There's an order of things, and before any of this is even an issue, first you have to be asked to be someone's wife/husband, thats a given right? I've heard a story where a (potential) bride had booked a venue 5 years in advance, despite not even having a boyfriend! She was just so into the hotel and the grounds that she just had to book it. Talk about a pressure date when that that date draws near? Her sitting there with a wedding dress hanging in her hotel room, on in the vain hope you'll go with it the next day!
You think 'wedding', you have to think about the vicar, the priest, the minister, the registrar, the Elvis impersonator, you get the idea? So we'll quickly start with the main venue, because once that's sorted you can then move on to the reception, as nothing can start without getting that all important date sorted.
As a professional photographer there are always going to be a few rules on how to conduct yourself, the Minister or Priest call them 'rules', me? I call them common sense 'things'. Things like, don't be wandering around the place getting in the way and distracting the wedding guests. No powerful flashes going off in everybody's eyes, turn the BEEP thing off when your camera is trying to focus (a pet hate of mine), and my most common request by the officiant, "don't take pictures over my shoulder". Yeah... There are some rookie photographers out there that think it's acceptable to get their shiny new camera lenses right into the middle of the action like they're trying to photograph the birth or something!
Me personally, I keep a respectful distance throughout the whole ceremony, especially those tightly grouped venues that are really small and cramped. I work with two cameras with two very different lenses, one for the close ups, and one for the distance work, where I'm some yards away from the action but can still zoom right in as if I'm right next to you. It requires a steady hand, a full understanding of the settings and capabilities of your camera, but that's all second nature to me now.
As a bride however, you can make things run a little smoother for your photographer, by asking a few simple questions before hand.
Some Ministers/Priests don't allow photographers to work during certain parts of the ceremony, and that's fine I respect that. Usually because of some idiot who has ruined it for everyone else most likely, but just so we're all on the same hymn sheet, it's nice to know in advance.
I've found that having somewhere that offers you a discount for your guests who might have to stay the night is always the right route to go. Remember, you're in control here, they want your business just as badly as the next hotel. Even if it's just saving your guests £10 on their booking, at least it's something right?
There's always a dedicated Event Manager at each hotel whose job it is to convince you to book with them. They'll have Wedding Fairs usually twice in the year so make sure you stick that in your calendar, that way you'll get an impression of how the room will be dressed for the happy occasion. Here's my list of things to consider when booking a venue:
There's nothing worse than having to wait for your band/disco to get set up, especially if you've paid to have them from 8pm and they don't get access to the room until 8:15pm as you've overshot the clock during the dinner reception, because your Dad has decided to recite your entire life as he wasn't sure what to say during the speeches, so he's pretty much blurted out everything out from nappy training until the time you left the front door that morning. Speak to the band too, see if they would find it easier to come in during the day to get set up, and you'll promise to keep your sister's kids off the drum set in the corner.
You don't want the town's local bench warmer wandering in, helping himself to the sweet cart you've paid a few hundred quid for now do you? Especially if he's just come in from a hard day's graft mucking out the cow sheds and he's a bit of a bar of soap, if you know what I mean? You know rightly one of your work mates will probably end up trying to snog him for a bet.
To be honest, some hotels have spent a fortune on making sure their gardens are the place to come to for your formal photographs. Me as a photographer I think that's great, so long as Uncle Bob isn't constantly trying to get his own photography business off the ground by stealing all my setups and taking pictures over my shoulder. However there are those hotels who have gone for full tarmac and car park option, and maybe a small area for the smokers.
If that's your venue's tack, then you're going to need a plan B: "Where do we go between the church and the hotel?"
Always speak to your photographer about these things when you come to meet him/her for the first time. Ask them about their local knowledge of the area, and if it's outside of both your local knowledge, why not take a Saturday stroll around the local parks. Always try and take a viewing on the same day of the week as your wedding, as you could find that Saturday's are crammed with kids and dog walkers. Better yet, ask the wedding co-ordinator about their experiences of the area. It's also a good idea to arrange to have your engagement commission in the same place you're planning on having your wedding images, as it gives everyone a chance to think about how things might go, and to come up with some new wonderful, yet realistic ideas.
As an experienced wedding photographer, I always suggest that the bride bring along some flat shoes to wear between locations, especially if you're planning on having some photographs done on grassy areas. Even some areas in woodland can be a little tough on the ankles if they're in new high heeled shoes. They make for some amazing images, but do consider your footwear requirements when planning on those picturesque surroundings. Also think about the time of year, if it's late autumn those woodlands can look a little grey and dull, and lets not forget wet and muddy.
Remember, the seasons tend not to behave in the way you think they should. April / May are fantastic months for the weather (usually) as spring seems to be dryer that the end of June and the beginning of July, but you can never tell. We'll talk about the weather and what to consider in my next blog, so be sure to subscribe on the links above, or contact me directly to be included in my email updates.