In the hours leading up to the ceremony, the bride prepares herself for her big day. The bride is surrounded by her closest friends, her bridesmaids or maybe even a male friend as her Man of Honour. The bride’s mum is also usually present with dad arriving a little later in the preparation timeline to see his daughter for the first time in her wedding gown.
Don’t discount this time as not important for photos, as some of the most heartfelt moments can happen in the lead up to the ceremony.
The start of a bride’s wedding day is full of emotions – excitement, nerves, anxious, happiness and love all rolled into one. It can be the most stressful part of the day, but from experience, I have found the biggest cause of the stress is usually due to not allowing sufficient time.
Even with good intentions and the best laid out plans for your morning, things go wrong, Ive seen it happen to often. It just takes the hair & makeup people to run behind or the bridesmaids scurrying to gather the things they need for the day ahead, before you are running behind. Then there is no time for photos with the bride to enjoy being in her beautiful wedding dress before the craziness of the day hits.
Good planning it about allowing time to enjoy each part of the day.
HOW MUCH TIME TO ALLOW FOR YOUR BRIDE PREPARATION PHOTOS
While I like to photograph in a more natural way without staging moments, good planning allows these moments to unfold naturally with the least amount of stress.
I typically like to allow 1.5 – 2 hours for bridal preparation photos. This allows time for :
- candid photos of the bride and bridesmaid having the final steps of hair & makeup applied
- fun photos in their matching robes/pjs
- the bride’s details
- the bride getting dressed in her gown, veil and her jewellery
- the bride’s father seeing his daughter for the first time in her wedding gown, and
- portraits with the family and bridesmaids
The bride preparation photos generally start with me photographing the bride’s details, everything from the bridal gown on the hanger, the bride’s shoes and jewellery, bouquets, wedding invitations, and any items that represent ‘something new, something old, something borrowed, something blue‘.
Bridal suites can tend to get a bit messy with the bride, bridesmaids, and Mother-of-the-Bride getting ready in one space, and then add on the hair and makeup people with their equipment, so if you can please dedicate a room or space for the details to be photographed, it would be greatly appreciated. Also if you can leave all the details laid out in the allocated space – ie. the shoes, any jewellry, etc that the bride is wearing. Don’t worry about the dress or flowers, leave the dress hanging in the most suitable place out of view as I can carefully move the dress as required. Also keep the bouquets in the containers the florist has supplied them in and again I will remove them as required.
Once the girls are in the final stages of hair and makeup being applied, I will of course grab photos of that happening, but we only need a few good ones. During a pre-wedding planning session, I will let my brides know what time their hair & makeup need to be finished by so they can let their hair & makeup people know, to allow time for the rest of the bride getting ready photos and portraits.
Once out of hair and makeup, some candid photos of the bride with her bridesmaids in their matching robes or pyjamas, and maybe a celebratory glass of champagne to settle the nerves.
After the bridesmaids get dressed, it’s time for the bride to get in her wedding gown. Once the bride has pulled on her gown and is decent, all the bridesmaids gather around her to lace or button up the gown and fuss over how beautiful she is. As the bride’s dad gets the honour of ‘giving her away’, I like to find a specific role for the bride’s mum. Putting on the veil is a great photo opportunity for the bride and her mum to have a special quiet moment together as the bride prepares for her big day. Then the Maid/Matron of Honour will help the bride with her earrings/jewellery. Then all the bridesmaids are in for the ‘shoe shot’, but I also like to get a shot of just the bride putting on her shoes, all these style of photos make for great page spreads in the wedding album.
One of the most exciting parts of photographing the bride preparations, is watching the bride’s expression as she sees her reflection in the mirror for the first time dressed as a bride. It’s at that moment it all becomes very real, and that the day has finally arrived when she is about to marry her soulmate. This is an opportune time to slow everything down and create a moment for the Father-of-the-Bride to walk in the room and see his little girl as she is about to embark on the next chapter of her life as a married woman.
Before we start the portraits, it’s usually a luxury to have time for this, but it’s the perfect time to allocate some time for the bride and bridesmaids to relax and enjoy some moments together, maybe over another glass of champagne to settle the nerves! Probably what I see most often happening at this stage of the day, all the girls scrambling around the room gathering up all the things they need for the day and evening ahead. But I urge you to take this time to be together. Typically the girls will have 20-30 minutes after the photographer leaves and between the time they leave for the ceremony – that is the time for the girls to do any last minute touch-ups and gather up any belongings they need to take with them.
For the portraits, where possible, I like to take them outdoors into a nice garden area (or alternatively the hotel foyer if no garden area is available) as it makes for a nicer backdrop than the small space of a hotel room with a TV and kitchen in the background. But I would allocate more like the 2 hours for bride preparation photos if we are moving to an outdoor area for the portraits.
The typical kinds of portraits include :
- Bride with the Bridesmaids
- Bride with the Matron/Maid of Honour
- Bride with each individual Bridesmaid
- Bride with the Flower Girls (if required)
- Bride with Mum
- Bride with Dad
- Bride with Parents
- Bride with any other family members present.
Out of the portraits, I prefer to do the family portraits with mum and dad first, as often mum has to leave earlier to get to the ceremony.
PLANNING YOUR HAIR & MAKE UP FOR THE BIG DAY
Running late with hair & makeup is a common stress factor on a bride’s wedding day – and even with the best intentions and planning, it happens more than you would think.
So when it comes to organising your hair & makeup teams arrival on the day, its advised to talk with your photographer first to find out how long your photographer needs to capture photos of :
- you getting in your bridal gown
- putting on shoes and jewellery
- giving gifts to your bridesmaids
- reading a love letter from your soon-to-be husband, and
- portraits with your family members and the bridesmaids before leaving for the ceremony.
Your photographer will provide you with a time that your hair & makeup need to be finished, just simply pass that information on to your hair & makeup people. The hair & makeup teams might otherwise make the mistake of not factoring in sufficient time required for getting in the dress, portraits and travel to the ceremony – only your photographer can provide the amount of time they require.
My recommendation is to hire professionals that specialise in wedding hair & makeup, not a friend, unless of course your friend is a professional. From my experience, most of the time brides have run late is because of having to redo their hair and/or makeup, so definitely have both hair and makeup trials before your big day to try out your ideas and see if you, and your future husband, like the finished result. This is especially important for those girls that wear minimal makeup or don’t typically wear makeup at all. Its even more important because the last thing you want on your wedding day is to not feel beautiful or have your new husband think you are wearing too much makeup. When hair and makeup starts to run late, everyone gets stressed and you miss out on photo opportunities.
I’ve experienced it more times that Id like, where the bride needs to leave for the ceremony and the bride is still not dressed because hair & makeup ran late or worse, still finishing. Getting into the dress always takes longer than expected. It is better to have your hair and makeup finished early. Realistically, how many photos do you need of your hair & makeup being done! Better to have that time for some lovely photos of you in the dress, with your bridesmaids and your family … and a glass of bubbles before you head off to the ceremony.
The most important consideration when photographing anything is light. When you are choosing your location to get ready, whether it’s a hotel room, apartment, AirBnB or house, that their is plenty of natural light. Look for rooms with big, large floor to ceiling windows. If your intended getting ready location has rooms with minimal or no light, then it’s in your best interest to find an alternative place as it will impact on your getting ready photos. The advantages of hotels and AirBnB accommodation is generally the interiors are beautifully designed with modern furniture and will make an impact in your photos. Please also remember to consider most hotel rooms are normally suited to a couple – not a bride plus her two or three bridesmaids, parents, the hair and makeup artists, and photographer.
GETTING READY LOCATIONS
Pretty much at every wedding, I photograph both the groom and bride getting ready. The closer you both are to each other and the ceremony location the better. Any travel time is included in your coverage, so the more travel time there is, it eats into your photo time.
Because I photograph the groom first, if there is a significant distance between getting ready locations, all this does is force the groom to get ready much earlier than he would need too.
If you are getting ready at the one location, for hotels try to choose rooms on different floors or very minimal the opposite ends of the floor. If you’re getting ready at a country property, usually their are guest houses scattered around the property. You generally wont see each other because you will be running on different schedules. The advantage for the photography, is that the photographer can fairly easily swap between the groom and brides rooms. I have done this on a number of occasions and it works great.
CLEAN & TIDY
Photos without clutter always look better! Try to keep the main area of where you are getting dressed clean and tidy. If your house or room has clutter and mess scattered all over the floor, then you can expect photos with clothes and mess in them. We will try to get the best angle and perspective to remove the clutter, but its not always possible. It is your responsibility to clean up prior to the photographer arriving.
BRIDE DETAIL PHOTOS
I love capturing the bride’s details. So it really helps me to speed up the process if there is a dedicated space, usually a bedroom with a good source of natural light for the bride’s detail photos.
If the bride’s dress and the bridesmaids dresses, can be hung together. Along with all your details including invitations, jewellery, veil, shoes, perfume, accessories, etc. that the bride will be wearing, can be left out for the photographer ready to photograph when they arrive. Do this in the morning before hair & makeup arrive, that way the photographer won’t need to disturb you when you are getting your hair & makeup done. You can leave the bouquets in the box as they are usually sitting in some water to keep them at their freshest, and the photographer will grab them when needed.
MINIMISE THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE
Restrict the amount of people at the getting ready location to only the bridesmaids and family members that absolutely need to be there. The reality is, that the more people that are there, the more distracted you will be, and the less time we will have for quality photos.
Family members will always want to take their own photos of you, etc. when the photographer needs to be taking photos of you. Naturally they are all the same photos being duplicated. It’s happening more and more at weddings, and it just interfers with the photos that the professional photographer is capturing.
My recommendation for Bride and Groom preparation, is to just have your bridal party and parents there to help you get ready. Your extended families can see you for the first time walking down the aisle.
Wedding days even with the best planning can be stressful and chaotic.
The best ways to avoid any unnecessary stress is to delegate jobs. Trust in all your months of planning and enjoy being pampered with your besties.
Here are a few tips to make you bride ready:
- Get a good night sleep the night before, because its likely that hair and makeup will be arriving anywhere between 6am-8am.
- Drink lots of water in the week leading up to the wedding day – hydrating your body will also help your complexion.
- Surround yourself with positive people – and create a ‘no drama’ environment!
- Be prepared something might go wrong – but its usually something insignificant anyways. You are their to marry the love of your life, and so long as that happens, all is good in the world on your wedding day.
Then it’s time for me to head to the ceremony.