A lot of couples come to me with ideas of dream photos swirling in their heads, and sometimes even a specific "shot list". I do love pulling from a couples vision, and getting meaningful photos. However, photo lists always impose on the day, making it feel like it is more about getting that picture than experiencing the day. And as you may know, one of our biggest values at Mordi Photographie is to help you truly experience the authenticity of your wedding, and to encapsulate the meaningful moments as they happen.
Sometimes we encourage or spark moments, with a little prompting. The result is that rather than a "posed photo" we get a real event that just needed a little kick start. A first look is a perfect example of this. There is an initial ignition, but then emotion and genuine interaction takes over and therein the beauty lies.
Rather than completely shutting down the idea of incorporating dream photos and photo lists in your wedding day, I would like to propose a different solution. That is to work sparks into your day which will naturally build into the photos you want. You will find sample photos below, attached to a spark - in other words, what you need to do, or what we include in your timeline, to make that moment authentic.
And if you're ever unsure on how to make this happen, or you have an idea that isn't shown here, let's talk! I'm sure we can come up with an organic way to prompt the moment.
SPARK | Invitations
Okay, okay. This may not be a spark for a genuine moment, but it can still ignite an idea in your mind. Couples are constantly asking me to photograph their invitation suite. But on the day of the wedding, they forget a portion, or it got wrinkled on the way over, or something spilled and ruined the ink. But also, invitation suites take more time to properly style and photograph than you might guess. So the morning of the wedding, amidst the hustle and bustle of the day, isn't always the best time for it either.
I like to have the invitation suite before the wedding day, so that I can get a sense of the aesthetic and select or acquire styling materials to match. Then I take a bouquet or centerpiece from the wedding, when everything is being broken down at the end of the night. Over the next day or two I style various renditions of your suite and florals, to match your bridal detail photos and the overall aesthetic of your wedding. These are the kind of photos magazines love to see for publication!
SPARK | Dress Picture
Brides often want their dress photographed before it is put on. This can be a beautiful image, and a great way to propel the story as they day progresses. However, venues and brides aren't always set up or prepared for these kind of photos. The result is an image that looks forced and unrealistic. For example, I have never encountered a scenario where the wedding dress would be hung on the venue's front doors, or ceremony arch while the bride gets ready. It just doesn't happen naturally.
If the venue has a large framed mirror (not the tri-fold mirror) or armoire, this is a natural and lovely place for a dress to be hung and photographed. And a wooden or metal hanger is always recommended over a plastic hanger. If there is no such spot in your venue, this is where a mannequin comes in handy. Lucky for you, I have a contact who can rent this for single use, so that you don't have to buy one just for your wedding day.
SPARK | Getting Ready Location
Before we even look at photographing remarkable getting ready photos, we have to examine the place a bride or groom will be getting ready. I have often seen cramped, dark and messy getting ready locations, and no matter how authentic my directions are during the portraits, the setting will always impact the overall feel of the photo. In fact, I've even photographed brides and grooms getting ready in nursing rooms and deacons closets, filled with robes and Amazon boxes.
So plan ahead. If your home has a bright room, with large windows, use that for your getting ready space. If you have a hotel suite with plenty of room (think bridesmaids, HMUA team, planner's team, photographers and videographers plus any family members who may be hanging around) and again - large windows, this will also be best to lay the foundation for stunning getting ready photos.
SPARK | Getting Ready
From a storytelling perspective, the getting ready is a very important part of the day. It sets the stage for what is to come. However, it is very easy for the significance and the sentimentality to get lost in the many many photos that are taken during this time. No doubt, they will be beautiful photos, but they can be a bit empty of genuine emotion.
So while we work through the dress being zipped, and the shoes being tied. While I photograph the veil being placed and the bow tie being straightened, the trick is to focus on your 5 senses. Instead of thinking, "I need to smile over my left shoulder", think "How do grandmas hands feel as she fastens her necklace on my neck?" Or "What scents or perfumes are in the air right now? Will I smell this again at a later time and suddenly be reminded of this moment?" Pulling yourself into the present, and thinking of what you can sense will bring a form of gravity and authenticity to the moment, and lock in those memories. And don't worry, I'll be there to prompt you and help guide you through those senses.
SPARK | Guest-Filled Recessional
One of the photos that couples comment on the most is this one here. They love the excitement on the bride and grooms face as they recess from the ceremony, and they love that they see all the guests spectating the event!
Here is the secret. Most couples are equally ecstatic after being pronounced married, as they exit the ceremony. We don't have to do anything there. And I always get that photo from the center of the aisle. The missing part is the guests, spectating. This is only possible if the guests remain seated during the recessional, and we can step behind them to photograph the recession. If the guests stand, a photo like this would only show backs and butts. So if this is a photo you love, guests and all, ask your officiant to have the guests remain seated during the recessional.
SPARK | Church Exit
Every now and again I get couples with old souls who want to re-create photos of the past. Church exits are one of those photos and I am ALL for it! Whether it is flower petals, rice, bubbles, ribbons or just clapping, this is a really great photo op.
The easiest way to manage this is to take advantage of the fact that your guests are going to leave the church any way, to head to your reception. So after the recessional, the bride and groom just tuck into a side room. The guests all file outside, receiving their flower petals as they pass through the doors. Once lined up, the couple exits the church for a big hurrah that usually has more people than the exit at the end of the night!
SPARK | Authentic Portraits
Most of the emails I get from couples inquiring with me, have some comment about how much they love the authenticity seen in my photos. And sometimes they mention that they feel uncomfortable in front of the camera and need serious help.
So first, let me assure you - if you focus on being present in each moment, and soaking up the memories to lock them in your mind, the photos will feel genuine and authentic as well. However, I have trained myself over the years to recognize specific sparks that help pull couples into the moment. There are countless things I can walk you through on the wedding day, but this is one example of the things I tell couples, during portrait time, to help them be present:
Hold each other tight, however you would when you see each other after a long day. Pause, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Feel the warmth of your loved one, and their chest as it rises and falls. Smell their perfume or cologne, listen to the chatter of your guests, and savor the quiet moment together on your WEDDING day!
SPARK | Epic Entrance
Although this may not be your No. 1 print choice for your canvas, the energetic entrances still might make it into a few social media posts. And the more lively the better! The problem is, the entrances are usually half baked, and too soon. Bridesmaids and groomsmen walk through the doors and instantly strike a pose. But only half the guests can see, and the photo shows exit signs, trash cans and whatever is in the hallway behind the doors.
What needs to happen is to for the wedding party to be prepped ahead of time. Dance and jiggle your way through the doors, but don't do the main trick until you get to the dance floor. Then the whole audience can see and your applause will be epic! Oh, and so will your photo.
SPARK | Prayer
It feels strange to say you may need a photo spark for a prayer. I definitely encourage prayers to be as authentic and genuine as possible. Which is why, in some cases, we need a spark (and in some we don't!)
The simple answer is - don't stress too much about setting it up for the perfect shot. I generally say the couple should just stay seated while someone prays - that feels the most sincere. But if you have a solid reason to stand up next to the person giving a prayer, that reason is valid and that moment will be authentic too.
SPARK | Head Table Toasts
Toasts happen at nearly every wedding, and we photograph them all. But often, the setup looks contrived, with a line of people standing in the middle of the dance floor. (More on that below). We can always set up the perfect toasting picture, but the reception is a time to let loose and not stress about yet another picture.
The solution is usually to simply sit at the head table, so you can relax and focus most on the one giving the toast (rather than the aching feet standing in your heels). Let the toaster stand on the dance floor, or near your head table. Slide your chairs together. Nice. And. Close. Grab your champagne glass for this one, rather than the beer can. And settle in together for the toasts.
SPARK | Toasting Guests
Toasts is about as real as it gets on a wedding day. Sometimes they are tender and sweet, sometimes they are raw, and sometimes they have more trash talk than Friday night tv. It is a great opportunity for organic photos that sometimes falls on its face. Rather than being a personable interaction, it can look like a dodge ball lineup on the dance floor. And the guests don't know whether to toast with their glasses or just clap.
A more organic approach is to simply carry your champagne glass with you around the room, as you greet your guests after dinner. As you say hello, just extend your glass and toast each guest! They'll love it, and I'll be the fly on the wall, photographing the real interaction.
SPARK | Cake Slices
Although you may spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on your cake, it gets relatively little attention throughout the day. It is often displayed in a corner or against a blank wall (more on that below!) and it is usually cut once the lights are down and the party has started.
There's nothing wrong with cake and a party, but if you want to showcase your cake a little more, here is a unique idea. When you do your cake tasting, and pick the flavor of your cake, ask your baker for 2 extra slices. This can be that very day, or to be delivered on the day of your wedding. With those slices, I can style photos which highlight the beauty and flavors of your cake and match your wedding aesthetic. This is easiest done before the wedding ceremony (or even before the wedding day).
SPARK | Cake Display
As mentioned above, the cake display is often a corner of the ballroom, or up against a blank wall. Not only does this do a disservice to your cake (and photos of the cake) but it impacts the photos of you cutting the cake. I have been at too many weddings where the table had to be scooted away from the wall, with the cake precariously balanced, in order for the couple to get behind for the cake cutting.
There are a lot of recommendations here. First, put the cake on a small table near the center of the room. It showcases the cake much more and makes it much more accessible for the couple to cut. You'll also see guests spectating behind, instead of a blank wall. Second, cut the cake before open dancing begins. Young and old will be part of the action before they leave for the night, guests will be sugared up and ready for a good time, and no one trips over the cake while trying to do crowd surfing with the couple. Lastly, Its. Your. Day. Relax. Cuddle up. Hold the knife together. And cut your Wedding Cake! Have fun with it (icing on the nose or not) and share a big kiss at the end!
SPARK | Lively Reception
A reception is meant to be the most lively portion of your celebration. People laughing, dancing, and having the time of their lives. And that is the kind of thing most couples want to see in their reception photos. While alcohol helps with this, after an hour or two people start to get sloppy and photos sometimes look a little dazed.
Ask your DJ to play a lot of group and line dances at the beginning of open dancing. People are more likely to be on the newly opened dance floor, before alcohol sets in, if they can follow along with pre-determined moves. Guests will have a lot of fun doing line dances, and you get lively reception photos. It's a Win-Win!
SPARK | Last Dance
This is a request I see all the time. Couples want an epic dancing photo of them alone in the ballroom, with all the florals and table decorations. So they schedule a "last dance" while the guests prepare for the grand exit. This is great on a timeline, but ultimately, what I see in photos is half-eaten plates of food, purses or coats laying around, and chairs pushed in every direction.
If it is an epic ballroom photo you want, I suggest we sneak it in as a Private First Look at the ballroom, before the reception starts. You can read more about that in my journal article "The Last Dance Secret".
SPARK | Grand Exit
Grand exits can be so much fun and an epic way to end the night. But they usually take about 15 seconds and there are a lot of variables that can negatively impact the exit itself, without even considering photos. So definitely discuss logistics like spacing, sparkler length (longer is always good), exit cues, and such with both your planner and your photographer.
Most importantly though, take your time to slow down and actually enjoy the exit! No one is chasing you out of the venue, so it is okay to walk instead of running. It is great to pause in the middle of your guests to do a dip, a kiss, a cheer, high five, jump or whatever you dream of doing at that moment! Notice the faces of your guests. Look at your new husband or wife! You can definitely reach out for your best man or maid of honor, or give mom and dad a hug. And if you had a lot of fun, and the sparklers are still burning, run back through one more time - you'll definitely get bonus cheers from the guests!
Lastly, roll down the windows of your exit car. Before driving off, wave at your favorite people and share a kiss in the back seat of the car. It's not just about the photos. Its about locking in those final memories of your wedding day and savoring the last few moments.