9 Things Your Wedding Photographer Wants You to Know
Planning a wedding is one of the most exciting 😆, nerve-wrecking 😫, beautiful 😍, stressful 😖, and memorable 💭💒 times of your life! You get engaged and you are so excited to plan your dream wedding and marry the love of your life and then you look at the to do list and wonder what did I get myself into.😱 Believe me, just last year I was planning my own wedding and there are only 2 reasons I kept my sanity. 1) I had tons of help from family and friends. And 2) I have been photographing weddings for about 4 years now and I learned a few tricks of the trade a long the way.
Photographing a Bride and Groom on the most special day of their life is literally one of my favorite things in the world to do! With that being said, I can of coarse tell you some wedding days go smoother than others. And it is not because of how large or small the budget is. It’s also not because of the type of wedding the couple decides to have. The one key thing that can save you (the bride) and me (the photographer) a lot of stress is PREPARATION! Nothing in life goes smoothly without lots and lots of planning and preparation. And wedding days are not excluded from this rule of thumb. So I am writing this in hopes that is helps one or two worried brides who are stressing over where to start with their endless wedding to-do list. I got you girl! 😊
1) Take care of the DBVDP first
Many brides have no idea that there is actually an order you should do things in when you plan your weddings. There are 5 things that need to be on the top of your wedding priority list. Your wedding date, a realistic budget, the venue, your wedding dress, and last but certainly not least your PHOTOGRAPHER! And I am not saying this because I am in the wedding arena. I am saying this because I have been a bride and I know what I am talking about lol.
Date- The first thing you should do is pick your wedding date. Talk with your family and close friends about dates that people will be out of town or unavailable and then choose a date that is suitable for you. I do suggest being a little open about the date (i.e. having two dates you are ok with) just in case.
Budget- When a bride envisions her dream wedding the elephant in the room is usually the budget. Weddings can be extremely expensive so it is best to decide on a budget early on. I also encourage you to price shop before you set your budget. Blindly setting a budget is almost as bad as not setting one at all. Once you have a number in mind, it’s helpful to make a priority list of the things you want on your wedding day. I know for my own wedding photography was at the top of my list Heck, I was more concerned with having nice photos than I was about feeding people. 😂 Set your budget, make a list in order of importance, and try your best to stick to it. Going into 2 years worth of credit card debt for your wedding day is no way to start the honeymoon.
Venue- Venue shopping is next on your to do list. Finding the actual venue is as soon as possible is extremely important because some popular venues may be booking their dates a year or more in advance. And this is especially important if you decide on a summer wedding (that is peak wedding season). Earlier I told you it is helpful to be open about your wedding date. Reason being is that when you find the perfect venue, depending on how far out your wedding is, they might already be booked on the date you have your heart set on. So being more open with that date may allow you to still have the wedding venue you fell in love with.
Dress- Say Yes To A Dress! I know many people think they have lots of time to find the perfect dress. And with so many different store options and even online it may seem like there is no rush to make a decision. While I do agree that rushing is not the way to go, I do want to inform you of a little known secret. It can take up to 6 months for your dress order to arrive and another month or longer for alterations. Oh and the month of February does not count as one of the 6 months. So supposedly all wedding dresses are shipped from China and February is the Chinese New Year when they shut down shipments for the entire month. This sounds crazy but every store I went to said the exact same thing. And they all charge extra for a rush order, which is any dress needed in less than 6 months. I honestly think they are storing wedding dresses at some factory in like the middle of nowhere Texas and they are using this ‘rush order’ excuse to charge brides extra for absolutely no reason but supposedly it’s a real thing. I bet a few of you are thinking ‘but what if my wedding is less than 6 months out and I don’t want to pay extra’. Well I planned my wedding in 3 months and I found the perfect off the rack dress at Davids Bridal. It was brand new (not one of those sample dresses) and ended up being exactly what I wanted. So it will work out!
Photographer - Do not waste time when it comes to hiring your wedding photographer. Your favorite wedding photographer, much like the perfect venue and dress, will be in high demand. Many times clients book their photographer more than a year before their wedding date. Waiting until the last minute is like rolling the dice. It might work out in your favor but more than likely if you wait (especially if you are having a summer wedding) you will loose out. One other good thing about booking your photographer early is that it gives you more time to pay them. Many photographers, myself included, only require a 25% deposit up front and 50% 6 months out. Meaning you can pay gradually if you book early but the closer you get to your actual wedding day you are going to have to pay a larger sum of money.
2) Hire a coordinator
Weddings are a huge undertaking. And unless you have helped plan one before, you have no idea how many unforseen details there are involved in putting it all together. From venues visits and cake tastings to invitations and seating arrangements, the list is never ending. And unless you are planning an intimate wedding with less than 25 people I guarantee that a wedding planner will make your day so much smoother. Now I know what you are thinking; ‘Janelle you are a wedding photographer. Why do you care about the coordinator?’ Photographers and coordinators literally work hand in hand on your wedding day. In fact a good one will be discussing details with your planner BEFORE your wedding day. A good coordinator is literally my wedding day bestie. 🤗I do realize that to many brides a coordinator may seem like an extra expense. But what most people do not realize is that wedding planners are there to help you, not only put together your dream wedding, but to do so in the most cost effective way possible. Many wedding planners receive discounts with preferred vendors that a bride can not receive on her own and they always aim to get you the best bang for your buck. So save yourself a few dollars and a headache and let a professional do the heavy lifting. And for my DIY brides, a day of wedding coordinator is still a wedding day necessity. It’s your wedding day and you want to enjoy it.
3) Talk about your wedding day vision with your photographer early on
Now that you have booked your wedding day photographer well in advance (basically the night of your engagement 😂) please include them throughout the wedding planning process. Starting with telling them your desired dream photographic wedding day. We live in the day of Pinterest and Instagram #WeddingDayGoals. We have all seen those amazing images pop up on our timeline that are literally like a fairytale. But let me tell you something, those effortless images took a whole lot of effort. The couple and their photographer put together a strategic plan for how to achieve the most perfect wedding day images. And I guarantee you those images were not captured in 20 mins between the wedding and reception. More than likely they made an entire mood board, picked out the perfect scenic location away from the wedding, and allotted enough time to make it happen. Ideally wedding photographers want about and hour and a half to 2 hours of time for your bridal portraits. This includes photos with bridal party, family, and of just the bride and groom. But we need no less than one hour to effectively get this done. And picking a space away from your wedding and reception is great for 2 reasons. 1) It is less of a distraction so we can focus on getting great shots without your Uncle Bob over your shoulder stealing our shots and slowing things down. 2) Scenic locations just make those bridal portraits POP! (near the waterfront, downtown, at a local park, etc.) We will get a wider variety of shots. So if you want photos that are worthy of going viral, lets create a scenario where that can happen.
4) Make A Timeline WITH Cushion Room
Wedding day timelines are absolutely essential. Giving your vendors, bridal party, and family a DETAILED guideline for how and when things will happen will make everyones day run a lot smoother. Timelines ensure that everyone knows where they need to be and at what time, which gives you less margine for error.
Now every wedding, even those with a detailed timeline, still have some sort of mishap. Most are very minor and insignificant but it still happens. So I always suggest my brides plan for it by adding cushion room to their timelines. Cushion room is just an extra 30 mins or so in different spots on your timeline just in case your make up artist shows up late or someone needs to run to the store to get the jewelry that was left at home. If you plan to have extra time and something happens you won’t panic. And if everything goes perfectly on schedule then that cushion room just gives you a little extra time to relax and enjoy your day.
5) Have a Plan B
Plan B’s are EVERYTHING on your wedding day. Plan B’s are a wedding coordinators time to shine. You can plan everything imaginable but some things you can not control. But not having control does not mean you can not still be prepared. This applies to things like: What if it rains for our outdoor ceremony? (This exact thing happened on my wedding day and we had to send out texts the night before to all our guests with updated times and locations 😩) What if you someone important like the minister cant make it? Who can you count on to drop everything and go get a sheet cake if your cake doesn’t show up? Again these are all real life scenarios I have witnessed happen at a wedding. I am not trying to scare you. I just really want you to be prepared.
6) Getting Ready
Getting ready shots can be some of the best shots of the day. It’s so nice to capture the Bride and bridesmaids getting all dolled up together and the groom having a celebratory toast with the groomsmen. It all sound picture perfect doesn’t it? Well it can be if you consider these 3 things: location, timing, cleanliness. First be sure to pick a getting dressed location that is spacious with as much window light as possible. A wedding photographers best friend is natural light and it will make a huge difference in your photos. So try and get a corner hotel suite with different rooms so that everyone will have room to get dressed and without tripping over each other. A really nice family home is also an awesome place to get dressed as well. Timing is also important because again if you are short on time and rushing through your photos will reflect that. You want to be relaxed and excited not rushed and panicked. Organize your make up schedule so that you (the bride) gets your make up done somewhere in the middle, after your mom and any bridesmaids that may be helping you put on your dress. You want them dressed with a beat face so that they are camera ready to help you put on your dress. Also its best to plan for EVERYONE to be dressed and ready AT LEAST an hour before your ceremony (and even longer if you plan to do a first look). That way there is time for photos with your girls before the ceremony starts and there is no reason panic if you get a little behind. Lastly please instruct your bridal party to keep their things neatly in their own bag that can be tucked away in a closet when it’s picture time. It’s really hard to shoot in a messy hotel room and make it look good in photos.
7) Consider A First Look
First looks are a life and time saver for a photographer and perfect for the bride and groom who really want to have more picture time on their wedding day. In case you have never heard of pa first look let me explain. A first look is a modern alternative to the old school tradition. Traditionally the groom is not allowed to see the bride until she walks down the isle. A first look is when the bride and groom opt to see each other before the wedding. And it’s set up to be a big reveal so that it is captured perfectly on camera. I love this alternative not only because it gives us more picture time but also because it gives my couples a special moment together before your wedding where it is just the two of you (and your photographer 😂). Before all the busyness and distractions you get to spend a moment alone with your spouse to just take it all in.
I know there are a lot of people who feel like a first look will take away from the moment when you walk down the aisle but I think that assumption is very untrue as well. My husband and I did a first look and we BOTH still cried like babies when I walked down the aisle. 😭 A first look gave us the opportunity to pray together before our ceremony as well as take all of our bridal portraits of just me and him beforehand. So in between the ceremony and reception we got to enjoy our guests instead of disappearing for an hour and a half to take pictures. Every couple is different and your wedding day should be what you want it to be but I urge you to consider doing a first look. Make it your own tradition!
8) It’s YOUR day, make it unique
I know there are always family and cultural wedding traditions that I do believe that they are very important. BUT I also believe that above all else it is your day and it should be celebrated the way you want it to be. So don’t be afraid to try something new. Do it they way you want to. If you want to get married on an Island, DO IT! If you want your grandma to walk you down the isle, DO IT! If you decide that you want a magician at your reception (yes I have seen this) DO IT! It is your day. Do not allow the opinions of others deter you from having the wedding you want.
9) Wedding Photography Matters
This blog post would not be complete if I did end it on a photographical note (I think i just made up that phrase 😂). I urge you not to treat wedding photography as just another vendor to check off on your never ending wedding to-do list. Wedding photography is the ONE thing that you will have after your wedding day to cherish the day. Think about it. The flowers will die. You will never wear that dress again. And you probably wont even remember what you had to eat. But you will have your photos forever. So I like to tell my clients to think of it as less of an expense and more of an investment. You only get one wedding day. Make sure you hire a photographer who you know can capture those precious memories for you!