Our main job as wedding photographers is to create beautiful images for our clients. But our job is also to provide a phenomenal customer service experience from beginning to end. Throughout the last decade as a wedding photographer, I’ve developed this list of non-gear related items to bring along when you photograph a wedding.
Wedding Day Essentials
The Wedding Timeline
Six weeks before the wedding, send the bride and groom a questionnaire requesting details about the timeline, addresses, wedding party, their families and vendors. Not only will this help the bride and groom think through any details they may have overlooked in their busyness, but their answers will help you foresee any timeline delays or issues.
Some important questions to ask:
- At what address will the bride be getting ready?
- At what address is the groom getting ready?
- Ceremony start time and address.
- Reception start time and address.
- When would you like photo coverage to begin?
- Based on the number of hours purchased, what time would you like photography coverage to end?
- Will you be having a First Look?
- Please provide the timeline for your wedding day, so far.
- Are there any specific locations you have in mind for your wedding day portraits?
- Will you be exchanging gifts with your spouse or family members?
- What mailing address should I use for you after the wedding?
- How many bridesmaids do you have and what are their names?
- How many groomsmen do you have and what are their names?
Family Photo List
Under no circumstance should you show up to a wedding without a list of family photos, created and approved in advance by the bride and groom. Attempting to focus the bride and groom minutes after they’ve been pronounced husband and wife, in front of a room full of family and friends eager to talk to them, is a recipe for disaster!
Having a list you can work from, and check off each grouping with a pen, will save valuable time.
On the wedding questionnaire, request the following information about family:
- Please list immediate family of the bride
- Please list immediate family of the groom
- Please provide a list of family photos you’d like and please note the names of each person in the grouping.
- Are there any divorces/deaths I should be aware of so as to not embarrass anyone on either side of the family?
Review and take charge of the list
Review the information received about each immediate family before the wedding. Throughout the hours you’re photographing, you’ll meet at least 40 people by name! Don’t rely on your own memory. By having everything written down, you can check your timeline and remember the bride has two brothers named Matt and Joseph. Now, all you need to do is figure out which brother you met was Matt and which was Joseph. Magic!
Usually, the family photo list that the couple returns is perfect. I may re-arrange groupings for ease of the photo time (starting with the largest groupings first and peeling people away as needed) but very minimal change is usually required.
However, sometimes the list may include large group after large group of extended family. When this situation happens, send the couple a warm and polite email confirming the list. Review the timeline and see how much time is needed capture the family photos requested.
Let the couple know you are happy to capture whatever images they would like, but you may have to steal 30 minutes from another portion of the day. When you present the options this way, many couples will choose to forego large groupings for family photos and enjoy their cocktail hour instead.
Verify Addresses and Phone Numbers
You can never be too careful when it comes to details, so leave no stone unturned. Even if the couple provided the name of the venue, request the specific address to eliminate all room for error. It’s important to have addresses for the bride’s house, groom’s house, photo locations and the reception.
Basically, anywhere you need to visit on the wedding day, have an exact location and meeting spot if the location is a park, for example.
Phone numbers are a key piece of wedding day communication. Have the bride and groom’s phone numbers on file, but also request the phone numbers of the Maid of Honour and the Best Man and confirm they will have their phones with them. It’s quite common for a bride and a groom to not have their personal phones on them, and rightly so.
Have the wedding coordinator’s name and phone number printed on your timeline for easy access. It is also not a bad idea to have phone numbers of a few other key vendors. Always be more prepared than necessary.
Step up Your Experience with These Items
If you only remember half of this article, stop reading now and remember the first part. But if you want to step up your “photography game” and look like a wedding day hero, keep reading. Make gathering the following items a goal for your next wedding season.
Depending on your city’s parking meter structure, a credit card may be all you need — but some cities require coins. Stock your wallet with five dollars worth of coins for parking in a time crunch. Additionally, research if your city has an iPhone app for easy parking with your credit card.
Set of Umbrellas
Purchase a set of matching umbrellas in either a solid black or a clear color so they match any wedding party — your brides will be thankful. Keep the umbrellas in the trunk of your car at all times so you’re never left out in the rain.
Wedding days can be long and weather can be inconsistent. Prepare for everything with a rain jacket or parka (depending on the season), sweater or cardigan for the reception (if the AC starts up) and my favorite – a change of shoes for tired feet halfway through the day.
Don’t be caught repeating your name to a potential customer over and over again so they can memorize it and find you on Instagram. Have business cards in your bag at all times.
Laptop and Card Reader
For slower receptions, you could download your memory cards to a laptop for immediate back-up. Also handy for downloading your second shooter’s images before driving separate ways at the end of the workday.
Water, Snacks, and Gum
Working on an empty stomach isn’t fun. Pack more snacks than you think you’ll need — you can keep some in your camera bag and the rest in the car for an emergency. Having gum or breath mints nearby is a bonus while talking with guests and, of course, a water bottle and staying hydrated is a must.
Wooden Hanger for Dress
I have yet to add a wooden hanger to my wedding day list, but it’s a good idea. You’ll save 3-5 minutes at the bride’s house looking for a wooden hanger to replace the flimsy clear plastic one.
Photographer to the rescue! Pack a small bag with bobby pins, band-aids, tide-to-go, Tylenol, a sewing kit, a lint brush packs of Kleenex and anything else you think a bride or bridesmaid or family member may want at some point in the day. You’ll be the hero when the bride stains her dress and you whip out the tide-to-go or hand the mother of the bride some Tylenol.
If you photograph weddings, what else do you take along besides your photo gear? Please share in the comments below.