I've been to a lot of weddings.
Unless you’re also a wedding professional, there’s a pretty good chance I’ve been to more weddings than you. Behind the scenes, I’ve seen it all – mistakes, mishaps, everything going wrong and everything going right. I’ve learned a lot and I’m ready to drop some knowledge.
I know wedding planning already takes (sometimes literal) blood, sweat, and tears. The purpose of this guide is to reduce that stress. I’ll answer the questions you probably already have in the back of your mind, and some of the ones you haven’t thought of yet. Mostly, my goal is just to tell you all the things wedding photographers wish their couples knew. It’s a lot, so feel free to take some notes and refer back to this guide at anytime during your wedding planning.
I'm a big fan of preparation.
So let’s make a plan, a backup plan, and a backup-backup plan. Let’s make sure everything is picture perfect now so that you can relax and enjoy your best. day. EVER! Things might happen, but it will be okay. Be kind to yourselves and remember that the most important thing about this day is celebrating your love with the ones that love you, and you can’t go wrong with that.
I love engagement sessions. They are the perfect opportunity for us to get to know each other better before your wedding. You get a chance to get comfortable in front of my camera. Best of all, you get photos of yourselves as an engaged couple to keep forever and remember your time as fiance’s!
They’re also great to have for use on your save-the-dates, invitations, or to print out and display at your wedding!
Engagement Session Locations
This list could go on forever, but what I recommend is picking somewhere that appeals to you as a couple. What does a typical date night look like for the two of you? Let me third wheel for that! Let’s go to the restaurant you had your first date at. Or do you love hiking? Let’s hang out on your favorite trail! If you love exploring together, let’s take an adventure to someplace on your bucket list. If .you really just enjoy the comfort of your home, a cuddly in-home session might be for you! Whatever it is, I just want to capture you together, as you really are.
What do I wear?
The same concept for locations applies to your clothes: make sure they feel like you. You need to feel comfortable and confident in order to look comfortable and confident in front of the camera! That being said, I do have some tips to guide you while you’re picking your outfits.
COLORS: Think neutral. This doesn’t have to mean only black, white, and grays. If your favorite color is red, go for it – just consider a more neutral tone of red like a deep burgundy or an earthy burnt sienna. Bright colors will distract from the backdrop of the location you choose and from you!
FIT: Choose something that fits well (not too tight, but also not extremely loose) and think about how it flows. Try on your outfit and really move around in it. Does it fall back into place on its own, or do you have to do a lot of adjusting?
TEXTURE: Texture is so important in a photo! Different fabrics, frayed edges, lace, embroidery, ruffles, layering with denim jackets or chunky knit sweaters (depending on the season, of course) are all ways to add some interest to your outfit. Jewelry can be a great way to add texture as well, but less is usually more and it needs to be wearable. Wear it with your outfit when you move around to test it out!
DON’T: dress like identical twins – your outfits should compliment each other! Also stay away from large or loud patterns, clothing with logos, super high heels, and colors that blend in too well with the location (if we’re shooting in the desert, your olive green dress might just look like a very pretty cactus).
DO: keep colors earthy and neutral, any patterns non-distracting, and choose your outfits together! Feel free to bring multiple outfits, and make sure they compliment each other. Think about how your full gallery will look since you will likely have these photos side by side more than once!
More Engagement Session FAQ's
How long is the session? These sessions usually average about an hour, depending on our location and whether you have outfit changes!
What should I do to prepare? Do whatever makes you feel most confident! Get your hair or nails done, take your time relaxing and doing your makeup, or just have a drink or a dance party in your kitchen before your session,
Should I bring anything? Just bring yourselves and anything you want included in your session! (Band tees from your first concert together, burgers and fries to share, whatever!)
Can I bring my dogs? Please do. Really. But, I also recommend bringing a friend or someone else to hang out with your dogs while we do the rest of your session. This is also highly, highly recommended if you have kids you want to include!
Wedding Day Timelines
You probably have a general idea of how your wedding day is going to go already, but where does photography fit in? As we get closer to your wedding date, I will reach out and help build a more personalized timeline for your day, but here are some examples!
First look or not?
“First look or not” seems to be the question of the century for weddings. It’s such a small portion of your day, but it can seriously affect your timeline. As a photographer, I personally really like first looks, but they aren’t for everyone! Here are some things to consider:
Pros of a First Look
- You get a quiet moment to enjoy each other before your ceremony – if you are more private, sharing personal vows together here might appeal to you more!
- All of the wedding party portraits can be done ahead of time
- Less time that your guests will spend just hanging around waiting for dinner
- You’ll have more time to enjoy your guests after the ceremony
Cons of a First Look
- Guests won’t see the first reaction (except in photos)
- Wedding party may have to be ready sooner for their photos
First Look Alternatives
- If you really want that first reaction to happen as you’re walking down the aisle, but also want to relieve some time stress, consider doing a “day-after” session! On any date after your wedding, we can do your bridal portraits in any epic location you want!
- Also consider a first look with other important people, like your parents or bridesmaids! Their reactions are going to mean almost as much as your significant other’s, so give it a chance to be captured to its fullest!
These shots often end up being some of my favorites of the whole day. This is the time that so much real, raw emotion comes out, especially when you’re sharing it with the people closest to you.
I want to make sure all the real feelings get captured so that you can look back and remember every detail for the rest of forever. This is what I need to make sure that nothing is distracting from this important part of your day:
Your Getting Ready Space
– Most venues have separate dressing rooms for each half of the wedding party to get ready. If the venue doesn’t have great space for this, consider getting an AirBnB, hotel, or other calm space close to your venue to get ready in.
– Make sure your space has plenty of light, preferably natural light. This will help with photos, as well as with your makeup!
– Keeping the space organized and free of clutter will also not only help me, but it will keep everything calmer and just help your day go more smoothly.
– Leave extra, EXTRA time in your schedule! If something goes wrong, leave time to fix it. If you run late getting ready, your schedule could be completely thrown off if you don’t have a buffer.
All the Details
When I arrive, one of the first things I will do is detail shots. This gives me time to explore the venue (if you’re getting ready there) and allow you to get settled in before I start snapping shots of you getting ready. To make sure neither of us have to stress about collecting all of your detail items, please have them all together in one location. This is also a good way to keep anything important from getting lost! Here are some items you may want to include:
- Your invitation suite
- Both sets of rings
- Wedding Dress (and a pretty hanger!)
- Wedding Shoes
- Your jewelry
- Your vows
- Any other special items – something old or something borrowed
– The reason for the day, right? Even though it’s obviously the most important part of your wedding day, I recommend keeping it short and sweet!
– When choosing an officiant, make sure you both have a clear idea of what you want in your ceremony, and what can be cut out. Also remember that your officiant will be in a lot of your photos, so choose someone special to you if possible!
– Also ask that your officiant move to the side when pronouncing you so that I can capture your first kiss without someone else in the shot!
Setting Up Your Ceremony
– The MOST IMPORTANT PART of your ceremony space is the light. Remember – I can work with all sorts of lighting conditions, but I can’t move the sun or change shadows! If you can, visit your venue at the same time your ceremony will be to see where the light will be.
– If it is indoors, try to choose a space with muted natural light. Big windows are amazing, but make sure sunlight and shadows won’t be streaming in right into the spot you’ll be standing.
– If it is outdoors, make sure the sun is low enough to be behind you, and that you’re not in a position where you will have shadows or harsh light on your faces. Outdoor weddings at noon just aren’t going to work out very well, so don’t do it.
– I highly recommend a stylist if it is in your budget! Sure, your wedding party can help set everything up, but anything you can take off your list will help your wedding day go that much more smoothly. Stylists are also pros at making sure things are set up to look their best in your photos.
– During the ceremony, I will be moving around the edges of the ceremony space. If you have any more than 3 or 4 rows of chairs, I will likely also be in the aisle to get the necessary shots without obstructing anyone’s view.
Keeping it Unplugged
– This doesn’t mean go acoustic. Please ask your guests to put their personal cameras and phones away during your ceremony. You don’t want someone’s cell phone in the pictures of you coming down the aisle, and you definitely don’t want your grandma to miss your vows because she is trying to figure out how to make the darn zoom work on her camera.
– Speaking of acoustic, an important question for your venue and/or DJ is whether microphones and speakers will be available for your ceremony! It’s a huge bummer when your guests aren’t able to hear you say “I Do”, Make sure speakers are placed far enough away that they will be hidden from the photos!
We said "I Do!" What's next?
– Make your walk back up the aisle as newlyweds photo-worthy! Pump your favorite song or give your guests loose petals, biodegradable confetti, or bubbles to celebrate the end of your ceremony!
– You just got married! Well, mostly. I’ve watched so many officiants run around trying to find everyone to sign the marriage certificate before they have to leave. It’s not official until it’s on paper! Designate a spot to go to directly after the ceremony to meet your officiant and two witnesses.
– I also recommend that you skip the old-fashioned receiving line, let your guests start the cocktail hour, and make sure everyone who needs to be in photos meets at the same place you are signing your marriage certificate. Getting everyone in one spot is much easier before they start to mingle and party!
– Instead of giving me a family shot list, designate one person to be in charge of directing and grouping people for family photos (I won’t know who your aunt Susan is).
Let's Catch the Sunset!
Whether or not you decide on a first look, I always recommend sneaking away for a quick 15 minute session right at sunset to make sure we get those epic shots of just the two of you!
We’ll discuss the exact timing of this when we build out your timeline, but depending on the time of year, we ideally want to be able to do this directly after family photos (winter), or after toasts and the cake cutting (summer).
Look up the time the sun sets on your wedding date, and plan your ceremony time around that!
When choosing a venue, the first most important thing is probably to make sure you are protected or have a backup plan in case it rains or a dust storm rolls through. The very next thing on the list is LIGHT. Always, always keep light in the front of your mind while planning.
– I love windows. I love natural light of any kind. But if your reception space has windows and you still expect to have sunlight during your reception, make sure there will not be direct light streaming in on any important areas (the dance floor, your sweetheart table, ect)
– I will likely be using a flash for the majority of the evening, especially if your space is very dim. I do my best to keep it as non-distracting as possible, but it is necessary! The more light there is in the room, the less I will have to use the flash.
– An important question for your DJ is whether they will be providing any lights. Communicate with them about exactly what type of lighting you want. Are crazy colors and flashing lights not your thing? Make sure they know that! Colored lights are tons of fun for dancing, but I always recommend they be turned off for the serious dances (first dance, parent dances, ect).
– If the sunlight is still hanging out for some of your reception, make sure the important areas are backlit (i.e. position your sweetheart table so that the sun is behind it and you are facing away from the light)
– Since there will be no ceiling lighting, try to make sure the space is as evenly lit as possible! Twinkle or Christmas string lights are pretty, and I 100% recommend using them as accents, but they don’t actually put off much light. Use cafe-style string lights with big, bright bulbs. These are great for light and look beautiful!
– Communicate with your DJ! Make sure their station is not positioned in front of any viewpoint that you want featured in your photos. Talk about the kind of lighting they will provide, if any, and make sure it matches the style of your wedding.
Hi, my name is Arianna
and I like to party.
Capturing the actual celebration portion of your day is my favorite part! I love floating around your reception and getting to capture those real moments of celebration and people just having fun!
A good DJ or live band is essential to getting people out on the dance floor. Make sure you are able to review your DJ’s playlist or submit your own! Talk to your DJ about how they typically get people dancing, and make sure that meshes with your family and guest’s personalities!
A celebratory exit as newlyweds is not only an amazing photo opp, but a great way to end the night on a high! Alternatively, if you don’t need me for the entire night, but want to capture the exit before I leave, you can always do a “false exit”. This gives any of your guests that may not be able to keep up with the party an opportunity to say goodbye, and then you can keep on partying! Here are some ideas for an exit:
- Sparklers are a classic! Get extra long sparklers so we have more time to celebrate, and more than one chance for the perfect shot. I’ll have your guests hold them high above you forming a tunnel for you to run through.
- Smoke bombs are a dramatic exit on their own, or they can be combined with sparklers! Stick to one color of smoke, or combining one color with a neutral like white or black. Be sure to use these safely – here’s a guide!
- Confetti cannons will require some cleanup, but they’re amazing in photos! Make sure your guests pop them nice and high. Biodegradable confetti or confetti made from dried leaves and flowers is always the best option.
- Bubbles are fun and require minimal clean up! Make sure the space you are exiting from is well lit, or I may not be able to capture the bubbles adequately.
Another great alternative to a sparkler exit is a sparkler ENTRANCE to your reception! It’s an amazing way to get the party started (and get all the playing-with-fire out of the way before anyone has partied too hard).
This is a list of local vendors I know and love! This list is a little bare bones since I am fairly new to Arizona and still getting to know local vendors, but I am continually adding to it as I work with more and more amazing wedding pros!