Real Life Tips from a Wedding Photography Expert

Happy bride and groom ride a carousel at Preston Court Wedding

As part of our usual service, we chat with couples a few weeks before the wedding date. This is usually a super awesome opportunity to ask and answer any questions as well to just say hello and check in with each other.  Recently, we had a pre-wedding consult with one of our early autumn clients (I can’t believe it is nearly that time of year again!) and they asked us a really interesting question. They asked, “What, in your opinion, do couples usually £•¢& up on their wedding day?”. And to be honest, I was taken a bit aback. It was such a good question and I had so many answers… too many answers… so I decided to write a blog post.

I know that there are a zillion and one blog posts out there about how to have a good wedding day and let me be honest – a lot of them suck. Why? Because they are written by bloggers and journalists. Even if they are wedding industry specific journalists,  they will simply never have the expertise or insight that your wedding vendors will have. We have been to hundreds and hundreds of weddings. We have seen it all.

Just look into our eyes – you know we have seen some serious poop in our day.

I want to give a list that is the real deal, not just some rehashed list of obvious observations.

But before we start… a little warning. In this post, I am going to perhaps be giving some hard truths. This is because I think you can handle the real truth and I care about you enough to give you the real truth. You may need to buckle your seatbelt for this one.

Groom in blue checqued suit holds a pocketwatch at Yorkshire wedding

Wedding Tip 1 – Running Late Sucks

So let’s plunge in shall we? Being super insanely late at the start of your day fully and completely sucks and will likely cause you loads of problems for the rest of the day.

Yes, it is the bride’s prerogative to be late but when brides run more than 5-10 minutes late they risk causing a significant domino effect to their day. Weddings are carefully planned and coordinated events that rely on every vendor, couple and guest to do their part in making the day successful.

A bride who is 15, 20, 30, 45 minutes late is causing a world of hurt for every vendor trying to do their job and even if I do my level best to get you the best pictures ever – I never want to be photographing the bride crying because her registrars left. This has nearly happened more than once.

The biggest reason that brides run late in the morning isn’t typically because they don’t care about running on time – it is that they are not pre-planned to have enough time to begin with. Frequently, hair and make-up seems to be running to a schedule far, far later than it should. Ideally, a bride should be fully dressed with all touch-ups, etc. 30 full minutes before they are scheduled to meet with registrars or leave for the ceremony.

But the reality is that in the overwhelming majority of cases, they are just starting the bride’s make-up 1 hour before the ceremony is scheduled to start. There is little possibility of this working out well when you consider that it is now commonplace to do parent/bridesmaids reveals and all sorts before leaving for the ceremony.

What can make it worse is that the people around the bride will frequently parrot the refrain “It is fine. You have plenty of time. It is the bride’s prerogative to be late.” I have heard this said whilst I am receiving panicked texts from Matt as the registrars are threatening to leave because the bride is already 45 minutes late. I think, especially as wedding vendors, we shouldn’t be panicking our clients about time but we also shouldn’t pretend that you can be infinitely behind schedule.

Do yourself a favour – schedule all of your morning vendors to be done 30 minutes before you need to do anything else. Good make-up and hair will last all day – 30 extra minutes will not change the outcome in the slightest. If you do run late, be realistic about what might need to be cut from your morning to catch up.

Bride cires whilst getting ready and is consoled by bridesmaids
Now these are the kind of helpful bridesmaids any bride wants at her wedding!

Wedding Tip 2 – Pick Your Team Carefully

Ohhhh this is a controversial one but I am going to lay it on the line. Don’t select bridesmaids(men) and groomsmen(maids) who are useless, disorganized, prone to upsetting you or are frequently at the centre of drama.

I completely understand that you have a friend/sibling/cousin who just has to be in the wedding party because their feelings will be hurt if they aren’t. I totally get that. My suggestion would be to take this into account and add another person to the list to ensure you have people on your team who are actually capable of doing the jobs they are asked to do.

Fun bridesmaid and groomsman making faces at relaxed wedding
The best bride party brings the sassy not the sass…

When it comes to those people who upset you or are prone to drama – I have a just say “no” policy. If your sister is the kind of person who puts you down in passive aggressive ways or makes you feel insecure about yourself…. do not make her a bridesmaid. Give her a different job. Make up a job. Make her master of ceremonies for the speeches. But if she is a bridesmaid, there is an excellent chance (if not inevitability) that she will upset you on your wedding day. We all know and understand toxic family/friend dynamics and I am always just so sad when I see a bride who has someone on their bridal team who seems hell-bent on making her feel like crap all morning or all day.  If you absolutely must have this person in your bridal party – assign another bridesmaid to run interference and keep the drama llama in a paddock as far from you as possible.

Groom makes silly face with cane with wedding party
A groom party so ready to help that they even carry his walking stick for his broken foot!

This issue isn’t just for the lady’s team. Let’s talk about ushers who don’t…. ush. I know Barry, Garry and Larry are a right laff on the weekends but if they can’t organize a piss up in a brewery, you are going to end up doing their job for them and that isn’t cool. No groom wants to be hunting down Aunty Gladys for a photo whilst Barry and Garry are busy having japes in the bar.

TL;DR… Pick people whose job it is to help you who are actually helpful people. For everyone else, find and assign them a different job that is perhaps a bit less critical.

Smiling Asian Groom gives Speech at St Stephens Wedding London

Wedding Tip 3 – Speeches Between Courses are Hated by Literally Everyone

I don’t have a lot to elaborate on this one except to say that this trend started popping up about 4-5 years ago and should be burnt with fire. I said at the beginning of this article that I am going to give it to you straight because I love you and sometimes you have to be honest with those you love.

Your caterers hate it… for obvious reasons.

Your venue hates it… it is a timing nightmare for them.  

Your photographer/videographer may not even cover it as they use the meal break to take their own meal break.

Bride Hugs Her dad during the wedding Speeches

Most of all… your guests will hate it. We have occasionally agreed to photograph speeches in this manner (taking our break just after the meal instead and missing out on the post-meal mingle) and the reaction from the guests is never good. Sometimes guests are even so frustrated by the end they just simply don’t settle and they talk whilst people are giving speeches. The speeches aren’t seen as a refreshing break. They are interpreted by guests as interruptions to their conversations, delays in getting to their next course and impediments to using the loo, visiting the bar or having a cheeky smoke.

If you feel really committed to breaking up the speeches, perhaps just go with 2 speeches before the meal and one at the end. Or, consider doing all your speeches after the starters. This way no one is hangry but they are also still in a good mind frame to give your speakers their full attention.

Beautiful wedding dress in a room with teal walls
Jenny didn’t let this gorgeous frock slow down her shenanigans one little bit!

Wedding Tip 4 – Don’t Let The Dress Wear You

I have one rule about wedding dresses: if they aren’t black on the bottom 6 inches by the end of the night, there is a strong chance your wedding wasn’t much fun.

Forget about the dress. I mean it. Put it on and then forget about it. The dress is gorgeous and you will look gorgeous in it so just put it on and forget about it.

No dress in the entire world is worth getting angry at a guest for stepping on it. No dress is worth ruining all your photos by lifting your dress so high off the ground the photographer has to avoid a knicker shot all day (ask me how I know this). No dress is worth missing out on that lawn game or avoiding the dance floor. No dress should be spread out so far from your body everyone around you needs a bullhorn and smoke signals to speak to you.

Black and white wedding photograph of bridesmaids fastening wedding dress from POV

A few small marks (even some whomping big ones depending on where they are) won’t show up in the photos. So don’t worry about it. If it will be a problem in the photos – leave it to me to let you know and help you find a solution. Otherwise you are fine to let that frock hang out.

It is a dress. Your wedding day is a keystone moment in your life. Be in that moment and forget about the dress.

Yorkshire Wedding Photography Barn Venues funny dance photography at Villa Farm York
A wild dance floor often relies on a couple who want to have a wiggle!

Wedding Tip 5 – Don’t Be Your Own Enemy

Fortunately, this isn’t a problem we encounter with our own clients very often anymore. However, I am including it on this list because my SEO information tells me that these kinds of articles are seen by loads of people – not just our clients – and this point is super important.

Couples should absolutely try their very best to work WITH their vendors on their wedding day and not become adversarial. Your HMUA can’t magically get those lashes to stick if you keep rubbing them off with your fingers because they “feel weird.” Your photographer can’t get good photos of you if you are grimacing and complaining about hating having your photograph taken all day. Your band can’t keep the dance floor hopping if you do a single dance and then hide from the dance floor for the rest of the night (hint – your guests want to be where you are… if you aren’t on the dancefloor, expect it to empty out). Pssst… you can find some dancefloor tips on this blog post!

We are all on the same team. We want you to have a great day, have a super fun time and to love the service we provided you and then leave us glowing recommendations all over the internet. Our jobs are made infinitely harder when couples approach their day with a sense of entitlement and an expectation that it is our remit to make things happen magically, even when they are working against us. It isn’t and couples who do this are acting as their own worst enemy, creating the negative outcome they will later blame on their vendors.

I’m not saying vendors don’t make mistakes –  we are humans. However, not being able to make a magical outcome occur isn’t a mistake…it is unreasonable.

Brides mum greeting the groom at Yorkshire Wedding

Wedding Tip 6 – No One Regrets Too Much Time With Loved Ones

The biggest regret we see discussed by brides in bridal forums/groups is that they didn’t get to see their friends and family as much as they wanted to. From experience, I can say this is nearly always down to not scheduling in realistic time to visit with everyone.

Couples often become so worried that people aren’t left “standing around” that they swing the pendulum in the opposite direction and push everyone (themselves included) from pillar to post. This leaves little time to actually see and visit with all those lovely faces you were looking forward to seeing.

Bride beign greeted by grandmother at alternative wedding

So schedule in the time. Between the ceremony and the meal give yourself AT LEAST 30 minutes to have a hug Olympics. This should be time in addition to other obligations (canapés, drinks, photos, etc) not instead of. If you have vendors paid to achieve an outcome (eg – give you canapés) they are going to do this, whether you have scheduled time or not because they need to fulfil their contract. So you are best off having a solid schedule that is grounded in realistic timings and actually get to enjoy that bacon wrapped shrimp on a stick thingy along with your glass of fizz without feeling like you are being pulled off to be somewhere else.

After the meal, make time to visit with your guests at their tables and make a point to tackle them in age order. Older guests are more likely to leave before the evening party so don’t leave granny’s table to the end.  

Wedding guest holding a newspaper drescribing something with big hand gestures

A Final Note….

This is just a list of a few of the biggest mistakes I see couples make on a regular basis but keep in mind that these mistakes (although none specifically photography related) are just from the eyes of your friendly neighbourhood photographer. Don’t forget to ask your caterers, HMUA’s, band leaders, venue coordinators, etc. because they may have some great observations I would have never known! And if you make one of these mistakes, don’t feel like your wedding is doomed. We are all working with you to make your day as amazing as possible and as long as you have a happy face and a positive vibe going… everything else can be managed!

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