A Lot of times when it comes to puzzling together your wedding day couples assume what should be done and when it should be done and maybe don’t ask or take their vendors advice for the best route to take for their wedding day. I understand it is your day and you want everything to go as close to a vision as you had so that’s why it is important to discuss your day with the vendors, explain to them what you would like to do and then they can either make suggestions on how to improve your idea or make sure it goes as close to your vision as possible. Ensuring you talk to your vendors and explain what you are hoping for versus just assuming it will happen is always best so you know you are happy with the end results.
I always have couples asking me if they should do a first look on their wedding day. If you are unsure what a first look is it's when a bride and groom see each other before the ceremony. You get to meet in a private location and have an intimate moment with your significant other It sometimes creates for more emotional images as a groom may not be embarrassed to shed a tear alone in front of his wife whereas at the church he may try to hold his tears in so he doesn’t get embarrassed. It is also a time when the bride and groom can calm their nerves too and enjoy the rest of the day. An easier way to answer the question to have a first look or not is do you want to stay as traditional as possible or not? It really is a personal preference in the end. One great thing about having the first look is with my clients first looks usually last around 15-20 minutes with just the bride and groom and we end up creating some amazing images as both the bride and groom are on cloud nine with seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day. Once we are done with just the bride and groom then usually wedding party and family will come along to do their photos. If you end up doing this route and taking all your pictures before the ceremony it in the end allows you to enjoy the rest of your day with your guests and socialize with everyone else who is important in your life. While you are doing this we are going around taking photos of you hanging out with old friends or doing details of the cocktail hour and every other detail that is important on your wedding day. Here is a quote from a previous bride on the importance of a first look …
Pinterest is such a great creative outlet and tool to have. It is a tool that can either inspire ideas or it’s also a way that inspires too much and you end up having a wedding that doesn’t represent you as a couple. Pinterest is a great tool to use as a starting point for your wedding. It helps send you in a direction you want your wedding to look but once you start pinning way too much you should stop and say “How can I make this me?” When it comes to a client giving a photographer images from Pinterest I am fine with it, as I look for inspiration on Pinterest as well. One thing I don’t recommend doing is giving a photographer a binder worth of images. If you have a full binder worth of images you interfere with the creative aspect of your photographer which in turn could potentially ruin your wedding. Let your vendors creative juices run wild and it will give the best results.
Picture lists are a huge part of ensuring that what you want documented gets documented. I send my clients two forms to fill out. The first form is a family picture list which is straight forward and lets me know which family members will be in what photos. When it comes time to the family photo portion of the wedding day I only allocate 30 minutes for these photos. If there are 10 photos on your list and we only get through 6 in 30 minutes I highly recommend we stop taking the family photos and finish them during a down time in dinner. Family photos are important no doubt about it, but so are the portraits of the bride and groom that will hang in their living room or in their bedroom for the rest of their marriage. It’s best to try and find a balance with how many family images are appropriate. Discussing this with your photographer will definitely help and they can make suggestions on the best paths to take.
The second picture list is called the significant photo list. This list is what helps make your wedding “yours” versus just another wedding that is photographed. This list includes details that have family ties for images. An examples of this is maybe the bride has her mom’s veil wrapped around her bouquet or maybe the groom is using the same tie that his dad wore on his wedding day. Knowing more about the photos that connect with your family and the story behind them will help me take a photograph in a way that represents the meaning behind it as well.
Communication is the #1 thing a couple should do with their vendors and it is also the #1 thing vendors should do with their client. I myself check in with my clients at least once or twice a month to ensure their wedding is on track. At the same time when I do this I may also receive a piece of information that may be related to photography even though the couple may not think it is.
Another benefit to making sure there is constant communication from both sides is if there is a scenario we are unsure of 3 months before the wedding we can fix it immediately and well before the wedding. If I didn’t check in with couples monthly and only talked to them during a meeting a week before their wedding, all these new ideas that they came up with over the last few months may not be doable from a photography aspect. To put it simple it’s easier to figure things out as you go with your wedding versus making a big list and worry about it a week before your wedding and be in panic mode.
In a perfect world the last month before your wedding should be set in stone and you should just be having your final meetings with your vendors to re-confirm everyone is on the same page and possibly do final payments with vendors.
A wedding planner is the backbone of any wedding that is flawlessly put together. A wedding planner is a person who knows anything and everything and is such a great person to have on your wedding day. They are the ones who think of things outside of the box and know every little random and potential obstacle on a wedding day and know how to fix it without interruptions. They are someone who stays in constant communication with your vendors ensuring everyone is on the same page with your wedding day. A great reason to also have a Wedding Planner is IF something happens on your wedding day a Bride and Groom would be the ones usually having to deal with it, but if you have a wedding planner they can most likely solve it quicker than the couple because the couple will end up having to stick on their schedule to ensure they get their photos taken as well. Unless your wedding budget doesn’t allow you to book certain vendors I highly recommend listening to your Wedding Planner with which vendors to book. They have worked with certain vendors time and time again for valid reasons and as the saying goes. “Why fix something if it isn’t broken?” The last thing I can suggest is don’t question what your Wedding Planner is doing and don’t have control over them. If you end up controlling what they are doing you will not get the best experience possible from them. Trust them and if you want something done in a certain way, explain to your wedding planner what you’d like and they will pick the best route with your idea in mind and ensure it works out.
Do your research.
Hire a photographer who has a good track record, has an established portfolio and shows real weddings on their website as opposed to creative shoots. It is also very important to ask the photographer to see a wedding in its entirety versus just seeing blog post of a wedding which may only have around 50 images, I also recommend looking to see if your photographer has positive reviews about them. Websites like wedding wire and google reviews are a great resource for this.
The way you act with the photographer in your initial meeting will determine how your wedding day will unfold with that photographer.
I always say the initial meeting is like going out on a first date. We always have the “set” questions we ask each other but then if we are comfortable with each other conversation will just start to unravel. If this happens to you and you get off topic with your wedding and talk about a movie that just came out or shows you have an interest in, that may be the person you want to hire.
How does your photographer dress for the initial consultation
The initial meeting is also like a job interview. Suit and tie may not be necessary but if a photographer shows up in running shoes and workout clothes as opposed to clothing you would wear to a nice restaurant that may help in seeing how the photographer appreciates their business or not.
Ask your photographer about other vendors
9 times out of 10 if you are hiring all your vendors in the city you are getting married in, chances are all the vendors know each other. This is also important because the vendors know how they work together resulting in a greater client experience.
Ask your photographer how they prep for the day
It sounds silly but ensuring your photographer has a good head on his or her shoulders is important. See if they answer by saying something along the lines of I have multiple forms (questionnaires) the bride and groom fill out which include a wedding day timeline, emergency contact numbers, or if they have multiple cameras for backup, an indoor location if it rains. If the photographer you are meeting with sounds like they have planned for every worse case scenario, rest assure it's one less thing to worry about on your wedding day
If the photographer uses a second photographer ask about the second shooter.
Whenever I meet with couples I tell them I can’t guarantee them exactly who the second shooter is but what I can promise is it is also someone who owns their own professional photography business and has a vast amount of knowledge about a wedding day.
Ask about the turnaround time for your photos
I always return final edited client photos within 2 months of their wedding day. If it is over a 6 month turn around I would ask the photographer why such a long process.
Ask about what is fully included the wedding collection
When you are initially emailing a photographer back and forth they most likely will provide you with a wedding collection for your wedding. If you are happy with the cost of the collection the next step is to meet with the photographer. Once you discuss your wedding day and everything ask the photographer to explain the wedding collection to you in full detail so you understand what you are receiving.
Ask them about the payment process and to see a contract before officially hiring them. Making sure you are comfortable with the legal side is also very important. Once you feel that everything makes you happy hire your wedding photographer and start planning the photos with them for your wedding day.
Hire a professional to ensure that all aspects of your day are /taken care of. Photographers with experience just know for a fact the bride walking down the aisle is an important shot and so is the dad giving away his daughter right after that. Someone with experience will know this and keep shooting where as someone with little experience may not continue shooting this scene from beginning to end.
Hire a photographer that makes sense for you as a couple. Your wedding photographer is going to be with you on your entire wedding day and ensuring you are comfortable with he or she will give the best results. Yes make sure you like the photographer's imagery but being comfortable with your photographer will show in the images and show you as a couple in the best way.
In 1 paragraph describe to your wedding photographer how you envision your day, then see if they have weddings that reflect what you are hoping for. Usually, couples will say I love candid shots and a ton of details. This is a very vague answer so say something along the lines of candid shots of my family are very important to me but the relationship my mom and I have is very strong and is something I want to show in images. Also at the same time ask the photographer if they have photographed at the venue you are getting married at. If they have photographed at your venue before this will help in your decision on who to hire.
Keep communication with your photographer. Keeping your photographer “in the loop” will ensure they know your wedding day inside and out. I email my clients at least 1 or 2 times a month just checking in with them to see if there is anything new I should know. Sometimes couples say nothing has changed or sometimes couples say they ended up adding something to their wedding day. The couple may think it's not important to photography but depending what it is it may be.
Make sure you are having your wedding day, not a Pinterest wedding. I had a couple recently in a consultation say to me what is one tip I would give them to ensure that their wedding is as unique as possible. I told them to avoid Pinterest as much as possible. If you use Pinterest you end up following a styled wedding trend that may not be you as a couple.
A detailed generalized timeline that everyone can relate to
Having a detailed timeline of your wedding day so all parties involved can look at is very important. Some previous brides of mine created a timeline with addresses, phone numbers, times when the florist was coming to set up, when the photographer would arrive, when the last shuttle was coming to pick up the wedding guests etc. Having a timeline with ALL times and ALL vendor involvement ensures everyone knows what everyone is doing.
First Aid Kit also known as a survival kit for wedding days
Having things such as bandaids , a sewing kit with thread thats white and also a thread color that matches the bridesmaids dresses and grooms attire is important. Other things to include are umbrellas, deodorant, hairspray, tylenol for headaches and snacks so you don’t get hungry.
If you are having your wedding photographs taken at a location that needs a permit make sure you have a hard copy on file so if you have to show it to an employee at the property you won't have any issues.
For the groom and groomsmen
I highly suggest bringing another dress shirt on the wedding day. If it is summer weather you may sweat a lot resulting in your dress shirt showing perspiration. I suggest freshening up and changing before the reception starts so you know you’re good for the rest of the night.
Hire a wedding planner for either day of planning or full planning.
A wedding planner knows the ins and outs of a wedding and knows exactly what to do if something goes wrong.
The morning of your wedding should be a time when you hang out with your bridesmaids or groomsmen and just relax and prep for the day. During this time I do my best to make sure I have very little involvement and let the morning unfold naturally. I don’t want to add any unnecessary stress to the bride if I don’t have to. Here are 5 ways to ensure the morning of your wedding runs as smoothly as possible.
Try and de clutter certain things in your house so there is less background distractions in photos. I’m not suggesting renovate your house and repaint the walls but if there are small items like blankets, TV remotes on the coffee table or slippers on the ground hide all these things. The easiest way to think of this scenario is to pretend you are selling your house and you want to have it ready for an open house
Wherever we do the images of the bride getting into her dress make sure there is as much natural light as possible. If this is not an option a photographer should have proper lighting gear to help produce light in a scene.
Have bridesmaids or groomsmen keep all their extra clothing, bags, or purses in a room where we would not be taking photos. This will avoid items being all over the house and reduce the background distractions in images.
If you are setting up a breakfast table with food and snacks keep this set up in the kitchen away from where images may be taken.
Try and have as few people there in the morning as possible. The less people there in the morning the less street you will have. I have seen it sometimes in the morning at a bride's prep location where everyone wants to help and has suggestions (which is great) but it sometimes becomes overwhelming and stressful more than anything.
Come the wedding day there are so many moving parts and the more ins and outs your wedding photographer knows about the day the better it is for everyone.
Is there any rules the photographer should follow during the ceremony.
Whether you are getting married in a church or in a vineyard. You should always ask the priest or the officiant their rules for the photographer. Can the photographer move around during the ceremony ? How close can they come to the front ? Is flash allowed inside of the church. All these things I ask the officiant before the ceremony starts but asking in advance is also wise because if there is something extreme the photographer has to figure out they have time to plan for any potential conflict possible.
Is there any quirks with the venue.
Are you getting married in a tent or inside a hall ? Depending where you are getting married photographers have gear that works better in certain environments. If you are having a tent wedding with a clear tent versus a white tent determines the type of flash a photographer may use. Light reacts differently when it moves around a room. If it is a bright room with walls and ceilings that are white photographers will have no difficulty producing great quality images. If it is a room that is like a barn with wood everywhere a photographer needs to know these things so they can bring the appropriate gear to ensure the best images possible.
Is your ceremony an unplugged ceremony
Will you allow guests to take photos or just enjoy the ceremony without any electronic devices. Sometimes when a bride walks down the aisle guests tend to move into the aisle which can result in guests appearing in images with their cellphones. I always plan for this and take pictures in a way so we don’t see this but a photographer always appreciates what they may be up against come the ceremony.
Is there enough time set aside for family photos and formal photos.
In a perfect world family photos should be around 30 minutes in length and formal photos should be approximately 1 hours or longer. In that hour is 20-30 minutes of wedding party photos and 20-30 minutes of bride and groom photos. This allows the photographer to get the most out of the location you are having your pictures taken in. Also keep in mind if you are taking pictures at 2 different locations there is driving time to be considered.
Is there a time before the reception starts where the photographer can take detail shots of the hall and other parts of the venue without guests being there ?
If you are hiring two photographers for your wedding day one of the photographers will take detail pictures of the hall before guests arrive to ensure you get the images with out purses or suit jackets being in the pictures.
Having a perfect backdrop for your photos is such an important thing on your wedding day. The photo location can be where you were proposed to or just a place you as a couple enjoy visiting. Here are some things to consider when picking a photo location :
Make sure you have permission to be on the grounds
Depending on the location you may need to pay for a permit or call and talk to a supervisor and just have verbal permission
Determine if the location provides a variety or backdrops for photos. If it doesn’t thats okay but ensure you talk to your photographer as they may be able to make a suggestion for you
Is the location a reasonable driving distance from your reception venue ? I always tell couples anything over 20 minutes away is not recommended because you end up spending around 30-40 minutes of driving around versus using that time for photos
If you are getting married on a holiday/long weekend your photo location may be very busy with tourists or have an event which will draw a crowd. Check your photo locations website for details
Find a backdrop that is YOU and not in trend. Trends change but something you enjoy will be special and significant.
Sometimes you have a ton of time for photos and depending on the amount of time we have have some fun with it and go do something fun. Sometimes couples go for ice cream if it’s a hot summer day.
Your wedding day can be a very stressful day and having a wedding timeline that is laid out with advice from your the appropriate vendors can end up turning into the most enjoyable day due to their experience. Here are some tips to help have the most enjoyable wedding day possible.
Start building your timeline by using your ceremony time as the starting point. Once this time is set in stone your whole day revolves around this time.
Consider travel time between locations. If you are having a wedding in a big city like New York versus out in the country, traffic may or may not be an issue.
Always have a backup indoor rain location and consider the time for that location. Your venue may be a good fit for this but if you feel it is not then a location like a winery or a hotel may be a good fit.
In a perfect world leave approximately 1 - 1.5 hours of time open for bridal photos.
Here is an example of how your wedding day may look:
9am Start with prep photos at Bride and Groom location
11am - Bride to be in dress to ensure we have ample time to take morning prep photos
1pm - Ceremony (may be 30 minutes or a 1 hour ceremony)
2pm - Family photos immediately after your ceremony
230-4pm - Wedding photos with bridal party
5pm - 6pm - Cocktail hour
630 - Guests start to sit down in their seats for dinner
7pm - Formal Introductions (Speeches, Dancing, Dinner)
9pm - Dessert is served approximately around this time
915pm - DJ opens up the dance floor and let the party begin !
10pm - Garter and bouquet toss
When it comes to the timeline during your reception I highly recommend that your DJ or a friend or family member with MC experience be put in this roll. They will make sure your evening runs on an exact timeline and the night will not be dragged out longer than it should be.