January 25, 2023

13 Tips Before Photographing Your First Wedding

Even though my very first wedding was in the fall of 2008 and it feels like AGES ago… I can still remember all the events of that day like it was yesterday. 

I remember the feeling of being SO nervous, but absolutely loving it. I knew deep down this was what I wanted to do. And if you’re reading this, I have no doubt you’re someone who cares and knows this is what you want to do, too!

If you’re preparing to photograph your first wedding, this is for you. After photographing around 500 weddings since, I’ve learned a ton about what can help you as you prepare for YOUR very first wedding, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Before photographing your first wedding, here is everything you need to do:

1. Speak with Your Client

Before you even begin to think about photos, you need to get in touch with your client 📞

As you’re leading up to the wedding day, set up a phone call around 2 weeks out from the wedding. You can meet in person if you’d like, but a 30-60 minute phone call should be completely fine.

Schedule this call 1-2 weeks before the wedding so everything you discuss will be fresh. I don’t recommend doing it the week of the wedding; there’s so much going on with prep and guests flying in. The 2 week mark is the sweet spot.

2. Create a Timeline

During the call, you’ll create a timeline of the wedding using a questionnaire. If you’ve never done a wedding before, you might have never done a timeline before. That’s okay!
If that sounds like you, we’ve created a sample questionnaire and timeline to help you out.

3. Get to Know the Wedding Party and Family

During the call, get to know everything you can about the most important members of the family and wedding party. The things you’ll want to get to know depend on whether or not there’s a wedding planner.

If there’s a wedding planner… you’ll want the first names of these members, and the phone numbers of the clients and the wedding planner. The wedding planner will be your contact. Most likely, the planner will probably have already created a timeline.

If there’s no wedding planner… you’ll want the first names of the wedding party and family, as well as a minimum of 5 phone numbers of others close to the clients, such as the maid/matron of honor, best man, and so on. If this is your first wedding, there will likely not be a wedding planner present.

Discussing these details will help you create a photo list in advance of the wedding.

One of the biggest mistakes I see is when photographers don’t put together the wedding day timeline and shot list in advance. On the day of the wedding, it ends up feeling very hectic, and the photography session takes much longer than it should. 

I ask my clients to think about the timeline and photo list we discuss and make revisions within 72 hours, just so we’re not making revisions the night before.

4. Learn About Family Dynamics

The more you learn about the couple and those family relationships on this call, the better!

There are many family dynamics you’ll be stepping into on the wedding day, so it’s great to know if there are any uncomfortable relationships, or if there’s someone they really love who they want special photos with. 📸

Once you arrive on the wedding day, you’ll want to speak to each of them to put faces to names. Do your best to memorize their names before the wedding!

Not great with remembering details? That’s okay! When you meet them and ask them names, ask them how they know the client. People are usually happy to tell you, AND this will give you time to better memorize their names. 👍

5. Discuss Finances

During this phone call, this is a great time to discuss if there are any overdue payments. 💵

In the past, I’ve had a client who struggled to pay their final bill. I made the decision to go ahead and show up and photograph the wedding, because I felt it was the right thing to do. 

If you are ever in a situation where you haven’t yet been paid for the work that you’ve done, make sure you reserve the images until the final payment has been made. Once the final payment has been made, you’ll want to deliver the images as soon as possible to the client.

6. If There’s a Coordinator…

If there’s a wedding coordinator or wedding planner, it’s important to get in touch with them to introduce yourself and talk about logistics. 📖✏️

As vendor partners working together to execute a wedding, everyone has the same goal in mind: to help make a smooth and seamless day for the couple. Reaching out to the coordinator in advance creates that rapport, and you can talk about any logistical concerns that come up during your client’s call. 

When I talk to the coordinator, I will:

  • Let him or her know I’ll be having a call with the client
  • Ask if there’s a timeline in place
  • If there’s not, I’ll follow up with the coordinator after the client call and give him or her the timeline we created
  • Follow back up with the client so they are looped in
  • Loop in the videographer as well on the timeline

I know – it’s a lot of back and forth, but it’s SO worth it to know everyone’s on the same page!

7. Dress Appropriately

I want to make sure you know that weddings are a LOT of physical activity.

It was actually really shocking to me after my first wedding how much physical work it took! After doing this for so many years, I can say with certainty that you HAVE to dress appropriately. That means:

  • Shoes: wear something professional, dressy, and appropriate for the occasion, but also comfortable. I’d recommend a closed-toe shoe. I’ll usually wear Marc Fisher booties for the ceremony and often change to my Cole Haan ZeroGrands for the reception. My husband has worn the Cole Haan ZeroGrands too, but also wears more formal shoes with his suits.
  • Attire: you’ll want to dress like a guest. If you’re a man and you’ll be around guests in tuxedos and suits, consider wearing a suit. If you’re photographing a more casual event, like a beach wedding, consider something like a linen.

I usually wear a black suit so I can blend in – the polite thing to do is wear a more modest, muted color so you can blend into any photos or videos you’re in. Especially as a luxury photographer, you are there to serve the client and not bring attention to yourself.

8. Don’t Advertise

Since you are there to serve the client, this is NOT the time to pass out business cards or advertise. 📇

If someone asks about your business, then by all means, share! But really try to be aware of how you’re sharing. When I first started photographing weddings, I’d see vendor partners who would leave business cards scattered around the reception room. 

That cheapens the perception of the brand.
If you want to present yourself in a strong, luxury capacity, don’t pass out business cards at the wedding. Even if someone asks me about my business at the wedding, I just give them my name. I DON’T spend a ton of time engaging, because I’m there to serve the client. I know that if I do a good job, the client will spend time raving to their friends and family about me.

9. Bring Food and Water

On the wedding day, here are some things we always bring: 

  • Water: we use the Yeti cups with the screw tops so they don’t spill in our bags! Sometimes the water at weddings is reserved for guests, so this is a must-have.
  • PB&J Sandwiches, Nutri Grain bars, protein bars: these keep well and satisfy hunger. Oftentimes we’re fed at the reception, but this isn’t guaranteed; so pack your own food!
  • Personal items: I bring lipstick and a hairbrush for myself.
  • Items to share with the client: Bobby pins, safety pins, and ink pens have been our most requested items from clients. At the end of the day, we’re there to help!
  • Earplugs: This is HUGE. They will save your hearing.
  • Sunglasses: I cannot tell you the number of times my eyes were burning trying to photograph into the sun. ALWAYS keep these in your bag.
  • Pain medication: You never know when you’ll have a headache or backache on a wedding day, so you’ll need Tylenol or Ibuprofen in your bag to get through it.

10. Have a Copy of the Timeline With You

I usually keep the timeline on my phone, but it’s not a bad idea to have a printed copy that you can scratch through. 📃🖊️

If you’re working with a wedding planner, they’ll likely have this themselves – but if not, then it’s a good idea for you to keep this. It ensures you won’t miss any of the photos on the photo list! 

However, if you keep your timeline on your phone, be careful not to get caught up with text messages, email, or notifications on your phone. Wear a watch to keep track of the time instead. I love wearing my iWatch on the wedding day to subtly keep in touch with the wedding team without being distracted by my phone. ⌚

11. Arrive Early and Stay Late

We always get there a little bit before my coverage time starts. We say hello, introduce ourselves, and get to know who’s in the room. At the end of the night, we always say thank you and depart a little bit after the guests start to leave.

When you create your timeline, plan to be there about 15 minutes early and leave about 15 minutes late.

12. Deliver a Few Photos The Week After The Wedding

When it comes to post-processing, know that sneak peeks right now are huge. 

If you feel like you can’t keep up with editing 20, 30, 40, or more images after the wedding day, that’s okay; just be sure you’re not overpromising to the client. 

I usually tell clients I’ll give them 3-5 images the week after the wedding. That might include a few portraits of the couple, and anything I know they’ll really want. 

I do NOT promise sneak peeks, because I know in very busy seasons, I’m unable to deliver sneak peek photos for everyone. However, I would encourage you to do a couple of portrait photos the week after the wedding – they will really appreciate it.

13. Deadline for the Gallery

Standard turnaround time for wedding photography is 6-8 weeks after the wedding day. You do NOT want to miss that deadline.

If you can come in a little early, around 4 weeks, that’s great. But you definitely don’t want to pass the 8 week mark where they have to ask for the photos. 😵‍💫
I also wouldn’t suggest delivering them too early. You don’t want to catch them while they’re on their honeymoon! 🌴🚢✈️

Your Next Steps

Your first wedding is SUCH an exciting time. It’s something you want to be prepared for. Now that you know the basics for what to do before your first wedding, you need a list of the best go-to poses for the wedding day!

Do you ever feel stuck or nervous trying to come up with poses on the spot? Or maybe you use the same poses over and over and need something new? 

I’ve been there… and now I’m sharing what I’ve learned to help you! My Posing Guide below will allow you to:

  • Build confidence so your clients know EXACTLY what to do
  • Have “go-to” poses to create consistent, strong images
  • Never feel stuck or on-the-spot – you’ll have a posing flow!

Check out the Posing Guide below. ⤵️

Posing Guide