Getting ready for your Dallas wedding can be the most exciting, energetic, emotionally charged part of the day, in its own special way. Everyone is arriving, and with each new smiling face, the realization slowly arrives — this is it.
I like to schedule about 120 minutes for this portion of the day. I’ll be popping back and forth, from the groom’s suite to the bride’s, and every now and then, will take some time to document the elements of the day that you aren’t going to be able to see. But mostly, I’ll be getting shots of the wedding party during those intimate moments where everyone is blissfully excited.
Once I arrive, I’ll introduce myself to everyone present, and get down to work (same goes for my faithful assistant photographer if we’ve decided on using one — definitely recommended). The groom’s party tends to get prepped a bit more quickly, so I’ll start off with them. There will be some light staging as everyone is getting dressed, so I’ll ask the best man to help the groom with his bow-tie, or capture a detailed moment where one of the groomsmen is pouring a glass of bubbly. For me, the key is to capture the organic nature of the moments taking place, with just enough direction to keep things natural and fluid.
Before too long, the bride, along with her friends and family, will be at a point with hair and makeup where they’re ready to invite me into the room to shoot one of the most important fixtures of any wedding — the dress. It should go without saying, but I always maintain the highest level of gentlemanly professionalism during this part of the process. Should there be a moment where it’s necessary to turn my head or leave the room, simply say so, and I’ll stand by for the “all clear, we’re decent!” Then, I’ll take some pictures of the bride and her party as everyone gets primped and pampered, as jewelry is added, while the parents look on with pride in their eyes.
Don’t worry about the time. That’s my department. You just enjoy yourselves, and leave the schedule to the professionals.
THE WEDDING PREP PLAY-BY-PLAY
There are a lot of elements that have to line up just right so nobody feels rushed. You’ve hired professionals to take care of this part of the process, but from my observations, here’s what to be aware of so you know what to expect.
HAIR AND MAKEUP
If you’ve ever been in a wedding party, you’ll know that hair and makeup can be one of the most time consuming parts of the process. Hair and makeup professionals are a notoriously perfectionist set, and for good reason — they’re the ones who are dedicated to making you look perfect, in a way that will last for eight hours!
A good rule of thumb is to plan to have your hair and makeup wrapped up and finished 45 minutes before it actually needs to be finished. That way, if things get hectic or something unforeseeable happens, you’ve got that buffer. And if everything goes smooth? That’s just more time to sit around and soak up the good vibes. It also leaves more time for the portraits!
One more thing. Some hair and makeup professionals will suggest that the bride goes last when it comes to getting prepped. I advise against this, for a couple of reasons. One, this will give more time for me to take some great pictures of you looking photo-ready. Also, if hair and makeup is running behind on some of the remaining bridesmaids, the bride can get dressed while everyone else is still wrapping up. This is YOUR day, after all!
Delegate this to the maid of honor if necessary, but if you would like shots of any detail pieces — shoes, rings, the wedding invitation, something old, new, borrowed, or blue — make sure they’re set aside in advance so everything is conveniently located.
This goes for the dress as well. I’ll be happy to make some suggestions, but one thing I’ve noticed time and time again (in the million little elements that go under planned) is that the hanger leaves something to be desired. Even the nicest dresses can come with lackluster plastic hangers that, while functional, don’t necessarily look pretty. Snagging a high-end hanger before the day-of can really transform an incomplete dress-by-itself shot into something fully realized. If you have dress that’s fairly detailed, so much so where a hanger just isn’t going to do it justice, making sure a dress form is present can add some three-dimensionality to this important detail shot.
Imagine this. I’m in the bride or groom’s ready room, and there’s stuff scattered everywhere. Makeup boxes, drinking cups, garment bags strewn about — you get the idea. Is a picture with a cluttered, chaotic background going to be something you’ll cherish? The odds are low. Having these elements confined to one section of the room means that I’ll spend less time sorting things out of the frame (I’m a bit of a perfectionist), and can spend more time in front of the camera! You’ve got a wedding party for a reason — don’t be afraid to delegate this responsibility.
Hey, this is a happy occasion! No reason there shouldn’t be a bottle of Champagne being passed around. But, maybe pick someone to keep everyone in check, just in case. I won’t name names, but I’ve certainly seen a few groomsmen who have overdone it prior to the ceremony. There will be a time and a place for letting loose, and that’s called the reception.
STICKERS AND TAGS
It’s hilarious, but if I had a nickel for every time I’ve removed a stray tag or sticker from a new pair of shoes or a freshly-pressed tuxedo, I’d have enough to by a couple of new lenses for sure! I’ve developed an eye for these kinds of things, so I’ll let you know if there’s something there that shouldn’t be, but let everyone know to do a “tag check” before getting dressed.
These make a great gift for the groomsmen, and in the Texas heat, can really come in handy for dabbing away perspiration. There’s nothing like a memorable keepsake that serves purposes of both form and function!
If you’re the bride, you’ve got final say over pretty much everything at your wedding! So give your bridesmaids a quick scan, and if you don’t like a piece of personal jewelry they’ve brought for themselves, let them know. These are your best friends in the world, so they’ll understand. Plus, it’s better than being stuck with a selection of images where Marielle is wearing a brooch that, well... just doesn’t fit in with the aesthetic.
I mention this one for the benefit of the whole bridal party. Bra straps can create indentations and red marks on the shoulders that can take time to fade. If you’re interested in having your pictures look as flawless as possible, encourage your bridesmaids to go for the strapless option for the day of the wedding (an especially good tip for strapless dresses, for obvious reasons!).
''GETTING READY'' OUTFITS
The wedding party, both for the bride and the groom, will be at varying stages of dress during this part of the day. If I arrive early, it’s totally possible that some members of the party might not be in their finest. If everyone plans to arrive wearing some combination of cute/handsome clothing, the pictures will still look intentional, so spread the word beforehand.
With all the action of a wedding day, it’s totally possible that some of you will forget to, you know, eat! Nobody wants to look bloated, so definitely steer clear of eating leftover enchiladas before heading to the church. But a bowl of oatmeal and some bottles of water? That’s the way to do it. Get your energy up early, and you’ll see yourself through the day.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD TAILORING
This one is for the guys. Oftentimes, a groom’s party will opt for rental tuxedos, and that’s ok. Jackets aren’t terribly hard to get a proper fit on, if you know where to go. But shirts? That’s a different story. Four times out of five, a shirt is going to fit poorly (they tend to be one-size-fits-all like that). My recommendation is for every man to buy a tuxedo shirt before the wedding, and have it professionally tailored: it’s a cost-effective way for everyone to look that much closer to James Bond, and a little less like they’re extras in a play.
If it’s at all possible, having the bride’s ready room and the groom’s ready room within a couple minutes’ walk of each other is preferable. This favor will help me avoid the logistical dilemma of traveling between two different locations, and will ensure that you have as many pictures as possible by the time the day is done!
PERMISSION FROM THE HOTEL
Another one that falls into the category of “I had no idea to check for this:” if you’re getting ready at a hotel, check with them first to see what their photography policy is. Some hotels have pretty strict policies about photos being taken on their premises, or what can be shot and what can’t. Having this in black and white (months in advance) can avoid any nasty surprises.
Like I said — I’ve done a lot of weddings. I’m positive that a whole bunch of things will spring to both of our minds while we’re planning everything out. If I think of anything unique to your wedding, I’ll mention it. And if you think of anything, just ask!