Start by making your Wedding Vision clear.
It’s important to hone in and get focused on what you want your wedding to be. I recommend doing this by writing a “Wedding Vision Statement.” Here’s what I mean:
Planning a wedding is so much more than picking out a color palette on Pinterest. It’s all the senses- sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. Do you want it to feel like a backyard throw down? A posh, modern gala? What memories do you want your family, bridal party, and guests to take away from your wedding? Once you determine your desired outcome, you can reverse engineer the most magical day ever- easily curated to your vision. Here’s what my Wedding Vision Statement looked like:
“I want my wedding to be the funnest party ever. I want my wedding to feel and smell warm and inviting, like the Fourth of July at my grandma’s house. I want to incorporate my Appalachian heritage and Jack’s Mexican heritage in creative and unexpected ways. I want there to be flowers everywhere. I want to showcase the work of other small artists and businesses doing unique things. I want to use my wedding to honor my family and friends, and find ways to incorporate them that exemplify why they’re special to me. I want to find a venue that will let our families cook traditional foods. I don’t want anyone, especially myself or Jack, to feel any amount of stress on our wedding day. I want the food, drinks, laughing and dancing to be non-stop until the very end. Best day ever vibes only.”
Just this small amount of consideration can point you towards the “right answers” to so many wedding planning questions. Let’s say you can’t decide what kind of cake you want to have. In my example, I looked to my Vision Statement, and was inspired to search “Mexican wedding cakes” on Pinterest and wouldn’t ya know it… I found an incredible artist making cakes painted in the traditional Talavera Tile-style. I never would have thought to just Google that on my own, but now I had the perfect answer to my cake worries. Maybe you can’t think of anything to say during your ceremony aside from the run of the mill “I will do this/won’t do that, ‘til death.” In my example, my Vision Statement lead me to Google “traditional Appalachian wedding ceremonies” specific to the region where my grandfather grew up, and I found the perfect Appalachian wedding blessing that instantly made me feel connected to something important to me and added a really unique element to our vows. So special! But more importantly…. so easy! There is literally no end to the simple ways you can make your wedding a reflection of you. Throughout the guide you’ll see *prompts that look like this!* These denote some ideas to help you dream up totally bespoke plans of your own.
Planning the “Getting Ready” (or pre-ceremony, rather) part of your day is, in my opinion, the most important thing to get right. I know that’s a bold statement, but hear me out: this is the literal beginning to the actual day you’ve spent the better part of a year (or more!) planning for. This portion of the day sets the tone for the entire rest of your wedding day, and that’s a big deal! If your groomsmen don't know what time to show up, or your bridesmaids didn’t know they had to bring cash for the make up artist, or your mom shows up in her pajamas five minutes before she’s supposed to be lacing up your dress… I’m certainly not saying a wedding day can’t recover from those kinds of mishaps, but I am saying it’s worth trying to avoid them if ya can (and we can!)
The first thing to consider about your pre-ceremony plan is where to get ready. There is definitely a hierarchy when it comes to desirable getting ready spaces, and we really encourage you to treat this part of the day as worthy of your consideration (and in some cases, worthy of your dollars.) Your pre-ceremony location is 9/10 where all of your detail photos will be taken- your dress, your rings, putting on your make up, hanging out with your friends. If you’re getting ready in a place that’s super cramped, or that hasn’t been updated since the 90s, that will come through in the final product.
Getting Ready at Your Venue
Lots of venues have on-campus areas for you and your wedding party to get ready in, which is the ideal scenario in most cases- saving us time and the potential confusion of shuffling everyone in your wedding party from one place to another. However, there are definitely still things we have to consider when getting ready in a venue space:
While a lot of venues have spaces to get ready, they can be incredibly tiny. Consider this fact when talking with your bridal party about what they should and shouldn’t bring with them to the getting ready space. A tiny room is made infinitely tinier when it’s filled with duffel bags, backpacks, coolers, etc.
Some venues only allow you a very short amount of time to be at the site prior to the ceremony. In these cases, I recommend scrapping any “getting ready” done at the venue, and simply using those areas as your pre-ceremony chill space once you’ve gotten fully ready somewhere else. Splitting time (i.e., getting ready off-site, traveling to the venue and then trying to cram hours worth of photos and moments into the one hour allowed by the venue before your ceremony) rarely works effectively and typically just puts us behind schedule.
Getting Ready at an Airbnb or Rental Home
Airbnbs are our #1 pre-ceremony getting ready recommendation. So many Airbnbs (and similar rental home services) are literally designed to be photographed. These places generally have natural light, photo-friendly color palettes, styled decor, and maybe even a bit of character that will add something special to your photos. Moreover, there is room for your wedding party to spread out, and I promise you- 8 folks packed into a backroom with 12 curling irons set to 400 degrees each can get hot and testy REAL quick. Remember- we’re setting the tone for the day here! Haha. We want keep things light and fresh. Getting ready in a home-space opens up opportunities for everyone to be comfortable and on-track with the timeline (and to step away for a moment if a wedding stressor happens, as they do sometimes.)
The most essential tip we can give you here is to book your room ahead of time. Weddings are usually on weekends, which is when most people travel. Wedding venues are usually near populated areas, which means the rooms that are available getting booked for events and festivals that people are coming to town for way in advance. If you wait until weeks (or heck, even months, sometimes) before trying to book a room, you will be left at the bottom of the barrel, with the highest rates for the crappiest rooms. This is how people end up getting ready in tiny hotels with yellow walls! Sigh.
Even with an Airbnb or rental home, it’s important to keep spaces clear of junk and trash. You don’t want everyone’s Chick-fil-A cups and old 5K t-shirts in the back of your wedding photos (and especially not in your video, where it can’t be photoshopped out!)
If you want yours and your partner’s wedding parties to get ready separately, consider finding homes that are on the same street/block, or even in the same building/high-rise! This will not only help everyone in the wedding party stay on track, but it will also cut down the amount of package time needed to be used for travel.
When selecting your getting ready spaces, consider your travel plan from the home you’re using to the venue. Lots of venues are in or around areas that are high-traffic; consider: will there be any events on the weekend of your wedding? If your venue is in a big city, be sure to check for sports games, concerts, festivals, political events, road closures, etc. Nothing rains on the wedding parade like being stuck in an hour of traffic to a venue that’s 15 minutes away.
To add to your travel plan: know how you are transporting yourself and your wedding party before the day of the wedding. Know ahead of time who is riding with who. If you’re planning to Uber, make sure that it’s offered in the area you’re staying in, that you have signal, and heck- you could go ahead and schedule it in advance, while we’re at it. Don’t do the last minute scramble- someone or something inevitably gets left behind and holds up the show.
We specifically recommend using Airbnb Plus. These are homes that have been verified by Airbnb to be clean, stylish, and well-hosted by the owner. You can follow this link to receive a discount on your bookings through us! Airbnbs are typically comparably priced to a hotel room (cheaper, more often than not!) but for a ton more space than you’d have in a hotel. You really can’t beat it.
Getting ready at a Hotel
While I will start this section with 100% honesty and say that I typically don’t enjoy shooting in hotels, I also concede that not all hotels are created equal. Here are a few things to look out for when booking a hotel space:
If you have a ton of attendants in your party, you can’t all get ready in one room successfully. More often than not it’s not just the wedding party shuffling around a hotel room intended for two people; mom and grandma show up, and so do the flower girls, and your brother and his new girlfriend who you haven’t met yet… and why is she in here while I’m putting on my dress? You get the picture. If you have to get a hotel room, consider booking one with multiple rooms, or a block of rooms that all of your wedding party can get ready in on one floor, close to one another.
Watch out for spaces with yellow(ed) walls or unflattering carpeting and colors. Take a selfie in there. Does it look dingy? Skip it and keep searching. You should be able to take a decently lit and toned selfie in a room with good natural lighting and clean colors.
Keeping the space clean is more essential here than anywhere else. If you haven’t figured out by this far into this section yet- hotel rooms are small and that is the primary reason that they are difficult. These spaces are made infinitely smaller and difficult to photograph (flatteringly, anyway) the more they’re filled with junk.
If you book a room, ask for one with a sun-facing window. This isn’t a weird request for a hotel, so don’t feel weird about it. People request all kinds of rooms in certain directions for all manner of reasons (religious, tactical, etc.)
Try and stay in the room (or at least in the same hotel and style of room) before the big day so you know what it looks like and how it flows. Make it a date. Spend some time in there and plan where you’ll put certain things, and coordinate who will be in which rooms. Try to drive from the hotel to the venue at the time of day that you’ll be making the trip on your wedding day. Does it work?
If you book separate hotel rooms for your partner and their wedding party to get ready in, please book them in the same hotel. The check-in process (not just for us- for your other vendors, your family, your wedding party… anyone who needs to show up at the hotel) is time-consuming and stressful, and having to do it multiple times in a hurry (while carrying equipment, or flowers, or 5 groomsman’s suits, etc.) is borderline undoable without running wildly behind. If you’re concerned with seeing one another, ask for rooms on different floors- but there’s no need to get geographically far from one another.
As a general tip, take advantage of every discount and upgrade you can get. Tell the clerk you’re there for your wedding. Ask for a AAA discount if you’re a member. If you’ve got a company ID, as for a corporate rate. Ham it up, this is your one wedding day! Get as many discounts and free drinks as you can stand.
These are some general tips and guidelines about how to most effectively use your coverage time in the beginning half of your wedding day. These are also things to consider in regards to your other vendors and planning!
We recommend that your bridesmaids be fully done with their hair and make up prior to our arrival. Not a lot of “getting ready” is actually very glamorous or photo-worthy, and very few people want a camera in their face while they’re doing their make up rituals. We recommend they have hair and make up fully completed, while still being in their “getting-ready” attire, whatever that may be- we recommend having some sort of coordinated getting-ready look!
While we recommend that your bridesmaids have completed hair and make up before we arrive, that ideally means we’ll be arriving just as you are in the beginning stages of getting glammed. While the HMUA is getting you camera-comfortable, this will be our time to capture all of your “detail” photos/footage- we like to have about 30 minutes for this part (see the next tip!) We’ll come back to you when you’re mostly dolled up (but not quite finished!) and get some super-glam shots of you receiving the finishing touches. Whereas the hair and make up artists were getting thangs done (read: working quickly) earlier in the day for your bridesmaids, they’ll be prepared to take the time to ensure you look fabulous and fully pampered for your getting ready photo op (because they won’t be scrambling to finish up any bridesmaids before they get to you.)
Another wonderfully easy, but super impactful timesaver is having all of your effects/details together in a bag/box/container for us to grab-and-go with when we arrive. This way we aren’t wasting any time looking for the garters, locating the shoes, oh and who had the rings again? All those items will already be in one, easy-to-locate place and leave us plenty of time to artfully capture them. Put anything you might want to capture in this box. I would encourage you to put together a similar box for your partner as well, if there’s anything you’d like to make sure is documented. Anything they have that’s special (or even if it’s not special to him/her, but it’s special to you and you want to make sure there’s a photo!) have them put them in aside in a box for us to take. Think: ties, shoes, cufflinks, letters, watches, heirlooms, liquor/cigars, etc.
If you have any detail photos in mind that require some forethought or extra details, consider what needs to go into creating those images beforehand. If you want a photo of your and all of your bridesmaid’s dresses hanging up, then you’ll all need to have hangers that look nice for everyone, have the price tags cut out of everyone’s dress beforehand, and have a place to hang them all up. It sounds innocent enough, but you can waste a solid 15 minutes of valuable time waiting for 8 girls to locate a hanger they forgot about. For a flat lay detail photo, you may want to have ribbon and floral clippings for us to garnish with. Just make a list of these “little things” to remember as they come to you, and make sure to share that information with others to whom that info is relevant. (i.e., reminding bridesmaids to have their tags cut out and dresses hung on their special hanger by X time.)
Speaking of sharing relevant information: make sure all of your wedding party, family members, vendors, etc. know where to be and why they’re needed there at what time. What do I mean by that? Well, you can’t just tell a groomsman to be at X place at 2:30. Well, you can try it. But we’ve found it’s more effective to tell him to be fully dressed for photos at 123 Main Street at 2:30 with his boutonniere on. If everyone BUT your dad shows up at a certain time for family pictures (“No one told me I had to be there at 3:30, Linda!”) then that’s a whole collection of photos that we won’t be able to capture in the allotted amount of time, and will have to make up for later on. Goodbye, Cha-Cha Slide… we’ve got to go outside and get this photo of dad with all our cousins that we didn’t get earlier. Three hops this time… back outside for more pictures. It’s better to just keep everyone in the loop and give them a clear picture on the when/where/why they’re needed.
Once again, to review: keep your space clean. Check the traffic times. Book your rooms in advance. Make sure everyone knows the plan, and that the plan works.
Tips for Getting Ready From a Person Who Goes to Weddings Every Weekend
But seriously- aside from being a wedding photographer, I’m a person too (surprise!) This means that I’ve got some tips for ya outside of just what specifically pertains to my picture-taking aspect of the day. I’ve been able to pinpoint a few things that I’ve noticed that can make things flow better (or worse) and things that just generally make this part of the day go more smoothly and enjoyably. A lot of these tips are super simple, but way more impactful than you might think!
Play some music! Whether your squad is all the best of friends, or they’re an eclectic collection friends from all different stages in your life- getting ready takes focus, and focus means quiet, and quiet can mean unnecessary intensity or awkwardness (everyone’s nerves are high!) Play some fun jams, have a getting-ready get down, and keep the vibe light.
Have something to do! More often than not, groomsmen’s getting ready spaces are full of pool tables, dartboards, beer fridges- they’re down there having a blast! The ladies are usually left their own devices which is b o r i n g. Play interactive games (the Heads Up app is free and so fun!) have a dance-off, a wedding-themed cookie decorating contest, a cocktail making competition- don’t waste this time with tons of valuable cuteness-potential on sitting around looking at your phone. Make some memories! Don’t forget- the experience your wedding party’s has is a part of your entire wedding day’s vibe. Make it interesting for them, this is your chance to give them a day they’ll never forget (partly because of the awesomeness, but partly because all of the awesomeness will be captured in your photos and film!)
You don’t have to be a Bride (or Groom, or Non-Binary Marriage)zilla if you learn to delegate. This is the one day that everyone around you will pretty much do your bidding without question, and love that you asked them to do something to help you. Is your Mother-in-Law being unbearable? Well, would she please be a hero and go meet the florist at the venue? Are you worried the groomsmen won’t show up on time? Give the best man a copy of the timeline and let him know you’re really counting on him to help make this day special. Is a bridesmaid being totally selfish and obnoxious? Tell your other girls that you need support and let her roll off your back. Truly try not to let anyone upset you. It’s your wedding day. You’re the one who has stayed up all late nights planning, you’re the one who shelled out the cash, not them. They are not considering every single thing about this day like you are (unless they’re the coolest, best friends ever, which I hope they are.) Don’t be afraid to tell anyone exactly what you need (or want) from them on your wedding day- it’s possible they may just not know that they aren’t meeting your needs or expectations, because they haven’t dreamed of every little moment of this day like you have. It doesn’t mean they don’t care, so make your needs known, give a little grace, and advocate for your vision above all else.
So much coolness can be jam-packed into your getting ready details, but so many people miss this opportunity. Don’t be one of those people! Think outside of the box and don’t be afraid to do something different. You don’t have to do something just because your friend did it at their wedding, or because it’s something your mom thinks you should do, or because you saw it on Pinterest and it’s the expected thing to be done. Here are a few different ideas to get the ideas rolling:
Sure, the classic silky knee-length floral robes are cute, and if that’s your jam, I’m certainly not turning my nose up at it. I will say, though, that we’ve seen it before. Why not have all of your girls wear a different colored robe in a tone that’s apart of your wedding color palette? Or maybe some custom jammies? I guarantee, that would look absolutely incredible on camera. Swoon!
You could absolutely get ready in some super comfy shorts and a button up, but you could also wear something like this or this or this. If there was ever a day to wear an Elizabeth Taylor-style robe or a lacy boho romper- it’s today, your wedding day. Doing whatever you want on your wedding day is protected by the United States Constitution. (Okay it isn’t, but it should be.)
If you spent a chunk of change on your dress, don’t give it to me to photograph on a 50 cent hanger! You’re killin’ me, Smalls! There are all kinds of cute personalized hangers for sale online, and even ideas on how to decorate your own hanger (bachelorette party activity idea?) Even if it’s not all customized, it should at least be nice.
While we can totally photograph your rings in their original box, not all of them are super great-looking. If you’re not in love with your ring box, I’m partial to something like these boxes that can be customized to your wedding palette. Not only are they fun for photos, but it’ll give your jewels a special home for as long as you take care of the box, or ‘til death do ya part. There are all kinds of interesting and unique ring boxes available- give them a look!
If you’re interested in “flat lay” photos, or images that include all of your details arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner, I recommend including some other material for us to work with. Yes, we need your details to take these photos (invitations, rings, shoes, flowers, jewelry, garter, etc.) but you can also provide us with ribbon in different colors and textures, left over floral cuttings, pieces of your dress from alterations, the ideas could go on and on. The more you give us to work with, the more interesting and unique we can make those detail shots!
If there are any heirlooms or traditions specific to your family, culture, religion, etc., let’s talk about how we can incorporate them in a special and honoring way. These are the photos and moments that will ultimately be the most important to you down the line, and it’s worth it to give them some extra thought and attention.
There are lots of reasons why the majority of our couples choose to do a first look these days. There are logistical reasons why first looks are great, of course, but there are also a ton of mushier, lovey-dovey reasons that they’re great; and that’s where I’ll start:
First looks calm your nerves. Weddings are a whirlwind. When I’m stressed, upset, overjoyed, ecstatic- whatever it is I’m feeling… I want to be able to share it with Jack! Having to keep yourselves separated for 50% of the day can be both logistically and emotionally strenuous.
First looks are special and intimate. A lot of folks are initially resistant to the idea of a first look because they’ve always imagined having an old-fashioned, coming-down-the-aisle-moment. Even if you have a first look, that moment will still happen! The two are entirely separate moments with their own set of big, special, wedding-day feelings and emotions. A first look gives you a chance to really take each other in- take notice of each other’s affects and details without a hundred sets of eyes on you. You can whisper. You can joke. You can say any final affirmations, you can look into each others eyes… on and on with the romance! Nevertheless, the “coming-down-the-aisle-moment” remains fully intact because it’s the big show. The real deal. The “holy crap we’re doing this right now!” moment. They don’t siphon off of each other’s specialness, they make each other special-er. Promise. Yes, I said special-er.
Now that we’ve got the mushy stuff out of the way…
First looks open up your timeline. To put it plainly, weddings with first looks generally flow much more smoothly and less stressfully. While avoiding each other the whole day sounds cute, the reality of not being able to use the bathroom without deploying an army of bridesmaids to clear the halls/not being able to come in from the heat outside until someone finds the groom and makes sure he’s hidden away/not being able to use the prettiest part of your venue because your partner might possibly maybe see you through the window are much less cute than they sound. Ultimately, first looks allow us to knock out all of the “absolutely must-have photos” right in the first half of the day so you have maximal party time and minimal stress, baby! Maximal party time and minimal stress is always the goal in all areas of life. That’s a wedding/life combo tip for the low price of one wedding.
Saving the majority of your formal/necessary photos until after the ceremony limits your timeline. The later in the day we have to push our photo-taking, the more time we use racing to capture all of the necessary bits before the sun goes down, and the less time is spent capturing the organic, unique, emotion-filled moments that will be the hallmark of your wedding. This also will mean that there’s more of a gap between your ceremony, and rejoining all of your wedding guests at the reception (refer to the section on “Maximizing Cocktail Hour” for more info on that.)
Opting against having a first look will require special planning. Long gone are the days of receiving 10 film scans from your entire wedding day from your photographer. Brides were doing much less back in the day, and every wedding had (essentially) the same handful of moments to capture. Our moms weren’t Pinterest-ing. She didn’t comb endless hashtags for #weddinginspo. The modern couple’s wedding is much more involved, and much more is expected of all of their vendors. This means that, more than likely, the timeline of your wedding day probably won’t look a whole lot like your mom’s. Capturing all of the moments expected of the modern wedding photographer while maintaining a traditional timeline will require special planning on your part (most likely with the help of a wedding planner!) to ensure that you can do everything you’d like to do, and that we have the time to capture it, while maintaining a traditional (meet-me-at-the-alter) timeline.
If you’re having a winter wedding, a first look is just this side of an “absolute must.” The sun goes down incredibly early the later into the year we get, and it becomes an almost impossible race to finish every photo we need to capture before the sunset without a first look (unless you’re having a breakfast wedding. Which actually sounds kind of amazing. Send me your breakfast wedding referrals.)
*Spicy First Look Tip!*
First looks are not just for you and your boo. Get creative! Do one with your mom, dad, or grandparents. Do one with your kids. Do one with your bridesmaids. Do one with the kindergarten class you teach! The cuteness possibilities are off the charts here, folks. Take advantage!
```````While I’ve put a lot of energy into putting this guide together as an outpouring of all of the love and help I can provide to my brides- I am not a wedding planner. I Repeat. I am not a wedding planner. My job is to capture what you and your tribe have put together in a creative and emotive way. Not to put it together for you. I will give pointers and opinions on any plan that you bring to me, but you need to bring me a plan. I spent many years helping procrastinating brides write their timeline in the wee hours of the night before their wedding, ultimately being backed into a corner to do a job that folks (rightfully) get paid between $500-$5000 to do- with no notice, no help, and no real expertise in that area. I’ve closed the door on allowing myself to be emotionally fried and disrespected this way as a means of self-care and helping me remain in love with my job. I LOVE and am fulfilled by being a wedding photographer. I LOATHE and am stressed out by being a wedding planner. If you’d pay someone else to do it, you’ll have to pay me to do it as well. I pray you all bring the same energy into 2019- can I get an amen?
My first and foremost tip for planning your ceremony is a mini-version of my overall wedding planning tip: map out your vision. How do you want it to feel? What music is playing? Is it light-hearted? Is it serious? Do your family or friends participate? Are there essential oils diffusing, or candles burning? Do you have traditions or rituals that you want to include? Inside jokes? Get a general idea of how you want it to feel and flow from point A to B, and do the rest of your planning from there. The rest of my tips are just general and observational, but helpful- if I do say so myself!
Meet your minister or officiant and have some idea of what they’re going to say. Especially if it isn’t a life-long friend or your childhood pastor. We’ve seen this get weird too many times- from inappropriate themes being emphasized to total weirdos making uncomfortable jokes. If you’re going with someone you’re not familiar with to officiate your wedding, Skype is your best friend! Email-only correspondence can hide all manner of weirdness. Why do you think we met you first? Haha. This will also give you the chance to give us a heads up on any rules or preferences your officiant may have when it comes to the part we play during the ceremony. With the exception of religious beliefs, we recommend not having anyone officiate your wedding who’s goal for you isn’t exclusively “do, say, be, and capture this moment however you deem special and sacred.” All of your vendors should look to you for your opinions and boundaries first and foremost.
Be aware of any other rules. Officiants aside, some venues have rules in terms of flash allowed, shooting locations, ect. during the ceremony. It’s your job to relay this info to us. Preferably before the day-of, haha.
We strongly discourage paper/felt/etc. aisle runners! The few times we’ve seen things go very awry during a wedding ceremony were largely thanks to aisle runners. Your heals will punch through and get stuck in the felt. Your tulle/crystals/lace/etc. will catch on the material and roll up under your dress and trip you. They always, always, always cause cringe-inducing struggle! I’ve never seen it not go wrong, and that’s the gospel true. Especially on grass!!!! If your dream is truly to have a runner, lay it down beforehand and have it pinned or taped down at frequent intervals so it’s less likely to trip you.
Know where to stand at the alter, even mark the spot if necessary. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Being slightly off center in all of your photos when you could pretty easily be on center is no-brainer.
Reserve one aisle seat so that I’m able to seamlessly get out of the way of things once I’ve got my shots! My goal is to capture creative and unique shots during every ceremony, and having a seat to retreat to helps me be able to do that without getting too in the way of things. About 1/3 of the way back is ideal, usually behind the reserved “family” rows.
Inform us of any and all events! If you’re doing anything special, sacred, out-of-the-norm, or just generally photo-worthy but unexpected, let us know! Even if it’s a secret or a surprise from everyone else, don’t keep it a secret from us. We map out our plan to capture the ceremony beforehand, based on the info we have. If something unexpected happens, we’re almost always able to adjust, but we’d rather be sure we’re able to document it in the best way and not just playing catch up.
UNPLUGGED AND UNBOTHERED. Just one more reminder to please work in favor of your own investment and encourage an unplugged ceremony! I will elbow my way in to get my shot to the absolute best of my ability, but if your Uncle Joe jumps in front of the camera during your kiss with his first generation iPad, I just have to cross my fingers and pray Jack got the shot. We give you an amazing print release to all your photos- every single one. Feel free to call all of your aunts and uncles before your big day and let them know.
Take it all in with the Five Second Rule. You knew you weren't going to get through this section without at least one mushy tip, right? Well, here it is: The Five Second Rule. Not the one about germs- although I do believe in the validity of that Five Second Rule as much as I believe in this one. Before you walk down the aisle together as man and wife (or wife and wife, or husband and husband, or whatever your lil’ heart desires!) wait five seconds. Take it in. Hold hands, kiss if you must, but use that five seconds to take in all the love on the faces of the people who came to support you. Look at the world through your freshly married eyes. I promise it’ll burn in your brain and leave a big ol’ love imprint forever, and we’ll be able to capture it all on camera. It’s good stuff.
Maximizing “Cocktail Hour”
Before anyone asks: Cocktail Hour is the time (usually an hour, but sometimes less, sometimes more) directly following the ceremony. This doesn’t mean you have to serve cocktails to have a “cocktail hour,” it’s just a colloquialism for what that stretch of post-ceremony time is called. You will more than likely need at least some post-ceremony time (unless you have a specially devised timeline, like we talked about before) so you don’t want leave your guests with nothing to do or munch on for that span of time. We recommend games, refreshments, and music! How much time we’ll need here depends on what we’ve been able to accomplish earlier in the day, so this seems like a good time to reiterate the “pros” of having a first look.
In our wedding day questionnaire, there will be a section for your to list out every combo of formal photo you’d like to have made. I’m talking all of the photos you want- combos with and without certain people, every grouping, etc. List their actual names so I can call them out. (This means don’t write “Bride’s Aunts and Uncles” or “Groom’s nieces and nephews.” Write their names.) This is the #1 way to expedite these photos that may otherwise take a long time.
Once you have your list of necessary photos, inform those people that their presence will be necessary immediately following the ceremony. You can notate this on your invitations, send out a mass Facebook message, or have the officiant announce it after the ceremony is finished. The goal is to not lose half the family and send the other half searching for them. This is a huge, massive time-suck and mood-killer.
If you haven’t had a first look, this is also we’re we’ll need to capture the entirety of our bridal party photos. Make sure they know the plan and are prepared to make any quick touch ups while on the go- again, we won’t have time to waste here if we’re doing this all during the cocktail hour.
We recommend having a planned “retreat spot” for your post-ceremony recession. The quickest way to get delayed in your timeline is to get caught up saying “hello” to every single person who sees you immediately following the wedding. Fear not: that’s what the reception is for! Don’t feel badly for prioritizing the “business” so you can get to the partying. The longer you delay here, the less you’ll ultimately get to hang out with everyone who came to see you.
We like to utilize this time to get anywhere between 30-50% of your couple portraits. Emotions are high and it’s a great time to capture some really sweet moments. We’ll capture the rest later on, when the sun is in the best position in the sky.
Best Reception Practices
This section will include some specific tips about how to maximize the photo/film aspect of the day, but you’ll also find some general suggestions we’ve collected over the years about how to have the best reception possible.
Bundle your reception “events” together. While you can’t do every single event all at once, there are some traditions throughout the night that make sense to do back-to-back. This keeps your party from feeling clunky and disjointed, and doesn’t leave your guests getting up/sitting down, being told to dance/being told to sit, etc. The key to a good party is the flow of the night. Here are a few events we suggest you bundle:
Announcements + First Dance | Be announced into your reception and directly into your first dance. Your guests will be coming off of cocktail hour, and this is a signal to them that the party is getting started, and the wedding celebration has officially begun. It’s the perfect kick-off to a wedding par-tay!
First Dance + Sentimental Dances | Additionally, follow your first dance with any other important dances you have planned throughout the night (typically some combination of father/daughter/mother/son/grandparents/etc.) You don’t want to stop and start your party repeatedly so folks can watch multiple dances.
Your Meal + Our Meal | No one wants pictures of themselves eating- you or your guests. Please make best efforts to ensure that we are given our meal concurrently with you + your partner. That way, we are able to take our break during one of the only parts of the night that you’ll also be taking a break. We ask that you please fill then caterer in on this (more than likely, including us in your head count.) While most caterers have gotten with the program, some more old-fashioned folks in the industry are determined to hang on to more traditional/less efficient policies.
Dinner + Cake Cutting | We recommend cutting the cake immediately after you finish your meal. Some guests will be trying to leave around this time (think older relatives and folks from far away) and you want them to be able to share in the festivities. Plus, you don’t want to leave a delicious cake sitting out for too long, and have all your guests wondering when they’re gonna get a slice of the good stuff. This will also eliminate the need to stop the party or dancing to have your guests sit and watch you do something that takes about 60 seconds, and then awkwardly resume the party. Dessert follows dinner, it just makes sense.