It has been quite a while since Neil’s and my wedding. But I still am crazy about the best day of my life. Rather than gush about the details…I’ll let the images speak for themselves:
And here for part II.
And here for our version of “Extreme Bridal.”
Because we planned the day so that we weren’t rushed for pictures, we now have the most amazing memories captured for forever. And when it comes to weddings, “forever” is a good word.
So anyway, having several weeks to simmer, I can look back on the wedding, and the year before the BIG DAY, and share with brides-to-be some tips. Not only from the perspective of a bride. But from the standpoint of someone who has been to many weddings – as a guest or as a photographer.
I don’t claim to be an expert. But I can claim having not one complaint about how our own wedding and our own wedding photographs turned out.You expect, and deserve, great images from your wedding day. But some of the “burden” of getting the best images possible falls in your lap.
So read on to learn how YOU can set the scene. And get your photographer even more excited to shoot your wedding.
1. Location, location, location.
Location sets the mood, location maintains the mood, and location impacts memories. Location ALSO affects your photographs. Most churches aren’t sources of fabulous lighting. But you have tons of control over where you choose to have your reception. One of the best decisions I made was to find a venue that had floor to almost-ceiling windows. That meant that there was good lighting up until the time to dance. PERFECT for photos. AND perfect for me, the bride, to take in all the faces of those I love who were around me…and to see that all the hard work I put into the reception details paid off.
2. Be aware of sunset hours. And plan accordingly.
Because good photography revolves around good lighting, sunset times are crucial to know. After you choose your date, look up what time the sun will go down here. The two hours prior to sunset are what we photographers call “the golden hours.” Why? Because the lighting is perfect and soft. GOLDEN. So now that you know what time the sun sets…what to do then?
Well…if you’re not seeing your honey before you walk down the aisle, and you want to get stellar pictures of just the two of you…and pictures of the entire wedding party doing something fun and cool outside, schedule the ceremony so that you still have at least 1.5 hours of sunlight to play with. If you’re doing a receiving line after the ceremony, don’t start counting that 1.5 hours until that is finished. Receiving lines typically last 30-45 minutes (Even if you swear you’re going to get through yours in 15 minutes, it just doesn’t work.)
On that same token, if you’re having an outdoor wedding without shade, steer clear from ceremonies that take place when the sun is directly overhead. First of all, it might be hot for your guests (assuming it’s during late spring/summer months). Secondly, direct sun causes harsh shadows and washes faces out. So instead, aim for that time in the afternoon when the sun has started going down in the horizon. Sun coming in at an angle makes everything look better. To guests…and to your eyes when you look at pictures later.
3. Your photographs should be a priority. Therefore, whom you choose for a photographer should not be a light-hearted decision. Weeks or months after the wedding, when the buzz has worn off, you will have your photos to look at and relive the best day of your life. If you don’t have good images, you’ll be upset. You might even cry. And you might be filled with that deep sense of regret because you cannot go back in time to get those coveted images with your best girl friends, or with your husband, or he with his friends, etc. It’s done and over with.
But if you go into the wedding planning with a timeline that takes into account the photography, you’ll be so happy. On the day of, and for all the years to follow.
Here is a timeline based on how long “events” typically take on the day of the wedding. This is based on the bride and groom not seeing each other until the ceremony. (Don’t forget to allot for time it takes to get from event to event and place to place….) If it looks like there is too much time designated for something, that’s a good thing. Everything always takes longer than planned.
2-3 hours: girls at salon or wherever to do their hair and makeup
2.5 hours: girls putting on dresses/finishing touches (guys getting ready during this time)
35 minutes: group girl shots
35 minutes: group guy shots
35 minutes: any other shots that would be easier to take before the ceremony
30 minutes: all bridal party members should have this time to chill while ceremony guests are being seated
30 minutes-1 hour: Ceremony
45 minutes: receiving line
30 minutes: formal pictures with family (for 15 groups)
1-1.5 hours: wedding party pics and bride & Groom shots. (if you choose a location that is close to the reception or the ceremony site, that works perfectly!!!)
And then it’s reception time. Tips for THAT are below.
4. Ceremonies don’t have to be boring.
There aren’t many ceremonies from which guests walk away and say: Wow. That was a great ceremony.
Why? Because so few couples stray from the traditional elements. Tradition is beautiful. But it’s even more beautiful if it’s complemented by something that screams who YOU are…as a couple.
I know a lot of what you can and cannot do is based on the religion or the site rules. But you can still inject some flavor by:
+ Writing your own vows
+ Choosing music that means something
+ Having special dedication moments
+ Using readings that speak to your relationship
+ Having friends/family sing
+ Taking time to plan small details such as programs, ceremony favors, lighting embellishments
And most of all…don’t be afraid of humor!!
5. What you put on your feet matters.
Most people can’t see the bride’s feet. But that gives you even more reason to want to show them off!! Put on some shoes that are comfy…but that also play up to the feel of your wedding. Even just wearing a pair that are in your wedding colors can do A LOT. And it will make the bride feel sexier, too…
6. The little things count.
One of my favorite parts of weddings is the details. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to bring it all together. Make things yourself. Check out Etsy.com to get inexpensive, but personalized elements for your wedding day.
+ Favor tags
+ Ring presentation dishes/pillows
+ Flower girl baskets
+ Garter belts
+ Cake toppers
+ Bouquet charms
+ Photo display
+ Card holder
AND SO FORTH!!! The possibilities are endless. You’ll be surprised how far the little things go in making a wedding FEEL and LOOK special.
7. Receptions should be the icing on the cake.
This is the time in which you, as the bride and groom, can really make an impression. Good food, free drinks…those are great to have. But the one piece of advice I can give to you… is… if you can’t a afford a kick-butt cover band (we couldn’t!!) HIRE A DJ.
I know, it’s probably tempting to save the $700-800 and get a friend to just push play on that iPod. But a good DJ can make a difference. If I’ve heard one thing about our wedding time and again, it’s that our DJ, James Cloyd of Complete Music, absolutely ROCKED. Seriously. He worked the reception and I didn’t have to worry about a thing. The guests had TONS OF FUN. Because of him!
The timeline of the reception had a lot to do with it. I’ve been to many receptions at which it’s stop and go all night. And the dancing that everyone wants to do just keeps getting pushed back. Before the bride and groom know it, everyone but a few close friends have bailed.
I asked my DJ to write our own timeline. I told him what all I wanted to do, but I wanted him to put it in the order that he, as a DJ, thought would work best for the guests. And he loved that I asked it! Because now he could finally use his own expertise. Man, he NAILED it.
This was the order of our events. And it went sooo smoothly. I highly highly highly recommend anyone who wants to steal it to steal it.
+ Cocktail hour (while wedding party was getting pics taken)
+ Guests take seats/wedding party introduced
+ Bride & groom immediately cut cake (only cut it…don’t serve it!! Photographer takes the pics)
+ Father of bride does welcome toast
+ Dinner served
+ B&G restroom break/make rounds to visit
+ Cake is served
+While people are eating cake:
–Specialty dances (b&g, father/daughter, mother/son)
–Bouquet/garter belt toss
+ Wedding party dance…
+ Dance set of music
+ Second set: During this time, I urge you to go outside or somewhere on premises somewhere with your photographer for a few more shots of just the two of you
+ Dollar dance/other traditions like this
+ DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY!!!
By pushing everything that is considered an “event” into the beginning, this keeps the momentum going. If people want to dance, they will get their chance without having to wait all night long…or without having to start dancing…get in the groove…and then have to abandon the dance floor so you can throw your bouquet, etc.
And don’t be afraid to spice up the reception even more with your own customs, or fun things like a candy toss for the kids (so they don’t have to steal the bouquet/garter belt) etc. Again, use your wedding as a way to show guests who you both are!! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime party that you are throwing for those you love the most.
If you have any questions or comments about what I’ve recommended, please share! Or any of your own tips??? Spill the beans.
Either way, I hope every bride and groom gets their perfect day. It’s such a great way to start off a life together.
(OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS: Since I’ve been asked several times now… feel free to link to this…just please don’t steal and attribute it to yourself.)