Having photographed over 400 weddings and working in the field for 14 years I’ve seen a lot of the behind the scenes of what goes into making successful weddings. Based on my experiences, I wanted to share some tips for making your wedding day – and your photos – successful.
Making Your Wedding Day A Success
First, what is a “successful wedding?” For me it means that the couple were not just satisfied with their day, but that the day spoke to them in the sense that it becomes one of the highlights of their shared life experience. It means that they walk away with joy and positive memories that they will revisit throughout their lives. Here are some of the elements I’ve noticed that go a long way towards making your wedding day a success.
Work with an established wedding planner
I can’t stress enough how much positive difference a great wedding planner makes. From helping you visualize and realize your aesthetics, to connecting you with the right vendors, advocating for you with venues, and just helping you have peace of mind throughout the day and the planning process. A great wedding planner takes away a lot of work for couples and families who are trying to manage the process.
A great wedding planner also sets up your vendors for success. When I work with an experienced and established planner, I know that people will be on time for portraits, that any concerns or questions that the couple have throughout the day are going to be handled and not impinge on their experience, that details and decor will be ready with ample time for being photographed and a dozen other elements that ultimately affect photography. Just a few wedding planners who I’ve worked with and can highly recommend are Kristyn Kerkorian, Nicole Simeral & Co, Stone Event Planning, Cape Cod Celebrations, Elegant Engagements of Cape Cod, Rafanelli Events, Infinite Events, Mavinhouse Events, 42 North Events, and Exquisite Events.
Planning for success: allow joyful surprises
My clients often work in areas where they are managing large projects and/or have significant responsibilities in their jobs. They understand how to plan a project and see it through, which is in good part because they know when and how to delegate (i.e. a great wedding planner). That said, you don’t want to over-plan. Yes, you can over-plan your wedding day. Leave some breathing room in your timeline. Plan to have some downtime on your wedding day when you can just sit back, relax, and take it all in. Be prepared to be surprised – by how everything looks when it comes together, by some funny and unexpected moments that will no doubt arise, by the magic of putting together people in your wedding party or guest list who come from different walks of life, and by the photographs that will emerge and show you your day in a new or different light. Molly and Dave laughed through the their portrait session with some of the youngest guests at their Chatham Bars Inn wedding.
Enlist your bridal party in your wedding day
Your wedding party – or close friends/family if you don’t have a wedding party – are there to help. That’s right, besides showing up and looking great, the wedding party traditionally are there to work or perform certain duties. Hair out of place? Need a touchup on your lip gloss? Need someone to help with your veil as you walk down stairs? Straighten a tie? These are all part of the assistance that your closest friends are there to provide. Lean in to your wedding party. Let them help and truly be a part of the insider’s wedding experience. Don’t shy from letting them know in advance that they’ll have some tasks that come with being part of the inner circle on your wedding day. The wedding party at this Lord Thompson Manor wedding were on point with both the tasks and keeping up the fun energy throughout the day.
Unplugged for success: Make your ceremony cell phone and camera-free
Experiencing the world through a camera or screen is to not be fully present. I say this as someone who spends 8-10 hours a day photographing. I’m so happy and relieved when I hear an officiant say “please no cell phones or photographing during the ceremony. The couple wants you to be fully present in this moment and have hired professionals to cover the photographing.” You also don’t know how many times a hand with a cell phone’s electric screen gets jutted out into the middle of an aisle – in front of couples as they process and recess. These screens will be visible in your final gallery. Consider making your wedding ceremony cell phone and camera free like Dave and Patrick did at their Provincetown wedding.
Wedding Success: Be Present
The wedding day is such an elevated, atypical day that it can sometimes feel like an out of body experience. I never ask a couple, their wedding party, or close family something like “what time is it?” They have no idea. All of this high energy, other-worldiness of the day actually helps make successful photos. If you’re concerned that you’re nervous around cameras, don’t worry because there’s so much going on that couples hardly notice the photography. That said, try to be present as much as possible. This can mean waiting until after the ceremony to imbibe so you can be really present for your vows, taking a few moments of downtime, or just being conscious of looking out at your guests during the ceremony. Have some moments where you can breathe and take it all in. Abby and Graham had a short yichud – a tradition of taking a private moment just after the ceremony – at their Chatham Bars Inn tented wedding.