WELCOME TO THE CHELSIE RENAE PHOTOGRAPHY BRIDAL GUIDE
Hello Bride-to-be and Welcome!
This is such an exciting time for you! I’m sure your mind is racing with all that needs to be planned. It’s all very exciting , but it can also be somewhat overwhelming. You’re planning the day that you’ve been anticipating your whole life and yet you only get one shot at it! By the time you get the hang of it, the planning is over! My goal as a wedding photographer is to make this one aspect of the planning process simple. Photography is more than just images, it’s a real part of your day. Not only do you deserve beautiful images, you also deserve an amazing photographic experience. The goal of this guide is to help you plan your wedding day in a way that will allow us to provide you with the BEST experience possible. The next step is to plan your engagement session and then start chatting about wedding day details as we get closer to your date! We’re beyond excited to be working with you!! I cannot wait to get to know you two during your engagement session. Welcome! It’s an honor to be your wedding photographer.
WEDDING DAY FAVORITES
You may not realize this but every photographer has parts of the wedding day that they favor! Here are a few of my favorites that I look forward to.
BRIDAL DETAILS | I love starting off the day with beautiful details! I consider this my “warm up” time. These details allow me to be creative from the moment I begin shooting on your wedding day! I love having this time to prepare for the rest of your day.
BRIDE + GROOM PORTRAITS | Portrait time with the bride and groom is hands down my favorite part of the day! This is when I produce my best work and when my couples really get to enjoy being together on their wedding day. I especially love the moment when the groom sees his bride for the first time! If I could photograph first looks all day long, I would.
AFTER THE CEREMONY | The first few moments after the ceremony are so special as well! This is when the couple gets to hug, laugh and cry with those that they are closest to. It’s emotional and it’s so very special! Emotions are high and it’s a part of the day when everyone seems equally excited and relieved that the pressure is off and they are looking forward to the party.
Here’s the page that can be somewhat intimidating! The TIMELINE! I know this isn’t the most exciting aspect of the wedding day, but this is the one thing that can make or break your photography! This area will outline an ideal wedding day working off of a 6pm ceremony time frame. This ideal timeline is also based off of a wedding day that includes a first look. 90% of my couples choose to do a first look, and you can read more about that option a few pages over! Remember that all wedding days are different, and your timeline may differ due to travel times and unique situations.
BRIDAL DETAILS 2:30-3:15 | Every bride loves having those beautiful shots of her bridal details. It’s an important part of the story and I love having some time to shoot the dress, shoes, jewelry, invitations, etc. These shots allow me to get warmed up for the rest of the big day. I normally like to allow at least 45 minutes for this part of the day. While I’m shooting details, I’m also capturing some shots of the bride and her girls getting ready! If the groom is getting ready nearby, Heidi will begin photographing the boys close to 40 minutes before the first look since it always takes them less time to get dressed.
BRIDAL PREP 3:15-3:45 | After the details have been photo- graphed, it’s time for the bride to get into her dress! This is a big moment! I usually ask the mother of the bride and all of the bridesmaids to be dressed by the time the bride is ready to get into her dress. This ensures that everyone will look nice in those images. After the bride is in her gown, she can put on her jewelry, veil, shoes, etc. and I will shoot some additional bridal portraits.
FIRST LOOK 4:00 | This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day! I will find the perfect location for my couple’s First Look prior to the getting ready portion of the day! Don’t stress about that one bit! I will make sure the location is private and as secluded as possible.
PORTRAITS 4:15-4:45 | After the bride and groom take their time with the First Look, I will begin taking a few romantic portraits of the two of them while the initial excitement is still present! I will find the locations for these shots as well! Remember, the LIGHT determines where we shoot and so I can’t decide on portrait locations until the day of. As we shoot these portraits, the bridal party can start making their way to us for Bridal Party portraits.
WEDDING PARTY PORTRAITS 4:50-5:20 | Now it’s time for Bridal Party shots! I buffer in extra time throughout the day just in case we have some unexpected things that hold us up! One way to make sure we stay on sched- ule for bridal party portraits is to have someone put the boutonnieres on the guys BEFORE they arrive for portraits. During Bridal Party portraits, Heidi and I will make sure to get great shots of the guys and girls both separately AND together! After bridal party portraits are complete, the bride will go into hiding so that early guests don’t sneak a peek and the ushers will begin their duties.
RECEPTION DETAILS 5:30-5:50 | If the reception is in the same location as the ceremony, I will use this time to shoot the reception decor UNTOUCHED. If the ceremony and reception are in different locations, I recommend having a cocktail hour outside of the main reception area if possible so that I can grab some great shots of your reception before the night begins and guests start laying down purses and coats on their seats.
CEREMONY 6:00-6:30 | It’s time to get married!! Most ceremonies are 30 minutes long. If your ceremony is longer than 30 mins, we’ll make adjustments to the timeline! Cherish these moments! Your ceremony will pass by so quickly.
FAMILY PORTRAITS 6:40-7:10 | Family formals normally take place immediately following the ceremony. It’s best to save all of the family formals until after the ceremony because ALL family members will be present at that time. We’ll need about 30 minutes for family formals and I will send a questionnaire before the wedding where you can list out the shots that you want. I recommend shooting portraits outdoors if possible so that they resemble more natural family portraits, especially if the ceremony location is dark.
JUST MARRIED PORTRAITS 7:15-7:30 | 7:00pm is the BEST time of day for portraits in the late spring, summer and early fall! This is when the sun is glowy and golden. I love having a few extra minutes with the bride and groom to take a few “Just Married” portraits right after family formals.
RECEPTION BEGINS 7:30 | This is when the bridal party lines up for introductions and the party begins!! By this part of the day, my timeline isn’t as strict. I work off of the natural light and so after the sun is set, my portrait time is over and I begin focusing on the reception event.
I always suggest 8 hours of coverage so that I can be present for the main events of the reception and about an hour of dancing!
If you’re interested in having your exit photographed, there are several options for this! You can either add additional coverage or plan a faux exit with just your bridal party! We have had GREAT success with this and the party never stops!
When you’re planning a wedding day timeline, the best advice I could give is to ADD CUSHION TIME! Sometimes the most simple things can take an extra 20 minutes and then all of a sudden, the whole morning is thrown off. I have seen “getting the bride in her dress” take almost 40 minutes because of a button malfunction. It’s a smart idea to add in an extra ten minutes here and there so that we have some wiggle room to work with! This way, if one part of the day gets thrown off by 20 minutes, I can help you compensate that time in other areas. There are so many different things to think about when you’re planning a wedding day, and so here are some tips for the preceremony timeline! I realize that every single wedding day is different and so not all of these tips will apply to every wedding day schedule. Something else to consider is that not EVERYTHING will go as planned, and I promise you, that is completely normal.
Bouquets + Bouts | You will need your Bouquet & Bouts for your First Look! Have them delivered to the room where the bride is getting ready.
Travel Time | Be sure to think about the travel time and TRAFFIC to and from your getting ready location and your venue.
Hair + Makeup | I encourage brides to have at least their makeup done before I start because who wants a ton of shots without their makeup on?! Nobody. Hair and makeup always seem to take the longest, which can cause delays in your timeline. I suggest you start hair and makeup early in the day to avoid delays in your schedule.
Groomsmen Prep | My second shooter (Heidi) will photograph the guys getting ready if they are getting ready in the same location as the bride or within 10-15 min.
Getting in the dress | I’ll instruct you to get into your dress close to a window and it would be fabulous to have your bridemaids dressed when you’re getting in your gown.
Create a cushion | A 10 minute cushion every now and then is a GREAT idea! It’s amazing how fast time slips away the day of!
WEDDINGS + SEASONS
Portrait & Timing Tips for: WINTER , SPRING, SUMMER & FALL
Winter | Winter weddings are gorgeous! However, they do take some additional planning simply because of the sunset time. The hard part about a winter timeline is the fact that the sun sets around 4pm. This means that all of your portraits have to be done before then! This isn’t a problem if you’re having a late afternoon wedding. However, if you’re planning on having a late evening wedding, you may have a bit of down time from 4pm until the start of the ceremony. You will also need more coverage time as well.
Spring | Spring weddings are wonderful because they are the perfect temperature! However, I recommend having plenty of Claritin and Zyrtec on hand just in case allergies start to flare up during portrait time. Spring weddings normally mean the potential for some blooms! If we happen to find any type of blooming tree or plant, it will be worth it to give us a few minutes for portraits with it! You’ll LOVE the results.
Summer | Summer weddings are amazing! I love that there is so much daylight! In some months, the light will last until 8:30pm! So, if you’re having a summer wedding, you’ll need to plan on having a few minutes to slip out of the reception for your sunset portraits! You will NOT regret this! This is the absolute best light of the day and you’re going to want to have portraits during this time period. Usually these portraits happen during dinner or open dancing so that no one even notices that you’re gone for a few minutes.
Fall | Fall weddings are my favorite! I love the temperature and the colors! Most of my fall brides worry about color, and I just want to encourage you that allI need is one tree with some color in order to make it look like fall! A little bit of color can go a long way!! Your portrait time will vary depending on your wedding date! We’ll be sure to discuss this when we approve your final timeline.
It’s the morning of your wedding! Hopefully all of the little details are taken care of and you’re relaxing with your best friends while your hair is being done. If certain items haven’t been checked off of the to-do list, it’s time to hand them over to someone else. Delegation is a key part of a stress-free wedding day. I know it’s hard to hand over the decorating duties and all of the last minute things that need to be done, but it really is important to relax the morning of your wedding. The rest of the day is going to be fast paced and filled with a lot of emotions! Take advantage of this down time!
There are a few things to consider about the “getting ready” portion of the day. Do you want to share a “first look” with your dad or any other person who plays a huge role in your life? Will you and your groom be exchanging gifts during this time? If so, who would you like to deliver them? Are there certain women in your life who would appreciate seeing you get into your gown? Some brides want very few people around for this moment. Other brides love having aunts and grandmas present! It’s totally up to you! A few other things to consider…. as you get ready to put your dress on, refrain from putting any jewelry on. I love shooting all of those final steps once you’re in your gown! Speaking of the gown, if your gown is on a plastic hanger, try to make a note to bring a wooden hanger along for picture sake. If you forget, no big deal! I’m a pro at finding wooden hangers at venues! Keep reading along for more “getting ready” tips to help you prepare!
Let’s talk about the photos that will be captured in your getting ready room. A clean space, without clutter will keep the attention on you in your photos and not on items around the room. Please make sure you declutter your space, this will save us time picking up items we don’t want in your forever photos. This is a perfect task to delegate to your bridal party so you don’t have to worry about picking up while you’re getting ready.
Another great option is to have one room reserved for your getting ready photos and a second room as the hang out room where the bridal party can keep their personal belongings, drinks, and not have to worry about picking up while they enjoy getting ready.
EVERY LITTLE DETAIL
The whole day begins with the DETAILS! This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day, because it allows me to prepare and get my creative side warmed up for the rest of the day! I photograph a bride’s details in a way that matches and showcases the style of the entire wedding day. So, in some ways, the details set the stage for the look of the whole wedding and I love having ample time to stylize, and shoot everything from the dress, to the jewelry, to grandma’s handkerchief ! You’ll find a list below of the most common details that I shoot. I ask brides to gather any details they have before I arrive so that I can walk in, say hello, give you a big hug and then begin with all the goodies!
What to bring | Dress | Veil | Hair Pieces | Rings | Shoes | Bouquet | Jewelry | Perfume | Invitation | Suite | Borrowed + Blue
Your first look is an amazing part of your wedding day! If you aren’t sure about this tradition, this next part will explain why it would be a romantic addition to your wedding day celebration that not only adds to the experience but also reduces stress. Please know that we would never want any of our couples to feel pressured to go with this option. However, we do want to make sure that we share all of the benefits of a first look, because there is a reason 90% of our couples do this and LOVE it!
WHY IT’S WORTH IT
40% More Portraits |You’re investing a lot into your wedding photography. With a first look, you’ll receive 40% MORE portraits of the two of you… and those are the images you will decorate your first home with! With a first look, you make the most out of this investment and get the most for your money.
Enjoy the surprise freely | You actually get to have intimate time on your wedding day with your man. Most brides don’t realize that when you come down the aisle and totally SHOCK him with your gorgeousness… he can’t even tell you how amazing you look. He can’t touch you, embrace you or even SPEAK to you. You have to wait until 30 minutes later when the ceremony is over for him to react and tell you how amazing you look. And after 30 minutes of the ceremony, the reaction isn’t the same as the initial first glance.
Extend your day by three hours | First Looks allow you to extend your wedding day. Normally the wedding day would start when you come down the aisle, then the ceremony would end, you would rush through portraits so that you’re not late for the introductions and then it’s reception time. With a first look, your wedding day is extended by almost 3 hours! Instead of being rushed for your bridal party portraits… you actually get to enjoy them and have fun hanging out with your BEST friends on your wedding day. The WHOLE first half of my client’s wedding albums are filled with images just from this time together before the ceremony.
Your only alone time | First Looks allow you to be TOGETHER and alone on your wedding day. Normally portraits are a little rushed after the family formals, and it can be hard to really get back into that “lovey dovey” mode…. especially with family around! When you have just shared your first look, you’re READY to love on each other, and I always capture some super sweet images during those moments!
Diminishes Nerves | You get rid of your nerves! I’d say, literally 1/2 of my couples who have decided to do a first look, the grooms were not fans of it at first. However, because they have never experienced their wedding day before, they didn’t know how nerve racking it can be. I have testimonials from so many grooms who initially weren’t a fan of the first look… but afterwards they admitted to being SO much more relaxed and ready for the ceremony!
Here it is! The moment everyone has been waiting for! The music is play- ing and the guests have been seated. Ushers make their way to the back of the church and the coordinator is lining up the bridesmaids while giving the musicians a 5 minute warning. The bride is about to walk down the aisle to the love of her life….. and if she’s like most girls, she’s dreamed about this moment for a long time! Vows will be shared and promises will be made… this is what it’s all about!! In a world full of wedding blogs, Pin- terest and bridal magazines, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and consumed by the “prettiness” of the event. While details do matter and planning is necessary, it’s important to never lose sight of the real purpose of this amazing day.
Options for notifying guests that your ceremony is UNPLUGGED!
Signage | Have a simple sign that guests see as they are entering the ceremony.
Spoken | Have your officiant politely mention that you prefer no cell phones.
Program | Include your Unplugged Ceremony request in your program design.
Imagine this with me…. you’re in my shoes…. the most important moment of the day is about to happen. You’ve checked your camera settings, you’ve taken test shots and you’re ready to capture the bride coming down the aisle to her groom. You want to capture reactions, variety of angles and every moment of joy and emotion in those few seconds. However, just as everyone stands and the music plays, not one, but three different family members and friends get so excited that they take just one step out into the aisle with their iPhones in hand trying to capture the moment. I’m scrambling. My couple is trusting me not to miss this!!! But now I’m dodging guests who are trying desperately to have a good Insta-story to share and they have no idea that the back of their heads, their arms and their phones are blocking me from capturing the bride and her dad walking down the aisle. It’s honestly one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a photographer during a ceremony …. and the hard part is, it can always be avoided. This issue is a growing one. Every wedding season we experience more and more of these issues. However, there is a solution! We highly recommend having an “Unplugged Ceremony”. This is just another way of saying that you want only your photographers to be capturing photos and you would like everyone else to enjoy the ceremony instead of trying to capture it themselves.
Lighting | Ceremony lighting is really important. If you get married outdoors at 12pm, the lighting will be extremely harsh and not only will there be harsh lines of light on your faces, you will also be squinting. I suggest planning an outdoor ceremony 2 hours before sunset if you are having a FIRST LOOK. If you are not interested in sharing a first look, then I would suggest having your ceremony 3 hours before sunset to ensure that you will have plenty of time for all of your portraits afterwards. The lower the sun, the more romantic the lighting. If you are having an indoor ceremony, it is always best to have EVEN lighting at the altar. If there are two spotlights on the bride and groom, I will not be able to expose the rest of the bridal party. It is better to have soft, even light across the whole alter.
Order of Service | I have seen so many couples do so many AMAZING things during their ceremony. I’ve photographed couples washing each other’s feet, symbolizing that they want to serve each other for the rest of their life. Some couples share in communion while some light a unity candle. I’ve seen sand ceremonies, rope ceremonies and the signing of the family Bible. The options are limitless!! As you plan your ceremony, make sure you design it to be exactly what the two of you envision it to be. This is your day!! If you have the freedom to be creative, then by all means, be creative!!
Programs + Details | The BEST advice I have for the program-making process is to remember that not EVERY guest needs a program! Before ordering your programs, have SEVERAL people check it for spelling and grammatical errors. Programs and the ceremony decor are things that the bride can plan in advance but then delegate the actual job of setting it up to a friend or coordinator. The last thing a bride needs to be doing the morning of her wedding is running around setting up floral arrangements! This leads me into my next topic, coordination.
Coordination | Hiring either a full event planner or just a day-of coor- dinator is SO important! Brides realize very quickly that if they do not have someone in charge of the coordination of the day, that responsibility will automatically fall on the mother of the bride, the photographer or the BRIDE herself ! When a photographer is in charge of the timeline and the coordination of the day, the images will suffer. All of my stressful wedding situations were caused by a lack of organization and coordination. It’s so important to make this a priority. If you need any recommendations on wedding coordination services I would love to share some of my favorite vendors with you.
SAMPLE LIST FOR FAMILY FORMALS
We absolutely love meeting our couple’s families on the wedding day! Family formals are normally our first interaction with them and so we love to have a game plan for this part of the day! Eight weeks before the wedding, you’ll receive a questionnaire from us that will ask you to list out the family formals you want us to capture. Here is a sample family formal list to help you start preparing what shots you need. We do have to limit the family formal time in order to ensure that we have plenty of daylight for your romantic portraits. However, any large family group shots that we don’t accomplish during family formals, we can be sure to capture at the reception.
B&G with Bride’s Immediate Family (Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Nieces, Nephews)
B&G with Bride’s Parents
B&G with Bride’s Siblings
Bride with her Parents
Bride with Mom
Bride with Dad
B&G with Bride’s Grandparents
B&G with both sets of Parents
B&G with Groom’s Immediate Family (Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Nieces, Nephews)
B&G with Groom’s Parents
B&G with Groom’s Siblings
Groom with his Parents
Groom with Mom
Groom with Dad
B&G with Groom’s Grandparents
B&G with all family members if time allows
If we’re being honest, all of the wedding day images are important, but the real favorites are almost always from my time with the Bride and Groom! These romantic portraits of just the two of you will be the images that you frame beside your bed or over your mantle, and they will also be the images that will fill your album for generations to enjoy. These images are always my favorite not only because of their beauty, but because this is such a sweet por-tion of the day. For this brief moment in time, you will be alone with your groom on your wedding day. You will have a chance to love on each other and really connect before the craziness begins! Romantic portraits are normally done before the ceremony (after the “First Look”) and then I LOVE shooting a few “just married” portraits after the ceremony as well! This is when the light is low and golden! It’s such a romantic time for bride and groom portraits! If you’re not interested in a first look, we will make sure to include a lot of time after the ceremony for these portraits.
One of my favorite parts of my job is taking something so ordinary and making it look absolutely amazing! This happens most often when it comes to picking portrait locations! If there is one thing that I love and appreciate about my couples, it’s that they trust us! Sometimes I select portrait locations that most people wouldn’t consider attractive. For example, the image above is an open field! There was nothing special about this place. However, because my couple trusted me they now have the most amazing portraits! So my encouragement is to just trust us! You don’t have to worry about a thing! Trust our locations, and I promise you, you’ll LOVE the rest!
The party is here!! Receptions can be a blast! However, it’s important to make sure that you have your event well thought out. This is the job of your coordinator and your DJ/Band. Your caterer will also play a big role in the design and set up of your event. Every aspect of your reception affects the overall outline of the evening. For example, if you’re not having a plated meal, your reception will need to be set up in a way that allows movement. Guests will need to be able to find the food stations easily, and there will be a mixture of dinner tables and hightop cocktail tables. This will encourage guests to mix and mingle. If you are having a plated dinner, you will more than likely need escort cards, full place settings and space for all of your guests to be seated comfortably. Whatever the style of your event, make sure that you plan out all of the aspects of the evening. Your coordinator and DJ can help you set up the evening so that guests won’t leave early or experience long periods of waiting for the next thing to happen.
Much like the ceremony, you have the freedom to make your reception your own! It’s your party, it should be exactly how you want it to be! Here is a list of some key events that happen often at reception.
Bridal Party Introductions | First Dance | Daddy-Daughter Dance | Mother-Son Dance | Anniversary Dance | Money Dance | Traditional Religious Dances | Welcome by Father of the Bride | Blessing | Cake Cutting | Toasts | Bouquet and Garter Toss | Large group portraits with friends | The exit of the Bride and Groom
GUEST CONSIDERATION | Take your guests into consideration when planning your timeline. If you have a lot of elderly guests that will not be staying until the very end, make sure you schedule the cake cutting at a relatively early time so that they can be a part of it. Grandma’s love seeing this sweet tradition!
KEEP IT MOVING | Chat with your coordinator about how you can plan your reception in a way that will keep guests engaged and moving all night!
MAKE IT YOUR OWN | If you want to have a special dance with your grandparents, do it! Make your reception a reflection of who you are and don’t feel tied to traditions. Also, make sure you give your DJ or Band a “Do Not Play” list if there are some songs you really don’t want to hear during your reception!
DON’T GET CAUGHT UP | In the formalities and the details. Sure, details are pretty and fun to photograph, but they can steal the joy of the day if you get too caught up in them. (Just speaking from experience here) Plan your centerpieces, welcome table, etc. well before the wedding date, and teach your coordinator or family friend how to set them up so that you aren’t even thinking about those things the day of.
RECEPTION COVERAGE | If you haven’t purchased enough coverage time for your photography to last until the exit, that’s ok! We have several options! I recommend planning your timeline so that you can have at least one hour of dancing photographed. The guests who dance during the first hour will still be dancing in the third hour! One hour of dancing will be enough time to really capture the joy of your reception.
3 REASONS A CONTROLLED EXIT IS BEST
1. Multiple chances at an epic shot : When you do an exit shot at the very end of the wedding day, I only have one chance to capture the two of you as you run through sparklers or whatever type of exit you have planned. When you do a “controlled exit”, I have multiple chances to capture several awesome exit portraits for you!
2. You haven’t partied all night yet :This means that your makeup and hair are still in-tact for your exit shot! That’s a win right there! 3. Coordinated Colors :When you are surrounded by your bridal party instead of wedding guests that could be wearing distracting colors, you can expect to have beau-tiful exits shots surrounded by your wedding colors.