from a photographer's perspective
The camera loves natural light, so rooms with a lot of window light are great for getting ready in! Hotels are usually pretty dark, so try looking into an airbnb! There are lots of cute ones. Also, it's best to avoid clutter, so try to keep all the suitcases and belongings in another room.
I love natural light and capturing what's real and in front of me, so I suggest not over doing it on the makeup. It's entirely up to you though!
Also, don’t forget about the groom! Most of the time the bride gets a gorgeous suite or room and the groom gets tucked away in a small dark room with hardly any light. Let's be nice and give him a well lit room to get ready in too.
Should you do a first look?
It's a thing couples do now, but is it for you? A first look is where the bride and groom get together before the ceremony to see each other. I love it because it's just the two of you (and me) and you're able to really soak in the moment without all of your guests standing on either side of you with their cell phones and cameras out. I mean, it's your wedding day. Why would you want to spend most of it apart from each other?
Another bonus is if you guys see each other before the ceremony, we can do most of your family and wedding party photos before the ceremony! This will offer up more time for couples photos after the ceremony and it'll get you to your reception early so you can eat and party!
Gathering the family up for photos can be a bit of a hassle. Especially if they have food on the brain and all they want to do is head over to the reception. This is why I advise we do most of your family photos before the ceremony.
I allot about 20-30 minutes for family photo and that's usually all you'll want to do. Holding the same smile that whole time gets really difficult, so keep that in mind. If you want to put more of a priority on family photos over wedding party and couples photos, that's totally up to you. It's your day.
Btw, if you're going to hire a day of coordinator, make sure you also hire them for the planning process. They probably know a lot more about planning weddings than you do and they will help your day go by so much smoother. I have a couple recommendations below.
If you're having an outdoor ceremony, it's best to put the sun behind the officiant. It's better for lighting and you're not squinting as bad at each other during the ceremony.
Microphones are great so that everyone can hear you, but they can be distracting. Try to wear little lapel microphones instead of having a mic stand or holding the microphones.
I know that everyone wants to say congratulations to the bride and groom, but I suggest not doing a receiving line. It can be repetitive and take a really long time.
Unplug! An unplugged ceremony is when you ask your guests to turn off their cell phones and put away the camera, so that they can be present in the moment. It also keeps people from standing up and putting their cameras in front of mine. I don't want to miss a single moment, because "Uncle Bob” wants to take photos too.
If you do a first look before the ceremony, we can take about 5-10 minutes for that and get some photos of just the two of you.
Right before sunset is my absolute favorite time to shoot couples portraits though. You get that golden hour and softer tones at this time of day and it all just seems magical. We can do this right after family photos or we can sneak away during the reception. I usually set aside 30-45 minutes for this.
The most important thing to ensure we get great photos is trust. If you trust me to create the photos you’ll love, I’ll be able to do my thing and guide and direct you well. It’s all about collaboration and trust!
I usually bring my flash out when it starts getting dark outside, but a lot of lighting definitely helps. I know keeping the ambience is important and string lights are perfect for doing so.
DJ's love colorful lights and while they're fun for the party, they're not so great for the first dances. I suggest telling the DJ to turn them off for the first dances and bouquet/garter toss and then turning them back on when everyone is dancing.
When it comes to dinner, I prefer to be considered a guest, not a "vendor," for timing purposes. This guarantees that I’ll get to eat first, so I can finish eating before the two of you are done eating.