We're getting married! So how do we do this? How much time do we need? What's a first look and what if it rains?
Having photographed so many weddings over the past few years, I tend to get asked the same things over and over again. So I thought it would be beneficial if I put together a wedding guide that walks you through everything from timelines to engagement sessions and inclement weather.
I am so excited to be working with you and I can’t wait to get to know you better over the next several months! I know photography is one of the larger investments you're making for your wedding day and I'm so honored you chose to work with me!
Even if you're working with a wedding planner or you're planning a simple wedding, there are likely still a lot of moving pieces left leading up to your big day.
A note about this guide
I'm a huge fan of engagement sessions for a few reasons. Not only do they allow you to get comfortable in front of the camera, they also give you the opportunity to show your personalities in a more casual setting that is significant to the two of you. I've created an entire page dedicated to outfit tips, location ideas, timing considerations and more!
Over the years, I've learned the important role quality vendors play in creating a stress-free wedding day. I've worked with many vendors and I cannot recommend these fine people enough!
This is not a paid list - I chose these vendors for both the quality of their work as well as their professionalism on the actual wedding day.
Hair & Makeup:
If you're wondering if a first look is right for you, read on.
That moment the Bride and Groom see each other for the first time on their wedding day is magical. And this is true whether the couple chooses to wait until the bride walks down the aisle or chooses to do a “first look’ prior to the ceremony.
First looks—a private moment couples choose to spend together prior to the wedding ceremony—have become more popular over the last few years. About half of my couples this year have chosen to do a first look.
While I consider myself someone who values tradition, there are definitely a few good reasons to consider a first look. Here are 3 reasons to consider a ‘first look’:
A first look cuts through the chaos of the day.
Once the ceremony begins, the day takes off quickly. A ‘first look’ is an opportunity to enjoy some quiet time alone, enjoy each other’s company, and reflect on all this day means before your day takes off.
Wedding days can be a whirlwind and they tend to fly by. There’s much to do, and a lot of people to see and to catch up with. I always encourage my couples to take a few minutes every so often during their wedding to stop and soak in everything that’s happening.
IT MAKES MORE TIME FOR PHOTOS WITHOUT SACRIFICING COCKTAIL HOUR.
When there is no first look, the majority of the pictures have to be taken after the ceremony. Family pictures are generally done as soon as the ceremony ends because it’s the easiest time to round everyone up. Next up is full bridal party, and then bride and groom portraits. This generally runs into cocktail hour.
A first look opens up time prior to the ceremony for full bridal party pictures and, sometimes, for a few bride and groom portraits (although I love to shoot bride and groom portraits at sunset). This allows the couple to get the most out of cocktail hour, which makes the rest of the evening feel less rushed.
AVOID POSSIBLE BAD WEATHER AND/OR HAVE TIME TO FRESHEN UP.
If you’re expecting poor weather on your wedding day, it might be best to plan on a first look because it gives you more options for pictures. If it’s pouring rain after the ceremony, you’ll be thankful you had pictures done in advance.
And reason 3b is for all you cryers out there. If you know the tears are going to fly the first time you see your other half the day of your wedding, a first look will give you time to freshen up before the ceremony.
First look or not, the first time you see each other on your wedding day will be special.
WEDDING DAY TIMELINE
WHETHER YOU'RE PLANNING A FIRST LOOK OR STICKING WITH TRADITION AND NOT SEEING YOUR GROOM/BRIDE UNTIL YOU WALK DOWN THE AISLE, I HAVE TIPS TO HELP MAKE PLANNING YOUR TIMELINE AS EASY AS POSSIBLE.
If you're doing a first look, photos can be done all at one time, taking an average total of 3-4 hours pre-ceremony (although I also LOVE grabbing just the two of you for a few additional bride and groom photos at sunset!)
If you choose a traditional aisle reveal, all I suggest is that you keep your ceremony time in mind when planning your wedding.
If you're planning a sunset ceremony or an evening ceremony, it's best to do all photos before the wedding, as daylight is crucial to getting amazing portraits for your families, bridal party and your couples portraits. Making sure we have enough time while the sun is up is a great way to make the traditional ceremony work.
Whether you choose to do a first look or the traditional "no see before the ceremony" I will work with you on making sure you have the best timeline and plan for images.
If you're choosing to go traditional, you'll need two different sets of photo times: images taken before the ceremony and images taken after the ceremony.
You'll need to plan for about 45 minutes of pre-ceremony bridal photos (bride and bridesmaids) and about 45 minutes of pre-ceremony groom photos (groom and groomsmen) at separate times. You'll also need 45 minutes of combined bridal party portraits, 45 minutes of combined family portraits and at least 30 minutes of couple's portraits after the ceremony if you're not doing any portraits together until after the ceremony.
If the forecast is calling for rain, fear not because rainy days can still be beautiful! If you don't believe me, just take a look at Tacy & Phil's wedding day. It rained the entire day and it was still beautiful!
If rain is in the forecast, I recommend ordering a few clear umbrellas on Amazon. It also might be good to re-evaluate portrait locations to make sure we can still shoot in natural light - even if it means heading offsite.
If you don't own a pair of cute Wellies, now may be a great time to order a pair - even if you're just wearing them in between shooting locations.
If you're not working with a planner, it might also be a good idea to check in with your entire vendor team to make sure they're aware of the weather. Hair and makeup may need to be tweaked to withstand humidity and if your wedding is outdoors, DJs and bands may need to take extra precaution to protect their gear. A quality rental team can also minimize the amount of mud at outdoor events.
While I can't guarantee that rain on your wedding day is good luck, I can put a plan in place to ensure a beautiful day and beautiful images.
Rainy day weddings may require a little more flexibility and creativity, but there isn't any reason why they can't be as beautiful and as joyful as sunny weddings!
Wedding Day Details
You are likely to include certain details in your wedding day that carry special value to you. Once I arrive at your wedding, I only need about 30 minutes to capture these details. I recommend choosing a getting ready location filled with natural light and, if possible, I suggest keeping the space free from clutter.
It's super helpful to put all of your jewelry, shoes, veil purse, perfume, invitations and other keepsakes together in one spot for photographing. Please unwrap your dress but don't worry about styling it - I can find a great spot for it!
Common Bridal Details
- Dress Hanger
- Rings (both engagement and wedding bands)
- Hair pieces
Common Groom Details
- Socks (if they're special)
- Cuff Links
- Tie or Bow Tie
- Pocket Square
- Anything else he'll have that is special or sentimental.
When I can, I try to take a photo of your rings at some point during the day, sometimes during the reception. I'm no jeweler, but I've been told that if you're wanting to clean them at home, just put your ring in warm water with dishwashing soap for 20 to 40 minutes. Then gently brush the stone with a soft toothbrush, rinse and repeat if needed.
For family portraits, I try to be super respectful of time and really try hard to move through things quickly so your family can get back to socializing and celebrating.
I'll keep removing family members and switch a few closer family members in and out so we get photos of you and your parents, you and your siblings, etc. Then we’ll repeat the process with your spouse's family. Pro tip - Often times, assigning one family member to help gather family during this portion of the day can be super helpful!
When I send out the pre-wedding questionnaire, that's a great time to make note of any special groupings as well as special situations (such as divorces or handicapped family members & more), but here's what a typical family photo shot list looks like:
Family Photo List
- Bride + Groom + Bride's Parents + Bride's Siblings + Bride's Grandparents
- Bride + Groom + Bride's Parents + Bride's Siblings
- Bride + Groom + Bride's Parents
- Bride + Groom + Bride's Siblings
- Bride + Mom
- Bride + Dad
- Bride + Groom + Groom's Parents + Groom's Siblings + Groom's Grandparents
- Bride + Groom + Groom's Parents + Groom's Siblings
- Bride + Groom + Groom's Parents
- Bride + Groom + Groom's Siblings
- Groom + Mom
- Groom + Dad
Please note that this list is just a starting point and that I'm happy to take any requested family portraits as long as time allows.
The perfect way to remember your day
One of the best ways to make your wedding memories last is by ordering an album. These high quality professionally designed albums come in a variety of linen & leather colors. These aren’t the same albums your parents' wedding photos came in. They’re modern, lay perfectly flat and look incredible on a coffee table.
If you've been to a wedding recently, you may have seen a sign from the happy couple asking for their guests to remain "unplugged" during the ceremony.
And while it might seem like a strange requests to ask guests to put down their phones, there's a pretty good reason for it! You made a big investment in photography and we're sure one of the last things you want on your wedding day is for our photos of your ceremony to be filled with obtrusive iPhones, iPads and relatives standing in the aisle with their own cameras. In order to help me do the best possible job capturing your wedding, I recommend asking guests to unplug during the ceremony. Just something to consider!
After shooting so many weddings the last few years, I've picked up a few tips along the way that may seem simple, but can be real life-savers on a wedding day!
If you're having a first look, let me know ahead of time if you'd like other people present or just you two. If you want a more private first look, I can gently tell the others that this part is for you two only - saving you from being that guy.
Make sure and have your bouquet delivered in time to make an appearance for the detail shots and for your first look. Often they are delivered in water and need to be dried off before use. Having towels handy can help.
If it's going to be hot, a cooler of cold waters and frozen washcloths can help keep a wedding party cool - especially if anyone is wearing lots of layers.
If you're getting married in the summer months, a small snack or lunch time before portraits is always a good idea for you and your bridal party to avoid getting too hungry!
Getting Tucked Away
If your reception is at a separate venue, consider adding some buffer time so that we can run over to the venue to capture it before guests arrive.
I usually recommend the party go into hiding 30 minutes before the ceremony at the latest. Guests typically arrive early to weddings and this can be a perfect time to get refreshed before the main event.
If you're planning on having several family photos, I recommend assigning someone who knows your family well to help gather people once it's time for family photos to take place.
During the cocktail hour and the reception, I'll likely be close by. Anytime you'd like a photo with someone, grab my attention!