WEDDING DAY GUIDE
We are about to get deep you guys!!!! I've been doing weddings for a LOOONG time, and I've picked up tons of tips and tricks along the way. You've probably never done any of this before, or even thought about some of the logistics, right? It gets a lot more complicated and confusing the more you dive in! I'm here for you to help guide you and make sure you have the least amount of stress possible. I want you to have bomb photos, and to do that I want to give you ALL my tips and tricks to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. The best thing you can do for your wedding day is to plan the details out well ahead of time, and then relax and enjoy the day while you trust your vendors to bring it all to life. I will be with you the entire day, making sure everything is going well and that we are sticking to the timeline and shotlist as much as possible. I've got your back, please relax and trust me! Let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to refer back to this guide as often as you'd like!
IT ALL STARTS WITH LIGHTING!
The key to beautiful portraits is always always always light. Here in Arizona, we get harsh, bright sun 300 days a year, so it's really important that we plan ahead and assume it will most likely be a sunny, bright day and schedule your timeline around it! The light naturally gets softer and more flattering the closer you are to sunrise and sunset, with noon (when the sun is directly above us!) being the harshest, worst light for photography. If you want those pretty, glowy photos that I specialize in, we have to plan for it. Most of the time when my clients book with me, they have already booked their venue and set their ceremony time. Please, please, PLEASE check with me before you print anything on an invitation or make that ceremony time set in stone. The entire timeline will revolve around what time the sunset is, so we can prioritize getting that perfect, pretty light for portraits and for your ceremony. I recommend looking up the sunset time for your date, and setting your start time for about an hour and a half before that. This will give us 30 minutes for the ceremony, and an hour afterwards for group photos and bride and groom portraits when the light is best.
DON'T panic if it ends up being a cloudy or rainy day. Clouds actually help with photography - they are like giant softboxes covering the sun and making beautiful, even light all day long AND they can also create the most beautiful, moody sunset skies that I'm obsessed with. Absolutely have a backup rain plan with your venue, but know that rain can also create beautiful, unique photos and memories that people will talk about for years. The best thing you can do is just relax and let the day happen!
Getting ready is honestly one of my favorite parts of the day! Some people question if they really need this part of the day captured, and I always say YES YOU DO! If you're thinking ahead about the album that you're going to want, it's the best way to capture a "beginning" to the story. It just looks weird to start an album off with bridal party photos! Plus, all of the excitement and anticipation leads to really genuine, candid moments for me to capture. You don't want to miss this part of the day!
Look for a cute, unique airbnb to rent that will be big enough for all your girls to get ready with you! The more character and WINDOWS (back to that lighting point!), the better. Large suites at nicer hotels can also work well - just look for minimal decor and request a room with a north facing window so you get the most window light during the day. Myself (and your resulting photos) and your hair and makeup artist will thank you! Another thing to look for is a nice, shaded outdoor area that can be used for portraits with your bridal party and for your first look.
PICK UP - try to keep the area as clean as possible! Keep everyones stuff in bags in a separate room or closet. A ton of clutter everywhere can really kill the mood.
START EARLY - plan plenty of time with your hair and makeup artist to get you and all your girls ready earlier than you think. I can't tell you how many times the hair or makeup artist has run late, and it really pushes everything back and makes us miss other things. Work in some buffer time so we can stay on track!
I recommend having at a minimum of 1 hour for getting ready photos - this will give me time to get some bridal detail photos, candids of everyone hanging out, your finishing touches on makeup, and getting your dress on.
GUYS - don't forget about the guys! I like to have around 20 minutes to get some candid moments of the groom putting on his jacket, tying his shoes, having a beer with his friends, and hanging out. If they can be getting ready somewhere nearby, that's usually best so I can either get it myself, or send my second shooter to capture this. Try to also find them a room that will have good window lighting coming in.
Gifts & Letters - it's always sweet to have a cute note from each other to open before you get to see each other! Moments like these always give genuine emotion and help you be more present in the day. I totally recommend sending a gift or letter to your soon to be spouse to open!
I usually start off by taking photos of all your pretty bridal details. I will come in and say hi, and ask for all your things! It helps if you've put them all into a detail box ahead of time so I can grab it all at once. This usually includes : Wedding bands (his and hers), Invitation suite including envelopes, Dress hanger (and wedding dress!), Veil, Shoes, Garter, Perfume, Any jewelry or hair peice you'll be wearing, vow books, etc. The more details, the better! If possible, I'd love to have your bouquet at this time as well, and you can also ask your florist to include a few loose flowers and/or greenery that I can include with detail photos to give them an extra pop. I'll remind you about the bridal detail box the week of the wedding, but it helps to start gathering and thinking about it early on.
A first look is where the Bride & Groom plan to see each other for a private moment together BEFORE the ceremony. It's a little non-traditional, but more and more couples are choosing to do one these days. Here's why I LOVE and recommend them :
Feel more relaxed : Calm some of those nerves before the ceremony! Seeing each other before really helps you relax and be more present later at the ceremony. Plus, you'll get to spend way more of your wedding day with each other. It really gives you time to take it all in. You can share what you’re feeling, you can hug, you can actually say “wow you look incredible in that dress”-- all things you can’t do when you’re at the front of the isle with everyone watching.
Privacy!! No one is going to be staring at your poor groom waiting for his reaction (well.. besides me haha). It's easier to be vulnerable and show emotion when there isn't an audience.
Easier Timelines : Doing a first look will give us time to do a lot of those family and bridal party portraits before the ceremony! This means that we can spend cocktail hour focused solely on you two and avoid that stressful time of trying to wrangle your family back in when they just want to go get drinks and hang out with all the guests. We can get all the group stuff out of the way early, that way cocktail hour and the reception you can just party and enjoy your time with everyone!
Remember - this is your day! If you've always dreamt of having that first glimpe moment while walking down the aisle, we can absolutely do it that way and skip the first look. We will just want to allow enough time after your ceremony of "the good light" to get those group shots done then.
Even if you are not doing a first look, we are still going to schedule the majority of your bridal party photos before the ceremony. I always get group poses of the bride and all her girls, individuals of the bride with each girl, and the same things for the guys. I need to have around 20-30 minutes for each side, and an additional 10 minutes for some big group photos of all the girls and guys together. Plan for the longer end of time if you've got huge bridal parties! You can also include your flower girl and ring bearer in these if you'd like - Just let me know if they'll be joining us!
Since these group photos will take place earlier in the day when the light is more harsh, we will want to use an evenly lit shaded area if possible.
I'm kind of a pro at wrangling family members and making this stressful part - not so stressful. We want to keep this as short and sweet as possible! The best time for family and bridal party portraits is before the ceremony. Everyone is ready to go and no one will miss any cocktail hour or reception time. If we are not doing a first look, we will still get as many group photos done before hand as possible, and save the photos you both need to be in together for after the ceremony.
I typically stick to immediate family (parents/step-parents, siblings/spouses/kids) and grandparents for formal group photos. I recommend keeping any extended family shots short - these are the hardest people to wrangle and it ends up taking a ton of time!
We will work together on a family portrait list that I will have with me to make sure I get everything you need. I will need about 30 minutes for family portraits (15 minutes each side) if we are able to stick to the standard immediate family. Plan on more time if you want to include any extended family groups!
The ceremony is usually only around 20-30 minutes long, but it is the whole point of the day and you should try to work in moments that will make it special and customized to you and your relationship. My husband and I decided to write and read our own vows to each other. It honestly was so stressful before hand because I get major anxiety with public speaking, but it was SO WORTH IT. It was hands down my favorite part of the day, and our family and friends loved seeing us be emotional and vulnerable as well. I always recommend writing your own vows if you can, it will be such a memorable moment for you both! If you decide not to, try to think of other things you can do to make it special for your relationship.
LIGHTING - once again we're going to talk about lighting! Ceremonies outdoors in nature are my favorite, but the lighting is super important to think about for the photos. Spotty shaded spots and harsh uneven light is not ideal. Try to backlight yourselves - this means figuring out where the sun is going to be at that time of day, and set up your ceremony so the sun is BEHIND your officiant. This will make sure you two are backlit with glowy, even light like in this photo. Much better than having one person in full sun and the other person in a shady spot! Yes, your guests will probably be facing the sun, but I promise it will be worth it when you get your photos back.
UNPLUGGED - An unplugged ceremony is when you ask your guests to put their phones and cameras away and be fully present with you during the ceremony. You can have a sign requesting this, and also have your officiant let everyone know at the beginning of the ceremony. I recommend it so I can get photos of people faces and emotions, without cell phones blocking everyone! It's a huge mood kill in your gallery to see 50 phones out while your dad is walking you down the aisle, trust me on this.
BRIDE & GROOM PORTRAITS
AHH! My other favorite time of the day!!! I like to have 30 - 40 minutes dedicated to just taking portraits of the two newlyweds and letting you really soak in the excitement and emotions you are feeling without anyone else around. You just got married! It's the best feeling and I love the giddy smiles and genuine moments I can capture during this time. Ideally, we will plan these for the last 40 minutes of golden light - if sunset is at 7pm, we will try to shoot bride & groom starting at 6:20. UNLESS your venue is super shaded, then we will want to bump things up a little bit so we don't run out of light too fast. I will pose you, but I will also remind you to just relax and enjoy each other. These are the portraits you're going to want to print out big and hang on your walls, so want to have the best light possible.
Another option you can think about here, is adding on a Bride and Groom adventure session! These are portrait sessions done AFTER the wedding for you to get all dressed up again, and go somewhere else to have an amazing experience together, and get incredible views for your portraits. These take the pressure off your wedding day timeline, so you can spend less time doing portraits together and more time with your guests. I've taken couples hiking in Sedona or the Grand Canyon, driven to the beach in California, or flown to the PNW to do them by a waterfall. Really, we can go ANYWHERE. This is how you get those instagram-worthy, epic cliff view portraits while still having the big wedding at a venue. Best of both worlds, plus it's just super fun to get to be a bride again and extend the day out as much as possible. Win, win!
WOOHOO! YOU MADE IT!
I'M HERE FOR YOU GUYS! Email me if you are feeling lost, have any questions, or need my opinion about something. I am here for you every step of the way!