such as two queen-sized antique shutter beds hanging under palm trees, two full service bars and a pavilion with antique doors and windows. The pavilion can be heated or cooled and seats up to 280 guests. The adjacent building to the pavilion has a themed groom's lounge with sofa, bar, TV and full-length mirror. A fully equipped chef's kitchen and restrooms comprise the remainder. The bride and bridal party are welcome to utilize the private residence for wedding day preparations. The zoning approval allows for music, and parking is available on the hilltop to the left of the venue, with handicap parking accessible.

www.bellaseragardens.com


Coldwater Gardens - Milton, FL

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$$
Up to 200 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue

Coldwater Gardens is a perfectly peaceful, rural setting for a wedding. Acres of farmland, trails, and trees surround a beautiful wooden terrace. The terrace boasts a large indoor area and covered outdoor patio. Also included are a few lounge areas, fire pit, gazebo, and expansive lawn. They have cottages, a treehouse and multiple glamping tents for guests to stay in for the night or the whole weekend. The facility provides a kitchen, bar, heaters, tables, chairs, and an arbor for the ceremony. Minimal decor is needed due to the natural beauty of the venue. Before and during your event, guests are welcome to explore the property consisting of 352 acres, hiking and biking trails, 4 private sandbars, and many different agriculture techniques.

www.coldwatergardens.com


Destin Bay House - Destin, FL

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$$$
Up to 200 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue

Situated directly on the glistening waters of the Choctawhatchee Bay, the Destin Bay House is positioned to offer you a one-of-a-kind experience that is above all else. Set in a renovated 1950s home against a bay-side backdrop, the Destin Bay House offers a picture-perfect setting both indoors and out that can be tailored for any event. With a screened porch, outdoor deck, bridal cottage and bonus rooms to boot, the Bay House is committed to providing you with an elegant atmosphere that separates your event from the rest.

www.destinbayhouse.com
Pricing Info


Eden Gardens - Santa Rosa Beach, FL

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$$
Up to 100 guests in Pavilion for Reception | Up to 200 guest Ceremony | Ceremony + Reception venue

Eden Gardens State Park is a 163 acres Florida State Park and historic site. This park is centered on the Wesley house, a two-story mansion virtually surrounded by white columns and verandas. The house is notable for its furnishings, especially examples of late 18th century French furniture. The site has various gardens, numerous large, old southern live oak trees, and frontage on Tucker Bayou.

Exchange your vows under the large, moss-draped branches of this oak tree that is over 600 years old. The wedding oak is the perfect backdrop for your ceremony. An open lawn surrounding the tree allows plenty of space for seating. This historic and unique site has been the setting for generations of weddings. Our screened pavilion provides shelter from the weather and insects, space for approximately 100 to sit and eat, additional men's and women's Restrooms, and a large food preparation room.

Website


Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa - Point Clear, AL

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$$$$
Minimum 100 guests | Up to 1,000 guests at various venues | Ceremony + Reception venue

Whether your plans call for an outdoor or inside affair, the Grand Hotel has your perfect setting, including over 37,000 sq ft of banquet space for events ranging from grand receptions to intimate gatherings. There is over 550 acres of outdoor event space, perfect for expansive events in a beautiful natural setting. Guests of Gulf Coast weddings will be surrounded by gorgeous gardens, beaches & scenic views.

Website


The Henderson - Destin, FL

 
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$$$$
Up to 400 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue

The Henderson offers a selection of gorgeous venues, customized catering, beautiful accommodations and activities to suit everyone on your guest list. They have everything a bride needs to create an unforgettable experience from the rehearsal dinner to the honeymoon getaway. Featuring a stunning ballroom, flexible interior spaces and 10,000 square feet of beautiful exterior options, our new setting provides spectacular on-site venues for ceremonies, receptions and events from 25 to 400. The Henderson also offers a beach ceremony option with a reception at the resort. Before and after the big day, allow time to enjoy the many recreational activities the resort offers your wedding guests. Spa, fishing, golf, tennis, watersports and shopping are just a few things Destin offers year round.

www.hendersonbeachresort.com
Venue Options


Kelly Green - Alys Beach, FL

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$$$$$
Up to 400 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue

Whether on the beach or within the town, there are myriad of spectacular venues for a wedding ceremony and reception.  Parks and greens are linked by a network of walking paths, that connect the community with the beach and offer variety of unforgettable settings for a beach wedding like no other. The walkable town ensures guests won’t be far from the reception location, and can quickly begin celebrating the couple’s new life together. There is an array of visually stunning spaces for wedding photography. Alys Beach’s clean lines, stunning architecture, white facade, lush green parks, vivid white sand beaches, and turquoise waters create a brilliant backdrop for photography.

www.alysbeach.com/weddings


Lee House Boutique Hotel - Pensacola, FL

 
 

$$
Up to 275 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue

Located in the charming historic district of Pensacola, the wide porches of the Lee House overlook the Pensacola Bay as well as Seville Square and Fountain Park. The Lee House can accommodate for groups of 10 to 275 guests and is perfect for everything from an intimate elopement, to a gorgeous formal wedding and reception. The hotel has 9 guest suites and an absolutely gorgeous bridal suite.

www.leehousepensacola.com


Live Oak Plantation - Pensacola, FL

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$$$$
Up to 275 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue

Live Oak Plantation is an all-in-one venue for weddings, receptions, and a stress-free day-of preparation for the entire wedding party in one convenient location, reducing cost, planning, and stress. On the wedding day, enjoy the leisure of time for photography, hair, make-up, and preparation in the elegant bridal suite.  

Guests will stroll in the Cathedral of Oaks, the perfect setting for beautiful wedding ceremonies, and afterward on the plantation's lakeside terrace for unforgettable receptions. The sprawling grounds are open for guests to explore the numerous complimentary amenities and enhancements, including the rustic cabin featuring ancient artifacts, local artifacts, and the history of the land and agriculture in the area. 

Weather is no issue! The large 3,800 sq. ft. air-conditioned Cotton House reception hall with adjoining veranda overlooking Lake Blue Heron and lawn is the place for lavish receptions following the wedding ceremony and cocktail hour that are held under the oaks.  The maximum seating capacity inside the Cotton House is 180.

www.liveoakplantation.com


Meeting House - Carillon Beach, FL

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$$$$
Up to 80 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue

This charming, lakefront chapel in Carillon Beach is adjacent to The Village Green and serves as our quaint, unconsecrated chapel at the beach. It gives weddings a coastal setting and is a one-of-a-kind experience. It features big windows, a clean white color palette and an intimate feel.

The Meeting House seats 80 guests inside, not including a standing bridal party. It can comfortably accommodate about 30 more guests on the side decks with open 8-foot doors. In addition to wooden chairs that match the floor, the Meeting House is also equipped with removable white pillars.

Your ceremony exit is not complete without the ringing of our real pull-down bell in our bell tower. It’s our way to announce your joyous occasion to our sweet community.

www.carillonweddings.com


Old Christ Church - Pensacola, FL

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$$
Up to 185 guests | Ceremony venue

Old Christ Church sits on Seville Square, serving as a beacon for downtown’s historic districts and as an anchor for Historic Pensacola Village.  The white façade protects an interior rehabilitated by a concerned community, and the history of the building speaks to visitors the moment they walk in the door. Old Christ Church has beautiful windows that allow natural light to fill the chuch.

www.historicpensacola.org


Palafox Wharf - Pensacola, FL

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$$$$
Up to 350 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue

Surround yourself in the warmth and charm of a by-gone era with a touch of modern elements. Historic, elegant, award winning Pensacola's Palafox Wharf Waterfront was built in 1880 as a shipping company. You and your guests will treasure every moment of your destination or local Wedding Reception or Event in the beautifully renovated interior venue space, large deck, pier, and spacious green overlooking sparkling water and the harbor's marina.  Palafox Wharf boasts a 150 indoor seating capacity, 65 outdoor waterfront deck seating capacity, and outdoor green tented altogether can accomodate up to 350 guests.

www.palafoxwharf.com


Pensacola Country Club - Pensacola, FL

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$$$
Up to 250 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue

The clubhouse of Pensacola Country Club is a 23,000 square foot building modelled after the old homes of StarLake and Bayshore Drive. Traditional elements, including brick and stone, decorative columns, protective porches, and large expanses of glass allow you to enjoy both the functionality and beauty of great architecture as well as the gorgeous nature surrounding them, including golf course views against the backdrop of Pensacola Bay. A picture perfect stair and grand chandelier establish the Jeffersonian influenced decor that remains throughout the interior.

www.pensacolacountryclub.com


Seaside Chapel - Seaside, FL

 
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$$$$
Up to 200 guests in Chapel | Up to 75 guests on Chapel Courtyard + Lawn | Ceremony + Reception venue

Most would agree that the Chapel is one of Seaside’s most iconic buildings. Sitting on the north end of Ruskin Park (behind Central Square) the Chapel hosts weddings and events along with weekly Sunday services. The Chapel’s vaulted ceiling and white-washed board and batten construction make for an amazingly beautiful space.

www.thechapelatseaside.com


The Pillars - Mobile, AL

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$$
Up to 200 guests Indoors | Up to 600 guests Outdoors | Ceremony + Reception venue

The Pillars has large windows which permit a wealth of natural light. High ceilings, beautiful chandeliers, historic Bellingrath tiles and eight fire places made of either marble or mahogany all add to the ambience. The atrium is adorned with a large 150 year old stained glass window rumored to have been acquired from and undisclosed brothel in New Orleans. In addition to the main event space, there is a built-in-bar and reception area adorned with an antique Steinway Baby Grand Piano.

www.thepillarsofmobile.com


The Steeple on St. Francis - Mobile, AL

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$$
Up to 150 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue

The Steeple joins a national trend of repurposed churches as developers adapt the abandoned buildings to restaurants, theaters and concert venues. The Queen Anne style building offers 10,000 square feet of venue space from the central upstairs sanctuary to a variety of rooms downstairs. Faithfully restored doors open to a foyer and entryway under carefully restored 1935 fixtures. Antique pine floors and mahogany beams glow in the filtered light of Tiffany-inspired sanctuary windows. Cathedral ceilings offer the soulful acoustics you can only hear in a 120-year old church.

www.thesteeplemobile.com


Town Hall - Rosemary Beach, FL

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$$$$$
Up to 150 guests at Town Hall | Up to 250 guests at other venues | Ceremony + Reception venue

Providing the perfect flow between indoor and outdoor spaces. From the impressive and spacious interior hall, wander into the peaceful, walled courtyard edged with natural vegetation. The Town Hall includes the courtyard to the East, which is perfect for cocktail hour and the space can be flipped after the ceremony for the reception. 

www.rosemarybeach.com/weddings
Wedding Planning Guide


WaterColor LakeHouse at WaterColor Inn & Resort - Santa Rosa Beach, FL

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$$$$$
Up to 250 guests at WaterColor LakeHouse | Up to 300 guests at other venues | Ceremony + Reception venue

At The WaterColor LakeHouse, the sky’s the limit in this breathtaking 3700-square-foot lakeside venue with cedar-lined walls and a trio of custom sphere chandeliers—a place where fairy-tales do come true. This spectacular venue on Western Lake also has a fully-equipped catering kitchen.

www.watercolorresort.com
Wedding Planning Guide


5eleven Palafox - Pensacola, FL

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$$
Up to 200 guests | Ceremony + Reception venue

Housed in a Historic Building in the heart of Downtown Pensacola, 5eleven Hosting site has been built to host groups of up to 200 inside, with room for another 150 in its outside patio/garden and another 200 on its spacious lawn under tents. 5eleven is a trendy, art-deco inspired venue boasts exposed brick, murals, and columns that make this space both unique and welcoming. The inside space has large window areas providing views of downtown Pensacola while allowing natural light to illuminate its main meeting space. 

www.5elevenpalafox.com


Coldwater Gardens - Pensacola Wedding Venue

Coldwater Gardens

Coldwater Gardens is a gorgeous botanical wedding venue located in Milton, FL. With plenty of space and cabins on site - it is the perfect place to spend a weekend away with your closest family and friends.


Coldwater Gardens is a perfectly peaceful, rural setting for a wedding. Acres of farmland, trails, and trees surround a beautiful wooden terrace. The terrace boasts a large indoor area and covered outdoor patio. Also included are a few lounge areas, fire pit, gazebo, and expansive lawn. They have cottages, a treehouse and multiple glamping tents for guests to stay in for the night or the whole weekend. The facility provides a kitchen, bar, heaters, tables, chairs, and an arbor for the ceremony. Minimal decor is needed due to the natural beauty of the venue. Before and during your event, guests are welcome to explore the property consisting of 352 acres, hiking and biking trails, 4 private sandbars, and many different agriculture techniques.

 
 

Still looking for a wedding venue in the Pensacola, FL area?

Click the button below to grab a guide with all of my favorite, local venues. These venues have been selected by me and are some of my favorite places to photograph weddings.

The people are great, the spaces are beautiful.

What are you waiting for?

Top Pensacola Wedding Venues

Whether choosing a location close to home or a faraway destination, Pensacola has a variety of venues perfect for every wedding. While by no means exclusive, here are a few of our favorite Pensacola and Pensacola Beach wedding venues, in no specific order.

Read More

Pelican Beach Resort Wedding - Destin, FL

Pelican Beach Resort Wedding - Destin, FL

Thinking of a destination beach wedding? Lona and Jason came from Louisiana to get married on the white-sand beaches of Destin, FL. Both families were absolutely amazing and so fun to be around. They brought the party all the way from New Orleans. Lona and Jason exchanged vows on a perfect day in October surrounded by all of their closest family and friends who chose to spend the weekend at the beach celebrating.

Read More

Eden Gardens Wedding - Santa Rosa Beach, FL

Eden Gardens Wedding - Santa Rosa Beach, FL

Margaret and James got ready by the ocean at Palazzo Del Sol, a rental home sitting on the Gulf of Mexico in Destin, FL. They started their morning with close friends and family at the house as they prepared for the ceremony. Margaret and James chose to do a first look before the ceremony at Eden Gardens State Park, where they had their ceremony. Afterwards, the bridal party piled back into the party bus and headed back to the beach for the reception. 

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