Chances are you're looking at this because you've recently booked your wedding photography package with me (Yay!!) or you're considering meeting for a consultation (also yay!!). I'm hoping by breaking down the wedding day and writing down some tips and tricks to help the whole process go smoothly, you'll be feeling more at ease and actually able to enjoy yourself without worrying about x, y & z. Weddings are huge, once in a lifetime events-- you shouldn't be stressing, you should be soaking it all in & enjoying every minute of it!
Let's start from the beginning:
PHOTOGRAPHER ARRIVES + GETTING READY
I'd say 9 times out of 10, I arrive about 3 hours out from the actual ceremony time. This usually aligns with the Bride getting her final touches on either her hair & makeup, which allows me time to get your details photographed as well as some classic shots of your lipstick being applied or your hair flowers being pinned. If I arrive any sooner, no one typically wants to be photographed before their foundation has been properly blended or while their hair is still in curlers.
No matter the space, the most helpful thing to do is to keep the "mess" to one side of the room (safest bet is away from the windows where the light will be pouring in). If there's a way to contain the bridesmaid's bags, shoes, undies etc. to a closest, even better! The less time we spend de-cluttering, the more time we can focus on just soaking in the moment & getting those real photographs of the time before the ceremony with your girls.
Before the Bride steps into her dress, her bridesmaids & mother should be fully dressed & ready to go so they can be in the photos too!
Boys, please oh please be showered & pretty much dressed by the time me or the second shooter come to take your "getting ready" photographs! Believe it or not, we've had AN ENTIRE set of groomsmen plus the groom decide to shower AFTER the second shooter came to take photos, which lead to a lot of waiting around & less photos in general. If you can be ready up to the point of putting your shoes, tie, cuff links & jacket on, that would super awesome & greatly appreciated!
It doesn't typically take as long for the boys to get ready (some of you guys don't even have to brush your hair...), so the photos usually fly by pretty quickly. The extra time there is a good opportunity to maybe get some group shots of all the groomsmen together, maybe some of the groom & his parents or siblings? The possibilities are really endless! We're also big fans of those candid, fun shots that groomsmen are known for, so if you have time for a game of pool, pass out the pool sticks! Want to take a shot with all your guys or crack open a beer to celebrate being THISCLOSE to walking down the aisle, yes!! Let's do it!
While this is totally a personal preference and strays away from traditional, I am a big fan of First Looks. And I'll tell you why:
1. If you have a particularly tight timeline (think fall & winter weddings when the days are shorter and it's harder to squeeze everything in before the sun sets), First Looks can really help get all the photos in that you want without completely rushing through or cutting corners. If you do a First Look, it's totally possible to get your Wedding Party Photos & Family Photos out of the way before the ceremony starts, leaving just sunset portraits on the agenda aside from the party!
And 2. Sometimes nerves set in, it is a pretty huge thing after all to get married, and all you need is to see your person and voila! All is right in the world! First Looks are a chance to sneak away from the hustle & bustle before the ceremony and spend a solid 15 minutes with your love (and some photographers off in the distance). It also serves as a more intimate moment-- when you see each other from down the aisle, it's HUGE, but you're also sharing it with everyone else. Which is a beautiful thing, don't get me wrong, but First Looks are totally different in the level of intimacy and connection. And guess what--- walking down the aisle is still as climatic as it is if you don't see each other beforehand; it's still the solidifying "oh shit this is really happening" moment. And it's still beautiful even if you saw each other beforehand, I promise.
The ceremony! The reason for the whole day! Oh my goodness, I'm a sucker for ceremonies, no matter how long or how short, I usually end up tearing up behind my view finder at one point or another. In my mind, wedding ceremonies are sacred-- it's a very personal, very HUGE thing to proclaim your love for another person in front of your family & friends, and sometimes 300+ people, and to vow to devote yourself to someone else for the rest of your life. It's a massive thing. And because it's such a huge thing, usually with a lot of emotions bubbling right at the surface, I like to "respect your bubble". I am not one of those photographers that get all up in your business and potentially become a distraction by shooting over the officiant's shoulder or parking it in the middle of the aisle 2 feet from your faces. That is not my thing, that is not how I work. Sure, I move around a lot, but you'll notice that I stick to the outside of the ceremony space & "circle the perimeter" as to not be a distraction to your guests who are there to witness your vows.
I'm a prime lens photographer, meaning I only have fixed focal length lenses in my arsenal and I have to "zoom with my feet", but depending on the ceremony location, the guest count & the overall layout of the ceremony, I may bring in a zoom lens so I can still respect your bubble & let you guys focus on getting married but still be able to get some tight shots of all those micro expressions that are flying across both of your faces as you read your vows to each other, slip the rings onto each other's fingers and hear "you may now kiss the bride!"
Like most parts of the wedding day, the more details I know, the better the coverage will be. I'm pretty good at working on the fly, but if I'm being honest, I'm a planner by nature. I gotta know the details to feel 110% prepared! The more you can share with me about your actual ceremony, what traditions you plan on incorporating, if there's anything of special significance to you (that I wouldn't necessarily know about) or if there's any restrictions (mainly for church ceremonies), the more I can be prepared to capture every little important detail.
FORMAL FAMILY PORTRAITS
These typically follow the wedding ceremony for traditional timelines, but can absolutely be done before the ceremony if you plan on doing a First Look. My goal for the family portraits is to get beautiful photos that your family members can hang on their walls, but to also get through these as quickly & painlessly as possible so everyone can start celebrating! My system for these is to have my couples make an official list of family portrait groupings (not just the people they expect to be in the photos) weeks before the wedding. I've worked a couple weddings where they did not have a list, and it took 10 times longer to get through the portraits because no one knew what to do, what photos they wanted, if they wanted this photo or that photo, etc. It was chaos. So, really, it's all about the list!
I ask that the lists contain the NAMES of everyone in the groupings, not just "bride's family" because I have honestly no idea what that means-- is that immediate family, the whole family, immediate family plus a really close grandma that was like a second mother? Like, I have no clue. So, names are important. I also use the names to roll-call the groups, count the amount of persons per grouping to avoid having to reshoot portraits & take up more time because Uncle Bill went to the bar and missed the Aunts & Uncles photo.
Generally, if it's 20 groupings/photos or less, the Formal Family Portraits can be done within 30 minutes and your family members can be released to enjoy cocktail hour. If you anticipate having more groupings or you both have large families, I would suggest trying to get as many portraits before the ceremony done as possible. If you're not interesting in a First Look, having parent/immediate family portraits for both the bride & groom done before the ceremony totally helps! We'll still get the traditional group shots with the couple and their new family members, but if we're able to bust out any photos that would have "just the groom" or "just the bride" with family before walking down the aisle, it really helps loosen up the timeline.
WEDDING PARTY PORTRAITS
Just like the family photos, these are generally done after the wedding ceremony for a traditional timeline but can be taken at any point of the day if you opt for seeing each other before walking down the aisle. I'm much more of a "fly on the wall" photographer, so when it comes time to do posed portraits, I like to get through them quickly so that everyone can get to the party. Here's the typical breakdown:
Entire Wedding Party, 10 Minutes
Bridesmaids, 20 Minutes
Groomsmen, 20 Minutes
As you'll see, I take a few traditional shots of everyone smiling & looking into the lens, but the rest are fun, silly & full of movement to get rid of that "stiff" feeling to the photos and to genuinely show the relationship dynamics between your group. And for my 8 & 10 hour wedding photography packages, I have my second shooter there to help cover the groomsmen while I photograph the bridesmaids, which saves time and keeps things moving.
So many candids!! I love cocktail hour, the lighting is usually starting to get softer & the guests are starting to mingle & let loose. Some of the best shots of the guests are from cocktail hour, and I love being able to document that part of the day. Cocktail hour is generally when we're able to photograph the reception site & all it's lovely details that you spent months planning.
The Grand Entrance is another highlight to the wedding day and another one of those things where the more details you can give me, like where you're planning on entering from, what your path will be, if your wedding party are sitting right away or if they are going to remain standing, if you're planning anything other than walking/dancing out into the reception space, etc., the more prepared I will be, and in turn I'll be able to better capture the energy of the grand entrance and make sure you have those photos too look back on for a lifetime.
During Dinner, my second shooter & I will generally take your bouquet & rings for quick detail photos before sitting down and eating quickly. It's really important that we eat when the wedding party is served so that we can be ready to go once toasts/any other event is happening. The worst is when our vendor meals are held until after all the guests are served and we have to take photography coverage in shifts so only one photographer is there for the toasts/dances because the other is feverishly trying to scarf down the first food they've had in 6 hours. The big advantage of having two photographers is having two different perspectives and having the insurance that if one's flash misfires or a guest steps out in front of the frame, the other photographer is able to capture the same event from a different vantage point, so why not utilize that?! I'm also not one to take photos of people shoveling food into their mouths-- it's cruel and 100% of the time those photos are not even used, so eating when the wedding party is served is the best timing all around.
The rest of the events have a lot of flexibility in terms of when & how they happen, which is a beautiful thing and allows you to personalize it as much as you want. Again, as long as we're kept in the loop of the details (like are you having a Flash Mob kick off the open dancing? We need to know that!), the better we can capture all the amazing details you two have put so much thought into!
Okay, so I am ALL about the sunset portraits. These are legitimately the photos you are going to print out and hang on your walls! I don't think in the 60 weddings I've photographed anyone ever regretted taking a little time out of their timelines to do the sunset portraits-- they're just too good! And really, they might be the first time during the whole shebang that you get to spend a solid 20 minutes with your newly betrothed just the two of you (and some photographers in the distance).
We call these sunset portraits because we take them during "the golden hour" for the most beautiful, softest golden light, which happens during the last hour of sunlight. A lot of times we're able to sneak off for these after the couple has eaten but the guests are either still being served/finishing up so that no one is looking for you or waiting for the next event.
These portraits take anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on the timeline & if we have to trek far or not (some venues are super awesome-- like Spreafico Farms & La Cuesta Ranch--where the owners actually drive you out on a gator into the hills/up the mountains to get some breathtaking, once in a lifetime portraits). I'm much more about "moment design" than actual posing-- like you'll never hear me micromanage your body language. I'm not about that. I usually give the couples vague directions/actions that are open to interpretation so that I honestly and authentically capture the two of you and your relationship just the way it is. I like to give you space and allow you two to talk to each other throughout the whole process, much like the engagement session!
If you're planning an exit, awesome! Those are always so fun! The safest bet for an exit is to start "getting ready" for the exit about 20 minutes before you actually intend to do it. So, say you're looking to leave at 9PM, I would have the the last song play at 8:40PM so that your guests can slowly meander outside, get their sparklers/bubbles/wands/whatever, figure out their line up (remember, most guests are pretty tipsy at this point so even small tasks take forever) and be ready for when the newlyweds run out.
And guys, you can totally run through your "exit" a couple times, no one can judge you for not immedately leaving PLUS you'll get even more photos. ;)
There's a lot of parts to a wedding day, huh? Usually at an initial consult when I start asking about their general ceremony time & when they plan to do what, I get wide-eyed blank stares and the murmuring of "I have no idea... What is that? When does that happen?". If putting together a timeline and figuring out the flow of your wedding day is making you anxious and you're not sure how long things take, when things should happen, what the light looks like at different times, send me an email! I'm all about helping my couples put together a realistic timeline that will get everything they need covered within their wedding photography package without rushing through or cutting corners! And if you're still feeling uneasy, I cannot stress just how amazing a skilled and seasoned wedding coordinator truly is! If you're lost on where to find one, email me and I can absolutely send you some referrals!
And again, you'll notice that the actual time for "posed" portraits is very little in relation to the amount of hours of coverage my wedding photography packages cover. I think in total, we're looking at just under 2 hours, and that's with some cushion factored in. That's because, while I love the posed portraits (and I'm using "posed" rather loosely here), I'm really a storyteller. A storyteller doesn't get in there and control every aspect of the day, a storyteller lets the events unfold as they will. I'm interested in capturing those candid moments between guests, those sincere micro expressions during the first dance, the energy of the party when the DJ plays that one Usher song that everyone knows and every single guest jumps on the floor. I'm there to capture your wedding day just as it is so that you can flip through the photographs for years to come and feel the memories.