H E L L O !
What an exciting time for you! I’m so glad you chose me to capture your love story. Whether you are just starting out or have a few things checked off, I’m sure your to-do list is long and still growing. You may be walking a fine line between feeling overjoyed and overwhelmed. My goal is to make the photography part of the process as simple for you as possible. You deserve amazing photos, as well as an amazing experience and that is just what you will get! I’ll be available along the way to answer absolutely any questions you have, even those that are seemingly unrelated to photography. After all, I’ve been to a few weddings in my day. If I don’t know the answer then I’ll make one up…totally kidding!
My mom would be disappointed if I didn’t include a recommendation to hire an event planner or day-of coordinator. Since we didn’t hire a coordinator, most of the day-of stress fell on her. Giving up control may feel weird, but will help you focus on preparing for and enjoying the day. There are so many moving parts to a wedding day! Having a point of contact to keep everyone on track is really beneficial. (If you are not hiring a planner or day of coordinator, consider asking a family member or friend to help out on the day of.)
In the Details
Upon arriving, I’ll check in and say hi to everyone. After that, I’ll get right to photographing your dress and other special items. This is a good warm up time for me. I usually spend 45 minutes to an hour photographing the details, depending on what you have. It’s extremely helpful if everything is gathered in one place before I arrive, including both wedding bands (don’t give them to the best man just yet!).
If you want your detail shots taken to the next level, consider requesting a few single stems from your florist. You may also provide a pretty tray that reflects the style of your wedding. Gorgeous ring boxes can take your photos up a notch, or two, as well (www.TheMrsBox.com).
Bridal Prep Location
You will be spending quite a bit of time in the “getting ready” stage of your day. The location should be large enough to comfortably hold you, your favorite ladies, mothers, grandmothers, your flower girl and her mom, etc. There will no doubt be lots of personal items laying around, but keeping them contained to one end of the room is helpful. The area around the largest window should be kept clear. If there is a separate room we can go to when it’s time to get you dressed, that’s a plus. Either way, we want to keep the background as simple and uncluttered as possible. Remember, rooms with windows that let in lots of natural light are preferable.
At some point, if your groom is getting ready nearby, I’ll spend time with him and his guys. They should have pants and shirts on before I arrive and then I’ll capture them tying ties, putting jackets on, etc. If possible, mom and dad should be present since this is an opportunity to get them interacting naturally (mom pinning on boutonniere, dad adjusting tie).
Hair & Makeup
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS schedule more time than you think you’ll need for you and your ladies to get ready. If a wedding is running behind, it is almost always because hair &/or makeup took longer than expected. Besides, if you finish early, that’s time to relax and enjoy your company. Once I finish with the detail shots, I'll come in to get your makeup being applied. If you and your ladies are wearing coordinating robes (search “Modern Kimono” on Etsy) or tops, we’ll make sure to get a photo of you all together before you get dressed.
Changing Into Your Dress
If your maids aren't helping you then you may choose to do a reveal with them. Whoever you want present to help you dress should be completely ready at this time. After your dress is up and covering you (be sure to use the restroom first!) I'll start taking photos. Once your dress is fastened, your jewelry, garter, etc. come next. This is a perfect time for me to grab natural moments of you and your closest ladies (especially your mom) so take your time and let it sink in that you’re GETTING MARRIED!
Dad's First Look
This is one of my absolute favorite parts! While this day is very much about you and your guy, it’s also a big day for your parents. Carving out a little time for the first man you loved will be memorable and sweet. If you plan to give him a gift, this is the perfect private moment. I’ll scope out a reveal location ahead of time based on lighting and make sure you approve. If you’d like your mom to join in at the end, let her know!
To Look or Not to Look?
The decision to do a first look or not can be a difficult one. While it would be nice to have all the photos done before the ceremony, is it better to share that moment with family and friends? Will a first look feel staged and disingenuous? Will it actually take some pressure off and be a sweeter moment if it is private?
These are all things to consider. If you do see each other before it is definitely nice to have plenty of time for bridal party and family photos, without feeling rushed to get to the reception. From the ceremony on you can really relax and enjoy celebrating the day. On the other hand, you or your fiancé may feel that tradition is more important and want to reserve that first look for the walk down the aisle. In this case, you may choose to read letters together, pray and/or exchange gifts before. Either way, at the end of the day you’ll be married and that’s what is most important!
Generally, when couples don’t have strong feelings about not seeing each other, I recommend doing a first look. The first look does not have to be super staged. You can even do a long walk up to your groom rather than tapping his shoulder for him to turn around. We will talk about the different options in advance to figure out what is best for both of you. Time permitting, we will also incorporate bride & groom portraits sometime after the ceremony just before sunset while the light is gorgeous.
You’ll be hidden away about 45 minutes before your ceremony. During this time, I’ll photograph your ceremony details, reception details (if in the same location) and guests arriving. Use this time to touch up your makeup, giggle with your girls and reflect on the commitment you are about to make.
Ceremony lighting is important. Outdoor ceremonies should be scheduled two to three hours before sunset to avoid harsh light/shadows and squinty eyes. Soft, even light across the altar is preferable for indoor ceremonies. While your photos are definitely important, my approach is to disrupt your ceremony as little as possible. For this reason, I typically do not use flash during the ceremony. The reception is a different story. Rest assured, I have all the necessary lighting to handle the darkest spaces.
Make sure to have a few people check for spelling and grammatical errors before you place the order. Not every guest will need or take a program. Generally, one per family will cover it.
You may choose to forego programs altogether, which is totally acceptable. Or you may display one large "program" on a calligraphed board or chalkboard. Check out www.letterandknotco.com for all kinds of beautiful printed inspiration.
The moment you’ve been waiting for. It’s time to marry the man of your dreams! When you and your bridesmaids walk down the aisle, stand up straight with shoulders back and hold your bouquets at belly button level. Remind your ladies that while they don’t need to pause for photos, they should not rush down. Definitely SMILE! I’ve seen too many straight faced, some downright miserable looking, maids walk down the aisle!
Show your excitement, stop halfway and kiss, be you! Consider including a ceremony exit. It's a great alternative to a reception send off if you’ll be partying late, plus everyone will get to participate! It’s also a fun photo opportunity. Some options include ribbon/bell wands, flower petals or bubbles. You can get creative with it too with paper airplanes, sprinkles or colorful pom poms. There are so many more possibilities in the daylight!
Communication is key for smooth family portraits. You’ll communicate to me what family photos you'd like, including name and relation of each individual. I’ll organize the list in a way that makes sense and is efficient. Normally, I allow a half hour for family photos. Please let me know about any family members with mobility issues.
You’ll also need to communicate with your family members when they should arrive or that they should stick around after the ceremony. I recommend e-mailing everyone about a week before the wedding, reminding them at the rehearsal and having the officiant make an announcement after the ceremony (if applicable). You may even assign a member from each family to make sure everyone is present. Searching for family members can cause your reception arrival to be delayed.
Assuming you don’t have your heart set on an inside location, outdoor photos tend to be more relaxed, natural and much better lit. We can either work the family portraits in right before the ceremony or right after depending on availability, preference, lighting, etc.
During the portraits, you’ll hear me say over and over again to squeeze in. So that your dress doesn’t get stepped on: lightly pick up your dress so that those beside you can scoot their feet under, then drop your dress over their feet.
Remember that the people surrounding you are (some of) the most important in your life. You may not be together with all of them again in a while or ever. Group photos aren’t necessarily the highlight of the day, but they can and should be enjoyable. I’ll do my best to keep things moving along and keep everyone in a good mood.
Unless you are set on having an extravagant cake, consider ordering a small one for the cake cutting and sheet cakes for guests. Sheet cakes are much more economical and some bakeries will even pre-slice them for you. You can expect to pay $20 to $30 at a bakery or just $15 at Sam’s Club. If you want more of your guests to enjoy the cake, cut it before you open the dance floor and people start leaving. I recommend ordering enough cake for just 70% of your expected guests to avoid a lot of waste.
If you want to be a little different, you could have a small cutting cake accompanied by cupcakes (www.decadentdelightsky.com), donuts, macaroons, pies, cookies or a mix of different sweets. Don’t forget the milk!