We have photographed almost 1000 weddings in the last decade and a half! So over that time I've developed many tips on how to make sure your wedding photography is the best it can be. Here's a snapshot of some of my top choices. In no particular order, here they are!
FAMILY PHOTOS. Be realistic about the number of family photos you would like to have taken in comparison to the amount of time you have available to do these. Sometimes too many group shots can take away from the time we would have to do significant amount of bride/groom photos.
EMERGENCY KIT. Have an emergency kit on the wedding day. Tide wipes, sewing kit (full spool of white thread for bride, black thread for groom, and a color that it closest to your bridesmaids gowns, there is rarely enough in a travel sewing kit for major issues!), safety pins, deodorant, mints, toothbrush and toothpaste, powder and blotting papers for shiny skin, small and large scissors, tweezers, bandaids, moleskin for heels/toes of feet, baby powder. And umbrellas!!!
VEIL. Brides, be careful about getting a veil with detailed edge if you have a dress with details/beading on the back. You probably won't notice it when you try on your dress but once you naturally move around for a little while (including lots of people hugging you), the beads on the edge of a veil will continually stick and catch to the beads on the back of a dress! So if you have a beaded dress, be sure your veil is simple without beading... or vice versa!
GOLF CARTS. Simply... Be careful! These are common at a lot of venues to help the bridal party get to photo locations on the property. They can be more dangerous than you realize. Be sure to hold your dress inside the cart at ALL TIMES, and please do not drink and drive. The last thing you'll want on your wedding day is a golf cart accident ruining the chance of making it to your reception or ruining your dress or veil. (I've seen it happen!)
COORDINATOR. Consider a day-of wedding coordinator if you don't already have a wedding planner (can be the same, but not always the case). You can absolutely plan your own wedding but still hire a coordinator to keep the day running smoothly. They are great for all the small jobs so that family and friends can enjoy every aspect of the day. They can take care of little emergencies too, so that hopefully you'll never even know they happened. They can keep in touch with vendors throughout the day, ensure no major hiccups, be your "runner" to grab things throughout the day you need, be sure your vendors are where they need to be and when as well as make sure they are fed when you are (see more below!), gather your gifts and cards and put them in a safe place during the reception, put your items like shoes and cake toppers in a safe place so you don't forget them at the end of the night. I highly suggest hiring a professional for this, but you could absolutely enlist the help of a really well organized friend. Basically, this is someone for the vendors to call if they need to, someone to run back to the hotel if you forget the rings (I've seen it happen!), and someone to make sure you're not stressed. Consider a friend getting married the same year that you are, and you can swap jobs and do this for each other. Just be sure its not a friend that is too close, that you'd want to be able to come and enjoy all the wedding festivities as a guest.
Another great resource is this Wedding Wire checklist page!
MAKEUP AND HAIR. First, make sure to get a full makeup trial before the wedding. And I highly suggest getting photographed with the makeup done. How it looks in a mirror and how it looks on camera are very different. Sometimes you'll realize through this that you want more or less drama or color. Getting your makeup trial prior to a boudoir or engagement session could be double benefit as well!
Be sure that the hair and makeup artists are realistic about the time it will take to do your bridesmaids' makeup/hair. When this portion of the day goes long, it can push back the entire day's events. I've seen makeup artists run a half hour long, which puts the ceremony late, which then cuts out the majority of the photos so that we can make up time and get you to the reception on time. Make sure to ask how long they will need to complete each person, and give them the exact # of people who will be getting their services. If you add on more girls, tell them in advance. They may need to add artists in order to get it all done in time. Make sure the time they are scheduled to finish will align with when we begin the getting ready photos. We will want you just about complete when we arrive.
As far as hair, just like the makeup be sure to get a trial and test it out on camera. Even if you just check out how it looks with a few cell phone shots. Be sure to photograph the sides and back, from near and far away.
GETTING READY (GUYS). Photos for the guys are usually a laid back affair. Preferably the guys should be just about ready to get dressed when the photographer arrives in their hotel room. Images of the groom putting on a tie, watch, cuff links, shoes, etc (anything special!) are all fantastic photos. Make sure these items are set aside, out of their new packaging, and ready for the photographer to shoot.
Photos with family will be taken if possible, if the family members are available. So keep in mind, if the groom wants photos with mom alone, she should be in the same area that he is getting ready at. Often times, the mother is not with the groom getting ready, so just let us know where she will be at so we can make a note if we need to capture the mom-son photo after the wedding.
For online tuxedo rentals, check out The Black Tux! They have some great design tips that showcase which top trends best suit you for your dream wedding!
GETTING READY (GIRLS). Make sure your bridal items are ready to photograph. This means the stickers are off the bottom of a shoe, the tags are off your dress and veil, your jewlery does not have any price tags attached, and everything is in one place. Remember all items that you will have with you on your day – shoes, jewelry, dress, hankerchief, six pence, purse, garter, rings (if you have them, but if they are with the guys or elsewhere that is okay we can always photograph them later at the reception). Set all of these items aside somewhere (dresser, tv stand etc) so that when I arrive I can quickly jump into these detail shots and be done with them before you start getting dressed.
FOOD for vendors. Request to your venue coordinator that your dj, videographer, and photographers are all fed around the same time that you and bridal party are fed. This is so that we can stay on your same timeline, and be finished eating when you get up from the table to begin mingling at your reception. There have been several instances when we were not fed until the end of the last table being served, and we had to skip the meal entirely because it was time for the first dance. Not only is this difficult to do when we've been working a long day, but it becomes wasted food which you paid for. The dinner break is our first chance to stop and eat often for the previous 6-8 hrs of hard labor intensive work, since our day often begins with packing our car with equipment hours before the photography even begins. So a meal at the proper time is extremely appreciated and important for our energy to finish out the wedding as strong as we started!
PARKING & TRANSPORTATION. As photographers, sometimes it is inconvenient to valet our car at a venue considering we'll need to get possibly get in/out of our car for equipment or supplies. If possible, work with us to arrange a spot at your venue that might be more convenient. We have worked at a good majority of the venues around Pittsburgh so we're typically aware of a lot of the parking scenarios, but may still require the bride or groom to request a parking space on our behalf. In addition, some venues, such as resorts where the parking is typically far away – may also require parking arranged in advance. In regards to parking during photo sessions (especially around the city), sometimes we are not able to pull over to park at the bridge as easily as a limo could since there is a driver to stay with the vehicle. Therefore in some instances it may be easier for us to park at the venue and get on the limo/bus with the bridal party for the portraits prior to the reception. Every wedding is different so just coordinate with us on this, we have experienced a lot of scenarios and will certainly have a suggestion based on our past weddings.
BRIDAL PARTY. They are there to have fun, sure! But they're also asked to be there for you to support you on a very busy day.
Ask them for help, and give out jobs. For example, have one bridesmaid completely in charge of makeup touchups for you. She should carry your lipstick, powder and blotting papers to be sure you're never shiny and your constantly kissed lips always have color. A great job for a guy to have is cell phone duty. Be sure he has our number, so if we get separated following the limo, he can text us. trust me - giving each person ONE job is really a lifesaver. They will be focused on it all day and not have to worry about how to help you.
Tell them that you want nothing more than for everyone to have a blast but also to please refrain from over-drinking until after the photos. The more cooperation during the photos, the better the images will be, and the process will be a lot more enjoyable on everyone's behalf. It will also allow for the session to move quicker, allowing us to spend more valuable time with the bride and groom alone... which frees up the bridal party to get to the reception.
Ask that no one leave for any reason during the photos, and please be on time for the getting ready shots prior to the ceremony.
WEATHER. We'll want to discuss a plan for bad weather. Depending on the season, we may need just a covered spot, or possibly an indoor location as well. Umbrellas are a must if the weather is calling for precipitation, I highly suggest clear or white umbrellas. Black will cause an extreme dark shadow on the top half of your body, where as white or clear allows the light to shine through on your faces.
FAMILY PHOTOS TIPS. If you do choose to take posed family or group photos at the reception, I require a family member to be put in charge of monitoring those photos. I am happy to take photos at the reception, but keep in mind that they will be less formal, and I have limited ability to find and gather people at this point in the night. Remember, I do not know who they are and most people are scattered about the room (ie: dance floor, bar, bathrooms, outside). So, a dedicated family member to be my assistant for these photos will be required if you choose to do any reception group shots.
I do accept lists of photos for the church/ceremony family/group shots, but are not required. Family and group photos are welcomed on this list, with names of each person included. This helps the time dedicated to formal shots go more quickly and smoothly. I have provided you a template which you can fill in, or feel free to create your own (see family portion of this packet on previous pages). Just remember to make your list as easy as possible for us to follow. We don't limit the length of these lists and are happy to take any requests you have for family photos – however keep in mind the length of time that you will have available for photos and the longer the list, the less time we will have for creative photos of the bride/groom/bridal party. Pre-ceremony family and/or group photos cannot be taken prior to the wedding unless bride and groom plan to see each other – and are not recommended to be taken at the reception.
We will include anyone you have listed on your family photos list. However, in the case that not all family members can be found during the times we are taking the photos, we can not guarantee that the photos will include these individuals. Due to the fast paced nature of the day, we may have to move forward without them. We will do our best to locate all individuals on your list, but do not guarantee every family member will be in the photos if they are not present at the time the group shots are taken. Typically it is assumed that the family members will “know” they need to stay for group shots, but we often see people leave for the reception without knowing. For example, a grandparent who may be taken off by an aunt, or your brother's fiance who doesn't realize she is included in the family photos. The best way to avoid this issue, is to let everyone know in advance where and when they will be needed for photos. Putting someone in charge of gathering the family certainly can help as well. Weddings move quick, chaotic, and are very full of excitement, so planning ahead is always a big help.
As a final note... We also will try our absolute best to get each shot requested – however due to the fast paced and busy nature of a wedding day we can not guarantee every shot will happen.