Hey, I'm an elopement photographer based in Alaska! I love genuine moments between people and love that I get to document them for a living <3

Meet Donna

I hear it time and time again from many of my couples: “The wedding went by sooo fast!”

They felt like they flew through the day and were rushed from event to event and hardly got to spend quality time with each other. Either they were busy greeting and chatting with guests or doing all the things you’re ‘supposed’ to do during a wedding day.

No matter what kind of wedding day you’re choosing to have, big, small, in the middle, it’s so important to really remember what this day is ACTUALLY about.

It’s not about incorporating wedding traditions just because they’re ‘the norm’, appeasing a friend or family members, or any of the other things you might be convinced of otherwise. At the end of the day, when the cake is eaten, the decor is torn down, the flowers are wilting and the guests are gone, the only thing that truly matters is that you married your person. That’s the point. You and your person. Your love. Your marriage. This WHOLE ADVENTURE that you’re embarking on. So PLEASE please, make sure to spend quality time together.

That leads us into some ways you can be intentional on your wedding day and savor all of those moments that are truly the most important. It’s okay to have different priorities throughout your day as well, so if something suggested isn’t quite fitting your intentions for the day, that’s okay! Take what serves you and leave the rest.

7 Ways to be present on your wedding day

1. Have plenty of timeline wiggle room

This is my BIGGEST tip. Having a tight timeline of events is one of the biggest stressors on a wedding day because when one thing runs a little behind then it pushes everything else around. If you’re estimating that something will take 10 minutes, add an extra 5, or heck, double it! This ensures that you have that breathing room built into every part of your day to mitigate things running long and shifting around. Usually, the first thing that suffers on wedding days when the timeline gets shuffles is the bride & groom photos. More often than not couples choose to shorten this portion of the day rather than forgo an event during the reception. You know what taking time out of bride and groom photos does? If you guessed it means less time of just the two of you together, you guessed write!

2. Don’t be afraid to show emotions

It’s. Okay. To. Cry. Time and time again I have couples try to make it a goal to not cry or not show all the emotions they might be feeling in any given moment. But emotions are beautiful, loving someone so much that it moves you to tears is BEAUTIFUL. Screw the makeup, screw what people think, screw being worried about how you look when you cry. LET IT OUTTTT. The moments that bring you to feel all the feels are what it’s all about. If you’re concerned about your makeup, have touchup time scheduled into your timeline, or have your makeup artist hang around to keep things fresh. But don’t let something silly hold you back from feeling those big beautiful emotions. Okay?!

Also, if you’re not a person who typically cries or gets emotional when happy, that’s okay too! Show your emotions however feels natural and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

3. Get ready together

This is my favorite ‘non-traditional’ recommendation to give couples, especially when eloping or having an intimate wedding. I don’t know who made up the old saying that seeing each other before the wedding is ‘bad luck’ but I’d like to have some words with them!! I understand liking the idea of the surprise factor of a first look or seeing each other down the aisle. But just envision this:

You wake up in the morning and do your usual routine, you make a nice breakfast together, you talk about what you’re most excited about for the day, write each other love notes, then actually start getting ready and can help each other with the details, button his cuffs, zip her dress, help style his hair, help her with shoes, etc.

Doesn’t that sound sweet? I know it might not be for everyone, but if you’re worried about being anxious or jittery or are sad about not being together, then this is a wonderful option.

4. Have a first look

If you’re not getting ready together, then a First Look is a great option to ensure you have that quality time to sit in the moment before the rest of the day ensues. This basically means that you see each other before the ceremony and can hang out a bit. Again, this isn’t bad luck, I promise hah! You can read each other notes or private vows, calm the jitters if you’re feeling nervous, or just bounce around with excitement because YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED, AHHH! Depending on the timing of your First Look you can go off and do things and explore if you want, or keep it chill. There are no rules here.

5. Read private vows

This ties into a First Look more often than not, but it is absolutely possible to read private vows if you opt to not see each other before the ceremony and are not keen on anyone listening in. Taking 10-15 minutes before or after the ceremony to read private vows to each other will be such a special moment where your only focus is each other and your love.

6. Enjoy your meal together

Chances are whatever you’re choosing to eat on your wedding day is food that you like and/or are excited about. So by golly sit and enjoy it while it’s hot or cold, whatever it is hah! If you have plenty of time to sit and eat and enjoy the food, drinks, dessert, etc. take advantage of it. I know it’s so easy to get pulled in a hundred different directions and leave one another sitting alone, or leaving a half-eaten plate of food behind. You’ll likely be hungry by the time food rolls around so keep your energy up and eat while you can and then you won’t get hangry, haha!

7. Sneak out of the reception for a walk/sunset

If you want to have some quiet time during the reception, it’s okay to sneak out and do that! You can go for a walk, enjoy the sunset, get some more photos, paddle boat around the lake, throw snowballs, have a private slow dance, the sky is the limit!


Choose a specific scent/perfume/cologne to wear on your wedding day. Smells have the ability to trigger emotions and memories in the brain and will help bring back all those good feels from your wedding. Isn’t that awesome?! I unintentionally did this because I used the wedding as an excuse to splurge on a perfume I wanted haha!

Wear comfortable shoes. It sucks to be distracted by how bad your feet hurt during any given part of your wedding day. Eliminate that by choosing shoes that are comfortable to start with, and break them in beforehand.

Leave your phone in your bag, or hand it off to someone else. At one of my best friends wedding my husband took the grooms phone and took selfies with everyone at the wedding and documented all the things*He was sure to not get in my way of course haha!* It was so great to see their reactions when they got the phone back and saw all the footage.

My most memorable wedding moment

While we’re on the topic of being present, I want to share a the most memorable part of my wedding. The funny thing is it wasn’t even during the main part of the wedding day. I’s the moment I finally had a moment to breathe and just sit in quiet with my new husband. We exited the reception and headed out to find a place to chill for a bit while guests left, so that we could go back and help clean up. I remember we left the church and drove up the road until we saw a little dock on a lake.

We pulled in, walked out, kicked off our shoes, and sat with our feet in the water. My feet ached from my uncomfortable heels so I welcomed the cool water with open arms. Then we sat there, looked at our rings, realized we were finally married and talked for a good while. I don’t know how long we were there or remember what we specifically talked about, but it was so good. Oh, how I wish I had asked our photographer to follow us out after the exit. I’m sure those photos would be my absolute favorites.

With that being said, as your photographer, I want to be there for those little moments that may not seem ‘as important’. No matter the wedding size, those little bits end up being so memorable, so let’s make sure we get them covered. Contact me here if this sounds like it sounds up your alley!

how to be present during your wedding

Not sure where to start in your vow writing process? Here’s a blog post on How to Write the Best Wedding Vows.

bride laughing while groom kisses her cheek


7 Intentional Ways To Be Present During Your Wedding Day

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