WEDDING + ELOPEMENT GUIDE
Welcome my friends! I created this wedding and elopement guide as a tool to help couples create an authentic day that feels really real to them. Along with some words of wisdom I have learned while photographing weddings throughout the years. We’ll chat over some of the norms the wedding industry makes you think you might need (spoiler: you don’t), lighting (my personal favorite), couples portraits and some unconventional places to consider for your day. Onward my friends…
STAY TRUE TO YOU
Creating and planning your day can come with a lot to-do's and while it's great to go down the list of wedding norms, my first and strongest suggestion to any couple is to create a day that really rings true to who you are. Let me repeat that, create a day that is completely true to who you two are.
Don't be afraid to step out of the box, say no to all the things that perhaps the wedding industry makes you feel like you have to have or do. Be bold and make a wedding + elopement that's completely your own. Whether that's choosing to get married on top of a mountain or in your family backyard, saying your vows during a first look, or shaking off any wedding traditions that just don't quite fit you two; I'm here to tell you that you can do things your own way to keep it truly sincere.
I'm also here not just as your wedding photographer but as a resource and a friend. I work closely with my couples to help create portraits that really reflect who they are. Whether that's helping you choose an unconventional place to get married, placing together your wedding day schedule so you have plenty of time for the portraits you want, lighting tips, vendor recos, or if you simply need to grab a beer or coffee and talk, I'm down. Whatever it may be, just know I'm here.
For some couples beginning their wedding + elopement planning starts with finding a place to share the day together. There can be a variety of factors when trying to find an amazing spot for the day… location, vibe, available date, cost, and such. I truly believe it all comes back to staying true to who you are and creating a day that really fits you. If a big room wedding with a cost per fork and spoon just isn't your thing, then consider an elopement, or a small backyard wedding, or an unconventional place such as a brewery, greenhouse or National Park. With a little out of the norm thinking and some planning, you can create an environment that speaks to you two and those in your circle.
Above all, give yourselves the time and space to sit down and write out what your wedding or elopement looks like for you two when looking at a place to celebrate the day. Often times the most unconventional places will surprise you.
Think of natural light as a special guest at your wedding or elopement. Natural light is the best type of light to capture in your photos and is a beautiful element to factor in throughout your day. I've dropped below a few main areas where natural light can bring your portraits to life.
GETTING READY: Lamps and overhead lights mixed with natural light can create a bummer orange-ish tone in your portraits. I suggest getting ready for your day in an area with lots of windows and natural light. You can open up the area you're getting ready in by pulling back the curtains or opening up the blinds. The area you get ready in should be a space where you feel relaxed, have room to breathe and feel at home.
CEREMONY: If you're planning for an indoor ceremony, natural light can truly be your best friend with large windows to bring in lots of natural light. This will give you stunning portraits and an opportunity to capture those real moments. For outdoor ceremonies, things to consider with light are time of day and direction of light. For ceremonies later in the morning or in the afternoon, the light can become fairly harsh but not to worry. With this time of day, it's best to "backlight" yourselves or place the sun behind your officiant or alter area. I'm happy to help assist with this and provide some additional information where the sun will be for your date and time of the ceremony. You can always find a bit of shade for your ceremony as well to give you a break from the mid-day sun. For ceremonies in the evening, I can work with you on your day-of schedule so you'll have time to capture your ceremony, couple portraits and any group portraits before any daylight is lost.
GOLDEN HOUR: We've all experienced those beautiful warm sunsets in all their grand tones as they drop over the horizon. Golden hour is the hour before the sun sets and it's when the light has more air to cut through, therefore it's softer and contains warmer tones which gives you that gorgeous light in your portraits. Utilizing this time, also known as Golden Hour, is something I ALWAYS try to place into every wedding schedule if you two are good with it.
RECEPTION: Receptions most often come after the sun has set or in a more low light area. Typically I will keep shooting with the natural light available until the dance party starts and then I will use my flash. For bands or DJ's or venues with their own lighting setup or colored uplighting, let’s kindly ask them to keep the colored lights or dance party lights off for the first dance, special dances or toasts since this can give off different colors on your skin tone. No one wants their skin tone to be purple from the venue’s uplighting!
The time getting ready before your wedding or elopement is such a sincere time. Whether you're getting ready separately or together, it's the quiet time to yourselves where the day begins to feel very real. Below are a few tidbits to help capture the authenticity of this time.
LIGHT: Like I mentioned above, getting ready in a room with a lot of natural light is pretty dreamy.
ALL THE THINGS: Most of the time, you've got one space and a lot of getting ready to do. With this comes wedding party suitcases, clothes, hair and makeup tools, water bottles, food and it can get a bit scattered. When I arrive, I normally help clean up a bit and shift a few things around so you won't get too much of that clutter in the background of your photos. Keeping suitcases and such in a closet or another room is also helpful!
THE TWO OF YOU: Getting ready for the both of you is equally a special time. I recommend having a room full of natural light for both of you. I also suggest throwing off the conventional norms if you’re having an elopement or smaller wedding and would like to get ready together. Yes yes, I know this sounds a little out of the box but consider it if you'd like to have that extra time spent together. Remember it's your day, so do what speaks to you both.
HAIR + MAKEUP: If you have the ability to bring in someone for hair and makeup, I always suggest this. Normally the hair and makeup individuals are great about keeping things on schedule and spending a quality amount of time on you both so you look and feel your best. Before the bride or brides, hop into the dress(es), I'll ask if hair and makeup to do some last minute touch-ups by a window or a naturally lit area so we can get some stunning portraits of you.
Over the seasons of photographing weddings + elopements, the first look is something I absolutely LOVE and I haven’t experienced any negative kickback from it. The first look is time for just you two to see each other before the ceremony. You two can laugh, cry, hug it out and express all that you're feeling for each other. For the fellow introverts (I feel ya!) it really gives you the opportunity to convey what you want to each other without having to do it front of all your guests. You can also exchange your personal vows during this time or do something special for just the two of you! You can venture to the top of a mountain, share some beers or grab a pizza… seriously whatever is unique to you two!
Having a first look is not only sentimental but it can also take some stress off of you with the wedding day schedule. Along with the first look, you can also take couples portraits, family portraits and/or wedding party portraits before the ceremony if you'd like since you’ve already seen each other. That way you can enjoy the rest of the day's festivities instead of rounding people up for photos post ceremony.
I think we’ve covered that this entire day is about you two! I work closely with my couples to create a day and a photo schedule that prioritizes photos for you two. I suggest placing in two timeframes for couples portraits: a time after your first look and a time during Golden Hour. During and after the flow of your first look, you two are connected, emotional, and so happy to see one another. This is a wonderful time to stay present and celebrate time for just you two. During Golden Hour, I'll normally sneak you two away before the last light of the day to get in a few more sentimental portraits as the sun drops. Sometimes stepping in front of the camera can bring about some nerves so I've created a quick guide here to help provide some tips and details on what to expect. A few key things from the guide to keep those photos real and full of love are…
Do what feels normal to you guys. If I give you direction, make it your own. You know how to love on each other better than anyone so if it feels awkward, adjust it and I’ll help along the way. Just breathe, relax, be yourselves.
This is a combined effort! I go by the mantra... show up for your space. I’ll capture you two in the most honest way and you two put your love into each other. Without any love in it, it just becomes photos of poses and landscapes.
Move A LOT. Basically keep on moving the entire time. Whether that’s swaying, playing with each other’s hair, playing each others hands, giving each other some nudges… again, feel free to make it your own.
Don’t worry if it’s been a little bit since I’ve given you direction. That just means you two are killing it and I’m just working on getting amazing photos and digging in the creative groove. So don’t freak out or feel you have to ask what to do next. Just keep doing you!
With our social media flowing and our ability to take photos at the snap of a camera phone, I suggest an "unplugged ceremony". This is when you kindly ask your family and friends to refrain from taking photos during your ceremony. This can help your friends and family truly be present during the day and not be so concerned with getting that perfect photo for social media. It also lets me capture the true genuine reaction of your two and your guests while you’re walking down the aisle; instead of capturing photos of people capturing photos and blocking the view of you walking down the aisle. All in all, having an unplugged ceremony places everyone’s energy and attention into enjoying the love and emotion of the day and between you two. If you choose to not have an unplugged wedding, then I do suggest requesting that guests don’t get into the aisles to take pictures and refrain from using their camera flash.
Don’t let this umbrella-holding-doesn’t-want-to-be-photographed wedding planner fool you. She’s the gal that makes the wedding day go-round in a beautiful, smooth sailing fashion. No matter if your wedding is big or small, a wedding planner is a solid piece of the puzzle on your day. I know, I know it sounds way better to save some money and have a family member or close friend handle everything but I have been apart of those wedding days and yes, they were beautiful (of course!) but there is seriously nothing better than a good, prepared wedding planner that anticipates what’s going to happen, makes sure your vendors/guests/wedding party are where they need to be and on time, has an insanely good rain plan, and most of all, takes all that weight off your shoulders from all the little things/decor/schedules/communication and does it for you. Ahhh just even that sentence alone feels 100 pounds lighter, don’t you think? Here are a few wedding planners I’ve worked with that are amazing…
AND ABOVE ALL
Weddings and elopements have their own unique, beautiful and unscripted moments and remember to embrace it all. Truly have a wedding that is your own, one that you'll look back on 30 years from now and say "that was really us in every way". With trust and collaboration, we'll create portraits that will bring you right back to the emotion of your day and last a lifetime.