Wedding Planning Tips
I wholeheartedly believe that every wedding day is a unique celebration, and no one mold will be right for every situation. Please consider this guide a framework of best practices which, in my experience, have lead to a smooth day for everyone and resulted in beautiful images to look back on. Please feel no pressure to follow all my recommendations; my hope is that this guide will help you make informed decisions on how light, time, and other factors can affect your wedding day and photographs. To be perfectly honest, this is the type of resource I wish I'd had while planning my own wedding, so I hope it proves as useful to you. If you have any questions on these topics feel free to reach out to me, as I am happy to offer suggestions tailored to your specific situation.
Clutter: There is so much excitement and energy at the beginning of a wedding day that it can be easy to overlook some factors which can negatively impact your images. When it comes to the getting ready portion of the day, cramped and cluttered spaces are the biggest culprit. Please consider hiding bags, clothes, laundry, and other effects so they aren't a distraction in your images. When I arrive, I will do a brief sweep to help out in this regard.
Airbnb: Clean, white spaces with generous window light make for the best getting ready locations, and I highly recommend considering an Airbnb over a hotel room. Airbnb spaces often provide more character and a lovelier aesthetic, and they also usually accommodate larger groups. If you need any help finding a great space for either the bride or groom don't hesitate to reach out. I would love to help!
Hair and Makeup: I love to utilize the soft quality of window light during hair and makeup, so I recommend situating the bride in front of a large window. I will turn off any interior lamps and lights which compete with the color temperature of window light.
A first look happens when the bride and groom see each other prior to their ceremony to share an intimate moment. The first look can be accomplished simply and authentically, and it is always a sweet moment for me to experience with a couple. A first look also provides logistical benefits to the overall timeline by allowing us to photograph the bridal party and formal family portraits prior to the ceremony. This means more time for you to celebrate with everyone during the cocktail hour and reception. For these reasons I typically recommend a first look, but every couple and situation is different, so it is entirely up to you how you would like your day to unfold.
Classic group portraits connect us with our familial legacies and I believe in the profound significance of these photos. For time's sake I generally recommend no more than eight total groupings, which will take roughly 20 minutes to photograph. The ideal time for these portraits is immediately prior to the ceremony as groups are easier to arrange without the temptation to run off to cocktail hour.
To assist me with gathering each group, I will request that you assign a point person from each family when I send you my pre-wedding questionnaire. Unless you request it sooner, I will send your questionnaire six weeks prior to your wedding date. At that time, we will also create a list of the family groupings you would like me to capture.
Unplugged: An unplugged ceremony is one which guests are asked to turn off their phones and cameras. Doing so helps ensure your friends and family are fully present in the moment and eliminates distracting elements from the environment. Alternatively, consider asking your guests to remain seated during the ceremony, so that they are not a distraction in your images, or obstacle to me doing my job.
Location: I love natural, rustic areas such as a forest clearing which provides shade. Clean, urban spaces with natural light are another favorite. If your ceremony location is outside and in the open, I recommend arranging for the sun to be behind the officiant to ensure you two are evenly lit. More information on lighting is available here, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions specific to your ceremony site.
Working with couples to capture intimate and emotional portraits is one of my favorite parts of the day. If you opt for a first look then I recommend 20 minutes for portraits immediately following that. Additionally, I highly recommend allowing for about 20 minutes of portraiture at sunset to leverage the gorgeous light of golden hour. I will always take as much time as I can get to capture portraits, so feel free to schedule additional time if you like.
Vendor Dinners: Some venues and caterers have a policy of prohibiting vendors from eating dinner until all guests have been served. While I understand this rationale, in practice, this policy can keep me from having a chance to rest and eat prior to the start of speeches and first dances. In other cases, I have been stationed in another room for dinner and speeches have started without my knowledge which led to missed moments and images. If at all possible, I would very much appreciate the opportunity to eat when dinner starts to ensure I am rested and refueled by the time the speeches start.
Day-Of Coordinator: If you decide not to hire a professional planner, I would recommend at least having a friend act as a Day-Of Coordinator on your wedding day. Pick someone with wedding experience who can act a point person ensuring everyone is present at all stages of the day and to smooth out all the transitions.
Traditions: From my personal experience planning my wedding with my wife, Abby, I would encourage you to feel the freedom to throw off any wedding traditions which hold no meaning or significance to you. For Abby and me, that meant opting out of bouquet and garter tosses, and replacing a traditional wedding cake with a variety of our favorite desserts, including Abby's nana's authentic Serbian baklava. Whatever it means for you, your families, and your story, embrace what is meaningful and disregard the rest.
Lighting Guide: For further information and recommendations on lighting feel free to consult my Lighting Guide.
For your convenience, here is a sample timeline for a standard wedding day. Note that this timeline includes a first look and a 5:00PM ceremony start time.
12:00 PM Getting Ready Photos, Details, Set-up, etc.
3:00 PM First Look
3:30 PM Bridal Party Photos
4:00 PM Family Formals
4:30 PM Bride & Groom Tucked Away
5:00 PM Ceremony
5:40 PM Couple Portraits/Cocktail Hour
6:00 PM Bride & Groom Join Cocktail Hour (if desired)
6:30 PM Dinner
7:30 PM Sunset Portraits (30-45 minutes before sunset is ideal to begin these)
8:00 PM Speeches
8:15 PM First Dances
8:30 PM Open Dancing
9:30 PM Photography Coverage Ends