Photography Tips for Planning Your Wedding

This guide outlines my tips for couples like you, who are recently engaged and are planning their wedding.

Planning a wedding is challenging for couples especially when deciding on the “vibe” or tone of your wedding day. Picking colors, flowers, a venue, a photographer, a DJ… so many different companies, personalities, contracts, etc. I know after planning my wedding that even though I am in the industry, I myself was not prepared for the hefty decisions in front of me, and constantly kept going back “Is this really how I want this to happen?”

This guide is written for couples like you, who are planning their wedding and are looking for some ideas to consider that may not be apparent. As a wedding photographer for over 7 years, I’ve experienced so many beautiful weddings. Each one has its own life and soul to it, a result stemming from the individual decisions a couple makes. Each wedding day is a chance for me to tap into that uniqueness, and show in images what your special day was like.

Part 1

The Venue(s)

The choice of venue to host your wedding will set the tone and vibe of your day.

Choosing a wedding venue can be challenging, particularly when a couple doesn’t know a vibe or mood they want to go for. Thankfully, the younger generations are really making strides to re-invent weddings and customize them for themselves.

When thinking about your venue, there is a lot to consider. Here’s some quick questions to ask that may help you set the frame for thinking about your wedding venue:

  • What vibe do I want my wedding to take? In the city, the country, near the mounts, indoors, outdoors, etc.
  • What time of year and time of day will my wedding take place? Will it be warm? Will it be outside?
  • Will my wedding take place in all the same location/venue? Or will I have a ceremony site, and a separate site for the reception.
  • How big is my guest list?
  • Do we want to get ready at the venue itself, or start in a hotel/airbnb?
  • Where are the bulk of our guests coming from? In town vs. out of town? Being close to an airport/public transportation is helpful.
  • Do I require parking?

Don’t be afraid to look for venues that aren’t traditional venue spaces. A lot of younger couples want spaces like art galleries, pizza shops, Taco Bell, on a beach, in grandma’s backyard, and more.

Part 2

Getting Ready

I can always feel the slight buzz of anxiety when the couple is getting ready. Either together or separately, it’s usually the last few moments a couple has either together, or alone, before the big day unfolds.

The Getting Ready portion of the day is you and your wedding party’s first official kick-off phase of the day. Usually I arrive when my couples are about 1-2 hours out from being completely ready. When considering how many hours you require a photographer for, my first question always is “How much do you care about getting ready photos?”

If you expect a good and intimate time with your people, and have many details to photograph (heirlooms, shoes, invitations, etc) then this phase of the day is better to be an hour or two. For many couples, they opt to not have as much getting ready and instead add more hours to the end of the day for more reception coverage.

Here’s a few points to consider when thinking of how you and your wedding party will get ready:

  • Is the Getting Ready phase in a hotel, airBnB, or the venue?
  • What do the rooms look like? Is their natural light, and nice windows? Garish large-print hotel carpet?
  • Is there enough room or an area of the room that we can keep clean throughout the entire phase?
  • If a bride requires help getting in her dress, who will help her?
  • What details do you want photographed?
  • Will there be an activity to keep groups moving? Will there be music playing?
Part 3

The First Look

First looks are the perfect opportunity to get the anxiety out of the way and get all your photos done before your guests show up.

It’s an opportunity for you and your fiancé to be alone and have a moment, usually with a reveal. The hidden benefit, is seeing each other early versus traditionally at the ceremony. Ideally, weddings with First Looks will have all formal portraits done before the ceremony, allowing you and your fiancé to enjoy cocktail hour with your guests.

In doing this, many of my clients felt it took the tension out of the their day.

When planning a First Look, think of where you’d like this to happen. The location is usually best at the ceremony site or somewhere nearby where you want your formal portraits. I almost always recommend we do couple portraits immediately after, to keep that magical spark flaring in the images.

Part 4

Your Portraits

These are the main portraits of the day, which focus on creating beautiful images of the two of you.

Generally, couple portraits are 30-45min, with 1-hour being ideal.

My ideology is to use the setting within your portraits to help explain the time, place, and emotion in the air. Your photographer will have a preferred method of working, so be sure to check in with them to find out what works for their style.

Each venue offers its own opportunity for couple portraits. If you’re feeling adventurous, take your photographer on a walk to the surrounding areas. For locations in the city, this can be a fun impromptu way to add the city to your wedding story.

Part 5

The Ceremony

Wedding ceremonies are steeped in tradition. A ritual that largely is being streamlined and personalized by Millenials. The ceremony is where you’ll have most everyone’s attention and its an opportunity to create a story of you both as individuals, and what your story is coming together.

Many venues do have photography restrictions, so check in advance. It’s not fun to learn of restrictions after you’ve booked. And, be sure to know what time of day your ceremony is and what time sunset is for that day of the year. You don’t want to stare into the sun during ceremony.

Unplugged Ceremonies: It’s recommended that all couples opt-in to an unplugged ceremony, where the couple asks guests to keep phones and cameras away during just the ceremony. This creates more intimate photographs, where guests are not engaging with their devices.

Part 6

Customizing the Venue Space

Many couples struggle with taking a space and adding just enough decoration and custom items to “own the space.”

When looking at your venue, one of the easiest ways is to research what other couples have done to use the space. Some venues come with lots of areas to add decorations, while some (like tented weddings) require more vision.

Part 7

Party Time

Receptions are the time when your photographer will step back and document you having fun with guests.

Generally, receptions are much less tricky to schedule with everyone being in the same location.

This is the part of the day where you’ll be spending all your time with your guests. Make a list of all the activities you need to plan a time for.

Consider the location of your reception, and be sure to have your lighting figured out. Not all venues come equipped with nice lighting, so inquire with them and/or your DJ.


Closing Thoughts

Thank’s for reading!

I hope this guide got you thinking about your wedding day and how certain decisions may affect how you want to design your day.