I remember when I was planning my wedding over 6 years ago. I had been waiting for this moment my whole life and it was finally here! I was so very excited to start planning but I was also completely overwhelmed with all the information that was out there. I was the first one of my friends to get married so I was literally starting from scratch. I wish I had someone to show me the ropes and give me some advice…not only on how to make my wedding the best it could possibly be, but also have my wedding pictures turn out the best they possibly could too.
So, here are some wedding tips from me to you…because I know just how hard planning a wedding can be!
1. Hire a Profession Wedding Planner!
Here are just a couple of benefits to hiring a professional wedding planner:
1. They will help you bring your vision of your wedding day to reality. From linen rentals to lighting options, a coordinator has the resources at the tip of her (or his) fingertips and can show you all the different option you have in a fraction of the time it would take you to do all the research yourself.
2. Depending on the level of service you hire a coordinator for (full planning to day of wedding), your coordinator will keep all your wedding details in order such as contracts, deposits, etc. Wedding planners also have special contacts and can get you a great deal on chivari chairs or linens which you would not have been able to get if approaching the vendor on your own.
3. Weddings have a life of their own and without having someone “in charge” of it, it can and will get out of hand. I’ve had a few weddings in the past where an “aunt” or a “cousin” was delegated to be the “wedding coordinator” and let me just say it doesn’t always work out for the best. Often times the bride is left frustrated because the aunt or cousin can’t find the votives or is not doing things quickly enough. Do you really want to feel any kind of frustration on your wedding day? Let me answer that for you…no you don’t! If you hire a professional, they will know what they are doing, how it needs to be done, and how long it will take to do it. You should feel relaxed and pampered on your wedding day…not stressed and panicked. A good wedding planner will ensure that your wedding day goes as smoothly as possible and will be equipped to handle any emergencies that may (and most likely will) come up. So just trust me on this one…hire a good wedding planner and your wedding will be better for it!
2. Get several makeup & hair trials
When I was planning my own wedding, I was determined to wear my hair up for the wedding even though I didn’t like the way I looked with my hair up ever. I thought that having a professional do my hair would somehow make me like how I looked with my hair up. So I got my first trial with an updo and it was for lack of a better word “blah”. Something was just off so I had her do another trial with a different updo. I thought it looked good but I didn’t feel like myself. I went home to go show my best friend and she told me what I knew all along…”you look better with your hair down”. Immediately I knew that instead of going along with this preconceived notion that my hair needed to be up because “this is what you do when you get married”, I got a hair trial with my hair down and I felt beautiful…but most importantly comfortable! You want to feel like yourself on your wedding day…of course the best version of yourself. So get however many makeup & hair trials you need until you find a look that makes you feel like the gorgeous woman that you are!
A special note on makeup: Often times my clients will get a makeup trial done for their engagement session and will often ask me “Does my makeup look too heavy?” The answer is always no…here’s why: makeup needs to be applied heavier to show up on camera. What looks “too much” to the naked eye is actually perfect for pictures.
3. Think about where you will be getting ready…
I love capturing the last few moments of a bride before she becomes a “Mrs.” her dress is hanging in the doorway, the makeup artist is putting the final touches on her makeup, and the bridesmaid are aflutter with excitement as they get into their dresses. What makes this moment even better is when the setting is beautiful. Some of my favorite locations for shooting the bride getting ready include a boutique hotel with tons of character (think Viceroy Santa Monica), the bride’s parents home where she grew up in, and a rented beach side cottage in walking distance from their ceremony site. Sometimes you get lucky and your venue already has an amazing bridal room to get ready in, but if it doesn’t, take a little time to think about where you would like to spend your last few moments as a single person (this advice applies for the groom too)! The key is to find a location with character that will provide the perfect backdrop for memorable pictures. Most importantly the location must have good natural light. While getting your makeup done, you should always be facing a window with natural light coming in. Not only is this also the most ideal light for applying makeup, it’s also the most flattering light for pictures too. Whenever I can shoot the bride getting ready without having to take out my flash is a good thing!
Now that you have your awesome “getting ready” location, the next very important thing to do is keep it clean! HA! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived at a bride’s hotel room to find it completely destroyed with shopping bags everywhere, makeup all over the bed, shoes thrown about on the ground, etc. Instead of immediately taking pictures when I arrive, I now have to help clean up everything to make sure the “scene” is presentable for the pictures. While I understand that the moments leading up to the ceremony can be chaotic, the key is to have a designated area of “cleanliness”. This area is strictly for the bride to get her hair & makeup done in peace & quiet, for her dress and shoes to be photographed in the best light possible, and for the bride to get dressed under the most ideal circumstances. If you keep all of the above in mind, I can ensure you that you will have your last few moments of “single hood” captured beautifully!
4. Write your own vows
This little tip isn’t really related to making your pictures better…I just happen to love when couples personalize their wedding vows! Doug and I wrote personal vows to each other for our wedding and that particular part of the ceremony just happens to be my most favorite. It was the one time where things didn’t feel so formal and more about just him and I. We shared some tears and laughter along the way and so did our guests. To this day my friends still say how much they loved this personal touch. Even if it’s just a few lines, I think by adding a personal touch to your vows will make your ceremony that much more special and meaningful; for you as well as your guests!
5. It’s all about timing!
The best time of day to take pictures is at dawn or 1 hour before sunset. This it the time when the sun is at its most beautiful, creating this golden light. The worst possible time to take pictures is at noon. This is when the sun is at its highest and right on top of you creating horrible shadows on your face and giving you raccoon eyes! When planning your wedding day schedule, the ideal (I say ideal because I know circumstances don’t always allow you to pick your ceremony time such as church schedule, etc) time to have your ceremony END is no earlier than 2 hours before sunset. The first thing you want to do is check sunset times during the month of when you want to get married. You can do so here: Sunset Times
So let’s say on your wedding day the sun sets at 6:00pm. You want to have your ceremony end by 4:00pm, take family photos by 4:30pm and then take photos of just the two of you from 4:30pm to 6:00pm. I would say that an ideal amount of time for bridal portraits is 45 minutes so while we won’t be taking pictures from 4:30pm to 6:00pm, there is “buffer” time built into this schedule in case the ceremony starts late, etc. For example if the ceremony starts 30 minutes late and ends at 4:30pm, we’d finish family pictures by 5:00pm and still have until 6pm for pictures. You see how having buffer time can really save the day? I once only had 10 minutes to take pictures of the bride and groom…this was due to poor planning and lack of a coordinator. If pictures are important to you, as I’m sure they are, take the time and carefully plan the schedule so that you have ample time for photos!
6. Let go & have fun!
Once the wedding day arrives, the biggest favor you can do for yourself and your soon to be spouse is let go and have fun! No matter how much preparation you put into your wedding, something will go wrong on the wedding day. There might be horrible traffic on the freeway or your bridesmaid got lost to the hotel, etc. These types of things are beyond your control so rather than let it bother you and ruin your day, make a conscious decision to “let go” and just go with it.
Here are a few things that happened on my wedding day: my hair stylist was 30 minutes late which then made me late, my maid of honor LOST my wedding vows so I had to “wing” it during the ceremony, my unity candle was missing and we had to borrow a candle from the hotel, and then my ceremony started 30 minutes late because my coordinator didn’t think to have the ushers invite guests into the ballroom 30 minutes before the ceremony was supposed to start. (See tip #1 on hiring a GOOD planner). There were actually many more things that went wrong after this point but I’ll spare you the details :-)
Now, Doug and I could have easily let the above ruin our day but we made a conscious decision not to. If you both can promise to each other that once your wedding day arrives you will let go and have fun NO MATTER WHAT, this will be the best possible wedding gift you will receive!
7. Professional lighting will work miracles!
I absolutely LOVE flowers. So much so that if I wasn’t a photographer I would be a florist! However, if I had to choose between flowers or professional lighting, hands down I would choose lighting. It can transform a room from “blah” to wow! There are different lighting options that are available but the two key types of lighting are uplighting and pin spotting. Up lighting goes along the walls of the room and can be a variety of colors such a blue, violet, red, amber, etc. depending on the look you’re going for. Pin spotting is like mini spotlights for the important details such as your floral centerpieces, the cake, your sweetheart table, etc. Basically it draws your eye to anything you want attention drawn to. If you look at the image below, you can see how the pin spotting brings the florals to life! On top of making your reception beautiful, professional lighting will help make your pictures beautiful too!
8. Let your personalities shine through!
This is YOUR wedding…so be sure and let your guests know who you are as a couple! I love when I go to a wedding and I get a true sense of who the couple is just by looking around. The picture above demonstrates that perfectly. On the left, you have a very modern cake with a unique design and on the right you have the groom’s cake with Homer and Marge Simpson. By looking at this I know that Kristeen & Josh are a modern couple but don’t take themselves too seriously…and also like watching “The Simpsons”. I love that! Find ways to make your wedding special; your guests will have a great time and you’ll have a unique wedding that will stand out from the rest of the “cookie cutter” weddings!
9. Soak it all in!
Your wedding day will go by in a flash. After the ceremony it will hit you that the day is already half over. So at your reception, take some time away just the two of you and just look around and soak it all in. You’ve worked hard all year to plan your wedding and make it special…be proud of the work you’ve done and remember how happy you feel in that moment as you look around at your dearest family and friends. After all, after the wedding is over, all you’ll have are your memories…and of course, your pictures :-)