Welcome to the Evan Godwin Photography Wedding Tip Series (WTS). This series of 10 blog posts, published every Friday for the next 10 weeks, will provide a list of helpful tips to consider when planning your wedding. With 400+ weddings worth of first-hand experience, these entries should help the planner-less bride (or even a few with planners) wade through the massive amounts of brain-frying information on the internet to focus on the most important things to consider when working with their wedding photographer.
This week’s topic (hopefully) won’t be nearly as long and drawn out as the previous two weeks have been; we’re going to dive into how other vendors affect our job as photographers, and in turn the product our clients receive. This will not be one of those posts about how wedding photographers rule the wedding day and we need to be on some sort of power trip. Quite the contrary. The theme couples (and any vendors who are reading this) should walk away with is that we are all on the same team. Pending other vendors do their part, photographers should be able to focus (see what I did there?) on what they do best: taking photos. We’re not florists or wedding planners; we are photographers there to document your day and provide you the photos you can cherish for a lifetime.
“We are all on the same team.” That phrase can get lost in this industry quite easily. With such low barriers to entry into most of the wedding vendor professions (You’re the next great DJ when you buy a laptop and speakers, you’re now a wedding planner since you helped your friend plan her wedding or professional wedding photographer because you bought a “nice camera”), it can be difficult for couples to navigate the surplus of vendors to pick the right team of professionals for their big day.
Because of that, I have outlined a few of the vendors that impact photographers, and more importantly: how they do so.
As an aside: Ask your booked vendors if they have any recommendations for vendors that you are still looking for. Chances are likely that A.) you’ll like them too and B.) they’ll be used to working with the vendor you are asking assistance of- 2 important points. I also wouldn’t be afraid to run vendors you are considering by a couple of vendors you already have and trust for their opinion, if they have one.
Hair & Makeup:
Here’s where our day typically starts. When most wedding photography coverage begins is usually in the the bride’s “getting ready” phase. The hair and makeup artists are doing their thing while we grab detail shots of the dress and shoes, and a few candids of the bride getting her hair and makeup done. Generally, these shots are fairly unscheduled and should allow for a relatively stress-free start to the day for your photographer. The key word there is: should.
When discussing what time your hair and makeup artist should begin, always consult with your photographer on what time they need you in your dress. This is the key to starting your wedding off on the right foot. Some brides arbitrarily schedule hair and makeup start times without knowing exactly what time they need to be completely ready for their initial portraits. If you are taking bride & bridesmaid portraits at 3pm, that’s when the camera should be clicking, not when the bride should start getting in her dress. Back it out from there: 15 minutes to walk to where you’re taking pictures and get everyone posed, a few minutes for all the girls to get their flowers and dab off the stems so they don’t drip water all over their dressed, you’ve got to make sure you visit the restroom one last time before the dress is on, you’ve got to get your vail on, dress tied up and fitting correctly in all the right places, etc, etc.
So if photos start at 3pm, plan starting to get your dress on at 2:30pm. What time does the hair and makeup crew need to start in order to make sure that’s done by then? Take that, then add a 15 minute cushion. You can always fake touching up your makeup if you have to, your photographer can’t magically make 45 minutes reappear in your schedule because they were late and took longer than expected. Your photographer will be in heaven if this part of the day starts off without a hitch. It’s tough being behind schedule the moment we arrive and realize there is no way the bride is going to be in her dress by the time we had planned, with the pre-ceremony photos now more than likely having to be rushed. Not only that, but any pre-ceremony photos that aren’t completed before the ceremony will lengthen the amount of time we for photos before you can get to your reception since they will have to be done once the ceremony is over. While we don’t want to take hours upon hours of portraits, we also don’t want any portion of your scheduled photos to be rushed due to another vendor running behind.
Florists.. ah, florists.. There are two main components to the florest’s responsibility, relative to how your photography is concerned. The first one is mentioned above: time. What time are they being delivered? When are your first portraits? Who are in those portraits? The groom, groomsmen, dads, grandads and officiants need boutonnieres for portraits. Moms and grandmothers need corsages. Brides and bridesmaids need bouquets. Discuss with your photographer when said portraits are being done at what time (usually wedding party members and the bride/groom will need their florals in advance of the ceremony, at a minimum) and where. This brings us to the second component: location. Make sure your florist is delivering to the place that makes the most sense, not necessarily just the one that is most convenient for them. You don’t want to be doing groom/groomsmen portraits at the site where they are getting ready and have the boutonnieres be delivered to the ceremony location.
This is the dude (or dudette) that is going to keep your party rockin’! Consequently, this is also the vendor that is going to dictate the entire flow of your wedding reception. All reception timelines are (and should be) very fluid. While there are clear-cut, time constraining objectives for all of the pre-reception photos, once everyone gets to the reception the idea is to have a great time. Plenty of itinerary will be allocated to open dancing, so if dinner runs a bit late it’s not going to be the end of the world to push the toasts back ten minutes. That in mind, it’s important to hire a DJ with significant wedding experience.
Not all DJs are created equal! A club DJ friend of yours probably has no idea how to emcee a wedding reception properly. While it’s not necessarily a requirement for your DJs personality to be on blast throughout the entire event, you want to hire a DJ who understands a reception timeline and that communicating ahead of important events is imperative. You probably don’t want your photographer in the bathroom when the cake cutting is announced or have your grand entrance before your photographer even finishes parking at the reception site. We’re there to capture your reception as it unfolds, so make sure your DJ is capable of letting all the vendors know what’s going on before it happens!
I try to stay current with the DJ of a wedding in asking when the next scheduled event will be. It’s a disaster when I’m shooting candids of the bride and groom walking around from table to table thanking guests and the DJ makes an announcement that it’s time to cut the cake. My lights aren’t set up, I don’t have the correct lens on and heck, now I’ve got to push guests out of the way to get the spot I need because I had to go switch out gear before I could head over to the cake cutting and all the guests had crowded around by that point. I know I’ve worked with a good DJ if I never have to say to a couple “Hold on one second before you do X , I need to go do Y.” It’s a total buzz kill having to fiddle with my lights due to having no clue something was about to happen.
Please, please do your photographer a favor: If during a consultation or pre-wedding meeting your DJ tells you that his way to get everyone out of their seats is to make an announcement that the photographer wants to get a group photo of all the guests on the dancefloor, and then he starts the music once everyone is posing for said photo, run far, far away. Good DJs don’t need gimmicks to get your guests to have fun.
The photo below is all I have to say about this. Check out my vendor list for some killer videographers in Dallas/Fort Worth that don’t do this:
This is one of the other most critical vendors to a photographer. A couple looks to a planner to take the lead on fabricating that dream wedding they’ve always wanted. Good planners will play a huge roll in guiding the pre-wedding process by assisting brides and grooms in selecting their vendors, providing insight into current wedding trends & decor and coming up with preliminary timelines to illustrate the realistic flow of the wedding day, based on the couple’s current decisions. While good planners do that, fantastic planners will reach out to said vendors for their insight as well, prior to creating that timeline. This is where that team element comes back into play.
Each vendor is completely different, and each vendor makes time decisions based on specific venues and requests of the bride and groom. Are you wanting to take portraits at the ceremony AND reception location for your January wedding where the ceremony starts at 6pm? That means it’s going to be dark at both locations, which means we’re going to have to set up appropriate lighting twice, which means more setup time for us that needs to be factored into the timeline. Are you having a 7pm ceremony the weekend before Daylight Savings Time? You’ll probably want to strongly consider taking some bride and groom portraits before the ceremony since the sun will set before the ceremony even starts.
I’ve regularly seen planners reach out to the photographer they are working with a week before the wedding, introducing themselves and providing the photographer with the final timeline. 9 times out of 10 that is the first time the planner is contacting said photographer. That’s also the first time the photographer is seeing a timeline other than the one they put together for the couple. The icing on the cake is that most of the time that timeline differs from what they have already established. Don’t let your planner do this. Make sure that they communicate with the vendors on the timeline well in advance of the event date to work out any discrepancies and to get on the same page. All successful projects and events take time and communication to plan properly. Every vendors works on their own schedules. Some are very quick to solve/deal with issues while others take time. I prefer not to deal with anything regarding an upcoming wedding the week of the event. It should long be taken care of by that point, and no one should be stressing out over timelines 4 days before the wedding.
As you can see, a wedding is a humongous team effort. Each and every detail is someone’s responsibility, so hiring a team that can take action and be accountable for their role in creating the perfect wedding day for you is crucial. The last word of advice is about one final vendor: your photographer. The photographer you choose should be capable of handling the event’s ebbs and flows. More than likely, you’ll benefit from a photographer who isn’t scared to take charge to get things done when other vendors aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. Did the florist leave without pinning the groomsmen (who are supposed to be doing portraits right now) with their boutonnieres? Did the planner disappear and forget to put a plate out with forks for the cake cutting that’s in five minutes? Did your dress shop forget to teach you or your maid of honor how to bustle your dress? Your photographer should be comfortable making sure all of those bases are covered and taken care of on the wedding day to ensure it goes as seamlessly as possible. We have to; if we don’t our product suffers.
Next week’s WTS post: Why Your Ceremony Start Time Matters!