What makes a great wedding pic? Our top tips, and some inspiration from 16 of the country's best events photographers.

Your wedding flowers won't last forever. Your tiered cake? Devoured by night's end. But your photos will live on for generations, so splurging on your wedding photographer (typically 15 percent of your total budget) is worth it.

So what makes a fabulous, lasting picture? How can you guarantee great shots? First, choose the right photographer. Seek word-of-mouth recommendations, meet candidates in person (or on Skype), and ask to see weddings that look like the one you're planning. Be sure he or she isn't shooting more than 30 weddings a year (hello, burnout!) and that he or she is truly jazzed about capturing the particular magic of someone's big day.

Also, it helps if you actually like the person. Engagement sessions are a smart way to figure that out. (Should things go awry, there's still time to change your mind before game day.) And if you fall in love with someone just out of your price range, negotiate! Book him or her for fewer hours or consider a date in low season (or maybe he or she had a cancellation and will give you the date on discount). On the day of, take portraits outside if possible (nothing like natural light, especially in the morning or before sunset) and point out the important players; your photographer will get them in the frame (and spend less time trying to include your brother's girlfriend of the month).

Oh, and P.S.: Do consider a toss, because confetti equals instant joy. (Birdseed works too!)

At left: "This couple was married in Sonoma, California. What started as a torrential downpour turned into a sunny wedding day! At the first sight of the sun, they ran outside and enjoyed a quite moment together, soaking in the beauty of their day — and their first moment as husband and wife."

— Jasmine Star, Jasmine Star Photography

Photo: Jasmine Star Photography

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