Welcome to the family! I’m so excited to have the honour of photographing your big day and I cannot wait to get to know you more over the next little bit. Having photographed weddings a while now and having gotten married myself, I totally understand how overwhelming wedding planning can be! So I’ve taken some time and thought and put this together this planning guide, meant to help you through some of your photography related questions so you can worry less and relax more on the day of! Keep in mind that what I’ve written here are merely recommendations and tips based on my experience in creating the best possible scenarios for a smooth wedding day. However, by no means does it mean that you won’t have a perfect day without following all the tips here! As always, I am here to answer any additional questions you may have!
A first look is when the couple see each other for the first time in a more private setting before walking down the aisle. It doesn’t have to be a big staged moment. It can be simple, genuine, and intimate.
Personally, I always recommend doing a first look for three reasons:
1. It calms the nerves. Who else would calm your nerves more than your best friend? There is nothing that relaxes you more than finally seeing each other and enjoying a few moments alone before the official events begin. This also allows you guys to spend as much time together in the day as well!
2. It gives you time to take it all in. You can share what you’re feeling. You can hug and actually whisper sweet nothings to each other, etc. – all things that you can’t do when you’re standing at the end of the aisle in front of all your friends and family.
3. It makes the timeline easier to work with. If you can see each other before the ceremony, we have the option to do some portraits beforehand, whether it is couple portraits, family or bridal party portraits. That means more people are able to go enjoy cocktail hour right after the ceremony and we don’t have to worry about finding people. If we finish bridal party portraits beforehand, we can get to couple portraits right away! This would mean you miss less of cocktail hour too!
If you’ve always dreamt of the walk down the aisle as the first glimpse of each other, then of course we can do that too! It’s your day after all!
Getting ready can be such a beautiful time! However, that energy can be taken away by the aesthetics of the room. A cluttered, messy, dark room takes away from the real moments happening and the beauty of morning light. So here are some helpful things to keep in mind:
Clutter – Of course, there will be a lot going on! But, try to keep the clutter hidden and to a minimum! Keep bags, suitcases, food, laundry, etc. in a different room or a closet, or even on the far side of the room. I may even ask to move some small furniture around to get the best possible setting for you.
Light – Light is such an important aspect of the day and window light is one of my favourite lights to work with! If possible, get ready in a room with good window light (as opposed to a room in the basement with no windows), where we won’t need to use lamps or artificial light. Having an orange tungsten light mixed in with the window light is not ideal for natural looking skin tones. I almost always prefer to turn off all the lights and rely only on window light whenever possible. When arriving at your getting ready space, I might explore a bit around to see where it is best to get ready depending on the quality of light.
Don’t forget this applies to both partners! Everyone looks better in a clean, well lit space. Both of you are just as important as the other 🙂
Details – If you would like photos of your wedding details (jewelry, flowers, rings, shoes, belt, cuff links, invitations, etc.) taken, it would be so helpful if they are gathered and with you in your getting ready space. . The first thing I photograph when I arrive are these details!
Hair/Make-up – If you’re having a H/MU artist, they will also need as much light as possible. I suggest doing your H/MU right next to the window, for them and for me! Hotels and childhood bedrooms sometimes don’t provide the best light or setting for prep. If you can, I recommend looking into other options, like a well-lit and decorated AirBnb or even a boutique hotel. There are tons of affordable options out there. If a hotel is what you’re going with, it won’t hurt to ask for a room with a good amount of windows!
This getting ready time is usually filled with lots of emotion and can become a bit chaotic but don’t worry I’m quite used to working around lots of people! I want to make your experience as relaxed and comfortable as possible so just remember to soak it all it – things usually ramp up quite a bit after you leave your getting ready space 🙂
I recommend at least two portrait time slots for portraits of you two together, either before the ceremony and/or after the ceremony and at sunset for about 20 minutes. Before the ceremony would work if you’re planning on a first look. It’s nice to get photos out of the way, especially if weather is unpredictable or timeline is tight. After the ceremony, the pressure is off and you’re ecstatic, giddy, in love and ready to party! At sunset, it’s when we get the best light. We will get great golden soft light, the best time of the day to shoot! If the sunset falls right in during the reception time, I would love it if we could squeeze in some time, either before/after a speech or a dinner course. It’s a great way to escape for a little bit and enjoy a little bit more private time on such a busy day!
*We will be spending quite a bit of time standing and walking around for photos. If you’re wearing heels or shoes that are slightly uncomfortable – consider having a pair of flats or comfy shoes available, in case it becomes too painful by the time photo time comes!
One of the most important things to ensure that we get great photos is trust and allowing yourselves to be yourselves. If you trust me to create the photos you love, I’ll be able to do my thing, guide you to beautiful light and direct you as needed. The more you two can interact genuinely and enjoy the moments together with each other, the better the outcome. Trust and collaboration can go a long way. Before long you’ll forget I’m even there 🙂
As you know, capturing the mood and emotions of your wedding is very important to me. This is why I often try my best not to use flash for as much as I can (dance floor is a different story!). For a romantic, naturally lit mood, fairy string lights and candles are great, and if you use enough, they provide great light for photos. Try to stay away from just using candles or super dim lighting, which makes it sometimes tricky for my camera to focus. If you are unsure of your set up, just ask and I can help with ideas!
DJ lights – While DJ lights (flashy, bright coloured lights) are great for an awesome dance party, it can destroy the mood of your speeches and of your first dances. If you are having colourful lights, I ask that they be turned off for majority of the reception, just until the dance floor party time.
Dinner – Different venues work differently but it is most ideal that I am served the same time as the guests. That way, I can eat quickly and be ready to shoot in time for any toasts, speeches or dances that might happen towards the end of dinner. As for seating, everything works better if I am seat in the same room as the guests! If I am seated in another room, it is very likely I will miss little things that may happen!
Group portraits include bridal party photos and family portraits. Keep in mind, there is always the flexibility of doing these either before and/or after the ceremony. Personally, if you are doing a first look, the best time to do bridal party photos is before the ceremony so that the time after ceremony can be used for family portraits or couple portraits.
Family portraits: It is ideal to do them after the ceremony since you know everyone will be there in the area. There is also the option of doing a small set of family photos (immediate family) before the ceremony and additional extended family photos after the ceremony. Keep in mind that gathering family members can be a stressful and time-consuming task so I recommend you guys to let your family and friends know ahead of time if you’ve planned to have a group shot done with them and to let them know when they will be happening. I recommend keeping the family/friends shot list short and manageable because each shot can take around 2-4 minutes.
Remember, we can always take a few minutes during reception to do friends group shots if it’s easier to manage! Please ensure you have your family/friends portraits list completed before the wedding so that I can have a look (and rearrange the order* if necessary) and have a copy with me, the day of.
Like anything else in life that involves a large amount of people, this family portraits time may seem harder to manage than some other times of the day but don’t fret! I recommend couples just staying put where they are (wherever we’ve decided for photos) and let guests come to them. Once everyone needed is around you, I will move and arrange people accordingly so we’re in more of a line instead of a clump. I often suggest couples to assign ‘a helper’ from each side of their family to help gather the necessary people so you don’t have to do that job (just make sure they have the portraits list!).
*There may be instance where I may do some rearranging and reorganizing of your family/friends photo list just to make it run more smoothly! I typically like to get big groups out of the way first and of course, any more elderly guests / anyone who could benefit from sitting vs. waiting to be photographed.
I tend to move around a lot during a ceremony! Outdoor ceremonies are usually great for that however, if we’re working with an indoor ceremony or a religious space, please make sure to ask the officiant if there are any rules. I will be speaking to them briefly before things get started, on the day of however, you don’t want to be surprised if the day of, the priest says no photography allowed (yes, this happens!).
Unplugged – An unplugged ceremony is when you ask your guests to refrain from taking any photos. This has slowly become more popular because there has been times where photographers have experienced guests being in the way of either the bride and groom during important moments. Having an unplugged ceremony will mean that you will have your guests’ undivided attention and will allow them to be completely present with you during your special moment. If you don’t want it unplugged, a great alternative if you don’t want to entirely unplug is to recommend the guests to take photos from their seat, without getting up into the aisle. Signage stating the unplugged rule, in addition to asking the officiant to kindly mention it to the guests at the beginning of the ceremony usually works well!
Tip: If you are having a videography team, it would be a great question to ask where they will be stationed during the ceremony. It is ideal that they do not stand right in the middle of the aisle for the whole ceremony (I often love doing a wide shot of the whole ceremony set up!).
Travel – Make sure to take into account of travel time between locations in your day itinerary, especially if you are in the city! Adding buffer time is always a good thing – if anything you have a little more time to rest your feet!
Details/Getting Ready – 30-45 mins or 1-1.5 hour for the more high maintenance partner (times for if you’re not getting ready together)
First look – 10-15 minutes
Wedding Party Portraits – 30 minutes
Family / Friends Formal Portraits – 2-4 minutes / shot
Couple Portraits – 45 minutes – 1 hr (can be split into 2 sessions) [~15 minutes at sunset if we can squeeze time!]
These are all suggestions of course, but the general idea is that the more time we have, the more relaxed we can all be, the better the photos can turn out! Many factors in a wedding day can affect the timeline so any extra time or buffer is always a good idea. Any time you give me I will be grateful for! 🙂
If you are working with a wedding planner and/or day of coordinator, make sure we are put in touch so that we can compare timelines and make sure that we have enough times for everything!
P.S The help of a day-of coordinator is invaluable. Depending on what they offer, they can help with set up and tear down but most importantly, they keep the day running on time and guests informed as to where they should be! A good day-of coordinator manages all vendor communication (if you want them to) and also deal with any issues that arise during the day of (sometimes without you even knowing!). They help keep the day running smoothly and stress-free (they even help with gathering people for family portraits!). If your budget does not allow a coordinator – it’s definitely useful to get a friend to help with a role like this to help manage the day’s timeline so you can enjoy yourselves 🙂
Out of all these things though, I cannot stress enough that a wedding day is one day in your lifetime of marriage and sometimes it’s easy to get lost in all the details and logistics. As many times as you’ve heard it before, remember to take time to take it all in and remember why you’re having a wedding in the first place, feel the emotions you need to feel (yes! It’s okay to cry!! I cried all day at my wedding starting at getting ready and no, my make up did not get ruined) and really just enjoy the day with your friends and family. Years from now, a tiny hiccup of the day will be forgotten but how you felt that day will be what’s the most cherished (and documented by me!). Live through the moments and put trust in all the vendors you’ve so meticulously hired – we all have the same goal and that’s for you have the best wedding experience possible 🙂
I truly hope that this write up is useful. There are likely many things I’ve missed but I am totally an open book! I am always open to suggestions, recommendations and anything wedding related!
If you’re needing inspiration at any point, I occasionally add to my pinterest boards which you can check out here.
Below are some vendor recommendations if you need them! Mostly all people that I’ve worked with (and even hired some of them for my own wedding!) and otherwise have heard great things about!
(No one is getting a kick back from this (they don’t even know I’m doing this)- I just love sharing great experiences with others :))
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