As we all know it, wedding season is approaching! While I haven't personally experienced it as a bride yet, I know from an industry perspective that everything can be a little chaotic on the special day. Aside from photography, I was previously an assistant planner and coordinator, which gave me more insight to how a wedding day runs. To better prepare my couples, I often work closely with them so that they can get a better sense of what to expect on their wedding day, particularly with photography. With the experience I've gained, I thought it to be helpful to share a few tips with everyone here. Hope this is helpful!
Before the Wedding
- ENGAGEMENT PICTURES | It’s quite common for couples to forego it as an unnecessary part of wedding planning, but it does have its benefits, which will come in handy on the big day. Essentially, it’s a service offered by most wedding photographers to capture stunning images of you and your fiancé(e) and establish a relationship that may help ease the awkwardness between you and your photographer. That way, you won't feel weird having a stranger photograph intimate moments of you and your spouse. More than that, it also helps you grow comfortable with the camera so that on your wedding day, you won’t feel as intimidated or shy. I love engagement sessions because it allows me to get to know you, which then helps me better convey your love story through my photographs. You can read my engagement guide here.
- SHARE YOUR SCHEDULE | As soon as I'm booked by a couple, I always send them a template to fill out that includes ceremony & reception schedules as well as shot lists and contact information. Share that with your bridal party, family, and vendors so that everyone can be on the same page and know their responsibilities.
- DELEGATE | I love it when the couple's community and friends are involved with their wedding preparation. Some of you might feel shy to ask for help, but there's no doubt that your friends are happy to provide a hand. This could mean setting up a house party to take care of the tasks while you and your bridal party are getting ready.
- FIND A COORDINATOR | Even if you forego a wedding planner, at least hire a day-of coordinator. In fact, some venues provide their own on-site coordinator. However, if budget is a factor, even just asking a family member or friend to help run the day will work just fine. As a bride or groom, your job is to get married. Not worry about whether the cake table is set up or if the caterer has arrived yet. More importantly, make sure that your vendors are acquainted with your coordinator so that everyone knows who the point-person is.
- DETAILS MATTER | When you're getting ready, it helps to be mindful of the room's tidiness. My primary job is to have a detailed eye and capture beautiful pictures, but you can always help me by decluttering. If your bridal party has spare time, they could help condense everything into a corner or closet and throw away any plastic bottles or food wrappers so they don't show up in your pictures.
Some other suggestions for better pictures:
HANGERS | Use a wooden or customized hanger instead of a plastic one. This especially comes in handy if I'm photographing details of the wedding dress.
LIGHTING | If you can help it, get ready in a room with plenty of space and natural lighting.
- FIRST LOOK | This concept helps dedicate time for a bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony. To start, I usually lead the groom somewhere private and have his bride approach him from behind. She can either tap his shoulder, say his name, or give him a big bear hug from behind. Once they surprise each other, they'll usually spend a few moments in private to soak in the excitement and emotions. And of course, I'll be third-wheeling all of this with my camera, hehe! This helps calm the couple's nerves and allow them to connect intimately before they see each again at the altar. Also, it's one of the few moments that the couple can spend alone because most likely after the ceremony, they'll be surrounded by their guests for the rest of the day. However, as much as I recommend doing this, I'll always want you to stay true to yourselves so don't ever feel pressured with your decision or hesitate to communicate your thoughts and ideas to me!
ALTERNATIVE | For those who'd like to preserve tradition or simply save the surprise for the altar, you can also participate in this by setting up a "first encounter". This is where you and your fiancé(e) are set up closely, but at different angles so that neither of you are actually visible to each other. Some couples in the past have just stood near a pillar/tree and held hands, chatted or prayed. Others have read letters to each other. The options are endless and there's no rule with how you should do it so be creative, and again, stay true to yourselves!
- REST | Set out time before the ceremony to rest, pray, or simply relax. I recommend at least 15-30 minutes so that everyone's nerves are calm and ready for the ceremony. This will also serve as buffer time because from my experience, most weddings tend to run a little late.
- UNPLUGGED | I'm a firm believer of "unplugged weddings," meaning guests are politely asked by the bride and groom to keep all phones or other electronics off during the ceremony and/or reception. Unfortunately, guests often disrupt the opportunity for professional photographers to get the perfect shot if they happen to stand in the way or raise their phones in the aisle, which blocks the photographer's view. While such a policy is not strictly enforced, encouraging your guests to refrain from using their own devices helps them more fully enjoy your wedding.
- PORTRAITS | If you aren't able to fit in group pictures before the ceremony, I usually recommend couples to get them done as soon as the ceremony ends so that everyone can relax the rest of the evening. Before dismissing everyone, have your officiant or coordinator announce instructions so that your guests aren't confused with what to do next. You can even set up a cocktail hour as entertainment while you and your spouse are taking pictures.
- SHOT LIST | Having a shot list will help us organize and run through group pictures more efficiently. I also suggest asking your coordinator or family member to help announce each set because my assistant and I may not always know the face of your guests so it can get difficult consolidating each group, and we certainly don't want anyone to miss their picture opportunity!
- COMMUNICATION | This is more for your emcees or coordinators. It's important to stay in communication with the photographer and vendors. I'll always try to follow the schedule as closely as possible, but it helps to let me know what to anticipate should there be any changes. This includes cake cutting, dances, speeches, etc. This is especially important if I'm taking my dinner break so that I don't miss capturing any important moments.
Embarrassingly, I once missed half the bridal party entrance because of miscommunication between the bride, coordinator, and I. The bride had wanted a group picture, and as I was setting that up, the coordinator started announcing the entrance. Eeep!
- EAT | Make sure you have time to eat! There'll be moments when as soon as you sit down, you'll be called away or guests will come by to take pictures and chat, but a little help from your vendors will go a long way. Have your caterer feed you first so you can enjoy your meal while everyone is waiting to be served. You can also request for your caterer to pack a to-go box so you won't be starving on your wedding night. Despite everything happening, remember to take care of yourself and enjoy your meal!
- EXIT | End your night with a grand exit! I will be in communication with you and your coordinator for the thumbs up so we can all be on the same page. As you and your spouse head for the getaway car, stop and end it with a kiss or wave! Grooms, you can even bridal-carry your new wife down the walkway! You won't regret it, and this will give me time to capture your last moment of celebration with your guests!
I sincerely hope this has been helpful for everyone. Whether you're reading this as a bride, groom, maid of honor, or guest, I hope these insights will create room for a smoother wedding and the start of a marriage rooted in each other's love, support, and teamwork. As a photographer, I always want my couples to know that it's my job to make your experience with me enjoyable and intimate so know that I will always look out for your best interest. Cheers!