Hello Bride-to-Be and Welcome! This is such an exciting time for you and I’m sure your mind is racing with all sorts of ideas, details and planning. It’s so exciting, but it can be somewhat overwhelming. You’re planning the day that you’ve been anticipating your whole life and yet you only get one shot at it! By the time you get the hang of it, the planning is over! My goal as a wedding photographer is to make this one aspect of the planning process simple. Photography is more than just images, it’s a real part of your day. Not only do you deserve beautiful images, you also deserve an amazing photographic experience. The goal of this guide is to help you plan your wedding day in a way that will allow me to provide you with the BEST experience possible. Since we’re official, the next step is to plan your engagement session and then start talking about your wedding day details as we get closer to your date! I’m beyond excited to be working with you!
Get to know Jen!
You may have already gotten a hint of this already…but I LOVE what I do! Documenting your wedding day is such an honor!!! Since we’ll be spending a lot of time together on the big day, I want to make sure you really feel like you know me! So, here are some wedding day favorites…
I love starting off the day with beautiful details! I consider this my “warm up” time. These details allow me to be creative from the moment I begin shooting on your wedding day. I love having this time to prepare for the rest of your day!
Bride & Groom Portraits
Portrait time with the bride and groom is hands down my favorite part of the day! This is when I produce my best work and when my couples really get to enjoy their wedding day. I especially love the moments when the bride and groom interact with each other AND with their loved ones! It’s such a happy high!
I love capturing moments throughout the wedding day. When the bride and groom gets to hug, laugh, and cry with those they are closest to. It’s emotional and it’s so very special! I love documenting this throughout the day!
YOUR ENGAGEMENT SESSION
Now that you’ve picked a date, a photographer and probably a venue as well, you can celebrate! Those are some of the toughest decisions in wedding planning and you can cross them off your list! Yippie! Now, on to the fun stuff…like your engagement session. I include engagement sessions in The Wedding Experience because, I truly believe that they are a vital part of the entire process. During your engagement session, you’ll have the chance to get to know me, experience how I shoot and how I handle posing and lighting.
This session will make a huge impact on how the wedding day flows. I’ll arrive on your wedding day already knowing how you two interact, what your best poses are and how to photograph you in a genuine way! What I will learn about you during your engagement session is invaluable! You will feel like such a pro on your big day because of the great practice you had during your engagement session, and that’s how it should be!
Your engagement session can be schedule anytime before your wedding day. I normally suggest booking it at least 3-6 months in advance to avoid stress. I shoot engagement sessions two hours before sunset. As you start to plan for your engagement session, you will need to start brainstorming about location ideas. I love it when couples pick a location that is special or sentimental to them in some way! If you can’t think of anywhere specific that you would like to shoot, I can help you decide on a location. As long as the light is great, I can make any location look awesome. I shoot at gardens, museums, parks, downtown and parking garages! So, don’t shy away from crazy ideas! The more creative, the better!
It’s always a little intimidating to have your picture taken…even if it’s just a photo on an iPhone that is taken by a friend. We still want to look nice, make sure nothing is in our teeth and that our hair is behaving! I realize that preparing for your engagement session can be a little overwhelming. Here are some tips for outfits and accessories that will make the engagement session prep a little more manageable!
-Don’t try to MATCH…instead opt for outfits and accessories that coordinate instead. If everyone wore the same exact color at their engagement session, it would be boring. Imma right?!
-Don’t be afraid to be BOLD! Accessorize and make your outfits your own! I love a big statement necklace like a squash blossom! Or bold colored shoes! Yaaas!
-Most patterns are ok…however graphics are not favorable for portraits. If you’re wearing a pattern, make sure it’s not overwhelming and distracting.
-Be sure to check out my Pinterest boards for more outfit inspiration if need ideas or to get the ball rolling.
I have more tips here: JH Style Guide
Here’s the page that can be somewhat intimidating! The TIMELINE. I know this isn’t the most exciting aspect of the wedding day, but this is the one thing that can make or break your photography. This ideal timeline is based off of a wedding day that includes a First Look. Most of my couples choose to do a First Look, and you can read more about that option a few pages over. Remember that all wedding days are different, and your timeline may differ due to travel times and unique situations.
When it comes to timelines, the best advice I could give is to ADD CUSHION TIME. Sometimes the most simple things can take an extra 20 minutes and then all of a sudden, the whole morning is thrown off. I have seen “getting the bride in her dress” take almost 40 minutes because of a button malfunction. It’s a smart idea to add in an extra 10 minutes here and there so that we have some wiggle room to work with. This way, if one part of the day gets thrown off by 20 minutes, I can help you compensate that time in other areas.
There are so many different things to think about when you’re planning a wedding and so here are some tips for the pre-ceremony timeline. I realize that every single wedding day is different and so, not all of these tips will apply to every wedding day schedule. Something else to consider is that not EVERYTHING will go as planned, and I promise you, that is completely normal!
BOUQUETS AND BOUTONNIERES
You will need your bouquet and boutonniere for your First Look. Have them delivered to the room where the bride is getting ready.
Be sure to think about the travel time and TRAFFIC to and from your getting ready location and your venue.
HAIR & MAKEUP
I encourage brides to have at least their makeup done before I start because who wants a ton of shots without their makeup on?! Nobody.
Either myself (if nearby) or my second shooter will photograph the guys getting ready. It’s a big bonus if the groom gets ready nearby. Most couples will book an additional room at the same hotel usually on a separate floor. If the groom is getting ready far from the venue the bride will get priority of getting ready shots.
GETTING IN THE DRESS
I’ll instruct you to get into your dress close to a window and it would be fabulous to have your bridesmaids dressed when you’re getting in your gown.
CREATE A CUSHION
A 10 minute cushion every now and then is a GREAT idea. It’s amazing how fast time slips away the day of!
Bridal Details 45 minutes
Every bride loves having those beautiful shots of her bridal details. It’s an important part of the story and I love having some time to shoot the dress, shoes, jewelry, invitations, etc. These shots allow me to get warmed up for the rest of the big day. I normally like to allow a least 45 minutes for this part of the day. While I’m shooting details, I’m also capturing some shots of the bride and her girls getting ready. If the groom is getting ready nearby, either my second photographer or myself can head over to grab a few shots. Usually 40 minutes before the First Look since it always takes them less time to get dressed.
Bride & Groom Getting Dressed 45 minutes
After the details have been photographed, it’s time for the bride to get into her dress. This is a big moment! I usually ask the mother of the bride and all of the bridesmaids to be dressed by the time the bride is ready to get into her dress. This ensures that everyone will look nice in those images. After the bride is in her gown, she can put on her jewelry, veil, shoes, etc. and I will shoot some additional bridal portraits.
First Look 15 minutes
This one of my favorite parts of the wedding day! I will find the perfect location for my couple’s First Look prior to the getting ready portion of the day. Don’t stress about that one bit! I will make sure the location is private and as secluded as possible.
Bride & Groom Portraits 15 minutes
After the bride and groom take their time with the First Look, I will begin taking a few romantic portraits of the two of them while the initial excitement is still present. I will find the locations for these shots as well. Remember, the LIGHT determine where we shoot and so I can’t decide on portrait locations until day-of. As we shoot these portraits, the bridal party can start making their way to us for Bridal Party portraits.
Bridal Party Portraits 30 minutes
Now, it’s time for Bridal Party shots. I buffer in extra time throughout the day just in case we have some unexpected things that hold us up! One way to make sure we stay on schedule for bridal party portraits is to have someone put the boutonnières on the guys BEFORE they arrive for portraits. During Bridal Party portraits, I will make sure to take some great shots of the guys and girls both separately AND together. After the Bridal Party portraits are done, the bride will go into hiding so that early guests don’t sneak a peek, and the ushers will begin their duties.
Family Portraits 30 minutes
Family formals normally take place immediately following the first look. If no first look, we’ll do them after the ceremony. I will need about 30 minutes for family photos. I will send a questionnaire before the wedding where you can list out the shots that you want. I recommend shooting portraits outdoors if possible so that they resemble more natural family portraits, especially if the ceremony location is dark.
Bride & Groom Goes Into Hiding 30 minutes
This is a great time to catch your breath and re-touch hair and makeup. Grab some water and relax a bit. During this time I will photograph the reception space and decor.
Reception Details 30 minutes
If the reception is in the same location as the ceremony, I will use this time to shoot the reception decor UNTOUCHED. If the ceremony and reception are in different locations, I recommend having a cocktail hour outside of the main reception area if possible so that I can grab some great shots of your reception before the night begins and guests start laying down purses and belongings on their seats!
Ceremony 30 minutes
It’s time to get married!!! Most ceremonies are 30 minutes long. If your ceremony is longer than 30 minutes, we’ll make adjustments to the timeline. Cherish these moments. Your ceremony will pass by so quickly.
Just Married Portraits 15 minutes
The best time for portrait is between 6-7PM in the late spring, summer, and early fall. This is when the sun is glowy and golden. I love having a few extra minutes with the bride and groom to take a few “Just Married” portraits right after family formals.
Reception 90 minutes
This is when the bridal party lines up for introductions and the party begins!!! By this part of the day, the timeline isn’t as strict. I work off of the natural light and so after the sun is set, my portrait time is over and I begin focusing on the reception events. With 8 hours of coverage I can be present for the main events of the reception and about an hour of dancing. If you’re interested in having your exit photographed, there are several options for this. You can either add additional coverage or plan a faux exit with just your bridal party! Email me about this if you’re interested in learning more.
Let The Day Begin!
This portion of The Wedding Experience really sets the stage for the entire wedding day. The next few pages will share tips and tricks that will ensure a seamless morning of bridal preparation and beautiful portraits.
It's the morning of your wedding. Hopefully all of the little details are taken care of and you're relaxing with your best friends while your hair is being done. If certain items haven't been checked off the to do list it's time to hand them over to someone else. Delegation is a key part of a stress-free wedding day. I know it's hard to hand over the decorating duties and all of the last minute things that need to be done, but it really is important to relax the morning of your wedding. The rest of the day is going to be fast paced and filled with a lot of emotions. Take advantage of this down time. There are a few things to consider about the “Getting Ready” portion of the day. Do you want to share a “First Look” with your Dad or any other person who plays a huge role in your life?
Will you and your groom be exchanging gifts during this time? If so, who would you like to deliver them? Are there certain women in your life who would appreciate seeing you get into your gown? Some brides want very few people around for this moment. Other brides love having aunts and grandmas present. It’s totally up to you! A few other things to consider…as you get ready to put your dress on, refrain from putting jewelry on. I love shooting all of those final steps once you’re in your gown. Speaking of the gown, if your gown is on a plastic hanger, try to make a note to bring a wooden hanger along for picture sake. If you forget, no big deal. I usually carry an extra one just in case. Keep reading along for more “Getting Ready” tips to help you prepare!
THE WINDOW EFFECT
By having just a simple window in the bridal prep area, I am able to create beautiful portraits with soft light. I prefer natural light, so the more windows, the better!
EVERY LITTLE DETAIL
The whole day begins with the DETAILS! This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day, because it allows me to prepare in a way that matches and show cases the style of the entire wedding day. So, in some ways, the details set the stage for the look of the whole wedding and I love having ample time to stylize, and shoot everything from the dress, to the jewelry, to grandma’s handkerchief. Here’s a list of the most common details that I shoot. I ask brides to gather any details they have before I arrive so that I can walk in, say hello, give you a big hug and then begin with all the goodies! Please assure your Mom that I will take GREAT care of the dress, I promise!
What to bring: dress, veil, hair pieces, rings (all three), shoes, bouquet, boutonniere, jewelry, perfume, invitation suite, your “something borrowed” and “something blue”.
GATHER the goods. If possible, collect all of your details before I arrive so that I can being quickly and have more time for some “getting ready” shots of you and your girls.
EXTRA elements. Sometimes, depending on the theme and “look” of the wedding day, there may be some extra elements that you could include when you hater your details. For example, if you’re having a country themed wedding, you could include a piece of burlap or lace. If you’re having a rustic themed wedding , include a small piece of wood for me to use when I’m shooting your rings and jewelry. This really makes for beautiful, consistent album spreads.
KEEP all three rings. The most common detail missing when I arrive are the rings. Moms, officiants and planners will tell you to hand over your wedding band to the Best Man before the day begins. However, it’s actually better to hand it over during the “Getting Ready” portraits so that I get great ring shots first.
BRING the bouquet. Don’t forget the bouquet. Have the bouquets and boutonnieres delivered to the bride before the First Look so that she can have her bouquet in her portraits. No worries, if it’s not, I’ll be sure to keep it in water as much as possible before the ceremony.
THE BRIDAL BOUQUET
There are so many expenses when it comes to wedding planning. Many brides have to prioritize what they want to invest in. I just want to give a little tip that can save money and make a huge impact on the way your images turn out. If you’re having trouble making a decision about your florals, here is what I suggest. I recommend making your bridal bouquet a big priority! When I’m photographing a wedding, if the bride has a gorgeous bouquet, I can make the entire day look like there were beautiful florals everywhere! I can use the bridal bouquet to spruce up bridal details, reception details AND even bride and groom portraits as well! The bridal bouquet is a focal point for me when it comes to your photography, and so I highly recommend getting your DREAM bouquet and investing less on the bridesmaids bouquets since they will not be photographed nearly as much!
Since 90% of my couples opt for a First Look, I have options for the bridal veil! I recommend that the bride only wear her veil when she comes down the aisle and I recommend this for three different reasons. 1. This is something new for your groom to see when you’re walking down the aisle! 2. A lot of times, during a First Look, the groom is so excited to see his bride that he accidently pulls the veil out when he throws his arms around her! And 3. Saving the veil for the ceremony ensures that I will get some “Just Married” portrait time with the couple because EVERY bride needs to have a “Veil Blowing in the Wind” shot of their own! This isn’t a rule that we ask all brides to follow, it’s simply a suggestion.
YOUR FIRST LOOK
Your first look is an amazing part of your wedding day! If you aren’t sure about this tradition, the next few pages will explain why it would be a romantic addition to your wedding day celebration that not only adds to the experience but also reduces stress. Please know that I would never want any of my couples to feel pressured to go with this option. However, I do want to make sure that I share all of the benefits of a first look, because there is a reason 90% of my couples do this and LOVE it!
THE FIRST LOOK EXPLAINED
I have confessed my deep love for “First Looks” numerous times on my blog and I tend to point them out in every blog post. There is a reason for this. They’re AWESOME! However, not everyone is aware of how awesome they are, because they get caught up in how “non-traditional” it is, and they immediately write it off. I can talk about those brides because I was one of them! I wanted a REACTION….I wanted Orlando to be so surprised and overcome with joy when I walked down the aisle that he bawled at the first sight of me! Isn’t that EVERY girl’s dream? Who doesn’t want that reaction? But that didn’t happen. lol I believe it would’ve been different if we had a few moments to ourselves before hand. If we had decided to share an intimate “First Look” moment on our wedding day, Orlando would’ve been more open to sharing what he felt. But he did say that he had a big lump in his throat when I came down the aisle so I will take that!
After experiencing my own wedding and shooting others…. I’ve come to this conclusion. Some brides love “traditions”…. but what a bride REALLY wants when it comes to her groom seeing her for the first time, is a REACTION. Those who are not interested in a First Look usually think that by seeing each other beforehand, they will lose part of that reaction. They also assume that it will not be as emotional or as intimate as it would be if they were coming down the aisle. What I have found (this is starting to sound like a research paper!) is so ironic! Everyone knows that wedding days are a bit stressful for the bride and groom.
The whole day is focused on them, they need to look their best, they need to be on time, the groom has no idea what side the boutonniere is supposed to go on and little by little… the tension grows.
It’s before the ceremony and the gravity of what is about to happen starts to sink in and the calm, collected groom who was playing golf just a few short hours ago is now starting to feel a little anxious. So what happens next? The groom waits in a little room somewhere for his que from the coordinator. It seems like it’s taking FOREVER. Finally, the coordinator leans her head in and hurries the groom to get ready. With clammy hands, the groom enters the ceremony and what does he find? …. he finds anywhere from 80-300 people and they’re all looking where? Right at his face… because everyone has expectations and anticipation about his first reaction. This is the farthest thing from a private, intimate moment. Sure, it’s SO powerful and SO wonderful. … I already said that walking down the aisle was one of the BEST PARTS of my WHOLE wedding day!! It’s magical!! ….. But when you walked down the aisle… your groom won’t be a nervous wreck…because he had spent the morning with you and your best friends and the pressure was OFF. By the time your ceremony rolls around your groom will be ready to ENJOY the beautiful day!
The nerves were gone and when the nerves are gone… true emotions are free to be expressed. And OH were they expressed! So, if I were to condense what I just wrote… basically, Grooms normally become incredibly nervous on wedding days…. even if they seem cool and collected.
For most grooms, the nerves kick in before they see their bride because when they see her, everything becomes VERY real! So when the nerves start creeping up, instead of keeping the groom in a secluded space until his time to enter the ceremony, what if you took him to a private place… no people, no on-lookers, no distractions…. and you let his beautiful bride, the love of his life, quietly call his name and have him turn around to see her for the first time. He would turn around and finally get his first look at his stunning bride and not only would he get to see her… he could embrace her… cry with her…. kiss her… and ENJOY that moment with her for as LONG as they wanted. As she shows him her dress, twirls a few times and then asks him what he thinks… his nerves start to diminish. After all, she’s the one who can make him most comfortable anyway.
Because they aren’t on a time crunch… they casually move into their romantic portraits. No one is around, the coordinator isn’t announcing “15 minutes left”, and there is no pressure. It’s just the two of them and their photographer….. capturing the excitement and the joy of their wedding day. This is their time to be TOGETHER…and to be ALONE. When does that happen on a wedding day? Without a First Look…. it doesn’t. After their romantic portraits are done, they meet up with their best friends. Their bridal party joins them and because they still have plenty of time to spare… the bride touches up a little makeup while the boys act like boys. After a few minutes the bridal party portraits begin and they’re FUN. They’re FUN, because there is time to make them FUN.
here aren’t any guests waiting impatiently at the cocktail hour and there isn’t a DJ coming to find the photographer to get a time check. It’s wonderful!
After portraits are done, the girls and guys separate and prepare for the ceremony. The guests begin to arrive and the ushers are in place. Pretty soon it’s time for the processional music to begin and one by one, the bridesmaids make their way down to the front of the ceremony. As the groom clasps his hands… they aren’t clasped out of nervousness but excitement. The music builds, the mother of the bride stands and all of the guests follow her lead. The groom looks up, and here comes the BRIDE!!! His best friend, his companion, his sweetheart…..she’s stunning…. ABSOLUTELY stunning. The closer she gets, the bigger he smiles.
Now let me put a disclaimer on here before we continue…my clients are not required to do a First Look by any means! I used to feel bad for sharing this option with couples who were against it, because I didn’t want to push anything on them. However, I’ve seen the benefits of a first look over and over again, and so I only share this because I want the BEST for my couples!! It’s totally ok if couples choose not to share a first look! It’s just my preference to do one for many reasons.... Keep reading to find out more of the benefits of sharing your first look privately! For brides not interested in a First Look, lets start chatting soon about how we’ll create a special timeline to fit everything in!
FIRST LOOK Why It’s Worth It.
40% MORE PORTRAITS
You’re investing a lot into your wedding photography. With a first look, you’ll receive 40% MORE portraits of the two of you… and those are the images you will decorate your first home with! (Believe me, our house is PACKED full of our portraits!) With a first look, you make the most out of this large investment and get the most for your money.
ENJOY THE SURPRISE FREELY
You actually get to have intimate time on your wedding day with your man. Most brides don’t realize that when you come down the aisle and totally SHOCK him with your gorgeous-ness… he can’t even tell you how amazing you look. He can’t touch you, embrace you or even SPEAK to you. You have to wait until 30 minutes later when the ceremony is over for him to react and tell you how amazing you look. And after 30 minutes of the ceremony, the reaction isn’t the same as the initial first glance.
EXTEND YOUR DAY BY 3 HOURS
First Looks allow you to extend your wedding day. Normally the wedding day would start when you come down the aisle, then the ceremony would end, you would rush through portraits so that you’re not late for the introductions and then it’s reception time. With a first look, your wedding day is extended by almost 3 hours! Instead of being rushed for your bridal party portraits… you actually get to enjoy them and have fun hanging out with your BEST friends on your wedding day. The WHOLE first half of my client’s wedding albums are filled with images just from this time together before the ceremony.
YOUR ONLY ALONE TIME
First Looks allow you to be TOGETHER and alone on your wedding day. It’s not only intimate, it will be your only time to be alone the whole day! You’ll cry and laugh and cry some more… and that will put you in the PERFECT mood for your romantic portraits. Normally portraits are a little rushed after the family formals, and it can be hard to really get back into that “lovey dovey” mode…. especially with family around! When you have just shared your first look, you’re READY to love on each other, and I always capture some super sweet images during those moments!
You get rid of your nerves! I’d say, 90% of my couples who have decided to do a first look, the grooms were not fans of it at first. However, because they have never experienced their wedding day before, they didn’t know how nerve racking it can be. I have hear from so many grooms who initially weren’t a fan of the first look... but afterwards admitted to being SO much more relaxed and ready for the ceremony!
FOR THE BRIDE
FIRST LOOK EXPECTATIONS
Bride’s, if you have never seen your man cry or get emotional, you can’t expect him to be overly emotional on your wedding day. Some guys just embrace their brides and never cry.... and that’s OK. Some guys show very little emotion when their bride is coming down the aisle and that’s ok too. Just enjoy this amazing day, and try not to put any expectations on him. If you take this advice to heart, I could potentially be saving you a lot of disappointment on your day. One thing we have noticed after shooting close to 200 weddings is that the stress and nerves that come with a wedding day can sometimes make it hard for some grooms to truly express their emotions. It’s just a lot to take in all at once. This is a great reason to share a first look and also a great reason to give some grace to your guy! Sure, you desetve to feel beautiful, but my encouragement to you is to enjoy this time together, no matter what his reaction is like!
This is for all of the brides who have a sweet spot in their heart for their dad. I have to admit that Daddy/Daughter first looks make me a little teary. For a lot of dads, this is when everything feels real and it hits him... “My baby girl is getting MARRIED!” These are precious moments to photograph and I highly encourage any daddy’s girl to make time in their timeline for this moment. It doesn’t take long at all! The hardest part is making sure dad shows up on time! If dad doesn’t show up on time, the whole timeline can get thrown off, or we’ll have to skip the daddy/daughter first look. Another sweet idea we’ve seen is having the father of the bride escort the bride to her first look!
Here it is! The moment everyone has been waiting for! The music is playing and the guests have been seated. Ushers make their way to the back of the church, and the coordinator is lining up the bridesmaids while giving the musicians a 5 minute warning. The bride is about to walk down the aisle to the love of her life..... and if she’s like most girls, she’s dreamed about this moment for a long time! Vows will be shared and promises will be made... this is what it’s all about!! In a world full of wedding blogs, Pinterest and bridal magazines, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and consumed by the “prettiness” of the event. While details do matter and planning is necessary, it’s important to never lose sight of the real purpose of this amazing day!
Ceremony lighting is really important. If you get married outdoors at 12pm, the lighting will be extremely harsh and not only will there be harsh lines of light on your faces, you will also be squinting. I suggest planning an outdoor ceremony 2 hours before sunset if you are having a FIRST LOOK. If you are not interested in sharing a first look, then I would suggest having your ceremony 3 hours before sunset to ensure that you will have plenty of time for all of your portraits afterwards. The lower the sun, the more romantic the lighting. If you are having an indoor ceremony, it is always best to have EVEN lighting at the altar. If there are two spotlights on the bride and groom, I will not be able to expose the rest of the bridal party. It is better to have soft, even light acorss the whole altar.
ORDER OF SERVICE
I have seen so many couples do so many AMAZING things during their ceremony. Some couples wash each other’s feet, symbolizing that they want to serve each other for the rest of their life. Some couples share in communion while some light a unity candle. Some couples sign the family Bible. The options are limitless!! As you plan your ceremony, make sure you design it to be exactly what the two of you envision it to be. This is your day!! If you have the freedom to be creative, then by all means, be creative!! Orlando and I read our vows in Navajo so that our grandmothers could understand what was happening. Make it your own!!!
PROGRAMS & DETAILS
The BEST advice I have for the program-making process is to remember that not EVERY guest needs a program! We printed a program for everyone attending our wedding but quickly realized that most families only took one. We ended up with lots of extra programs! Yikes! Also, before ordering your programs, have SEVERAL people check it for spelling and grammatical errors. Programs and the ceremony decor are things that the bride can plan in advance but then delegate the actual job of setting it up to a friend or coordinator. The last thing a bride needs to be doing the morning of her wedding is running around setting up floral arrangements! This leads me into my next column!
Hiring either a full event planner or just a day-of coordinator is SO important!! Brides realize very quickly that if they do not have someone in charge of the coordination of the day, that responsibility will automatically fall on the mother of the bride, the photographer or the BRIDE! When a photographer is in charge of the timeline and the coordination of the day, the images will suffer. All of my most stressful wedding situations were caused by a lack of organization and coordination. It’s so important to make this a priority.
I absolutely love meeting our couple’s families on the wedding day! Family formals are normally my first interaction with them and so I love to have a game plan for this part of the day! Eight weeks before the wedding, you’ll receive a questionnaire from me that will ask you to list out the family formals you want us to capture. Here’s a sample family formal list to help you start preparing what shots you need. We do have to limit the family formal time in order to ensure that we have plenty of daylight for your romantic portraits. However, any large family group shots that we don’t accomplish during family formals, we can be sure to capture right after the ceremony or at the reception!
SAMPLE LIST FOR FAMILY PORTRAITS
B&G with Bride’s Immediate Family
(Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Nieces, Nephews)
B&G with Bride’s Parents
B&G with Bride’s Siblings
Bride with her Parents
Bride with Mom, Bride with Dad
B&G with Bride’s Grandparents
B&G with both sets of Parents
B&G with Groom’s Immediate Family
(Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Nieces, Nephews)
B&G with Groom’s Parents
B&G with Groom’s Siblings
Groom with his Parents
Groom with Mom, Groom with Dad
B&G with Groom’s Grandparents
B&G with all family members if time allows
If I’m being honest, all of the wedding day images are important, but the real favorites are almost always from my time with the Bride and Groom! These romantic portraits of just the two of you will be the images that you frame beside your bed or over your mantle, and they will also be the images that will fill your album for generations to enjoy. These images are always my favorite not only because of their beauty, but because this is such a sweet portion of the day. For this brief moment in time, you will be alone with your groom on your wedding day. You will have a chance to love on each other and really connect before the craziness begins! Romantic portraits are normally done before the ceremony (after the “First Look”) and then I LOVE shooting a few “just married” portraits after the ceremony as well! This is when the light is low and golden! It’s such a romantic time for bride and groom portraits! If you’re not interested in a first look, we will make sure to include a lot of time after the ceremony for these portraits!
One of my favorite parts of my job is taking something so ordinary and making it look absolutely amazing! This happens most often when it comes to picking portrait locations! If there is one thing that I love and appreciate about my couples, it’s that they trust me! Sometimes I select portrait locations that most people wouldn’t consider attractive. For example, the image on this spread was taken inside of an abandoned, old church! The light was just perfect! There was nothing special about this place. It was grungy and seamingly “ugly” from everyone else’s point of view except mine! However, because my couple trusted me, and they were willing to walk through bird poop and dusty floors, they now have the most amazing portraits! So my encouragement is to just trust me! You don’t have to worry about a thing! Trust my locations, and I promise you, you’ll LOVE the results!
Lets chat about your bridal party! This is when the fun REALLY begins! I know from experience that all brides want their closest friends to have an AMAZING time during their big day, and I will make sure that happens! Bridal party portraits should be a ton of FUN! After you share your first look, depending on the locations and the timing of the day, your bridal party will join us for portraits! If all goes well, we will be able to accomplish ALL of your bridal party protraits BEFORE the ceremony. This means that your guys and gals will be free to mingle at cocktail hour if they wish! If there are flower girls and ring bearers involved, they can either join us for the pre-ceremony portraits or we can take one final group photo after the ceremony, before family formals. Be sure your groomsmen arrive with boutonnieres on, and your bridesmaids arrive with bouquets!
The party is here!! Receptions can be a blast! However, it’s important to make sure that you have your event well thought out. This is the job of your coodinator and your DJ/Band. Your caterer will also play a big role in the design and set up of your event. Every aspect of your reception affects the overall outline of the evening. For example, if you’re not having a plated meal, your reception will need to be set up in a way that allows movement. Guests will need to be able to find the food stations easily, and there will be a mixture of dinner tables and hightop cocktail tables. This will encourage guests to mix and mingle. If you are having a plated dinner, you will more than likely need escort cards, full place settings and space for all of your guests to be seated comfortably. Whatever the style of your event, make sure that you plan out all of the aspects of the evening. Your coordinator and DJ can help you set up the evening so that guests won’t leave early or experience long periods of waiting for the next thing to happen.
Much like the ceremony, you have the freedom to make your reception your own! It’s your party, it should be exactly how you want it to be! Here is a list of some key events that happen often at receptions:
- Bridal Party Introductions
- First Dance
- Daddy-Daughter Dance
- Mother-Son Dance
- Anniversary Dance
- Money Dance
- Traditional Religious Dances
- Welcome by Father of the Bride
- Cake Cutting
- Bouquet and Garter Toss
- Large group portraits with friends
- The exit of the Bride and Groom
The fun has begun! It’s time to relax, dance and celebrate!! Your reception should be a BLAST! The last thing you need to be worrying about is your timeline. Your coordinator and DJ should take care of making sure that everything stays on schedule so that you can enjoy your night. Here are some helpful tips that will help your reception flow smoothly.
- GUEST CONSIDERATION : Take your guests into consideration when planning your timeline. If you have a lot of elderly guests that will not be staying until the very end, make sure you schedule the cake cutting at a relatively early time so that they can be a part of it. Grandma’s love seeing this sweet tradition!
- KEEP IT MOVING : Chat with your coordinator about how you can plan your reception in a way that will keep guests engaged and moving all night!
- MAKE IT YOUR OWN : If you want to have a special dance with your grandparents, do it! Make your reception a reflection of who you are and don’t feel tied to traditions. Also, make sure you give your DJ or Band a “Do Not Play” list if there are some songs you really don’t want to hear during your reception!
- DON’T GET CAUGHT UP in the formalities and the details. Sure, details are pretty and fun to photograph, but they can steal the joy of the day if you get too caught up in them. (Just speaking from experience here) Plan your centerpieces, welcome table, etc. well before the wedding date, and teach your coordinator or family friend how to set them up so that you aren’t even thinking about those things the day of!
- RECEPTION COVERAGE : If you haven’t purchased enough coverage time for your photography to last until the exit, that’s ok! We have several options! (See next page!) I recommend planning your timeline so that you can have at least one hour of dancing photographed. The guests who dance during the first hour will still be dancing in the third hour! One hour of dancing will be enough time to really capture the joy of your reception!
RECEPTION CONTROLLED EXITS
Exits! If your coverage ends before your exit, you have the option of planning a faux exit with your bridal party! This is more common than you may think. Instead of saving your exit until the very end, you can plan a faux exit with just the members of your bridal party and a few family members! This allows us to have more control over these shots and the party NEVER has to stop! In most cases, no one even notices that the bride and groom are missing for a few minutes! This idea allows my couples to save money and still have all of the shots that they dreamed of!
RAINY WEDDING DAY
This was the last shot of the night and it so perfectly shows that the rain can’t keep me from taking beautiful images! Don’t let the fear of rain steal your joy. You can’t control it, and I promise we will make the best of it!!!
“Soooo, what do you do if it RAINS?!”. I want to reassure you that even if it rains, you will still have beautiful portraits and BRIGHT colors in your images! Overcast skies mean vibrant colors! I know that rain isn’t ideal, and no bride would wish for rain on their big day, but if it happens, it happens..... and it’s going to be JUST fine!! Here are a few things to remember:
1. All I need to create natural light portraits on a rainy wedding day is a porch! Just one porch!
2. Let me worry about the pictures. You have enough to think about. If there is a chance of rain, I’ll be sure to do some extra scouting to find a covered location or two, for us to use for you first look, romantic portraits and bridal party portraits.
3. Take it one step at a time. Don’t think about your entire day and what will happen if it rains. That will only overwhelm you! Definitely have a rain plan for your venue, but then let your vendors do the work of handling the rest of the day if rain is in the forecast.
I want you to have ALL of your memories in your possession forever and ever! I also want you to share your images freely and without any hesitation. This is why I deliver your images via an online gallery! This means that you don’t have to wait on a package in the mail, and you’ll have access to them wherever you are! I’ve listed some important information that will help you understand your online gallery and all that it can do on the next page! Enjoy!
You will be able to download your edited images directly from your online gallery, and they will be high resolution! This process is very simple! All you have to do is click the “downwards arrow icon” and you will be prompted to enter your name and email. Once you enter your name and email, you will be asked if you want to download just that one photo or if you would like to download all photos! Your photos will download directly to your “Downloads” folder. If you opt to download the entire gallery, you will be notified via email when your entire download is ready. It takes a few minutes to prepare for hundreds of images to be downloaded!
You can actually order professional and affordable prints from within your online gallery and have them shipped directly to your house! Print sizes are all under $10 and are printed in a professional lab to ensure color and contrast accuracy! You are more than welcome to print images on your own. However, I would warn you to avoid Walmart, Target and Costco. I cannot promise that your colors will print true-to-life if you choose to print at those stores.
Your online gallery will be stored online for 1 year. However, even though you will have access to your images for a year, I would still recommend downloading them and saving them in multiple places for safe keeping!
SHARING, WATERMARKING & EDITING:
You have the freedom to share your images in any way that you choose! These are your images, and I want you to love them so much that you can’t help but share them! I don’t believe that it is necessary to watermark my images. All I ask for is some type of credit whenever you use an image on social media! I only have ONE rule when it comes to what you can and cannot do with my work. I always encourage my clients not to re-edit their images. Let me do that hard work! However, if you have an image or two that you want to print at a very large size and you find an imperfection, I will gladly perfect it!
Whew! You made it to the end!!! Again, thank you for trusting me with your special day. I’m so honored to be the one to capture your memories, and I cannot wait to celebrate along side of you! Enjoy this season of planning, but also remember that your marriage is more important than the wedding. The wedding will come and go in a matter of hours, but your marriage needs to stand the test of time. Continue to make time for one another, even with all that needs to be done. As you continue to plan, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have along the way! Depending on your date our next step would be to finalize the engagement session. Also, roughly eight weeks before the wedding, you’ll recieve an online questionaire that will provide me with everything I need to know for your big day! I hope this guide has been helpful as you continue to plan and prepare for your wedding day!
Love & Hugs,