your wedding day guide
tips for better photos, timeline advice, and what to expect from me
your wedding day
This guide is intended to be helpful but not limiting! All of this depends on the size of your wedding, amount of coverage you choose, location, and whether or not you have a bridesmaids or groomsmen. I like to arrive right before the start of the bridal party getting ready to get the detail shots of the rings, invitations, maybe the dress before you have it on, etc. I will capture those candid moments of the bridal party getting ready and if you choose to have two photographers the other one will get shots of the groomsmen. I have done both before so no worries if you want to stick with just me but there is always an option to add a second photographer to get even more coverage! If your doing a first look it will give you time together before the ceremony to settle your nerves just the two of you. When it is time for the ceremony I will be sure to capture those candid emotions, happy tears, and eager glances. After the ceremony is over we will gather for family portraits. I will have a list beforehand (hopefully provided by you!) with names and certain groups so everything goes smoothly and in a timely manner. Once family photos are done it’ll be just the two of you for portraits. This is the time for the two of you to soak in the feeling of being married! I like to include up to a two mile hike for portrait sessions (totally optional and depends on location) but it's nice to get away and spend some alone time as husband and wife. And once your reception starts I will spend the remainder of my time capturing dancing, candid moments, the first dance, cake cutting, etc. So let’s dive in!
Lighting: If you can, try to get ready in a room with natural light. Not only will this help create a calm atmosphere for you and your bridal party, but it will also mean beautiful getting ready photos. I will often turn off all of the inside lights when I arrive to get a few photos using just the natural light, so choosing a room with lots of windows will help your photos look stunning!
Details: I love to take photos of your details beforehand while your still in the early stages of getting ready. It's a super special way to remember the work you put into creating the perfect invitations, highlight your jewelry, and have close-up photos of your rings. It's extremely helpful if all of the details that matter to you are in one place as soon as I arrive, I like to take all of the detail photos first before moving on to getting ready shots! If you want photos of your dress before you put it on, consider investing in a pretty wooden hanger or metal hanger. Other details include: your rings (engagement and both wedding bands), invitation suite, jewelry, shoes, veil, or any other little items that might be important to you (for instance - if you're getting married in a National Park, consider having a copy of the map!).
Timing: Always give yourself more time than you think you'll need. It's better to be ready early than to have hair/make-up cutting into your photo time! If all of your girls are doing hair/make-up, considering doing your hair and make-up first so we can start with your individual portraits or first look if they're running behind.
Cleanliness: This one is extremely important, especially in a room full of girls! It's important to keep your getting ready room free of clutter. Not only will this help you feel more calm, but it will also allow for less distractions in your photos! It's such a bummer when I capture a beautiful moment only to have sticky boobs or half-eaten lunch plates sitting on the table in the background. You don't have to be crazy about it, and I'll do my best to move things around as needed, but try to remember to stash shoe boxes, food, and trash.
Getting Dressed: If your bridesmaids, mom, and anyone else helping you get ready are able to, have them get dressed before you. They'll likely be in the photos as you're putting your dress on, so it looks much better if everyone is fully dressed! If you'd like privacy, I am happy to leave the room or turn away as you get your dress on. I don't start taking photos until your undies are covered and your dress is being zipped or buttoned. During these moments, try to ignore that I'm here. Look at your dress, yourself in the mirror, and the people surrounding you. Do your best to think about what you're really doing - putting on your wedding dress! It is a surreal feeling and can be captured beautifully.
A first look, or "reveal," is when a bride and groom choose to see each other before the wedding ceremony in an intimate, secluded location followed by a few portraits. There are a lot of benefits to doing a first look, both photographically and for your own enjoyment, but I will never push you to do a first look. It is completely your decision! That being said, here are some perks of choosing to see each other before:
You get to chill together. You get to take time out of your wedding day to just relax with each other. Once the ceremony starts, it can feel like go-go-go until you exit the reception, but a first look is a special time to just look at each other and say "hey. we're doing this. I love you" without any pressure. I do my best to stand back and let you the two of you enjoy each other and have some moments together before stepping in a giving some guidance.
It will calm your nerves. If you're at all nervous about walking down the aisle or standing in front of a lot of people, this is such a special way to calm your nerves with your favorite person in the world! After the whole day is over couples will often tell me they are glad they did a first look because it was just a really special and intimate time for the two of them.
More photos. One great thing about a first look is it opens up more time for photos! On average, weddings that do a first look get up to 10% more photos than wedding days without one. Since you have seen each other, we can now get all of the bridal party photos done before the ceremony. This means we get to use the available light to our advantage - which is extremely important if your ceremony is later in the day. that all you'll have to do after the ceremony is family portraits and a few bride + groom photos, so we're not trying to round up bridal party when everyone is hangry.
Lastly, doing this will in no way hinder the special moment of walking down the aisle. Believe me - nothing you do before could change the weight and emotion of the moment you lock eyes with each other in front of everyone you love!
Tip: Keep your first look private! Family members and bridal party will want to watch, but this might be the ONLY time you get alone together during your wedding, so embrace that. I have a lot of experience staying in the background so it truly feels like you're the only people in the world.
family + bridal party portraits
Family Portraits: For some reason, family portraits get a bad rep as being stressful and taking too long but it's my mission to make family formals an enjoyable, painless experience! The way I do this is by planning ahead, I go into family portraits with a game plan and a shot list so we don't make grandma stand around for an unnecessary amount of time. I strongly encourage you to think through which groupings are most important, and be sure to give me a good list in your questionnaire with names. Here are a few tips:
Keep it simple. The longer (and more contrived) the list, the more time it will take.
If you have a large extended family, consider keeping the formal portraits limited to immediate family members and grandparents, then you can always grab me for a large group photo during the reception!
Consider assigning a sister or cousin (that knows everyone's names) to help us keep everyone organized and coordinated.
Once your list is finalized, be sure your parents know the plan too.
Tip: When it comes to these group photos, the point is to capture everyone in the photo as beautifully as possible. This sometimes means we'll go somewhere in the shade, or near some trees. When your ceremony takes place somewhere with a gorgeous backdrop, families often ask why we aren't taking photos with that background, but we always prioritize lighting and a clean photo with focus on the people for formal portraits.
Bridal Party Portraits: They are such a special way to capture your favorite people and your relationship with them. That being said, it's important that everyone is present (seems obvious but you'd be surprised...), relatively sober, and cooperative. One crazy person can really take away from and otherwise beautiful photo, so please encourage your wedding party to wait until their photos are over to hit the booze hard. Our order of photos varies on timing and whether or not you have a first look, but we will always get these groupings: bride + bridesmaids looking at the camera smiling, laughing together, and other fun shots, then the bride with each bridesmaid groom + groomsmen looking at the camera smiling, being serious/ties, and often a few other shenanigans, then the groom with each groomsmen, then a similar pattern of everyone together.
Tip: Much like family photos, the people matter more than the setting here. Also, if there are children involved in the bridal party (flower girls, ring barers) or members of the bridal party are parents, it's extremely important that someone else helps with the children during some of the photos. I do my best to capture group photos with the kiddos present, but if someone is having a meltdown and the only person there to help is a bridesmaid, it can put a halt on our photo schedule and add unnecessary stress! These photos are typically during a time when everyone else is chilling, so ask grandma or auntie to stand-by and be ready to help with the children when needed.
Your ceremony is truly the most important part of the day. It's why we're all here! If you're planning your wedding at a venue, they likely have a designated ceremony space or a few different options. I want to start this by saying, no matter where your ceremony is, I will capture gorgeous photos and you will love them. That being said, you can always do things to make photos even better! Here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing your ceremony space and planning your order of events:
Lighting: If you haven't yet picked up on it, lighting is everything when it comes to great photography. Simply facing a different way can turn a blah photo into an amazing photo! I always suggest you plan your ceremony at least 2 hours before sunset to give plenty of light and time for family photos and portraits afterwards. This means, given we have clear weather, the sun will be shining in some direction (science!). I want to use that direction to our advantage. If you can, try to put the sun directly behind you. This will allow for beautiful back-lighting on you and your bridal party.
Timing: To allow for the best lighting, try to plan your ceremony to start two hours before sunset. This will allow for gorgeous ceremony lighting, but also gives us plenty of time for sunset portraits after you've enjoyed your cocktail hour and dinner with your guests. If you're expecting your ceremony to be longer than 45 minutes, plan for it to start a little earlier!
Ceremony Order: This is something that often gets overlooked until a few weeks before your wedding day when you realize you actually need a plan! Absolutely feel free to do whatever you choose, but we suggest keeping the entrance/processional short, meaning if you have a medium-large bridal party consider having just the bridesmaids come down the aisle and groomsmen enter as group from the side. If you have more than 6 bridesmaids, consider letting them walk down in twos with arms linked (this can also make for adorable photos since they'll be less nervous together!).
Tip: You know what photographers LOVE? A looooooong kiss! And two kisses, or three! Not only does this ensure we get the shot, it also allows us to get both a horizontal and vertical image of your kiss. Also, some of the best and most joyful photos are when you come down the aisle together as husband + wife, so take your time, hug your momma, and stop for one more celebratory kiss at the top of the aisle! One fun thing to consider is giving the people in the aisle seats something like lavender or flower petals to throw - it will make that moment feel so special!
Tip: I highly suggest making your ceremony a phone/camera free zone. There is nothing worse than getting a wide shot of the whole ceremony and everyone has their phones up the air trying to get a picture of the bride and groom. Not only is it distracting but it also makes for a less than perfect photo. You want your guest to live in the moment not be worried about getting the shot, that's what I am there for. If you have no clue what I am talking about take a look right HERE.
bride + groom portraits
First of all, there is no such thing as too much time for bride + groom portraits. The more time we have, the more we can relax and get a variety of photos! That being said, you invited all those people for a reason so your time with guests is extremely important. I value that too and I am confident in my abilities to create beautiful portraits, whether I’m allowed 10 minutes or 60 minutes. Here are some things to keep in mind when planning for bride + groom portraits:
Lighting: Are you even surprised at this point? Of all the events in the day, this is when lighting matters most! For me, the ideal wedding day allows for some portraits before the ceremony (if you do a first look), a few minutes of giddy portraits after your ceremony, and then 30 minutes of portraits right before sunset. This means if sunset is at 7pm, we need to start these photos by 6:40 to ensure we're embracing the most beautiful part of the day. Which brings me to my next point:
A break in your reception: 30 minutes before sunset often occurs mid-reception, which may feel like a strange time to go take more photos! I totally understand that, but I want you to trust me here. If you can plan your reception to start with dinner say, 1 hour before sunset, you'll have time to sit down and eat, and then while your guests are still eating you can run out with me for some photos and I’ll have you back before anyone even notices you're gone. We've also had couples do their first dances prior to these photos, and then leave for a bit right when the dance floor opens. Whatever you do is fine with me, but I strongly urge you to communicate the importance of this timing with your coordinates if you have one!
If ever a time to get dirty: I'm going to go out on a limb here and say you probably didn't hire me for my reception photos. We probably connected in the first place because we're both adventure-minded people with a love for the outdoors. Now I realize not every wedding happens on top of a mountain, but I like to think I’m pretty skilled at facilitating an adventurous photo session in any state, venue, or geographical location. That means you'll probably end up getting some dirt on your dress, you might decide to ditch your shoes and go barefoot, and you'll likely end up with messier hair than when you walked down the aisle. The thing is - that's 100% okay. In fact, it's encouraged! This is the moment for you two to really be yourselves. So it's time to forget any worries and embrace the adventure! All that being said - I promise to never ever make you do anything that feels uncomfortable for you! If you prefer to keep your dress in mint condition, we understand and will take beautiful photos wherever necessary!
Tip: If you haven't done an engagement session with me, I suggest reading my adventure session guide together a few days before your wedding day. This will give you an idea of my shooting style and what to expect when it's time for portraits! You can find that guide right HERE! Its not as long as this I promise!!
This may not apply to you depending where you are in the planning process but, if your still in the early stages and haven't found a dress you might find this helpful!
Wedding dress: Keep in mind that when your working with me and choosing to get married in the outdoors your dress is going to get dirty you might have dirt, sticks, or maybe even mud on the bottom. I have photographed all different kinds of dresses and at the end of the day you do you. Find something you are most comfortable in and feel beautiful wearing. Your not getting married in a fancy venue so make sure that when you try your dress on your comfortable sitting down, fixing you shoes, walking up stairs, being picked up in etc. because on the day of your wedding you could be walking on fallen trees, doing a bit of hiking, or even scrambling up some rocks. Most importantly you should be able to move and breathe freely in your dress there is nothing worse than being uncomfortable on your wedding day. I would suggest staying away from tight corsets, mermaid fit, or strapless dresses. But like I said if it feels right and you love it then go for it.
Footwear: Adventure weddings and high heels are not a good combo. There are plenty of options for cute boots including hiking boots that have good traction and photograph well with your wedding dress. When looking for shoes keep an eye out for something that has a good bottom (nothing slippery!!) and ideally close-toed. This also applies to men as well! Men's dress shoes are the worst for having a smooth slippery bottom so make sure you both are going to be comfortable with the possibility of hiking down granite or traversing a fallen log. Also socks are equally as important as shoes, wool socks are best for hiking.
Accessories: This mostly applies for couples choosing to get married in cold weather but can be relevant for any wedding day!! For cold weather days I recommend brides wearing white or nude base layer leggings and bring a couple of base layers just in case! Also scarves, hats, gloves, a stylish but warm jacket, and hand warmers. If you have a favorite wool blanket bring it! The great thing about intimate weddings or elopements are the casual nature of them so I totally encourage you wearing a beautiful colorful kimono, stylish leather jacket, or a flat brim hat with your dress! But, I am also a fan of traditional bridal accessories like veils or a bridal cape.
Grooms: Hey guys, your look matters too! I still recommend a suit or tux for your wedding day even if it is out outdoors. If your traveling and don't want to pack a tux there is a lot of options to rent one like Generation Tux. Your suit or tux doesn't have to be plain black either I’m a huge fan of different colors like burnt orange, forest green, burgundy, or navy blue. I also encourage you to let your personality shine. Are you more of a bowtie or traditional tie kind of man? Does the idea of a bolo tie feel more accurate? Do you want to add onto the look with a flat brim hat? Again do what feels right and do what is true to you!
Scheduling: No matter how late you plan to go, I always suggest "front loading" your reception as much as possible, meaning having your important events like first dances, cake cutting, bouquet toss, etc within the first hour or two. This will allow for me to capture main events before my time ends and it ensures your guests are still present before people start filing out or getting tired.
Lighting: At this point you should be surprised lighting wasn't listed first. But seriously - reception lighting is so important! I use natural and ambient light (instead of flash) as much as possible for reception events because it's less distracting and more accurately captures how the moment feels. I love when I can rely on globe lights, string lights, or something similar to capture these sweet, romantic moments.
Tent or no tent: This is 100% up to you! We have found that the ideal reception scenario is a big white tent (white allows for flattering flash photos) and an outdoor area with string lights. This gives you a safety if the weather turns bad, but allows for the romantic outdoor reception vibe if the weather is great! I have experienced a few rainy wedding days that ended up being beautiful and wonderful because they had a back up plan. As much as I love to embrace the weather, grandma might not be as thrilled, so I always suggest having a tent as an option!
Dinner: It may seem silly, but nothing is more distracting than trying to do your job on an empty stomach. During dinner, it is best if I eat when you eat. While some venues prefer to feed vendors last, this can sometimes mean me scarfing food down trying to make sure I don't miss a shot. I always assume the ONE part of your wedding day that you don't want me to take photos of is you two eating! That being said, if you do not plan to provide dinner please let me know beforehand so I can plan ahead.
One of the big things I will help you with leading up to your wedding day is planning a timeline. I will send your custom timeline 2 weeks before your wedding day for you to approve. Here are a few sample timelines to give you an idea of what to expect:
Full wedding day (8 hours) without a first look
+2:00 Details + Getting Ready
+3:30 Bride + Bridesmaids photos
+4:00 Groom + groomsmen photos
+5:30 family photos, bride + groom photos, cocktail hour
+6:30 Bride + groom sunset portraits
Full wedding day (8 hours) with a first look
+2:00 Details + Getting Ready
+3:00 First look, a few portraits
+3:30 Bridal party photos
+4:00 Family portraits (optional before ceremony)
+5:30 bride + groom photos, cocktail hour
+6:30 Bride + groom sunset portraits
Half day wedding without a first look
+3:00 Details + Getting ready
+3:30 Bride + Bridesmaids photos
+4:30 Groom + Groomsmen photos
+5:30 Family portraits + Bride and Groom sunset portraits
Half day wedding with a first look
+3:00 Details + Getting ready
+4:15 First look
+5: 30 Family portraits, Bridal party portraits, + Bride and Groom sunset portraits
I hope this guide was helpful in some way! If you have any questions or need help with anything and I mean ANYTHING let me know and I will do the best I can!