A Gown Designer’s Top 6 Tips for an Amazing Wedding

We have something very special to share today!  This post kicks off a series of wedding expert guest posts here on the Jim Vetter Photography Blog.  It occurred to me recently that I know so many great wedding vendors and they all have so much valuable insight and advice they can share.  So, I’ve gathered some of the top bay area wedding professionals to share their top tips for having an amazing wedding.  

The first of these talented and experienced wedding industry specialists is indie vintage gown designer and blogger, Amy-Jo Tatum.  I met her a few years ago when I was searching for awesome vintage gowns for an inspirational styled bridal shoot.  I fell in love with her gowns (seen below) as well as her vintage vivaciousness.  I think you will love her t0o!  ~  Jim Vetter



Hello!  My name is Amy-Jo Tatum.  I’ve worked as a bridal gown designer since 1984 and seen so many changes not only in wedding fashion but trends and societal codes as well. When Jim asked me to do a guest post for his blog I was totally jazzed as well as honored.  Jim might blush here while I’m giving him a plug–but here goes: He has all the traits of the quintessential photographer and working with him has always been a stress-free and pleasurable experience.  Add to that he’s tops at coordinating the time factor–his and yours–  most essential in capturing great images on your wedding day. That said,  I’m going to continue here with a few more insights about finding stellar qualities in a photographer and what my brides have told me over the years about what they liked and didn’t . . . .


By engagement time, many of my clients/brides already know their photographer through friends and/or family–someone who’s already hooked up in their network.  But not always.  My husband and I fell in love with our photographer years back at a wedding fair.  We took one look at her work and knew her style was exactly what we were looking for.  I can’t stress enough how important finding the right photographer is.  These images will be family keepsakes a hundred years from now so choose your shooter carefully.  These days the web is a treasure trove of wedding blogs and images I know can be totally overwhelming at first. Info overload aside, you really need to zone-in on the photographers and style you like. By the time you’re ready to interview candidates you’ll have a clearer picture of how you want your wedding shot.


Look for Great editing.  I find the best photographers know when to stop with all the special effects so the picture looks natural.  Think of a great make up artist and how and where he/she knows just where to enhance.  For me over edited pics are the equivalent of digital paintings–great for a Grace Coddington editorial but typically not the thing for chronicling a wedding.

Easy.  Yes, you need a shooter who’s easy to work with.  Primadonnas behind the lens last about as long as disposable cameras.

Timelessness.  Is your photographer too trendy? Ten, fifty, a hundred years down the timeline will these pictures look too dated–Instagramed?  Photographers who stand the test of time are the ones who create pictures that generations later, the viewer recognizes something familiar and timeless . . . .


You’ve come a long way baby!  Think back to all the restrictions there used to be on weddings starting with the dress.  Can you believe some women (though not as many as there used to be) are still asking if it’s okay to wear a white gown without being a virgin?  Add to this once upon a time  you couldn’t bare back, arms, decolletage, legs, etc. in a proper church wedding.  You had to be covered up and veiled almost completely. The result was those cookie-cutter satin uniforms of yesteryear they called, bridal gowns.  Thanks to a new generation of women saying, “I’m gonna wear what I want when I tie the knot,” a wedding can be on the beach in the sand, bride sporting bare feet.  It can also be in a barn in a polka dot dress with your groom in spurs.  The point is, you can pretty much do and wear whatever you want as long as it’s all about you and your true love on your wedding day.


Look for easy to wear.  Go for natural and micro fibers if you can. It’s going to be a long day so opt for something that breathes well.  I once read a great Yelp review on a designer who created a gown so comfortable the bride didn’t want to take it off . . .

Wear what you want.  If you fancy a red dress go all out and find a custom designer who will indulge you. If you’re lucky you’re only gonna do this wedding thing once so you mind as well wear the dress you want . . .


The Etiquette Police have passed on.  Those old dowagers who wrote and kept the books have left their mark via grand dame actresses like Maggie Smith reminding us women like this really did run society.  It used to be the season you got married dictated almost everything about your wedding: Whether your fiance wore a morning suit or if those bridesmaids could wear pink in the dead of winter.  All I can say about sporting colors, wearing formals and even carrying an out-of-season bouquet is, you and your groom need to do what makes you happy.   I’ve seen some very beautiful pastel winter weddings and grooms in relaxed attire in grand ball rooms and it all worked. The key is, it’s all about you guys . . . 

Most important tip of all: Eliminate Stress.  Yes eliminate.  Relax.  You’ve planned this out a long time and want to share your joy with everyone!  I know weddings can be like one big family reunion and what family doesn’t have it’s own special tremors that rock the scale? But if you tune into the right headset from the start, you’ll realize this is all about you and your life partner–not them or any outside influence like a cake not being delivered or the officiant being late.  In the end, it doesn’t really matter what goes down at your wedding but how you handle the marriage.  And by the end of the day you’ll already be married.  What more could you ask . . .?

Amy-Jo Tatum is an indie bridal designer of vintage-inspired gowns and accessories. When she’s not in her design studio, you’ll find her blogging about bridal fashion on her blog, Bride Chic

Top 20 Tips for Amazing Wedding Photos

The first step to getting great wedding photos is choosing the right photographer.  You’ll be spending a lot of time with you photographer on your wedding day so you want to choose one who is fun to be around all day.  And of course they must be professional, reliable and able to make amazing photographs.

We recommend reading our blog post, aptly titled “How to Choose a Wedding Photographer.”  And be sure to download our FREE Guide to Planning a Stress-Free Wedding Day or just give us a call (415.789.6150) and we’ll be happy to help you understand the process of working with a wedding photographer.

So then after you have selected the perfect photographer, there are some important tips you can follow to get the best possible photos – with the least possible stress – on your wedding day.

Tip #1 – Do the Engagement Session with your Wedding Photographer.

The engagement session is very valuable for several reasons.  Don’t skip this because you want to save money.  You’ll end up paying for it on your wedding day in the form of less awesome photos and overall experience.

The Engagement Session is your opportunity to get comfortable with your photographer’s personality and style of direction.  It’s like a low risk rehearsal for the wedding day.  By the end of the engagement session you’ll be at ease with the photographer and the camera.  You’ll know the photographer’s lingo and how to follow their direction to make you look your best.

Building rapport with your photographer is so valuable and the engagement session is a great way to do this.  Your expressions will be much more relaxed and natural if you know and like the photographer – especially if they are photographing you getting dressed!

While the wedding photos are relatively formal with ceremonies and formal portraits, the engagement session can be rather informal and really show your individual style as a couple.  This is your last chance to capture what you were like when you were dating your spouse.  Take advantage of that.

The engagement photos are also great to use for your save-the-date cards and for your guest sign-in book.  Our clients love the engagement sign-in books which are small albums with room for guests to write personal messages around the photos.

Please see our blog post titled “5 Great Reasons to do an Engagement Photo Session


Tip #2 – Hire Professional Hair & Makeup Artists 

The camera doesn’t lie, girls!  If you want to look your best in your wedding photos, if you want to look better than you’ve ever looked before, don’t do your own hair and makeup and don’t just have a friend do it unless they are a pro.

Your face is the hero of your wedding day photos.  Don’t trust it to an amateur. You deserve to look gorgeous!

We have seen hair and makeup nightmares that traumatize brides and bridesmaids and haunt them for years.  Professional stylists know how to prepare you to be photographed at your best.  Makeup for photography is not the same as makeup for going out at night.  Please let the pros make you up.

Tip #3 – Allow Extra Time for Hair and Makeup


We love professional stylists but must say that they are not good estimating how much time it takes them to do their job.  I’ve never photographed a bride who was not delayed by hair and makeup – sometimes by two or more hours!

There are a thousand distractions on the wedding day that will delay you and your stylists.  You can avoid these delays by allowing more time for hair and makeup.

A good rule of thumb is to ask the stylists how long they will take and then double or triple that time.  This is not solely because it will take them that long to do the work but also because you will be distracted and delayed while they are working on you.

If you will be going out to a salon or other outside location for hair and/or makeup, make sure you allow plenty of time for getting from one place to another.  As explained above, traffic and parking can eat up a lot of valuable time.

Tip #4 – Get your hair and makeup done FIRST

Your stylists may suggest that the bride gets her hair and makeup done last so that she is fresh for the ceremony, this is NOT a good idea.  The bride should be the first girl ready so that she has plenty of time for getting-ready photographs and bridal portraits before the ceremony.

We suggest that you plan to be fully made up 2-3 hours before the ceremony begins.  This allows time for relaxed getting-ready photos, portraits and First Look photos.

Tip #5 – Do First Look photos before the ceremony

You may want to be traditional and not see the groom before the ceremony.  However, there are wonderful benefits do doing the first look before you walk down the isle.

The moment you first see your partner on your wedding day will be incredibly special whether it’s before or during the ceremony.  Why not have that special moment in private, away from the distractions of the ceremony and guests so you can truly focus on each other?

When you have a first look moment before the ceremony, you get a rare moment alone together with your partner when you can kiss and hug and talk – really soak them in.  This may be the only time you get alone together for the rest of day.

Most couples are the most nervous until they see one another for the first time and then the butterflies leave their tummy and they feel warm and relaxed.  The first look allows you to reach this relaxed state before you walk down the isle.  You may then enjoy the experience of not only seeing your groom at the other end of the isle, but also enjoy seeing your family and friends welcome you as you enter.

The cocktail hour usually follows the ceremony so if you’re off taking family photos, you’re missing this time with family and friends.  You’re paying for those cocktails so it would be nice to enjoy one or two, wouldn’t it?  By doing a first look before the ceremony, you open the door to completing some or all of the family and bridal party photos before the ceremony as well.  This frees a lot more time after the ceremony to enjoy the cocktails – or at least allow your family and bridal party to enjoy them while you and your partner shoot some romantic sunset photos.

Finally, if the quality of your photographs is important to you then the pre-ceremony first look is the best possible way to ensure great photos of the moment you first see each other.  When the photographer controls the setting and the lighting, the photos will be perfect and there will be no one blocking the shot or distracting either of you from the magic of the moment.

Our preference is that our couples have their first look before the ceremony and most of them do.  However, the most important thing is that our clients are happy and we handle the first look any way they wish. J

Tip #6 – Designate a Family Finder

What is a Family Finder?  Well, that’s the person who helps gather family members for the group photos.  Your photographer will not likely know your family and will need help pulling them together for the group photos.  Assigning this responsibility to a friend or family member will allow the group formals to be completed much more quickly and efficiently.

Tip #7 – More booze = Slower photography

Having a little bubbly while you’re getting ready can really enhance the mood and be very fun.  However, photographing a drunken wedding party is like trying to herd cats.  If possible, encourage your wedding party to use at least a little restraint until after the ceremony.  The photos will go faster and everyone will be off to the party sooner.

Tip #8 – Minimize Time Between Locations

The more time you spend getting from one place to another, the less time you have to make awesome photos.  Plan to have the ceremony and reception as near each other as possible.  If you can also do all the photos at the same location then you will save a lot of time.  If you can’t do it all in one place, try to have everything as close as possible.

Tip #9 – Carefully Plan the day with your photographer

An experienced photographer will work out a detailed timeline with you and your planner that ensures there is enough time to get the kind of photos you want.  This timeline must be realistic and take into account all of the time-sucking challenges outlined above such as traffic, parking, weather, etc.

We have a detailed timeline worksheet that we put together weeks, or at least days, before the wedding.  Just be careful that your planner doesn’t make a last minute change that breaks your photography timeline.   Ten years from now, you will not care which end of the table the cake was sitting on but you will care if you didn’t get the sunset portraits you always dreamed of.

Tip #10 – Have your flowers ready for photos

Be sure to have your flowers delivered to wherever you are getting ready so you can have them in your photos.

Tip #11 – Have comfortable flats to wear

You will probably not want to wear your high heels the entire day – especially when you’re running around shooting photos in a grassy park.  Bring some comfortable footwear to use until we do the shots that show your gorgeous new wedding shoes.  Your new husband wont mind looking a little taller anyway, right?

Looking Fabulous for the Camera

Tip #12 – Get a truly flattering dress

You will be spending a lot of money on your wedding gown so do make sure it flatters you and makes you look better than you’ve ever looked before. Strapless gowns are very popular and they look fantastic if they fit well.  Watch out for any bulges in the wrong places.  Take an honest friend with you dress shopping so you can get a reality check if needed.  A true friend will tell you if you look like a muffin stuffed in a wedding dress.

Tip #13 – Hail the Veil

The veil, while maybe too traditional for some, is great for photographs for several reasons.  It is certainly a definitive bridal accessory and really screams “Hey, look at me!  I’m a bride!”

The veil is also perfect for subtly hiding things that you’d prefer not to show prominently – namely, the arms and neck.  Even the skinniest of brides often complain that their arms or neck look fat.  This can be expertly addressed by a good photographer and a veil.

Tip #14 – Closer is Bigger

If you don’t want your butt to look bigger than it actually is, shift your weight to your back foot and push your hips away from the camera.  This tip applies to any body part.  Whatever is closest to the camera will look bigger!

Tip #15 – Slimmer from the Side

Turn your body so the camera sees the side of your waist – it is much smaller from the side than straight on.  This is true not only for your waist but also for your shoulders and hips.  Guys may want their shoulders square to the camera so they look bigger but most women don’t want to look broad so remember to avoid facing your body square to the camera.

Tip #16 – Lean in to look Lean

Leaning back can make anyone look like the Michelin Man!  So, to get rid of the extra chins, you need to slightly lean forward from your waist up.  This also makes your chest bigger than your hips which most of us want.  Lean in to look Lean.

Tip #17 – Roll ‘em Back to remove the Rolls

If you’re wearing a strapless gown, then you run the risk of looking like a snow cone or the top of a muffin if you don’t roll those shoulders back!  Only the super skinnies can get away with that high fashion forward shoulder roll.  So, make that expensive dress look its best by rolling your shoulders back.  This will also accentuate your bust line – just in case that’s of interest to you.

Tip #18 – Show them Big Sexy Eyes!

Your eyes will look bigger and more beautiful if they are open a little wider.  To do this without looking like someone just pinched your bottom, I suggest lowering your chin slightly while doing the Lean (Tip #3).  When you lower your chin, you’ll be looking up a bit to the camera which opens you eyes and makes them look much more bright and sexy.

Tip #19 – Breathe!

Remember to breathe.  Don’t purse your lips or furrow your brow.  Breathe through your mouth with your lips slightly parted.  This will keep your face relaxed and your expression natural.  You’ll also enjoy the process much more!

Tip #20 – Relax!

Finally, if on your wedding day, you draw a blank and you can’t remember any of the tips above, just shake it out, do a silly dance and relax.  Think of the camera as a good friend who’s trying very hard to flatter you –  you beautiful thing, you!


How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

Choosing a wedding photographer is unlike any other choice you will make as you plan your wedding.  There are no other decisions that have such long term implications for how you remember your wedding day for the rest of your life.  For this reason, there are some very important considerations you will want to make.

So many couples make their wedding planning choices based primarily on price.  This does make sense for many of the things you need for your wedding.  However, unlike the food, the dress, the flowers, or the music… your photography is not forgotten after the wedding.  Your wedding photos are all that remain of the wedding day and you don’t get a second chance to get them right.

So, let’s talk about what’s really important…

You gotta LOVE your photographer!

You will spend a significant portion of your wedding day with your photographer.  You will want to spend that time with people who enhance your experience and make it even more exciting.  This is why its so important meet face to face with your photographer candidates before you book one.  Meet them for coffee or a drink and get to know them a bit.  If they are not someone you’d want to hang out with, then they are not your photographer – regardless how nice their portfolio looks or how low their prices are.  Don’t settle for a mediocre experience on your wedding day.  You deserve better!

You gotta LOVE their work!

There is a huge variety of photographic artistic styles out there.  Which one is right for you?  I suggest imagining yourself in the photos you see on each photographers website.  When you do this, how does it feel?  If you feel anything but excited and happy, they are not your photographer.  Keep looking.  You don’t want to have to give stylistic direction to your photographer so that you get images you love.  You are hiring an artist and you should give them the artistic license to fulfill their vision.  Just make sure that you love their vision by looking at a lot of their work.

You gotta TRUST your photographer!

Gaining trust in someone you’ve just met can be challenging.  To some extent, you will need to make a leap of faith.  So, in addition to meeting them in person, you should read their reviews and connect with their client references if possible.  We collect client reviews on WeddingWire.com and Yelp.com but there are various other review sites out there.  Be sure to ask each photographer for their reviews.

So how do you go about finding the right photographer?  Here is the advice that I give to people I care about.

Personal Referrals

Ask your married friends and family about their photographer.  There is nothing better than a referral from someone you already know and trust.

Photographer’s Website

Many wedding photographers don’t have a studio that you can go visit so their website is their virtual storefront.  Spend some time exploring their site.  It will tell you a lot about them and how they run their business.  If the site is outdated with broken links then that may the kind of photographer they are.  If the site is clean and easy to navigate and understand then that is likely to be a photographer that is easy to work with and communicate with.

You’ll find the photographer’s portfolio on their website.  These are the photos that the photographer believes to be their very best work.  It is also the work that best represents their artistic style.  If there are lots of different styles in their portfolio then it is hard to say what style photos you’d get from them from your wedding.  Choosing a photographer with a consistent style that you love is very important.

Photographer’s Blog

Don’t forget to check out the photographer’s blog.  This is typically updated much more frequently than the website itself and gives you a much better idea of the quality and style you could expect if you hired them.  If a photographer hasn’t updated their blog in several months then that’s a red flag and you should wonder whether they are actively working in your market.

Speak with your photographer candidates

Whatever you do, DON’T simply send emails asking for pricing and package info.  If you like the photographers’ work, and their online presence is promising, pick up the phone and call them and make a personal connection.  The price list tells you nothing about the experience you’ll have.  Make sure you get a feel for what they have to offer before ruling them out based on price alone.

Meeting in Person

When you finally meet in person with your short list of photographers, have some questions ready for them that will help you understand what it would be like to work with them.  Here are some great things to ask/discuss when you meet:

  1. What is your style of direction and interaction with your clients when you’re shooting?
  2. How can you help us look our best in the photos?
  3. How does the wedding day flow with you as our photographer?
  4. How will we view our proofs after the wedding?
  5. When will our proofs be ready to view?
  6. How will my family and friends order prints after the wedding?
  7. What is included in each package and how are they priced?
  8. What add-ons may we be interested in and how are they priced?
  9. What kind of guarantee do you offer?
  10. May I give you direction about who/what to photograph on my wedding day?
  11. How will you make my wedding day coverage unique to me?
  12. What is the process with you after the wedding for proofs, ordering, delivery, etc.?
  13. Will you be shooting our wedding personally or is there a different photographer?
  14. Why are you a wedding photographer?


In addition to asking these types of questions, be sure to take some time to get to know them as a person.  This will give you a much better idea about whether or not you want to spend a large part of the most important day of your life with them.

Stepping Up and Booking your Photographer

When it finally comes down to making the decision, trust your gut.  If it doesn’t feel quite right, its probably not.  If you really like the photographer then chances are that you will get great photos.

Before you sign on the dotted line, confirm exactly what you’re paying upfront and when the balance is due.  Also be sure you understand what the payment and refund policies are.  Most photographers (including us) make all payments non-refundable.  However, by this point you are confident in your choice because you did your homework and your due diligence.


Finally, when you’ve booked your photographer, signed the contract and paid the retainer, its time to celebrate having made one of the most important decisions about your wedding.  If your photographer is interested in providing fabulous experiences, they will be giving you a bottle of wine or champaign after you book.  Crack that baby and have a toast to a fantastic wedding with amazing photographs that you will cherish for the rest of your life!

San Francisco Wedding Photography by San Francisco Wedding Photographer, Jim Vetter Jim Vetter Photography is anything but your average San Francisco wedding photographer. Each wedding is treated with care and creativity not found with other San Francisco wedding photography studios. Your wedding day is carefully crafted to offer one of a kind unique photography in the San Francisco area.  This is San Francisco wedding photography at its best. Jim Vetter Photography is an award winning photographer based in the San Francisco bay area. Offering wedding coverage in San Francisco, San Jose, Napa, and destinations worldwide.  This wedding photography studio is one of the top studios in the country and is located right here in the San Francisco bay area.

Elegant. Romantic. Fun. These are the words typically used to describe this San Francisco wedding photographer.  We take pride in offering our clients the type of San Francisco wedding photography they are looking for. Its one thing to take pictures, its another to create art for our clients.  Our San Francisco clients are typically looking for artwork for their home vs. snapshots, and that is what draws them into our San Francisco wedding photography studio.  Serving the San Francisco bay area Jim Vetter Photography offers San Francisco wedding photography coverage in the San Francisco bay area, including but not limited to, San Jose, Marin County, East Bay, San Mateo, Napa and Sonoma, and the surrounding areas 

Not looking for a San Francisco wedding photographer? Please be sure to consider us for all your family photography needs in the San Francisco area.  We are located conveniently in the San Francisco bay area just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County.  Please call or email us for more information.  Learn more about this San Francisco Wedding Photographer