Photographing The Wedding Preparations & the Start of the Day
Wedding Day Nerves
Many brides (and sometimes grooms) wish to have their preparations documented. This can be a very nerve wracking time for the bride as she anticipates any last minute problems and the special day at last becomes real to her. I photographed one wedding in London where the bride was so nervous that she only allowed me to take one picture of her having her make-up done – and that was in the kitchen with pots and pans behind her. Thankfully she relaxed as the day went on.
Wedding Photography Flexibility
Until the morning of her wedding, no bride will actually know how she will feel and it is important for the photographer to be adaptable to any changes and respect last minute bridal requirements. This is a very important time, as the photographs taken here set the tone for the day ahead. If I am designing a photo story book as part of the couple’s wedding photography package, I devote a whole section just to the preparations.
Many Photographic Opportunities
There is always something going on as the day begins: The bridesmaids/best friend/parents arrive, make-up is applied, champagne opened, a proud dad sees his daughter in her dress for the first time (below) and so on. Your photographer must be prepared for anything as surprises can (and often do) happen.
Must-Have Preparations Shots
There are certain things from the wedding preparations that I always try to photograph:
Hair: Often the bride’s hair is done early in the morning or out at a hairdresser. This could make it impractical for the photographer to document this part of the preparations. If this is the case, don’t worry. A good photographer will ensure that there are plenty of shots of other goings on to more than compensate.
Make-up: Positioning is very important here. Ensure you position your make-up table in front of a bright window if possible. Leave space around it to let the photographer move freely. Delicate and directional window light is extremely flattering. It should be used to good effect. Your photographer should be discrete and not get in the way of the make-up artist. Often it is the MUA who apologises but she has no need to.
Details: There are plenty of wedding details to photograph at the preparations. The flowers and buttonholes are delivered. The something old, new, borrowed and blue items are there if this tradition is upheld. Then there are the dress and shoes, good luck cards and maybe even the rings. Your wedding photographer should look for these things. Let him or her know if there is anything important to you or less obvious that you’d like photographing.
Possible Locations for the Bride to Get Ready
The couple’s home or parents’ house can be the most personal place to be as there may be relics of the past – photos of the bride as a little girl or the groom’s Certificate of Achievement from Secondary School still hanging on the wall. There will no doubt be Good Luck cards and wishes about and various objects of sentimental value. Your photographer can either photograph these on their own or include them as part of a bigger picture.
Sometimes the bride may not be ready for the photographer when he or she arrives. Don’t worry about this at all – they can wait. I need about 45 minutes at the preparations, but prefer at least an hour just to be safe. Other photographers will vary. Sometimes the bride and her party will be ready ahead of schedule. In this case, the extra time is useful to take portraits (see below). However, it is more often the case where the morning slips away and last minute tweaks and dress adjustments are a bit of a rush.
I’ve also photographed wedding preps for a very short time – 10 minutes in a couple of cases. The brides’ just wanted photos as they left the house (or shortly before) and I then travelled to the ceremony venue with the bridal party.
The calm before the storm: Okay, so weddings aren’t usually stormy (fortunately I’ve never been involved in a stormy one!)… There is often a time at the preparations when the bride is alone with time to breathe and think about the day to come. I feel an immense sense of gratitude and privilege for what I do when she feels comfortable enough to have me photograph this moment as with Lindsay in the above and below photos.
Location of the preparations can vary from hired apartments to hotels to the childhood home… All give different opportunities and scope for some good photography of this early part of the wedding day. When time permits, I like to take the Bride and various members of the party away for a few personal shots. At home this could be a group shot with the Bride and Bridesmaids in the garden or with her Dad outside the front door.
Hotels have a wealth of attractive backdrops. Wandering about the corridors looking for attractive photo spots is good fun and very worthwhile. Shortly after the hair and make-up is finished and she puts on her dress, the Bride looks her best. This is the perfect time for some shots of her on her own, full of hopes and anticipation for the day ahead.
The Groom’s Preparations
If the bride and groom are getting ready at the same venue, then your photographer should be quite happy to float between the rooms to take some shots of them both at various stages of their preparations. Here, the bride should take priority, but if I can get shots of both, I’m happy to do this.
Gay Wedding Preparations
It’s not often that I’m asked to attend and photograph the preparations for an LGBT wedding but on the odd occasion that I am, it’s always good fun and high-camp! The grooms or brides generally prepare together and it’s lovely to capture them both enjoying these precious moments at the start of their wedding day.
Leaving for the Wedding Venue
At last the bridal party are ready to leave for the venue and marriage ceremony. Your photographer may often have to leave a while before the bride to get establishing shots of the groom and guests at the wedding venue. I find this to be the case more at religious venues. In register offices, the bride needs to attend a legal meeting with the registrar to check the details and eligibility to marry. This leaves me with time to photograph events from the groom’s side before the bride makes her grand entrance…
Why Should We Have Our Wedding Preparations Photographed?
I’ve tried to include as many examples of wedding preparations photo opportunities here as I can. Lots of couples don’t want this part of the day photographing. I think that it’s the most unpredictable and part of the day and very good fun. It’s a chance to get a diverse and memorable set of images. With the nerves, fun, anticipation and emotion, the preparations remain a key part of a wedding day.
My advice is if you’re unsure, then do book your photographer to cover at least some of your preparations too. The scene will be well and truly set for your day to unfold…
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