Tickled to have professional  wedding photographer Michelle Warren submit a piece from the heart based on her experience – including some sage advice for stellar wedding day photography and ensuring all the detailed elements that tell the heart and soul of your day are captured.   We agree wholeheartedly with a photographic plan pre-ceremony and post-ceremony and work with our photographers and brides to determine the plan in advance so every nuance gets captured and the day can flow smoothly.  We also pre-designate photographer’s runners for our wedding photographers to add extra assurance and comfort for all.   A good, experienced wedding planner of distinction will ensure the plan is laid out for every detail so that not only the bride and her day flows seamlessly, but the event supply partners are taken care of to do their best work, too.


Things I wish Someone Would Have Told Me Before My Wedding:

Getting Ready-

-First thing in the morning hang your dress up in a safe place and let the train down and out to loosen up any wrinkles from being in the bag. Sometimes steaming out the wrinkles is necessary if you have access to a steamer.
-Put out all of your “details” on the counter or the bed so I can photograph them when I arrive and you’re still finishing up getting ready (before we get you into your dress). i.e. all jewelry, rings, invitation, save the date, shoes, and any other special items that you brought with you for the day.
-Let your bridesmaids and the mothers involved know what time you want them dressed and ready by. Usually about the time I’m getting there to take pics or just before. You want them dressed and pretty for the pictures when they’re helping you get into your dress. You don’t want to be waiting on them or Mom to get dressed when you’re scheduled to get into your dress.
-Ask your bridesmaids to please keep their items in the room cleaned up so when we take pictures the room looks nice. This isn’t always possible in a tight room with a lot of people but if it’s possible to contain the bags and loose items to one specific area and leave some of the room clean for pictures that is helpful. Try to keep an open area where you can put your dress on without a lot of travel items in the background. I will tend to want to shoot near the window and use that beautiful window light so that’s usually where we need it cleanest.
Above Photo of Photographer (and Bride) Michelle Warren.  Captured by Jose Villa .
Cameras/iphones/electronic devices-
-Please reassure your friends, family and guests that we will be photographing a TON of amazing photos and you’ve hired us to capture these moments so that your guests can enjoy this day that blows by so quickly. Granted there are moments when we’re not there before and after our coverage and so we’re happy you have friends that want to take some of those fun pics but when we’re there shooting it can be very hard for us to get our job done quickly and efficiently when guests stand over our shoulders and to our sides with their phones and cameras out. When we’re shooting indoors we usually love to utilize natural light and not flash so when other snapshots cameras are going off with flash it can ruin our film with the flash or the red light it uses to focus. Please let your wedding party know to be sensitive and respectful to our requests if we ask them to put their cameras away.

-Please let us know of any surprises or special additions planned for any events during the day….surprise dances, speeches, gifts, dove releases, etc…. We want to be extra prepared for surprise things that might be planned and not available to review in the timeline.
-Please let us know if you have designated anyone else to photograph or videotape your ceremony. Otherwise we will instruct anyone standing and shooting or getting in the aisle ways to please take their seats for the duration of the ceremony.
-During the rehearsal your coordinator should let you and the wedding party know to take your time entering the ceremony (walk normal…not TOO SLOW but not SUPER FAST either), pick up your head when you’re walking and smile! Each Bridesmaid should try to keep a good distance apart from each other so that they don’t overlap one another. Sometimes that is hard to remember in all the excitement. Definitely try to take time to look at all your wonderful guests that are there to see you on that day!
-For the KISS! … please don’t peck and run! Give us a really good one! Maybe even a kiss, a hug and kiss AGAIN! This is the moment we all wait for! Don’t be shy. Ok, well don’t make out either.You know what I mean.
-Exiting the ceremony: Sometimes the bride and groom get excited and want to start hugging everyone as they’re leaving the ceremony. If you end up wanting to give your parents a squeeze before walking out that’s one thing but then remember to grab hands and march out with that fresh happy “we just got married” JOY! Those are my favorite pics from my own wedding and I would hate for you to miss that moment!
Exiting the ceremony also…. Your coordinator should let you know a place to exit the ceremony and meet up with your wedding party away from the guests. This allows us to begin formal photos and get the other guests directed towards the cocktail hour. The family will need to know to meet us at this location and I will direct us from there to the place we will take formal photos.
Formal Lists-
-Please take 20 min or so to sit down and think about how many family formal photos you want to do on your wedding day. Most people these days choose to photograph immediate family only (parents and siblings with spouses and children and sometimes grandparents). Done right this can take 15-30 minutes. If we add in Aunts, Uncles, Cousins etc figure about another 15-20min. For group shots of 20+people or more figure 5-10 min additional for each group.
-I prefer to not work off a formal check list while shooting but it doesn’t hurt to make one for me, yourself and your family to know who needs to be in them. It’s much easier if you call in the sides of family you want at a time (by last name i.e. “Jones Family, and now “Martin side of the family”, etc) and then I will direct everyone into place.
-NOTIFY the specific family members you want in photos to go straight to the area we are doing family pics directly after the ceremony. It’s very easy for them to head off to cocktail hour with the other guests without knowing they are supposed to be present for the photos.
-Designate a family member to help find anyone missing so we can move through these specific photos in a timely manner.
Important friends and guests (non-wedding party):
-On my own wedding day I didn’t have a wedding party with bridesmaids and groomsmen. We just had a handful of friends at the wedding and it was very small so I didn’t think to ask my photographer for pictures with my friends… I assumed we would get pics during the cocktail hour together but I never asked for them before the wedding or during the wedding! Please, PLEASE, anytime you see me or Ben around (especially during cocktail hour or the reception) and there happens to be someone you want a photo with, just ask! It takes seconds and then we’ll walk away after the photo and leave you to enjoy some conversation with your friend.
-Anything you see on your wedding day that you may want a photo of don’t be afraid to ask. There’s a good chance I will get everything and more then you can imagine but it never hurts to ask. You can trust that I don’t need additional direction but if there is something special or specific I do take requests when I can budget the time. I will also let you know if we just can’t fit it in or perhaps I already got it!
Reception Setup-
Will there be a cocktail hour in a separate area for guests to enjoy before entering the reception table area? Or will the reception setup be closed off to the guests so I can photograph your perfect EXPENSIVE setup and details before everyone enters and put their purses and jackets down? I love to get about 15 min of photos of everything set up before the guests enter and it is “untouched.”
Some more advice from someone who’s done this for a while-
Enjoy your day! There’s a good chance something may go wrong because it just happens that way at weddings….and that’s what makes it special and YOUR day. It’s the funny little quirks you don’t expect that you end up remembering and reminiscing  about down the road. For our wedding, my bridal bouquet didn’t come out the way I wanted it to because Peonies were not quite in season yet and my friend ran out the door an hour before the ceremony and made me a whole new bouquet. I was mortified because I loved my florist and I didn’t want her to find out that I didn’t like my bouquet but my friend saved the day and made me a new one which looking back I just think it really didn’t matter all that much what my flowers looked like but I love her for doing it. What matters is that we had an amazing day celebrating our love together with the people we care about the most and because of that… it was the perfect day. Don’t let the flowers, the weather, some friend’s drama, or any negativity get in the way of you having the most amazing day celebrating your love together. Because tomorrow it’s over and gone and you’ll have the rest of your lives to reminisce about how amazing it was and just be happily married!


Michelle Warren Photography
view my most recent work here: http://mwfoto.bigfolioblog.com/
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(direct) 805.929.3683  (cell) 805.455.9470
post office box 603. san luis obispo, ca 93406