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Prioritizing MOMENTS, not expectations, on your wedding day (from a photographer’s perspective)

January 7, 2020



Welcome to the first #weddingwednesday of the year! I’m a Louisville-based wedding and portrait photographer, and I can’t wait to share some words of wisdom that will hopefully help those of you planning a 2020 or 2021 wedding to focus on the important things.

The cliché holds true: Your wedding day will inevitably speed by, leaving you and your new spouse misty-eyed and nostalgically wishing you could relive it to remember the little details. One thing you DON’T want to be wishing for is that you had spent LESS time on wedding photography, getting ready, hosting pre-wedding events, or other “must do” traditions that you feel like people expect.

First – it’s important to recognize that this is ONE rare day where the most important people in your lives are physically present to celebrate your love. That knowledge can be overwhelming and lead to meeting other people’s expectations instead of doing what would make you and your partner the most happy on your wedding day. DON’T feel like you have to. 

If you’d like to see some inspiration for an adventurous, low-key wedding at a BEAUTIFUL venue near the Red River Gorge, check out this styled shoot I photographed, published in the KY Bride Blog: https://www.kentuckybride.com/inspirational/2019/12/16/stye

One of my recent brides, Robann, had a beautiful, intimate, low-key wedding and reception (on two different days!). Her advice is this:

My wedding looked nothing like I have ever imagined…nearly everything was different than what I thought it would be, and I’m completely okay with that. I let go of what I thought all weddings are supposed to look like, and I focused on what our wedding was supposed to be for us.

You will disappoint someone with a choice you make…I realized I can’t manage everyone’s expectations of what my wedding should look like. So stand your ground and remember it is YOUR wedding. – Robann W.

Determine your priorities when planning and creating a day-of timeline. Ask yourself which elements of the wedding you’re most likely to remember on your first wedding anniversary. Which will be an integral part of your guests’ memory of the wedding day, and which ones are just fluff? As a wedding photographer, I have seen plenty of weddings where the couple has spent too much time on something that really didn’t add to their enjoyment, and even ended up stressing them out on the day of the wedding. Sometimes, this can include the formal portraits due to lack of preparation or prioritizing.

Read on for some universal truths about weddings and a few suggestions to have a wedding that truly reflects you and your spouse-to-be:

Universal truth #1: You will probably spend more money than you wanted, and you will get EXACTLY what you paid for. 

The bright side: You will recover the money you spent in the future, and you will be able to enjoy it, IF you invest it in quality vendors, focus on the important things, and forget the fluff. There’s a lot of tradition involved with weddings that is really just extra – no one will stop being your friend if you don’t give them a wedding favor, or do a cash bar instead of open bar. If you need to save in certain areas to splurge in others that are more important, DO IT. 

Universal truth #2: The bride will inevitably spend a looooong time getting ready

The silver lining: IT’S WORTH IT. If you haven’t had your hair and makeup done, you probably will for your trial run with your HMUA, and you will realize just how glam it makes you feel!!! Make it fun –  get a good night’s sleep the night before, have your bridal party with you to get ready, ask your MOH to make a great playlist, and send someone on a morning breakfast/coffee run. You’ll miss your bridal makeup and hair the next day, so enjoy every second of it! Also ask your HMUA to bring an assistant (or two, if you have a larger bridal party), to keep the getting-ready time in check.

Universal truth: You will need to carve out some time for wedding photos before and after the ceremony.

Some people love it, some people hate it – but IT MATTERS! Your wedding photographer is one of the MOST important vendors on your wedding day, because of that cliché we talked about: IT WILL GO BY SO QUICKLY! Many brides looking back at the wedding photos say they didn’t even remember a lot of the moments I photographed, especially during the ceremony and reception, because so much was happening during the day.

Strike a balance: You can still get the important wedding photos you want, WITHOUT it taking over as the main event of the day.

A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER will know how to balance the inevitably long schedule with an appropriate amount of formal photos, so that after the ceremony you spend the minimal amount of time with posed family portraits, and allowing you and your spouse to get back to the party and start ENJOYING the evening you paid for!

A GREAT photographer will also know to “read the room” and consider the couple’s feelings if they can see that they are tired and want to wrap up the formal portraits to sit down and relax. I think candid dance-floor photos are more fun, anyways 🙂

My suggestions for making the formal wedding day photos as quick and painless as possible, so you can enjoy the party:

  • Make a “shot list” for your photographer with specific combinations of people for MUST HAVE photos you don’t want them to forget, ESPECIALLY if you’ve got lots of family. This will help your photographer to call relatives over and move through the list quickly (Ex. Bride and groom with bride’s parents, Bride and groom with groom’s parents, Bride and groom with both sets of parents, etc.)
  • Plan to knock out most of your formal pictures BEFORE the ceremony: bridal party, groom party, and both parties together (if doing a first look).  Since immediate family is typically already at the ceremony site early, you can take some of the family portraits pre-ceremony as well. All you’ll be left with after the ceremony is extended family and bride/groom just married portraits
  • Ask your photographer if your package includes a second shooter, or request one, if desired: many photographers do hire a second shooter, and this is a great way to make the wedding photography more efficient. The second photographer can get the groom’s photos while the first gets the bride’s, and it also helps to have a second perspective during the ceremony to capture both people’s reactions. 

Still on the hunt for a wedding photographer who will be flexible and prioritize your time on your wedding day? Send me a message below and I’d be happy to schedule a free consultation via phone, email, or face to face. You can also visit my website, Instagram, or Facebook page for more examples of my work!

Thanks for reading, I’ve got more posts planned with wedding planning advice and healthy recipes coming up!

Johanna Elise | Frames & Letters Photography

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