Planning Your Wedding
I’ve photographed over 3,000 weddings and I’ve learned that planning a wedding can become overwhelming for most. I’ve seen it all: from intimate weddings with 6 people to extravagant weddings with 600 people. I don’t consider myself a professional wedding planner, so I created this page from a photographer’s point of view.
Where do I begin?
The first thing I ask to the bride & groom is what is the official date? The date and season of a wedding will set the tone. A wedding on a prime Saturday will cost a top dollar at any venue, but on Friday or Sunday, the price will dwindle down.
Once the date is permanent, now the bride and groom should begin deciding on their vendors: a planner, a photographer, a live band or DJ, a florist, transportation, a hotel/accommodations, and hair and makeup.
When I find my photographer what should I ask him?
The first thing your should ask your photographer is if the date is available for them and try to learn his approach towards wedding photography. When you buy your dress you go down and try on the dress and the same applies with photography. Try it on! It is critical to have a trustworthy photographer who you are confident will capture every moment and work hard. Also, this vendor is the only vendor you are with after the event so make sure you two like each other!
How long should the photographer stay?
On average, most of the weddings I photograph are 10 or 12 hours. My style of photography is storytelling, and this is a long process to capture because I start from when the bride puts on her dress to the last dance.
What’s the first-look?
This trend is becoming more popular: it’s when the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony. In my opinion, this moment is when the focus is all on the groom. I will choose the best spot with the best light to capture this moment.
After you have had a moment to yourselves, we start taking bride and groom portraits, then of course we take pictures with the family and the bridal party. We tuck away the bride before guests arrive. That gives you free to relax and enjoy your wedding. Now if your ceremony and reception is all at one place I high recommend to do this. If your ceremony is in the afternoon and your reception is at night, there is no need for the first look.
Choosing to do the first-look, will enable you to enjoy your wedding a lot more because you will not miss the cocktail hour, and you won’t be in the hallway or outside taking family photos during the reception.
As a photographer for many years, a lot of my clients accept this proposal, and a lot decline, but I understand that the first-look is not for everyone. The day revolves around the bride and the groom, so they deserve to compromise on whatever makes them feel comfortable.
What is a time line?
The time line is typed sequence of events that will occur on the wedding day, and its purpose is to provide guidance for the bride and the groom, family members, wedding party, and band/DJ. This document will keep the wedding organized, so I highly recommend this. I prefer guiding the bride and the groom through the time line because it allows me to stay organized and time conscious. I do the time line 60 to 90 days before the bride and groom arrange the make-up and hair appointments because this is the starting point of the day.
What is a shot list?
A shot list is a list that I provide for the bride and groom detailing formal photos and any additional requests that they will want to do. This is a cooperative process between the three of us because formal photo sessions become redundant and out of control, so it is best to organize everything beforehand and make sure the families are comfortable next to one another.
What time should my flowers arrive?
Schedule the florist to show up an hour before the photographer. Big bouquets are beautiful — yet very heavy! — so prepare yourself to carry the flowers for quite a while.
What about hair and makeup?
There will be a lot of kissing, hugging, eating, and dancing on your wedding day, which is why the best hair and makeup is soft and simple. Also, consider how you want to be recorded in pictures for posterity because they will be looked back on ten to twenty years from that day.
Think about how much time you want to dedicate to getting ready and plan accordingly. It’s not a bad idea to tell your hair and makeup artist(s) that you need to be ready one hour early. A reputable beauty artist will meet you weeks before your wedding date for a consultation. They may ask you to bring your veil, a picture of your wedding dress, and ideas about the look your trying to achieve.
If you don’t normally wear makeup, you need, at minimum, blush, mascara, and lipstick. These will keep you from looking washed out in your white gown, and in the pictures. And, for obvious reasons, make certain to use waterproof mascara.
If you plan on taking black & white photos, then avoid dark lipsticks. Dark lipstick will look black, while a nude color will make you look as if you have no lips at all. A medium shade works best.
Apply powder all over if you’re shiny, especially for wedding days spent outdoors in the summer. Powder for the groom may not be a bad idea either. And whether your hair up or down, it shouldn’t hide your face.
Maid of Honor Duties!
Number one rule: make sure the bride looks her absolute best at all times!
Recommend items to store in the bridal pouch:
- Bobby pins, Kleenex and/or handkerchief
- Hairspray, lip liner, lipstick and/or lip balm
- comb, brush, or pick – bottled water
- compact mirror – candy, mints, snacks, or other refreshments
- pressed powder – aspirin
- eye drops – an extra pair of hosiery
- scissors – socks or slippers for later in the evening
Armed with smartphone cameras, everybody thinks they’re a photographer, but there is a reason why you hired a photographer. Let me capture the ceremony.
So there you are at the altar, gazing into the eyes of your beloved, saying your vows. You turn to sneak a glance at your wedding guests, all your favorite beloved friends and family…and you are greeted by a sea of down-turned faces staring into LCD screens. When your photos come back from me, your photographer, all of your favorite people will be shown staring at their devices, instead of participating in the event.
Welcome to the era of the over-documented wedding. Even if you’ve hired someone to take photos, every guest has a smartphone and is tweeting the whole event. They’re there with you, but are they really present?
There are friendly, creative ways to tell your guests to put there phones and cameras away during the ceremony. This link to Pinterest is helpful.
We want you to be able to really enjoy your wedding day, feeling truly present and in the moment with us. I want the two of you to sit back, relax, and just enjoy how the wedding feels, which of course, will produce the best photos. I recommend respectfully asking everyone to consider turning off their cameras and cell phones.
Hiring a professional for additional lighting is a great investment. I always try to educate the bride and groom on the importance of external lighting.
How important is good lighting when you’re shooting at a wedding venue?
Good lighting is everything because it creates the three-dimensional look, and it is important to bring texture and depth to the room in order to create an ambiance.
Do you notice a difference when you’re shooting a wedding that has fantastic lighting?
I do. I’m excited to shoot a wedding that has great lighting because I have more confidence that I will capture a breathtaking picture at some point during the night. A lot of people have misconceptions about how to create “fantastic” lighting. Some companies think lighting is a couple of uprights around the room, when in reality, lighting has to shine on the major investments of the wedding: the centerpieces, the cake, the dance floor. Fantastic lighting exceeds the appeal of a dim chandelier; it creates a mood for the room.
How does bad lighting affect your actions when you’re shooting a wedding?
Bad lighting at a venue makes the job difficult, but I adjust myself. It has certainly happened a number of times, In order to combat the poor lighting, I have to create my own lighting in a dark room so I use an off-camera flash, but it doesn’t measure up to images that great lighting can produce.
What’s the most memorable picture you’ve taken that uses good wedding lighting in the shot?
The image below is one of many. A professionally installed pin spots, which placed a beautiful spotlight on them during their first dance. This creates the image’s shining effect while also looking natural to the eye.
What trends are you seeing in wedding lighting these days? How has it affected your job?
A lot of people do not understand the complexity of lighting. Uprights around the room, as I’ve explained previously, is like bringing a flashlight to the event, and the bride and groom usually don’t understand that. 90% of what happens, happens on the dance floor, and there is never enough lighting on it: they give the speech in the dark, she dances with her father in the dark, they cut the cake in the dark. If you’re going to invest any lighting, please invest it onto the dance floor.