So You're Getting Married...
...but you've never planned a wedding or large scale event before. Where to start? I know there are plenty of bridal planners, blogs, wedding advice websites out there so I'm not going to go into loads of detail but what I am going to offer is some advice from a photographer's point of view and the ways in which you can help me to take the best wedding photographs for you.
Having photographed well over 200 weddings over the last 7 years I have a good sense of what works and what doesn't and how the small details that will make the day flow better for both you and your guests. So I've put together a few considerations for you:
1. Your Dress
Obviously one of the most important considerations! But bear in mind that a dress that looks spectacular in the shop, or in a magazine does not always translate into actually wearing it for 12 hours in rain and shine. Take time to consider how you can move in your dress, whether you are going to be constantly worrying about the train. And from my perspective, the most important; what do you want from your bridal photographs. If you are wearing a huge dress that you can't move in it will dramatically reduce our options for portraits. We won't be able to go very far because it takes a while to move and each time the dress requires rearranging, or adventure into fields to find some really dramatic backdrops. The images will be more arranged, formal and static. A dress that you can move in without assistance allow for dynamic, natural shots.
And shoes. Wear them in! 12 hours plus on your feet is a long time and you want to still be dancing at the end of the night. Heel guards are a great offering for your female guests to stop them sinking into the ground. And maybe think about some personalised wedding Converse or wellies if we are venturing out into fields.
2. Group photos
It's your day, and I will happily concede to any requests that you have on your day for formal photographs. However, my real talent and passion lies in emotive documentary shots that capture the energy and excitement of your day. The more time we allocate to group photographs the less time I have amongst your guests creating fun portraits. And the less time you have to enjoy your party. If you want to have a full group shot of the entire party this is easy if everyone is on a lawn and I can hang out of a window but if we have to move all of the guests to another location this can take up 20 minutes or so.
I'd recommend no more than about 8 combinations and no more than around 8 people per shot. If I have someone who knows the family who can help me round people up and direct then this can take 20 minutes but allow 5 minutes or so for each shot. The bigger the group combinations the more chance there is of someone wandering off to the loo or bar just as we need them and it holding the whole thing up.
The one thing you really can't control. But you can be prepared for it. Having done many mid summer English weddings that have been conducted in heavy rain I know not to assume anything about an English summer. Having a throw and some wellies or other sensible shoes to enable us to go outside is great. And umbrellas - not golf umbrellas with big logos but some pretty white ones are best. Crazy weather can result in some amazing shots if you are prepared to be a little adventurous and get outside with me! Conversely if it's super hot and your guests are going to be out in the heat for an outdoor ceremony think about parasols and fans to keep them cool!
4. Feeding your photographer
I love food and there is nothing worse than watching your guests feast on delicious food and then being presented with some bread and salad by the overworked caterers. To avoid any embarrassment, and a hungry photographer (not recommended), please add me to your guests numbers so that I can eat a full meal whilst your guests do. No one wants photographs of people eating and then I'm done by the time speeches are about to get started.
I'm often working non stop for a very physical 8-12 hour day plus travel and if I need to go and find food elsewhere (not really practical) then I will have to leave site for an hour.
As well as weddings I also shoot a great number of other events and other commercial activities so I'm pretty used to working in every possible kind of venue dealing with every possible kind of lighting situation and so will cope with whatever is presented to me. That said, I will always be thrilled to be working in beautiful natural light filled spaces that are flattering for the guest and allow for beautiful timeless shots.
Think about the sort of photography you want - do you want party style flash lit images, or gentle natural light? Consider the spaces you are booking for getting ready (is it a dark basement studio or is it a light filled penthouse?), and the ceremony - indoors or outdoors? Dark church or light atrium? Is the reception venue filled with light or does it have dark walls and small windows?
Where possible I will avoid using flash as much as possible - partly because I prefer to work with natural light but also to keep my presence at your wedding as unobtrusive as possible.
I'm happy to chat to you about these things and help with any aspect of planning your day.
I'd really recommend talking through your schedule with me before finalising if it's important to you to get the best light for your portraits. Ideally your couple portraits will be shot about an hour to two hours before sunset for the most beautiful light (obviously if it's a grey, overcast day it could be anytime of the day). There is nothing worse than trying to do portraits in the harsh midday sun which is both unflattering (heavy shadows) and hot if it's summer. If your schedule doesn't allow accommodating this then I recommend doing a 20 minute portrait session early in the day and then pulling you both out towards the end of the meal for some sunset shots. These really tend to be the loveliest shots of the day as you'll be more relaxed, fed and watered.
If you are having a winter wedding then you have limited light and if you are leaving the church after dark you will just need to be aware that looking at my portfolio shots of St Tropez in September will not be a good indicator of how your photos will look! That said, winter weddings have a beauty of their own - atmospheric and christmassy. But ideally try and allow for the portraits to be in the last light of the day.
7. Trust me!
You have booked (or are hopefully considering booking) me because you love my work and you recognise my experience in photographing weddings. I only want the best for you and for you to be super happy with your photographs. So if I suggest doing something that maybe feels a bit silly, please trust me! I had the following note from a bride the other day and it reminded me that I need to reiterate to brides that they need to trust me and I need to trust my instincts even if occasionally they push back. When I asked Alice to hug Sinead, she squealed that she didn't like that sort of shot!
"And thank you for reminding me to trust you! The photo of Alice hugging me is, of course, one of my favourites (amongst many others!)" Sinead
Trusting me also means not handing me with a detailed shot list but allowing me to naturally capture everything as it unfolds. Of course if there are things that are especially important to you that have sentimental meaning such as a brooch or a guest or a pet then please do make sure I'm aware to keep an eye out. Allow me to be creative in the way I work and trust that I will capture every detail.
I respect that you have spent a lot of money on your dress but sometimes I will ask you to climb over a fence to get into a lovely field at sunset. And you will be reluctant but then thank me afterwards when you receive your photos! And you are likely to get your dress laundered at the end of the day so don't worry about it getting a little dirtied on the day.
8. Venue restrictions
This is usually only an issue in churches. There are no legal or official restrictions to shooting during a ceremony but every vicar is different in their approach to photographers. Some have had bad experiences in the past and are therefore very strict about movement and placing during the ceremony. It's hugely frustrating to hear on the morning of the wedding as I arrive at a church that no pictures are allowed during the ceremony. Some of the most touching and beautiful shots can happen during the ceremony and it is a real shame not to have this record.
I suggest a couple of things. Firstly find out if it's going to be an issue up front. Find out what the vicars concerns are. Reiterate to them that you have a very experienced photographer who does not use flash, has a camera with a silent mode and will be very very discrete and respectful. This should calm their fears.
If it continues to be a problem I usually ask my brides if they trust me to use my own judgement to disregard any regulations and capture the ceremony in the way that I would usually do. My priority is to you to capture your day as you want it.
9. Preparation locations
When you have a number of girls, hair and make up teams and all their kit, space can get pretty crowded and messy. Try to think about getting ready in a larger space with good natural light. These pictures are some of the loveliest and most natural as you spend the morning with your closest girlfriends. If you are all spread across different rooms of the house getting ready it's hard for me to capture real engagement between you. There is nothing more lovely that the love and laughter of best friends preparing for a day like a wedding and I really want to capture that for you.
10. Leave enough time!
Even if you have 5 hours to get ready, the last half an hour will always be pandemonium! Plan for lots of extra time so that you have a chance to be ready in advance for a glass of champagne, last minute nerve calming and some photos. Bear in mind the time it takes to lace up a bodice, especially with a team of inexperienced bridesmaids! There is nothing worse that feeling rushed on your way to the aisle. You want to turn up feeling calm and ready. I will usually want to leave ahead of you so allow time so that I can photograph you getting into your dress before I leave - allow more time than you think you will need. I'll usually spend about an hour and a half with you before I leave so there is plenty of time to capture all the details and preparation.
I hope that's been of some help! Feel free to get in touch for any advice.