(With contributions from Leslie Barton, a longtime photographer from Los Angeles, California, who specializes in covering weddings.)
Are you the one who's going to be shooting our wedding, or will it be one of your colleagues?
Make sure the person whose book you've seen is also the one who takes the pictures. Not only should you meet the photographer in question, but his or her name should be clearly indicated on your contract. This is not to say, the photographer shouldn't have an assistant to help out with lighting, reloading the cameras and getting everyone ready for the respective shots.
What percentage of your pictures are candids, as opposed to posed?
This is going to be important if you prefer formal portraits to spontaneous shots, or vice versa, or want a mixture of both.
How many rolls of films or digital images are you going to shoot?
The more pictures your photographer takes, the more shots you'll be able to choose from for the final prints. You'll also want to find out whether pictures will be in color or black and white, or both, and whether you can pick your own album and number of pages. As a general rule, the more flexible your photographer-and the greater the options you're offered-the greater the likelihood that you'll be pleased by the final outcome.
Have you shot at the selected wedding and reception sites before?
Photographers should be aware of the various rooms' special lighting needs, or specific restrictions regarding picture-taking or, say, the use of flash equipment. If they're not, you should find out whether they will visit ahead of time to familiarize themselves in all these areas.
When must I put the deposit down, and when is the balance due?
Costs are tricky, and you should establish ahead of time what is owed when, and whether it is refundable (rarely!, says Barton) if you decide to cancel. You should also find out whether there is a charge for overtime, if you can hold off payment until the proofs are ready, when the albums will be delivered, and whether you can hold onto the negatives in case you--or other loving members of the family--keep coming back for more! Also, see if there is a lower price for making two or three albums; maybe your Mom or your Mom-in-law would like a small yet professional album.
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Getting the Best Photographs:
You (usually) get what you pay for.
This does not mean you cannot save money on your photography budget, just remember not to cut corners on the quality of images. Once your wedding day is over, you will be left with your memories and your photographs. Make sure you have the best.
List all the poses you want in the order they will probably occur. This makes it easier to check off which ones have been taken.
Assign your own "photographer's assistant"
This person's allegiance will be to you, not the photographer. Choose someone close to you who will know your family and friends and be able to point them out to the photographer. Give your photo assistant his or her own copy of your "list of must-have shots" to check off as each one is taken. This way the pressure is off you to stay on top of your photographer.
Make sure your loved ones look fantastic in all your shots by having your photo assistant check smiles and fix hair, dresses, flower arrangements, etc. A little preventative care can help ensure everyone (and everything) is preserved in your photo album looking their best.
Inform photographer of all "special events".
Throwing a surprise or two into your wedding or reception helps to keep a magical, spontaneous atmosphere. For example, some brides like to slip out of the reception to change dresses and return with a grand entrance to dance the night away. Be sure to let your photographer in on the secret! Otherwise, you may miss what can be the best candid photos of special moments in your wedding or reception.
Mix it up.
Have your photographer take different kinds of shots. Unusual angles or fuzzy focus can add interest to traditional photographs. Zoom in so close on the wedding cake you can see the texture, or photograph the bride and grooms hands as they talk at the reception table. In addition, candid photos are often taken by guests at the reception tables. These provide a delightful complement to the more formal compositions of a professional photographer. When it comes time to place your photos in a wedding album, arrange them so their varying size and style will add visual interest to each page.
To color or not to color?
Many of today's brides are having their photographer snap both color and black and white photos. Black and white images provide a classic, timeless look. This traditional approach focuses in on your faces and expressions of love without the flashy distractions of color. Yet color does add a liveliness and reality to photos and can preserve a more accurate record of how your day really appeared. After all, you don't want to have spent all that time anguishing over your wedding colors for nothing! Get the best of both worlds by combining the two approaches.
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Before or After ~ When to Shoot the Formals
In Medieval times, a bride and groom were not even allowed to meet each other until the actual wedding ceremony. This was so neither one could back out if, when they saw the person, they would not want to be married to them! This ancient custom has carried forth to the 90's where now people feel it is bad luck to see each other before the ceremony. In fact, there is no basis to the success or longevity of a marriage if the bride and groom wait to see each other until the ceremony.
It is important for the couple to decide for themselves which way they would like to go, and inform the photographer about a week before the wedding. To assist the bride and groom with making an informed decision, there are a few items worth noting:
It is a special moment when the couple first sees each other. When it is done before the ceremony, they can talk to each other and express how they like the way the other one looks! This is what each one wants to know anyway, but a ceremony itself is not the place for a bride and groom to talk to each other and tell each other what they are thinking. The moment they first see each other also makes a wonderful candid photo!
Many times the couple is glad that they are seeing each other in advance in case there are any wedding details that they need to discuss. In this case, it is a good thing they were together beforehand to discuss it!
It adds to the stress to not see each other and it actually reduces stress when the couple DOES see each other first.
When the flowers, hair, make-up and clothes are all new and fresh is the best time to take pictures. This can be especially true for a hot and/or humid day.
The bride and groom can choose any location within a half hour drive of the ceremony to take pictures. There are many beautiful spots that have water, trees, flowers, grass, nice sky, impressive architecture, etc. that would not be practical to visit after a ceremony.
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A Sample Shot List
Here's a BIG list of photographs that your photographer can take at your wedding. Click Here to print a PDF.Check off the pictures that you want and then give the list to your photographer. Also, be sure to highlight any particular pictures that you absolutely don't want your photographer to miss!
___ Bride dressing for wedding
___ Mother helping bride put on veil
___ Bride looking in mirror
___ Bride putting on garter
___ Bride-Full Length
___ Bride-Half Length
___ Bride-Close Up
___ Bride with mother-Full Length
___ Bride with mother-Close Up
___ Bride with father-Full Length
___ Bride with father-Close Up
___ Bride pinning on father's boutonniere
___ Bride with Both Parents-Full Length
___ Bride with Parents-Close Up
___ Bride with Grandparents-Full Length
___ Bride with Grandparents-Close Up
___ Bride with sisters-Full Length
___ Bride with sisters-Close Up
___ Bride with brothers-Full Length
___ Bride with brothers-Close Up
___ Bride with immediate family
___ Bride with Maid of Honor-Full Length
___ Bride with Maid of Honor-Close Up
___ Bride with her attendants-Full Length
___ Bride with her attendants-Close Up
___ Bride & flower girl/ring bearer
___ Father helping bride out of limo
___ Groom-Full Length
___ Groom-Half Length
___ Groom-Close Up
___ Groom putting on bow tie
___ Groom with mother-Full Length
___ Groom with mother-Close Up
___ Groom with father-Full Length
___ Groom with father-Close Up
___ Groom with Parents-Full Length
___ Groom with Parents-Close Up
___ Groom with Grandparents-Full Length
___ Groom with Grandparents-Close Up
___ Groom with sisters-Full Length
___ Groom with sisters-Close Up
___ Groom with brothers-Full Length
___ Groom with brothers-Close Up
___ Groom with Immediate Family
___ Groom & Best Man-Full Length
___ Groom with Best Man-Close Up
___ Groom & Best Man shaking hands
___ Groom & Groomsmen-Full Length
___ Groom & groomsmen-Close Up
___ Grandparents being seated
___ Groom's parents being seated
___ Bride's parents being seated
___ Flower girl walking down aisle
___ Ring Bearer walking down aisle
___ Bridesmaids walking down aisle
___ Maid of Honor walking down aisle
___ Father walking Bride down aisle
___ Father giving bride away
___ Bride & Groom at alter
___ Bride & Groom exchanging vows
___ Bride & Groom exchanging rings
___ Bride & Groom lighting candle
___ Bride & Groom-the kiss
___ Bride & Groom walking down aisle
___ Pictures of receiving line
___ Bride & Groom exiting church
___ Bride & Groom getting into limo
___ Bride & Groom's first toast in limo
___ Bride & Groom Kissing
___ Bride & Groom-Full Length
___ Bride & Groom-Half Length
___ Bride & Groom-Close Up
___ Bride & Groom "gazing" at each other
___ Bride & Groom looking out window
___ Bride & Groom holding hands
___ Close-up of rings
___ Bride & Groom with Bride's parents
___ Bride & Groom with Groom's parents
___ Bride & Groom w/Bride's extended family
___ Bride & Groom w/Groom's extended family
___ Parents being announced
___ Wedding Party being announced
___ Bride & Groom being announced
___ Bride & Groom's first dance
___ Wedding party dancing
___ Bride's dance with father
___ Groom's dance with mother
___ Best Man toasting Bride & Groom
___ Bride & Groom with Champagne glasses
___ Bride & Groom's kiss after the toast
___ Wedding Cake
___ Bride & Groom cutting cake
___ Bride feeding Groom
___ Groom feeding Bride
___ Kiss after cutting cake
___ Bride tossing bouquet
___ Groom taking off garter
___ Guests dancing
___ Bride & Groom's last dance
___ Close up of invitation
___ Bride or Groom with special friends
___ Bride or Groom with special relatives
___ Picture of band or DJ
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Looking your Best for the Camera
When it comes to doing your make-up, dont fall victim to the saying "more is better". Use the same shades of make-up that you normally wear and don't make any radical changes to your looks.
Remember, you want to ENHANCE your looks with make-up - not cover them up!
Consider using a professional make-up artist. They are trained to understand camera lighting and angles, and how to accentuate your BEST features and minimize others. HOWEVER, always do a test run before the wedding day!
Do a TEST RUN with hair and make-up just the way you are going to wear it on your wedding day. Have someone take several pictures from different angles and with different facial expressions. Then, look at the pictures. Do you like what you see? Too much make-up or not enough? How about the hair style? Too much height or not enough? If something doesn't look right then start again and do another test run until everything looks just right.
It is important to actually TAKE pictures of yourself because it can give you a different perspective rather than just looking in the mirror.
Make sure that you bring along a small make-up bag to FRESHEN UP during the day. All you need is some translucent or pressed powder to absorb any shine and some lipstick. If you're outside taking pictures, bring along some blotting paper which works great to absorb moisture without rubbing off your make-up.
When discussing the type of pictures to take with your photographer, keep in mind that full length photographs capture all the beauty and magnificence of the wedding dress, wedding attire and beautiful scenery or backdrops. Close-up or half length (above the waist) photographs better capture facial expressions and reveal more emotions. So, it's a good idea to get a mix of both types of shots.
Particularly if you are taking pictures before the ceremony, remember to RELAX in front of the camera. If you're feeling nervous or anxious, this can show in the camera by your facial expression, your posture and smile.
On your wedding day, you're going to be in front of the camera and you're going to be smiling! Take a break every so often and change your expression and move/exercise the muscles around your mouth. If you don't, your facial expressions in your photographs may look "strained".
When taking your wedding portraits, sometimes it's better to choose a "SIMPLE" background (with nice, soft lighting) rather than an elaborate one. A "busy looking" backdrop or sometimes a floral garden landscape can take away from the picture and distract from the focal point - which is the bride and groom. The location you select should also have plenty of open shade. Bright sunny areas will cause you and your family to squint!
When your photographer is taking candid pictures during the reception, DON'T look at the camera! The beauty of a candid shot is capturing the magic and emotion of a particular moment when people in the photograph are interacting with each other.
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Wedding Site Basics
Modern wedding reception sites today are breaking tradition when it comes to creativity and special settings.
There are basically two general types of locations. The first is on-site, which means that the place can provide services such as food, drinks, wait staff, tables, linens, china, maybe even flowers, music and the wedding cake. Some favorite on-site places include:
Church and community centers
Inns or bed-and-breakfast establishments
The other location type is off-site: There are no services offered. You have your own space or pay a rental fee for one and bring in everything yourself, from seats to spoons. The good news? You can have it all your way. Here are some popular off-site places:
Wildlife preserves and zoos
On the beach
Wherever you choose, book your site as far in advance as possible. Visit the site while another wedding is taking place to see how the staff runs the affair. Sample the food, inspect the kitchen and check the restrooms.
If space allows, an at-home wedding can be the perfect alternative to renting a location. Just know what you're getting into. Logistics may pose a problem if electrical, toilet and parking facilities are inadequate for the number of guests attending. For outdoor weddings, a tent is recommended in case of rain. If you're determined to be wed at home, an experienced caterer or party planner may get you over the larger hurdles.
For those extra special places, the search may be become more involved. Here's how to go about it:
Naturally, the web is a sure bet for tons of leads. If you haven't already, do a search for "wedding locations" and watch what's revealed. You'll turn up websites that deal with specific regions of the country and others that offer helpful links.
Check with a caterer or party planner in your vicinity. They know where the best spots can be found.
Next, contact your local Chamber of Commerce, parks commission, historical society or National Register of Historic Trusts to find out about specific sites.
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Food and Drink
- Proximity to the ceremony site
- Date availability and discount days to consider
- Rental fee and what it includes
- Time allowed to decorate the space for the day of the wedding
- Using the location for a ceremony as well, if desired
- Whether there will be other receptions that day
- Number of guests the space will accommodate comfortably
- Terms of liability insurance
- Ratio of staff to guests
- Overtime charges
- Postponement/cancellation refund policy
- Gratuities and taxes
- Escalation clause
- Availability of valet parking
- Coat check accommodations
- Clean restroom facilities
- Number of security personnel
- Room for changing
- Means of handicapped access
- The availability of a nursery or babysitter
- Meal options, from a seated dinner to a dessert-only reception
- Special meals to accommodate restricted diets
- Price per guest
- Method of payment
- A date for a tasting menu and tour of the site with a wedding in progress
- Dessert table policy
- Availability of nonalcoholic beer, wine, and beverages
- Top-shelf wine and alcohol vs. house brands
- Cost of open bar vs. one/two hour cocktail service/or host's per-drink tab arrangement
- Possibility of bringing in your alcohol and amount of corking fee
- Supplier of the wedding cake and cutting fee
- On-site wedding coordinator
Basic Rentals for Off-Site Locations
- Cake knife/server
- Food for band, etc.
- Wedding guest book
- Gift table
- Seating plans
- Place cards
- List of photos
- Table skirts
- Dance floor
- Serving trays and dishes
- Heaters and/or air conditioners
- Restroom facilities
- Electrical outlets
- Bar equipment
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Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe. This good luck saying dates back to Victorian times and many brides try to arrange their wedding attire accordingly.
Something Old represents the link with the brides family and the past. Many brides choose to wear a piece of antique family jewelry or a mothers or grandmothers wedding gown.
Something New represents good fortune and success in the brides new life. The wedding gown is often chosen as the new item.
Something Borrowed is to remind the bride that friends and family will be there for her when help is needed. The borrowed object might be something such as a lace handkerchief.
Something Blue is the symbol of faithfulness and loyalty. Often the blue item is the garter.
Silver Sixpence in her Shoe is to wish the bride wealth.
Throwing the garter began in France when pieces of the bridal attire were considered lucky. The bride would throw the garter to the guests at the wedding and whoever caught it could expect good luck. In the United States, the groom traditionally removes the garter from the bride and throws it to the unmarried men. The man who catches it is thought to be the next to marry. At some weddings the man who catches the garter will place it on the leg of the lady who caught the bouquet or they may start the next dance. It is also common for the recipients of the bouquet and garter to have a photograph taken with the bride and groom.
At its inception, the bouquet formed part of the wreaths and garlands worn by both the bride and groom. It was considered a symbol of happiness. Today the practice of tossing the bouquet is an offshoot of throwing the garter. The single woman who catches the bouquet is believed to be the next to marry.
Flowers and their Symbols.
Rose is Love, White Daisy is Purity, Gardenia is Joy, Orchard is Beauty, Carnation is Distinction, Blue Violet is Constancy, Forget-me-not is True Love, Red Chrysanthemum is Sharing, Lily of the Valley is Happiness, White Lilac is Youthful Innocence.
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Money Saving Photography Tips
First, it must be emphasized that your photography is NOT an area of the wedding where you should cut corners. There are a few ways to save money but overall, you DON'T want to skimp on your photography. Here are a few ways to save money, but without sacrificing the quality of your wedding photos.
ALWAYS hire a professional. DON'T ask your friend who "takes good pictures" to photograph your wedding. Hire a professional and one that has experience photographing weddings. You've only got ONE chance to get it right, so don't take chances.
Ask your photographer to limit their time taking pictures. Some couples choose a "ceremony only" package where the photographer takes pictures before and during the ceremony but not at the reception. The photographer would take all of the formal pictures of the bride and groom, family and wedding party and photograph the ceremony. Then, ask friends and relatives to take candid photographs at the reception.
To save money on your videographer, you can also ask them to videotape the ceremony only and then have friends videotape the reception.
When using disposable cameras, think twice before placing one at every table. The cameras are inexpensive, but the cost to develop 20-30 roles of film is not! Try assigning an hour for each camera use, having cameras passed out to designated people, or place a camera on every other table.
Choose a photography package rather than purchasing all of the items separately. If there is something that you really want that is not included in a package, ask the photographer if something can be swapped without increasing the price.
Sometimes choosing the smallest or least expensive photography package is not the most cost effective option. One bride chose the least expensive package and afterwards spent $700 to buy additional prints that were not included in her original package. A more comprehensive package would have cost her only an additional $250 more if purchased up front.
Be careful of all the extras that your photographer may offer, such as the "Deluxe or Ultra" wedding album or a framed wedding portrait. Remember, what really counts are the pictures themselves - not the packaging!
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Ten Forget me Nots
You've given your caterer the final head count, confirmed (and reconfirmed) every single vendor on the list, and handed out timelines to make absolutely sure the cake cutting occurs at 10:05 p.m.-followed by the bouquet toss at 10:13. Think you're ready to just sit back and enjoy the big party? NOT QUITE...
Pay the piper.
(And the caterer, too.) Write final-payment checks for your vendors a few days before, and give them to a trusted friend or family member to pass out on the big day. (Or better yet, pay everyone in full a few days in advance.) If you're planning to tip, put the checks or cash in envelopes ahead of time, so they can be easily distributed.
Do the bustle.
To keep your reception from being a total drag, make sure your mother, maid of honor, or another friend will be available to bustle your gown. Give them a crash course in the complicated hook-and-eye configuration before you want to hit the dance floor.
Feed Me, Seymour!
Ask your banquet manager or your best pal to bring you a plateful of those fabulous hors d'oeuvres and keep your champagne glass filled. During the cocktail hour, you'll never make it to the bar.
Get a room.
Find out if your site has a separate room for you and your party to leave your bags and change into "going away" clothes. A restroom will serve in a pinch, but you'll probably want a little more privacy.
Lose the excess baggage.
Put a reliable pal in charge of getting your luggage into the honeymoon suite...or at least into the getaway car.
Grab a midnight snack.
Have your caterer pack you and your new hubby a picnic basket of leftovers, as you probably won't be able to eat more than two bites of the meal you spent days debating.
Feed the world.
Tell your caterer what to do with the rest of the leftover food. If your mom can use 15 pounds of patT, break out the economy-size doggie bag. Otherwise, ask your caterer to take the extras to a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
If you aren't giving your centerpieces to special guests, arrange for someone to drop them off at a hospital, women's shelter or nursing home.
Ask someone to stay and get cabs for guests who need them, and make sure your valuables-the gifts, cake knife, toasting glasses, etc.-get home safely.
Get a few people to take care of the dirty little details the next day. They can take your dress to the cleaners, return your hubby's tux to the rental shop, and make sure your bouquet gets started on the road to preservation, if you're saving it.
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