This is my 9th season shooting weddings, and the most tried and true piece of advice I can EVER give a couple is to not worry about rain, thunderstorms or snow on the forecast.
Now that my own wedding is a week and a half away, I can safely say
EASIER. SAID. THAN. DONE.
I totally get it! You’ve poured (no pun intended) so much time, effort, money, not to mention hopes and dreams into this one-day, once in a lifetime, epic commitment to the love of your life!
Thunderstorms on the forecast can definitely put a damper on whatever sense of ease you may have been trying to muster after so much planning.
I’d be lying if I said that seeing this forecasted for my wedding day didn’t make my stomach turn :
But then I had to just shake my head, close my eyes, and remember
one) Forecasts can change!!!
We all know that forecasting is rarely accurate, and that there’s no point worrying about it ahead of time. I could look at this tomorrow and there’d be a big sun sitting there, which wouldn’t make me extremely comfortable either.
See my next point for why!
two) Cloudy, rainy-day light is effing MAGICAL for photos.
The most incredible tones and beautiful even lighting always occurs on days when rain or storms are predicted.
I would say almost all of the most gorgeous weddings I’ve ever shot have been on days where it storms, at least for a little while.
The truth is that wedding days aren’t typically designed around the best light for photos, they’re designed with the purpose of fitting lots of important events into a timeline. As far as photos go- portraits are often taken in hot, harsh light that can be tough to work with and uncomfortable to be photographed in.
Why are cloudy, rainy days so perfect for light?
Imagine that clouds are one giant soft box/diffuser for that big light source we call the sun. It gives you perfect even light with no squinty eyes, no crazy color casts from clothing, foliage or the sky itself, and no blown-out highlights where the sun hits vs. dark shadows where it’s not.
While I know photos are the way to preserve the day in your memory and are extremely important to most people (including myself … cough cough BIASED), they aren’t the only important thing.
It still worries a lot of folks that a storm will disrupt the vision of how they saw their wedding going, which brings me to my next couple points :
three) Your Guests Won’t Mind
Everyone knows you can’t predict the weather, especially when you make plans so far out!
Your guests are ultimately there to celebrate with you – rain or shine!
Rainy days tend to be cooler and more comfortable. They’re easier on the eyes and the body. Out of all the weddings I’ve been to- the most agitated guests seem to be the ones who are sweating in bright hot sunlight, not those who are under umbrellas in a drizzle.
Bonus: Even if your guests get rained or snowed on a little- the camaraderie, the humor, and/or dramatic feel of weathering the storm with a couple who’s making a major life commitment to one another can ultimately add to the experience for guests instead of take away from it.
Not to mention – free booze at the reception is basically the duct tape that holds it all together without fail.
four) Look at the big picture…
At the end of the day- no matter what happens with the silly weather – you will be married to the love of your life.
Think about all of the proverbial “storms” you’ve already weathered throughout your life, the ones that gave you grit and character and made you into the person that your partner/future husband or wife fell in love with. We aren’t shaped by the perfect, and your wedding day doesn’t need to be either.
A little rain, snow, hail, whatever is not going to change the fact that you two are in love, and that this one day neither defines your past OR your future together. Only you two can do that!
So, if your wedding day is rainy and crazy and stormy- embrace it! You’re getting freaking married!!!!! And that’s something to celebrate, no matter how much precipitation happens to fall.
Now check out some more photos taken on stormy days to lift your spirits, and maybe even have you crossing your fingers for a little sprinkle on your big day!
2019 marks NINE years for me of shooting weddings professionally, so when people who know this hear that I’m getting married, everyone seems to be curious about the choices I’ve made after spending so much time in the industry.
The automatic assumption is that planning must have been a breeze for me, after all – I’ve had so many years to gather ideas, witness the pitfalls, the triumphs, know what stressors to avoid, etc.
Not for me, and not for most people. Even for trained event planners it’s still a pretty big deal!
A friend of mine referred to wedding planning in a way us outdoorsy folk refer to rough days in the mountains – “Type 2 Fun”. He couldn’t be more right. In retrospect will it be worth it? Absolutely- but it’s not so fun right now.
Part of my job as a photographer is to help guide future couples and to make their lives easier. Now that I’ve been on the bride-side of things, I feel like I have so much more to offer! Therefore I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned from my time in the industry, how I’m applying them to my own wedding, and a few new things I’ve picked up along the way!
First topic I want to tackle- VENUES!
Where to start : Choosing to look for venue in an area that holds a special place in your heart can make your day even more memorable – plus you’ll have that sentimental place to go visit over and over again.
Our first date was a camping trip in Allenspark, Colorado at an area overlooking Wild Basin (part of Rocky Mountain National Park) with an amazing view of Mt. Meeker – a prominent 13er in the area. It’s also the same exact spot where Bobby proposed to me and asked me to be his “adventure buddy for life”!
Naturally- this campsite has become a very important place to us. It just made sense to also get married somewhere nearby – so we started our search for venues in the Allenspark/Lyons/Estes Park area.
I knew I wanted a large private residence or a venue that provided lodging to our guests.
Why? In my experience, wedding days – especially those that involve guests who have to travel – can be extremely stressful for a couple who feels obligated to spend the few hours at their reception making sure to spend time with every single guest. No one wants their guests to feel like they traveled such a long way, and didn’t even get a chance to chat with the couple or give them more than just a quick hug and a “congrats”.
Venues that provide lodging for numerous people for multiple days allow a couple to spend quality time with their guests who are traveling. This alleviates the pressure to spend their entire wedding celebration worrying about whether or not they’ve had time to interact with everyone there. The couple will actually be able to just revel in their wedding celebration, doing what they want without stress or guilt.
Lesson 1: Take a venue tour.
The venue we thought we would choose and the venue we went with are so entirely different.
We went to look around at a prominent wedding venue known for lodging, and were treated pretty poorly by the staff. We were ignored and treated like an aggravation, and it definitely didn’t feel like a welcoming place in reality vs. the warmth that was conveyed in the imagery on their site.
On the opposite side of things – we really weren’t sure about the venue we ended up choosing before taking the tour.
The website didn’t quite do it justice, and the price seemed too good to be true! But within the first couple minutes of touring the Sunshine Mountain Lodge in Allenspark (though the address is technically Lyons), Colorado- we knew it was “the one”.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, surrounded by pine forests and aspen groves, 6 little red cabins and a lodge provide the ultimate Colorado experience to the laid-back outdoorsy type who really just want their wedding day to feel like they’re hanging out with their friends and family at basecamp before (and after) their grand adventure.
It’s perfect for weddings between 60-80 people, but can hold up to 100 and sleep up to 40 overnight. We have the venue for three nights which allows us to hang out with our friends & family before the wedding day, have community dinners/breakfasts, use it as a meeting point for hikes together, hang out by the fire pit in the evening, and there are no worries about folks driving home inebriated.
Not only is the venue just our style, but the owners – Cat & Cory – are the sweetest, and work so hard to make SML a cozy and homey space for their guests.
The cherry on top of it all is that it is just a short 15 minute drive from the campsite where we’ve made so many memories together as a couple, and we’ll be saying our own private vows there before heading back to the lodge for a larger ceremony with family & friends.
Lesson 2 : Consider how inclusive your venue is.
Because Sunshine Mountain Lodge isn’t a traditional venue, we had to piece our vendors together ourselves vs. just booking one big package. It’s no fault of the venue’s – we chose this path! But we didn’t quite realize how many small logistical issues can arise from doing everything yourself. Do NOT underestimate how much planning can go into building a wedding day from scratch, and having to worry about things like “who will pick up the 18 bags of ice? Where will we store it?”, etc.
All inclusive venues can be really nice for this reason, but they can also really limit you if you want to customize your day.
To us, Sunshine Mountain Lodge is the perfect venue for us and our crew, and totally worth the extra planning.
Lesson 3: Inform your guests about considerations they need to take given the venue you’ve chosen.
Sometimes when we live in an area like this, it’s easy to take for granted how much others might not realize. Make sure to inform your guests of pertinent information that they might not think of.
Some examples of things we’ve needed to tell our guests based on Sunshine Mountain Lodge being a venue in the Colorado mountains around 8500′ in elevation :
Anyways- that’s all for now! I hope that some of this advice has helped you think more about your venue, and if you’ve already booked it- what else you might consider when it comes to utilizing it. 🙂
I love shooting at all different types of venues, but am so excited to spend my own wedding day at this one. It’s a gem.
I’ll make sure to post a follow up blog and let you all know how it went! Only 22 days now!
One question I get from a lot of couples is “do you recommend a first look?” and often times- “do you require a first look?”. My answer is always a resounding “it’s TOTALLY up to you!”.
While it’s our job as vendors and experienced hands in the field to give you guidance, I would never absolutely require you to do anything that you weren’t super into on your wedding day! After all, this is a once in a lifetime experience and you should be living it exactly how you had envisioned.
In this blog post, I’ll list the reasons why a first look can be awesome, and why it also makes total sense to want to let things play out more traditionally in waiting to see each other until the ceremony.
Why do some couples opt for a “First Look”?
Some people/couples are more introverted, and the thought of having such an intimate experience in front of others gives them the heebie jeebies. If you’re the emotional type and the thought of crying (hard) in front of a crowd of people sounds like your worst nightmare, a first look can relieve those jitters and allow you to express yourself more vulnerably to the one you love in a much more private setting.
A first look isn’t always about nerves or not loving the idea of being so vulnerable in front of others, it’s about choosing to have a more one-on-one intimate experience with ones partner before walking down the aisle. A ceremony can go by in the blink of an eye, and with the knowledge that all eyes are on you- some people find they become a bit overwhelmed and don’t end up really remembering the moment as clearly as they would have liked.
A first look gives you the opportunity to really soak up that moment of seeing each other for the first time without the time limit imposed on you by the length of an aisle, and without the possible distraction of a crowd full of people witnessing it all. Typically a first look involves just the bride, groom, and the photographer. However some people opt to have their wedding party or close family on the perimeter sharing in the experience as well.
Pro tip: If a first look is something you’re leaning towards and would like to make it an even more meaningful experience, think about incorporating an intentional act into those first few moments together like exchanging pre-vow letters to read, or dancing to your favorite nostalgic song.
3. Timing (for Portraits)
A little less romantic, a little more practical.
Wedding days are always an exercise in time management. Depending on the flow of your day and the ceremony time- a first look can just make the most sense in order to achieve as many photos as possible before the ceremony.
This can be necessary for days in the late fall/winter when the sun sets much earlier than the spring/summer. If your ceremony won’t wrap up until 5pm and the sun sets at 5:30, a first look might be necessary in order to be able to achieve portraits while there is still light to work with.
Less pertinent but still important to many couples is being able to mingle with friends and family during cocktail hour. The less photos you have to take after the ceremony, the earlier you can begin to relax & party! This is super enticing to most after the stresses of the earlier part of the day, not to mention the months of planning you did to get you to that point.
The two major drawbacks of trying to achieve the majority of your portraits before the ceremony:
Stress. There are often so many things going on during the getting ready process that adding the stress of knowing your portraits are hanging in the balance can add undue anxiety before your “I do’s”. A lot of people are asking you questions, hair and make up can run behind (and it often does), a family member or wedding party member could be running late or running a last minute errand, etc. It’s worth it to consider how frazzled you get when stressors arise, and if you’re willing to risk that before your ceremony.
Light. As I stated above, if the light will be gone (or going) by the time your ceremony wraps up, this approach makes total sense. However, for weddings on the longer days of the year, trying to achieve the majority of your portraits mid-day isn’t always the best idea for light.
Mid-day light is often harsh (especially with all of the bluebird days we get in Colorado) and not typically the most flattering for portraits. The best time of day for light is what we photographers call “the golden hour”, which is the last hour before sunset or before the sun goes behind the mountains. A lot of times this is after the ceremony vs. before it.
If you’re not concerned about harshly lit portraits, I always strongly suggest taking 15 minutes or so around sunset for portraits of just the two of you in order to get at least a few photos with that dreamy lighting.
My recommendation for trying to break up the amount of time spent on portraits :
If a couple wants to minimize the time spent on portraits after the ceremony, I normally suggest they do a first look as well as portraits with the bridal party.
It’s often just easier to do family portraits when everyone is already in one place (directly after the ceremony). Then I suggest we do a couple more bridal party portraits in the softer light, and spend the rest of the time focusing on photos of just the two of you before making your entry for dinner.
The “Traditional” way, and why so many people still opt for it…
Though the “first look” is gaining more and more traction as couples start to defy/make new traditions for their wedding days, the truth (for me) is that out of the 23 weddings I shot last year, 15 still wanted to wait to see their partner until the ceremony!
Why do some like to wait?
Pure and simple. Some families/couples tend to just want to stick to the “rules”- which in the past have been to wait to see each other until that special moment when the doors swing open or the bride turns the corner to walk down the aisle. Some have said it’s even “bad luck” to see the bride before the ceremony, and “bad luck” + “marriage” are never words or concepts you want to think of simultaneously.
I do want to note that I personally don’t believe it’s bad or good look either way, it’s simply a matter of preference or what feels right for each couple.
I know that some couples feel that the anticipation leading up to the ceremony can be an exciting whirlwind of emotions. I would even go as far as to say that the most frequently requested photo on behalf of the bride is their partner’s reaction as she’s walking down the aisle.
Of course a “reaction” shot is definitely still achievable during a first look, but the build up of it happening in front of everyone just before you read your vows to one another tends to make it feel a little more exciting to some.
3. Sharing the Moment
Every couple has a different idea of how involved they want their family/friends to be in every aspect of their day. Some want to share everything from beginning to end- from lots of people piled into hotel rooms helping the bride & groom get ready, large group photos, open-mic toasts, and having everyone present to witness the reaction (and ultimately the realization) that you are actually doing this! You’re marrying the love of your life.
For my own wedding…
For those of you who don’t know, I am actually currently in the planning process myself and thinking about all of these things in a totally new light! It’s always easy to give advice, harder to take it. Isn’t that always the case?
I always thought that I would do things the traditional way and savor the anticipation of waiting to see each other until we were in the presence of all of our family & friends. Now though- upon reflecting on our relationship- I think we will do a first look.
Both of us moved away from our families, friends and our home state of Ohio to live in the mountains. Him to Colorado, and me to western North Carolina, and eventually to Colorado to be closer to Bobby. In that way we both acknowledge that our choices are very singular and motivated by our passions. Though we’ve had immeasurable help from the people in our lives who we care about/care about us, our partnership has very much revolved around an intentional decision to rely on each other for the majority of support we need here in Colorado. We’re also going through the very new, personal and trying experience of becoming first-time parents together without the support of family close by.
Because of these things, I think that having time to ourselves to really absorb the commitment we’re making on the wedding day will be in keeping with all of the other things we’ve done together as a couple. It would speak to the nature of how we’ve been living our lives together for the past couple years, and likely how we will continue doing so.
Our plan is to do a first look at our ceremony site, where it so happens we also had our first date AND got engaged! There we’ll exchange letters (not vows) and just share some time together before the ceremony begins.
I seriously can’t wait.
At the end of the day…
It really doesn’t matter how you choose to do the big reveal! Some couples are even choosing to wake up together and spend the entire in each others presence, helping each other get ready, etc. I think this also seems incredibly special and I can’t wait to document something like this as well!
No matter what you choose to do- the end result is always the same. Looking the one you love in the eyes and telling them you are committing your life to theirs is going to be a truly incredible experience, and that wont change based on when you choose to see them for the first time on your wedding day. <3
As always- if you have any questions at all please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop a line in the comment section! 🙂 I’m always glad to be a resource!
Hey hey! It’s FINALLY here! The second installment of my series “Questions & Considerations”- and it’s all about “Must Have” shots! I’ll be discussing what exactly that is/means, how to manage expectations, as well as giving some examples of things to think about when crafting a shot list. 🙂
A lot of couples have a very specific vision of what they want their wedding day to look/feel like and put so much time and effort into making everything a reflection of themselves. My job as a wedding photographer is to make sure I’m able to document as many of those meaningful things they’ve incorporated into their day as possible!
Most of the time I have a running list in my head that’s as automatic as muscle memory for me (with room for creativity of course). After 7 full seasons of shooting weddings, I know all of the essentials in terms of shots-to-get. Everyone wants a photo of the first kiss, the reactions the bride(s) and/or groom(s) have when seeing each other for the first time, family portraits, etc.
Where a “must have” shot list comes in handy is when a certain subject, person, or event is *particularly* important for a reason that I might not immediately assume. This is especially important if you’re going a more non-traditional route, which more and more couples are opting for every day! (High five!!)
Step One: AVOID THE BOTTOMLESS BLACK HOLE OF PINTEREST!!!!!
I want to say right off the bat that I don’t discourage pinning or Pinterest whatsoever! As I’m planning my own wedding, I’m sure I’ll be making an inspiration board on there and spending far too much time pining away over DIY table settings (and then never actually making them). I always encourage my couples to send me their Pinterest links (if they have them), as it really does help to get an idea of the type of shots they lean toward and favor.
For example, one bride sent me her wedding board and I noticed over and over again her pinning shots where the couple was very small in a vast landscape. When I shot her wedding, I didn’t replicate any specific photo exactly but knew she really loved these types of shots. Therefore I made it a higher priority to get more environmental portraits than I normally might.
While Pinterest photos can rarely be successfully “recreated”, a Pinterest board can be a great way to supplement your “must have” shot list as a spring board vs. a landing point. I could write an entire blog post about why Pinterest shots should never be part of someones steadfast expectations… and probably will. If you’re curious, keep an eye out for that post in the future!
Step Two : Avoid the 4+ page checklists you find in wedding planners.
Keep in mind that you chose your photographer for their style, talent, and experience. Trust is so key in a photographer/client relationship and is essential to getting great photos that truly capture the day organically! The goal is to avoid feeling the need to hand your photographer a 4 page checklist with supplemental visual examples, because that level of stress and meticulousness will only haunt you on one of the most important days of your life. It’ll also make it very difficult for your photographer to focus on the day as it unfolds.
The best way to avoid all of this is by making a little list of these “must haves” (my recommendation would be no more than 10 “musts”) and communicating with your photographer about the vibe you’re going for before the actual wedding day. That way you know you’re on the same page, and you can just relax and take it all in!
Step Three : Give us grace.
Wedding days can be a blur! As a photographer in my 8th season of shooting weddings, I know there have been shots that I’d wish I’d gotten but hadn’t in retrospect. A wedding day can be a bit hectic for everyone involved! Remember that the most important thing is that ultimately you’re getting married to the one you love, and that your photos are going to reflect your day as a whole. If the place cards all got taken by guests by the time your photographer is done shooting your portraits, don’t fret. There are so many other important moments we will be capturing throughout the day that you wont even notice if not every single thing was documented.
Now for some examples!!!
Example 1 : Family Heirlooms
Nicoles grandmother meant the world to her and her family. Sadly, she passed before the wedding and couldn’t be there physically. Knowing that her grandmothers necklace would be serving as a reminder of her, I wanted to make sure to document this significant piece of jewelry. Had I not known the necklace was her grandmothers I might not have paid as much attention to it overall.
Example 2 : (Wo)man’s Best Friend
Pets are totally part of a persons family. Rachel & Carter made sure to bring their pups along to their wedding, and I wanted to make sure to incorporate them into their gallery as well. This guy just sat calmly on the bed and watched Rachel get ready. He’s too majestic to not make a cameo.
Example 3 : Family/Group Portraits
Family photos often require a bit of list-making, as family means different things to different couples! There’s also a varying degree of importance different couples place on photos of their family with them on their wedding day. While some might think every breakdown with every different family member is a given- it’s really not. For example, some people are very close to their mother or father individually and want photos with each of them separately as well as together. This isn’t always a go-to for all photographers to do individual breakdowns.
Make sure to let me (or your photographer) know what your particular preferences are, and even better- make a list of breakdowns you want to help keep us organized!
*Pro tip: Arrange groups from large to small, that way the extended family members can mosey on to the cocktail hour sooner vs. later. Lets be honest – most people would rather go have a drink or a snack instead of waiting for their turn in a photo. 😉
Example 4 : Sentimental Details
Rox and Harry are the perfect example of a couple who very intentionally crafted their wedding day to be an expression of them as people & a couple. They lined the trees back to their ceremony site with photos of them & their families & friends. They share a love of gardening and as favors decided to give their guests packets of Colorado wildflowers, some of which grow in their mountainous backyard. And as Rox is a creative, they decided it would be meaningful to hire a live plein air painter to capture their ceremony on canvas. It was super important to them that I documented all of the details that they worked so hard putting together.
Example 5: Not-So-Sentimental Details
While not every detail incorporated into a wedding day is necessarily “sentimental”, sometimes couples just freaking love what they/their vendor(s) have come up with and want to make sure it’s highlighted.
Elizabeth has a love for all things floral and specifically requested I make sure to capture more photos of the different arrangements than I might normally do.
Example 6 : Your Personality
All couples want beautiful images, but to some it’s even more important to make sure and convey certain personality traits that they think make them unique as a couple.
For example, Katie requested that I get a shot of her and her fiance Dave praying together before the wedding. While I might have usually gone onto the ceremony site right after the bride finished getting ready, in this case (because of the “must have” shot list) I knew that it was important that I stay around a few extra minutes to get this image. Their faith is super important to them as a couple, especially seeing as they met at a church and ministry is a huge part of their lives.
I also can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve been told by couples “we’re not super romantic! Can you make sure to get other photos of us that aren’t so mushy?”. A perfect example of this is Courtney & Ryan.
Courtney made sure to let me know that they were a goofy couple by nature, and didn’t want their images to solely be all lovey-dovey shots. Therefore we worked together to make sure their quirkiness and love for laughing together was incorporated into their wedding photos as well. Cue the booty grab! 😉
Example 7 : Desired Locations for Photos
Part of our job as photographers is to take in the scene and decide where might be the best light/location for photos! While we love for you to trust us on this front to a certain extent, it’s always good to know if you have a preference when it comes to a spot or feature on the property that you’d love photos in/on/in front of!
Jessica & Spencer got married in Dunn, North Carolina and really wanted to incorporate Southern Charm into their wedding day and imagery. Therefore getting photos inside of the gorgeous historic mansion they were married in front of was really important to them, as it spoke to the nature of the area they made their life together in.
Likewise, Danyelle & Tristan had a super eclectic and bohemian wedding where there were so many options of backgrounds to photograph them against. However, Danyelle knew that across the street from their venue there were some massive willow trees that she really would love photos in front of. I’m so glad she made sure to let me know about these, as I may have had a totally different vision and never thought to use the willows across the street vs. the lake behind the venue.
In conclusion, must have shot lists are awesome. I personally send all of my clients questionnaires to keep me organized on the wedding day, and I go over that sheet- specifically the “must haves” again and again before arriving to a wedding to make sure I don’t miss anything!
I want to make you cry tears of joy when you look back over your photos- and it makes my job and life far easier when I know what’s going to tug at your little heart strings. <3
As always- if you have any follow up questions let me know! I AM HERE TO HELP! 🙂 Just leave me a comment or shoot me an email : email@example.com .