You've spent months engaged, made countless decisions big and small, and now it's finally time to look say "I do." But before you walk down the aisle, check out these 12 tips below to ensure your wedding ceremony photos are the best they can possibly be. After all, the ceremony is the focal point of the event, and the real reason why you're having a wedding. So let's be sure your memories from that vital part of your day are well documented and not duds.
Plan It Out
You have to plan in advance, consider the lighting, the location, and so forth. If you have the luxury of going to your venue a year before your date to check out the setting, that's a blessing. You can really get a sense of what you're dealing with.
There are a few other tidbits to consider. If you're getting married in a house of worship, are there restrictions the photographer needs to be aware of? Are there eyesores like glaring, red exit signs, or signage that can easily be taken down temporarily? Also, look at the horizon and surroundings. That mountain range in the background or single pine tree behind your officiant's head? Sometimes nature looks unnatural when the skyline cuts through you at a weird spot.
Timing Is Everything
"When in doubt with your timing, consult your photographer. Fifteen minutes could mean the difference between bright or harsh light versus soft and romantic," says photographer Steve Steinhardt. Because timing and lighting (and light in general) go hand in hand. Thinking about getting married at sunset? Time out the length of your service, working backwards to be sure there's ample light. It's something you'll want to discuss before finalizing the start time and printing it on your invites.
Think About Lighting
"If your ceremony is inside, avoid lighting the altar with unnatural or overly vibrant colors," says photographer Heather Waraksa. "And if you're having a candle-lit ceremony, make sure the photographer knows so they can be prepared."
On the other hand, shade is a factor. If the light is uneven (say, half the guests are in the sun but the rest aren't) or there are spots of light coming through a tree's leafy branches, that affects the photos. This is another instance where visiting the venue at a similar time of day as your actual ceremony is key.
Make an Introduction
If you've booked both a photographer and videographer and they haven't worked together, introduce them ahead of time so they can strategize.
Right Before: Practice
Use the rehearsal to talk through last minute changes, when most of the key players are around. "It's a good time for a reminder to the couple and the officiant about where to stand so that the three of you are perfectly centered," photographer Aaron Delesie suggests. If you can discreetly mark the spot where the officiant should stand on the actual day, that never hurts, since they're typically in place before everyone else.
Yes, you want everyone in attendance to hear you. But do you need to see the sound equipment in every photo? Talk to your sound technician about options for microphones and speakers. Sometimes mic stands can cast ugly shadows—ask if your officiant can wear a mic that picks up all of the sounds or can use a handheld option. And if disguising speakers is an option (even simple greenery can help), go for it.
Keep your clothes on, but take away the unnecessary stuff. No one in the bridal party or immediate family should have phones, wallets, flasks, or bulky anything in their pockets. Particularly in a slim-fit suit.
If you want your candids to be even more emotional, Steinhardt suggests having your ceremony at a time of day where guests can go sans sunglasses, which makes it easier to capture those smiling and teary eyes.
Game Time: Go Unplugged
It doesn't hurt to have your officiant remind people to turn off their technical devices—better yet, ask them to keep everything tucked away. "My favorite is when the officiant mentions turning everything off and truly watching with your eyes and hearts," says photographer KT Merry.
We've seen so many beautiful ceremony pics ruined by a tablet (yes, a big-screened tablet) being held up by someone on the aisle. It's so distracting. Sure, it's the era of social media and digital photos, but a ceremony is about being present and taking it all in. You don't need to look at your photos 20 years from now and be reminded of the model of iPad that was most recently released or what your aunt's phone case looked like.
Even digital cameras can be a major distraction, and if the guest uses their flash, that can affect your professional photographer's photos—and who wants that?
Go Ahead, Get Emotional
Don't worry about crying or showing your emotions. Look up and take it all in. Tell your bridal party to smile as they walk down the aisle. It's a serious honor to be a bridesmaid, but they don't need to look so serious!
When you're really in the thick of things, saying your vows or exchanging rings, be sure to face each other. But here and there you should look out at the loved ones you've invited. "I love it when the couple turns to the guests or are faced a bit towards them so I can photograph their happy faces," says shutterbug Katie Stoops. "It gives variation to their photos & great reaction shots."
The Big Moment: Step Aside
Ask your officiant to step to the side right before you get to kiss. Seeing a sliver of them or just their foreheads behind you can look confusing. Your first official smooch as newlyweds, let it be just the two of you.
At the End: Take It Slow
Don't rush back up the aisle. Sure, you've got adrenaline and emotions running through your veins, but you will look the happiest you've ever looked in your life during this part of the day and if you race along that means less time to capture it. So take your time and look around, maybe celebrate with another kiss. Especially if there's a confetti toss or festive exit.