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Wedding day photography elements

This section is dedicated to a few of the many wedding day photography decisions every wedding client is faced with.  Hopefully this will help you understand the pros & cons of each element so you can figure out what’s best for you.  For many questions, there really is no right answer, it’s personal preference but it’s also what makes your wedding and photography uniquely yours!

Should we do formal photography before or after the wedding?

I actually address this very question during my wedding consultations.  There’s a couple of elements that we need to take into account:

1 – Did you want to see your bride/groom beforehand?
2 – Can we get everyone to the location early enough?
3 – The weather – is it snowing? raining? So hot the grass is melting?

#1 – Superstition holds that seeing the bride/groom beforehand is bad luck.  However, many of my couples aren’t superstitious and we will photograph the formals beforehand so everyone can get to the reception quickly and start the party.  If you do choose to have the formals beforehand, then we stage an “unveiling” of sorts where the bride & groom can lay eyes on each other, for the first time and have a private moment together.   This moment makes for great photography and I’m always honored to be there with the happy couple.

#1a – I have also photographed brides with family and bridesmaids along with grooms, their family and groomsmen separately so we get a large portion of that photography complete while maintaining the separation of the wedding couple.  This does save some time after the wedding ceremony but not as much as option 1.

#2 – Wedding guests begin arriving up to 30 minutes before the wedding is scheduled to begin.  With this in mind, we need to have everyone ready for formal photography well before that time.  Depending on the amount of groups we want, formals before the event will need to begin at least an hour before the ceremony so we can be sure to finish the photography before the wedding guests arrive.

#3 is probably the most concrete of all the above elements.  If you wanted outside formal photographs, this will definitely determine how feasible that really is.  After all, I don’t want anything to happen to your perfectly applied makeup, beautiful wedding dress & tux, those wonderful shoes or any other clothing.  If you want to do the formal photography inside, then we can disregard this and #2 will be our biggest consideration.

Should I get ready at the church/venue or another location?

Speaking from a wedding photography perspective, where I want to show my happy couple in the best of possible locations, most churches don’t have very elaborate or elegant facilities to get ready in.  However, I would much rather have a comfortable and happy couple to work with then having them being stressed about losing time driving from one location to the next.  I’ve photographed wedding couples getting ready in closets, hotels rooms, salons and even bathrooms.  You being comfortable and happy is of utmost importance on your wedding day so base your decision on that first.  The wedding photography will be that much better when you are happy!

Help!!! I need an (insert vendor here) for my wedding day!

One thing I really enjoy about being a wedding photographer is working alongside some of the, in my opinion, most talented, kindest and giving people anywhere in the wedding industry!  If you’re having a wedding in or around Raleigh NC then I can certainly recommend a few vendors to help you with whatever you need.  The networking events I attend on a monthly basis keeps me in touch with many of the top wedding providers in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area and am always happy to recommend them to you on based on my experiences with them.  My wedding vendor list is kept private and I update it frequently based on my clients experiences.  Furthermore, I do not accept requests to be placed on my list – I consider each vendor I recommend to have my name & reputation attached, so I only refer, IMO, the best wedding vendors in the area.

Are you really this nice in person?

Yes.  I prefer charming and funny, but nice will do.

Dramatic wedding exits

The days of throwing rice are far behind us…  Well, #1 because it could (and has) been hurled with major league velocity but, also, because it’s very harmful to birds.  So what’s in style these days?

– Bubbles
Bubbles are low cost and beautiful in photography.  The downside to them are windy days make it near impossible to have them stay in one place, if one gets in your eye then you might miss the car door all together because you can’t see and lastly, if the surface you’re walking on is at all slick (like marble floors), putting soapy water on it could be a disaster.

– Rose Petals
Rose petals are a higher cost but make for a beautiful wedding exit.  They don’t sting or cause any danger, but there is the cleanup afterwords and, in my experience, you may be picking rose petals out of your clothing and hair for a bit.

– Wedding Sparklers
I love sparklers!  Of course, you have the obvious hazard of open flames to light them as well as the hot embers jumping off the rods.  They do put off a wonderfully soft glowing light that lends itself well to photography.  A couple of notes if you get sparklers.
– Check with your venue – some do not allow it because of insurance reasons.
– Make sure and get long sparklers because it does take some time to get them all lit, and you don’t want the first ones lit to go out before you walk thru them.
– Make sure and have a sand bucket nearby to dispose of the spent sparklers to avoid any fire hazards
– Do you research on wedding sparklers before purchasing.  I recommend visiting this site for more information.
– Advise your wedding guests, or preferably have your DJ do this, to please raise your sparklers and not hold them straight out.  We certainly don’t want anything to happen to your wedding dress, or your wedding photographer for that matter.

Cutting the wedding cake

The way I see your cake cutting is it’s your cake, cut it however you like!  With that being said however, almost all couples will cut the bottom layer first.  This minimizes the chance of a tall wedding cake toppling over or cutting too far.  I like to setup my couples before they cut it to maximize both the photograph as well as all of your friends and family’s view of it.

– Cake smash?   Well, that’s up to you and your partner.  I can tell you every venue has an assortment of napkins and soda water to treat any errant smashed pastries.  I take no responsibility for the smash, I’m just there to capture it.  🙂

First Dance

Some couples, upon arriving at the reception, go immediately into their first dance.  Others wait until after they eat.  Even more, some will dance first, eat, then dance with their parents after dinner.  There really is no right or wrong way to schedule these.  I do want you to remember that first dances tend to get emotional, especially if you’re dancing with your parents, so keep that in mind when planning.

I do, however, recommend you dance before cutting the wedding cake.  After the cake is cut (and eaten) some of your wedding guests tend to depart for the drive back home.

Bouquet & Garter Toss

I love this element of your wedding day.  They are almost always fun and, without going into details, I’ve seen my share of scrapping for the bouquet and garter amongst friends.  This is another element that I will help setup to make sure everyone has a fair chance of catching and or watching it.  Whether you choose to have this at your wedding reception or not is completely up to you.  I’ve seen it both ways and, honestly, both ways were totally appropriate for the personality of the couple and their friends,  family and wedding guests.

Ladies – I do recommend you put some thought into how high the garter is placed.  He will, after all, have to reach up and get it.  Also, while I try to ensure you are placed, when throwing it,  where there is no chandelier or other obstacle, you may want to take glance to make sure you have a clear path to toss it.  The garter generally goes on the left leg but I have never heard a hard and fast rule on this, so it’s totally at your discretion.

Guys – Garters are not aerodynamically tested so you may want to stand a little closer then you think is necessary.  I like a big football pileup as much as anyone else when they all run for the wedding garter, but keep that in mind if your 10 year old cousin is in the line.

You know that last answer really didn’t help me decide?


Should I have camera on the tables or will you be offended?

I’ll be honest here, the first time I got asked this very question I kinda chuckled.  Having cameras on the tables are a wonderful way to get unexpected candids of things that you had no idea happened at your wedding reception.  I will give you a suggestion though.  Number the cameras and also have a collection box for people to drop them into as they leave.  The downside with having cameras on tables is they can misplaced, accidentally carried out and, basically, never seen again.  Having them numbered will help you identify which one is missing and having a central deposit for them helps remind people to drop them off at the end.  My goal is to make sure your wedding photography exceeds your wishes, whether it’s me taking the photograph or having 5 photographers with disposable cameras.