I’m going to start off by saying that I am not a wedding planner, but as a wedding photographer who has been covering weddings and events for over 23 years I have a unique perspective on planning weddings… what works and what doesn’t. I’m also going to say that a wedding planner is almost always worth the investment even if you can only afford the “day of coordination” services. I always remember the story about a mother of the bride that came up to me after the event. I told her it was an amazing day and she had done such a good job setting everything up and coordinating with all of the vendors and then she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “I feel like I missed my daughter’s wedding because all I was doing was taking care of everything so that she could have a perfect day!” After that day I started looking at wedding planners as more of a necessity than a luxury, especially if you want your friends and family to enjoy the event instead of spending all their time working.
We still do work with tons of couples who decide to do it all them selves whether that’s because they don’t have a budget for a coordinator or because they really, really enjoy the planning aspects of party planning. Sometimes it’s because the venue or the caterer also offers some sort of set-up and/or breakdown service for the event. And when this happens we often run into no concrete plan on how things for the day are going to go and I find myself helping the couple come up with a timeline that not only makes sure there’s enough time planned for all the special events, but also enough time to get all those posed photos that they want too! Because of this background I thought I would share some helpful tips for planning your wedding timeline especially if you are going to host an event in Colorado. Because of our beautiful scenery a lot of Colorado weddings are held outdoors (at least for a portion of the event). Outdoors can bring a whole extra set of challenges that you need to consider such as time of year, weather, location and guests’ comfort. I’ve seen it all – Winter weddings held outside with a snowy landscape to Church weddings on one side of town and a reception over an hour away. All of these things can effect a timeline. So here are some things to consider when you start planning out your timeline.
1.) Are you hosting the ceremony and reception at the same location?
If your ceremony and reception are being held at completely different locations then you have to remember to include drive time between the two venues in your timing. Make sure to leave in extra time for things like traffic problems and construction. If you are having a shuttle bus take guests between the two locations or from accommodations to the venues make sure you find out if they need multiple trips or if a large bus can be used to take all the guests who would be using it. Again make sure you have extra time planned in the timeline for things that come up.
2.) What time of the year are you getting married?
Sure there are savings to be had for couple willing to brave hosting a wedding in the middle of Winter, but it’s also not without risk. Colorado ski towns are notorious for getting blocked in with snow that close down roads in the Wintertime. If you are having a mountain wedding in November-March you should prepare for all scenarios with the worst being yourself, guests and vendors unable to make it to your venue. I highly suggest that you plan an extra day for arrivals prior to the wedding to ensure that yourself, vendors and others can at least be able to get to town prior to the wedding date. We covered a wedding in Silverthorne in 2019 where the bride mentioned frequent tunnel closures and ski traffic in her invitations. She suggested that guests give themselves an extra hour to get to the venue and because of that all of her guests were able to make it just before the ceremony started because the Eisenhower Tunnel had a closure. It’s a good idea to see if there are any festivals, planned road closures, or other travel issues in the area during your planned wedding date and take all of that into consideration when planning a timeline. And offer up alternate routes than what the map on your phone will give or suggestions for time management.
Next, the time of year can most definitely effect when you should plan an outdoor ceremony. The sun starts to go down earlier in the Fall and because of the mountains you may loose light for photos even sooner than other locations. If you are planning a sunset ceremony than you should plan to do the bulk of your formal portraits prior to the ceremony because once it’s dark out a photographer can use flash, but no amount of flash will bring those beautiful backgrounds back into the light and all that money you spent on a venue with views is wasted for your photos.
3.) Start your timeline early… from when you are planning on getting ready.
When you choose hair and make-up artists tell them the time that every person in your wedding party must be done for photos starting plus half an hour to an hour. The artists should know how long it takes for themselves and/or a team of stylists to complete the job and they will tell you what time you need to start getting ready. I’ve been to many weddings where someone from a stylist’s team doesn’t show which puts everyone behind or one of the bridesmaids hates their hair and they have to start over. Having that extra wiggle room for time will either be needed or it will give you some time to just relax.
If you are planning on doing any of the decorating yourself utilizing family and wedding party members then I highly suggest doing all of this either the day before your event (if at all possible) or plan on it being completed by the time you need to get ready as you can’t do both at the same time. Couples often forget that a lot of the wedding portraits can be done before the wedding as well and if you are too busy setting up instead of taking photos then you are just paying your photographer to stand around until you are ready. Also you probably don’t need the photographer there for all of the 3-4 hours of the wedding party is getting ready. One to two hours before the ceremony should be sufficient to capture the last minute touch ups and getting dressed. The photographer and videographer’s start time will depend on whether or not you are doing a “First Look” and how many portraits you plan on doing before the ceremony.
4.) Utilize the experts in the industry.
Talk to the owner or coordinator of the venue and ask them what timelines work the best for the time of year you are getting married. Chat with the caterer to find out what order for service works the best for them because if they have a way that they normally do things sometimes if you change anything up it can also affect the level of service they can provide you. Take into consideration time for things like “room flipping” which is when the same room the ceremony is held in is switched during the cocktail hour to a reception set-up. If you have to do this at the venue you have chosen then plan a little bit extra time for your cocktail hour in case things take longer to do. Of course talk to your photographer and videographer about the important things you want to make sure are covered from your day so that you can utilize their coverage time the best.
5.) Distribute your written timeline widely.
You should have a nicely typed out timeline that is given out to all of your vendors, as well as anyone in the bridal party and important family members. This way everyone knows where they are supposed to be and when. Having to look for a missing groomsmen or waiting on a family member to arrive can not always be prevented, but it’s a lot less likely to happen when everyone knows when and and where they are supposed to be. It can also take some of the stress off of everyone involved. Make sure your venue and/or a trusted wedding party member has a copy of it so they can help keep you on track if you are not using a wedding planner.
People are always asking me what to wear to their photo-shoot, especially if their photo session is going to be more of a specialty shoot like a Maternity Session. I’ve been getting a lot of calls again this Spring for Pregnancy Photos and because of that I thought it would be good to put together a helpful guide to styling your maternity session.
1.) Consider what type of backdrop or theme you would like for your session. Do you want something outdoorsy with a real natural feel or perhaps you’re a city girl at heart that wants to show off the vibrancy of the city you live in? Depending on what type of backgrounds you want in your photos this can help you with choosing your wardrobe selection. An urban shoot maybe would look better with jeans and a t-shirt while a mountain backdrop may call for more of a long flowing dress.
2.) Determine if you want an indoor or an outdoor session. We live in Colorado, a state with so many beautiful locations to take photos at it’s kind of hard to not want to take your photos outside, however I will always recommend an indoor portrait session in the following situations: 1.) If you want any nudity or lingerie shots of any kind because it’s easier and probably more lawful to take these photos in a controlled environment. 2.) If the time of year the weather conditions could make your photo-shoot be a little more challenging, than maybe scheduling something indoors will be a safer bet as well. You can also do more of a lifestyle type shoot and take the photos in the comfort of your own home and/or nursery for an amazing memory of all the hard work you put into designing the baby’s new digs.
3.) Determine who will be in your photos… Will it just be the mother to be or do you want your partner to be in some of the photos with you. If you have other children it’s really cute to incorporate them in the photos. Photos with the kids hugging your belly are always fun! And if you are going to incorporate the rest of the family you might want to have the family in complimentary colors. Everyone in matching outfits is pretty much a thing of the past. When I think of matching Christmas sweaters or everyone wearing a denim shirt in family photos my mind immediately goes to thoughts of the 1980s. Try not to make everyone look exactly the same, but more in outfits that look good together.
4.) If you are doing outside photos consider what the weather will be like during your session. The seasons will give you a pretty good idea on what colors will be available to purcahse and what looks great. Spring and Summer tend to have brighter and lighter feels than Fall and Winter which are more of a Warm and Cozy feel. In the Winter I often see woman in high boots, sweaters, scarves and warmer colors. In the Summer I see sun dresses and light and airy outfits.
5.) Keep from picking out something that’s too trendy. My goal is to always to make your photos look timeless. Twenty years from now I don’t want you to look back at your photos and think what in the heck was I wearing. Solid colors work great. Try to stay away from too much pattern as I always think that distracts form the baby bump. Tight fitting items that accentuate the pregnant belly work the best and minimal jewelry and accessories is also a better idea to keep the focus on your belly.
6.) Plan a couple different outfits so you can get a couple different looks. If you are planning on more than one outfit let your photographer know so that they can schedule in clothing change time and also pick a location near a restroom if you are doing an outdoor site unless you are comfortable with a vehicle change. Lay everything out and see how your pieces work together and bring a few props that remind you of baby if you have any. Great ideas are his/her first teddy bear, first set of shoes, a book you plan on reading to him, etc.
Here is a list of outfits that work great for maternity photo-shoots:
- Maxi Dresses
- Dresses that Tie at The Waist or Have a Slit
- Sheer/Lacy pieces
- Long flowy skirt with a crop top or bandeau bra
- Oversized knit sweaters
- Jeans and a fitting top
Other prop ideas that are fun:
- Sonogram Photo
- Messages to the Baby (Posters, Signs, Chalkboards, etc)
- Giftwrap Ribbon with a “Do Not Open Until *insert baby’s due date)
- Add Humor with Preparing for Parenthood Books or a play on words to make an announcement like in October welcoming our Little Pumpkin and some images taken with a pumpkin.
- Use holiday elements if you’re due around a holiday like Christmas, Easter or 4th of July
- If you’ve chosen a Name for baby you can incorporate blocks, letters, etc spelling it out
Always feel free to discuss ideas with us or the photographer you are working with as they are going to be the creative ones full of ideas, locations to suggest and more. If you are looking to do something completely original that signifies your personality that’s even better! Think about a hobby you are into or things that you and your partner like to do together and try to figure out how to bring them into your photos.
With all of the relatives in town for the holidays you may be thinking that you’d like to take a group photo of everyone in the family! So if you can’t hire a professional either due to cost or availability the next best thing is doing it yourself! Here are some quick tips to help make your photo the best that it can be! And with a bunch of you getting the new iphone for Christmas you might want to even try this with your phones!
1.) Prepare! – Scout out the best location to do the photo ahead of time. Make sure your batteries are charged and your lenses are cleaned (including your phone lens)! It would be a real bummer if you couldn’t take the photo due to an empty battery or worse yet a big piece of dirt shows up in the middle of grandma’s face! Make sure everyone you want to be in the photo knows where and when you are taking it (I always ask them to be there 15-20 minutes earlier than needed to make room for late comers).
2.) Location – Make sure you choose the right spot for your photo. If you have to take the photo in the middle of the day scout out spots with open shade so that there are no harsh shadows and so people don’t have to squint in the photos. Make sure there are no distractions in the background such as signs, cars, etc. Or a window behind the group indoors where a flash can bounce back into the camera. If you are indoors I would avoid using a flash on your cell phone camera for the photo if at all possible. The low light capabilities are getting better on phones, but the flash settings are not.
3.) Take Multiple Shots! – One way to try and avoid getting eyes closed or people not looking at the camera is to take a lot of photos. The more you take the more chances you have for a good one. And trust me if you are also going to set the timer so that you can be in it you will more than likely have to take a few to get a good one! A wireless handheld remote for also really helps for this! Do not use the digital zoom feature on a cell phone because the photo will be too grainy, rather than using the zoom position yourself in a way that puts the entire group in the frame.
4.) Use a tripod – Set your camera up on your tripod so that’s ready to take the shot in terms of framing, settings and focus and then it will be ready at an instant when you get the group looking just right to capture the moment. It’s important to get the attention of your subjects early so that you can get them posed and take the photo quickly especially if you are working with short attention spans, especially those of children. Tripods also help prevent camera shake and keep the focus sharp!
5.) Posing – You want to make sure that you can see everyone. Taller people should be in the back and shorter in the middle or front. I like to put people in between the “V” of the people in front of them and ask everyone to make sure that they can see me because if they can’t see me I can’t see them. Try to compose in a triangle composition with the tallest members in the middle. When photographing a large family try to keep immediate families near each other, spouses and kids, etc. People also look better slightly angled (not straight on) so I typically have the people turn slightly into the person next to them and have them either put their hands in their pocket or on their hip for women. Before releasing the shutter take one last look over through the camera to make sure you can see everyone. And if the group is really large you might want to consider taking the photo from a higher perspective either from a balcony or ladder.
Best wishes and happy portrait taking!