engagement session tips, timeline guidance, vendor recommendations & more!
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A NOTE ABOUT THIS GUIDE
We are so excited to be working with you and can’t wait to get to know you better over the next several months! We know that photography is one of the larger investments you're making for your wedding day and we are so honored you chose to work with us!
Even if you're working with a wedding planner or you're planning a simple wedding, there are likely still a lot of moving pieces left leading up to your big day.
Having photographed hundreds of weddings, we tend to get asked the same things over and over again. So we thought it would be beneficial if we put together a guide that walks you through everything from timelines to engagement sessions and inclement weather.
Thank you again for choosing to work with us and please don't hesitate to let m know if we can offer any additional guidance throughout the wedding planning process!
We are big fans of these shoots for a few reasons. First, they allow you to get comfortable in front of the camera. It takes time to warm up to being photographed and understand how we’ll guide you. Timelines can be pretty tight on weddings days and 30 minutes may be all we have for portraits, which is why we’ve found that wedding day portraits sometimes turn out better when couples do engagement sessions ahead of time.
Second, you can showcase your personalities in a more casual setting that is significant to the two of you (and can even include pets!). While they’re great for save the dates and adorning your wedding website, you can take engagement photos anywhere from 18 months in advance to a few days before the wedding.
plan your session
WHO WILL MAKE YOUR DAY INCREDIBLE
Over the years, I've learned the important role quality vendors play in creating a stress-free wedding day. I've worked with many of the vendors below and we can't recommend them enough! This is not a paid list - I chose these vendors for both the quality of their work as well as their professionalism on the actual wedding day.
DJ & BANDS
American Beauty Artistry (Makeup)
Megan Cox Bridal (Hair)
Nina Nicole Hair Design
Cleveland Beauty Collective
HAIR & MAKEUP
There's a big difference between looking at yourself in the mirror at a hair and makeup trial and actually seeing how that hair holds up in the elements and how that makeup photographs. When it comes to being confident in your choices on your wedding day, photos are invaluable!
If you're considering a Bridal Portrait Session, I recommend a full trial run of hair, nails, makeup and your bouquet. I typically spend 1-2 hours shooting at bridal sessions and it's nice to have something to hold to make your hands feel a little less awkward!
When it comes to choosing a location for your bridal portrait session, I recommend using locations that are well manicured, clean, and have great variety in indoor and outdoor locations.
Wedding venues are usually a wonderful place to start - especially historic homes and resorts that have well manicured areas. We want to keep your dress as clean as possible and still get a lot of amazing images inside and outside.
When it comes to selecting a date for your bridal portrait session, another great thing to keep in mind is the weather. In order to best Ohio weather, I highly recommend Spring, Summer and Fall. However, we'll shoot anytime and anywhere there's great light!
Many venues charge a fee for portrait sessions. Although inconvenient, the fee is often worth it in order to have use of their getting ready room and other venue services. I typically have to work with the venues on times, but I love to shoot bridal portraits in the afternoon as late as we can to get that softer afternoon light. However, if your venue has strict hours, I am happy to work with their allotted times.
Make sure to bring your jewelry, your veil and your shoes to your bridal portrait session!
any other jewelry
Bridal Portrait Session Checklist
That moment the Bride and Groom see each other for the first time on their wedding day is magical. And this is true whether the couple chooses to wait until the bride walks down the aisle or chooses to do a “first look’ prior to the ceremony.
First looks—a private moment couples choose to spend together prior to the wedding ceremony—have become more popular over the last few years. About half of my couples this year have chosen to do a first look.
While I consider myself someone who values tradition, there are definitely a few good reasons to consider a first look.
Is a First Look Right for You?
Once the ceremony begins, the day takes off quickly. A ‘first look’ is an opportunity to enjoy some quiet time alone, enjoy each other’s company, and reflect on all this day means before your day takes off.
Wedding days can be a whirlwind and they tend to fly by. There’s much to do, and a lot of people to see and to catch up with. I always encourage our couples to take a few minutes every so often during their wedding to stop and soak in everything that’s happening.
1. A first look cuts through the chaos of the day.
When there is no first look, the majority of the pictures have to be taken after the ceremony. Family pictures are generally done as soon as the ceremony ends because it’s the easiest time to round everyone up. Next up is full bridal party, and then bride and groom portraits. This generally runs into cocktail hour.
A first look opens up time prior to the ceremony for full bridal party pictures and, sometimes, for a few bride and groom portraits (although we prefer to do bride and groom portraits at sunset). This allows the couple to get the most out of cocktail hour, which makes the rest of the evening feel less rushed.
2. IT MakeS more time for Pictures without sacrificing cocktail hour.
If you’re expecting poor weather on your wedding day, it might be best to plan on a first look because it gives you more options for pictures. If it’s pouring rain after the ceremony, you’ll be thankful you had pictures done in advance.
And reason 3 is for all you cryers out there. If you know the tears are going to fly the first time you see your other half the day of your wedding, a first look will give you time to freshen up before the ceremony.
First look or not, the first time you see each other on your wedding day will be special.
3. Avoid possible bad weather and/or have time to freshen-up after crying
Here are 3 reasons to consider a ‘first look’:
Wedding Day Timeline
building the perfect
Whether you choose to do a first look or the traditional "no see before the ceremony" I will work with you on making sure you have the best timeline and plan for images.
If you're choosing to go traditional, you'll need two different sets of photo times: images taken before the ceremony and images taken after the ceremony.
You'll need to plan for about one hour of pre-ceremony bridal photos (bridesmaids and bride's family) and about one hour of pre-ceremony groom photos (groomsmen and groom's family) at separate times. You'll also need 15 minutes of combined bridal party portraits, 15 minutes of combined family portraits and at least 30 -45 minutes of couple's portraits after the ceremony if you're not doing any portraits together until after the ceremony.
If you're doing a first look, photos can be done all at one time, taking an average total of 2 hours pre-ceremony (although I also LOVE grabbing just the two of you for a few additional bride and groom photos at sunset!)
If you choose a traditional aisle reveal, all I ask is that you keep your ceremony time in mind when planning your wedding.
If you're planning a sunset ceremony or an evening ceremony, it's best to do all photos before the wedding, as daylight is crucial to getting amazing portraits for your families, bridal party and your couples portraits. Making sure we have enough time while the sun is up is a great way to make the traditional ceremony work.
If the forecast is calling for rain, fear not because rainy days can still be beautiful! If you don't believe us, just take a look at Ashley and Cam's wedding day. It rained the entire day and it was still beautiful!
If rain is in the forecast, we recommend ordering a few clear umbrellas on Amazon. It also might be good to re-evaluate portrait locations to make sure we can still shoot in natural light - even if it means heading offsite.
If you don't own a pair of cute Wellies, now may be a great time to order a pair - even if you're just wearing them in between shooting locations.
If you're not working with a planner, it might also be a good idea to check in with your entire vendor team to make sure they're aware of the weather. Hair and makeup may need to be tweaked to withstand humidity and if your wedding is outdoors, DJs and bands may need to take extra precaution to protect their gear. A quality rental team can also minimize the amount of mud at outdoor events.
While I can't guarantee that rain on your wedding day is good luck, I can put a plan in place to ensure a beautiful day and beautiful images.
Rainy day weddings may require a little more flexibility and creativity, but there isn't any reason why they can't be as beautiful and as joyful as sunny weddings!
I love capturing all the little details you've carefully chosen to be a part of your wedding day! Once we arrive at your wedding, we need about 30 minutes to capture and style details. I recommend choosing a getting ready location filled with natural light and, if possible, please keep the space free from trash and clutter.
It would be wonderful if you could put all of your rings, jewelry, shoes, veil purse, perfume, invitations and other keepsakes together in one spot for us. Please unwrap your dress but don't worry about styling it - I will hang it in a beautiful spot!
Rings (both engagement and wedding bands)
Invitation Suite ( 2 full sets with envelopes + stamps)
Any other paper stationary you may have like program cards.
Bridal DETAILS Checklist
Anything else he'll have that is special or sentimental.
Any other sentimental keepsakes you would like to include
We once had a bride bring her grandmother's hand mirror. This is completely optional - but if you have something sentimental you'd like styled with your details, we love including family heirlooms in our detail shots.
Bonus: We'd love to have a few cuts of the florals you'll be using throughout your wedding day. If your florist will supply us a small bucket of extra pieces we can incorporate those in your detail shots.
GROOM DETAILS Checklist
Socks (if they're special)
Tie or Bow Tie
When we can, we always try to take a photo of your rings while you're getting ready. If possible, try to have your engagement ring cleaned or clean it yourself. To clean at home, soak your ring in warm water with dishwashing soap for 20 to 40 minutes. Then gently brush the stone with a soft toothbrush, rinse and repeat if needed.
For family portraits, we’ll place you in the center of a large group photo with all of your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, godparents, etc. And then we’ll remove the extended family so it’s just grandparents, parents and siblings.
We’ll keep removing family members and switch a few closer family members in and out so we get photos of you and your parents, you and your siblings, some with the groom and your family, etc. Then we’ll repeat the process with your spouse's family. The whole thing will go quicker and smoother if you let family know how the portrait process will work ahead of time.
When I send out our pre-wedding questionnaire, I will ask you for a list of specific groupings, special situations (such as divorces or handicapped family members & more), but if you want to start brainstorming photos in the meantime, you'll find my typical list below.
Bride + Groom + Bride's Extended Family
Bride + Groom + Bride's Parents + Bride's Siblings + Bride's Grandparents
Bride + Groom + Bride's Parents + Bride's Siblings
Bride + Groom + Bride's Parents
Bride + Groom + Bride's Siblings
Bride + Mom
Bride + Dad
Bride + Groom + Groom's Extended Family
Bride + Groom + Groom's Parents + Groom's Siblings + Groom's Grandparents
Bride + Groom + Groom's Parents + Groom's Siblings
Bride + Groom + Groom's Parents
Bride + Groom + Groom's Siblings
Groom + Mom
Groom + Dad
FAMILY Portrait Session Checklist
Please note that this list is just a starting point and that we're happy to take any requested family portraits as long as time allows!
If you've been to a wedding recently, you may have seen a sign from the happy couple asking for their guests to remain "unplugged" during the ceremony.
And while it might seem like a strange requests to ask guests to put down their phones, there's a pretty good reason for it! You made a big investment in photography and I'm sure one of the last things you want on your wedding day is for our photos of your ceremony to be filled with obtrusive iPhones, iPads and relatives standing in the aisle with their own cameras. In order to help us do the best possible job capturing your wedding, we recommend asking guests to unplug during the ceremony.
1. If you're getting married in the summer months, a "not-so-heavy" snack or lunch time before portraits is always a good idea for you and your bridal party to avoid hungry bellies and passing out!
2. If it's going to be hot, a cooler of cold waters and frozen washcloths can help keep a wedding party cool - especially if your men are wearing lots of layers.
3. Make sure and have your bouquet delivered in time to make an appearance for the detail shots and for your first look. Often they are delivered in water and need to be dried off before use. Having towels handy can help.
4. If you're planning on having a first look with your bridal party or a parent, they often feel more comfortable being fully dressed in their wedding attire.
5. If your reception is at a separate venue, add some "fluff time" so that we can run over to the venue to capture it while it's still "untouched" by guests.
6. I always recommend the bride go into hiding 30 minutes before the ceremony at the absolute latest. Guests typically arrive early to weddings.
7. To help make family portraits go smoother, it's best to have a breakdown of what portraits you'd like and it's really wonderful if both sides of the family have a chance to have their input on what portraits they'd like before the wedding. Supplying us with a list ahead of time, we can go over it and make sure we shoot things in an order that is efficient and won't leave anyone out.
8. During the cocktail hour and the reception, we'll follow you around. Anytime you'd like a photo with someone, grab our attention. We love being your personal paparazzi!
9. I love helping you create your Wedding Day Timeline! I typically reach out to you about 2 months before your wedding to start the process. However, if you'd like to do that sooner please let me know!
One of the best ways to make your wedding memories last is by ordering
an album. These high quality professionally designed albums come in a
variety of linen & leather colors.
These aren’t the same albums your parents' wedding photos came in.
They’re modern, lay perfectly flat and look incredible on a coffee table.
I can't wait to start planning with you and getting to know you! If you haven't scheduled your engagement session yet, let's get that in the books. Feel free to email me any time at email@example.com.
If you have any questions or would just like to chat, I am here for you. I hope this guide helps make the process of planning your wedding details much easier and less stressful. I can't wait to see you soon! Thank you so much for taking the time to read through my guide!