For Part 1 of my wedding day tips: – ‘Choosing Your Wedding Photographer’ to ‘The Ceremony’
Preparing for Your Newport* Wedding – Things to Think About – Part 2.
*As well as Newport, I also photograph weddings throughout the UK. This guide applies to those too!
Posed Wedding Shots – Group and Couple Portraits…
Following your wedding ceremony will be the best time for any group shots you required. This can take up a lot of time if you are unprepared.
A good reportage photographer will try to take the required selection of posed shots as efficiently as possible. This is the only time during the day that they will need to make themselves heard so as not to interrupt the flow of the day by spending too much time on these shots. I’m naturally an observational documentary photographer which means that I take natural reportage photos with the utmost discretion. Posed shots are a necessity at most weddings and I do accommodate, but I prefer my group shots to be fun and informal – it really depends on the couple and their personalities/requirements though.
If your photographer is more traditional, then he or she will spend much longer posing guests and ensuring everything is just so.
Tip: Give your photographer a list of posed photographs before the day and delegate an usher or two to assist in gathering people together for the required shots. This will help to work through your group shots quickly and with minimum disruption. My questionnaire has a field to do this.
I like to spend up to 15 minutes alone with the couple to get a good selection of posed and unposed portraits using the ceremony or reception venue as the backdrop. Most venues have attractive grounds to use and it’s good to wander and see what we can find. Again, I try to do this quickly and with little fuss.
There is often a break in the celebrations as the bridal party and guests move on elsewhere for the reception and wedding breakfast. Sometimes the ceremony and reception venues are the same, in which case much of the below will not apply. Newport is the third largest city in Wales with many reception venues to choose from, so this may not necessarily be the case.
The photographer has the option of doing several things during travel time between venues… If he or she is driving, obviously they will have their own transport to think about. Personally, I don’t drive to weddings as it frees me up to concentrate more on the photography during this transition time.
So, a non-driving photographer may travel with the guests. Quite often I find myself boarding a Routemaster bus – a popular option to transport a large number of guests easily. It enables me to take some fun and natural shots of the journey which all help to tell the story of your day.
Sometimes I travel with the bride and groom in their car and we can then stop off and get some of the posed and natural shots of them. Newport boasts many attractive backdrops for this. These shots are very important to achieve at some point in the day as they make great prints or a cover for your thank-you cards. Plan a route or detour that means something special to you as a couple, but check this is OK with your driver beforehand.
Tip: Hire a bus for your guests and have the driver take a tour round some popular landmarks. This will give you extra time alone or for some couples shots. It will also be nice for the guests particularly if they are from out of town. Ensure there is alcohol on-board to start the party early! Of course, you could always travel with them too…
The Wedding Drinks Reception…
On arrival at the evening venue, drinks and canapés are often served. This is a time when most of the formalities are over and the couple have a chance to take a breath and chat with their family and friends properly for the first time.
It is also a great opportunity for your photographer to take many natural shots of the interactions and expressions of love that will organically be going on at this time.
The drinks reception is a great time for natural photography and the more that is going on, the more your photographer will have to work with. For me, it’s all about creating memories… Think of fun additions such as a dressing up box for the children (and adults!), whether or not you’ll have entertainment and if it’ll be outside (Newport whether permitting).
Guests frequently ask me to take small and informal group shots of them and I am very happy to do this. It is also a great time to go off and take some detail shots of the dinner tables, place settings, flowers, cake and everything else you’ve included to help make your day so special.
Tip: Occasionally (well, quite often!) things run a little late and this can limit the time for drinks. Some venues allow for this whilst others are very strict about the time to serve dinner. Check with your venue beforehand about what happens should things overrun. This can often depend on the caterers flexibility, so if hiring them separately, check with them too.
The Wedding Breakfast & Speeches…
There are many different possibilities and ideas for your wedding meal depending on your tastes and budget. It can be a buffet in the upstairs of a pub or a sit down 8-course meal in a top Newport hotel (or lighthouse!).
During the meal is usually when your photographer will take their break. No-one wants photos of themselves taking a mouthful of food, so I generally cover the guest’s seating and the couple’s entrance. I then go for my break and return for the speeches, but stay close at hand in case anything unexpected happens.
The couple are normally announced into the dining room after their guests have been seated. This will be the first time you will sit down together as a married couple, so please take your time and enjoy the moment. Your entrance makes for a good sequence of photos in the album, but the photographer will need a few extra seconds to ensure they get some great shots of it.
Wedding speeches can vary from only a few minutes to half an hour or more. Your photographer should maintain discretion whilst also getting all the shots of the speakers and guests and couples reactions. I try to move around so that I don’t get in the way of anyone too much. There will usually be tears and emotion during the more sentimental speeches – especially from the Father of the Bride. Often the couple give gifts to key people such as the bridesmaids, best man and parents.
Wedding breakfasts (i.e. dinner) are one part of the day that might possibly overrun somewhat. This may be because the caterers were slower than anticipated at getting the courses out or the speeches were longer or just that everyone felt relaxed and content to sit for a while over coffee and liqueurs. If you’ve booked your photographer for a set time, ensure that they are happy to stay on in case of a later finish. I’m very flexible and don’t mind doing this at all. I was once due to finish at a wedding in Newport at 9pm but ended up staying on until gone midnight due mainly to the food being delayed.
Tip 1: Large displays of flowers in the middle of the tables can look lovely and really add to your wedding theme. However very tall arrangements can make it tricky to get clear shots of the couple and their guests during the speeches. If your photography’s important to you, this is well worth considering.
Tip 2: Think about where the people giving the speeches will be standing. If they are near you when speaking then there is likely to be more interaction between you. Your photographer will capture this, giving context to your photos.
The First Dance & Evening…
The couple usually cut the cake and perform the first dance shortly after the meal. This is one of my favourite times of the day for capturing some stunning images that personify the couple and their new marriage. As friends and family gather round and the lights dim, the couple launch into a carefully rehearsed (or not!) routine to a favourite song.
The cake cutting is usually the first thing that happens after dinner. The Newport venue will often choose where the cake is located which can often be a dark corner with a fire extinguisher on the wall. Don’t worry if the background isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing – the photographer will make it look much better. For me, it’s nice to document this, but it’s not one of the more important parts of the day. I often ask the couple to feed one another a piece of the cake which makes for much more fun photos as they delight in shoving far to much into each other’s mouths!
I always ask the bride and groom not to worry about what I’m doing during the first dance. They are invariably far too ‘in the moment’ to notice anyway. Discretion is important, but I do use a wide lens and need to go close for the more intimate close-ups. I feel it is important to take a mixture of these and some wider shots with guests in the background looking on which adds context. I like to take a sequence of shots if possible as this works well in the wedding album.
Tip: Couples are sometimes unsure about having a first dance as they feel they will embarrass themselves. Just go with it and have fun – ham it up even… As far as photography goes, I think it is crucial to have a first dance as it really finishes off the set of photographs and the results can be well worth the effort.
The Newport City Council List of Approved Marriage & Civil Ceremony Premises
Belle Vue Park Pavilion and Conservatories, Friars Road. NP20 4EZ.
The Celtic Manor Report, Coldra Woods. NP18 1HQ.
Coldra Court Hotel, Chepstow Rd, Langstone. NP18 2LX.
Fields House, 18 Fields Park Avenue. NP20 5BG.
Holiday Inn Newport, The Coldra, Newport. NP18 2YG.
Lysaght Institute, 445 Corporation Rd. NP19 0HE.
Malpas Court, Oliphant Circle. NP20 6AD.
The Mansion House (Newport Register Office), 4 Stow Park Circle. NP20 4HE.
Parc Golf Club, Church Lane Coedkernew. NP10 8TU.
Peterstone Lakes Golf Club, Peterstone Wentlooge. CF3 2TN.
St Mellons Golf Club, St Mellons. CF3 2XS.
St Mellons Hotel, Castleton. CF3 2XR.
Tredegar House, Pencarn Way. NP10 8YW.
The West Usk Lighthouse, Lighthouse Road, St.Brides. NP10 8SF.