Tips & Tricks for a smooth wedding day and great photos!

The Intimate Wedding Guide

Welcome to the Wedding Guide


Let's dive into planning!



Elopements and Intimate Weddings are the best. You can throw all the rules out the window and do whatever you want! This guide is deisinged to give you some general tips and ideas for your wedding. This is by no means the rule and every small wedding is different.

How to use this Guide:


Each section of your wedding day is broken down below, starting with getting ready and ending with the reception. Each section starts off with tips for lighting (because good light is everything) and ends with general tips and timeline-related things. Following your day break down there are a few rainy day tips, and finally, timeline samples to help you get started laying out your day!


Getting Ready

Not all elopements or small weddings include getting ready coverage but I love to if possible because I feel like it starts the story of your day. For getting ready images I usually arrive after your hair and makeup are done but right before you both get dressed. Then I photograph the finishing details and we are done. It doesn't have to be a long time but I love the moments that happen during this time.


Lighting

Photography is all about light! Lots of natural light is key to great getting-ready photos and window light is my favorite natural light. When thinking about where you will be getting ready try to find a location that does have lots of windows, this will ensure a brightly lit space that are perfect for photos.


» There is a good chance that your hair and make-up artists will also be looking for spots with great natural light too so it’s a great idea to clear space in front of the windows in advance for them.


» Ambient light or artificial light, when mixed with natural light, can cause unflattering skin tones and weird colors in photos. You will probably notice me turn off ambient lights in a room before I start shooting to avoid mixed tones.


Additional Getting Ready Tips and Ideas

» Be Intentional About Your Getting Ready Space


If you are getting ready at home the bedroom might now be the best lit space in your home so think about which space might be the best lit backdrop and make sure it is clean and ready to go for photos. If you are having guests consider renting and Airbnb near your venue where you can all stay together. Getting ready with freinds is always fun and you can all crash their after! A bonus is Airbnbs are clean and photo ready so they make great backdrops.

» Clutter


If friends or family are getting ready together it is going to get a bit messy. Clutter can be super distracting in photos though, so it’s best to straighten up a bit before I arrive. Even if it’s just tossing everything in the closet or a nearby room, it will make a huge difference in your photos. Try to have a designated clean space by a window since that is where we will probably be taking a lot of photos.

» Don’t be too far away


If you are not getting ready at your venue, make sure your Airbnb or hotel is nearby. A lot of photo time can be lost while I am traveling between locations and being too far away has the added stress of traveling on your wedding day. If you are getting married in the city make sure to factor in extra travel time for traffic and be aware of any concerts or sporting events that might be happening that day!

» Time allotment : 30-60 minutes


This is enough time to get some quick images of everyone getting dressed and be on our way. Allocate more time if you are getting ready with friends and family.

» GET READY TOGETHER


Not concerned with the tradition of not seeing each other before the ceremony? Get ready together! You can get coffee, have breakfast in bed, go for a walk, whatever you love to do together. Then come back and help each other get ready for your ceremony. Do whatever it is that will make you enjoy your day more and make it more “you”.


The First Look


If you are not getting ready together you can opt for a first look. A first look is a private moment between you and your partner before the ceremony. Doing a first look helps alleviate nerves and gives you a private moment together before everything gets started.


In a traditional first look one partner would walk up to the other and tap them on the the shoulder to get them to turn around. The event is staged but the moments that happen after are captured candidly. With that said, your first look does not have to follow this structure and can be more organic if that feels more like you! You could walk around a corner and see each other, enter a room, arrive at your ceremony and get out of the car to surprise your partner. It is totally up to you!



Why do a first look?


Most couples choose to do a first look to calm their nerves and maximize the time they spend together on their wedding day. Other reasons include making travel logistics to the ceremony easier, being able to do family formal or couple photos before the ceremony, and maximizing daylight for photos during the winter months with the sun sets earlier.




Additional Getting Ready Tips and Ideas

» Just You Two


While family might insist on being present a first look is a moment bested shared between the two of you. I usually try and find a spot off the beaten path, out of the way from family and guests, to do your first look. If family and friends want to watch (and that's alright with you) they can from nearby.

» SHARE PRIVATE VOWS



If you are a bit shy about exchanging really deep emotional vows in front of 100 of your closest family and friends during your ceremony, consider exchanging them during your private first look time instead. You can still exchange more standard vows later at your ceremony but also share more meaningful words with your partner while you’re alone.


» TIME ALLOTMENT : 15 minutes



First looks take a bit for me to set up and then after they happen I love to give you both a few minutes to talk and soak it all in with out feeling rushed.

The Ceremony



Lighting


When thinking about your ceremony most people think about the backdrop and totally forget about the light! The light depends on the location of the sun and the time of year that your ceremony will take place. I don’t expect you to become a light expert but it is something to keep in mind! The good news is most venue coordinators will have a good idea of where the sun will be setting on your ceremony space so make sure to ask. Many venues have a few ceremony location options too so depending on the time of day one location may be better than the other! If your ceremony is happening indoors or in the evening consider adding extra string lights to get that super romantic feel. If you are having a backyard wedding I am happy to help you pick your ceremony location if you are unsure which location is the best or which way you should be facing.



» An Unplugged Ceremony


If you are having guests consider having your officiant make an announcement or putting a sign at the entrance to your ceremony letting your guests know that you are having an unplugged ceremony if you want your guests to be present and not taking photos during your ceremony.

» HOLD THAT KISS


You don’t have to make out at the altar but go in for that first kiss and hold it for a few seconds to make sure I can grab a few good shots! If you want (and if you can remember) you can stop and kiss again in the middle of the aisle as you walk out! It makes for a great photo with all your guests clapping and celebrating in the background!


» Mark the center of your Altar



If you are having an altar or centerpiece for your ceremony it is a good idea to mark the ground where you want to stand so you are centered! You can use a piece of tape or a dab of spray paint on the grass. Most people are so excited that the last thing they think about is being centered for their ceremony but they definitely notice it later in the photos. If you are spending the time to create an altar, I want to make sure it photographs as you intended it to. I simple piece of tape on the ground is all you need!

» Consider a ceremony exit



Have your guests toss biodegradable confetti, flower petals, blow bubbles, or wave ribbons as you walk back down the aisle after your first kiss as a married couple. They are super fun and make for amazing photos!

» Time Allotment : 15 - 30 minutes


Even with a courthouse elopement I still schedule at least 15 minutes for a ceremony, just in case things are running a little behind. If you are having guests we usually schedule between 20-30 minutes for everything. Religious ceremonies may run longer so make sure to ask your officiant how much time to schedule.

The Formal Photos



Lighting


Everyone looks best when they are lit with natural light so I always try to take formal photos outdoors if possible. Formal photos are best when they are evenly lit, so there is a good chance I will be looking for a nice shady spot to photograph your family and your wedding party! If we are indoors due to bad weather I will still be looking for a location that has some natural light to work with, like a large window, and then supplement with flash if needed.


Timing and Common Groupings : The time needed for formal photos adds up quickly. I recommend planning for 3 minutes per grouping during our formal photo time. That is about 10-12 family photo groupings and 3-5 wedding party groupings. So if you have 10 family groupings and 5 wedding party groupings, that would take about 45 minutes total to complete. If we are done early that's great, its always best to have some buffer time. If you are doing a first look we have more flexibility in your formal photo timing. If you have a traditional wedding timeline (formal photos during cocktail hour) then the number of family/wedding party photos can rimpact your couple photo time, so that is something to keep in mind.


I kindly request that you limit your formal photo time to immediate family, grandparents, wedding party, and other extremely important people, and save the rest of your group photos for the cocktail hour/reception. The reception is great for photos of coworkers, extended family, and college friends!


Additional Formal Photo Tips

» Make sure Everyone Knows Where to MEet



The number one thing that slows down formal photo time is hunting for missing family members. Make sure everyone who needs to be present for formal photos knows when and where they need to be before your wedding day.

» Have a Photo Wrangler


It is a great idea to have a close friend or family member be the official photo wrangler. It is less common for people to wander off at smaller weddings but it is still helpful to have someone who knows everyone and can help find guests for photos.

» Don't go overboard with the groupings



I don’t recommend going crazy with the family formal combinations. Not only will they take up a lot of time but it gets exhausting for you and for your family to stand and smile at the camera for too long. Anything over 45 minutes (for family and wedding party) is usually too long and people start to get antsy and smiles start to look fake and no one wants that.

» Over-the-shoulder shooters


It’s natural for guests to want to gather around and take photos while I am taking your family or wedding party photos. Unfortunately, the more people taking photos while I am the less likely I will be able to get a great shot where everyone is looking at my camera. Don’t be surprised if I kindly ask the group to disperse or to refrain from taking photos while I am so that I can ensure I can have the attention of everyone in the photo.

The Couple Photos



Lighting


The ideal lighting for couple photos is in the hour before the sunsets! In the photography world, this is known as the golden hour, when the lighting is soft and golden, and the colors are vibrant! This is when I recommend taking the bulk of your couple photos if we can make it work. Depending on what time the sunsets this time may fall during dinner at your reception or as early as right after your ceremony in winter. It is important that you check what time the sunset is on your wedding day and plan to sneak away in the hour before for 15-20 minutes for those lovely sunset photos. It is always worth it, I promise!




Additional Couple Photo Tips

» Just relax and focus on each other


Seriously! I will take care of the rest! As long as you guys are laughing and interacting with each other the photos will be great. It’s hard to get out of the stiff-posed traditional photo mindset but when you do, that’s when all the photo magic happens! Don’t be afraid to be silly and mess around, to move, dance, and spin. The more you can relax and the more fun you are having the better your photos will be!

» Don't sweat the small stuff


Is there a tiny stain on your tie? A small rip in your veil? Don’t stress about it. 99.9% percent of the time those little tiny imperfections are not noticeable in photos. If I do happen to see them they are easy enough to clean up in post-production (aka good old photoshop).

» Don't worry about the elements



Dry cleaners will get all of the mud, grass stains, and food stains out of your outfits! If you want fun natural-looking photos don’t be afraid to just let your dress blow in the wind or drag on the ground. Have fun with it and roll with it! It is always worth it to adventure, especially when the weather isnt cooperating. Clothing can be cleaned but you can't relive the day again.

The Reception

Not all small weddings have a reception but if you are planning on one or even a dinner party here are a few things to keep in mind!



Lighting


 There are so many variations when it comes to receptions but my vote is always for warm, natural-looking light! The best way to get this is lots of string lights! Be aware the Christmas lights (the tiny bulb ones) don’t give off enough light, you need the outdoor Italian string lights to really light up a space, and the more the better! Think about it this way, the more you can light up your reception space with string lights, candles, or other neutral lighting; the better your photos will be. Dimly lit reception spaces make it hard for even the best cameras to focus and will result in extra grainy photos or me having to use flash. I try to avoid using flash unless it’s absolutely necessary or we are breakin’ it down on the dance floor. Flash kills the mood and the atmosphere of your photos and makes creative shots more difficult. I really want to try and capture the feel of your day and I want the photos to reflect that so string up those lights and embrace the soft romantic light from them!


 

 

 

Additional Reception Tips and Ideas

» When to feed me :)



I have been with you all day so I am probably starving! Tell your caterer that I eat when you eat. Lots of caterers won’t feed vendors until after all of the guests have been fed. This is fine for everyone but the photographer/videographer. The only time I know that nothing is happening is when you are eating. No one wants photos of themselves chowing down on crab cakes anyway! This is the best time for me to break. By the time you are done, so am I, and I just go right back into documenting your day!

» Family Style dinner


There are several different ways you can get everyone fed at dinner but by far the most efficient way is a family-style meal. Every table is presented with plates of every dinner entree and side and they serve themselves. No long buffet lines, or waiting for plated meals to go out. All of your guests get to eat at the same time and dinner takes about half as long as it does with a buffet or plated meal. That means more dance floor time for you and your guests! Not all caterers do family-style meals but it is worth asking about.

»Time Allotment : 1-2+ Hours


This can vary a lot depending on your event. If you are just having a dinner with no dancing or events after I wouldn't need to stay for more than an hour to get some good candids. If you are having events, like a cake cutting or first dance, I want to make sure I am there for those so you might need more reception coverage time.

» Chewing Photos


If possible avoid having toasts during dinner so you and your guests are not chewing in all of the toast photos. If you are having them during dinner try and do them between courses, like after salads, so there is a break in the eating.

The weather is weather.



Rainy Day Wedding Tips


It should come as no surprise to anyone who lives in Maryland but our weather can be a bit wacky! Having a good rain plan and preparing for rain can help make your day go smoothly if it happens. The number one thing I always tell my couples when it comes to rain is to just roll with it. You can not control the weather so don’t stress about it! If you are not stressing then your family and friends will be ready to roll with the punches too. Everyone takes a hint from you guys, if they see you having a great time despite the weather then they will be more likely to have a great time too!


Rainy Wedding Tips and Ideas

» Rainboots



If it looks like rainy weather is in the forecast for your day and you have a bridal party go out and get some cheap rain boots for your girls to wear. Not only will they be more comfortable with dry feet but they will be able to walk around much easier if we are taking photos out in the grass. If they are wearing long dresses no one will even know, if they have short dresses you can pick cute rain boots that match your wedding party colors for a fun touch!

» Umbrellas


Clear umbrellas are best for photos because they let light through but solid white, black, or other colors are fun too. Have enough so every two people in your wedding party can share an umbrella. I always have a few clear umbrellas in my car too just in case!

» Don't be afraid to get out in the rain



Photos in the rain are always worth it, it’s part of your day so have fun with it! Don’t worry about your suit or dress, a trip to the dry cleaners can take care of any mud that might make its way onto your clothes. Chances are everything will be going to the dry cleaners anyway!

»Layering for cool damp days


If it looks like it’s going to be cold and wet then wear leggings under your dress for any outdoor photos and events. They won’t be visible in the photos (especially if you wear a nude color) and you will be so much more comfortable. You can take them off later when the outdoor events are over. Don’t forget to tell any wedding party or family members too since they will likely be with you outside for longer than your guests will.

Sample Timelines


Below are examples of 2, 4, and 6-hour timelines. These are to give you an idea of what the timeline for your day might look like and to help you plan your own!


The beauty of intimate weddings is you can do whatever you want. You by no means have to follow any kind of regular wedding day schedule or have any traditional events that don't feel like you! I included things like toasts or parent dances in the timelines below to give you an idea of when they could happen if you choose to do them.


I am happy to help put together a detailed timeline for your day. Just let me know when you are ready!

3 Hour Timeline - courthouse elopement

For a courthouse elopement with a few guests.


2:30 » Photographer arrives / Finish getting ready

3:15 » Leave for courthouse

3:30 » Arrive at Courthouse/detail photos

4:00 » Ceremony Begins

4:15 » Ceremony Ends

4:20 » Family formals {15 minutes}

4:35 » Couple Photos

5:30 » Photo coverage ends

3 HOUR TIMELINE - Venue or Backyard

Backyard or venue-based elopement with a few guests.


3:00 » Photographer Arrives / Finish getting ready (put on tie, get in dress)

4:00 » Ceremony Begins

4:15 » Ceremony Ends

4:20 » Family formals {15 minutes}

4:35 » Couple Photos

5:35 » Candids with family/friends

6:00 » Photo coverage ends


4 Hour Timeline - traditional

For a wedding with a dinner reception with no first look.


3:30 » Photographer Arrives / Detail Shots

3:45 » Getting ready photos

4:45 » Prep for ceremony

5:00 » Ceremony Begins

5:30 » Ceremony Ends / Guests to cocktail hour

5:35 » Wedding Party and Family formals {20+40 minutes}

6:15 » Couple photos

6:30 » Cocktail Hour ends / Guests to reception

6:40 » First Dance

6:45 » Dinner is served / Toasts

7:30 » Photo coverage ends

4 HOUR TIMELINE - WITH FIRST LOOK

For a wedding with a dinner reception.


3:00 » Photographer Arrives / Detail Shots

3:15 » Getting ready photos

4:00 » First Look {15 minutes}

4:15 » Family Formals {30 minutes}

4:45 » Formal Photos Complete / Prep for ceremony

5:00 » Ceremony Begins

5:30 » Ceremony Ends / Everyone to Cocktail Hour

6:15 » Couple sneaks away for photos

6:30 » Cocktail Hour ends / Guests to reception

6:40 » First Dance

6:45 » Dinner is served / Toasts

7:00 » Photo coverage ends

4 HOUR TIMELINE - cocktail hour before ceremony

This non-traditional order of events is becoming more popular and I love it!


3:00 » Photographer Arrives / Detail Shots

3:15 » Getting ready photos

3:45 » First Look {15 minutes}

4:00 » Cocktail Hour starts / Great guests

4:30 » Family Formals {20 minutes}

4:50 » Prep for ceremony

5:00 » Ceremony Begins

5:30 » Ceremony Ends / Reception Begins

6:40 » First Dance

6:45 » Dinner is served / Toasts

7:00 » Photo coverage ends


6 HOUR TIMELINE - traditional

For a wedding with no first look, planning on having dancing after dinner.


3:30 » Photographer Arrives / Detail Shots

3:45 » Getting ready photos

4:45 » Prep for ceremony

5:00 » Ceremony Begins

5:30 » Ceremony Ends / Guests to Cocktail Hour

5:35 » Family formals {20+40 minutes}

6:15 » Couple photos {15 minutes}

6:30 » Cocktail Hour ends / Guests to reception

6:40 » First Dance

6:45 » Dinner is served

7:45 » Dinner ends / Toasts {5 minutes per guest)

8:00 » Parent dances

8:10 » Dance Floor Opens

8:30 » Cake Cutting

9:30 » Photo coverage ends


6 HOUR TIMELINE - WITH FIRST LOOK

For a wedding planning on having dancing after dinner.


3:00 » Photographer Arrives / Detail Shots

3:15 » Getting ready photos

4:00 » First Look {15 minutes}

4:15 » Family Formals {30 minutes}

4:45 » Formal Photos Complete / Prep for ceremony

5:00 » Ceremony Begins

5:30 » Ceremony Ends / Everyone to Cocktail Hour

6:15 » Couple sneaks away for photos {15 minutes}

6:30 » Cocktail Hour ends / Guests to reception

6:40 » First Dance

6:45 » Dinner is served

7:45 » Dinner ends / Toasts {5 minutes per guest)

8:00 » Parent dances

8:10 » Dance Floor Opens

8:30 » Cake Cutting

9:00 » Photo coverage ends


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