I feel that I should preface this blog post with a statement of permission for all of you reading this that are feeling the weight of instagram, family, or any other societal pressure:
You have FULL permission to make your wedding day about YOU and your love story. Your wedding day does not need to be about photography, or any other vendor and in fact – it shouldn’t be. You have full permission to not feel the need to be anything or show love a certain way for a few pieces of glass, a mirror, or some digital files.
I can feel the rest of the industry angry-glaring at me for this, and that’s really okay with me. Really and truly your wedding day is about the fist fight of love that you and your partner have gone through to get to the altar. It’s about the promises you make, about celebrating with your loved ones or running off to elope intimately. It’s about you and only you.
Unfortunately right now, there is a toxicity in the wedding industry that is pressuring couples to need to feel, look, or be a certain way thanks to social media. To be a ‘boho bride’, or get married on a mountain top via helicopter, or have a pinterest styled wedding that costs 100k. Here’s a little secret: it doesn’t really exist. A large percentage of the imagery that you all find on platforms like Instagram, or Pinterest didn’t really happen, they were curated by either a photographer, a planner, or someone in the industry for the aesthetic. Because they were ‘Blog feature worthy’. We call this a styled shoot.
The most powerful thing about a memory is that we don’t always need a physical image to find it. You have an INCREDIBLE story that you know well because you are MADE from it, and that in itself is WAY more important than recreating some empty and beautiful image you see on Instagram. Even if all of your images were stolen from you, your computer crashed – your house burned down, you still have your memory. You won’t forget the way you felt on your wedding day, I can promise you that. You won’t forget the bundle of nerves in your chest, the shaky hands as you poured your first mimosa of the day to settle you. The way the world fell away around you when you finally, finally saw your beloved. The ache in your legs the next morning from dancing the night away surrounded by everyone you love —
By not allowing your imagery to have control over the timeline of your day, you become free to celebrate the reason you are there in the first place and to be fully present.
Here are a few really, really important tips that will get you through the day without feeling the need to be anything for the camera, to not plan your day around your pictures, and to make sure you feel like you really experienced the day you’ve been waiting your entire life for.
Plan to authentically create moments with your photographer AHEAD OF TIME
If your photographer is a good one, they will know that communication with you before the wedding is VITAL to knowing you as a couple, and not forcing you to be anything that you aren’t. All of my brides have 24/7 access to me, and know that I will treat them like a friend. We have discussions about the relationships that mean the most to you, how to make a first look with dad happen authentically, how to make sure I get the shot of the way your new spouse-to-be looks at you as you walk down the aisle, the reaction of your mother as she takes her first look at you after buttoning your dress. We talk about these things ahead of time that my bride wants to see happening.
I was recently told a story of how a bride was getting in to her dress, pulling it up over her chest and holding it up for her maid of honor to tie her in. As her mother turned around, she covered her mouth and gasped – her eyes welling up with tears. All she could say was “My baby! My baby!” as she realized that the little girl who danced in the kitchen all those years ago was no longer her little baby. Her daughter was getting married. At this moment, the photographer abruptly stepped in and tried to direct mom to stand in a certain place so that ‘the light was better’, and recreate the reaction that was authentic. The photographer completely ruined the moment for mom. She completely shut down. You just can’t recreate this kind of moment, so your photographer should know WELL to just shut up and shoot regardless of conditions when those moments are happening. I KNOW my brides, and what kinds of reactions to expect from months of prior dialogue – therefore I know exactly where to be and when so that when the moment comes, I don’t have to THAT GUY by making you re-enact the scene a second time. No one likes a moment-ruiner.
Make sure you are taking moments to soak it in every now and then
Your wedding photographer should first and foremost be a documenter of your truth, not a curator of your moments. I am here to document these moments for you as a nostalgic aid to look back on, but not to be relied on as the only way to remember the day. Make sure you are taking time to slow down, take mental snapshots of the day. What did it smell like in your bridal suite once the flowers were delivered? How did it feel to sit at your kings table surrounded by your bridal party? What was your first thought when you stood at the end of the aisle, finally married? How did grandma smile at you when she saw you for the first time? You get married once, and so being intentional about enjoying the work you’ve put in to your relationship and day by pausing throughout the day to ask yourself questions like this will help you create mental snapshots that won’t go away. Pull your beloved away to a stairwell if you need it for a moment, share a beer and a plate of chicken wings and catch your breath – these little moments of yours will be memorable and important down the road when you tell the story of your love.
Put your phone down and be present
I can’t stress this enough. Unplugged weddings in my book aren’t for the photographer, they’re for you. I recently attended a workshop where we weren’t allowed to have our phones for three days. And you know how we spent dinners, and free time? We talked and connected and those few days were the most meaningful few days of my life. Imagine this for your wedding day, how much more present people will be. Maybe even considering a phone-check booth would be a good move for your big day so that the people you love as well as yourself will be focused on being where their feet are. You only get these people that you love and adore all in the same place ONCE in your life, for ONE monumental event. Focus on that. Instagramming your day can wait.
Plan your portrait time around YOU
I will be honest here and let you know that there is no place for my art on your wedding day. You have a story that existed before me showing up to your day, and your story will continue to unfold and develop in a beautiful way LONG after I leave your wedding. When planning your portraits, instead of asking your wedding photographer how long THEY need, consider instead how much time YOU want to spend away from your family and friends? How much time would you like to escape the crowd and focus on connecting with your beloved? Your portrait session is less about the pictures, and more about the time that you two get to spend one on one reveling in the excitement of everything that has happened that day, and everything that is to come. It means not making you show love in a way that is foreign to you, or choosing how you show affection. You show who you are – go grab a drink from your bar, and wander off for a bit. I’ll be in tow capturing the truth of those moments instead of forcing some fake-beautiful instagram worthy images.