How To Prepare For Your Wedding Day
For every bride and her family the wedding day could be very stressful and sometimes full with surprises. Even after months of careful planning, research and preparation, things might go not as planned or expected. From traffic delays, to weather changes, to vendor and venue issues, there are always reasons for things to go wrong on your wedding day.
To help you, as my wedding clients, prepare and anticipate what to expect from the wedding photographer during each phase of the wedding day, I have created the following list of wedding day events and the photography related information for each phase. If you are still looking for a photographer, here is a guide to help you with the selection: How To Choose a Wedding Photographer
But before I start with listing what to keep in mind and prepare for during each phase of the wedding day, here are two very important points to keep in mind:
First, I cannot stress enough how important is the good communication between the bride and groom and the wedding photographer prior and during the wedding day. I usually, meet with each couple during our introductory meeting when I present my services and listen to the couple’s photography requirements. Then there is an additional pre-wedding consultation occurs approximately 7 days before the wedding to go over the wedding logistics and clarify any last minute changes or details. In some cases, third and fourth meeting might be required to finalize details and both I as a photographer and you like my clients fully understand what to expect while working with me on your wedding day. Good communication ensures I like your photographer am completely aware and prepared for all the events during your wedding.
Second, I need your help to communicate to your families, friends and guests attending the wedding to be mindful of few important points:
- you have hired a professional wedding photographer who’s job is to capture all the important moments during your wedding. Everyone is allowed to use their phones and personal digital cameras to take personal pictures but not to interfere with the photographer. It will be unfair to you and to everyone else to block or obstruct the photographer from taking the images you are paying for while your guests are snapping smartphone images of you and your groom.
- having everyone smile during the wedding is much more fun to see on the pictures later than appearing bored, frustrated or puzzled. Reminding your guests and remembering to smile during the wedding can make big difference on how your images would look later
- everyone being on time makes your day less stressful and enjoyable. A simple reminder to everyone to be on time is very helpful and can make a big difference on how your wedding day actually goes
So here is some useful information and tips to keep in mind for each of the wedding day stages:
1. Bride Getting Ready Photos
This is the time before the wedding ceremony when both bride and groom are preparing for the official wedding ceremony. The preparation usually happens at home or at the hotel room booked for the event. During bride getting ready time, bride is getting her hair and makeup done accompanied or not by her bridesmaids, opens the presents or greeting cards from her bridesmaids and helped by her mother puts on the wedding dress.
This is an exciting time for each bride and an excellent opportunity to capture the excitement and many details from the wedding day. I spent on average between 1.5 hour to 2.5 hours photographing both the bride and bridesmaids getting ready for the wedding ceremony. In the beginning as everyone is getting organized and all the wedding accessories are still available, I start with taking pictures of the wedding dress, wedding rings, shoes, veil, bouquet, jewelry and other accessories. These are close up and portrait images of the wedding artifacts and I have found that every couple enjoys having these images later in their albums. It provides context to the wedding day and in most cases brings tears into the couple’s eyes after the wedding. As soon as the bride starts getting ready and the hair and makeup artists starts to prepare her make up and hair, I take many candid (non camera aware) and creative photos of these moments. I let the interactions between the bride and the other guests unfold while I am capturing the uninterrupted and unposed moments.
Even with the best planning and efforts, in many cases the makeup and hair preparation take longer than originally estimated. Because this is the first phase of the wedding day, the delay could result into being late for the next stages of wedding day and could cause nerve wrecking havoc in the wedding schedule. One way to prevent this from happening is for the bride to have a hair and makeup trial run with the hair and makeup artist before the wedding. artist. This way, the bride can have a realistic estimate of the timeline for the makeup/hair service.
After the bride puts on her makeup, we will document the process of the bridesmaids or mother of the bride helping the bride put on wedding dress, shoes and wedding veil. After the bride is fully dressed, we will work with the bride alone for 5-10 minutes for bridal portrait photos. This is important to have some beautiful photos of the bride.
2. Groom Getting Ready Photos
Groom getting ready is very similar to the bride getting ready but is much simpler as usually the groom doesn’t require extensive hair and facial makeup. The location of the groom getting ready is a different room in the same location or in close proximity to the bride getting ready location, so I usually capture the images of the groom getting ready too. In some cases, I might have a second photographer (if such has been contracted by the couple) to capture the groom getting ready images.
If there are time constraints in the schedule, I would focus first on the bride getting ready and then capture the groom preparation for no more than 15-20 minutes. The images of the groom getting ready are again details and portraits. Details includes: groom shoes, tie, watch, cuff links, belt, tuxedo. The portraits include: groom being helped by the best man on putting its tie and tuxedo, putting his watch, interaction between both, with the groomsmen, may be smoking cigars, etc.
3. Wedding Ceremony Photos
The wedding ceremony is the time when the bride and groom are reading their vows and committing to a long lasting union of marriage. It’s very exciting and emotional moment during the wedding day and depending on the religion, ethnic background and planning, it can be performed into a church, temple, outdoors in a backyard or in a small chapel. Each location has different lighting conditions and flash photography restrictions. Some locations further complicate the picture taking by restricting the photographer’s movement during the ceremony. You can expect me to capture your ceremony from multiple angles and record the vows, the first kiss, putting the rings and the ceremony location. it’s best that you and your groom focus on the wedding ceremony and enjoy the moment. I will be taking mostly candid photos of the bride, groom, officiant performing the ceremony and your guests.
Things to keep in mind is to slow down when kissing so I have time to capture multiple images of this moment. Also remember that when the bride, bridesmaids and groomsmen are is walking down the aisle, it looks much better on the photographs it they smile and look forward instead of at their feet or away from the camera. When in doubt, always try to look for me and give me a smile.
4. Cocktail Hour Photos
After each wedding ceremony and before reception, there is usually an one hour allocated for cocktails and socializing time. Depending on if the bride and groom doing first look (the groom sees the bride dressed in her wedding dress for the first time before the ceremony) or not the type of images and allocation of time for photography during this time is different:
Without First Look: Because the bride and groom have not seen each other before the ceremony and I was not able to take their posed and artistic looking photographs, the time when the guests are on the cocktail hour, I usually allocate the 60 minutes as follows:
- 15-20 minutes for formal family photos
- 15-15 minutes for wedding party photos
- 30-35 minutes for the bride and groom photos
However this time allocation is very hectic and not enough to create great looking photographs. I usually ask the bride and groom to allocate 1 - 1.5 hours on a day different than the wedding day when I work with them to create their portraits.
With First Look: This is the desirable option when the bride and groom have seen each other already before the wedding ceremony because the time allocation is much more flexible and relaxing. During the First Look, I photograph the bride and groom pictures when the groom sees the bride for the very first time in her wedding dress, his and her reaction and subsequent interactions. During the First Look, I also take bride and groom portraits when they are still full with energy in the beginning of the wedding day. The time before the ceremony is also the best time to capture images of the wedding party before the ceremony. The time during the cocktail hour then is spend on family group photos and on wedding party photos during the cocktail hour.
5. Formal Family Photos
Many wedding clients require that the wedding photographer captures group photos of the bride and groom with their families. These group photos are carefully posed and very formal. The entire group is usually standing or sitting and is very camera aware (everyone looks at the camera and smiles). Having photographs from the bride and groom with all combinations of each parents, siblings, bridesmaids, groomsmen, immediate and extended family members, friends is a good way to capture everyone in a single photograph and later share with the guests.
As when groups are involved and many people are being directed to be in one place as the same time and do the same thing for an extended time, this could be a frustrating time for everyone. I will be focusing on posing everyone, directing and capturing the best images from the group and don’t have the ability and time to look for family members and bring them to the family photo location.
Therefore it is extremely important for the couple to appoint a dedicated wedding coordinator or a family member to bring and organize everyone for the formal family group photos. Having one would save everyone time and efforts, would make the entire photo shoot much less stressful and keep the wedding day on schedule. I have set of formal pictures I usually take for each wedding but if the bride expects to have certain photos, a written list is the best way to ensure no pose is being missed. I always take multiple photos of the same group to ensure we have everyone looking in the camera, not blinking on the pictures and with a good radiant smile. it is important for the bride and groom to remind their families, relatives and friends to smile and look at the camera for best results. As a rule of thumb for every group photo it takes on average of 2 minutes to pose and capture each formal family group photo. You can then estimate how much time would have to be allocated to capture good looking formal group photos and decide the number of group pictures.
6. Reception Detail Photos
Before the wedding reception starts and guess enter the venue to get seated and dine, I or my second photographer usually get into the reception room and to photograph the hall, wall and table decorations, the wedding cake and anything into the reception hall which adds to your wedding story. Many reception halls are extensively decorated once the guests enter the room these decorations or the entire hall ambiance is impossible to capture. I will photograph the wedding invitations on the tables, bride and groom table and anything which is worth capturing.
7. Wedding Reception Photos
The wedding reception is the time when all guests are seated into the reception hall and enjoying the appetizers and main course. It’s the last phase of the wedding day and usually the energy levels or both bride and groom as well of their guests is running lower.
There are few important events which are scheduled to happen during this phase and to be aware of as they are usually photographed. I will set up additional strobes and use flashes to capture all the events and ensure you and your guests are well lid and the images and pleasant to look.
The first one is the toast by either the best man or maid of honor who raise a toast and give a speech to congratulate the newly wedded couple and wish them bright and happy future. The next one is the first dance when the bride and groom take the dancing floor and enjoy the moment of dancing in front of their parents, family and guests. Some weddings continue with dance between the bride and her father, groom and his mother, etc.
After the opening dances, usually the main course if being served and there is not much to photograph as pictures of people enjoying a meal is not that pleasant to look later. After everyone finishes with their meals and during the dance floor opens when there is not much going on, if I spot additional photo opportunity I might grab the bride and groom and take some pictures.
I hope this information is valuable for brides, grooms, their families and everyone who is involved into planning or coordinating with a wedding photographer. If you find this article useful, help your friends who are thinking to get married by sharing it with them so they can be prepared and know what to expect.
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