When I first started photographing weddings, a seasoned wedding photographer told me: “All weddings are literally the same. The only thing that changes are the people – but besides that, everything is the same from weekend to weekend.”
While the wedding day might have a similar set up or timeline with getting ready photos, followed by a first look or ceremony, followed by portraits, then a reception, after photographing 100+ weddings, I would argue that so many things change from weekend to weekend, making each wedding completely unique. The general, skeletal framework may remain – but things are always changing.
For one, the couple changes, which changes the vibe of the day itself. I might have a quiet, romantic, love-to-be-close-to-each-other couple one weekend, then an outgoing, silly, fun, crazy couple the next – which, consequently, changes the way I photograph them, always keeping me on my toes! Likewise, I might have a laid back wedding on a farm one weekend, and an upscale, black tie wedding the next.
You might be wondering, “but why does this matter?”
Because the aesthetic of each wedding is so different – from the couple themselves, to the venue, to the theme, to the styling and décor – I’ve found that weddings can start to feel the same when I’m unaware of what makes each wedding unique.
Now, there are a few things I do in advance to get the general vibe of a wedding day. For example:
I always try and chat with the couple before they book to talk about their pending style and aesthetic (but I do know that a lot can change from when you start wedding planning to when the wedding actually happens!)
Which is why I send a follow up questionnaire a few months before the wedding day to get some of the more solid details, like the colors, theme, and other specific details.
I also check out the venues and photo locations beforehand. Most venues each have a personality all their own! A wedding that takes place on a farm in a barn has a much different feel than one that takes place in a historical hotel in downtown Pittsburgh.
When I know in advance what makes a wedding unique, I can plan. (And boy do I love planning! No, that’s not sarcasm! ;) ). From the portraits, to the details, to everything in between, knowing the vision, aesthetic, and style behind a wedding helps me come prepared from the get go. Your photographer can gather a lot of things from who you are and from the locations you choose, but there are some things that can only be communicated by you: like the theme, style, and aesthetic. And communicating these things in advance to your photographer can actually give you better images!
Let me share a few of my favorite examples:
FALL WEDDING AT SHADY ELMS FARM
This wedding is by far one of my favorite examples of communicating style and aesthetic beforehand, and how it can have a profound impact on your wedding day!
When Lyndsay (the bride) first started the conversation with me about her wedding day, she had a true vision: bright, colorful, laid back, classy barn elegance. She painted a vision of colorful florals and eclectic details, which made it easy for me to make style based decisions on their wedding day.
While we had a few portrait locations planned for Lyndsay and Justin’s wedding day, and all of them were nature focused. But before this shot - none of them had a ton of bright, bold color, like she had talked about during our numerous emails, phone calls, and final planning meeting. When I showed up the day of the wedding, I knew that to create cohesion between the bridal details, reception details, and portraits, it would be helpful to include some portraits with bright color! The scene in the photo above stood out to me as THE perfect spot to bridge the style gap in their day, and to make some of their portraits cohesive with the bright, bold style of their details!
And - speaking of details - knowing the vision and style of the wedding before I showed up on their wedding day helped me make styling choices cohesive with the vision of the wedding. For example, you’ll notice that the invitation below is very simple (and gorgeous - designed by the bride!). I knew when I saw it that I wanted to bring something bright and colorful into the frame in order to really make the shot “pop” and match the style of the wedding. Lucky for me, Shady Elms Farm does all of the floral arrangements for their weddings, so I was able to simply ask them for a few extra flowers to frame the invitation with. I also chose a bright yellow ring box to compliment the vibrant color palette, creating a photo of the invitation that complimented the style of the rest of the wedding day!
Knowing that Lyndsay was planning on having lots of eclectic details at the wedding also gave me the understanding that I could fill my background a bit more with different textures and details. Also, when I think of a farm, I think of overgrowth, flowers, plants, etc., a vibe which I feel was matched through the way the details were photographed!
EARLY FALL WEDDING IN DOWNTOWN PITTSBURGH
Now, we’ll contrast the farm wedding above with a classy black tie city wedding below! Next up: Janelle and Josh’s Embassy Suites Downtown Pittsburgh wedding!
I had a clear understanding of Janelle and Josh’s wedding from the emails we exchanged and the questionnaires they filled out - when I saw their wedding venue, I saw it to be the perfect match of everything she had described to me: a classy, modern, black tie city wedding. And knowing some of the more specific style details in advance helped me make location choices for both the portraits and for the details that were consistent with the overall feel of the wedding!
We’ll start with the portraits! Choosing locations for Janelle and Josh’s wedding was quite easy, knowing that 1) they were having a classy affair, and 2) they wanted to showcase the city. So when it came to their portraits, you’ll notice in the slideshow below portraits that showcase the city (on the street, with buildings in the background, in the iconic Pittsburgh Strawberry Way), and, since their wedding was so perfectly colored to match their reception venue, photos in the venue that provide that classy, upscale feel!
Sometimes I struggle with finding the perfect spot to photograph bridal details, because I want the backgrounds (including colors) of each detail shot to compliment the photos from the rest of the wedding. With Janelle and Josh’s wedding… I knew as soon as I walked into the hotel that their details had to be shot in the lobby! And lucky for me, since I had enough information style and aesthetic wise to know what they were looking for in advance, I was able to choose specific locations in the lobby I would use for their details photos beforehand. Which was so helpful the day of the wedding! I was able to work faster on the details because I had already formulated a plan!
In addition to knowing that elements in the lobby of the hotel would make excellent backdrops for their details, I was able to bring a few extra elements with me on the wedding day to use for styling, because I had an idea of what would compliment the details. For example, in the invitation suite photo below, the only elements that were from the bride were the shoes, the invitation suite, and the purse. The lace, gold box, leaves, and small flowers were items I brought with me to enhance the set up!
WHY STYLE & AESTHETIC MATTERS TO YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER
In summary, when a photographer knows the style and aesthetic of a wedding beforehand, they can…
Help recommend portrait locations that fit the style of the overall wedding, helping to create a cohesive gallery from the wedding day that tells the story of the day through each section of the day.
Be prepared to photograph bridal details by either choosing a location in advance, or bringing styling elements to help further compliment and tell the story of those details, and of the wedding as a whole.
Focus more on the couple, bridal party, and family members. At least, for me this is true! When I know more in advance, I prepare more in advance, which frees up some of my brain space to focus on the people immediately around me - rather than on trying to find the perfect spot to photograph the invitation suite!
WHAT TO COMMUNICATE
If you’re a bride reading this, you might be wondering: what would be helpful to communicate to my photographer about my style and aesthetic beforehand? Below are a few pieces of information that are personally helpful for me to know before going into a wedding day!
What the invitation suite looks like. Even better if you can send me one beforehand!
Your wedding colors.
What your dress looks like. The bride’s dress tends to set the tone and style for the wedding as a whole!
What type and color of florals you’ll be using in your bouquets and boutonnieres.
MORAL OF THE STORY
So, the more of the story: don’t forget to communicate your style and aesthetic to your wedding photographer! In fact, make it a priority! For any couples who book their wedding with me, I send out a questionnaire a few months before the wedding with a few questions about style to get a better idea of the aesthetic beforehand so I can come prepared. That, along with checking out the reception and ceremony venue beforehand, give me a better understanding into each couple’s day, and the best way I can go about approaching the day and preparing beforehand.
But to any of my couples who might be reading this: never hesitate to over communicate on style and aesthetic to me! As someone who’s invested in your day, I love to be prepared for each and every wedding I photograph to the very best of my ability.