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Confessions of a Wedding Photographer: Wedding Ceremonies – Things to Consider!

Today we’re kicking off the morning with some tips for our engaged couples out there who are planning their ceremonies!  Over the years we have had the privilege of documenting some really amazing and special wedding ceremonies, from formal Catholic Mass ceremonies to the most laid back commitments in backyards, and we wanted to share some of the things that we’ve learned and that you might want to consider as you plan your day.  First off all, remember that this is what it’s all about.  This entire day that you’ve spent so many months, or even years, planning is all about marrying the love of your life!  And sure, the centerpieces will be beautiful, but in the end it all comes down to the promises that you’re making together in front of your families and friends…and so, in our minds, your ceremony is the most important part of the day.  It’s about your love, it’s about becoming legally married, and it’s about sharing that commitment to each other with the people that you love most.  So – when we begin helping our couples plan their timelines, the first thing out of our mouths is always “Tell us about your ceremony,” because we will actually set the rest of the timeline for the day based on the ceremony time and length – so it’s super important to think about the details of your ceremony at an early stage in your planning process.  I remember when we were planning our own wedding, and I was super overwhelmed about planning out the ceremony.  I wasn’t sure what time we should start, where the best location would be at our venue, or how it should flow…so today I want to share some insight on ceremonies that we’ve picked up over the years – so that you can take all of these things into consideration and ensure that your ceremony is perfect…

– If you’re doing a first look, your ceremony should end just before sunset for the most beautiful light.  When you’re first planning your ceremony time, the first question you should ask yourselves is whether or not you are planning to do a “first look” and see each other before your ceremony – because this is going to impact the overall timeline and will help you decide what the best ceremony start time will be!  Remember that iff you are planning on doing a first look, that means that we will have had a chance to complete all of your bridal party, couples portraits, and hopefully family formal portraits also prior to the ceremony…and because we won’t need to do any formal photos after the ceremony, the best possible light that you can plan for is to have your ceremony end just before sunset, with the sun behind you!  Because the sun sets so late in the middle of the summer in most areas, know that anytime in the last few hours prior to sunset, with the sun positioned behind you, will be beautiful!  You can visit this website to find out what time the sunset will be on your wedding day:  http://www.sunrise-and-sunset.com/en.  This will give you that beautiful glow in your images, similar to what Sara+Alain had last year at their sunset ceremony…

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– If you’re not doing a first look, be sure to allow for daylight for all of the portraits after your ceremony.  If you’re planning an afternoon wedding and are not planning on doing a first look, keep in mind that you want your ceremony to end about an hour and half before sunset, if possible.  This will allow time for us to capture your family formal photos, your bridal party photos, and your couple’s portraits in the most beautiful light of the day!  If your schedule does not allow for this, just keep in mind that most of your photos will be taken in the dark with lighting rather than with natural light.

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-Have an inclement weather plan!  When we planned our own wedding in Vegas during the month of April we had NO idea that it would actually snow on our wedding day!  Thankfully, the snow ended before our outdoor ceremony and we didn’t have to switch to our indoor backup – but I was so happy that we had that option.  We shoot a lot of weddings in Washington state, which is known for its rain, but no matter where you get married it’s so important to have an inclement weather plan.  If you’re getting married outside where there are no buildings available, consider renting a gorgeous tent if the weather is showing a chance of rain.

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-Ask your venue and officiant if they have any restrictions for photographers.  Many venues (and some officiants), especially churches, actually have restrictions on where your photographer can shoot from and whether or not they can use flash during the ceremony.  We almost never use flash during ceremonies, because we feel that it distracts from the moment, but if your ceremony venue is especially dark we may need to – and although we are super quiet and stealthy during all ceremonies it’s always great to know in advance if we’ll have any restrictions so that we can be prepared!

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-Clear your schedule 30 minutes before your ceremony.  Your wedding day is going to be a whirlwind, and we always have our couples schedule 30 minutes of downtime right before their ceremony!!  This allows you to relax for a bit and clam your nerves after a long morning of getting ready and photos, and ensures that the guests don’t see you as they arrive.  Take this time to get off your feet, have a snack and some water, and enjoy yourself as you prepare for your ceremony.

-Hold those bouquets nice and low as you and your bridesmaids walk down the aisle.  A good rule of thumb is to hold them down by your bellybutton!  This will ensure that they don’t hide your beautiful dress and everyone can see your smiling faces:)

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-Consider an unplugged ceremony.  This is a trend that we’re seeing more and more often from our couples!  It’s a great idea to consider an unplugged ceremony, which is when you ask your guests to put away their cameras and cell phones and just enjoy the moment!  Let them know that you’ve hired professionals to capture the ceremony, and that you want them to be present with you as you say your vows.  During one of the ceremonies that we shot a couple of years ago (not the wedding depicted below) the bride’s grandmother sat and recorded the entire thing by holding her iPad up in the front row, even though the couple had a great videographer, and it made us sad to see the grandmother staring a screen the entire ceremony rather than her beautiful granddaughter and enjoying the moment.  Lots of photos aren’t a bad idea, but for this one portion of the day you might consider asking you guests to put their phones away…

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-Consider something other than glass vases on the floor.  I want to apologize to all of our amazing florist friends out there before I write this – you know I love you guys!!!  While we agree that glass vases of flowers and candles on the floor lining the aisle are absolutely gorgeous – it’s very rare for us to shoot a wedding where one of them doesn’t get knocked over by a well-intentioned guest just before the ceremony!  If you choose to line your aisle with glass vases, be sure that it’s plenty wide enough for you to walk down in your dress without touching the glass, and that you have some space between the inside seats and the vases.

Victoria+Blake-376-Take a few minutes alone afterwards.  The moments directly after our own wedding ceremony are some of my favorite from our wedding day.  We walked around the corner and it was freezing so Rick took off his suit jacket and wrapped me up in it and we laughed and cried together as we celebrated our brand new marriage.  It’s such a big and overwhelming moment, so consider a few private minutes alone right after you tie the knot…this might be the only alone time you get all day and it was so special to us!

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-Remember that this is what it’s all about.  This is the reason you having a celebration on your wedding day, because you’re legally getting married!  And whether you beam with excitement through your ceremony or cry the entire time (like we did during ours!), it’s going to be one of the most important 30 minutes of your lives.  And some of the most important words that you’ll ever speak are vows and the promises you’re going to be reciting in front of your family and friends.  Don’t lose sight of what your wedding day is all about, and don’t forget to let yourself relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy that incredible moment together…

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