Recently, during a meeting with one of our #EurekaBrides and grooms, I was asked how they could make my job, as their Austin wedding photographer, easier. WOW! It was a question that I can’t remember being asked before. It was so sweet of them to ask, but I also feel that what they were REALLY asking was how they can ensure the best wedding photos possible! That is a great question! Who wouldn’t want to know that?!? So, instead of just sharing my answer with them, I decided to share them with you, here, as well! Here are some of my top recommendations to ensure you get the most out of your wedding photography experience!
1) Include a first look into your wedding day.
It has so many great benefits (and don’t get me started on WHY the tradition of not seeing each other beforehand came about)! One of the biggest benefits I see that has a huge impact on your wedding photos is that you’re taking your romantic portraits before the crazy of the day starts. If you wait until after 30 minutes of family photos and 20 minutes of full bridal party portraits, do you know what happens? You want to quit taking photos, as you’ve already been doing so for almost an hour. You quit taking photos and the important ones of you and your new husband are the ones to get cut. We’ve seen this many times and are always heart-broken for our couples. You’ll be disappointed in the number of photos you get back that are just the two of y’all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten the email that says “I wish we had included a first look, so we could have had more images of just us on our wedding day.” I won’t lie, my heart hurts when romantic portrait time gets cut. I sincerely want to cry or throw a little fit, but I don’t. If it’s what our couple wants to do on their wedding day, that’s what we do: whatever they want.
By doing a first look, you get to take photos before everything else. You also don’t have any family members “just wanting to watch” you take romantic portraits, because they’re not present yet or they’re too busy getting themselves ready. You don’t have spectators, there isn’t a coordinator doing time checks making you feel rushed, and you’re not tired of pictures yet. You’re in the BEST MOOD for romantic portraits just after your first look. Trust me on this.
We had a bride this year who wanted ALL THE ROMANTIC PORTRAITS, but she didn’t want to do a first look. She wanted to wait until after the ceremony to take portraits, which is fine with us. This meant that we had to wait until after family photos and full bridal party portraits to start romantic portraits. She had wanted to take photos at 6 different locations with her new husband and even gave us the time to take them! YAY! However, at location one with the bride and groom, the groom said he was finished and wanted to go to cocktail hour. It’s the groom’s day, too, and he didn’t want to spend it in front of the camera. Even if he did agree to keep going, he wouldn’t have looked happy about it and the portraits still would have suffered.
Had this couple done a first look, the groom would have been in great spirits during romantic portraits and not have felt like he was missing out on his own party, as it wouldn’t have started yet. More so, he would have been able to get bridal party portraits, and probably family photos, in beforehand, so he could have gotten to his party even sooner. The extra money his bride spent to have us (to totally rock out romantic portraits) and her super cute venue (with tons of places for photo ops) would have been put to good use, as well! However, she didn’t get to use either of those things to their full potential because they didn’t include a first look. My heart hurt for her.
(This is a shot from Haley and Ethan’s Rustic Ranch Wedding in Wimberley. They DID include a first look. This shot is from that blissful time together.)
2) Be on time.
We’ll work on a timeline for your big day and it’s important to try to stick to it. The timeline lets you know how much time I need to capture the images you’re wanting. When one part of the day runs late, other parts of the day have to get shortened to make up for it. This means your photos will be rushed and you may not get as many back as you had been hoping for. Nobody wants that! To help out, share your timeline with your family and bridal party members. This will help ensure everyone is on the same page and know when they need to be ready. If they’re notoriously late, tell them to be ready an extra half hour early. Also, share your timeline with all your vendors. You’ll want to make sure your hair and make-up team knows you’re taking photos before the ceremony and not attempt to have you finished just in time to walk down the aisle.
The hair and make-up team are like a bride’s best friend on the wedding day! They make sure your hair and make-up are flawless before you step into your dress. However, they’re also the number one reason why timelines get behind, not usually through any fault of their own. Sometimes, brides forget to share anything more than their ceremony start time with them, so they don’t know that they need to have the bride and her girls ready 2 hours before the ceremony for getting ready pictures and bridesmaids pictures (regardless if you do a first look or not, we’ll try to get bridesmaids pictures done before the ceremony). Since that communication didn’t happen, we just lost two hours of precious shoot time. (This has actually happened to us more than once within the last year.) Yes, we can rearrange things, sometimes, but it still rushes the rest of the day.
Knowing hair and make-up is the number one place we lose time on a wedding day, allow for 1.5 hours per lady getting their hair and make-up done and make sure your hair & make-up team has enough members to cover that time. For example, if you have 10 ladies that need hair and make-up, but you only have 5 hours at the venue before photos, you’ll need at least 3 hair and make-up artists to have everyone ready on time. (The number of ladies needing hair and make-up times 1.5 hours each is 15 hours. 15 hours divided by 5, the number of hours at your venue before pictures, equals the number of hair & make-up artists you need (3).) Also, tell your hair and make-up team that you and your girls need to be ready before your photographers arrive. No one wants photos without their make-up on, anyway, so have at least that finished before we show up. By having everyone ready before we arrive, you can also clean up the bridal suite before you put on your dress and take some fun toasting shots with your girls in your robes without rushing the timeline. Don’t forget your sweet mom! She needs to be ready before you put your dress on, so she can button you into your dress, so don’t leave her for last in the hair and make-up chair.
(My heart goes pitter-patter when everyone is ready to go on time on the wedding day. Lauren and Kyle’s Lavender wedding at CW Hill Country Ranch in Boerne, Texas was one of those days and it was awesome! Lauren was even out of hair and make-up early, so she got to read her letter from Kyle in peace and check out her reception set up, since she was already ready to put on her dress. She used Southern Tease as her hair & make-up team and they had all the girls ready on time!)
3) Hire a coordinator or planner.
There are a ton of moving parts on a wedding day. If you’ve never been a bride before, you don’t know all the questions that still come up on a wedding day. It’s like riding a bike: you can read all about it and have lots of people talk to you about it, but you don’t really know how to do it until you’re atop the bike cruising. It’s the same with the wedding; you can plan and prepare as much as possible, but having someone else, who has experienced many weddings before, in charge of the timeline, your vendors, and all the little details will really help your stress levels on the day of. Having everyone ask you, or your mom, a million questions on your wedding day can steal the joy of your day. Give yourself a barrier and have all those little questions filtered through your wedding coordinator. They’re invaluable and worth every single penny. If you want my top ten reasons (and to read some crazy stories), click on: why you should hire a wedding coordinator.
(These next #eurekabrides all have something in common. They hired A Bunch of Weddings as their wedding coordinator this year.)
4) Keep the reception space closed until after the ceremony.
Our only chance to photograph your reception details as you intend guests to see them is the 30 minutes you’re in hiding while guests are being seated for the ceremony. If guests are allowed into that reception space, they’ll be in the background of your detail shots and will clutter your tabletops with purses, jackets, and cups. Some guests even flip chairs to save their seats together for dinner. When this happens, we can’t capture your reception room or details in a clean way. It helps us out SO MUCH if you keep your reception site locked and direct your guests to be seated at the ceremony when they arrive.
This also means your reception needs to be completely set up 30 minutes before the ceremony. If you’re repurposing flowers from the ceremony site, have them start where they’ll end up at the reception and let us start with the details as soon as we arrive. After we’ve photographed the reception, those pieces can be moved to the ceremony or into bridesmaids bouquets. If they start out at the ceremony site and aren’t moved until after the ceremony, it will make your reception photos look a bit bare when we take pictures without them. Starting with reception details as soon as we arrive means you also don’t have to worry about guests going to the reception site first, as it will have already been photographed.
(The Terrace Club is one of those venues that does this SO SO well! They rope off the stairs leading to the second floor, which is where the reception is. Guests are invited to a room on the first floor to mingle and sign the guest book. This room leads out to the ceremony site, but still gives guests an air-conditioned space to wait until the ceremony is ready to begin, without disturbing the reception site. This shot is from Colleen and Eric’s blush wedding at The Terrace Club.)