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Tips from Couples who have Planned a Wedding by Durango Photographers

My husband and I are Durango CO Photographers and we love to photograph weddings. Every couple is different and special. They are ALL fun!

I decided to ask some of them for tips that they could share with other couples who are currently planning their own wedding. I got a few great responses and I’ll throw in a few of my own.

This tip comes from Autumn and Tim. They were married at Ridgwood Event Center and had around 80 guests. We spent 6 hrs with them at the wedding and reception doing everything from the getting ready photos to the dancing.

They have since had a baby and I get to follow their lives on facebook:) Autumn is a kindergarten teacher and Tim is the manager at a Golf Course. They live in Grand Junction, but love the Durango area so came here to get married:

“My advice to couples going through the wedding planning process it to book everything as early as they can, that way they get exactly what they want. I would also say that they should just go for the things they really want, you only get married once and if you want a horse and carriage make it happen. Also, enjoy the day. They should give themselves plenty of time to get ready, plenty of time to take pictures and plenty of time to party.”

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Autumn and Tim kissing by a lake at Ridgwood Event Center

This tip comes from Ryan and Kristen. They live in Gallup NM, but have relatives who live right on the river near Durango, so they had their wedding ceremony there. We then moved on to El Morro Tavern for their reception. The tavern closed to everybody except the guests.

Kristen is an elementary school principal, and Ryan is a school consultant. Kristen has an adult son from a previous marriage and he was their wedding ceremony officiant. It was an intimate wedding with around 50 guests and we spent 3 hrs with them. They found us by googling Durango Photographers and other vendors the same way. They researched the websites and then did phone interviews. We were honored and delighted to be chosen.

“Just have fun and let other people take care of as much of the planning that they are able to do” (less stress on the couple – haha).

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Groom carrying the Bride

My own tips:

  • I know how hard it is to select all the vendors for your wedding. If you work with us, I am very happy to supply you with recommendations. We’ve been photographing weddings for 11 yrs now (7 in Durango), and we know all the best vendors who do great work. I have many of them listed (with links to their websites) on my website here.
  • If you’re having an outdoor wedding and reception, make sure the venue has a big tent. If they don’t, rent one – we all know the weather in Durango is volatile.
  • If you don’t hire a wedding planner, I will work with the DJ and any other vendors and put together a time line for your day so everything runs as smoothly as possible.
  • Most weddings are held outdoors here in Durango, so even though many ladies love those high heeled shoes, just know that you are probably going to sink into the grass and wobble on the gravel paths. You could bring along a pair of flats to wear while you’re walking and then change back into the high heels.
  • Brides – wear a button down or zipped shirt when getting your hair and makeup done, and go to the bathroom before you put on your dress. Also, have the hair and makeup person come an hour earlier than you think you will need them – it always takes longer than you think.
Wedding Ceremony at golf course, photographers in durango co, durango photography, durango co photographers

Wedding Ceremony at Golf Course

Okay, that’s it for now. I hope these tips help you out and let me know if you have any questions.

Long Live Love

Thanks, Karen

Karen Skelly Photography

Durango Photographers






How Photographers in Durango CO work with couples planning a wedding – 4

This is Part 4 of us explaining how we work with couples planning a wedding and during their wedding day. If you missed the other parts, here they are:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

This will cover how we photograph the reception and the normal order of events. If the couple has hired a DJ or a band, we like to coordinate the timeline with them so we are all on the same page. We consider the reception to start as soon as we are done with the couples photos and they are announced into the reception area.

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Bride and Groom entering reception hall

Usually after the bride and groom enter the reception hall, they will be surrounded by well wishers and given hugs and kisses by everyone. We’ll take a few photos of that happening, but not too many. If we have been hired to only attend a small portion of the reception, we will get the DJ to work with us to get photos of the cake cutting (even if it’s fake), the first dance, and the bouquet/garter toss.  We prefer to be there for most of the reception so we can photograph them as they happen logistically, but some couples budgets don’t allow for that.

If we are there for most of the reception, dinner will usually take place shortly after the couple arrive. They usually have arranged to feed us poor starving photographers, so that’s very much appreciated. After dinner, there are generally toasts by parents, maid of honor, and best man. We ask the couple to stand near the toaster so we can get all of their reactions, toasts, hugs, etc.

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Bride’s dad toasting (and roasting) the couple at the reception

During the dinner, we will take photos of the guests at their tables so the couple has the memories and a record of who attended their wedding. If there are 100 or more guests, we have prepared business cards with instructions on how the guests can view the photos once they’re ready and on our website. We pass these out while we’re taking their photos. We also take photos of the food, signs, the DJ, the flowers, and any other items the couple would want to remember. We also take the bride and groom’s wedding rings and photograph them in various places. As we always say, the food and the flowers will be gone after the wedding, but the photographs last forever!

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Wedding rings in bouquet

After dinner and the toasts, the cake cutting is usually next so people can enjoy their dessert during the first dances. Since the couple has usually never been married before, I generally give them some basic instructions on how to hold the knife and how to cut a small piece to feed each other. Every once in a while, they will smash it into each other’s faces, and yes, it is fun!

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Bride smashing cake into groom’s face

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Bride and groom cutting cake with no smashing into faces

Next we move on to the First Dances. The bride and groom are first up, then the Bride and her dad, then the Groom and his mom. After these three dances are completed, everybody gets on the dance floor for some fun (and to wear off the calories from the dinner and cake – haha). We also get many photos of everybody dancing later in the evening.

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The First Dance

The last things that usually take place are the bouquet toss and the garter toss. The bride usually has a spare smaller bouquet that she uses for the toss. After that the groom needs to remove the garter from the bride’s lovely leg. Many times we’ll tell the groom he has to crawl to the bride and without using his hands, remove that garter.

These are so much fun with lots of single ladies and men trying to catch the prize, although I have seen some people in the groups actively trying to AVOID catching the prize. For these shots, since it’s somewhat dark by then, I have a flash on my camera either with a bulb softener or bouncing off the ceiling to light the bride and Ken holds another flash with an umbrella to light the ladies. Same thing for the groom and his guys. After the bouquet and garter have been tossed, I get a photo of the winners with the bride and groom.

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Bride throwing the wedding bouquet

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Broom searching for the garter

When the sun is getting ready to set, or if it’s already dusk, we’ll take the couple out for a few more photos.

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Wedding Reflections

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Bride and Groom with moon

These 4 posts are based on a typical 6-8 hr wedding. There are many variations and differences in everybody’s wedding day. I hope these were informational and would love to hear your opinions.

Long Live Love!

Karen Skelly Photography

Photographers in Durango CO




How Photographers in Durango CO work with couples on their Wedding Day – 3

I’ve been writing about how my husband and I, who are photographers in Durango CO, work with and photograph couples who are planning their wedding. This is Part 3. If you missed Part 1, you can see it here. If you missed Part 2, you can see that here.

Part 3 is going to cover how we photograph the families, wedding party, and the couple. These portrait sessions are probably some of the most important photos for the bride and groom because they will have all of their loved ones and friends, who they sometimes don’t see very often. I love to capture everybody, especially grand parents who will pass away one day and then the couple has these memories of them.

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65 People and a Dog

Normally, the portraits are taken right after the ceremony and before the reception. I ask the bride to name a person who can corral everybody to make sure we don’t miss someone. Since we don’t know all of the family and friends, the person who gets everyone together needs to be a close family member or friend who knows everyone. As soon as we get to the wedding venue, Ken and I look around and find a spot that will be beautiful for these portraits, so we already have that set up so we don’t waste time having to look around after the ceremony.

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Bride with mom and dad

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Bride with her grandpa

Once we have everyone together, we get everybody situated into a spot so we can see everyone’s face. Tall people in the back, medium height people in front of them, and younger people and kids on the ground. I show the people on the ground how to pose their legs, then I show the people standing how to pose their legs as well. There really is a way to pose legs so that people look their best (read, thinner). Starting with the feet and legs automatically adjusts people’s posture.

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Wedding Family and Friends

Once we have the big group picture, we start removing people so that the couple starts getting their closest relatives for a closer up shot. We move people in and out so that we get all of the bride’s family, all of the groom’s family, and special family members. Then we move onto the wedding party portraits. We’ll do the entire group with a few different poses, including fun things like wearing sun glasses, walking towards me with fist pumps or flowers in the air, or drinking beer/wine/whiskey. I’ll do anything the group wants to do. Then we take separate photos of the bride with each of her girls and the groom with each of his guys.

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Groom and Groomsmen having a beer

We then send everybody, except the bride and groom, off to the reception. We’ll take the couple to a few different spots around the venue to capture their love and happiness – they are newly married after all. After we’re done, Ken and I get ahead of the bride and groom so we can capture them coming into the reception area (the DJ and I have coordinated this). We’ll also take the couple out later on for some sunset photos if that’s possible. If there’s no sunset, we still get some photos later when the light is softer right before sunset.

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Bride and Groom at sunset

Next post will cover the reception. Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts.

Long Live Love,

Karen Skelly Photography

Photographers in Durango CO




How Photographers in Durango CO Work With Couples Planning a Wedding – 2

This is Part 2 of my post about how my husband and I work with couples to photograph their weddings in Durango CO. You can view Part 1 here .

One of the things I missed in Part 1 concerns engagement sessions. As Photographers in Durango CO we love to do engagement sessions because then we are able to get to know our clients so much better and they get to know us as well. We have lots of fun and they have another special day to remember. Many of our clients have us put together a guest signing album using their engagement images. We have hard paged albums where we put the engagement photo on one side of the page and leave the other side blank for guests to sign at their wedding reception. Of course, if you live out of state or are eloping, an engagement session probably won’t work for you.

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What is on my nose?

Now to continue where I left off in the last post. If the girls are getting their hair and makeup done, I try to keep everything on schedule by letting them know how much time they have left because it’s so easy to lose track of time and get behind. Sometimes we do a First Look with the bride and groom, which I find to be super special because we’ll have the bride walk up behind the groom and maybe put her hands over his eyes or tap him on the shoulder. He then turns around and gets to see his soon to be wife in all her beauty. After we take some photographs, which adds more to the couple’s collection, we let them be alone for a few minutes. This definitely does not take away from the way the groom reacts when he sees his bride coming down the aisle. If the bride and groom don’t want to do a First Look, sometimes we’ll do it with the bride and her dad.

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Bride and Groom First Look

Sometimes we also do some of the family or wedding party portraits before the ceremony, depending on how much time we have and the time of the day. If the sun is high in the sky, we need to find a shady spot to put everybody in so they don’t have raccoon eyes and they’re not squinting. Both of those are not acceptable. During the family/wedding party/couple’s photos, my husband holds our umbrella with a flash so we can light everybody’s faces so they all look great. Ken, my husband, calls himself my lighting technician:)

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Ken holding the umbrella with flash during a family portrait session

During the ceremony, both Ken and I take photographs of everything going on. We love to capture all of the smiles, the tears, the emotions, and any other moments that happen. Some couples have a special thing such as a sand ceremony, an exchange of roses, or something else special to them. This is one of the things we ask about in our Wedding Information form so that we’re prepared when it happens. We make sure to capture the vows, the ring exchanges, and the first kiss. Sometimes we have to yell out “slow down the kiss” so we can capture the moment – haha. Then as the couple is walking back down the aisle, I have them stop at the end of the chairs and do another kiss. This usually gets an applause from their guests.

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Wedding Ceremony at Dalton Ranch

Stay tuned for Part 3 where I’ll talk about the portraits of the family, wedding party, and the couple.

Long Live Love

Karen Skelly Photography

Photographers in Durango CO


Get in touch for more information about having us photograph your wedding or family portraits



How Photographers in Durango CO work with couples planning a wedding -1

You’ve just become engaged? So Happy For You – Congratulations!

This is part one of how we work with and photograph couples who are planning a wedding.

We are photographers in Durango CO and have photographed lots of weddings and spoken to lots of couples, and we realize that planning a wedding is a daunting task. Of course, if you’re planning a small wedding or an elopement, it’s much easier, but a large wedding with all your family and friends can cause some couples to throw their hands up in the air and say “Help Me”. We also realize that most couples have never done this before, so we love to help out any way we can.

You can hire a wedding planner or even a “day of” wedding planner and a lot of that WILL be taken care of for you. If you’re not hiring one of those, we will help out as much as you need by sending you a list of our recommended vendors and also helping steer the day of the wedding in the right direction so that nothing is missed. Many times we work with the DJ, who also has a vested interest in keeping the day on track.

When we first meet up with a couple or chat on the phone, we find out where they’re getting married and the time of the ceremony. I realize many couples want to get married early in the day so they can have their reception and everybody can enjoy themselves. I totally get that, but having your ceremony outdoors (most weddings in Durango CO are outdoors) at high noon makes the lighting extremely difficult. If you’re having an outdoor wedding and you can move the ceremony time, it will make the photographs much better – the time depends on the month you’re getting married. We do use an off camera flash with an umbrella during the family and couple’s photos to offset the sun, so it’s not impossible.

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This was a wedding photographed outdoors in bright sun.

If you decide you would like to work with us, we have a Wedding Photography Agreement and a Wedding Information Form to be filled out. I have these on line so it makes it easy for couples to fill these forms out. Usually one half of the investment amount is paid at the time of signing and the other half is paid two weeks before the wedding. I do have payment plans if you’re unable to make just two payments. We are really easy to work with.

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Groom carries bride off over his shoulder – Fun couples are the best!

If the wedding is at a venue where we haven’t been before, we will arrive a little early to scope out good locations for the family/wedding party/couples portraits. If we’re doing “getting ready” photos, we’ll also find a nice spot to photograph the dress, shoes, bouquet, jewelry, and other items that the bride will want to remember. Then we will photograph her and her girls getting their hair and makeup done. If the groom is getting ready at the same location, I’ll go back and forth between them so I capture all those moments that they won’t have seen of each other. If the client is getting a Wedding Album, we like to tell the story of their day from beginning to end.

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Wedding at Purgatory Resort

Be on the lookout for Part 2 coming soon.

Long Live Love

Karen Skelly Photography

Durango CO Photographers


We are always here to help. Let us know if you are getting married and would like more information.



Tips From Couples Planning a Destination Wedding by Durango Photographers

Destination weddings to Durango CO are a big part of my business (as well as other photographers in town).  Most of us also do a lot of elopements here, but those aren’t included in this article. This is more about couples who have arranged weddings with guests and wedding parties.  I’ll talk about elopements that couples have arranged in Durango in another post. These are the tips from brides and grooms in their own words:

Lizzy and Richard Moore – They had just recently moved to Durango when they called us about photographing their upcoming wedding. We were extremely delighted that they chose us and have since become friends – they actually moved to a house last spring that is right up the road from us.  Their wedding was held at Antlers on the Creek Bed and Breakfast in Durango.  Susan is the owner and proprietor and does a fabulous job of taking care of her guests.  It was a small wedding with around 25 guests, with a maid of honor and a best man.

Lizzy’s tips are to delegate, delegate, delegate (at least as much as you’re comfortable with), so you can focus on enjoying the experience. The day of, keep it low key with the only priority being getting ready and saying “I Do”.  Don’t try to do too much.  Eat!  Don’t forget to eat breakfast and make time at the reception to eat.  It will help with nerves and absorb alcohol.  I (Karen) would add that you should also drink water all day long.

Have a plan for the day after:  If you need to return rentals or drop off the marriage license, make sure those things are planned for.  Let things roll off your back. If someone cancels at the last minute, or family is being family, don’t get caught up in the drama that will take away from having a perfect day.

Lizzy’s dress came from Occasions Bridal in Durango (I love Donna, the owner – she has the most amazingly beautiful dresses), and her officiant was Chessa Gill.

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Bride and Groom arm in arm walking away


Maggie and Nick Kusmit –  They came to Colorado from Georgia where they were living at the time.  Nick was in the military and stationed in South Carolina, just across the border from Georgia. He wore his gorgeous military blues for the wedding.

Maggie says that arranging a destination wedding has its challenges.  Finding a local caterer and baker who can understand your vision took some work, and then there are the climate differences (they were married on New Years Eve, so it was cold and they weren’t used to that). But, with patience and perseverance, it can be the most wonderful outcome and truly amazing day. Photographers can be hard as well. It took me 3-4 calls to other photographers in Durango before I found Karen Skelly Photography.

Near the end of their wedding, we went outside with their bottle of champagne.  I had Nick shake the bottle just a little, and when he opened it, champagne spray went everywhere. I just love that shot.

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Groom pops champagne and spray goes everywhere 



Lisa and Jon Peterson – They came from California to get married at Silverpick Lodge in Durango CO.  Lisa is a special needs teacher, so it’s a given that the has lots of patience. Jon works in IT and is an army reservist. They’re both funny and fun to be around.

They had around 100 guests at their wedding, as well as 3 bridesmaids, 3 groomsmen, 3 flower girls, and 3 ring bearers (including their dog, Siren). I designed a 10×10 hard paged wedding album for them that they absolutely love and will cherish forever, and pass down to their children and grand children. Since the wedding, they’ve had a baby and adopted another fur baby.

Lisa’s tip is to stay on top of the wedding day timeline (so all of the vendors are in sync), and keep open lines of communications. It helps to take suggestions from vendors you are working with to find other vendors you need for the wedding. Take trips to visit the location, twice if you can. Keep an open mind and try not to get worried about small stuff.

Her flowers were designed by Cindy at Wildwoods Fine Flowers, the DJ was Steve from Mr Soul Entertainment, and the cake was made by Jocelyn at Skillfully Decadent.

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Bride and Groom dancing in the dark

Christine and Rosie – They came from Texas and knew they wanted to get married and share their love with family and friends in Durango CO. After searching for wedding venues, they found Silverpick Lodge in Durango CO.  Chris at Silverpick Lodge is a friend and colleague, so we trust and refer each other to clients.  That’s how Christine and Rosie found Karen Skelly Photography. Both Chris and I helped them find other vendors like Steve at Mr Soul Entertainment for their DJ, Cindy at Wildwoods Fine Flowers, and Luda who is a cake artist.

Christine said she had been looking for a photographer in Durango and after chatting with me, she knew they were in good hands.  Her tip is to talk to people and you’ll find what you’re looking for.  Also, go with the flow because if you worry about every little thing, you’ll miss your perfect day.

There was a blizzard the morning of their wedding day, so the ceremony was moved in doors – you never know what might happen around here.

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Newly married Christine and Rosie

I hope these tips and ideas help other couples who are planning a wedding here in Durango. If you need help or other information, please let me know.


Thanks, Karen

Karen Skelly Photography









Wedding Time Line – Durango Photographers

Raise your hand if you have recently become engaged and are sooo excited to start planning your wedding.  Do you know where to start?  No?  Well, here you go – I have the perfect Wedding Time Line to help you get started and keep that planning proceeding at a no stress pace.

My hubby and I have photographed so many weddings that we can also help out with your planning and recommending other vendors who are super good at their specialties.  We know that this is probably your first time planning a wedding and it can seem really daunting.  Give us a shout and we are there for you.

I know this is a little hard to read, but you can hold the Ctrl button on your computer and zoom in using the scroll on your mouse.  Or, you can save it to your computer and open it in another picture viewer.  Let me know if you have any problems.

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Luv, Karen

Durango Photographers


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