Top 5 Tips for Wedding Photo Bliss

When I meet with a newly engaged couple, one of the things I most often hear is, "we love candid photos! We don't want a lot of posed pictures!"

And that's not true.  Well, at least partially.  You do want posed photos (trust me on this one).  You take them all the time.  At parties, on vacation.  Just look at your Facebook photo albums or your Instagram account.  Full of posed photos with friends and family.  What you don't like is when you attend someone else's wedding and there's a long wait for dinner to start because the bride and groom are still off taking pictures.  

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So, when we meet with a couple and they tell me they are more interested in candid photos, what they're really telling me is, "we want our guests to have a good time, and we don't want them to be sitting around waiting for us while we're taking pictures."

But then again, you love photography, which is hopefully why you're reading our blog.  :)  And you want beautiful photos like the ones you're seeing here.  

Let me help you figure out how to make both things happen - memorable wedding photos AND happy wedding guests.  

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1. Be Informed. 

One of the very first things you should discuss with a photographer you're considering hiring is realistic timeline expectations.  In an initial consultation, you should learn from the photographer what approach she takes on the wedding day.  Of any vendor, your photographer is going to know best how to fit photos into your day and help craft a timeline that will flow with rather than interrupt your event.  Also, she'll let you know what options you have and will be realistic with you about your timeline and what to expect.  We want your day to run smoothly as much as you do, and because we've done this many times before, we can help guide you.

Extra tip:  although it goes without saying, hiring someone who specializes in wedding photography is pretty important.  I might like food, but I'm not an expert in photographing food for menus or magazines or advertisements; nor am I familiar with how that specific industry works.  Okay, so that's probably a weird analogy. But you get what I mean. :) While a good photographer is generally going to take good photos, one who specializes in weddings will understand how to approach a wedding day, what is expected of her, and the various nuances specific to working such events.

2. Know your options.

This varies by region, but as North Carolina wedding photographers working primarily in NC and the southeast, we find that wedding timelines are structured one of two ways:  The Traditional Timeline, and The "First Look" Timeline.  Here's a summary of how each timeline might look as related to photography.

The Traditional Timeline 

-Preparation photos starting about an hour before the ceremony
-Ceremony
-Guests leave for cocktail hour
-Family Portraits
-Wedding Party Portraits
-Bride & Groom Portraits
-Reception starts with introductions, special dances, and blessing of the food
-Dinner
-Open Dancing
-Cake Cutting & Toasts
-Open Dancing
-Bouquet & Garter Toss
-Open Dancing
-Bride & Groom Send-off 

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The "First Look" Timeline

-Preparation photos starting 2.5-3 hours before the ceremony
-Bride & groom are photographed seeing each other for the first time, share an intimate few moments and take a few bride & groom portraits 2 hours before the ceremony
-Family Portraits
-Wedding Party Portraits
-Ceremony
-Family, wedding party, and guests leave for cocktail hour
-Bride & groom creative portraits for 20-30 minutes following the ceremony (longer if desired)
-Bride & groom enjoy remaining cocktail hour with guests
-Reception starts and continues with similar itinerary as Traditional Timeline

While many people feel strongly about not seeing one another before the ceremony, it is an option worth considering if you also feel very strongly about getting to the reception quickly.

Most venues and coordinators (and photographers) will suggest a cocktail hour.  We all insist upon a cocktail hour because it means your guests can mingle, drink, and eat hors d'oeuvre while you're taking photos.  

Extra tip:  while crafting your timeline, give yourself extra padding pretty much everywhere.  Think your hair and makeup will take 2 hours?  Give yourself 2.5.  Or maybe 3.  And then be pleasantly surprised when you're actually ahead of schedule on the big day. Also, don't forget about even the smallest details, like the travel time between venues.  Seriously, you'll thank yourself.

3. Break it Down & Don't Forget Mom & Dad

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Now that you know your timeline options, it is then super important to know how long posed group photos take.  With family photos, it can take 3-5 minutes per group, with larger groups naturally requiring a bit more time.  What I cannot stress enough is the importance of sitting down with your parents and figuring out not only what you want, but what they want, too. It can be easy to overlook this portion of the day while you're planning all of the other facets of your wedding, but this is probably the one part of the day that really requires extra attention and especially organization.  And if you thought navigating everyone's feelings (and exercising proper etiquette) before the wedding was difficult, imagine how messy it will get if your mom turns to you on your wedding day and says, "how come you don't want a picture with your godmother?"  This scenario is unnecessary and can be completely avoided.  Look at your guest list - who MUST be included in formal portraits?  

What is typical for family portraits?  Our standard list includes parents, siblings, and grandparents - from there, our clients let us know which extended family photos will need to be included. We meet with our couples about a month before the big day to go over the list and make sure we're on the same page.  

Extra tip:  while this might seem like a lot of work, every woman who's ever been a bride will tell you that she cherishes the photos of her family more than any photo of her drunk coworker dancing with his girlfriend she's never met.  So taking the time to put emphasis on planning your posed photos will be worth it.

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4.  Let Them Know

While you and your fiance will have everything sorted with us, we don't have the opportunity to meet your wedding party or all of your family members prior to the big day.  If you keep everyone up to date on the who, what, when, & where, we'll do the rest.  Generally speaking, if people are informed, they can be prepared, and when they're prepared, they're cooperative.  On your wedding day, a happy, cooperative family and wedding party is what you want.  

Extra tip:  mimosas, beer, and light snacking before the ceremony keeps everyone happy.  

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5.  Breathe.

Planning = preparedness, and once the day arrives, you can rest easy knowing you've done your level best, hired professionals who know what they're doing, and accept that Murphy's Law means on a day with so much orchestration, something is bound to go wrong.  It's okay.  And when it comes to your photographer, be assured knowing it's her job to roll with the punches and wants nothing more than to take photos you'll love.  Enjoy the mimosas, smile, cry happy tears, laugh, dance, and look pretty.  Be blissful because it's too awesome a celebration to be stressed.

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