This is going to be an ever-expanding list of things I've learned, quotes, words of wisdom and other useful tidbits of info I've gleaned in my years shooting weddings. I'll add new items as I continue to make my way through this ever-changing process of nuptial day documentation.
There will be a theme to a lot of this... ENJOY YOUR DAY. I really think a wedding day can be filled with so much chaos and frenetic energy that often the joy gets lost. You deserve to not only have a wedding day your guests and family will remember for all time, but one you can enjoy every second of. This page is dedicated to that ideal.
- Having your plan go exactly right is not nearly as important as you planning to enjoy your day exactly as it happens. You are marrying the person of your dreams and the rest is periphery at best.
- You can never too prepared for a wedding but you can be too concerned. It will all work out in the end, I promise. So please enjoy your day. For that matter, I suggest "letting go" the week of your wedding and allowing the excitement to overtake you. These are memories you'll cherish. Whatever needs to be done can be done mostly by friends, family and if you have one, your planner.
- I am comfortable covering very traditional/conservative occasions or the wildest wedding/parties of all time. The key for me is to respect the values of the couple and the attitude of their proceedings. That way if I'm doing a very strict church wedding with a reception in the hall next door or a bonfire party on the beach with very non-traditional "everything", I can still shoot with confidence. I love to prove my adaptability and I've been told by nearly everyone I've worked with that I fit in very well with their "people" which other than "we love your pictures", that's the best thing someone can say about what I do. I love the people I get to work with and enjoy finding out who they are and then acting accordingly to make sure my part of things is a seamless integration. I truly believe that you can't effectively shoot a wedding and hope to succeed if you can't be comfortable (and make those around you comfortable as well).
- The decision to do formals or groups before the ceremony should come down to logistics. I always believe that keeping things as simple as possible usually leads to the most success. Thus, since everyone is going to be at the alter, in the chairs/pews during the ceremony, they are a captive audience and easy to wrangle for pictures. Before the ceremony chaos tends to rule and it's harder to ensure people will be where you want them, when you want them. So yes, it can save some time to get some pics out of the way pre-ceremony but sometimes it's better to just let those happen rather than schedule them. I work quickly post-ceremony so often it's not a worry to just do them all then.
- Lighting is key to all photography. Good lighting can greatly enhance your pictures and while I can provide some of that myself, scouting your ceremony location at the time you will be getting married is a great way to get an idea of how light will play a role on your day. Venues tend to know how the light will be at different times but sometimes they are concerned about other things more than light. Ask them if you can pop by at a similar time to when you will have your ceremony and see what the light looks like. The thing to be avoided at all costs is different lighting on part of the alter area than another, e.g. groom in the shadow and bride in the bright sunlight. Often times, moving the ceremony up or back 1/2 hour can alleviate these lighting issues. If you want, take a pic with your phone and send it to me. I'm always glad to give my opinion.
- First look or not... this decision first and foremost tends to be about adherence to tradition or not. Assuming you are open to seeing each other before the ceremony, this decision becomes one of logistics and to a lesser extent, emotion. Keep in mind that if you are going to do "first look" where you two see each other before the ceremony, you will have to be in your dress/suit well before otherwise necessary. That means hair and makeup will have to wrap at least an hour to hour and a half earlier. The girls can continue to get ready after the bride leaves to do the first look but generally since they are dressed to help with the bride getting dressed, they will likely all need to be done as well. If that doesn't sound like a problem, then all is well so far. In terms of the bridal party being involved in the first look; I recommend it just be the two of you if at all possible. One of the great things about a first look is the intimacy it offers you as you see each other. It's an emotional moment that tends to be even more powerful if it's somewhat private.
- Planners rock! I don't say that just because I have a few good planner friends. I really do think having someone whose sole responsibility is making sure your day goes as planned. The key to having a planner beyond picking one you like is trusting them to do their job so you can kick back and enjoy your day! Micro-managing a planner is generally not necessary and counter-productive.
- Part of a planner's job is to coordinate vendors. Many planners have a set of vendors they love to work with and simply using their "team" can be beneficial. Then again, assuming all things equal (that they are professional and not just a friend doing it for free or something), don't be afraid to ask your planner to help you interview and choose vendors outside their norm. I would certainly give a lot of weight to the planners opinion of the vendor(s) you want to use but it's ultimately your choice.
- "Plan B" is important. In Florida especially you have to make sure your venue has a decent alternate place to have your ceremony if "Plan A" is outside. One important thing to ask your venue/day-of planner is how early in the day would you need to make the decision to move inside? Some venues it's as late as an hour before, others require many hours of notice. Your florist may have to be involved too if they will need to re-stage inside.
- If you have a choice between outside and inside, outside is generally better for light, thus pictures. That said, consider the time of year. In Florida your two biggest issues will be rain and heat. So late fall, winter and early spring weddings tend to avoid both of those. The summer heat/rain (or lack thereof) can make or break your plans so be careful when planning outdoor activities in the "middle months".
- If you are having a church wedding, make sure to check with the pastor, church event planner or the person in charge of setting up the ceremony to see what restrictions, if any, they place on photographers. 99% of the time, I am asked not to use flash during the ceremony. This is standard and I am prepared for that but sometimes they will also restrict my movement either by asking that I not move much at all from the back of the church or just asking me not to go specific places in the sanctuary. I WILL obey their rules so please make sure you know what they are so your expectations are set accordingly as to what kind of pictures I'll be able to get.
- IMHO, video doesn't need to be any more than 2 people. More than that and they start to become a distraction. A good, experienced videographer can document your day and capture the cinematics without a "crew". It's ok to ask them how many people they will be bringing.
- Most video shooters these days use DSLR cameras. Sometimes these cameras can do a great job in limited lighting but other times, they may need to add their own light. Ask your videographer how they handle low-light situations, especially receptions. They should at least have the capability of an on-camera light if the need arises, or be able to assure you that they can do adequate work without one. Making sure you see samples from previous receptions should tell you most of what you need to know after asking these questions.
- It's always best for whoever is going to speak at your wedding to do so near you (the bride and groom). That way I can get pictures with the speaker and you/your reaction. So make sure your DJ has a wireless mic and a backup in case one fails/batteries die.
- Transportation is important. Make sure you know how you and your's are getting from point A to point B throughout the day. Not having a ride for the Maid of Honor can slow things down. Of course hiring a limo or other mass-transport can solve a lot of problems but if your budget doesn't allow for it, you can certainly get away without it.
- If you hire a limo, make sure you have them for enough time. I've had plenty of weddings where the limo was either extended on overtime or had to leave and thus left people without transportation because they were not hired for long enough. Most of the time the driver/company will accommodate extra time but occasionally they have another gig to go to and can't wait.
- It's unlikely that anyone will be able to see your shoes in your wedding dress so while you may LOVE your 5" heels you spent months finding, having an alternative that will allow you to escape the inevitable pain of unbroken in shoes may be a Godsend. Pack some flats in a bag and have them under your sweetheart table. You may end up thinking this is the best decision you made about your wedding.
- So you have tattoos... should you cover them up? That's a personal decision in the end but I would say that it's a decision best made by you and your fiancé. If your mom will still come to the wedding if you leave your sleeve showing, do it so long as it's in keeping with who you are. My advice is usually the same when it comes to decisions like this; go with what will make the day YOURS and try to make sure those you love are ok with that. Obviously you don't want to alienate people (or maybe you do :) but when it comes to tattoos, they are usually one of two flavors; a mistake made a long time ago or a source of personal pride/expression. Obviously you make the decision based on which one of those fits the bill