WELCOME TO THE BRIDAL GUIDE
Your guide for all things wedding photography, and what to expect!
For the clients of Harper Blankenship Photography
PREPARING FOR YOUR ENGAGEMENT SESSION
The engagement session is a couple's photoshoot that we can do at any point before your wedding day, usually at just one location of your choice (yes I have plenty of recommendations!). Engagement sessions are great for a few reasons:
1.) It's great practice for us to work together before the wedding day, almost like a trial run. You might be surprised how much you learn about being in front of my camera and the way my direction translates to the final photos. In turn, I may learn a lot about what does and doesn't work with the two of you as a couple and/or individually so that I can do an even better job on the wedding day.
2.) This is a chance for me to have a full hour to loosen you up, play around a bit, and get to that point where I'm really getting photos that capture the unique quirks of your relationship in a more casual way that is unique to this kind of session and not necessarily possible on the wedding day. If you haven't included a printed album of this session in your package, I highly recommend at least designing and ordering yourself any kind of printed book as a keepsake! You'll love looking back on these, especially years down the road, just as much as your wedding photos and the best way to do that is in some kind of album that you can pull off of the shelf and flip through.
3.) Most couples want to use a photo or two from this session to send out Save-The-Dates, which is why we usually will shoot this pretty soon after booking. It's also really common to have photos from this season displayed throughout the reception space (which is why I offer a print package option for that) or in the guest sign-in book (which is also why I offer one of those lol).
If we haven't had our virtual planning meeting yet, don't worry, we'll talk then about this session as far as when to schedule it, location and vibe, etc.
WHAT TO WEAR
For overall style inspo, I have an ongoing Pinterest board that I love adding to a little too much. I pin mostly couples in the light and airy photography style, so that you can see examples of outfits in the same general coloring and lighting situation:
A few main tips I can give, which you'll see if you look through that board are:
Soft, subdued, and neutral colors are always a safe bet! Not only do more muted colors photograph great and tend to create a more sophisticated look, but they have the benefit of not reflecting strong colors on the skin when the sun hits them, which can pick up much stronger in photos than in real life.
When it comes to denim, less is more. If one of you is wearing a chic pair of jeans, it's usually better if the other one isn't (with exceptions).
Beautiful details, flowing fabrics, a nice texture, etc. are all things that can add interest to the photos, and give me something to focus on for little detail shots that help elevate the rest of the collection of photos. A bouquet of flowers or a flower crown isn't a bad idea either (just throwing that out there...).
Don't be afraid to dress up! Make it a night, go out on the town after the session and make the most out of being all dolled up. :)
You can do an outfit change halfway through the session, only if you'd like to. Not everybody does an outfit change, but if you do I typically recommend going with whatever your favorite outfits are for the second half of the session, as this is most often when the best photos tend to happen. Just keep in mind that most of the time the only place to change will be your car.
PREPARING FOR YOUR BRIDAL SESSION
Your bridal session is a roughly one hour photoshoot of just you, the bride! It can be at your venue, or we can choose another beautiful location. I typically like to schedule this for some time during the final 4-6 weeks before your wedding, when the season is similar and your alterations are most likely finished.
This session is a great chance to:
1.) Model your bridal look, and get way more (and more detailed) photos of you as a bride than we could realistically capture on the wedding day. This session is great to have printed in an album, too, just sayin'. The wedding is one of highlights of your life, and getting to a bride and get all decked out in your dream dress is FUN. Why not take the chance to get the most out of it?!
2.) Have a dress rehearsal on the same day as your hair and make-up trial, in the dress, with a bouquet similar to the one you'll have on your wedding day. Many brides look at this session as a dress rehearsal, in addition to just being really fun. It's better to catch anything that you might want to tweak when you see how it photographs in your bridal session, and not later when you get your wedding photos back. This is actually a pretty common thing that happens (usually a slight change to a hairstyle or make-up, but I've ever seen a dress get reworked after the bride saw it in photos).
WHAT TO BRING
1.) Your complete look: dress, veil, jewelry, shoes, with hair/make-up etc. Anything you'll wear on the wedding day, you should wear for this session.
2.) Ideally: A bouquet from your florist that is close to the one you'll have on your wedding day (it likely won't be a perfect match, that's ok!). A bouquet completes your look and makes posing much easier, but it's okay if you decide to skip it.
3.) If it'll be hot: water, and something to blot sweat or oil.
4.) Optional: A friend/MOH/family member as welcome to come along!
5.) Lipstick, for touch-ups.
MISC. (NOTES AND TIPS)
1.) Don't forget about your fingernails! I will most likely have photos with your hands on your face, shoulder, or otherwise on display in some way, so be sure your nails are looking the way that you want them to.
2.) If you are planning to order some kind of print or canvas of one of the photos to display at the wedding, you should get your gallery from me within just a few days, so you should have enough time to order one! If you order directly from the gallery and choose rush shipping, you can even get prints/canvases within just a few days.
WEDDING DAY TIMELINE GUIDE
If we haven't already, we'll have a Zoom meeting to walk through your wedding day so that I can personally build you a custom timeline, but a lot of changes can happen between that meeting and your wedding day! Here is a cheat sheet of the amount of time it takes me to complete each of these common events on a wedding day, incase you need to reference this while changing/finalizing your timeline or adding things that we didn't talk about during our meeting. *Some things may be listed with more time than they technically need if they are things that I would typically recommend working more wiggle room in for:
FLAT LAYS | 45min-1hr
from the time I gather your details, set-up, style and shoot, clean-up, and return your details to the bridal suite. Remember that the second shooter can be grabbing candids during this time if I need them to!
BRIDE/BRIDESMAID MATCHING PAJAMA PHOTOS | 5-10min
Slight variation depending on if it's just a quick photo in the bridal suite, or walking to a pretty spot to pop a bottle champagne. Either way, it's always pretty quick few photos before everyone get's dressed, but I like to add a little wiggle room in there!
GETTING DRESSED (bride and bridesmaids) | 30min
It might not seem like it should take 30 minutes to get dressed, but trust me, you want to account for anything unexpected, any extra taping of boobs into places you've never put them before, steaming things you didn't know need to be resteamed, etc. If all goes smoothly, you throw on your dress in 5 minutes, and are good to go, then great! We have extra time for some more portraits or chill time. The alternative is feeling like you're in some sort of competition to get your dresses on as fast as you can and that's no fun.
GETTING DRESSED (guys) | 30min
Again, it probably won't take this long! BUT often it does. There's often some hiccup, like groomsmen gathered around a screen to watch a tutorial on how to tie a bowtie, somebody struggling to fold a pocket square, or me showing up to realize nobody pinned any boutonniere on and I'm the only one in the room who knows how haha. Point of the matter: more time is better than not enough time!
BRIDESMAID REVEAL | 10min
Optional, but always really fun! If your bridesmaids haven't seen your dress, haven't seen you in it, or even just for a fun way to capture them getting the full effect of having the dress, hair, make-up, and bouquet all come together, this is worth doing. It can take a minute to coordinate, find a spot, set everyone up, go get the bride, set her up, and then give everyone a chance to actually react and talk for a minute, so 10 minutes is a good safe amount of time to factor into the timeline for this.
ANY FIRST LOOK(s), FIRST TOUCH, LETTER READING, PRE-CEREMONY PRAYERS, ETC. | 10min/each
Weather this is with dad, between the couple, holding hands around a corner, gathering around the bride and/or groom to pray, etc. All of these things should have about 10 minutes devoted to them in your timeline. These things won't technically take 10 minutes each, but we need time for transitioning, setting things up, and then actually allowing you to live in these moments without having to think about keeping to your schedule.
BRIDE + BRIDESMAIDS PORTRAITS | 30min
If we've already done a bridal session before the wedding, and if we need to trim this down, I can totally do all of this in 15 minutes, but ideally 30 will let me really take my time and get you a lot more variation of photos as well as individuals of the bride with each bridesmaid.
GROOM + GROOMSMEN PORTRAITS | 15min
This never takes as long as the bride/bridesmaids because there isn't as much detail (hairstyles, florals, dress details, etc.) or poses to do, so 15 minutes is fine. If doing these before the ceremony, I'll normally have the bride/bridesmaids finished first so they can be hiding from any early arriving guests.
VENUE + DECOR PHOTOS | 20-30min
I almost always wait until the final 30 minutes before the ceremony starts to go around and get photos of all of the decor, because this is when I can always count on it being completed! It's also generally when you'll want to be inside just hiding out while guests are showing up, anyway. We never want to have any portraits scheduled to still be happening within those final 30 minutes.
CEREMONY | 30min-1hr
For most ceremonies (not counting catholic ceremonies) 30 minutes it's usually a good estimate, and then if you're having a full catholic mass then you already probably know that those take about an hour.
TRANSITION FROM CEREMONY TO COCKTAIL HOUR | 10min
If we're doing all of the formal family photos directly after the ceremony (most common) then we need to wait for the transition from ceremony to cocktail hour to finish, ie. the guests clearing out, gathering the family (be sure they know beforehand to stay behind or come back), and start setting everyone up.
FAMILY FORMALS | 20-30min
It's tricky to accurately predict how easily your family will be to organize for family formals, so I like to make sure we have plenty of time for this even if we end up not needing it all. If we are done early, more time for portraits of the two of you! Remember that the larger groups take longer to gather, organize, and realizing that someone has wandered off adds even more time. I'll have an exact list of who to call out that I'll get from you in your Questionnaire a few weeks before the wedding, to help keep this moving quickly.
PHOTOS OF THE FULL BRIDAL PARTY (if after ceremony) | 5-10min
If you didn't have a first look, and we already did all of the bride/bridesmaid and groom/groomsmen photos separately before the ceremony, then all we really need after the ceremony is a few minutes to take a few all together. If you ARE doing a first look and we're knocking all of this out before the ceremony, just ignore this part, it'll fit in with the other wedding party photos without being a significant amount of extra time to need to account for.
BRIDE & GROOM PORTRAITS | 20-30min
As long as I have at least 20 minutes for this, we'll get a beautiful set of portraits (but 30 is even better, just for that wiggle room I keep talking about). The exception to this is if you have a venue where we will be needing to take a golf cart to a pretty photo location, or walking a lot of distance around a large property, etc. Be sure to account for any travel incase we need to work in some more time for it!
I get asked all the time for recommendations for other vendors, so here is a current list of vendors that I love! Most of these I've worked with personally, and a couple I've followed in the industry long enough to know they are great but may not have personally worked with them *yet* and really want to. This list is always being updated, so check back any time!
*Pricing is always changing with vendors, so I can't speak on any of their price ranges
Power struggles between difficult-to-work-with videographers are a common obstacle with photographers, and a low budget, brand new, lower quality videographer is actually one way that your photography coverage (and your wedding day in general) can be negatively affected. An inexperienced videographer can show up, get in the way of everything, derail all of the planning you have done with me, and ruin an otherwise flawless timeline with demands for their own shots whether or not it is in the best interest of the couple (speaking from experience). Me meeting with a difficult videographer before the wedding day won't help with those kinds of situations, unfortunately. All of these videographers I can personally recommend as excellent professionals who worked with me as a team to create all of our best work for the couple, were never too intrusive with excessive gear (I have seen an entire ceremony lit with giant studio softboxes like some sort of movie scene O_O), and were overall impressive with a quality final product. However, as long as you aren't choosing a "budget friendly" or sketchy option, I wouldn't shy away from choosing someone that you find that is not on my list!
If you're picky about your florals, this list is important. With all of the weddings I've shot, one thing I've learned is how common it is for a bride to receive her bouquet before the ceremony and be dissappointed that it's nothing like what she asked for. This is because floral design (which I dabble in a little and am a little obsessed with) is way trickier than it might seem. Understanding the bride's vision, being able to order correctly and execute the color palette and vibe well despite limited supply or shortages, and having the experience to properly educate you on realistic expectations so that you aren't disappointed by normal variations, are all parts of being a good wedding floral designer. If you love flowers and are excited about this part of your wedding design, a florist who can take your vision and be trusted with creative control is a must! Here is a list of florists that I would trust to give you your dream florals:
Belle Soul Florals
The Heirloom Table
Bramble and Bee
First off, it's up to you to decide if you want/need a coordinator, or a full-service planner/designer! Some of these are coordinators only, some will work with you to design your wedding from top to bottom, or some may offer variations of either of those depending on the packages they offer. I just recommend talking to them about what they do or don't help with and definitely meeting with a few face-to-face either in person or over a video chat to learn more about what they offer and why. (Some of these I have not gotten to work with yet, but always admire their beautifully designed weddings):
Day of Lily Events
Della Grace Events
Blue Sparrow Events
Belle Soul Florals (A florist, but she also does planning/design and is great)
Another one of those things that I've only learned by witnessing so many weddings: a bad DJ can be the difference between your wedding reception being the best night of your lives, or not. A good DJ knows how to play the crowd, get them moving, and manipulate the party in a way that takes real skill to do right. Believe me, I've seen some weird ones haha (ask me about the guy who threw the lights on, forced everyone into a circle, and literally MADE everyone dance the hokey-pokey. and no, it was not funny, and nobody was into it).
Toast Entertainment (I briefly worked for them years ago and cannot say I recommend them for anything other than DJs and Photobooth.. but literally every single one of their DJs are GREAT and ALWAYS get the party running smoothly with high energy and seamless MC'ing).
The Wedding Duo (A husband a wife team, she is the planner and he is the best DJ I know of. Super funny, best party you'll ever go to, and bonus points you might end up viral on tiktok).
The Little Wedding Band (The only live band on my list so far...again, seen some weird ones lol. These guys are FANTASTIC. If you want your wedding to double as a live show for added entertainment, this is such a fun option.)
Hair and Make-Up Artists
I have a unique look at the real quality of hair and make-up services, seeing as I'm the one zooming in extremely close when I do any needed retouching. So even though an HMUA might have a beautiful portfolio, it can be hard to know if those photos are accurate depictions of their work, or just look good because the photographers had to retouch things (specifically eyelashes peeling off on the edges, patchy or cakey foundation, exposed bobby pins, etc.). To put it bluntly, here are a list of artists that will do beautiful work that I won't have to edit lol:
Silk and Glow
Think Brink Beauty
ABOUT FLAT LAYS
I'll most likely spend the first hour of your wedding day by shooting your "bridal details" while you're still getting ready. This is usually where I'll lay out all of the small details you've set aside for me on a flat surface (usually one of my styling mats that I carry in my gear bag) and shoot as a flat lay. These photos elevate your wedding gallery, set the tone, help to establish the vibe/color scheme/theme of your wedding, and give me a chance to better capture small details that may be lost in portraits and candids.
HOW TO PREPARE
You'll want to have all of these details ready for me in a box that I can easily grab as soon as I arrive, so that I can safely move everything to wherever I need to go to find a well lit space where I can spread out and take my time styling and shooting. By having everything already in a box (your shoe box is perfect for this!) I won't need to be juggling lots of little important things that we don't want getting lost, or needing to take multiple trips to carry things to another area which can eat up time. As soon as I'm done shooting these, I'll set everything back into the box and return it to your getting ready space.
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR BOX
Typically included in flat lays are:
+ Invitations + any matching paper products (tip: if anything is double sided, be sure to give me 2 copies so I can shoot both sides in the same flat lay)
+ All rings (engagement ring and both of your wedding bands)
+ Loose flowers (you'll need to ask your florist specifically for flat lay flowers, because these are flowers that I'll need to de-stem and throw away after. Some florists charge extra, and some will give me any "extras." I only need at least 3 blooms, but more is even better!)
+ Bride's shoes
+ Ring box (Only if you have special ones that match the color scheme, ideally the kind that have a fully removable top. I also bring a few incase I need one!)
+ All bridal jewelry and accessories
+ Anything sentimental that you'd like captured close-up
+ Perfume bottle
Extra things you might want to add:
+ Velvet or hand-dyed Silk Ribbon that matches your color scheme (you can find a yard of this on Etsy!)
+ Any special heirlooms
+ Place cards
+ Aesthetic stamps that match your vibe
+ A loose wax seal, if you used them
+ A loose wax seal, if you used them
+ Groom details (shoes, tie, cufflinks, cologne bottle, cigar, watch, etc.)
+ Any other small details that capture your personal style!
WRITING YOUR SHOT LIST OF FAMILY FORMALS
Family formals are, simply, the formal photos of you...and your family (lol). These are most often done immediately after the ceremony, and can be a bit chaotic if we aren't organized and prepared for ahead of time!
This is something I've gotten REALLY good at doing well over the years, so you don't need to worry about assigning someone to help organize or call out names or anything, this part of the day will go the smoothest by letting me take the reins and work down your list!
HOW TO PREPARE
In the last month before your wedding, you'll be sent a questionnaire to fill out, and this is where you'll be asked to provide me your list of groupings for family formals. I'll take this list and organize it in a way that makes the most sense (usually starting with larger groups and working down to smaller groups) and copy it to a note in my phone that I can check off. On the wedding day, all you'll need to do is stay put where I position you and let each grouping that me and my second shooter call out file in around you for their photo.
It's important to know that these photos can take a lot of time, so think carefully about which groupings are really important and are photos that will actually be used! I tell everyone this: If the photo will be framed and displayed by someone, it belongs on your list. If it will just be a facebook post, maybe it can be a casual photo during your reception instead of taking away from the limited time we have for portraits of the two of you.
IMPORTANT TIP: Whether your list is extremely short and simple, or super long, make sure that anyone on it knows before the wedding day when they'll be expected to pose for family formals so we don't lose time trying to find someone who has wandered off. You'll be happy you did!
SAMPLE FAMILY FORMAL LIST
Here is an example of a typical family formal list (you can write it this way, or write out specific names if you think your family will be easier to organize that way):
Couple + all family on both sides (immediate and extended)
Couple + bride's immediate family
Couple + bride's grandparents
Couple + bride's parents
Bride + bride's parents
Bride + mom
Bride + dad
Couple + groom's immediate family
Couple + groom's grandparents
Couple + groom's parents
Groom + mom
Groom + dad
MISC. TIPS FOR YOUR WEDDING DAY
Specifically: Tips to make your wedding photos even better!
+ TRY TO KEEP YOUR GETTING-READY ROOM CLEAN
Your wedding gallery will be separated into tabs, in chronological order, so one of your first impressions of your wedding photos will be the getting-ready images. Most of these photos will be candid photos where I don't have a lot of control over the location. The best way to improve these photos is by keeping your getting-ready space as clean as possible! All of your friends are likely going to bring a lot of things with them, and the room can quickly look like a disaster, which means the photos will, too. If possible, ask your wedding party to keep things as tidy as possible, and all in one part of the room that I'm not as likely to be shooting in. This isn't always realistic though, so don't be surprised if you see me clearing things from a corner to establish a good staging area for you to get dressed in!
+ GO WITH THE FLOW!
You may have seen photos on pinterest, or a friend's photos, or something in a blog that you loved and want to recreate, but believe me, after 200+ weddings there's one thing I know for certain and that is that letting your wedding be its OWN thing and giving me creative freedom to capture it uniquely will 1000% get you the BEST photos.
+ DON'T OPT OUT OF THE ENGAGEMENT SESSION
It's not too late if you've already turned it down! The engagement session is complimentary, and it really can make a huge difference. In my earlier days (hence, my cheaper days) as a wedding photographer I rarely met my couples for an engagement session and this is when I learned just how much better the wedding photos themselves can be when the couple has worked with me already. Ya'll, there's a warm-up period with any relationship! We don't want that to be during your actual wedding day. When we've already warmed up to each other, the laughs come naturally, and the trust is already there so that you're both relaxed in a way that let's me capture the realness of your relationship so much easier.
+ LIGHTING IS EVERYTHING
This goes back to going with the flow and trusting me. Great photos are dependant on the lighting, so you can trust me to scout out the right spots that I need to create great photos that are in line with my style and portfolio. I'm ALWAYS happy to hear your requests for spots and backdrops, just know that I may need to turn something down if it has a lighting problem that I know will create bad photos. I'm not going to be mean about it or anything haha, but I may explain my reasoning for avoiding something in particular and I may also make exception if something is really important to you. This is an art of collaboration!