Getting ready for your wedding day
When I talk to couples and plan out their wedding photography, one of the main questions that I get is, “What will you be taking photos of before the ceremony, when you’re getting ready?”
Many times, they don’t think that part of the wedding day in the morning is important. They even suggest I skip it altogether.
However, it’s probably the most important part of telling a story of your big day.
I once heard a quote that I think about often and it goes like this, “In the silence, we find meaning.”
When I look through the photos after a busy day of photographing a wedding, I find soft-toned magic in the silence before the ceremony. There, I can see people by themselves and their true selves before all the pomp, circumstance and pageantry once the wedding begins.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve created photos with such stillness and peace that help to accentuate people’s anticipation and excitement of getting married, and finally celebrating with a big party at the reception. The morning sets the foundation for everything else.
Prepare ahead of time for good-looking photos
Not all preparation photos are created equally, and getting the best out of your getting ready photos requires some collaboration.
— The first thing to think about is the location.
Many couples will get married in a church. Although it’s easiest to get ready at the place where you’re getting married, church basements and nurseries without windows aren’t the greatest spots for inspiring photography. And getting ready in a small, cluttered room won’t give the photos that elegance you want.
Instead, maybe think about renting an Airbnb close to your ceremony site, a place that has a lot of natural light and some room to fit your entire bridal party. An Airbnb has the added bonus that it will be clean and are generally designed to be fashionable and stylish.
In one of my Milwaukee weddings, a couple had found an Airbnb that had two floors, so one side of the wedding party stayed on the first floor and the other side stayed on the second, never seeing each other before the wedding.
— The second thing you can do is think about what you and your party are wearing before you put on the dresses. Without thinking, you may wear your favorite ratty old sweatshirt as you’re getting your hair and makeup done. Although it’s comfortable, it’s not something you’ll want to remember 40 years down the line.
If you don’t want to buy something special or matching, try to find something that’s clean, simple and under shadows your bridal dress.
That can be as simple as wearing a long plain button-down shirt with matching shorts underneath. Other alternatives are rompers, pajama sets, dresses and robes.
Things to do that bring out the emotion
At the end of the day, getting ready photos don’t have to just be … about getting ready!
I want to find emotion on a wedding day and highlight the relationships, so sometimes I’ll give suggestions for people to do things that bring out those family and friend dynamics. At the very least, it can get everyone thinking about something other than their nerves!
Most people know about the first look. Before the ceremony, the bride and groom can meet each other beforehand. They may cry and laugh. Generally, it’s a great thing to do. However, if you’re a bride, you should consider doing a first look with your father.
It can be an emotional day for your dad. You’re his little girl, and it will be the last time he’ll see you single and not married. There’s a reason why they call it “giving her away.” I’ve seen even the most stoic dads tear up or look floored by the beauty of their daughter.
Moms can get in on this too, even though most brides elect to have their moms in the room helping them get ready in the first place. Speaking of which, set aside specific time for your mother and maid of honor to help you finish putting on the dress and veil. Don’t be afraid to let it be a big moment.
For the couples, try writing each other a message or note before the ceremony detailing the extent of what you mean to each other. Write a little bit about some meaningful times in your history.
For this, you can even hand off the letters to each other around a corner or a wall, and I can take a photo that captures both of you — even though you won’t be looking at each other. Later, when I’ve delivered the photos, you’ll have the added surprise of seeing what the other person looked like at that moment and their reaction.
As for the messages themselves, I’d suggest doing this early in the morning. That way, if you do cry, then you can retouch your makeup. These times have always produced the most heartfelt emotions for couples.
Going along with this tone, you can plan for a period to relax and reflect ahead of the day. You can huddle up and say a prayer over the bride or groom, or just find a space to be quiet and alone. There, you can practice your wedding vows or speech or even write down your thoughts and feelings to keep for later.
Yes, I’ll still be there, but I know how to be quiet and let you have the moment to yourself.
For lighter moments, do a toast with your girlfriends or guy friends. Pop a bottle of champagne, and let everyone laugh as it bubbles over.
To add a little bit more to it, you can even go around the circle and each bridesmaid or groomsman can say something they appreciate and admire about the bride or groom. You can always rehash an old story too, something you wouldn’t necessarily want to be made public at the reception during the speeches.
If you have gifts for your bridesmaids or groomsmen, this is the time to take them out. You can hand them out to everyone and then pour the drinks and do the toast.
In general, when nothing serious is going on, don’t forget to crank up the music. It will definitely help with the nerves.
If you want help planning your wedding morning, I’d love to chat with you to make it a memorable one.