Tips for Planning a Wedding (from a wedding photographer's POV)

While most of us have been in a bridal party or have at least attended a wedding, having it be your turn to make a successful wedding day happen can be daunting, especially if you’re not going to hire a wedding planner. After 8 years I have seen many weddings of all shapes and sizes and most of the time, during a consultation with a bride and groom, I ask a lot of questions about what the couple has planned for the wedding day. Even though hiring me is one of the first things a couple does, and they might not have all of the answers to my questions, I ask them to give them food for thought and to offer suggestions based on what I’ve seen work. There is more to a successful wedding than having a list of bullet points covered. This is a list I have compiled of some (hopefully) helpful suggestions for the bride and groom who might be feeling like they need some direction.

getting ready:

Do consider where you’re going to get ready. Are those shots important to you? Do you want a beautiful shot of your dress before you’re in it? Do you want the pictures of you and your bridesmaids to be picturesque? I have found that this matters to some brides and not others. If this is important to you, consider the location you’re going to get ready at. A hotel, or a bridal room/space at your wedding location is likely going to have a better setting for taking lovely preparation shots than someone’s home for example, which offers a less expensive and more convenient space for getting ready. When I show up to where the bride is getting ready, I usually try to find a place to hang the dress and grab detail shots of shoes, jewelry, bridesmaids enjoying the time together, etc. When the bride is near being ready, I will take artistic pictures of her hair being done and applying last touches of makeup, maybe a reflection in a mirror or drinking champagne, and of course getting into her dress. Shots like this can be heavily affected by the setting.

Do consider if the groom and groomsmen getting ready are important shots to you. When the bride and groom are in locations far from one another, having a second shooter can make this very simple, rather than the photographer having to get to both places. When the locations are close together or in the same venue, I am usually able to cover both.

Do consider the amount of hours this^ will occupy of the photographer’s time. This is why I encourage couple’s to book the all day wedding package because I have seen a lot of stress take place in trying to accomplish a full day of wedding photography with a package that has limited hours. Bride’s will go back and forth on whether they want to live without getting ready shots or the reception photography being cut shorter and that’s not my recommended approach to documenting your day but I understand that budget is also important.

timing:

Do leave more of a time cushion than you think necessary. VERY few weddings start on time and there’s a million factors that can cause this. I’ve seen prep take longer than expected, flowers not arrive promptly, guests getting lost on their way, you name it. It’s far better to hang out because you’re early than to be so stressed about time that you don’t enjoy your day.

Do consider a first look if you know the space of time between your ceremony and reception will be very short or if you have a very large guest count and want portraits of everyone after the ceremony, it can be like herding cats to get everyone together and this can eat up a lot of time no matter how quickly I work. A first look can offer a very tender and emotional, more private moment and I promise the reactions make for amazing photos. And by the way, your groom will still be in awe as you walk down the aisle towards him. I understand that some brides are very traditional and don’t want their groom to see them until they make their entrance and that’s absolutely fine. This just offers another option if time could present an issue.

Speaking of time…this is one of my BIGGEST concerns with a wedding day and is greatly overlooked when planning the day…

Do consider the portraits of the bride and groom!!! So. Many. Times. The day gets rolling and the ceremony ends, family portraits get taken, bridal party photos get taken, and so much time has passed that there is pressure to get to the reception to not keep your guests waiting. What happens is you have a bunch of shots of everyone else, and few of the two people who matter most, the bride and groom! What’s the point of all of the effort to make the day happen if there’s not beautiful shots of the couple who the day is about? Based on my experience, here’s some advice for stream lining the other circumstances to allow for bride and groom portraits.

-keep family portraits short and sweet…all of the bride’s family in a group shot, all of the groom’s in a group shot, and a few combinations of immediate family like parents, siblings, grandparents and PLEASE ask everyone to stay close by if you want them in the photos. Guests sometimes wander off and the time it takes to get them back can eat up valuable photography time. I don’t mind a shot list, but consider a reasonable limit.

-Get some of the bridal party shots before the wedding. Bride with bridesmaids, groom with groomsmen so the bridal party group shots can happen efficiently.

-Have a cocktail hour. The best way to keep the reception guests from getting too antsy is for finger food and drinks to be served so the guests can mingle rather than people standing around for the entirety of the bride and groom portraits time.

bride and groom portraits location:

Do consider where you want the bride and groom shots. I cannot count how many times the bride and groom were ready for their portraits and there wasn’t any thought given to where they wanted them. They turn to me and say, “we will leave that up to you, you’re the professional, you know what’s best.” I am always more than happy to give my best advice but it isn’t my wedding, I am here for YOU, to make your vision happen. I would love to work with you on choosing a place for these portraits ahead of time. Two big factors to consider are the light at that time of day and if you need transportation to a nearby and more picturesque location. This is definitely something to choose before the day of!

reception:

Do consider reception lighting. Some photographers who have a more fashion look use a lot of off camera flash and strobes to light up a reception. My style is more intimate/moody/romantic and has a film aesthetic. Because of this artistic preference, I do not find that lots of off camera flash matches the aesthetic of my style. I do use flash and but my technique fits my style and that does not include an extensive lighting set up. If your reception is going to be very dim, think candle light, or the ceilings are very high, or the reception will be outdoors at night, be sure to communicate this to myself or your photographer so they can be properly prepared. Professional lighting rental is also an option. If you need more information and examples of this feel free to ask me, I’m happy to help!

second shooter:

Do consider a second shooter. The obvious reason is having more photos of your day and at different angles since your main photographer can only be in one place at a time. There is another, very important factor in having a second shooter and that is, if something unexpected happens to your photographer (God forbid) you are still guaranteed to have someone there who’s informed on your day and was already planning on being there. Fortunately I have not missed a wedding thus far, but I’ve been very close. The day before a full day wedding I got the 24 hour flu. The one that renders you useless to function. Thank God, Jesus and all of the heavenly angels that it was gone by the next day but it was a very close call. If for some unexpected emergency I was unable to make it to a wedding, I would do everything in my power to find a replacement but that is not a guarantee.

That is all for now but hopefully that gives some direction on common questions regarding planning your big day. If you have hired me, just know I’ve got you. I’m here for you every step of the way so please never hesitate to reach out!

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