you might not have considered —
I'm sure you've heard planning advice from your opinionated relatives, married friends, and even your wedding planner 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 meaningful 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 together 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 be present all day long, to be there and live in the moments - I also want photography to enhance, not detract from your experience.
2. Good lighting is everything.
The rest of this page will explain why, and what to look for when you’re planning your wedding locations.
Getting Ready —
Here we are at the beginning of the day. You’re with your mom or dad, your friends, your future brothers and sisters in-law. You might be drinking champagne or if you’re more like me, bloody marys.
I’m over in the corner, trying to act casual while intently observing everyone, getting to know the people I’ll be photographing today. I’m looking for moments (as always) between you and these people you surround yourself with. Laughter, quiet moments, I watch you as you’re taking it all in. This sounds creepy, but I promise it makes for much better photos than some shots of your hairstylist dousing your fresh ‘do in a cloud of hairspray.
Especially true for getting ready time, lighting is everything. An uninteresting, cramped, 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 to a minimum. Keep bags, suitcases, laundry, etc in a different room, or the closet. That said, I aim to capture the day as it is — so I will not be cleaning up much! If you don’t mind having a few stray
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. I will probably turn all the lights off anyways and rely only on window light whenever possible!
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!
Find two pretty places to get ready! Sometimes the groom gets left with the dark tiny room. He is just as important, and his photos will look way better in nice light.
* One last idea I love — get ready together. No, you won’t have a traditional first look moment. But you will have some really special, meaningful, personal memories of the two of you. This is especially cool if you’re having a small wedding or elopement!
First Look —
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, this is when you guys get to 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. You've been waiting all morning for this, and getting to finally see each other and enjoy a few moments alone before the official events begin is super valuable.
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”– 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 you’ll have time to greet your guests and actually have fun at cocktail hour too!
If you’ve always dreamed of the walk down the aisle as the first glimpse of each other, that’s okay too! 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 also much easier to round up the troops before all the guests arrive!
If we’re taking just a handful of shots (parents, immediate family, bridal party) then about 20-30 minutes is plenty of time. I recommend keeping the list short — standing there holding your smile with group after group will get tiring, quick.
We’ll work together on a family portrait list that I will have with me to make sure we check everyone off! I do think that these are important, and usually the photos that I see printed on Christmas Cards as well.
Couples Portraits —
Slow down a little at sunset.
I recommend setting aside 20 minutes just before sunset to head outside for portraits. I’ll make sure we build this into your timeline, as it’s my favorite part of the day! Having a moment just to yourselves, you can step away from the hustle and let the meaning of this day sink in.
Ceremony Tips —
Ceremonies in nature are my favorite.
The backdrop, having ample light, and the freedom for me to move around and get interesting angles are all big perks of outdoor ceremonies. Light and sun are also a super important factor for 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 lit evenly. Alternately, full shade (under a big ol’ tree!) works great. And cloudy weather helps, too.
You could also switch up cocktail hour and the ceremony — have cocktail hour first, and plan your ceremony later for the day, so the light is nicer, closer to sunset. Just be sure to leave enough time before it gets dark, that way in case there are any delays we can still fit in a few portraits around sunset!
If you are unsure how to set things up, feel free to send me some pics of your ceremony spot and I’d be happy to help!
An unplugged ceremony is when you ask your guests to refrain from using their cameras or cell phones during the ceremony. This is a fantastic idea. Asking your guests to keep their devices stowed allows everybody to really take in your ceremony (with their eyes!), and lets you look out into the crowd and see the faces of the people you love, instead of the backs of their phones.
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.
That’s why you’ve hired me, after all!
DON’T BE THESE PEOPLE:
Meaningful > Traditional
Make this part count. I highly recommend you make your ceremony personal. If you aren’t too keen on reading your own vows in front of a crowd, there are a few ways to go about it.
Instead of inviting your whole wedding to the ceremony, have a small family-only ceremony. You’ll feel more comfortable being open and emotional, and your family will really appreciate being a meaningful part of this.
Write each other letters, instead of reading at the ceremony, read them during a private moment. During first look is a perfect time for this.
Choose words that you love — that hold meaning from your relationship. Books you’ve connected over, song lyrics that give you goosebumps, poems you’ve sent in text messages, are all good sources for ceremony words. Try not to google “wedding ceremony readings” and come up with your own.
All in all, things that mean something TO YOU and not to the wedding industry, are going to allow you to feel the feels and remember this years to come. This is the whole point of your wedding, after all, so make it count.
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, and why it’s important to make sure your reception space is lit well. For a romantic mood, overhead string lights and candles are great, and if you use enough, they provide wonderful light for photos. Just try to stay away from using only candles, or super dim lighting, which will make focusing trickier for me. Other things to avoid are super-white or fluorescent lighting, or uneven spotlights. If you’re unsure about your setup, just ask me and I’ll help!
Light Your Faces —
Think about where you are sitting during dinner and speeches, and where the light is coming from. It’s always ideal to have natural light on your faces (not your backs) so sitting sideways to a window or having natural light coming from the opposite wall is going to look nicer than sitting with your backs to a window or barn door. Again, happy to help with this!
Turn Down the Colors —
While the neon-colored and flashy lights that your DJ provides might be fun for party time, they can totally destroy the romantic mood of your first dance and special dances. Think, purple faces. If you really want colorful lights, I ask that they be turned off for special dances.
About Wall Distractions —
Get rid of those pesky TV’s! Having a slideshow playing is distracting — projector colors do not pick up well on a camera, and will look very odd in the background of your photos. Even blank TV screens will look like looming black rectangles, and add an element of every-day that dates your photos and takes away from the moments I’m trying to capture.
I usually arrive about 30 minutes before you’re done with hair and makeup. After that, we’ll usually move into the 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 these group photos 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’ll take any remaining family portraits, or large group shots if you want those. It’s always fun for you to go straight to your cocktail hour at this time, though!
About an hour before sunset, we’ll check in on the timeline and plan when I should grab you for a few quick portraits outside. This usually happens around 30 minutes before sunset.
As the night is drawing to a close, I don’t often recommend more than an hour of open dance coverage. If you have a special exit that you want documented, I’ll usually take a break and hang out until that time.
* An example summer wedding day could look something like this:
1:00 Begin PHOTOGRAPHY
GETTING READY CANDIDS
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 PHOTOGRAPHY
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.
A Few More Notes —
Receiving lines: Not a fan. They can be very time consuming, especially for a large wedding guest list. They can also get very exhausting and take away from the burst of excitement you’ll feel 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’s 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, perfect — I’ll just go through it after your bridal party.
Well, that’s all for now! As mentioned above, I am here to help with any of your planning conundrums, especially when it comes to placement, locations, and light.
I’m excited to tell your story!