Let’s talk about your Ceremony! I’m sharing my top 6 photographer secrets for a smooth running ceremony…
Here it is! The moment everyone has been waiting for! The music is playing and the guests have been seated. Ushers make their way to the back of the church and the coordinator is lining up the bridesmaids while giving the musicians a 5-minute warning. The bride is about to walk down the aisle to the love of her life… and if she’s like most girls, she’s dreamed about this moment for a long time! Vows will be shared and promises will be made… this is what it’s all about!! In a world full of wedding blogs, Pinterest and bridal magazines, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and consumed by the “prettiness” of the event.
In this blog, I’ll be sharing 6 photographer secrets for a smooth running ceremony. And while details do matter and planning is necessary, it’s important to never lose sight of the real purpose of this amazing day!
1. The Unplugged Ceremony
My first tip is to encourage you to have an unplugged ceremony…
Imagine this with me…. you’re in my shoes…. the most important moment of the day is about to happen. You’ve checked your camera settings; you’ve taken test shots and you’re ready to capture the bride coming down the aisle to her groom.
You want to capture reactions, variety of angles and every moment of joy and emotion in those few seconds. However, just as everyone stands and the music plays, not one, but three different family members and friends get so excited that they take just one step out into the aisle with their iPhones in hand trying to capture the moment.
I’m scrambling. My couple is trusting me not to miss this!!! But now I’m dodging guests who are trying desperately to have a good Insta-story to share. They have no idea that the back of their heads, their arms and their phones are blocking me from capturing the bride and her dad walking down the aisle.
It’s honestly one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a photographer during a ceremony …. and the hard part is, it can always be avoided. This issue is a growing one. Every wedding season I experience more and more of these issues.
However, there is a solution! I highly recommend having an “Unplugged Ceremony”. This is just another way of saying that you want only your photographers to be capturing photos. And that you would like everyone else to enjoy the ceremony instead of trying to capture it themselves.
Options for notifying guests your ceremony is unplugged:
1. Signage: Have a simple sign that guests see as they are entering the ceremony
2. Spoken: Have your officiant politely mention that you prefer no cell phones
3. Program: Include your Unplugged Ceremony request in your program design
4. Give Guest an opportunity to snap a photo: I know it’s so tricky for guests not to take any photos of you and your groom standing up there. So, you could have your officiant give all the guests a second to take a photo before your ceremony is started. The guests love it and then they are fine to put their phones away for the rest of the ceremony.
One sneaky trick that I have been seeing couples do recently is telling your guest the ceremony time is a half-hour earlier than it actually is. There is always those couple of guests who arrive late and end up sneaking into their seats around the same time the bride is walking down the aisle. This is the worst! But by setting your ceremony start time a few minutes earlier on your invitation, this eliminates that problem. That way everyone is in their seat and waiting when you walk down the aisle… even your guest who tend to always run a little late.
Ceremony lighting is really important, especially for a natural light photographer. If you get married outdoors at 12 pm, the lighting will be extremely harsh. Not only will there be harsh lines of light on your faces, but you will also be squinting. (Not the best look while you’re saying “I do”)
I suggest planning an outdoor ceremony 2 hours before sunset if you are having a first look. If you are not sharing a first look, then I would suggest having your ceremony 3 hours before sunset. This will ensure that you will have plenty of time for all of your portraits afterwards. The lower the sun, the more romantic the lighting.
If you would like more help planning the timeline of your wedding day to make sure that it is photography-friendly, you can grab the (free!) BGP Sample Wedding Day Timeline and have your wedding timeline put together in 10 minutes!!
If you are having an indoor ceremony, it is always best to have EVEN lighting at the altar. If there are two spotlights on the bride and groom, I will not be able to expose the rest of the bridal party. It is better to have soft, even light across the whole altar.
4. Order of Service
I have seen so many couples do so many AMAZING things during their ceremony.
I’ve seen couples wash each other’s feet, symbolizing that they want to serve each other for the rest of their life. Some couples share in communion while some light a unity candle. I’ve seen sand ceremonies, rope ceremonies and the signing of the family Bible. The options are limitless!!
As you plan your ceremony, design it to be exactly what the two of you envision it to be. This is your day!! If you have the freedom to be creative, then, by all means, be creative!!
5. Programs & Details
The BEST advice I have for the program-making process is to remember that not EVERY guest needs a program!
I’ve seen couples print a program for everyone attending their wedding. I quickly realized that most families only took one. And they end up with over 200 extra programs! Yikes!
Also, before ordering your programs, have SEVERAL people check it for spelling and grammatical errors.
Programs and the ceremony decor are things that the bride can plan in advance. However, it is important to then delegate the actual job of setting it up to a friend or coordinator. The last thing a bride needs to be doing the morning of her wedding is running around setting up floral arrangements! This leads me into my next section!
Hiring either a full event planner or just a day-of coordinator is SO important!
Brides realize very quickly that if they do not have someone in charge of the coordination of the day, that responsibility will automatically fall on the mother of the bride, the photographer, or the BRIDE herself!
When a photographer is in charge of the timeline and the coordination of the day, the images will suffer. All of my stressful wedding situations were caused by a lack of organization and coordination.
It’s so important to make this a priority.
I hope these 6 photographer secrets for a smooth running ceremony help you when it comes to planning your ceremony and all the details. Like I said earlier it is so easy to get caught up in the midst of wedding planning and making sure that everything looks perfect. It’s important to remember that this moment is so much more than pretty. Enjoy this season of planning but also remember that your MARRIAGE is more important than the wedding. The wedding will come and go in a matter of hours, but your marriage needs to stand the test of time. Continue to make time for one another even with all that needs to get done.
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