Friday, October 3, 2014

Planning a wedding? Things to consider...

When I was younger (lots younger), and before I was shooting weddings, I was engaged.  I had absolutely NO IDEA how to plan a wedding.  I didn't know how to make a timeline, plan for transitions, what order things should be in, or even what should be included.  What I remember most about it was how helpless I I was floundering around in a world I knew nothing about, and it cost a lot to have a wedding so it needed to be done right! 

Now, almost 20 years later, I've been to almost 300 weddings, most of them as a professional photographer.   At my first official (hired) wedding in 2001, I had NO CLUE what to do, or what even needed to be photographed.  These poor clients had to convince me for several months to shoot it.  And when I finally did photograph it, I was really excited about the shots!  They still stand as some of the best I've ever taken.  Eternal thanks to Annalisa and Peter Cranson for taking a chance on me.  (Photo below)

But as far as what to shoot...and when?  That took years to figure out.  Now that I HAVE it figured out, I have a few things to say.

CEREMONY:  There are so many ways to have a ceremony performed.  Some take 2 minutes, some take an hour and a half.  Some churches have strict rules about what I can and can't do.  I think the most important thing to consider is the length of time.  Many people choose a short ceremony because they don't want to be in the spotlight for very long.  Please reconsider!  The variety of images I can get in 2 minutes versus even 20 minutes is astounding.  I can get different angles, reaction shots, shots from a balcony, etc.  If it's short and sweet, I barely capture anything at all. 

SHOES:  Girls, girls, girls.  Forget the cute heels.  Wear something you can actually be comfortable in all night.  And as a plus, you won't sink into the grass during the ceremony, formals, etc.  It will really make a difference.  Along the same lines, I am always stunned to see that the shoes are brand new...never even been broken in!  C'mon girls.  If you're going to wear the shoes for 8 hours or more, do the work in advance and get used to them, even if it's while you're putzing around the house.

BRIDAL GOWNS:  Pick a dress that feels good, stays up, and doesn't get caught in your heels.  Any dress looks good when you're standing still in front of a bridal shop mirror.  The true test is what is does when you...move!  And you will move a lot.  You will need to stand, kneel, sit down, get in and out of vehicles, and hug people all day and night.  I have seen heels go though dresses more than once because they get caught as the bride is walking.  I have seen strapless dresses fall so low that the hems get stepped on and ruined.  I've seen a $10,000 dress's train knotted up in the back to keep it off the floor.  I've seen breasts fully exposed when (with a strapless dress) you reach your arms up during an exuberant dance.

RECEIVING LINE:  Many of my prospective brides don't know what a receiving line is. (And why should they?  This is the first time they're being presented with these things.)  As such, we stumble over it when discussing timelines.  The way it works is THIS: You have 2 choices after your ceremony is over.  You walk out of the church and then basically go HIDE...or you line up with close family members and create a receiving line.  As your guests exit the church, they have an opportunity to shake hands, hug, and congratulate everyone.   Usually this takes 20 to 25 minutes.  I don't care either way, but consider this...receiving lines take time.  Factor it into your timeline because it will cut into your "formal" photo time.  If you don't want a receiving line, then you need to hide or leave because your guests WON'T leave until they know what's expected of them.  If you hang around the front of the church but don't seem to be paying attention, they will all wander around like lost sheep.  (Believe me!  It happens ALL the time.)  Be clear.  Your guests will take their cue from YOU.

FIRST DANCE:  Usually done immediately after you're introduced into wedding reception.  DJ plays intro music, you get to dance floor, he switches over to your first dance song.  Everyone watches you for the entire dance, and you need to be ok with that.  Again, I get the best images if you stretch your song out.  Self conscious couples will often cut the song short OR ask the bridal party to join in.  If you cut it short, I don't get my images.  If you invite others onto the floor, they get IN MY WAY and you're effectively blocked.  I can't get visually get to you now.  Just melt into each others arms, whisper sweet nothings, and get lost in the moment.  Forget about all those other people!

RING EXCHANGE: In a traditional ceremony setup, the bride is on the left, groom on the right.  Wedding rings go on our left hand.  I can see the grooms left hand just fine...the brides left hand?   Not so much.  Try to make the ring exchange as clear as possible.  With rare exception, I can't get BEHIND the bride to get a clear shot at her left hand.  I also hate standing up in the middle/front aisle to shoot it.  The less the guests notice me, the better.  The less his hands block your ring finger, the better.  Just think about it.  If something's in my way, you won't be getting that shot...and it's rather symbolic.

FORMALS:  You have selected your ceremony and reception sites for your own reasons.  Among them may be the beauty of the architecture or scenery.  Keep in mind that on your wedding day, I will choose a spot for formal (read: IMPORTANT) images based on the light and background.  I will never, ever, place people in the direct sun.  Sun = bad shadows, squinting eyes, and sweat.  You will always be in "open shade", or the sun will be at your back (if there's no other option) and I use a fill light to light you separately.

DEPTH OF FIELD and FORMALS:  What?  What field?  No, no, no.  It's all about what's in focus and what's NOT.  Sometimes I incorporate this into formals photos...I will ask everyone to do what probably feels strange positioning.  But from where I works.   If I ask you and your bridal party to do something, just roll with it.  In the end, it may or may not make your top 10, but if I think it's worth trying, humor me!  :)

SLOW DOWN:  Bridesmaids, take note.  If you come down the aisle at a pace more suited for a marathon, I will not be getting any sort of complementary photo of you.  Keep a distance between you and the others, walk slowly, do NOT look at your feet, and smile.  Relax your shoulders, walk with grace, and all will be well with the world.

TAGS:  Take price tags off of dresses, shoes, veil, etc.  Why?  Because I can almost guarantee that when the day comes...and everyone's rushing around to dress, NO ONE will have scissors.  Then a panic will set in, and this is no good.  Cut out all tags and also consider cutting the insidious little straps inside dresses.  You know the ones?  For hanging the dress later?  Yeah...they will be popping out from under your arms within 30 seconds of being zipped up.  I promise.  Take 'em out.
TAN LINES:  It's awfully hard to cover up tan lines once they're there.  Pick a dress that works WITH your tan lines.  Please.

I'm sure I'll be inspired with more words of wisdom later, that's all for now!  Planning a wedding and coordinating how the day will go is tricky.  Ask me anything you want...I can probably help you figure out how something will work best, or how much time to allow for it.  :)