10 Tips from a Wedding Photographer

These top 10 wedding tips are designed to take the hard work and risk out of your wedding day. In the last 5 years with my business Greg Campbell Wedding Photography, I’ve photographed over 200 weddings and in that time I’ve seen things go very well… and very badly! Doing something for the first time is always scary and full of learning so here are my top ten tips to help take the stress out of your wedding and put in the fun! 

  1. When getting ready, have an assistant
  2. Plan buffer times
  3. Make family photos easy
  4. Keep the kids happy
  5. Get confetti
  6. Don’t rely on Bluetooth
  7. Tidy up
  8. Plan your day around the sun
  9. Empty your pockets
  10. Dancing = party time

#1 - When getting ready, have an assistant

As a bride, you've likely done a LOT of planning and organizing leading up to your wedding. However, on the wedding day it's time to take off your planning hat, and put on your princess hat. But what happens when last minute decisions need to be made - and you've got 10 different people asking you 20 different questions? You need a personal assistant.

This person can be either one of the bridesmaids, or (my preference) another good friend you trust that is a guest at the wedding. Their job is to talk to all those people with questions and sort out as much of the stress as possible. They will have copies of all your run sheets, of guest lists, phone numbers etc and handle issues without getting you involved. If there are questions that only you can answer, they calmly approach you with a specific purpose and then leave you alone. That way you're in a nice calm bubble, and if there is drama - you've got someone to sort it out.

#2 - Plan buffer times

One of the easiest things to get wrong on the day is timing. When you're planning the timeline for the day, pop in a few 15-30 minute 'smell the roses' slots. What are these? These are little buffers during the day that help everyone destress, and enjoy the moment.

Good times for these include: Just before you leave for the ceremony, after the ceremony when everyone's congratulating you and having their first wine and then after the bridal party photos - just before you walk into the reception. A small break at these times can take stress away, can allow when things are running late, and hey - maybe even mean you have time for a sneaky moment with your new husband!

#3 - Make family photos easy

I've seen it all too often... the bride and groom have their first kiss, walk up the isle to hugs, kisses and champagne, then someone asks "so what about the family photos?" With no planning, the situations devolves into stress, shouting, even family arguments and I'm not joking when I say that I've seen brides in tears.

Forget that. The solution starts well before the wedding - making lists. Start thinking about your friends and family and making lists of photos - like you would make a seating plan - make a photo plan. Then, before the wedding, ask a family member (even one from both sides) with a loud voice to have that list at the wedding. I find uncles to be quite good at this - and they love being involved too. It is then their job to find people for photos and bring them over to you and the photographer. The photographer can organize the people in the photo, however because photographers don't know your family, it's very hard for them to round people up. This way when the someone asks "so what about the family photos?" you can say - "uncle Bob has it sorted".

#4 - Keep the kids happy

Weddings can be great fun for children, but of course there can be waiting around and boring bits too. With a little prior planning, you can make some simple ways to keep them happy throughout the day. At the start of the day when you're getting ready, have some coloring books or a TV in another room to keep kids busy. It's great for kids to watch and enjoy the ceremony, then afterwards have some games and activities for them to play - or even have them involved in helping pass out nibbles etc.

During the reception, one of the coolest ideas I've seen was a kids' table with lots of coloring books and even a paper table cloth they could draw on! Just remember, whatever the kids are doing, make sure they have lots of options and that they can do them quietly. Finally, if you do have a few children, consider bringing a minder along to care for them. Not a wedding guest, maybe a cousin or friend that can look after the kids all day for a few bucks.

#5 - Trust me - get confetti

It sounds so simple, but if you want that amazing moment when you walk out after being pronounced husband and wife... you've gotta get some confetti!

My advice for this is to go for a natural option like flower petals. Most venues won't allow plastic options (and they're so bad for the environment, just don't go there). Flower petals are colourful and easy to find. Just have someone give them to the people on the ends of the rows while you're signing the forms and then when you walk out... boom!

#6 - Don't rely on Bluetooth

I know it's the 21st century and wireless devices are the bizz... and I also know that one partner in every couple is either a tech-whizz or has a mate that has all the wifis. But when it comes to your wedding song, for an irreplaceable moment in time that is so special and unique that you just want it to be perfect... USE A CABLE.

I can't tell you the amount of times I've watched brides walk down the aisle to their favourite song, then it cuts out. This is the worst. Or it plays for 3 seconds and then is silent for 2 seconds. Or when you've had your first kiss and you're about to walk out as husband and wife but the Bluetooth has dropped out so you stand their for 10 seconds in silence like a couple of mugs... don't let this be you! Use a cable and have those song ON the phone, not on Spotify.

#7 - Tidy up

Another simple one - wherever you are when you get ready, keep the room tidy. It makes the photos look a million times better. An easy way to do this is politely ask the bridesmaids to keep designated areas spotless. Areas like the main bedroom and the hair and makeup zones are best photographed when there is nothing lying around. 

But also - if necessary had a dumping ground for all the extra stuff that you can't be bothered sorting on the day. A spare room or corner where things can happily sit until after the wedding.

#8 - Plan your day around the sun

Ok I'm just going to lay it out - the worst time for photography is around 11am - 3pm in Summer. Why? Because the it's hot and the light is harsh and high. People are uncomfortable, squinting and will have huge dark shadows under their eyes in the photos.

As the sun gets lower in the sky, the light becomes more flattering and the temperature drops. It's hard to say what the ideal time for each day is - but I highly recommend asking your photographer before you lock in any times - especially if photography is a high priority.

#9 - Empty your pockets

So simple yet so effective... if you're in the bridal party and you're wearing pants, take everything out of the pockets (especially the front ones). It's just not a good look - these huge rectangular objects jutting out of your pants. 

A jacket is much better at disguising most objects and there is no shortage of people to hold things for you until after the ceremony and bridal party photos. Later on it's fine to let things back into the pants pockets - or - you could always try going the whole day without the phone or wallet!

#10 - Dancing = party time

The first dance is often a scary moment for couples. If you're planning a first dance - awesome! I think they're great and they're also a nice way to phase from the formal reception, to the 'get down and party' part of the wedding. When you're dancing with your new partner, there will come a time when you want others to join in. Before your dance, talk to your bridal party and tell them the moment when you want them to flood the dance floor. This will also cue the rest of the guests to come and dance too.

Another idea is to tell the DJ to cue up 4 really catchy songs in a row after your first dance to really get people in the mood (you can't beat the B52's Love Shack). And don't plan anything official after this stage of the wedding. No cake cutting, no speeches, just fun :)