Chapter 4: Getting Ready
I absolutely LOVE this part of the day! It feels like a train slowly picking up speed. I find the anticipation and excitement and ritual of the couple getting ready seperately really fascinating to capture. Usually when I arrive in the morning there's a really quiet and contemplative atmosphere. I hug the bride, and then go around the room and say hello to everyone (remember to also introduce yourself to the hair stylist and/or makeup artist and any other vendor/contributor you meet during the day). Usually when people see the bride greet me as if we are old friends their respect for me rises exponentially. They immediately know that I am not just hired help. I then just slowly go about my business, getting my camera out of the bag and start shooting details preferably in another room so everyone kind of forget that I am there. As you can read in my guide to my clients in the Bonus section, I always ask the couple in advance to gather any asseccories, pieces of clothing, bouquet, jewelry etc in one place so I don't have to ask for every little detail. Once I have the feeling that noone is paying attention to me anymore and I am done with the details, I will slowly start capturing candids of what's going on in the room. Depending on the size and weight of the dress, I may ask one of the girls to come help me as I shoot that, especially if I take it outside. I often need someone to stand just outside the frame ready to grab it if it slips off the hanger or off the branch etc.
Since the pace is slow and I have alot of control over where to position myself during this time of the day, I will shoot 90% of the candids with my 50mm at around 1.8
(Silly note: During this part of the day I make sure to drink LOTS of water so I am well-hydrated but have time to pee before heading off to the ceremony after which I usually don't have any time to rest or pee or eat until everyone sits down for dinner in the evening.)
Long before the bride is ready to get into her dress, I will have figured out where I would like her to do it. Don't be afraid to let her know where she should stand. They are paying for your experience and your eye. The difference between her climbing into her dress in the darkest corner of the room or near a window is monumental. I will also sort of feel the mood of the room as she is about to undress. Some women are complete relaxed about it, don't care about the other people present nor the camera and clearly trusts me 100% to not photograph anything vulnerable. Other times I can clearly sense that I need to lower my camera and just stand there until the dress is halfway on and every sensitive bodypart is covered before I start shooting again.
It took me quite a few years to muster the courage to start asking my couples to get ready in the same hotel/area (which is not usual for Danish couples) if they wanted photos of both of them. Before that I spent SO much time stressing about logistics, potential traffic jams, parking availability etc. It used to be the most stressful part of the day for me. Until I put my foot down and said no more. So if the couple chose to get ready at locations more than a few minutes walk from eachother, I would only photograph the bride. I did emphasise, though, how wonderful it is for both sides to see images from the other's morning, because that is a part of the wedding day most couples don't spend together.
If you work with a second shooter you can easily get around this problem. And I see more and more couples letting go of that "fear" of accidentally seeing eachother before the ceremony, even choosing to plan a so-called "first look", which has been normal in the US for years now! In general I find it WONDERFUL that those completely arbitrary wedding day "rules" are now taking a back seat, and modern couples are playing by their own rules, only holding on to the ones that make sense to them and their personalities.
With the guys, they will most likely make a few jokes and be shy at first, but 5 minutes in and they're just being guys. At one point or another, chances are someone, if not the groom himself, will ask you if you know how to tie a bowtie. If you know or can learn how to that will be an excellent idea, otherwise I suggest you have a link ready in the internet browser on your phone for a super good Youtube tutorial that you can pass on to them. While its good and super important to be positive and helpful you should also be careful not to lock yourself in a situation where you're suddenly not able to capture a fun or meaningful moment because you have your hands full with other things.
I have a special place in my heart for elopements where I get to photograph the couple helping eachother get ready. There is just something incredibly intimate about that.
I encourage you to use this part of the day to observe how this particular couple/family/group of friends interact with eachother. What is their sense of humour like? Are they polite and well-mannered, relaxed, intimate, or something comepletely different? This people-studying will help you navigate the rest of the day.
If you are just as bad at remembering names as I am, make sure that you at the very least memorise the parents' names and the best man and maid of honour (if there are any such appointments). People respond really well to being called by their name. It shows them that you care, and make them feel like they matter. Once the rest of the day starts going at full speed it's nice to already have a connection with a handful of people, so you know who to ask to get the bride's bouquet when you need to leave for the portrait session, or to find grandma when it's time for family photos etc.