HELLO AND WELCOME
I'm honored to be your wedding photographer!
I'm over the moon the you chose me to document your day, and I don't take that lightly. My clients feel more like friends & family, so welcome to the crew! Thank you for placing your trust in me. I want to make sure you have the best day EVER, so I've created this guide with you in mind so you have something to reference throughout the planning process.
Keep in mind that this is not a rulebook, and your day is exactly that - YOURS. These are just some tips & tricks I've accumulated from all of the weddings I've shot over the years, and I hope they're helpful to you as you dive into the planning process!
Always remember that I'm an open book and I'm here for you. If you have any questions that aren't answered here, or just want to say hey - text, email, or call me anytime.
I. ENGAGEMNT SESSION
We get to spend a few hours hanging out and capturing this season of your life together. I'll help with location ideas, what to wear, and guiding you through the whole session. You just have to show up and be yourselves!
II. STAY IN TOUCH
I'm here every step of the way, whether you need advice on bridesmaid dress colors, or just want to chat, don't hesitate to reach out! It makes my day to hear from you!
You'll receive an online questionnaire from me to gather other vendor contacts, family formal combinations, timeline information, and a few other final details! We'll also walk through the questionnaire and timeline together over FaceTime.
IV. WEDDING DAY!!!
THE DAY IS HERE! We celebrate, we cry, we dance, we have the best day EVER! You'll receive sneak peeks within 24 hours to hold you over while I work hard on editing your full gallery!
V. SIGNED, SEALED, & DELIVERED
Time to re-live your day!! You'll receive a link to your full online gallery within 6-8 weeks of your wedding day. I deliver as soon as I possibly can, so if your photos are ready before the deadline of course I'll send em your way!
LET'S DIVE IN.
Is there a place that's meaningful to you & your relationship? If there's not a specific place, think about the dates you love to go on together. Do you tend to go to the beach? Picnic on a cliffside? Grab drinks at a dive bar? A park near your place? Your photos will feel so much more like you if we explore a location that is similar to somewhere you normally would go together. Of course, you can always choose a location that you've never explored together — but have been wanting to! I have plenty of recommendations and love to show couples some of my favorite hidden gems.
LOCATIONS I LOVE:
Palisades Kepler State Park— Kent Park
Wanatee Park — Rock Island Nature Preserve — Lake Macbride State Park
Newbo — Czech Village — Uptown Marion — downtown Iowa City — old town Iowa City — downtown Cedar Rapids - downtown Des Moines
Think of these as a date night that just happens to be third-wheeled by a gal with a camera! Check out the blog posts on my website to see some of my fav ways couples chose to make their engagement photos special to them!
University of Wisconsin - Madison, WI
Kent State Park
Downtown Cedar Rapids
North Ave Shore, Chicago, IL
Cedar Falls, IA
The Map Room, Cedar Rapids
Kent Park, Tiffin
Lake Macbride, Solon, Iowa
Palisades Kepler State Park
What to wear?
First and foremost, wear what FEELS LIKE YOU. You can go so many routes with engagement pics which is why they're so fun. Some couples choose to wear something that matches their wedding color scheme, what they want on their walls, or literally just what's trendy (which is super fun too!) When in doubt, go for neutral tones that compliment each other but don't match. Avoid logos at all costs. And remember that shoes WILL be in photos, so avoid wearing your every day tennis shoes (*cough* guys *cough* *cough*) Limit yourselves to one pattern but don't be afraid to add texture. If possible, I recommend capping your outfit changes to 2.
Check out my Pinterest for engagement pic outfit inspo where I have linked items that photograph and look great, as well as my boards for engagement session inspo!
Being rushed on your wedding day is the last thing we want. My photography style is documentary, and I love to capture real moments as they unfold, but if everyone's rushed & in a panic, those real moments aren't going to happen as easily. To enable us to have a relaxed day, you should be ready to go about 2.5 hours before your ceremony time. However, there are lots of factors that affect this! Whether or not you do a first look, the size of the wedding party and families, and travel time between locations will all be factored in when I suggest timing for portraits! About 6 months out you can expect a detailed questionnaire going over all things wedding photos to be sure we have enough time to capture all of your wants. Then we can set up a time to chat via Facetime/Zoom/over coffee or drinks to go over a suggested timeline for your day. I'm more than happy to send you a questionnaire sooner if you'd prefer to work directly off of my suggested timeline in order to schedule out other vendors. Just let me know when you're ready for it! (See below for few sample timelines)
What is a first look, and should you do one?
First looks are one of my favorite modern day wedding trends — for a few reasons! A first look allows you to spend more time with your partner on the morning of your wedding day, instead of waiting until the ceremony to see them. You can take this time to read letters to each other, or simply just breathe, embrace, and take a quiet moment to yourselves. From a photography perspective, doing a first look allows us to take photos before the ceremony, leaving you to enjoy most of your cocktail hour instead of having to cram ALL of our photos (wedding party, family, & you two) into a single hour. A common fear I hear from couples is that if they do a first look, their partner won't be emotional when they walk down the aisle later on — and I've found this to be the total opposite! Nothing can take away from seeing your person walk down the aisle to a beautiful song, with all of your friends & family surrounding you. I've seen many brides/grooms still tear up walking down the aisle even after doing a first look earlier in the day! With that said — I never want you to feel pressured into making a decision for your wedding day that doesn't feel right to you. I've photographed weddings with and without first looks, and at the end of the day, all that really matters is that you're happy with whatever you decide!
How much time do we need?
I. Getting Ready
Unless otherwise indicated in your questionnaire preferences, most often I arrive at the prep location just as the bride is finishing hair/makeup—that way, we can get a few photographs of the final touches. I'll also photograph some flat-lays of your details (stationery, flowers, heirlooms, etc) so remember to gather everything so that they’re ready for me to photograph when I get there! Either myself or my second shooter will photograph your partner's prep.
Ceremony length totally depends! A short and sweet ceremony might last 15 minutes; something more in depth (like a church service) more like 30-45, or even an hour.
III. Family & Wedding Party Portraits
The amount of time these take depends on size and family/group combinations. I recommend keeping the different combinations to a minimum—any more than 15 can start to eat into cocktail hour and/or the time we have set aside for couple portraits. If you do a first look, we can do the majority of wedding and family party photos prior to the ceremony!
IV. Couples Portraits
I'll take as much time as I can get with you two! But, I typically recommend setting aside at least 30 minutes on your wedding day for couples portraits. I always like to steal you away at sunset for a few extra portraits if the light is right!
I typically only need to photograph about 30 min- 1 hour of open dancing in order to get a good amount of variety of people dancing & having a good time! If you're doing a big exit at the end, consider doing a smaller "faux" exit I can photograph, so you're not paying for extra photography time that you don't really need!
If you've hired a videographer to capture your day, be sure to ask them how much time they'll need to capture each segment of the day (ex. bridesmaids in robes photos, couples portraits, bridal party portraits, etc.) so that we can factor that time in accordingly. Please let me know this in your questionnaire so I can be sure to add that into your timeline and we don't run behind the day of!
LOCATION & LIGHT
Some of my favorite moments on a wedding day happen before the ceremony! Getting ready spaces are filled with the anticipation + excitement of the day to come. However you want to spend your morning before you get married, make sure it's in a clean, bright space. Lots of window light makes my job easier & your photos a whole lot dreamier - so if your venue doesn't have a great bridal suite, look for an Airbnb with open space, lots of windows, and neutral walls. I encourage you to think about your getting ready space now, instead of leaving it until the last minute - because where you choose to spend this part of your day will have a big impact on the way your morning feels.
Cramming 8 bridesmaids, hair & makeup artists, a photographer, videographer, and family members into a single room filled with ALL your stuff can feel chaotic, as well as make your photos feel cluttered. If you're getting ready in a hotel room - consider getting an extra room or using a family member or friend's room as designated clean space. That way, we have a clean room for photos and a quiet space for you to hang out in if you need a moment to yourself.
DETAIL & FLATLAY PHOTOS
Capturing the little details of your wedding day is how I like to begin my photography time! Typically, this includes flat lays of your invitations, heirlooms, shoes, rings - really anything that is important to you two and telling the story of your day! This time also helps me center myself and gives me a chance to get the creative juices flowing. Having all of the items you'd like captured in your flatlays in a shoe box is very helpful to be sure I don't miss anything you want included in your photos. I recommend giving this box to a bridesmaid, personal attendant, or any other friend so that you don't have to think twice about it on your big day when I ask for it!
Remove all tags + items from packaging ahead of time. It can take me a while to get everything off & sorted if it's not done a head of time, which cuts into your getting ready photos!
WEDDING PARTY PHOTOS
These are always such a fun part of the day. I love to capture both those classic smiling at the camera shots as well as prompts with movement so that your photos feel organic and authentic. I always start by grabbing a few big group shots with your parties on their respective sides, and then all mixed up. Then I'll photograph each side individually, plus individual shots of you with each member of your bridal party. Then we get creative with whatever time is left! If you have a specific photo request or want certain groups of people photographed together (such as college friends, friends from home, etc) please make sure to let me know on your questionnaire ahead of time!
FORMAL FAMILY PHOTOS
Family photos can be a little bit stressful to navigate if you have a big, rowdy group — so making a list is the best way to keep us organized, and to make sure we don't miss a photo that's important to you. I recommend keeping this list to about 15-18 different combinations. Each photo takes about 1-2 minutes, so the more combinations — the more time we need to take these. Remember that I can always grab family photos more informally during the reception!
Feel free to work off of the following sample list:
B = Bride
G = Groom
B + G + bride's parents
B + Mom
B + Dad
B + siblings (both as a group and individuals - if not already done during bridal party photos)
B + G + bride's siblings
B + G + bride's immediate family
B + G + bride's grandparents (Mom's parents, Dad's parents)
B + grandparents (Mom's parents, Dad's parents)
B + G + groom's parents
G + Mom
G + DAD
G + siblings (both as a group and individuals - if not already done during bridal party photos)
B + G + groom's siblings
B + G + groom's immediate family
B + G + bride's grandparents (Mom's parent's, Dad's parents)
G + grandparents (Mom's parents, Dad's parents)
B+G+both sets of parents
B + G + both immediate families
It's more than helpful to create a list of desired family photographs and enlist an organized wedding party member or two to gather family members for the upcoming photographs. This way I can place them and crank out those shots ASAP.
I also suggest using only first names on the list so calling out certain people for photos will be even easier! Be sure to share and confirm this list with any parents beforehand so that there's no confusion on your day as to who you would like photographed - this almost always add extra time and stress if trying to figure out during family photos!
Your wedding day portraits are similar to your engagements — just with way fancier clothes! I typically like to scope out locations beforehand, but I'm always open if there's a certain spot at your venue that you've been envisioning photos at, let me know on your questionnaire! I never want our portrait time to take away from you fully experiencing your wedding day, so I try to move quickly to ensure that we're getting great photos but you're not missing too much of the party!
All you have to do is be present with one another, enjoy this time together, and I'll take care of the rest.
Even if you do a first look & opt for doing photos before your ceremony, I'll often steal you two away for 15 or so minutes before sunset for some golden hour magic. The lighting is dreamiest about an hour before sunset, and if it's a clear day - it's 100% worth taking advantage of. This usually happens during right after you've finished eating dinner and your guests are still getting food, so they don't even notice you're gone!
Golden hour lighting
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
If outdoors, is there shade or will you be in direct sun? Ideally, shade is preferred both for photos and your own comfort. Standing up there in the middle of July, blazing sun, sweating from both nerves AND heat isn't fun! Space is also important to think about. Is there enough space in the aisle for you & your wedding party to walk down? Is there enough space between the front row and bridal party? Can your photo/video team move freely around the perimeter of the ceremony space to get different angles, and capture guest reactions? (Please note that if you're planning to have your ceremony in a place of worship, this will more than likely affect where I'll be able to shoot from! Often restrictions are put in place that may limit my ability to get different angles/shots.)
Lighting is EVERYTHING. Whether your ceremony is indoors or outdoors, think about the available lighting. If indoor, is there any natural light from windows or skylights? Natural light is best, but if there isn't any available — you can add lots of string lights, hanging lights, lanterns, or candles to improve the lighting and your photos. If your ceremony is outdoors (this is always going to be your best possible lighting no matter what), what time of day will it be? Try to visit your venue around the time of day you'd like to get married so you can see what the lighting situation is like. Later in the day is typically better lighting than midday bright sun. Let's chat if you need help with this!
I. If you're opting for an unplugged ceremony, have your officiant make an announcement at the beginning of the ceremony. Often times guests ignore/don't understand unplugged ceremony signs! (See more info in tips & tricks)
II. Ask your officiant to move out of the way when you kiss! That way they aren't awkwardly behind you in your photos of the moment.
Don't be afraid to think outside the box when planning your ceremony. Often, couples will ask someone close to them to officiate which can make the ceremony feel even more special. You can keep classic traditions, and add your own. There are no rules!
During their ceremony, I've seen couples plant trees, tie knots, create a wine box time capsule to open on their anniversary, invite a friend to share stories, honor family members by gifting flowers, and the list goes on. You can write your own personalized vows, or stick to the traditional ones (some couples choose to read personal vows later on just the two of them (and me, from a distance!). Whatever feels true to you!
Okay, my best tip for speeches: limiting the time per speech — there's nothing worse than a speaker going on a 10 minute tangent while everyone just wants to get up and start dancing! 3-5 minutes per speech is typically a good sweet spot. I also prefer when your speakers are standing near you, vs in the center of the room so I can get your reactions to their speeches while I'm capturing them giving the speech!
The lighting for receptions can often be overlooked, but play a big role in how your evening looks and feels! There are tons of options, from hanging lights to lanterns to candles. These can really impact the mood & vibe of the environment as well as photos because they change the white balance of photos (basically the temperature - warm vs cool tones!) Candlelight and hanging lights usually allow for warmer, softer photos. Sometimes venues or DJs offer colorful uplighting but I recommend keeping those set to white only until at least first dance + parent dances are over, because blues/purples/reds can really affect skin tones and make people look a bit off in photos!
TIPS & TRICKS
WEDDING PLANNERS & COORDINATORS
In my opinion, a wedding planner or coordinator is the BEST vendor you can spend money on if budget allows! Peace of mind is priceless. Most wedding planners have a variety of options and levels of service, ranging from $2,500-15,000+. I'm not saying you need a full service planner by any means - even a partial, month-of planner, or day of coordinator would be great!
Sometimes venues provide them, but make sure you ask how involved they'll be on your day! Venues have different levels of coordinators, so make sure that you know ahead of time if they'll be taking care of you on the day of. A good coordinator will be able to take care of any questions or issues that arise throughout the day. The last thing you want to have to worry about on your big day is being asked a million logistical questions like why 4 chairs are missing, where the DJ can plug in his speakers, or what time salads are served at dinner. Hire someone who does coordinating or planning for a living and has experience, trust me! It's worth it.
An unplugged ceremony encourages your guests to put away their cell phones, ipads, and cameras and be present with you during your ceremony. I've taken so many photos, only to notice a bunch of iphones or big cameras being held up in the aisle, effectively ruining a beautiful moment. Phones can be a big distraction that take away from the experience of your guests being present with you. The rest of the day, they can take as many photos as they want (and I'd encourage it!), but the ceremony is the one time of the day that I think is best cell-phone free. You'll be able to share the full gallery with them after your wedding, so you can assure them that they can download any photos that they want later on!
If you're worried this may upset some family members, I've seen some wedding officiants designating a time for guests to take out their phones and snap photos for a minute of the couple during the ceremony (often at the beginning). This is a great way for guests to feel like they got the photos they want of the two of you while also having them be completely present with you during your ceremony.
INVESTING IN ANTI-GLARE GLASSES
If you or any loved ones involved in your big day are planning to wear glasses, considering investing in a pair of anti-glare glasses (or lenses) to wear. I guarantee that it is worth it!
This will make a world of a difference in your photo and videos by eliminating any reflections that otherwise would have been there, making your eyes just as easy to see as if you weren't wearing any glasses. I personally added this anti-glare option into my own prescription and it is well worth it!
RAIN & WEATHER
Do not panic about the weather or obsessively refresh the weather app leading up to your day! Forecasts change SO quickly and we can't change the weather — so let's embrace it! Check in with your venue to go over rain plans. Target sells some cute clear umbrellas we can pick up in a pinch, and I'll scout for locations that are beautiful & covered, whether that's indoors or under awnings/trees/etc. Some of my favorite weddings ever have been rainy ones, so no stress! I promise it will still be the best day ever!
HAIR AND MAKEUP
This is the ONE part of the wedding day that consistently runs off schedule. Tell your makeup/hair stylists that you need to be ready 30 minutes earlier than you actually do and be sure you, your bridal party, and the hair and makeup stylists know exactly how many people they'll be doing in advance. Throwing in an extra person last minute can add on serious time and put you behind schedule super easily.
It's a great idea to use your hair and makeup trial for your engagement session. That way, you can see how the makeup looks on camera to make sure you love it for your wedding day! Regardless on if you use your makeup trial to double as your engagement makeup, I cannot recommend enough taking lots of flash photos of yourself post trial from close and far distances to make absolutely sure there's no flashback (sometimes your makeup artist will do this for you). There's nothing worse than having flashback (flashback is when there's a white cast on your face, often caused by a setting powder, foundation or concealer. This white cast may not be visible in person, but is very evident in photographs and can't really be fixed through editing). Usually makeup artists are on their game with this and you won't have to worry, but it has happened in weddings I've shot before. This also applies if you're doing your own makeup or plan to use your own setting powder!
I've found these little guys to be super handy, especially if you're planning on an outdoor ceremony or are wanting any photos outside! This way if the wind is blowing your veil isn't taking off with it and stays in place without you having to do anything!
P.S. Make sure your veil is the same color as your dress! If one is white and the other is blush, it'll show in photos!
HAVE YOUR VENDORS EAT WHEN YOU DO
If planning on feeding any of your wedding vendors, be sure to specify to whoever you've hired for food that you want them served when the couple are. Often times catering companies will opt to feed vendors last when not otherwise specified, but this doesn't work well since by the time food has arrived for them the vendors are back in action shooting/coordinating/etc. which leads to wasted and untouched food that you may have paid for!
Nathan + Dante had a mixed gender wedding party full of all of their closest friends. From this moment on I fell head over heels in love with using a color palete rather than one solid color for dresses and suits! Also had to include a pic of the icon, Queenie, as she joined us for a few wedding cele. pics!
Check out my Pinterest Board for more inpso on wedding party color palettes!
Mitch + Rhea's wedding day was so special and personal. I started off the day photographing Rhea and her bridesmaids getting ready at her and Mitch's home (formerly Mitch's grandparent's home) which felt so extra special and romantic. They chose to do their own first look and photos first in their backyard which had the most gorgeous view overlooking the river. I love that they planted and tended to all the flowers you see in these pics about a year in advance with the purpose of having them in their wedding photos!
After all the classic family and friends combos at their home, we headed over to the ceremony site (a nearby family friend's tree farm which required about a mile walk to the ceremony site through the trees) as it began to rain. Mitch and Rhea totally leaned into the romance of it all and walked under an umbrella together towards their ceremony spot. We stopped about half way for them to exchange their vows which had all three of us sobbing lol. The rain stopped just before guests arrived and we all quickly wiped off seats as guests began to emerge through the trees (SO COOL!). From there it was clear skies and we even got to enjoy a few drinks over at a brewery before heading over to their reception. Such a fun day!
I've written about Meghan and Brad's wedding festivities already in my blog but I had to include some of their decor here! I love how their decor was so thoughtfully selected and planned out to give guests such a cool experience on top of having nods to their personal lives and close friends + family. They held their ceremony on the rooftop of the Harmac where guests could swing by the rooftop bar and pick up a drink either before or after the ceremony as the cocktail hour was up there too. Safe to say the cigar bar was a huge hit. Little touches that were easily made in Canva but framed and set out to add a little personal touch for the drink menus both at the rooftop and reception bar with a nod to their cat, Veda, offered info about the couple in such a fun way. A majority of their decor was rented from Unique Events and was put together and coordinated by Abbey at Blissful Events. I loved their choice of a harvest table setup for the main table so Meghan and Brad could sit together with both of their families (they didn't have a wedding party) which had Meghan's grandparent's china and glasses. Meghan's aunt made their wedding cake and her mom's best friend did her floral. They chose to have a live band (Diamond Empire Band) and light up dance floor which had guests just absolutely itching to get out and stay on the dance floor all night long!