you might not have considered —
I'm sure you've heard planning advice from your opinionated relatives, married friends, and nosey neighbors already, but here is some advice from your photographer. This information is compiled from various sources -- some advice from other seasoned wedding photographers and friends and some personal experience -- to boil it down to what I feel is most important.
The real value of this day lies in the irreplaceable gathering of friends and family, but the memories you'll cherish forever are in the photographs.
Basically, it comes down to this:
1. Your wedding day should be as thoroughly enjoyable and stress-free as possible. You've gathered the most important people in your lives, and this may be the only time they are all here, all alive, all celebrating together. I absolutely want you to have the time of your lives, and I want photography to enhance, not detract from your experience.
2. Good lighting is everything.
Getting Ready --
Getting ready can be such a beautiful time to get those genuine pre-wedding shots. But sometimes the energy is ruined by the aesthetic. A cluttered, messy, dark room takes away from the genuine moments happening and the beauty of the morning. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Clutter: I know there is a lot going on, but try to keep clutter hidden and to a minimum. Keep bags, suitcases, laundry, etc in a different room, or the closet. I often do a short sweep when I arrive to clean up the area anyways!
Light: Window light is my favorite light. If possible, get ready in a room with lots of window light, where we won’t need to use lamps or artificial light. Having an orange tungsten light mixed in with the window is not ideal for color. So I always prefer to turn all lights off and rely only on window light whenever possible!
Hair/Makeup: If you will have a h/mu artist, they will need as much light as possible. I suggest doing your h/mu next to the window, for them and for me!
Don’t forget about the groom! Sometimes the groom gets left with the dark tiny room. He is just as important, and his photos will look way better in a well lit room.
Typical hotel rooms often don’t provide the best light or setting for prep. If you can, I recommend looking into other options, like a well lit AirBnB, for your prep. There are tons of affordable cute ones out there!
If there is time, right after your dress is on and you’re ready to go, I will probably grab you for 4 minutes to take some photos of you alone, likely by the window. Its a few minutes of anticipation before you see each other, and I love the shots I get at that time.
First Look --
A first look shoot is when the bride and groom see each other for the first time in a more private setting before the walk down the aisle. It doesn’t have to be a big staged moment. It can be simple, genuine and intimate.
I always recommend doing a first look for three reasons:
1. It calms the nerves. There is nothing that relaxes nervous brides and grooms more than finally seeing each other and enjoying a few moments alone before the official events begin.
2. It gives you time to take it all in. You can share what you’re feeling, you can hug, you can actually say “wow you look incredible in that dress”– all things you can’t do when you’re at the front of the isle with everyone watching.
3. It makes the timeline easier to work with. If you can see each other before the ceremony, we can do all family portraits and bridal party photos before too. Your family can go enjoy the cocktail hour right after the ceremony, and we can get to couple portraits right away. Which means you miss less of your cocktail hour too!
If you’ve always dreamed of the walk down the aisle as the first glimpse of each other, then we’ll do it that way. It’s your day!.
Family Portraits --
The best time for family and bridal party portraits is before the ceremony. Everyone is ready to go and no one will miss any cocktail hour or reception time.
It’s possible to do them after the ceremony, but gathering everyone once they’ve gone to cocktail hour is always a difficult and time consuming task.
If we’re taking just a handful of shots (parents, immediate family, bridal party) then about 20 minutes is plenty of time. I recommend keeping the list short, because on your wedding day smiling at the camera posed with tons of different groups will get tiring!
We will work together on a family portrait list that I will have with me to make sure I check off every group you list.
Couples Portraits --
I recommend two portrait time slots for portraits of just you two together: right after the ceremony for 20 minutes, and at sunset for about 20 minutes.
Why after the ceremony? Because the pressure is off, and you’re ecstatic, giddy, in love, and ready to party. I’ve gotten some of the best, most genuine joyful moments at this time.
Why at sunset? Because its when we get the best light. Just before sunset we’ll get some great golden light. And right after the sun disappears, we’ll get some of the best moody light in which I love to shoot.
If your ceremony is later in the day, close to sunset, we will just merge these two into one, for about 30min total.
Ceremony Light --
Ceremonies in nature are my favorite: the setting, the light, and the freedom for me to shoot all around. For outdoor ceremonies, light and sun are super important factors in the photos. Spotty sun light and harsh uneven light are not ideal. So if you’re having your ceremony close to midday, try to always backlight yourselves. This means, try to set up the ceremony so that the sun is behind your officiant, so you two are backlit, evenly,
You could also plan your ceremony later in the day, so the light is nicer, closer to sunset. Just be sure to leave enough time for any delays, as well as couple portraits around sunset.
If you are unsure, feel free to ask me about your ceremony spot and I’d be happy to help!
An unplugged ceremony is when you ask your guests to refrain from taking any photos.
Asking your guests not to use cameras or cell phones allows all guests to really take in your ceremony, without fussing with cell phones and flashes.
If you don’t want to entirely unplug, I would at least recommend that guests take photos from their seat, without getting up into the aisles. If anyone is in the aisles during any part of the ceremony it will definitely affect the photos I am able to take
Reception Light --
As you know, capturing the mood of your event is very important to me. This is why I don’t use flash for anything other than party/dancefloor time. For a romantic mood, market lights and candles are great, and if you use enough, they provide great light for photos. Just try to stay away from using only candles, or super dim lighting, which will make focusing trickier for me. If you’re unsure about your setup, just ask me and I’ll help!
DJ Lights: While colored/flashy lights that your DJ provides might be fun for party time, they can destroy the romantic mood of your first dance and special dances. If you are having colorful lights, I ask that they be turned off for special dances. For party time, go crazy with them if you want!
I find it best to start with the sunset time on your wedding day and build the timeline from there.
I usually start covering the getting ready about 30 minutes before you’re done with hair and makeup. After that is generally a first look, which takes around 15 minutes. We can then do bridal party portraits and immediate family before the ceremony. This usually takes around an hour total, depending on group sizes.
I like to finish any pre-ceremony photographs around an hour before the ceremony. This adds cushion to the timeline in case of any morning delays, it also allows you to be out of sight while your guests are arriving and for you to have this moment with your close friends and family.
After the ceremony, we generally take the remaining family portraits. I prefer for you to go straight to your cocktail hour at this time and to grab you during dinner for quick portraits closer to sunset. For a typical 8 hour wedding day, I’m able to cover from getting ready through the first half hour or so of reception dance coverage.
I don’t usually recommend more than an hour of reception dance coverage, unless you have a special exit that you want documented.
Example 8 hour Day --
2:00 Begin Coverage
2:30 First look
3-4:00 FAMILY & BRIDAL PARTY Portraits
5:30-6:30 Cocktail Hour
Toasts, cake & DANCES
DANCE FLOOR OPEN
10:00 End Coverage
Receiving lines: They can be very time consuming, especially for a medium/large wedding guest list. They can also get very exhausting and they take away from the burst of excitement right after the ceremony. However, I do love the energy right after you walk down the aisle, and your wedding party or family walks out and greets you, hugs you, kisses you, etc. So having a few minutes there to laugh and love is great. I just recommend that it not become a 20-40 minute event. Of course, its up to you and I’ll work around your schedule!
Dinner: It is ideal for me to be served as soon as dinner begins. so that I can eat quickly while guests are eating and be done in time for any toasts or dances that might happen during or at the end of dinner. The easiest way to do this is for me to be considered a “guest” as opposed to a “vendor.” Some caterers insist on serving vendors at the end of the meal, so please make sure you speak to your caterer about this so I don’t miss anything! If you have a buffet, I’m happy to go through it and grab my own food too of course!
For more tips on wedding timelines, the blog A Practical Wedding has put together a helpful article that you can see HERE if you’re interested.