Over the course of photographing many beautiful weddings, we have realized that seemingly minor details can have a huge impact on the resulting images. Besides hiring a fantastic wedding photographer (hint, hint) there are other subtle things that you can do to facilitate the most beautiful images in every situation!
Almost every bride wants a beautiful photograph of her wedding gown. We don’t believe in spending an hour photographing your gown from different angles; we’re more interested in capturing images of you and your family as you make your preparations. But we do like to take a few photographs of your lovely gown before you put it on. Along those lines, this tip is all about what you can do, even before your photographer arrives, to help us create the most beautiful portrayal of your dress possible.
Bridal boutiques are well practiced at pressing your gown to a level of perfection that mere humans like you and I could never attain, even with hours of ironing and steaming. As part of preparing your dress and ensuring that it remains in peak condition for the wedding day, often they stuff your dress with tissue paper and cardboard. The dress is often hung on a wire or plastic hanger and pretty much pinned into a position that is meant to keep it from being wrinkled or creased in any way. And this is a good thing.
But when it comes time to photograph the dress, plastic hangers and cardboard stuffing are not what you want to see. Now in my opinion the best possible way to show off your dress before you put it on is on a mannequin or dress form. But that’s not very realistic – hotel staff tend to give you strange looks when you walk through the halls carrying a creepy white mannequin (trust me, I know).
Slightly easier and also a huge step up from cardboard is the use of a pretty fabric hanger, or a personalized hanger with your name from etsy. Yes, there is such thing as an elegant hanger. On your wedding day, ask your mom or bridesmaids to transfer your dress to the fabric hanger and remove the stuffing so that you show the gown in its best light for photography, free of wire or pins.
I have to close this tip with that famous quote from the movie Mommie Dearest:
“No wire hangers, ever!” (Well, at least not on your wedding day.)
One of the elements of your wedding that often isn’t represented on your wedding day is your invitation. You may have spent hours browsing and making decisions on the style, colors, and fonts on your wedding invitation. I love to get a great photograph of your invitation, so we recommend that when we arrive on the wedding day you have a pristine copy of your invitation ready for us to photograph!
We love to photograph your engagement ring. What can you do to make those images even better? Get your engagement ring cleaned a few days before the big day! That way it will look its sparkly best for photographs!
Especially in hot weather, the groom's attire can be as tricky as the bride's! If you are marrying in warm weather, consider having the groom bring along an extra shirt. That way if things heat up during your portraits, he can change into the fresh shirt before you make your grand entrance into the reception.
If you can, bring comfortable shoes – especially for those of you who like to rock stilettos – because walking around for portraits can take its toll on your feet! So bring a pair of slip-on shoes or flip flops just for that portion of the day.
When choosing to include parents and other special guests in your processional, it is often much better, photographically to have those guests who are there as a couple be escorted by their significant other rather than an usher. Often when the female VIP is escorted by an usher, her significant other ends up walking behind them on the way down the aisle. If you instead allow a couple to enter together during the processional, they are photographed together rather than potentially with a stranger (usher) and no one is left in the background of the image. If the VIP does not have a significant other, or they are otherwise occupied, having them escorted by one of your ushers or groomsmen is a lovely way to make them feel special.
As for the bride and bridesmaids — we all have a fear of falling down in front of a large group of people, but try not to look at the ground! Looking ahead means that everyone can see your stunning ensemble as you walk.
Regardless of who performs your ceremony — whether it’s a religious celebrant, a judge, or a friend, the plague of black plastic binders does not discriminate. What we’re saying is that all too often, the officiant will tuck their notes into a large black plastic binder (the kind you get at Staples). During the ceremony, they will stand very close to you with their giant plastic binder just inches from your faces. What happens then? Well, your ceremony photos feature said binder.
So what can you do? Two things: first, give your officiant the gift of pleather…or leather…or any attractive folder that they can tuck their notes into that has a more elegant look or even matches your decor; second, ask your officiant to give you some room! The further they stand from the two of you, the less likely anything they are holding (or wearing) is to appear in the images. This may not fly in a house of worship, but certainly will for more secular locations.
Furthermore, make sure you have an understanding of any rules that the officiant may have for your photographer. In a house of worship they will often have some restrictions. Make sure you can live with these guidelines and their impact on your photographs before you finalize your selection of a ceremony venue.
If you choose to work with a videographer/cinematographer please talk to your photographer about your plans in advance. Most photographers will have a list of video professionals that they can recommend (we do) who will document your event in a way that does not destroy its ambiance or ruin your photography. When in doubt, we always recommend that our clients insist on only one videographer/camera. This ensures that gear is not scattered all over the venue and it is much easier to avoid one person than two or more.
Whatever you do, don’t panic at the last minute and hire an amateur videographer. You may jeopardize the quality of both the video and the photography.
This is a random one, but many parents wear transition lenses. When family group portraits are taken outside, often the lenses of these glasses darken, which is not always desirable. Make sure that you know well in advance if anyone needs to change their glasses, or just needs a reminder to remove them during these photographs.
Florists will want to murder me for this, but it must be said. I have seen hundreds of innocent boutonniere’s being crushed as the groom and fathers are hugged by their guests. By the end, you just want to take the poor boutonniere out back and put it out of its misery.
Looking for a better option? One way to go is the pocket square. So many folds! So many fabrics! You can color coordinate this to anything you want. Think you can’t fold it? Well, youtube can help you… Another options is the nontraditional boutonniere. Things like sprigs of rosemary, hypericum berries, ribbons, buttons, or fabric flowers are becoming popular. Use your imagination, or ask your florist for alternatives.
You knew it was coming. I’ll be brief. Things go wrong on your wedding day. You don’t like your hair. Your makeup artist is running behind. Marriage licenses are MIA. What to do?
Easy! Pad your timeline. Give yourself a lot of extra time for all the little contingencies. You may be prompt in your every day life, but not everything at the wedding is within your control that day, so allow extra time so that a wedding day snafu doesn’t force you to cut your portraits or other events short.
The ketubah signing ceremony is a very important part of a Jewish wedding. Because this key pre-ceremony event will be heavily photographed, make sure the ketubah room is decorated the way you would like it to look, or if you have limited options you could sign the ketubah in your hotel suite or in your reception room with close friends and family.
The toasts are one of our favorite wedding events. We love documenting them because all of the attention is on you and the speaker, which means that no one is paying any attention to us! It’s the perfect opportunity to act as observers and create emotional and meaningful images highlighting those moments.
Ideally the bride and groom should avoid sitting up against a wall, because inevitably this creates shadows if any lighting or flash is used. Giant dark shadows directly behind you makes for a less aesthetically pleasing photograph, unless you are going for Hitchcock genre wedding images.
We recommend placing your sweetheart table or head table at a good distance from the wall (6 or so feet at a minimum). This is particularly true if you have glass or mirrors on the walls – reflective surfaces can catch flash and video lights to the detriment of the photographs. We also love to avoid giant fire alarms, light switches, or telephones (it’s happened).
Ideally, sitting nearer to the dance floor is better as it means that some guests will be behind you and it’s nice to photograph the crowd reaction as well as your own as your best man is giving his really embarrassing/heartwarming speech.
If you are at a head table rather than a sweetheart table, or if you have a large centerpiece, it may be useful to sit with your backs to the dance floor. When the time comes for toasts, you can simply turn your chairs around and face the speaker for an ideal view and a great camera angle for your photographer.
We often ask the speaker to stand in a specific place (totally amazing photographs need a little nudge sometimes). Usually the middle of the dance floor is perfect because it gives you and your guests a clear view and keeps the speaker away from walls and speakers.
A wireless mic is important here – a corded mic will mean that your father or your best man will be forced to stay close to the band or dj with giant speakers protruding from behind them like bizarre electronic tumors. We don’t recommend that the speaker stand directly next to the bride and groom unless there is simply no other choice.
Every moment of your wedding is special; slipping into your dress, walking down the aisle, exchanging rings and your first kiss. But some of the most intimate and precious moments of that day are those that happen during your first dance. By then, it can feel as if the ceremony happened years ago, yet the realization is just now sinking in: “We did it! We’re finally married!” The secret to getting the best possible first dance photographs isn’t complicated. In fact, it’s all about simplicity.
Some couples are life-long dancers, or have invested enough time dancing together for such a long time that they can waltz, swing or rhumba with ease. The rest of us can feel pressure to entertain our guests and squeeze in a dance lesson or two just before the wedding. We find that folks in the latter category don’t feel comfortable on the dance floor, and therefore don’t look comfortable during their first dance. Last minute dance instruction can actually cause more anxiety during the first dance, as couples may find themselves counting in their heads, stepping on each other’s feet, or bumping into tables and chairs. So keep it natural. The best first dance images can come from those moments when you hold each other naturally, gaze at each other and just enjoy those first moments as a married couple.
The most popular months to get married in the DC Metro area are October, September, June, and May. Obviously weather is a consideration, as well as work and school schedules. That said, if you want the best choice of wedding professionals and venues, consider marrying in a less popular month or on a Friday or Sunday. The added bonus is that you may get more for your money than you would on a non-prime Saturday. Winter weddings have a charm all their own, so marry in January and head over to BHLDN.com for the perfect warm and fuzzy wrap to accent your wedding gown!
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