A go-to guide for all Brittney Cottman Photography couples
the wedding guide
Hello Bride & Groom-to-be and welcome! This is such an exciting time for you! I’m sure your mind is racing with all that needs to be planned. It’s all very exciting , but it can also be somewhat overwhelming. You’re planning the day that you’ve been anticipating your whole life and yet you only get one shot at it! By the time you get the hang of it, the planning is over! My goal as a wedding photographer is to make this one aspect of the planning process simple. Photography is more than just images, it’s a real part of your day. Not only do you deserve beautiful images, you also deserve an amazing photographic experience. The goal of this guide is to help you plan your wedding day in a way that will allow me to provide you with the BEST experience possible. Since you’re officially a BCP couple, the next step is to plan your engagement session and then start chatting about wedding day details as we get closer to your date! I'm beyond excited to be working with you!! I cannot wait to get to know you two during your engagement session and even though you may never meet my husband Paul & daughter Nora (or our pups Petey & Penny), they say “Hi” too!! From my family to yours, welcome! It’s an honor to be your wedding photographer!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE GIFT OF
This may not be what you were expecting to find in your photographer’s client guide, but if you don’t read anything else in this guide, PLEASE READ THIS. It’s so important for me to explain how I view my relationship with my couples. A few years into my business, I started realizing that what I desired in my business, more than anything, was a personal connection to my couples. Sure I loved the work I was creating, but the images I loved the most came from sessions and weddings where I felt a personal connection to my clients. Everyone wants to be known, seen, loved and befriended. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a human being who didn’t appreciate someone caring about who they are, what they’re passionate about, etc. I strive to form friendships with my clients and I intentionally care to get to know them. Having a heart for genuine friendships in my business has made this so much more than just my job. Not only is my friendship with my couples a gift to me, but it positively impacts my client’s wedding day experience. When you are getting ready the morning of your wedding day, it will be a relief to feel like a friend walks through those doors with a camera and not just a random hired vendor. Friendship breeds comfortability and comfortability leads to trust... and trust is something that EVERY couple needs to have in their relationship with their wedding photographer! I'm so excited to start getting to know you more during your engagement session!
YOUR engagement SESSION
Now that you have picked a date, a photographer and probably a venue as well, you can celebrate! Those are some of the toughest decisions in wedding planning and you can cross them off your list! Hooray!! Now on to the fun stuff.... like your engagement session! I include engagement sessions in my wedding experience because I truly believe that they are a VITAL part of the entire process. During your engagement session, you’ll have the chance to get to know me, experience how I shoot and how I handle posing and lighting. This session will make a HUGE impact on how the wedding day flows. I’ll arrive on your wedding day already knowing how you two interact, what your best poses are and how to photograph you in a genuine way! What I will learn about you during your engagement session is invaluable! You will feel like such a pro on your big day because of the great practice you had during your engagement session, and that’s how it should be!
Your engagement session can be scheduled anytime before your wedding day. I normally suggest booking it at least 3-6 months in advance to avoid stress. I offer some weekend availability as well as week day availability, normally from 5-7pm depending on the light and the time of the year. In the winter months, 3-5pm is a normal time frame for an e-shoot! As you start to plan for your engagement shoot, you will need to start brainstorming about location ideas. I LOVE it when couples pick a location that is special or sentimental to them in some way! If you can’t think of anywhere specific that you would like to shoot, I can help you decide on a location. As long as the light is great, I can make ANY location look awesome! I shoot at farms, campuses, downtown alleys and even neighborhoods. I’m serious! Do not shy away from crazy ideas! The more creative, the better. Be sure to keep reading to find out more about outfit ideas and inspiration!
It’s always a little intimidating to have your picture taken .... even if it’s just a photo on an iphone that is taken by a friend. We still want to look nice, make sure nothing is in our teeth and that our hair is behaving! I realize that preparing for your engagement session can be a little overwhelming. Below, I’ll be providing tips for outfits and handling nerves and giving recommendations that will make your shoot the best it can possibly be!
THE BASICS + WHAT TO BRING
POCKETS | Empty your pockets! Literally. You don’t want to have key chains or phones showing through your pockets. (This is for the guys especially!)
TIMING | The sun sets quickly especially if your shoot is not in the summer months. The later you arrive, the less time we have to shoot! Once the sun is set, the shoot will be over.
RING CLEANING | Clean the ring! I love to shoot a few rings shots while you change outfits! The cleaner the better.
CHANGING CLOTHES | As much as I would like to say that we always have restrooms for outfit changes, more often than not, my clients do quick outfit changes in their car if there are no other options!
DEEP BREATHS | I’m going to help you along the way and it’s going to be a blast! Enjoy this time together, and make a date out of it! Plan dinner afterwards and celebrate!!
PARKING FEE | This may not apply to your shoot, but you always want to plan in advance for a cash-only parking fee that we may encounter. I've had instances where metered parking and/or cash garages/lots were the only option especially for downtown Columbus shoots.
CLOTHING | I’ll explain this more in-depth below but generally, my couples like to bring one casual outfit and one dressier outfit! If you’re unsure about a few pieces, feel free to bring all options and I can help you decide.
LIP COLOR & HAIRSPRAY | You may need to apply more lip color after one outfit change and a few kisses. (If you have a bold lip color, try to have a matte finish so it won’t transfer to your groom as intensely!). Hairspray and a brush will be helpful if your hair struggles in the humidity!
FLIP FLOPS | If you’re wearing shoes that are difficult to walk in but look awesome, bring some comfy shoes to change to while we walk to each shooting location!
and styling your shoot
Believe it or not, you have so much control over the outcome of your shoot and what it looks and feels like! What you choose to wear is a big decision that often causes a ton of stress for the bride beforehand. However, my hope is that with a little education, you will be able to determine the style and feel you desire for your shoot and then that will make your outfit selection so much easier and less complicated! Lets start by de-bunking some very common outfit myths that a lot of people believe about what they should wear to their session!
Avoid neutrals, they wash you out...
False! Whoever started this myth couldn’t have been further from the truth. Sure, there are some colors that don’t work for some people, but I spent a large majority of my life believing that I could never wear neutrals and I was missing out! The truth is, neutrals are the most photogenic color for portraits.
WHAT STYLE DO YOU PREFER?
BOLD OR NEUTRAL
DRESSY OR CASUAL
CLASSIC OR TRENDY
These choices represent the three main decisions you will have to make in regards to your outfit choices. There are no right or wrong answers! Maybe you want one outfit to be dressy and the other to be casual. Maybe you want one outfit to be very light and neutral but you want to wear more color in the next outfit. These categories will hopefully help you determine what you’re hoping for in your engagement session. If you’re feeling stuck and can’t seem to determine what you prefer, that’s very normal!
Here are some general “rules of thumb” when it comes to styling during an engagement session. Once you read through these, you may have a better understanding of what you prefer and you can start planning your outfits. These “rules of thumbs” are based off of my experience and aren’t concrete rules that can’t be broken. However, if you have questions about one of them in regards to what you want to wear, just email me and we can talk about what would be best! :
COLORS TO AVOID:
bright reds, neons, bright oranges (they reflect color onto skin and can be difficult to edit!)
AVOID ONE OF YOU BEING CASUAL WHILE THE OTHER IS MORE DRESSY:
This can look a bit awkward in photos. If one of you is dressed up and the other is casual, it can look a little odd in your images.
things to avoid
AVOID PATTERNS SMALLER THAN A QUARTER:
Tiny patterns cause something called “Moiré ” in digital images. Men’s checkered shirts are fine if the “checks” are on the larger side.
AVOID UNCOMFORTABLE CLOTHES:
You may select a trendy outfit, but when you put it on it feels awful...the ugly truth- no matter how cute you think it may be, if you feel bad wearing it, it will translate to your photos and you'll look uncomfortable!
If one of you is wearing dark jeans, the other may want to wear lighter pants. If one of you is wearing a navy top, the other shouldn’t wear a dark top. To a certain degree, alternating the “heaviness” of your outfits can make your images look more balanced.
OTHER THINGS TO AVOID:
Bold logos on shirts
romantic style recipe
If you’re hoping for a more romantic style of shoot that includes lighter and brighter colors, you can actually make outfit choices that will lend your images to turn out brighter, softer and extra photogenic! Here are some ingredients that go into creating a romantic styled shoot. It’s important to note that you do not need to choose all of these ingredients in order to have a light and bright style to your images, but the more ingredients you include, the more romantic it will be:
- Neutral Colors: Blushes, tans, light pinks, faint blues and light minty teals, creams, grays and whites will always result in more of a light and bright look to your images. These colors photograph softer and more romantically!
- Long, Flowy Skirts/Dresses: Dresses and skirts with feminine ruffles, multiple layers of fabric and the ability to blow and move in the wind will always photograph beautifully! You would be amazed at how impactful moving fabric softens an image.
- Khakis vs. Jeans: If you really want your images to be as bright as possible, consider having your groom wear lighter pants instead of dark dress pants or dark jeans.
bright & bold recipe
Just like the “Romantic” recipe, you don’t have to apply all of these “ingredients" to get a perfectly BRIGHT & BOLD look to your engagement session, but keeping these ideas in mind when selecting outfits will help to achieve this look. These ingredients include:
- Only one wears a pattern: If one of you has a bold pattern, it’s very important that the other doesn’t. The more bold the pattern, the more important this rule is!
- Bold Backgrounds: A lot of times, if my couples are going for a bold and bright look, I will notice solid colored backgrounds to use for part of their engagement session! It’s a double win if the background coordinates with their outfits!
- Only one bold color: If you really want a bold and bright look but you want to do it well and tastefully, I would suggest that only one of you have a bright and bold colored outfit and the other stay in a solid neutral to avoid over-doing it!
- Large Patterns are Preferred: If you really want to wear a pattern, my only request is that your pattern is on the larger side. Patterns that are smaller than a quarter can be difficult to photograph. This isn’t true of all patterns but it’s a good general rule to go by!
APPROXIMATE START TIMES
During December through mid-March you can plan on your engagement session taking place around 3-5pm. However, the time changes in mid-March and so that will make the start time one hour later.
The sunset time drastically changes throughout the course of these two months and so our shooting times change as well. You can plan on approximately 5:30-7:30pm in April and 6:00-8:00pm in May.
Summer engagements, just like all engagements, take place two hours before sunset. This will hopefully mean that the shoot will be during the cooler part of the day!
The sunset time changes drastically during these three months. In September, you can plan on 5:30-7:30pm until the third week and then you can plan on 5:00-7:00pm until Mid-October. After the first week of November, 3:00-5:00pm.
- I do have some weekend availability to schedule engagement sessions, but my weekends fill up fast! Keep in mind weekday evenings are a great option as well!
- I love shooting at gorgeous locations. I recommend two locations max for engagements. A general rule of thumb is the more locations and outfits, the less images, but the more variety you’ll have!
- Sunrise sessions are an option! I actually strongly recommend sunrise sessions for locations that tend to be very busy such as downtown Columbus and other city spots certain days of the week.
SAMPLE WEDDING DAY TIMELINE
Here’s the part that can be somewhat intimidating! The TIMELINE! I know this isn’t the most exciting aspect of the wedding day, but this is the one thing that can make or break your photography! Below, I am outlining an ideal wedding day working off of a 6pm ceremony time frame. This ideal timeline is also based off of a wedding day that includes a first look. 90% of my couples choose to do a first look, and you can read more about that option a little further down! Remember that all wedding days are different, and your timeline may differ due to travel times and unique situations.
Every bride loves having those beautiful shots of her bridal details. It’s an important part of the story and I love having some time to shoot the dress, shoes, jewelry, invitations, etc. These shots allow me to get warmed up for the rest of the big day. I normally like to allow at least 45 minutes for this part of the day. While I’m shooting details, I’m also capturing some shots of the bride and her girls getting ready! If the groom is getting ready nearby, my 2nd shooter will begin photographing the boys close to 40 minutes before the first look since it always takes them less time to get dressed!
After the details have been photographed, it’s time for the bride to get into her dress! This is a big moment! I usually ask the mother of the bride and all of the bridesmaids to be dressed by the time the bride is ready to get into her dress. This ensures that everyone will look nice in those images. After the bride is in her gown, she can put on her jewelry, veil, shoes, etc. and I will shoot some additional bridal portraits!
This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day! I will find the perfect location for my couple’s First Look prior to the getting ready portion of the day! Don’t stress about that one bit! I will make sure the location is private and as secluded as possible.
After the bride and groom take their time with the First Look, I will begin taking a few romantic portraits of the two of them while the initial excitement is still present! I will find the locations for these shots as well! Remember, the LIGHT determines where we shoot and so I can’t decide on portrait locations until the day-of. As we shoot these portraits, the bridal party can start making their way to us for Bridal Party portraits!
BRIDAL PARTY PORTRAITS
Now it’s time for Bridal Party shots! I buffer in extra time throughout the day just in case we have some unexpected things that hold us up! One way to make sure we stay on schedule for bridal party portraits is to have someone put the boutonnieres on the guys BEFORE they arrive for portraits. During Bridal Party portraits, my second photographer and I will make sure to take some great shots of the guys and girls both separately AND together! After bridal party portraits are complete, the bride will go into hiding so that early guests don’t sneak a peek and the ushers will begin their duties.
BRIDE IN HIDING
If the reception is in the same location as the ceremony, I will use this time to shoot the reception decor UNTOUCHED. If the ceremony and reception are in different locations, I recommend having a cocktail hour outside of the main reception area if possible so that I can grab some great shots of your reception space before the night begins and guests start laying down purses and coats on their seats!
It’s time to get married!! Most ceremonies are 30 minutes long. If your ceremony is longer than 30 mins, we’ll make adjustments to the timeline. Cherish these moments! Your ceremony will pass by so quickly!
Family formals normally take place immediately following the ceremony. It’s best to save all of the family formals until after the ceremony because ALL family members will be present at that time. We’ll need about 30 minutes for family formals and I will send a questionnaire before the wedding where you can list out the shots that you want. I recommend shooting portraits outdoors if possible so that they resemble more natural family portraits, especially if the ceremony location is dark!
"JUST MARRIED" PORTRAITS
7:00pm is the BEST time of day for portraits in the late spring, summer and early fall! This is when we have the best chance to catch some glowy golden sun if the weather cooperates. I love having a few extra minutes with the bride and groom to take a few “Just Married” portraits right after family formals!
This is when the bridal party lines up for introductions and the party begins!! By this part of the day, my timeline isn’t as strict. I work off of the natural light and so after the sun is set, my portrait time is over and I begin focusing on the reception events!
I include 8 hours of coverage so that I can be present for the main events of the reception and about an hour of dancing. If you’re interested in having your exit photographed, there are several options for this. You can either add additional coverage or plan a faux exit with just your bridal party. I have had GREAT success with this and the party never stops! Email me about this if you’re interested in learning more!
DETAILS & PREP : 1.5 HOURS
FIRST LOOK & PORTRAITS : 30-40 MINS
BRIDAL PARTY : 30-40 MINS
FAMILY FORMALS : 20-30 MINS
EXTRA PORTRAIT TIME : As much time as you’ll give me!
WEDDINGS & SEASONS
PORTRAIT & TIMING TIPS FOR:
winter, spring, summer, & fall
Winter weddings are gorgeous! However, they do take some additional planning simply because of the sunset time. The hard part about a winter timeline is the fact that the sun sets around 4pm. This means that all of your portraits have to be done before then! This isn’t a problem if you’re having a late afternoon wedding. However, if you’re planning on having a late evening wedding, you may have a bit of down time from 4pm until the start of the ceremony. You will also need more coverage time as well.
Spring weddings are wonderful because they are the perfect temperature! However, I recommend having plenty of Claritin and Zyrtec on hand just in case allergies start to flare up during portrait time. Spring wed- dings normally mean the potential for some blooms! If we happen to find any type of blooming tree or plant, it will be worth it to give us a few minutes for portraits with it! You’ll LOVE the result!
Summer weddings are amazing! I love that there is so much daylight! In some months, the light will last until 8:30pm! So, if you’re having a summer wedding, you’ll need to plan on having a few minutes to slip out of the reception for your sunset portraits. You will NOT regret this! This is the absolute best light of the day and you’re going to want to have portraits during this time period. Usually these portraits happen during dinner or open dancing so that no one even notices that you’re gone for a few minutes!
Fall weddings are my favorite! This is probably because fall is my favorite season! I love the temperature and the colors! Most of my fall brides worry about color, and I just want to encourage you that all I need is one tree with some color in order to make it look like fall! A little bit of color can go a long way!! Your portrait time will vary depending on your wedding date! We’ll be sure to discuss this when we approve your final timeline!
LET THE DAY BEGIN!
This portion of The Wedding Experience really sets the stage for the entire wedding day. The next few sections will share tips and tricks that will ensure a seamless morning of bridal preparation and beautiful portraits!
It’s the morning of your wedding! Hopefully all of the little details are taken care of and you’re relaxing with your best friends while your hair is being done. If certain items haven’t been checked off of the to-do list, it’s time to hand them over to someone else. Delegation is a key part of a stress-free wedding day. I know it’s hard to hand over the decorating duties and all of the last minute things that need to be done, but it really is important to relax the morning of your wedding. The rest of the day is going to be fast paced and filled with a lot of emotions! Take advantage of this down time! There are a few things to consider about the “getting ready” portion of the day. Do you want to share a “first look” with your dad or any other person who plays a huge role in your life?
Will you and your groom be exchanging gifts during this time? If so, who would you like to deliver them? Are there certain women in your life who would appreciate seeing you get into your gown? Some brides want very few people around for this moment. Other brides love having aunts and grandmas present! It’s totally up to you! A few other things to consider.... as you get ready to put your dress on, refrain from putting any jewelry on. I love shooting all of those final steps once you’re in your gown! Speaking of the gown, if your gown is on a plastic hanger, try to make a note to bring a wooden hanger along for picture sake. If you forget, no big deal! I’m a pro at finding wooden hangers at venues! Keep reading along for more “getting ready” tips to help you prepare!
By having just a simple window in the bridal prep area, I am able to create beautiful portraits with soft light. I prefer natural light so the more windows, the better!
EVERY LITTLE DETAIL
RINGS, SHOES, JEWELS...
The whole day begins with the DETAILS! This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day, because it allows me to prepare and get my creative side warmed up for the rest of the day! I photograph a bride’s details in a way that matches and showcases the style of the entire wedding day. So, in some ways, the details set the stage for the look of the whole wedding and I love having ample time to stylize, and shoot everything from the dress, to the jewelry, to grandma’s handkerchief ! To the right, you’ll find a list of the most common details that I shoot. I ask brides to gather any details they have before I arrive so that I can walk in, say hello, give you a big hug and then begin with all the goodies! (Please assure your mom that I will take GREAT care of the dress, I promise!)
what to bring
veil / hair pieces
rings (all three)
bouquet & bout
borrowed & blue
Day of Reminders
GATHER the goods..
If possible, collect all of your details before I arrive so that I can begin quickly and have more time for some “getting ready” shots of you and your girls!
When you’re planning a wedding day timeline, the best advice I could give is to ADD CUSHION TIME! Sometimes the most simple things can take an extra 20 minutes and then all of a sudden, the whole morning is thrown off. I have seen “getting the bride in her dress” take almost 40 minutes because of a button malfunction. It’s a smart idea to add in an extra ten minutes here and there so that we have some wiggle room to work with! This way, if one part of the day gets thrown off by 20 minutes, I can help you compensate that time in other areas. There are so many different things to think about when you’re planning a wedding day, and so here are some tips for the pre-ceremony timeline! I realize that every single wedding day is different and so not all of these tips will apply to every wedding day schedule. Something else to consider is that not EVERYTHING will go as planned, and I promise you, that is completely normal!!
BOUQUETS & BOUTS
You will need your bouquet and bouts for your first look! Have them delivered to the room where the bride is getting ready.
Be sure to think about the travel time and TRAFFIC to and from your getting ready location and your venue!
HAIR & MAKEUP
I encourage brides to have
at least their makeup done before I start because who wants a ton of shots without their makeup on?! Nobody.
My second shooter will photograph the guys getting ready if they are getting ready in the same location as the bride or within 10-15 mins. away.
GETTING IN THE DRESS
I’ll instruct you to get into your dress close to a window and it would be fabulous to have your bridesmaids dressed when you’re getting in your gown!
CREATE A CUSHION
A 10 minute cushion every now and then is a GREAT idea! It’s amazing how fast time slips away the day of!
WHAT MAKES A VEIL FLY?
As your wedding photographer, I feel that it’s my duty to let you know that not all veils have equal flying power! It’s true! Some veils do not fly! It’s actually very disappointing for a bride to realize on her wedding day that it’s impossible to capture the “flying veil” shot she always dreamed of because she selected a veil that has too much detail and is weighted down too much to fly! So, if a flying veil shot is very important to you, here are some tips for selecting a veil that can easily go airborne and is extra photogenic! :
1. Avoid heavy beading and detail that weighs down your veil.
2. One layer is best! Multiple layers of tulle can be hard to toss.
3. Off-white is best. Some veils can actually photograph “blue” if they are a pure white and that is very hard to hide in editing! This is true for stark white dresses as well. Off-white, light ivories and creams are actually better for pictures!
4. Fine tulle flies more freely. Stiff tulle is a little more rigid.
the first look
Your first look is an amazing part of your wedding day! If you aren’t sure about this tradition, the next few sections will explain why it would be a romantic addition to your wedding day celebration that not only adds to the experience but also reduces stress. Please know that I would never want any of my couples to feel pressured to go with this option. However, I do want to make sure that I share all of the benefits of a first look, because there is a reason 90% of my couples do this and LOVE it!
THE FIRST LOOK EXPLAINED
After experiencing my own wedding and shooting so many others.... I’ve come to this conclusion: Some brides love “traditions”.... but what a bride REALLY wants when it comes to her groom seeing her for the first time, is a REACTION. Those who are not interested in a First Look usually think that by seeing each other beforehand, they will lose part of that reaction. They also assume that it will not be as emotional or as intimate as it would be if they were coming down the aisle. What I have found (this is starting to sound like a research paper!) is so ironic! Everyone knows that wedding days are a bit stressful for the bride and groom. The whole day is focused on them, they need to look their best, they need to be on time, the groom has no idea what side the boutonniere is supposed to go on and little by little... the tension grows. It’s before the ceremony and the gravity of what is about to happen starts to sink in and the calm, collected groom who was playing golf just a few short hours ago is now starting to feel a little anxious.
So what happens next? The groom waits in a little room somewhere for his cue from the coordinator. It seems like it’s taking FOREVER. Finally, the coordinator leans her head in and hurries the groom to get ready. With clammy hands, the groom enters the ceremony and what does he find? .... he finds anywhere from 80-300 people and they’re all looking where? Right at his face... because everyone has expectations and anticipation about his first reaction. This is the farthest thing from a private, intimate moment. Sure, it’s SO powerful and SO wonderful. ... walking down the aisle was one of the BEST PARTS of my WHOLE wedding day!! It’s truly magical!! ..... But so many grooms have shared with me that when it was time for the ceremony, they weren't a nervous wreck anymore because they had spent the morning with their bride and their best friends and the pressure was OFF. The nerves were gone and when the nerves are gone... true emotions are free to be expressed. So if I were to condense what I just wrote... basically, Grooms normally become incredibly nervous on wedding days.... even if they seem cool and collected.
For most grooms, the nerves kick in before they see their bride because when they see her, everything becomes VERY real! So when the nerves start creeping up, instead of keeping the groom in a secluded space until his time to enter the ceremony, what if you took him to a private place... no people, no on-lookers, no distractions.... and you let his beautiful bride, the love of his life, quietly call his name and have him turn around to see her for the first time. He would turn around and finally get his first look at his stunning bride and not only would he get to see her... he could embrace her... cry with her.... kiss her... and ENJOY that moment with her for as LONG as they wanted. As she shows him her dress, twirls a few times and then asks him what he thinks... his nerves start to diminish. After all, she’s the one who can make him most comfortable anyway.
Because they aren’t on a time crunch... they casually move into their romantic portraits. No one is around, the coordinator isn’t announcing “15 minutes left”, and there is no pressure. It’s just the two of them and their photographer... capturing the excitement and the joy of their wedding day. This is their time to be TOGETHER...and to be ALONE. When does that happen on a wedding day? Without a First Look.... it doesn’t. After their romantic portraits are done, they meet up with their best friends. Their bridal party joins them and because they still have plenty of time to spare... the bride touches up a little makeup while the boys act like boys. After a few minutes the bridal party portraits begin and they’re FUN. They’re FUN, because there is time to make them FUN. There aren’t any guests waiting impatiently at the cocktail hour and there isn’t a DJ coming to find the photographer to get a time check. It’s wonderful!
After portraits are done the girls and guys separate and prepare for the ceremony. The guests begin to arrive and the ushers are in place. Pretty soon it’s time for the processional music to begin and one by one, the bridesmaids make their way down to the front of the ceremony. As the groom clasps his hands... they aren’t clasped out of nervousness but excitement. The music builds, the mother of the bride stands and all of the guests follow her lead. The groom looks up, and here comes the BRIDE!!! His best friend, his companion, his sweetheart.....she’s stunning.... ABSOLUTELY stunning. The closer she gets, the bigger he smiles.
Now let me put a disclaimer on here before we continue...my clients are not required to do a First Look by any means! I used to feel bad for sharing this option with couples who were against it, because I didn’t want to push anything on them. However, I’ve seen the benefits of a first look over and over again, and so I only share this because I want the BEST for my couples!! It’s totally ok if couples choose not to share a first look! It’s just my preference to do one for many reasons.... Keep reading to find out more of the benefits of sharing your first look privately! For brides not interested in a First Look, let’s start chatting soon about how we’ll create a special timeline to fit everything in!
first look | WHY IT'S WORTH IT
40% MORE PORTRAITS
You’re investing a lot into your wedding photography. With a first look, you’ll receive 40% MORE portraits of the two of you... and those are the images you will decorate your first home with! (Believe me, our house is PACKED full of our portraits!) With a first look, you make the most out of this large investment and get the most for your money.
ENJOY THE SURPRISE FREELY
You actually get to have intimate time on your wedding day with your man. Most brides don’t realize that when you come down the aisle and totally SHOCK him with your gorgeous-ness... he can’t even tell you how amazing you look. He can’t touch you, embrace you or even SPEAK to you. You have to wait until 30 minutes later when the ceremony is over for him to react and tell you how amazing you look. And after 30 minutes of the ceremony, the reaction isn’t the same as the initial first glance.
EXTEND YOUR DAY BY 3 HOURS
First Looks allow you to extend your wedding day. Normally the wedding day would start when you come down the aisle, then the ceremony would end, you would rush through portraits so that you’re not late for the introductions and then it’s reception time. With a first look, your wedding day is extended by almost 3 hours! Instead of being rushed for your bridal party portraits... you actually get to enjoy them and have fun hanging out with your BEST friends on your wedding day. The WHOLE first half of my client’s wedding albums are filled with images just from this time together before the ceremony.
YOUR ONLY ALONE TIME
First Looks allow you to be TOGETHER and alone on your wedding day. This does not happen at any other time on your day! After experiencing those real, raw emotions together during a first look, it makes it so easy to slip right into some very romantic portraits that look so natural and authentic. Normally portraits are a little rushed after the family formals, and it can be hard to really get back into that “lovey dovey” mode.... especially with family around! When you have just shared your first look, you’re READY to love on each other, and I always capture some super sweet images during those moments!
You get rid of your nerves! I’d say, literally 1/2 of my couples who have decided to do a first look, the grooms were not fans of it at first. However, because they have never experienced their wedding day before, they didn’t know how nerve racking it can be. I have testimonials from so many grooms who initially weren’t a fan of the first look... but afterwards they admitted to being SO much more relaxed and ready for the ceremony!
FOR THE BRIDE:
FIRST LOOK EXPECTATIONS
Bride’s, if you have never seen your man cry or get emotional, you can’t expect him to be overly emotional on your wedding day. Some guys just embrace their brides and never cry.... and that’s OK. Some guys show very little emotion when their bride is coming down the aisle and that’s ok too. Just enjoy this amazing day, and try not to put any expectations on him. If you take this advice to heart, I could potentially be saving you a lot of disappointment on your day. One thing I have noticed after working so many weddings is that the stress and nerves that come with a wedding day can sometimes make it hard for some grooms to truly express their emotions. It’s just a lot to take in all at once. This is a great reason to share a first look and also a great reason to give some grace to your guy! Sure, you deserve to feel beautiful, but my encouragement to you is to enjoy this time together, no matter what his reaction is like!
first look | FROM THE GROOM
“Coming from a pretty traditional family, I never thought I'd stray from years of customs, but when Ashley and I really thought about the events of our wedding day, the first look was the only way to go. With all the nerves and excitement of that day looming just hours away, I am reminded, as often as I look back, of how thankful I am for Brittney’s suggestion to do the First Look. It was one of the best moments of that day in my opinion. That time together, just the two of us, before all of the day’s events, did not detract from the excitement of seeing Ashley walk down the aisle at all. I would highly recommend it to anyone!” - Jason
“I am so glad Michelle and I did a first look. Your wedding is a really busy day–You’ve got all of your favorite people in one place, for one day, and you want to make the most of every moment. So, it is awesome to have a time where it is just you and your bride (and Brittney, of course ha!). It allows the two of you to have time to soak it all in and really be present with each other. Apart from a first look, our wedding day was a whirlwind, but the first look created a time for us to stop and enjoy it all. Even though it’s not deemed “traditional”, I highly recommend doing a first look and we jokingly refer to it as the “new tradition”. - Steve
THE DADDY/DAUGHTER FIRST LOOK
This is for all of the brides who have a sweet spot in their heart for their dad. I have to admit that Daddy/Daughter first looks make me a little teary. For a lot of Dads, this is when everything feels real and it hits him... “My baby girl is getting MARRIED!” These are precious moments to photograph and I highly encourage any Daddy’s girl to make time in their timeline for this moment. It doesn’t take long at all! The hardest part is making sure Dad shows up on time! If Dad doesn’t show up on time, the whole timeline can get thrown off, or we’ll have to skip the Daddy/Daughter first look. Another sweet idea we’ve seen is having the father of the bride escort the bride to her first look!
Here it is! The moment everyone has been waiting for! The music is playing and the guests have been seated. Ushers make their way to the back of the church/venue and the coordinator is lining up the bridesmaids while giving the musicians a 5 minute warning. The bride is about to walk down the aisle to the love of her life..... and if she’s like most girls, she’s dreamed about this moment for a long time! Vows will be shared and promises will be made... this is what it’s all about!! In a world full of wedding blogs, Pinterest and bridal magazines, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and consumed by the “prettiness” of the event. While details do matter and planning is necessary, it’s important to never lose sight of the real purpose of this amazing day!
THE UNPLUGGED CEREMONY
Imagine this with me.... you’re in my shoes.... the most important moment of the day is about to happen. You’ve checked your camera settings, you’ve taken test shots and you’re ready to capture the bride coming down the aisle to her groom. You want to capture reactions, variety of angles and every moment of joy and emotion in those few seconds. However, just as everyone stands and the music plays, not one, but three different family members and friends get so excited that they take just one step out into the aisle with their iPhones in hand trying to capture the moment. I’m scrambling. My couple is trusting me not to miss this!!! But now I’m dodging guests who are trying desperately to have a good Insta-story to share and they have no idea that the back of their heads, their arms and their phones are blocking me from capturing the bride and her dad walking down the aisle. It’s honestly one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a photographer during a ceremony .... and the hard part is, it can always be avoided. This issue is a growing one. Every wedding season I experience more and more of these issues. However, there is a solution! I highly recommend having an “Unplugged Ceremony”. This is just another way of saying that you want only your photographers to be capturing photos and you would like everyone else to enjoy the ceremony instead of trying to capture it themselves.
Options for notifying your guests that your ceremony is
1. Signage : Have a simple sign that guests see as they are entering the ceremony.
2. Spoken : Have your officiant politely mention that you prefer no cell phones.
3. Program : Include your Unplugged Ceremony request in your program design
CEREMONY PREP TIPS
LIGHTING: Ceremony lighting is really important. If you get married outdoors at 12pm, the lighting will be extremely harsh and not only will there be harsh lines of light on your faces, you will also be squinting. I suggest planning an outdoor ceremony 2 hours before sunset if you are having a FIRST LOOK. If you are not interested in sharing a first look, then I would suggest having your ceremony 3 hours before sunset to ensure that you will have plenty of time for all of your portraits afterwards. The lower the sun, the more romantic the lighting. If you are having an indoor ceremony, it is always best to have EVEN lighting at the altar. If there are two spotlights on the bride and groom, I will not be able to expose the rest of the bridal party. It is better to have soft, even light across the whole altar.
If you are planning a destination wedding, a lot of the details in this guide will not apply to you! Your details, your timeline, and even your preparation for the big day will be much simpler. However, it is a good idea to start thinking about a few key components of the day such as: your ceremony time and your ceremony/portrait locations (some destination weddings require some planning to find portrait locations without tourists in the background). Be sure to check the sunset time at your wedding location before settling on your ceremony time. As your wedding day draws closer, we’ll begin to chat about the timeline of the day and the travel arrangements. Get excited!! This is going to be amazing!!
SAMPLE LIST FOR
I absolutely love meeting my couples' families on the wedding day! Family formals are normally my first interaction with them and so I love to have a game plan for this part of the day! Eight weeks before the wedding, you’ll receive a questionnaire from me that will ask you to list out the family formals you want me to capture. Here is a sample family formal list to help you start preparing what shots you need. I do have to limit the family formal time in order to ensure that we have plenty of daylight for your romantic couple portraits. However, any large family group shots that we don’t accomplish during family formals, we can be sure to capture at the reception!
B&G with Bride’s Immediate Family (Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Nieces, Nephews)
B&G with Bride’s Parents
B&G with Bride’s Siblings
Bride with her Parents
Bride with Mom, Bride with Dad
B&G with Bride’s Grandparents
B&G with both sets of Parents
B&G with Groom’s Immediate Family (Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Nieces, Nephews)
B&G with Groom’s Parents
B&G with Groom’s Siblings
Groom with his Parents
Groom with Mom, Groom with Dad
B&G with Groom’s Grandparents
B&G with all family members if time allows
If I'm being honest, all of the wedding day images are important, but the real favorites are almost always from my time with the Bride and Groom! These romantic portraits of just the two of you will be the images that you frame beside your bed or over your mantle, and they will also be the images that will fill your album for generations to enjoy. These images are always my favorite not only because of their beauty, but because this is such a sweet portion of the day. For this brief moment in time, you will be alone with your groom on your wedding day. You will have a chance to love on each other and really connect before the craziness begins! Romantic portraits are normally done before the ceremony (after the “First Look”) and then I LOVE shooting a few “just married” portraits after the ceremony as well! This is when the light is low and golden! It’s such a romantic time for bride and groom portraits! If you’re not interested in a first look, we will make sure to include a lot of time after the ceremony for these portraits!
TRUSTING PORTRAIT LOCATIONS
One of my favorite parts of my job is taking something so ordinary and making it look absolutely amazing! This happens most often when it comes to picking portrait locations! If there is one thing that I love and appreciate about my couples, it’s that they trust me! Sometimes I select portrait locations that most people wouldn’t consider attractive..the side of a run down shed, a solid color garage door in an empty city parking lot, the alley way behind the wedding venue..wherever I see the lighting is the best is where I look for a portrait location! Because my couples trust me, they get some amazing photos in some seemingly not-so-amazing places at times! So my encouragement is to just trust me! You don’t have to worry about a thing! Trust my locations, and I promise you, you’ll LOVE the results!
THE CASE OF A
One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive during wedding season is “What do we do if it RAINS?!”. I want to reassure you that even if it rains, you will still have beautiful portraits! I know that rain isn’t ideal, and no bride would wish for rain on their big day, but if it happens, it happens..... and it’s going to be JUST fine!! Some of my best weddings have been on rainy wedding days! Here are a few things to remember:
1. All I need to create natural light portraits on a rainy wedding day is a porch! Just one porch!
2. Let me worry about the pictures. You have enough to think about. If there is a chance of rain, I’ll be sure to do some extra scouting to find a covered location or two, for us to use for you first look, romantic portraits and bridal party portraits.
3. Take it one step at a time. Don’t think about your entire day and what will happen if it rains. That will only overwhelm you! Definitely have a rain plan for your venue, but then let your vendors do the work of handling the rest of the day if rain is in the forecast.