As a wide-eyed, newly engaged young thing, I quickly learned planning a wedding takes a village. Whether you’re planning an extravaganza rivaled only by the likes of Jay Gatsby, or an intimate gathering of close family and friends, you’re going to interview and assemble a team of wedding vendors and trust them to help you execute a life-changing event that is special, memorable, and totally unique to you and your fiancé.
I can’t speak to the inner life of florists, DJs or cake decorators, but after 3 years as a wedding photographer, I do have advice to help set your expectations and have the best possible experience while taking your wedding photos.
Consider the following five points the answers to questions you didn’t think to ask and the solutions to problems you didn’t anticipate--all from the perspective of your friendly neighborhood matrimonial shutterbug!
It's okay to feel awkward.
Occasionally a future bride will admit to me (in hushed and sheepish tones), "We're not very good in front of a camera," or "My fiancé is kind of uncomfortable having his picture taken."
First of all, this is super normal! More likely than not, you and your fiancé are not fashion models. Maybe your last experience taking professional photos was during your senior year of high school. An experienced and talented photographer knows how to make you comfortable in front of the camera.
Before every shoot, I come armed with prompts, stories, games, and suggestions to help turn your focus off of me and back onto each other. When you and your fiancé are interacting more genuinely, I'm able to capture what's authentically between you, rather than posing you in a way that's artificial. My favorite thing to hear at the end of a portrait shoot is, ”Oh, that was actually fun!” or, "That was easier than I expected!”
If you’re worried being trailed by a stranger loaded down with loud and obtrusive camera gear is going to make you nervous on your wedding day, try to book an engagement session with your wedding photographer. Couples who book me for engagement shoots before their wedding day consistently tell me it makes a huge difference in their comfort level. I'm always able to help a willing, cooperative couple look their best in photos, so if you're feeling apprehensive, try not to stress!
Our insight might be valuable to you.
Photographers and videographers are the two wedding vendors whose job is to follow brides and grooms around All. Day. Long. From the early morning makeup session to the last guest who won't get off the dance floor, we ride the wedding-day roller coaster with our clients in a way a cake decorator or a calligrapher doesn't. All that to say, we've been around the wedding world, we've seen some things, and we've got some wisdom to share!
I always tell my brides I'm willing to offer as much or little input on timeline planning as they might want. Assuming you have a comfortable, communicative relationship with your photographer, you should feel free to reach out with questions about timing, group dynamics, lighting, and more. You may not realize it, but in your photographer you have an expert wedding resource available to you.
Prioritize the important shots.
Look into the future for a moment to a point in time after your wedding day: What kind of photos will you want to frame and hang in your new home? What kind of photos will you want to give as gifts to family members? What kind of photos will you use as your first Christmas card? This could vary, but for most couples this will mean portraits of the bride and groom together, along with family portraits.
When planning your wedding timeline, try to take this into account. Don't allow your poor photographer only 15 minutes out of your wedding timeline to try and snap the most important photos of the day! I encourage brides to allow at least 30 minutes for family portraits (depending how large your family is), and at least 45 minutes to get some classic and creative shots of the newly married couple alone. So when laying out the events of your day, make sure to allow adequate room for what’s most important to you!
Don't rule out a First Look.
Most brides I work with will initially tell me that they don't want a "first look." They picture a classic scenario of locking eyes down the aisle of a church with their beloved, seeing his reaction to all their bridal glory.
I understand how special and crucial that moment is. Believe it or not, doing a first look may actually allow you to enjoy your wedding day more!
Couples who do a first look still get photos of that awesome, emotional moment when the groom takes in his bride’s beauty for the first time. They get to react with a little more privacy and authenticity, which can be nice if one or both of them is on the shy side.
But best of all,these couples get to head to their cocktail hour and their reception a lot sooner. If you finish those important portraits before your ceremony, then you're free enjoy your guests, relax, and be a part of your own party!
I strongly recommend a first look to couples having an evening or sunset wedding, and to anyone who feels a little conspicuous knowing a whole church full of people is hoping to see them cry.
It's not about the photos!
After all that talk about timing, cocktail hours, and feeling awkward, the most important thing your wedding photographer wants you to know is that it's not about the photos! Even as a Catholic bride, it can be easy focus on the details you've worked so hard to put together; to inadvertently begin thinking the cake, the flowers, the dress and the photos are what’s making your day special.
In reality, the inverse is true: the beautiful, important, sacramental commitment you make as a couple turns an ordinary cake into a cake that will forever be special to you. It makes the flowers you choose special, the dress you wear special, and every other aspect of your day. In the end, your photos will be special because they'll help you remember what actually happened on your wedding day--even if the weather was bad, your cake turned out funny, or the best man lost his tie.
As you research, plan, and book professionals to help your wedding day take shape, don’t be afraid to ask for their insight and advice. Most wedding vendors--especially Catholic ones!--get into this business because they’re romantics at heart, because they love beauty, and because they believe in the importance of marriage. Most likely, they’ll be ready and willing to help you in any way they can. I hope this insight gave you the confidence to embrace your wedding photos in a new way, and helped supply some ready-made answers to your photography questions!
About the Author: Emma Dallman, a Spoken Bride Vendor, is a wedding and portrait photographer serving the East Coast and the world beyond. She lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband Mark and her puppy Hildy. The things that make her happiest include slow weekend mornings, live music, Mexican food and Netflix comedy specials. She is endlessly fascinated by the uniqueness and the beauty of every person she photographs.