Getting Married and need some Guidance? Read the 25 important steps below for a stress free wedding day
It’s no surprise that planning your wedding day is not going to be an easy thing to do, so we have gathered the best wedding day advice from wedding pros for a stress-free event.
As a Seattle and Pensacola photographer shooting weddings from Washington to Florida, I have seen so much, from poor planning to an awesomely organized wedding day, and to help couples preparing for their wedding efficiently, I have planned this blog just for them. There are factors that play in place when you sit down at your table, pen and paper in front of you and start designing one of the most important events of your life. No one knows what to expect and you will too be part of the crowd that asks themselves “What’s first?” – but don’t worry, I got your back.
If you’re curious to learn what it’s like to work with me, read about what defines our team, and the experience we offer to our lovely couples, hop on HERE.
Before we get down to it, there are a couple important things I’d like to mention from a wedding photographer’s perspective.
Hire your wedding vendors at least a year in advance. Start compiling things that speak to you and save them in one spot. Download a wedding timeline and start checking things one by one, as you accomplish them. Be consistent, be persevering and most importantly, do not procrastinate! It will hurt if you wait until the last minute. Take our wedding day advice.
Hire wedding vendors that know what they’re doing.
Let’s face it – not all vendors are the same, because not all people are the same. You will find some that have integrity and are passionate about their work, and there’s going to be a bunch others that just want to take your money and possibly ghost you. Having experience is definitely a key factor, but the most important thing is integrity. Being there when you’re needed, responding in a timely manner and be your best at what you do.
GETTING READY PART OF THE DAY
1. Getting ready is the first important part of the day, so choosing a location with great natural light is recommended. Please ensure your makeup artist positions you by the window and not in the bathroom! I’m mind blown every time I see that happening… no one likes photos in yellow light and towels in the background. Make sure you have your bridesmaids or groomsmen keep the room tidy, so we are able to move and work efficiently. Save the largest spot by the window to have the bridal party get you ready.
2. Your make-up will need to last all day, so choosing a professional make-up artist that understands anatomy, structure, the colors, skin types and how to stop your face from becoming shiny is just as important. Schedule a makeup trial and take pictures to see how your skin looks like in pictures. Avoid applying it yourself, have a pro do it – easier to photograph, no surprises for you. Same applies for the hair.
Hair is more important, if you asked me. You can conceal a makeup imperfection in photos but you can’t hide a messy hairdo. Our advice is to keep hair pins and hairspray with you available. so you can easily fix any rebellious strands of hair. For your groom, make lip moisturizer available.
3. Avoid getting a fake tan before the wedding. If anything, start going to the beach and build a tan weeks before the wedding, but be careful not to burn and peel. Use lots of sunscreen. Lots of the tanning products contain artificial ingredients that will affect what color your skin turns, so looking orange or yellow will not result in flattering photos.
4. Get lots of rest the night before, and do not drink a lot of alcohol. Last thing you want to have is a hangover on your wedding day – I’ve seen it, it’s not pretty. Not only you’ll be dragging, but the photos will show the black circles around your eyes and your spirit will not be the same. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
5. Ensure the room is air conditioned or an A/C unit is available to rent. Seattle is not as hot as Pensacola, but July and August is are months with high temperatures no matter where you’re at, and small hotels or bridal suits get hot, especially when you have a lot of people running around.
6. When you plan your photography coverage, keep in mind the getting ready locations between bride and groom. If you’re booking hotel rooms, book rooms on separate floors but not too far from each other. If you decide on Airbnbs, rent them in close proximity to one another to avoid losing too much time traveling. That’s precious time that we could use for photography.
7. Gather your items and have them ready for when I arrive. Those are the first things I photograph. You should have your dress, shoes, vows, jewelry, rings, sentimental items, gifts, stationery and flowers. If flowers are not available, those shots can wait until later. Please take your dress out of the bag and remove the plastic and cardboard. The dress should be steamed and ready to go, along with the veil. For better dress photos, bring a nice hanger, don’t leave it hanging on the cheap, plastic one.
8. While the details are being documented, your bridesmaids should have their hair and makeup finished before the bride. The bride should be the last one to get ready, as her bridesmaids will help her into her dress. We can still take some photos while the ladies are wearing their pretty robes and maybe pop a bottle of champagne before the actual dress gets put on. The toasts will make for some really fun, colorful photos, while everyone shares some laughs.
9. After that moment is captured, I’ll have the bridesmaids put their dresses on, and we’re ready to get you in your dress. Keep the dress un-bustled but you don’t have to lay it down pretty until we’re ready for those photos. I’ll guide you through the process. Your ladies will be surrounding you, hands on, fixing your dress, and you will be the center of attention.
Generally the maid of honor and/or mom will be the ones zipping up the dress and putting the veil on. For the shoes and jewelry, it’s your choice if you want your sister or someone else to help. Everyone can assist with a particular task and including them will make for memorable photos.
10. For the 1st look, if you’ve opted for one, you can choose if you want your veil or bouquet. It’s a preference thing. My suggestion is to leave the flowers behind, we will have time to take those portraits with them, because you want to have free hands when you’re giving your sweetheart a hug after you see each other all done up. Same with the veil – leave it behind and wear it for the ceremony, family formals and part of the bridal portraits. That way you can show off your beautiful hair and have diversity in the portfolio.
11. No matter if you’re wearing a tie or bowtie, do your homework and learn how to tie before your wedding day comes!
I’ve seen so many grooms and groomsmen having NO idea how to to do that and YouTube-ing How To videos day-of. Save yourself some time and learn in advance. Would be beneficial to teach the guys as well, that way they can help each other out during the getting ready part of the day.
Boutonnières are placed on the left lapel of the jacket and secured with a safety pin from the back. I’m always the one fixing boutonnières, at every wedding, so I find it really funny when I hear “Oh, wait guys, the photographer can do it!” I love it! 😀
12. It is encouraged you have a rehearsal dinner and you know what the walking down the aisle process is. The bride will walk on the left side of the person who will accompany her. Her family will be sitting on the left. The groom will stand to the right of the altar/arbor, with his family on the same side.
13. Consider having an unplugged ceremony. An “unplugged wedding” is when a couple getting married have made a decision that they would prefer if their wedding guests didn’t take photos and/or upload them to social media. Without the distraction of their phone and/or camera, your guests will be free to immerse themselves in the experience that you’ve spent months planning. Plus, you won’t have people standing in the middle of the isle getting into our shots.
14. The general order of the processional is grandparents, parents, groom, ring bearer/flower girl, bridal party, bride. Advise your family and bridal party to walk slow and look up. Also, leave space between groups as they walk down to ensure everyone is photographed properly, and the view of the person behind is not blocked.
While the groom is standing at the altar, each of his groomsmen, either accompanied by a bridesmaid or walking alone, will shake his hand and give him a brotherly hug. Then join his side.
15. As a bride, make sure you hold your bouquet in front of your belly button and face it forward. In other words, look at the seam of the ribbon and point it towards you, especially if you have a charm or something special hanging in the front part. Keep that in mind for all the pictures that we’ll take throughout the day. Hand the bouquet to your maid of honor when you reach the front.
16. It’s a special moment when the bride and groom meet at the altar, either they’ve seen each other before during the 1st look or not, so make sure you have fun together standing there. Smile, hold hands, look at each other, be humorous.
It’s also important to find out what the officiant or priest have in mind for the ceremony – where you will be standing or sitting, and speak up if the plan is to face away from the crowd. You don’t want to have photos of your ceremony with your back at the family, friends and photographer the whole time.
17. Keep your vows written clearly and preferably in a pretty book or piece of paper. You can save that paper in your memory box and pull it out in 10 years, you’ll be surprised how taken aback you’ll be. For the final kiss, ask your officiant to step aside after he/she pronounces you Husband and Wife. Keep that kiss going for a few seconds, don’t rush it, it’s a special moment.
18. For the recessional, grab your flower bouquet, the hand of your groom and keep your smile on. As you’re walking out, walk slow, wave at people, have fun. You can even stop halfway through and give each other another kiss for a quick happy photo.
19. After the ceremony, the marriage license is signed. That will take about 10-15 minutes, so make sure you take that time into consideration when the timeline is put in place. Better to include it in the total amount of ceremony time.
COCKTAIL HOUR, RECEPTION & BRIDAL PORTRAITS
20. During cocktail hour, if you have a package that includes a second photographer, we split duties. My assistant will take candid, photojournalistic shots of people enjoying themselves, while I will photograph details and the reception area before doing family formals.
We ideally should have 1 hour, and I need about 20 minutes for details. To work efficiently, you will need to make a list of family groups that you want photographed ahead of time. We will hand that list to a family member or friend who can call out who’s next. That should take about 20 minutes as well. We still need to take couple portraits and bridal party photos, if we have not done those prior to the ceremony, which is suggested.
21. Bridal portraits are best captured alone, without friends or family around. Alone time means you will not be distracted by anyone and you connect more intimately with your significant other. Those are the photos I’m looking forward on capturing, showing the connection you two share, having fun, laugh, giggle and just be with each other.
22. After the session has ended, we will return to the reception to capture all the other events planned: dances, toasts and speeches, cake cutting, etc. If your dinner is set outdoors, even though we will have our lighting gear in place, please ensure your tables are lit with candles or some other type of lighting, otherwise it will be difficult to take properly lit photos.
23. Glasses should be filled out on time for the speeches, and for that, talk to the catering team so they are aware to plan properly. Speeches should be around 5 minutes each, keep them short and sweet, so the crowd keeps entertained. If you’re doing a bouquet toss, we will talk about positioning and the “1-2-3 throw”. For the final send-off, just like the recessional, walk slow, laugh, have fun, stop and kiss, then continue on. We will potentially do that a couple of time especially if we have sparklers and dim lighting, to ensure we got great shots.
24. HAVE FUN!
I want to emphasize one of the most significant piece of advice: HAVE FUN! You have planned all this for such a long time, dreamed about the perfect day and all that. Now it’s time to sit back and relax, let the pros do their job. Avoid micromanaging, getting stuck on little things that may have not been accomplished 100% to your liking, and getting stressed or upset about them. It’s not worth it. This is a happy joyous day and your need to enjoy it to the fullest!
25. Last but Not Least…
As a wedding photographer (and vendor), I’d like to express a couple of things. On a wedding day, working with a team of vendors means playing nice in the sandbox. That is of the outmost importance. Relationship building results in referrals. Work ethic is everything and I always do my best to communicate with all the other team players involved. These three vendors below are key to my success as a photographer day-of, so here are some things you should keep in mind.
DJ / MC
The DJ or MC will likely be the person announcing the events of the night. Both of our photography schedules need to be exactly the same. If there’s a discrepancy, important shots could be missed. In between events (cake cutting, dances, speeches), we often have to adjust our lighting setup. We have to either move the lights in different spots or change the setup all together.
For example, if the cake is placed on one side of the room, we will have to bring the light stands closer to the cake. If the MC announces dances without giving us a few minutes to reposition the lights, the inevitable can happen. Some important shots can be missed. We make it a point to always communicate with all the vendors, the MC in particular. There have been times when the MC decided to announce an event without checking with us, and we were not ready for that particular shot.
Every wedding vendor has a pivotal role to your wedding day. If you hire a wedding planner or day-of coordinator, their responsibility is to communicate well with the team, keeping in mind that photography is the most essential piece of the equation. Photography is what you’re going to be left with after the wedding.
They might work with you on the timeline and might think that there is enough time for photos, but we, the photographers need to review it and ensure there is enough time for everything we need to document. A wedding planner cannot modify the timeline without checking with us, and our responsibility as wedding photographers, is to get all the shots we need and you hired us to get. A wedding planner cannot dictate our job, and they are not our boss that day. We have a big responsibility to fulfill and we will do everything we need to make that happen.
Working with videographers is awesome, but interesting at times! Because our work is very similar, we connect differently. A seasoned videographer will know that photography comes first, and so they will work around us.
As a wedding videographer, there are some things to keep in mind when working with a photographer. The best way for both of us to take the shots that we need, is to take turns. While lighting is essential for good photos, photographers get the first turn. During the ceremony, the videographer should use lenses that get close to the couple at the altar and not position his camera in the middle of the isle, because they will get in the way of our shots and you will not have good photographs during that time.
If they are eager to get their footage and jump in front of our cameras, we are not responsible for not delivering the images that you’ve envisioned and we will include everything we can in the gallery, including the ones where the videographer has monopolized the shots.
As always, we hope you have enjoyed this. Questions or suggestions? Send them our way! We’d love to hear from you, send us a message HERE.
A lover of all things beautiful, classic and authentic, Adina’s journey into photography has taught her to adapt to all surroundings and allowed her to capture timeless, creative photographs that reveal raw connection and emotion. You can follow Adina on Instagram or Facebook below for more inspiration.
I'm just a girl playing wedding photographer in Destin Florida, devoted to her work, getting her excitement from helping people preserve their memories.
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