A PHOTO GUIDE TO WEDDING PLANNING + WHAT TO EXPECT ON YOUR WEDDING DAY
You are one step closer to your wedding day AKA the best day ever!
I am so honored to be by your side on this special day and to tell your love story. I’ve put together this guide to inform you ahead of time and guide you in the decision making process to help optimize your wedding for photography. Educating my couples on the best practices for timing, setting, and light is crucial in order for me to create amazing wedding day images.
So grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and let’s dig in together :]
PRETTY LITTLE DETAILS
While most of my job focuses on the relationships and moments of your wedding day, we don’t want to leave out all the pretty details that help tell the story of your day. When I arrive where you are getting ready, it would be great to have some of those special touches ready for me! Set aside an unused wedding invitation and any other wedding stationary you would like me to photograph. Include any accessories you used in packaging your invitations as well such as ribbon, stamps, etc. They can really bring the image of your invitations come to life. Having some loose florals from your florist, the rings, your perfume, or anything else you’d like documented set aside will make it easy for me to capture the details along with all the excitement of the morning.
You’ve spent hours searching for the prefect dress. Be sure you have the perfect hanger to display it, anything that’s not plastic. If you’d like photos of your dress and bridesmaids dresses hung together, be sure they also have nice hangers and are steamed and hung before my arrival. This ensures that I spend my time capturing those precious getting ready moments and less time missing those moments to collect and hang dresses.
TIMELINE: 30 minutes
Getting ready photos are some of my most favorite images to capture on a wedding day. The morning hours of anticipation and giddiness create the most beautiful moments to capture. Sometimes these special moments can be easily overshadowed by an overly cluttered bridal suit and not so ideal lighting situations. Wherever you get ready in the morning of your wedding will be an important part of your wedding photos. Some of the prettiest moments happen during bridal prep so the space should be looking it’s best. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a location and prepping for my arrival on your wedding day:
Hotel rooms typically aren’t the best, for light or decor. If your venue doesn’t provide you a nice getting ready space, I recommend looking into other options, like a cute Airbnb or a family members home. When it comes to an ideal getting ready space, lots of windows and natural light is most important! If you’re not able to find a nice space with natural light, you can consider bringing your dress to the ceremony location, or get ready outdoors! It sounds crazy, but once you have your dress on, you could do finishing touches outdoors with gorgeous natural lighting. Sometimes the groom gets left with a dark tiny room. Room aesthetic is equally important both for the bride as well as the groom, so don’t forget about the guys when choosing a getting ready space!
Window light is best. I prefer to turn all lights off and rely only on window light whenever possible! Working with the cleanest lighting possible will make your photos turn out best! This means no orangey hues from lamps and overhead lighting. If possible, get ready in a room with lots of natural window light, where we don’t need to use lamps or artificial light.
Those beautiful emotion-filled moments on the morning of a wedding day can be a little less beautiful with fast food leftovers, gym bags, piles of shoes, and empty glasses in the background. When it comes to making the most of your getting ready photos, it’s important that your getting ready location is as clean as possible when I arrive. Please try to keep culter hidden and to a minimum. I know there's a lot going on, but try to keep bags, suitcases, laundry, etc in a different room, or the closet.
FOR THE GROOM:
If you want photos of the guys on the morning of the wedding, be sure to confirm the time with me and the groom/groomsmen. When the photographer arrives, the guys should be part-dressed in suit bottoms and shirt. The idea is to capture and shot of the grooms details and the finishing touches of tie, cuff links, shoes, and boutonniere being put on before they head off to the ceremony.
HAIR & MAKEUP:
Your hair & makeup artist will need as much light as possible. I suggest setting up next to the window, for them and for me! If not, they’ll need to use an additional lighting source that can take away from the lovely even lighting of your getting ready space. If it’s absolutely necessary for them to work with an additional lighting source, I’ll request they turn it off for just a few minutes for prep photos.
Most of the photos during this time will be natural and unposed, however once everyones hair and makeup is finished I’ll request group shots of you and your bridesmaids. If there are any particular shots you want of you and your bridesmaids during getting ready, let me know ahead of time. If time allows, right after you put on your dress and you’re ready to go, I will grab you for a couple minutes to take some photos of you alone, likely by a window.
TIMELINE: 60 minutes
A first look gives you and your love a chance to see each other in a more private setting prior to the ceremony. It is genuine and intimate. For most couples, it’s about having a special moment together while all is quiet and calm. While I prefer my couples do a first look for the reasons below, I will never persuade you otherwise if you feel strongly about seeing your fiancé for the first time during the ceremony. However, I highly recommend considering a first look for the following reasons:
CALM THOSE NERVES:
A first look takes the pressure off. There’s a lot of nerves going into your ceremony, anticipating seeing your soon-to-be spouse for the first time! Chances are you’ll be much more relaxed and at ease after you’ve had a chance to see them for the first time in a quiet more intimate setting.
TAKE IT ALL IN:
A first look also 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 gorgeous, babe’; all things you aren’t able to do when you’re at the front of that aisle with everyone watching. This emotion filled moment creates beautiful intimate photos. While I do love the groom reaction shots while a bride walks down the aisle, it’s far less intimate than a first look and we aren’t able to capture the emotion as well as when you take time aside for the two of you!
THE PERFECT TIMELINE:
When you have a first look, we can then take all family and bridal party portraits before the ceremony, which means your family can enjoy cocktail hour right after the ceremony, and we can get to couple portraits right away. In turn, you get to be more present during your cocktail hour too! Win-win for everyone!
I highly recommend keeping first looks completely private. Meaning you, your fiancé, myself and my second shooter. That means mom and dad aren't coming along and the bridal party isn’t watching from the distance. The moment you see your future spouse for the first time can be such a personal moment and I recommend keeping it as private as possible!
TIMELINE: 20 minutes
FAMILY PORTRAITS + BRIDAL PARTY PHOTOS
While the majority of the day is focused on capturing emotion and unplanned moments, family photos are just as important. The time between your ceremony and dinner is precious and having family portraits run quickly and smoothly will allow you more time for bride & groom portraits and time to enjoy your cocktail hour and reception with your guests.
PRE-CEREMONY IS BEST:
Prior to the ceremony, the family and bridal party are already together, which makes it so much quicker to get everyone in the same place. On top of it, everyone can enjoy the cocktail hour in full! Also, gathering people after the ceremony is always difficult and time consuming. When the family portrait list is longer, it takes time away from your mingling time, and it gives me less time to shoot candids and details. Just keep that in mind and prioritize what you prefer! If you opt not to do a first look, just make sure to incorporate enough time after the ceremony for family photos, bridal party photos, and couple portraits.
SHORT + SWEET:
I recommend keeping your family portrait list short (about 6-8 groups is perfect). When creating your list, stick to immediate family. I know it can difficult to narrow down your list, however, I’d encourage you to think about which arrangements are most important and stick to no more than 10 groupings. Keep it simple and stress free. Smiling and posing for the camera with many different groups gets tiring fast, & we don’t want you to get photo fatigue before bride and groom photos, the best part!
I recommend designating a family member to help gather family and calling out names for each group photo. This speeds up the process since I won't know everyone’s face on the list. Be sure to inform everyone on the list ahead of time when and where they are needed so they are present and ready
LESS IS MORE:
When it comes to group photos, having a clean, simple background is best. If you're getting married in a gorgeous location with a stunning backdrop, please keep in mind family photos might be done in front of a grove of trees or against a clean, simple background instead. While I realize you chose your venue for the backdrop and location ( trust me, we'll get plenty of photos there too ), having soft, even light with a clean background is most important for beautiful family photos!
TIMELINE: 30 minutes family, 30 minutes bridal party
PUT THE SUN BEHIND YOU:
For an outdoor ceremony, especially in direct sun, it’s best to place the sun behind you, your fiancé and your officiant, for even backlighting. Otherwise you’ll be super squinty in your ceremony shots, or very harshly lit! When planning your outdoor ceremony location, it’s easy to get caught up in the location and views and disregard the lighting, but the lighting will play the biggest role in how your photos will turn out.
With few exceptions, I plan bride and groom photos right before sunset because the lighting is most beautiful that time of day! It’s softer, golden and straight up gorgeous. That same light is just as important for your outdoor ceremony. Timing will also be very important if you are having an outdoor ceremony. If you want a later ceremony, you may want to consider a ‘first look’. I recommend having outdoor ceremonies about 2 hours prior to sunset allowing time for bride + groom photos as well as potential delays + timeline emergencies.
Microphones are fine, but the big black mic stand is distracting and not pretty. If possible, have your officiant use a hand-held mic (or lapel mic).
RECEIVING LINES :
Unless you have a really small wedding, I recommend against receiving lines. They can get repetitive and take a really long time!
An unplugged ceremony is when you request your guests to refrain from taking any photos during your ceremony. Asking your guests not to use cameras or cell phones allows all guests to be truly present during your ceremony, without fussing with cell phones or cameras. As a bride, you want to see everyone’s smiling faces looking at you, not the back of their phones. It can be a battle to get a great photo of you walking down the aisle, if guests are leaning into the aisle to get a photo or using distracting flash. An unplugged ceremony keeps the aisle open for me so I can take better photos with no one in the way. You can have your officiant do a quick announcement to let guests know at the beginning of the ceremony. Or you can have a sign at the entrance to the ceremony area. There a ton examples of these signs on Pinterest.
TIMELINE: 2 hours prior to sunset
Bride and groom portraits are my favorite part of the day! Not just because the moments you share on the day you become husband and wife are nothing short of magical, but because these are the photos you will share for the rest of your life. They’ll be on your walls, in your heirloom album, and the ones you’ll show to your kids and their kids someday. You most likely won’t reminisce over photos of you cutting the cake or entering the reception, but the look of pure joy on your face as your love holds you tight are the memories and photos you’ll treasure for a lifetime!
While most couples do a first look prior to the ceremony, we won’t do couple’s portraits until after the ceremony. Not only because of the light, but because you are so much more relaxed! After the ceremony, not only are you MARRIED, but your energy is the happiest and it makes for some amazing moments!
You’ll hear me talk a lot about “soft, beautiful light” on the days leading up to your wedding day, & you may ask yourself what the heck I am talking about. Well, The closer the sun gets to the horizon, the more diffused the light gets. Essentially, all the sunlight gets filtered through little particles in the air making it “softer,” which is why many photos are most beautiful at sunset! There’s less harsh shadows and the light is much more flattering on both your skin and the landscape around you. That is why I like to plan bride and groom portraits around golden hour, about an hour before sunset.
Be sure you’re giving yourself enough time for portraits. You wont be able to relax if you’re worrying about getting to your reception on time. I recommend arranging your timeline first and foremost around beautiful light for your bride and groom photos. I like to plan for at least 60 minutes for bride and groom portraits.
I recommend keeping it just the two of you. While mom, dad, the maid of honor and every other guest is so excited to spend time with you after the ceremony, I ask that the time during your portraits is just between us. Not only can guests watching be a distraction, but it often takes away from those sweet moments you’ll share after you say I do!
If you want photos with your pup on your wedding day, make sure they are on a harness or leash, in case they decide to run at you with muddy paws! It’s a good idea to put someone on puppy duty, so that someone can watch them while we take photos. Keep them on dry ground for the photos, and bring a bag of treats to keep them happy, obedient, and posing for photos. If you’re having photos with your pet, we will leave it until after we have finished all the main wedding portraits in case of any accidents. This will also allow for your pup to get used to the surroundings and let out some of their excitement before asking them to sit and pose with the two of you.
TIMELINE: 60+ minutes
Market lights and candlelight set a gorgeous romantic mood. Just make sure you use enough so I don't have to use flash (which ruins the romantic vibe). I shoot using natural light as much as possible (with exception to dancing/party photos)! I do this not only to capture the way your reception looks, but also how it feels. I am 100% comfortable using flash if the need arises! While I prefer to shoot without it to preserve the feel and vibe of your evening, I always have my lighting setup with me just in case!
Having a few candles around may feel moody and cozy, but will likely not be enough light for me to capture your reception without using flash! I recommend using Edison bulbs or similar string lights. I can work with any space or lighting condition, but for outdoor, open air receptions, the more lights the better!
You’ve put a lot of preparation and thought into the detail of your venue and it is an important part of your story that you’ll want captured. Leave enough time for your photographer to get shots of your venue details, before guests sit down for dinner. The tables should be photographed before any purses, guest coats, or any other detail not part of the table décor are put into the room. It’s all about symmetry. Usually these shots are taken during cocktail hour. Please allow 30 minutes for you to mingle with guests at your cocktail hour, to give your photographer some time to get those pretty venue details and guest shots at the cocktail hour.
Colorful lights can be fun for party time, but they're not so great for the first dance or parent dances. If your DJ has these, I just ask that he keeps them off for those moments. After that, feel free to go crazy!
If possible, I prefer to be considered a guest, not a "vendor," for timing purposes. This guarantees that I’ll get to eat when guests do, so I can be free to shoot the toasts/dances that happen after. It is ideal for me to be served at the same time as the bridal party, so that we can eat quickly and be free to shoot the toasts/dances that happen after. 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 any important moments. If you have a buffet, I’m happy to go through it right behind the bridal party and grab my own food too of course!
SPARKLER SEND OFF:
Sparklers are fun and a magical way to end your wedding festivities. There are many other alternatives to sparklers ( like a lantern send off ) so let your creative mind wander! For awesome sparkler photos, I recommend having enough sparklers and lighters for everyone so guests can light them at the same time. Usually everyone stands in two rows, with plenty of room for you to walk through.
TIMELINE: dinner 45-60 minutes, toasts 15 minutes (you can start these while dinner is still being served), dances 15 minutes, party 15+ minutes
Timing plays a very important role in every wedding and setting a timeline will help you get it right. Flexibility is crucial to a stress-free wedding day. Including some contingency in your timeline, in case anything gets delayed, will be hugely beneficial. While making your wedding day timeline, predict where you might need extra time for possible delays. It’s a good idea to add an extra 30 minutes to each event, so you don’t end up rushing through photos, if something takes longer then expected. It’s better to have extra time on your wedding day than too little. Make sure to give a copy of your wedding timeline to each vendor, key family and bridal party members so everyone is on the same page.
This sometimes varies, but while putting together your timeline, here’s how much time I’ll typically need for photos:
Getting ready: 90 minutes
First look: 20 minutes
Family: 30 minutes
Bridal party: 30 minutes
Bride + groom photos: 60+ minutes
To give you a better idea of what that looks like, I’ve put together a sample timeline based on beautiful light for photos! I’ve also noted the sunset time so you’re able to see how the sunset plays a leading role in the timeline and the rest falls into place around it.
2:00 Getting ready
3:30 First look
3:50 Family photos
4:20 Bridal party
6:00 Bride + groom photos
7:00 Sunset/band begins
If you have any questions while putting together your timeline, please don’t hesitate to reach out!! I’d love to help you plan out your day to allow for beautiful photos!
I understand that not every wedding day is the same and there’s different considerations depending on various factors. However, based on my experience, these tips will allow for adequate timing for your wedding day and have your best interest in mind when it comes to beautiful lighting for your wedding day photographs!
A month before your wedding day I will ask you for the following:
A detailed timeline
Family portrait group list
Any important reception details I should know about
With so many little details to think about, it’s easy to lose focus on the main event. Don’t forget what the day is really about, that the two of you are taking vows to love each other for eternity.
BACK IT UP THEN BACK IT UP AGAIN:
Nowadays, most couples receive their wedding photos on a USB or by download. Be sure to give your photos the ultimate protection against loss or damage. When you get your digital wedding photos, make extra copies by saving to other computers, external hard drives, online backup systems, or duplicate disks. One of your best options is to have at least one copy saved to an online backup system, as it’s quite probable disks will one day be obsolete or get damaged. Always have at least two copies and never in the same location. And if you can, always print them out, because these precious moments are worth holding onto.
I hope that after reading this guide you realize that I can be a great resource and tool while planning your wedding day. I know all this information is overwhelming, but I promise you I have your best interest at heart, which is why I’m sharing all this info! If you take away only one piece of advice from this guide, make it about creating a flawless wedding day timeline. Treat your timeline as the backbone to your planning. Once you have a rough timeline created all the extra details can be slotted into place. Getting your timeline just right is crucial in helping you have a stress free and picture perfect wedding day. I wish you all the very best with your planning and a happy and relaxed wedding day. It will be here sooner than you know it. Enjoy every second and I hope every moment will be a memorable one.