You're getting freaking married!
I'm so glad we're official! Seriously, thank you so much for letting me be a part of this journey with you - it's going to be THE BEST. This is a little welcome guide for you guys so you'll know literally everything about what's in store with our time together. Basically a big list of tips and good-to-know's for you to help your planning and help you get the best wedding experience and photos possible! Take if from me, someone who not only has had a wedding but also someone who has been to dozens and dozens of weddings! I want you to have the best wedding photos ever, so here's my top tips I've gathered over the years that are useful for any couple:
first things first
From now until the delivery of your photos, you need to be in the know about our time together! Here's what my process looks like:
You've officially booked me as your wedding photographer by signing the contract and paying the $500 deposit - YAY!
Let's get to the fun stuff! If you've booked engagements with me, let's chat dates and location ideas!
Take engagement pics! I'll talk more about these as you scroll down.
Talk timeline + logistics - more on this coming too!
+ONE MONTH BEFORE
I'll be sending you a detailed questionnaire that covers everything I need to know for your wedding day. I.e. contacts, an official timeline, locations etc.
+TWO WEEKS BEFORE
Your remaining balance is due! I'll send you a final invoice that you can pay either with a card (no fees!) or cash/check.
Party like nobody's business.
Marry the love of your life.
I got the rest.
+ONE WEEK AFTER
While you're relaxing on the beach with your boo, I'll be sending you sneak peaks!
+FOUR WEEKS AFTER
Your full gallery will be delivered! Depending on the season, I usually deliver sooner!
I highly recommend an engagement shoot prior to the wedding for several reasons! First off it's nice to have photos with each other where you're just being yourselves, not all dressed up fancy in a tight dress and suit, dressed more casual and comfortable like you are in day to day life. These photos a lot of the time end up being the couple's favorite photos from their entire wedding experience! Secondly, it's good to be able to hang and shoot with your photographer beforehand so you can get to know them and feel more yourself in front of them. And by the time the wedding day comes along you are more vulnerable, emotional, and yourself and I can better photograph all the feels of the day whether it be your mom wiping tears from your face, you busting up laughing at each other, praying with your father before the ceremony, etc. I know it can feel awkward as hell getting your photo taken so having a shoot beforehand to be able to loosen up and realize getting photos taken can be really fun will help you not be so worried on your wedding day and you can be as relaxed as possible!
Don't cram in too many things into a tight schedule, because guess what? There is always something that will go wrong on your wedding day. That's just how it goes. I haven't been to one wedding where everything goes according to plan. Plan for things to take longer than you think for this reason, as well as making sure everyone can feel relaxed and not rushed all day long. A fast paced tight schedule will always result in stress! Here is a little sample timeline I've put together with timing tips for each part of the day. P.S. you can click to enlarge!
The getting ready part is such an amazing time during the entire day that is often overlooked. Some of my favorite photos of wedding days come before the ceremony even happens, as everyone is typically really emotional, anxious, and excited! Here are a few things that will help the time before your ceremony be more meaningful and help the quality of the photos:
Be intentional about getting ready spaces, it can define your mood for the rest of the day. For example, if you choose to get ready in a crappy hotel bathroom surrounded by everyone's luggage and ugly furniture and having to worry about packing up all your stuff last minute, you might feel stressed and overstimulated with so much clutter and stuff around you (plus a lot of hotel rooms usually have bad lighting, restricting colors and creativity in photos). Compare that to a room with soft natural light streaming into a cleaner space with your thoughtful wedding details (shoes, jewelry, hair pieces, etc) laid out and your pretty dress hung up in the window, or outside on a porch where you can get fresh air and not feel cramped. You'll probably feel more at peace and in touch with your emotions rather than thinking about where the heck you left your glue on lashes and your "something blue."
If you aren't in love with the getting ready space at your venue (or maybe your venue doesn't have one) look at cute Airbnbs in the area that you and your friends could stay in the night before. The character and homey touches often adds to photos, plus you will have more space to get ready than a single room.
Keep spaces clear of clutter as much as you can! I will help with this, but if you can have a designated "clean area" near a window space where you do your getting ready photos, this will make for much better photos focused on the moment rather than the bright pink Victoria's Secret bag in the corner.
Good light. I swear I'll have you a master of noticing light by the end of all this haha! Try and get ready near a window with natural light coming in, it is much prettier for details and your skin than yellow-ish overhead lighting. Like I mentioned before, keep indoor lights off during getting ready photos so you don't get mixed colors in your photos (don't worry, I'll switch them off when I arrive that day if you forget!).
Bring a pretty hanger for your dress! It can be as simple as a wooden one, it doesn't have to be anything fancy, as long as it's not the ugly ones you get from the dry cleaners! Also another fun detail to add to your photos - your invitation suite and perfume/cologne you might be wearing that day!
ceremony + reception lighting
When choosing your ceremony location, people typically only think about the backdrop and forget to think about the light at the time of day that your ceremony will take place, which is way more important for you and your guest's comfort and for the quality of the photos! Here is a breakdown on what to know about each lighting situation:
Backlit: Great for photos because it creates a very dreamy yummy look, typically in the evening or early morning as the sun is low in the sky. But that can sometimes be distracting for guests in they are facing directly into it (which is fine if they have sunglasses!). If you're having your ceremony in the evening when the sun will still be shining on your ceremony location, I would highly recommend angling the set up a little bit to the side of where the sun will set so that it is still dreamy and comfortable for guest's eyes! If the sun will be low in the sky but light won't be hitting the ceremony, I would recommend facing your ceremony so that the sun is at your guest's backs. At that point in the day there is a gorgeous gradients in the sky with lots of pastel colors and it's super beautiful. Remember that if you're checking out a ceremony site in the winter, the sun will set in the different location on the horizon in the summer, so plan accordingly! You can check exactly where the sun will be in the sky and where it will be shining with the app Sun Seeker on any day of the year, so you can plan around it!
Uneven: I would have to say this is the worst lighting for photos, always resulting in really bright blown out patches of the photos and super dark faces which causes the photos to lose a lot of details like people's faces, decor, colors, etc. It also is uncomfortable for guests at times if it's during a hot part of the day. It doesn't have a soft dreamy look and makes photos look pretty awful. If you can't avoid the uneven light no matter what, angle your ceremony so that it will be as backlit as possible to help with the quality of photos.
Shaded or Overcast: Probably the best case scenario for photos and comfort! Shaded means there will be even light from start to finish and preserves all details in photos like colors, your dress, and makes your skin look great!
Indoor: Natural light coming from a window is ideal for indoor ceremonies, avoid mixed lighting by turning off indoor lights if possible so that the ceremony doesn't look like a mix of blue and yellow light! If you can't use natural light only, make sure the indoor lights are bright so that the photos have the best quality possible!
Reception Lighting: The brighter you can make your reception space, whether it's with the venue's lights or string lights or candles you add to the space, the better the photos will turn out. Low lit receptions end up making the photos poor quality, super grainy losing lots of detail and usually have to be edited as black and whites to be able to make them look decent. If the room is well lit I'll be able to edit the photos in color, they'll look better, your skin will look better and I won't have to use flash over photos that should have a soft dreamy look/mood.
The thing about using flash - it is SO distracting. You don't want my flash going off every other second when you're trying to have your first dance with your dad or focus on your best man's speech. I'll whip that baby out at the end of the reception when everyone is all together on the dance floor!
An example of crappy DJ lighting, the colors of the DJ's lights were so distracting and there wasn't a romantic/dreamy feel to the images because the room was so dim:
An unplugged wedding basically means you ask your guest to be truly present in the moment with you two during your ceremony by turning off their phones and cameras and waiting to take photos once the entire ceremony and following hugs are over. A lot of people don't think about this aspect of their ceremony until they get their photos back and they regret not having an “unplugged” wedding because there are stupid iPads and phones and cameras cluttering and distracting the viewer from the real moment happening, your wedding! It not only straight up ruins photos, but it can ruin the experience for a lot of your guests as well. Do you really want your grandma to be focused on trying to figure out how to make the zoom work when you’re wiping your tears and your significant other says their vows to you? Do you want your groom to have to lean around people’s iPhones in the aisle to catch his first glimpse of his bride? Or your best friends having to peek through the hands of anyone in front of them with their cameras up in the air? There is nothing wrong with asking people to turn their phones off and be present in the moment with you during the most amazing 15 minutes of your life. Ask whoever is marrying you to announce this while they are asking everyone to take their seats before the ceremony even begins (letting them know that they will be free to take as many photos as they want once the ceremony is over), there is a reason you are paying a photographer thousands of dollars to capture these precious memories for you, and we live in a digital age where everyone can access all the photos I take! I promise to send you sneaks of your ceremony to share with all your friends and family right after the wedding day so they can share it as well! Another idea to make sure people get all the photos they want of the day is to have a Photo Booth for guests to hop in and get photos together to remember your day. Everyone will be happy to comply, and this usually results in a much more emotional connected experience.
Not sold on it yet? Click here and I promise I'll make you a believer.
let things unfold naturally
Embrace whatever moments or craziness come! You shouldn't be stressing on your wedding day, especially over something you dont have control over. Nothing is ever “perfect” and that is just how life goes, there’s no reason to exhaust yourself over making everything seem “perfect.” Remember to laugh a lot and you’ll be just fine!
It's totally unnecessary to give me a “photo checklist” because I'd rather be focusing on documenting your day as it happens, getting moments that matter rather than making sure I'm checking boxes off a list. Trust me, I’ll get photos of basically everything and more that you think is important and that you’ll want to remember! The only times I need a list of photos to get is if there are extremely small details that I could be oblivious to such as your grandma's pin on your bouquet or your dad’s funny socks you gave him. Another situation is if you have a certain cousin or friend that flew in or group of high school friends for example that you want a photo with that I wouldn’t know of. The only list I'll ask for is a list of specific family groupings that you want taken during your family portraits part of the day. For example - mom with bride, bride's parents with bride and groom, groom's sibling with bride and groom etc.
what i do with the day
When I arrive I immediately start photographing details - dress, rings, invitations etc. I'm a little more hands off at this point, just documenting everyone getting ready. But I'll jump in to help prep the space and get you in great light when it comes time to put your dress on!
If I'm solo, I'll grab the groom first get him settled in place than walk with you to the first look location. Don't feel like you need to pose for this! I'm there to get all the tears and smiles:)
+BRIDE AND GROOM PHOTOS
Here's where I start directing you two, though at this point you are so dang excited and happy - it's a piece of cake for me. Just remember, you aren't there to pose for me, you are there to be in the moment and enjoy it!
+WEDDING PARTY PHOTOS
These are fun! I'll take group shots, individuals with you and each party member and the whole group together! I just ask for a little cooperation:)
This part of the day always gets a little hectic. Make sure you let every family member who is part of the group shots know when and where we will be taking photos so I don't have to keep stopping to try to find your aunt who wondered over to the reception already. I try to keep this time as efficient as possible!
Just enjoy this sweet little moment of the day! I will take the shots of you walking down the aisle, his reaction, your mom's reaction, your dad giving you away - if it happens, I'll capture it! I'm getting close up shots as well as overall wide shots of the entire set up.
Along with the ceremony, this will be the most candid/photo-journalistic part of the day. I'm usually walking around the reception taking photos of people talking, laughing, catching up. And of course, all the reception goodness like speeches, cake and ALL THE DANCING! If you are having a send-off, I'll stick around to capture that as well.
some deets to know
Here is a link to the online gallery you will receive when your engagements and/or wedding photos are done: http://picti.net/aFJiF
You can make your own password, share with everyone and download individual photos or the entire gallery! You can also order prints through this if you want! Pic-Time customer service is incredible, there is a little chat icon on the bottom right corner that is available anytime if you need some extra help.
The rest of you package is due 2 weeks before your date! I'll send a friendly reminder a few days leading up to your payment date.
The sooner we can schedule these the better! I have limited availability on weekends since those are usually reserved for weddings. Weekdays are the absolute best time, but we can always shoot for a Sunday if your schedule doesn't allow you to make a weekday! Take a look at my engagements galleries on my site for some outfit inspo! Honestly, the most important this is that you wear what you feel comfortable in and something you can move in - unless you can run and jump in 4" heels (you go girl). Try to stick with neutral/muted colors and avoid loud prints or bright colors!
I recommend a second shooter if your guest count exceeds 150-200 guests. I feel SUPER comfortable shooting solo for those smaller-medium weddings. Seconds come in handy for the getting ready part of the day especially if you are in different areas/locations and larger ceremonies. I typically don't require them to stay through the reception since it's pretty casual at that point of the day and requires less coordination!
You can add hours whenever you want! I've had couples add on the day of! Adding on hours is $350/hour. You might need one or two if you're ceremony is earlier in the day and you aren't exiting until late at night, or if you just want to extend the party!
do whatever the the heck you want.
Don't want some random pastor marrying you? Have your dad or best friend or sister or whoever get ordained! Follow these steps on how to get anyone ordained to be able to marry the two of you. Being married by someone who is close to you and knows you both and your relationship well will be way more meaningful and emotional and special to the two of you rather than someone that comes in that you pay to say the same stuff they say to everyone else. Make it personal!
Feel free to break traditions. Are you not a formal kind of person? Totally fine. Don't follow tradition. Do a buffet style dinner where people can sit wherever they want. Don't like cake but love churros? Have a big pile of churros instead of a white cake. Don’t want to spend your wedding night shaking hands and hugging random people you’re meeting for the first time? Don’t do a receiving line and float around the reception chatting to the people you actually care about. Don’t want to do bridesmaids and groomsmen? That's a million percent fine. Don’t want to do your first dance to a slow song? Do it to the wobble or whatever band you first saw together if you're like my husband and I. Traditions are meant to be broken and there’s no reason you should do something on your wedding day just because it’s expected!
This is your day. Yeah, it’s important to honor your family members by doing certain things on your day or including them in different things, but just remember this is ultimately your day and you should be doing it for yourselves and making it as meaningful as you possibly can. So often brides will get too caught up in trying to make their mom happy and they realize their wedding is something that is more meaningful only to her parents rather than her. This will be the day you remember for the rest of your life and you should make it as comfortable and fun for you two as much as you can!
Most importantly, remember to have fun and do whatever it is that makes your day yours. So many people get so wrapped up in caring so much about the decor, the perfect details, who’s sitting where, color schemes, and other things that in the long run, don’t really matter. Remember that you’re not putting on an event for your guests, they’re coming to give love and feel your love. What matters most is the tender moments between you and your person, the extra tight hugs your siblings that never hug give you, your grandparents kissing your cheeks, and the connection you feel to everything and everyone around you. It’s all about the love.