Wahoo! We’re engaged! Now what?
This happens to every couple. Once they come down from the excitement and jubilation of their engagement, reality starts to set in and they realize “uh, we have to actually start planning this thing!”
So, where do you start!?
The best place to start is to 1. Set your expectations for your wedding day (basically, what kind of wedding do you want to have?) and 2. Determine your priorities
Where couples get into problems is when their expectations are in conflict. For example, say you want your wedding to be a fun-filled party and you want to be able to hang out with your friends and family and be able to mingle a little with your guests. BUT you also want a receiving line, a lot of bridal portraits, all your immediate and extended family in your photographs, a long ceremony (traditional Catholic Mass for example), and you found the cutest little park for your bridal party photos, but it happens to be about 15min away from your venue.
Trying to squeeze all of this in is going to make you a tightly wound ball of stress!
If your vision for your wedding day is to spend as much time with your loved ones as humanly possible, then you need to eliminate the things that will take away from that – a lot of travel between your getting ready, ceremony, and venue locations, wanting to go to a separate location for portraits, and time-consuming things like receiving lines or a lot of family photos.
And the opposite is true as well – if you want to have a lot of photographs or a long ceremony or you’ve selected locations that require a lot of travel, then your expectations need to be set that you won’t have a lot of time with your guests.
There’s no wrong answer here. It’s about what YOU want. Just be sure your expectations align.
Once you have your expectations set. It’s time to determine your priorities.
If bridal portraits are super important to you then a photographer that specializes in posing would be near the top of your priority list. If you want to have a killer reception party, then a really good DJ or Band would be at the top of your list. If you want to look AMAZING on your wedding day then finding the most beautiful dress may top your list. If you want to be able to spend a lot of time catching up with your friends or hanging out with your family AND you want amazing candid photographs, then a documentary-style photographer would be a priority for you.
Again, there’s no wrong answer. Just make sure that your expectations are in-line and your priorities support your expectations.
- Minimize Travel
The #1 way to minimize stress on your wedding day is to limit your travel between locations. Nothing will throw a wedding day schedule off like unexpected travel delays, traffic, bad GPS directions, or late Uber drivers.
Personally, I suggest trying to have your entire wedding day in one location – Getting Ready, Ceremony, Photographs, Cocktails, and Reception.
If you can’t have everything in one location, then choose locations that are relatively close to each other. The 3 key locations being Getting Ready, Ceremony, and Reception.
If you do end up having to travel between locations, make sure you hire a professional driver. They are experienced with weddings and know how to plan for the unexpected.
2. Getting Ready
Getting Ready is a great time for brides and grooms to relax, sip a cocktail, and enjoy being with your best friends. But, if you aren’t careful, you can run into some delays that can get you behind schedule real quick.
Hair and Make-Up
Ladies, make sure you do a trial with your hair and makeup artist before wedding day. This will reduce the chance of any errors or mistakes that could throw your schedule off. I also recommend that you have your hair and makeup done at your Getting Ready location. Remember the tip about minimizing travel? That applies for your Getting Ready as well.
If you do want to travel to a salon for your hair, then make sure you allow plenty of time for your travel and for the chance that the salon could run a little late. Salons will have their regular customers in that day along with you and your bridesmaids so your chances of a delay are increased with the amount of customers that they are serving that day.
Plus, if you have your hair and make-up done at your getting ready location, there’s more time for cocktails 🙂 Just don’t over do it 😉
What do I mean by add-ons? I’m talking about all the extras that brides or moms or bridesmaids may ask for after they’re out of the make-up chair.
You know … the lash extensions, or the touch-ups, or the eyebrow tweaks, or even the occasional ‘do overs’ – believe me it happens! I’m not saying you can’t do any extras when it comes to make-up, but these add-ons are usually unplanned and they can cause significant delays in you getting out the door and getting to your first look and ceremony on time.
Plus, I typically like to do a quick portrait of the bride with your bridal party out of the room so you aren’t distracted. So, if your hair and make-up runs late then we may have to nix the portrait altogether.
So, in summary, plan your hair and make-up very carefully. Get a solid time estimate from your hair and make-up vendor and then add in about 30min to an hour of extra time just in case. The worst that can happen is that you have some time to kill – that’s better than rushing 🙂
For the guys .. well, the guys are easy. Seems like guys take about 7 minutes to get ready. LOL. Two things to watch out for fellas that could put you a little behind schedule …
Make sure you pack your tie!
I’ve had groomsmen forget their ties and other wardrobe accessories. Needless to say this can cause some unwanted stress and panic right before your ceremony. So, encourage your groomsmen to make a list of all the wardrobe accessories they need and have them check it and double check it to make sure they have everything.
Handkerchiefs, Bow-ties, and Boutonnieres
LOL. I’m cracking up just thinking about it. This happens pretty much at every single wedding I photograph – NO ONE knows how to fold a handkerchief or tie a bowtie (or a half-windsor for that matter) or how to pin a boutonniere!
Do yourselves a favor, watch some YouTube videos on how to do these before your wedding day. It will save you a bunch of stress and panic.
I would also suggest handing this responsibility to one of your groomsmen so at least ONE person knows how to do these things. Especially, boutonniere pinning! Make one of your buddies the ‘boutonniere guy’. Buy him a nice bottle of scotch or something as a thank you. You’ll be glad you did.
Speaking of boutonnieres. I’ve seen the flower head pop off boutonnieres more than once in my career. So, ask your florist to make one extra (I know some florists who include a spare). Better safe than sorry!
3. First Look
Second only to minimizing travel, First Looks are the best way to reduce stress and allow yourself to spend more time with friends and family on your wedding day.
First Looks are great because you can get your bride and groom portraits, your bridal party photos, and your family photos done in one place at one time. All before the ceremony!
With a First Look schedule, you avoid doing all your photographs in that short window after your ceremony and before your reception and you don’t have to miss your cocktail hour to take photos.
That’s a win for everyone!
4. Family Photos
Family photos are one of the larger time commitments on your wedding day. And if you are not careful, they can get out of control fast!
Some people will arrive late, some will wander off, some will miss them altogether, and some folks will make on-the-spot suggestions for additional photos which can cause delays and throw your schedule off.
In order to have your family photos completed in a timely fashion, we recommend including immediate family only.
And don’t worry, we will work with you to create a list of all your family you want included and have copies for wedding day.
5. Cocktail Hour
These days, Wedding Cocktail Hour has really become Photo Hour. If couples don’t do a First Look and have their photographs done prior to their ceremony, they end up missing their entire cocktail hour because they are taking bride and groom photos, bridal party photos, and family photos.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve done plenty of weddings where this is the case.
The problem comes when you make it a priority during your planning to spend time with your guests and then end up creating a wedding day schedule that has you miss out on the very time when all your guests are present – Cocktail Hour!
Make sure you set your priorities during your planning and stick to those priorities. If you don’t, you may have regrets.
6. Receiving Lines
I feel like Receiving Lines are a thing of the past, but then again they do pop up from time to time at weddings.
For those that aren’t familiar – a receiving line is when the bride and groom and their parents form a line outside of the ceremony and greet all the guests as they exit the ceremony. Some lines also include the honor attendants, the entire wedding party (if there’s room) or even grandparents. Depends on the wedding.
The idea behind the receiving line is that it’s your chance can greet all your guests and say ‘thank you’ for attending.
Receiving Lines can be loooong! Like 20 minutes long. Of course it depends on your number of guests. They can be a bit uncomfortable too because you are the mercy of the space available to you at your ceremony.
My personal opinion is that it’s a better use of your time to greet all your guests at your reception during your table visits.
7. Alone Time
I recommend that couples plan a little ‘alone time’ on their wedding day. I think it helps to have a little break away from everyone so you can catch your breath and recharge a little.
The best time to sneak away is right after your ceremony or during your reception.
After your ceremony
After you recess the aisle and make your way out of the ceremony, just head straight for a designated space for a little alone time. This could on the grounds of your venue if you’re having your ceremony there or the other side of the church grounds away from your guests.
During your reception
While everyone is getting down on the dance floor, you can make a quick getaway out of the reception to a secluded spot on the venue grounds or, if the weather isn’t cooperating, you could find a quiet spot inside your venue to escape to.
Alone time also makes for some amazing photographs!
8. Day of Coordinator
If your venue doesn’t have a Coordinator, I strongly recommend hiring one.
I photograph a lot of weddings at ‘non-traditional’ venues – barns, state parks, private homes, historic mansions, etc. These types of venues don’t have event staff so it becomes your responsibility to make sure your guests get to where they need to be and your wedding goes according to plan.
Do yourself a favor and hire a Day-of Coordinator to handle all the logistics for you because you DO NOT want to be herding cats on your wedding day.
You want to enjoy your wedding, not have to work it!
9. Documentary Photographer
How can you enjoy spending time with your friends and family on your wedding day if you are stuck taking photos for hours!?
The beauty of working with a documentary style photographer is that you get to be fully present with your friends and family on your wedding day while your photographer captures all the moments as they unfold.
You won’t have to stress about striking the perfect pose, your face won’t go numb from smiling a cheesy grin, you won’t’ have to cajole your fiance to smile at the camera.
You just have to relax and enjoy your day and let me, eh hem, your photographer take care of the photographs.
- You actually get to enjoy your wedding day!
One of the biggest regrets couples have about their wedding day is that they didn’t spend enough time with those people in their lives that mean the most to them! Taking photos can be a HUGE time commitment on your wedding day. Bridal party photos, individual bridesmaids photos with the bride, individual groomsmen photos with the groom, family photos, extended family photos, bride portraits, groom portraits, and couple’s portraits. Whew! That’s A LOT of time. And to get all this done requires you to miss a lot of your wedding day – mainly cocktail hour!
Not the case when you work with a documentary-style photographer. Why? Because we photograph your day as it unfolds with (little to) no interface from us at all. We won’t pull you away from your guests for hours to take portraits. We won’t torture you with endless family photos. We won’t have your bridal party jumping in the air or holding you in their arms like the Pinterest boards suggest. Nope. None of that.
You can be present for your entire wedding day, you can say hello to all your guests, you can catch up with your BFFs, you can have a moment or two with your family … you can even enjoy your cocktail hour!
All while we are documenting your day as it happens.
There are so many things that could distract you and pull you away from your guests on your wedding day. We don’t want photography to be one of them! When you hire a documentary wedding photographer, you can just relax and enjoy your day knowing that your photographer is there capturing all your most endearing and sentimental moments.
And, yes, we can work together and decide to do a few relaxed portraits (if you want) or group shots (again, if you want). Rest assured, we won’t be taking you away from your guests for hours, like some traditional photographers do. It’s your wedding day, not a photoshoot! We want you to have the time of your life and not worry about your photos. That’s our job!
2. Remembering what your day felt like, rather than what you had been told to do by a photographer.
This is huge. When you look at your wedding photographs, you can be transported back to the moment. That may sound a little cheesy, but it’s true! After all, that’s the power of good photography – the power to relive moments from the past. When you are flipping through your album, you’ll be transported back to the moment when your mom saw you in your dress for the first time, to the moment when your dad got all choked up during your Father of the Bride dance, to the moment when your little niece was sprinkling the church floor with flowers as she made her way down the aisle, to the moment when your fiance first held your hand as a married couple.
And that’s all because your photographer captured the moment naturally, without any direction.
On the other hand, if your photographer had told you to stand in a certain place, or strike a certain pose, or asked you to repeat the action of applying your make-up then when you looked at those images, you’d just remember being told to do something by your photographer. Surely not the memories that you want from your wedding day.
3. We tell your whole story, not just your story.
Documentary-style photographers don’t just focus on the bride and groom. We believe in documenting the whole story, not just your story. Your life is filled with people who have loved you, who have helped you, and who have supported you along your journey. There’s a reason why you’ve invited all these people to be at your wedding. Your wedding day is, first and foremost, a celebration of you, the couple, but it’s also a celebration and a ‘thank you’ to all your cheerleaders, your BFFs, your buddies, and, of course, your family.
Good storytellers know this. We know that a photograph with your grandmother on your wedding day will mean the world to you (and to her). We know that your mom and dad will melt when they see themselves get a teary-eyed during their parent dances with you. We know how important that group of college buddies you’re mingling with at cocktail hour are to you. We are fully aware that your little niece and nephew won’t be so little in a few years and you’ll be able to show them just how tiny they were on your wedding day.
4. We are the perfect cure for camera-shy-itis!
If I had a nickel for every time a couple said “Uh, we’re not so comfortable in front of the camera”. Everybody feels a little nervous about being photographed. We’re just not used to it. We freeze up. We worry about our ‘good side’. We worry about our hands, etc. etc.
The key to natural, candid, flattering photographs is to make your subject (you) feel right at home in front of the camera. We aren’t going to make you pose to fit some preconceived vision we have of you or to build our portfolio or to submit to a magazine or anything.
That’s not our style. Not even close. Our ultimate goal is for you to look at your photographs and say “Oh my god, that is SO us!” As storytellers, we want to tell your story authentically. We want YOU to shine, not us.
5. We capture the raw emotions.
Your wedding day is a roller coaster of emotions. The nervous anticipation during your getting ready prep, the joy and exuberance when you see each for the first time, the welling up of your eyes during your vows, the “jump for joy feeling” when you’ve been pronounced man and wife, the heartfelt sentiments of your best man/maid of honor speeches, and the uninhibited gleam in your eye when you bustin’ a move on the dancefloor til the wee hours.
There is nothing quite like a wedding when it comes to witnessing a myriad of emotions. It’s one of the reasons why so many photographers are drawn to weddings in the first place because capturing emotion is both so thrilling and incredibly rewarding.
And, do you know what? These moments of raw emotion can’t be staged. They can’t be recreated. They can’t be set up. That’s just not the way emotion works. It’s a spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment thing. So, if you want all the feels of your wedding day to be captured, you need to hire someone with the documentary skills to get them.
6. There’s no shouty/bossy photographer around
This just may be the best reason on the list! I’ve talked to A LOT of couples over the years and one of their biggest concerns is that they don’t want a bossy photographer around who is going to put a damper on their day.
A documentary-style photographer won’t be barking orders or telling people what to do all day long. Just the opposite actually. We blend right in with your friends and family as if we were just one of your guests. We do this because it allows everyone to have their guards down. And that’s just what we want because we want to photograph people at their most relaxed and natural. Afterall, that’s when people look their best. Speaking of …
7. People look their best.
As soon as people know they’re being photographed, they change – they freeze up, or get all stiff, or some even get a little goofy. The irony is that as soon as they do that, they look, well, stiff! Or they don’t look like their true selves.
On the other hand, when people are photographed and they don’t know they’re being photographed – they look their best. Because they don’t have the pressure of the camera, they don’t feel the need to pose or stiffen up or even throw up the ‘deuce fingers’ and make that oh so popular ‘duck face’ like you see on Snapchat.
We want people to look their very best. We’ve made remaining unobtrusive in a crowd of people an art-form. And we do this so we don’t draw attention to ourselves so people are blissfully unaware of our presence and, therefore, at their most natural.
8. Your photographs are unique – not cookie cutter.
Your wedding will be unlike any other – totally unique. So why would you want your wedding photos to look like everyone else’s? Shouldn’t they be just as unique as you and your wedding? That’s what separates documentary wedding photography from traditional wedding photography. We capture moments as they happen on your wedding day. We tell your unique story authentically. Nothing staged. Nothing forced.
On the other hand, traditional photographers follow a script that they’ve used to photograph all their other weddings. They use the same poses, they ask you to recreate the same ‘putting on some make-up’ shot, they have you stand in the same light for the exact same bridal portrait they’ve done a hundred times before. In the end, the photographs aren’t about you or your wedding, but instead are about the photographer and their poses, their method, their script.
9. You get the best of both worlds.
Yep, you can have your candids AND your portraits too! While the rules of documentary photography do not allow for ANY interference or direction at all, we here at Jeff Lundstrom Photography believe that tradition still has its place.
We believe in the beauty and timelessness of portraits. We also believe in the importance of family. As such, we are more than happy to capture some portraits of you both (if you want), and do the formal family group photographs, too (again, if you want). And don’t worry – we’ll make you feel right at home during your portraits and we’ll make the family photo experience painless and efficient so you can get on with the rest of your day.
So, you can still have 99% of your day captured candidly in a documentary style and all the amazing benefits that come with it while also having some lovely photographs of just the two of you as well as some family photos to make Mom smile.
10. Bonus – Same goes for your engagement session too!
I strongly recommend that couples do an engagement session with me before their wedding day. You don’t want your wedding day to be the first time that I point a camera at you. An engagement session helps you get comfortable with me and the camera and that helps you feel that much more relaxed and comfortable on wedding day.
Believe it or not, documentary-style photography can also be used in photographing your engagement session. “But I thought that documentary photography was all about photographing events with lots of people?” And that is true, but you can also have your engagement session done in this style too.
How? Simple. I just make sure that you are unaware of the camera. Done.
Candid photos are candid photos. Doesn’t matter if it’s a photograph of two people in a crowd of 30-40 people or with no crowd at all. Now, there are different techniques I need to use because it’s just the two of you in front of my lens.
Rest assured, I have a whole treasure chest of tricks that I use to get you to relax, be yourself, and be totally oblivious to my camera. All while pulling out real emotion from both of you. Yes, BOTH of you! You’d be surprised at how easily the guys let their guards down and totally fall into the moment during an engagement session.
Another great idea that I’ve seen more and more couples do for their engagement sessions that helps to minimize the pressure of the camera is to do an activity together. I’ve had couples do a picnic, I’ve had couples take their boat out on the water, I’ve had couples cook a meal together, I’ve even had couple take their dogs to the beach. When you are doing something you enjoy doing, you completely forget about the camera.
What are you MOST looking forward to on your wedding day?
I’ve had this question on my website email contact form for the last few years, “What are you MOST looking forward to on your wedding day?”
Wanna know the #2 most popular answer?
“Marrying the love of my life”
Wanna know the #1 most popular answer?
“Spending time with our friends and family”
I’m paraphrasing of course, but, in general, the overwhelming response I hear from my couples is “We can’t WAIT to celebrate our big day with our friends and family!”
Maybe not the answer you thought, right? I mean weddings are all about romantic love, right?
Or maybe not so much.
Let’s be honest. Weddings are indeed about love. The love between two people and their commitment to spend the rest of their lives together. That’s where it all starts. There simply is no wedding without that.
But for the couple getting married it’s about more than that. It’s about spending quality time with those that mean the most to them – their best friend growing up, their college buddies, their grandmother, their grandfather, their favorite uncle, their mom, their dad, their brother, sister, cousin, nephew, niece, etc. etc.
And, if I’m being honest, it took me a while to realize this.
When I first started out, I followed what all the other photographers were doing – perfectly styled photographs of the shoes, the dress, the invitation, the rings, and of course, bridal portraits. I would spend (what felt like) hours arranging the shoes and dress just so to get the perfect photo. I would even sequester the couple from their friends and family for over an hour doing pose after pose and creative shot after creative shot.
And back in the studio, after the wedding, culling through and editing all the day’s take, I felt like something was missing. The photographs were fine – well framed, good light, flattering poses.
A quality product for sure.
And, when I delivered the gallery, my couples were happy – ecstatic in fact! Which is all I really cared about.
But I had this nagging feeling inside that all I had really done was photograph a bunch of inanimate objects and perform an extended photoshoot of two people. There was no context to the photos. No sentiment to why those details were important. No story about the two people in the photographs. It could have been anywhere, anyday, anybody.
And that really bothered me. It bothered me because I realized that I was photographing in this way just to keep up with other photographers. I mean if they were doing it this way then I should too … right? If I wanted to get published on a wedding blog, like they did, then I needed to shoot a certain way.
In short – I believed that to be considered a professional I had to shoot like all the other professionals.
Boy, was I wrong!
And the funny thing is – the answer was staring me right in the face. Couple after couple who emailed me literally said that they are “MOST looking forward to celebrating with their friends and family!” That nothing else mattered to them, but to be surrounded by their loved ones.
So, why was I posing couples and styling things and trying to look professional?
Well, sometimes comfort zones are hard to break out of.
But I did.
And the funn(ier) thing is – I didn’t really have to change that much. I just shifted my focus (no pun intended) away from styling things and posing couples to simply observing what was unfolding in front of me and capturing the authentic moments that were happening between people there … the loved ones who helped get you here.
So, I want to know – When it comes to your wedding day, what are you most looking forward to?
Quaker Style Backyard Country Wedding
She just stood up, in the middle of the ceremony, and started talking.
At first, I cringed a little. I mean I had never seen a guest just stand up randomly during the ceremony and start speaking.
As I scanned the crowd, looking for their reactions, I noticed that no one seemed to mind.
Everyone was quiet. Some had their eyes closed. They were all just calmly enjoying the tranquility of the moment and that sweet country summer breeze.
After she was done, she sat quietly back down in her seat.
And another guest stood up and gave the couple her blessing.
Then I realized. This must be tradition. I mean it was a Quaker ceremony after all.
A Quaker ceremony is quite different from your regular protestant and catholic ceremonies because there is very little fanfare. Often referred to as the ‘silent ceremony’, Quaker ceremonies have no officiant, there is no homily, or prepared readings.
Rather the ceremony features a long period of silent, open worship in which the guests of the bride and groom offer their blessings individually. Afterwards, all the guests are asked to sign the marriage license as witnesses to the marriage.
Kat grew up on this farm. Her family has deep roots in the Pennsylvania countryside and their farmhouse has been in the family for decades. So, naturally, it was fitting that Kat and James have a traditional Pennsylvania Quaker Ceremony.
Pennsylvania Country Charm
I’d be willing to bet that not many of you reading this have ever heard of Bloomsburg, PA. Central Pennsylvania isn’t exactly a mecca for tourists.
I’ll save you the google search … Bloomsburg is beautiful. It’s small town rural America with a strong farming community. The landscape is something out of the Midwest with acres and acres of rolling hills and open fields.
Naturally, Kat and James’s ceremony and reception were outside with the rural splendor of the Bloomsburg countryside as the backdrop.
They exchanged their vows under the tree that Kat used to climb as a kid and danced the night away outside in the backyard where she and her childhood friends would play tag and catch fireflies.
Kat and James, it was an honor to photograph our wedding day. Thank you for including me!
Sarah and Dan were married on a beautiful October day, with a ceremony and reception at the Gallaher Mansion in Norwalk, CT.
I love it when couples choose unique venues like the Gallaher because it speaks to their personality and their desire to have a memorable experience for friends, family, and guests. Both Sarah and Dan are teachers in Philadelphia and have an appreciation for history—what’s more, Dan worked at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. So it’s no wonder they chose the historic Mansion for their wedding.
The day of the wedding was absolutely beautiful and perfectly matched the gorgeous setting—the Tudor-style architecture was the best backdrop for a quintessential New England fall wedding, and the expansive lawn was perfect for shots of the bride and groom. In fact, one of my favorite images of the day is the black and white image of Sarah and Dan on the terrace at night. The setting and the moment combined to give the whole thing a warm, romantic, nostalgic edge—like something out of The Great Gatsby.
The intimate ceremony was held in a secluded garden, and then we all headed to a lively cocktail hour on the terrace. Then, it was on to the reception, where they had a cupcake tower instead of a traditional wedding cake.
And dancing. Boy, was there dancing! This was the first time I’ve ever seen the mother of the bride dance on top of a table! Sarah’s family and friends totally stole the show on the dance floor. Of course, I should have seen this coming given the fact that the bride’s family are the playful and spirited minds behind the comic strip, Hi & Lois !
Sarah and Dan, thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your day. You were a blast to work with. I loved our Philadelphia engagement session, and I loved having the opportunity to capture your wedding at such a unique and historic location. Cheers to you both!