So you’re getting married – the chances are you’ve never planned something like this or a large event before and essentially it’s all new. I decided to put together some tips that will help you have an awesome day and (importantly) get you some amazing images. Weddings are – in their nature – ceremonious and structured events, and whilst my style is 95% natural and unplanned – it doesn’t harm for you be a little prepared on your wedding day to help your photographer. Here are a handful of tips that, from experience, will help out.
Getting ready can be such an awesome time to get those genuine pre-wedding shots. But sometimes the energy can be dulled by the aesthetic. A cluttered, messy, dark room with artificial lighting takes away from the genuine moments happening and the beauty of the morning. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Light and Space
Window light is the best light – that’s all I need to say. Most make up artists will want to position you near the largest window anyway but perhaps consider if that area is blocked by furniture – most living rooms are arranged around a T.V – it doesn’t do any harm to consider moving things around for the morning as long as it’s practical. (Please don’t go moving massive items around the day before your wedding!)
It’s very likely that bride or groom preparations in the morning will be full of energy and you will be surrounded by lots of people including hair and make-up artists. This is awesome but it’s so easy for a room to get very full, very quickly. The hair and make-up will need room for their equipment and the family and wedding party will likely be putting bags and clothes down all over the place. An awesome shot of you guys getting ready would be much more awesome if there isn’t a large Ikea bag full of bits in the background. Consider having a bit of a sweep around the main room for any clutter and perhaps dedicate a room or closet that absolutely won’t be used for photos to put stuff in. Hey – don’t get me wrong, if you guys all had fun the night before and there are Dominos pizza boxes on the side when I arrive – I’ll likely take a photo of it – it’s a memory worth capturing – but it won’t do any harm to move them into the kitchen :)
Consider a change of scene
Whilst a lot of people will want to get ready at their own house or parents, thinking of staying somewhere like an AirBnB isn’t such a crazy idea. You can choose somewhere that will be a well lit, a great space for plenty of people, somewhere to stay the night before for either bride or groom party, and a place to stay on the wedding night for just the two of you. It also means you won’t be leaving the house thinking of the potential mess you’ve left it in and may feel more comfortable having lots of guests share the morning with you somewhere other than your home or parents. When all is said and done it’s about being comfortable, relaxed and being able to have a bit of fun – sometimes home may be the best place, but don’t rule out a change of scenery straight away.
Walking down the aisle – if you’re a bride, allow some time between you and your bridesmaids. People often envision they will be walking down after the bridesmaids but most of the time in the U.K it’s tradition for the bride to walk down first. It varies from church to church and whoever is delivering the service – sometimes they will let you do it the way you want and sometimes they will want you to respect their tradition . Either way the best thing to do is just allow time for yourself to walk down the aisle so I can get a clear shot of you (don’t look at me!) – just allow for good space so you have most of the aisle to yourself (and whoever walks down with you) before (or after!) your bridesmaids walk down.
Walking back down the aisle – as you walk back down as a married couple consider taking your time and looking up at all the smiling faces of your family and friends. If you are having an outdoor ceremony then perhaps consider this walk back down the aisle a great, natural opportunity to throw confetti! Just make sure whoever is doing the ceremony informs the guests to throw it as you walk down, and ensure ushers/wedding party have handed out confetti and got enough bodies in place ready to throw it.
The best time to do confetti is usually straight after the ceremony (or as mentioned above – possibly as you walk down the aisle). As much as walking through a confetti line up or being surrounded by a confetti bombing is a little staged – when you walk down, the fun and your reactions certainly won’t be – it’s awesome, so don’t worry about it being cheesy, just have a bit of fun. This is one of the very few moments in the day, along with group photos where I will help “set up” a confetti photo – just make sure you have people in charge of handing out confetti and helping me to get people lined up. (Please note – a confetti photo isn’t something I expect all couples to go for but if you do envision having one then me “setting it up” a little does help).
Some tips for confetti –
You can spend a fortune on confetti by all means buying genuine fresh flower petals, but these only look good (and they do look good!) when there is plenty of them. The reality is they are heavy for confetti and drop fast to the floor. Having said that, in summer if you have a garden full of rose petals – it will save you massively on going to a florist!
Biodegradable paper confetti is awesome, it’s light and stays in the air for longer – it doesn’t cost the earth so you can buy loads of it!
Dried flowers are also cool but again consider it may drop a little quicker so you need plenty of it. Don’t be afraid to mix up your confetti – there’s loads of options out there:
Knitted wool balls, paper airplanes, bubbles (get some bubble makers), or even balloons!
It’s your wedding day, and I will happily fulfil your requests for formal photos. However, I always recommend sticking to no more than 10 listed formal group photos. My style and passion lies in documentary photography that captures the natural energy and excitement of your day. The more time we allocate to group photographs the less time I have amongst your guests creating fun and candid portraits (and the less time you have to enjoy your reception/party). In terms of timing, if you estimate that each formal group photo will take between 2-4 minutes – this gives you a good idea of how long the group photos will take once added up. Assign an usher or someone with confidence to help me gather round your guests at this point. Group photos are usually done best out of direct sunlight in shade which makes for much more flattering photos as well as allowing your guests to relax.
Here in the U.K we can sometimes get four seasons in one day – to be honest I’ve done a lot of weddings and 99% percent of the time, even with rain, things have always gone to plan. It’s the one thing you can’t change but you certainly can prepare for it! Wellies, converse and other sensible shoes may seem like some people are just doing them for fashion on their wedding day but there is a reason they are so popular – anything to enable us to go outside is great! Wear wedding heels for sure but have something as a backup for comfort and weather nearby just in case! If it does rain then umbrellas are perfect – not umbrellas with big logos but some pretty white or solid colours (depending on your theme/taste) ones are best. Crazy weather can result in some amazing photos if you don’t mind being a little adventurous and getting outside with me!
Don’t stress the dress (or suit!)
It’s understandable that a bride’s dress is one of the most important aspects of her wedding. You’ve likely spent a long time looking for it and want it too look awesome all day but the reality is it will get slightly dirty – even walking across carpet can pick up a little bit of dirt. As a photographer I certainly won’t make you drag it across a wet muddy field but don’t let worrying about it stop you from going outside for some awesome portraits – if needs be put some wellies on, lift it up and rock it! There’s a saying by then end of the night that if your dress isn’t a little bit dirty – you haven’t had a good time! Don’t spend your day stressing over it, just let it go.
I totally understand the first dance can be a nerve wracking experience, I stood on my wife’s toes a few times and she was more nervous than me! Try to just look at each other, be close to each other and enjoy it. Also try to resist the urge to bring your guests onto the dance floor too early. Most first dance songs can be short and as a photographer this gives me a limited window to capture an image of just the two of you.
This isn’t something I want to mess around with too much especially if you’ve already got a perfect plan in place but theres just a few things from experience I can suggest.
These normally get done after the ceremony before anything else and usually tie in well for being done in the same hour you have planned for arrival drinks/canapes. I’ve had situations where I’ve done the group photos in less than 20 minutes and then situations where they have taken an hour. This can happen for various reasons – somebody has nipped off to the car to get something for their baby, Uncle Kevin is talking to the groundskeeper round the corner about his lawnmower, Aunty Sue is busy organising her own extensive group photos at one end of the venue and the most popular; some guests are already at the bar! It’s a wedding, it’s bound to happen and that’s the fun of it! But it’s just something to bear in mind when A) looking at how many group photos you have and B) asking ushers to help gather family and friends (Sometimes ushers are the ones at the bar!)
I honestly only need 20 minutes to take the two of you somewhere a little quieter and private to get some honest relaxed photos of yourselves. If you want more time then I’m up for that too. We can even plan two sections of your couple photos into the day, one not long after the ceremony and one at sunset. Sometimes this is advisable so you’ve got some in the bag after the ceremony in case there is no golden sunset later on and going again later on gives you a chance to do it again when your perhaps a little more relaxed. I’m easy going and happy to go along with what you feel comfortable with.
Now I’m not a stylist and certainly wouldn’t dream of telling you how to style your wedding as for me, it’s more important for me to capture the story and the people but I must admit I do have a soft spot for fairy lights and more specifically festoon lights (larger than fairy lights and more bulb shaped) Whether your wedding is at a venue or outdoors or a marquee, if budget allows consider festoon lights. One quick google of “festoon lights wedding” will show you exactly what I mean. For photography they rock, especially at night. When out of focus they provide you with lovely out of focus bokeh lights. Anyway you can tell I’m a fan boy. Fairy lights are awesome wrapped around things or as curtains/walls of lights but festoons rock when it comes to hanging them from one part of a room/open space to another. They can provide a brighter light source than fairy lights too so can actually be used to light areas. Again guys, pinch of salt! you don’t have to have them – it’s just a little tip!
With winter weddings one thing to consider is how early the sun sets. Winter can provide some awesome dramatic light but it can be soon gone by 4pm in December for example. With this in mind having an earlier ceremony around midday can be quite a good idea – it gives you a good chance to take advantage of the available light in winter for not only your group and couple photos but other things that can be done outdoors if the weather is warm enough. The best thing to do for your day is just simply google your wedding date followed by “sunset time” and from there you can plan for certain things to happen.
Give yourself time – Look at your day – have a good think about how people might be and how they might move around from one thing to the next. It’s better to have more time than to try and cram everything in and feel as if your day rushed by.
Finally – Just have fun
This honestly is just a simple guide with some hints and tips and shouldn’t be taken too seriously at all – these things all help, but for me the most important thing with my style of photography is that you relax and have a good time. It’s your day after all.
Putting Ice Cream in your beard is optional!