The Wedding Day
I thought I'd share some helpful advice that I've learnt along the way while photographing weddings and having planned and got married myself. These are just my thoughts on paper (or more like your screen), so there isn't a right or wrong way, but hopefully these little points might help you out.
Bridal Preparations... Possibly the longest one to advise on so I'll start here first!
First up... Time keeping. Although it is important for most of the wedding day, it can be a silent killer with bridal preparations. Make sure you have plenty of time to get everyone ready and allow a little bit of extra time in case something goes wrong or if hair / makeup takes a little longer than you planned. If you're getting ready at your wedding service location, you might have a little extra time if needed but if you're getting ready at home or at a different location and the wedding car is arriving for a certain time, you'll start to feel the pressure if you're running really late. Don't forget, your wedding car / transport might have another job on that day so can only be late to a certain extent! You don't want them leaving you behind and then having to get a taxi to your own wedding!
As a wedding photographer I know that good lighting is everything. But this should also apply to both hair and make up also. You'll get much better results when the lighting is as natural as possible. Emma, my wife, always does her make up in front of the window in our bed room as the soft natural light you get from a window gives good results, though I'm biased as she's my wife so she always looks amazing. I rock up to a lot of weddings to find hair and make up being done well away from natural light under the warm glow of the bulbs. This always gives you an orange / warm feel to your photos and depending on other light sources can lead to some pretty unflattering colours that can't always be corrected. The easiest way to avoid this is to ask your hair and make up artists to sit you close to natural light to get the best results.
The last little section of bridal preparations brings me to the room. 'If it's in the room, it's in the shot'... So make sure the room is clean! I know the morning can be a little manic, but unless you want socks all over the floor, unmade beds and stuff everywhere in your photos, I'd advise a quick 'all hands on deck' for 5 minutes to make sure the room looks as good as it can before photos take place. "Tidy Room, Tidy Mind"... It will be one less thing to worry about and you'll be able to find all the things you need on your wedding morning.
Time Needed: 90 - 120 minutes
Family formals are a long time tradition so I understand the importance of having them on your wedding day. They're something you can share with family and friends for generations. I'm more than happy to take family formals at a wedding but always recommend keeping the list to no more than 8 shots. 8 shots can take 30 minutes depending on the guests at the wedding, some have a habit of escaping to the bar or checking into their rooms, and you'll soon realise you've missed the canapés and not had a sip of champagne! Put your list together for you. This is your wedding so it's important how you spend your time. Most of the couples I meet always say they want nice, relaxed, candid photos of their guests enjoying themselves, which is exactly my style of working. In order for this to happen your family formals must be kept to a realistic number in order for there to be time to capture the shots you want.
The usual photographs I'd recommend are:
1. All wedding party into a confetti photo
2. Brides immediate family - Parents, Brothers, Sisters.
3. Grooms immediate family - Parents, Brothers, Sisters.
4. Bride and Groom with both Parents.
5. Bride with Parents.
6. Groom with Parents.
7. Bride with Bridesmaids
8. Groom with Groomsmen
This is the top 8 that I've found to work really well. These can obviously be changed but to add more usually means you're spending longer than you want take photo after photo when you'll be itching to get back to the party!
Time Needed: 30 minutes (for shots above)
Wedding Day Portraits.
"I hate having my photo taken" ...Well that makes 2 of us! I was pretty nervous about my wedding day photos but on the day I went with the flow and enjoyed every minute of it. With a little bit of guidance and just being yourselves you'll get some amazing photos. The key is to just relax and have fun. On the wedding day you'll find everyone wants a piece of you, so it's hard to spend some time alone. Wedding day portraits are the perfect time to catch up with one another and to have a break away from the madness. I'll simply guide your toes to point a certain way and you'll fall into the poses easily and naturally from there... Simple!
If you're having a winter wedding or suspect there might be rain don't let it put you off! Plan ahead and bring some wellies or spare shoes and an umbrella so you can embrace the moment and get some killer shots!
Time Needed: 40 minutes (15-20 minute session earlier & 15-20 minute session later)
Wedding Day Speeches, When's The Best Time?!
There isn't a right or wrong with this one, so I'll give thoughts to consider for before or after the wedding breakfast.
Before: The bonus of before, means those who are doing the speeches get to enjoy their wedding breakfast more. There's nothing worse than trying to eat when nervous. You find yourself just pushing the food around your plate and not eating much of the epic meal you've been provided! It also means that the table isn't full of wine bottles, half drunk pint glasses or even stained with food... Making for nicer photos! However, you do have to consider what time you are having your wedding breakfast and factor in that if you are doing them before you'll have less time for your family formals, couples shots and general mingling time!
After: If doing the speeches after you know that your hungry guests are fed and watered so won't be watching their clocks and praying for short speeches. As mentioned above it also means you've freed up more time before your wedding breakfast to get the shots you want when the light is best. Sometimes a drink helps with nerves, so a drink during the meal for those doing a speech might help them out. Obviously this opens the flood gates for people having a little too many but if done right for those who need it, they'll feel more confident in delivering their speech.
It might be worth discussing this one with those doing a speech to see what they'd like to do to make them feel more at ease!
First Dance / Party Shots
This is only a real quick section... You're almost done! It's always nice to end the night on some fun, partying shots. It's a great way to end your wedding photos with all your family and friends throwing some funky shapes on the dance floor. The key is to get them dancing after the first dance or towards the end of it. Speak to your DJ / Band and make sure they follow up your first dance with a floor filler to get the party started. If they don't and the mood dies down a little, you might find it a little harder to get them back onto their feet again before I have to bid you farewell. You can always add extra time to your booking to have me stay later into the night to capture the party but once the evening food is served people might need a little while to sit before they start busting out their moves.