That is one very important decision to make, as if there have not been enough already.
There are pros and cons to consider when making this decision that will have a definite bearing on how your day will progress. Following are some observations that we, and a majority of our couples have made during the past two decades or so that might help you in with that decision.
Years ago 'tradition' dictated that couples and their families were photographed together after the ceremony. Prior to the ceremony, the photographer would scramble about piecing together as many groups as possible while maintaining visual distance between the bride and groom. After the ceremony many of the same groups would be photographed together for similar images, now including the happy couple.
Eighty to ninety percent of all couples now elect to conduct the group photography prior to the ceremony. The biggest objection most couples have to photography after the wedding is that; their guests are left waiting during the hour it takes for good formal portraiture. Many couples are motivated to do the majority of the photography prior to the ceremony because of their own experience as 'waiting guests', wondering when the bride and groom would finally appear. Without the 'guests-of-honor' the party is a bit dull. Some of the guests may also have limitations on the amount of time they can stay. If the bride and groom elect to have post-ceremony formal portraits it may seriously limit the amount of time they have to spend with their guests.
Prior to the ceremony, everything; flowers, hair, make-up, clothes, moods are at their very best. The children are clean, the tuxes and dresses are pressed, after months of planning, the air is filled with an electric anticipation of the events to come. Everything is at it's finest. . . . Afterwards, . . .well, 'things' happen; people hug, people cry, mascara runs, lipstick smears, flowers wilt. People's thoughts turn to; 'how fast can I loose these shoes / this jacket / this tie', '. . . this is a hosted bar, . . . right?' Things are a bit less polished and perfect which is okay for candid photography but less than ideal for formal group portraits.
imagine, . . .
. . . you have just looked into the eyes of your true love. You have exchanges vows, rings and a commitment for a lifetime. You walk down the aisle hand-in-hand to congradulations, hugs, kisses and and are headed towards what looks to be a large scale emotional outburst, . . . up pops your photographer!
'time for pictures!'
There is a break in the momentum of the event, . . . attendants are scattered, conversing, taking off shoes / jackets / ties, getting a drink and attending to their own agendas. People need to be gathered, drinks and hor'de ouvuers pryed from white knucked grasps, time is passing, impatience grows. People who cannot be found miss out on being in a picture - anxiety grows, everyone wants to be at the party but they also need to be 'in the picture.' Your photographer fears for his life because of the angry looks from guests (okay, THAT part was a little much but you get the idea).
if only there were a way, . . .
to maintain the 'polish', the excitement, the moment of emotional climax, . . . we can do that! We like to call it the 'First Look'
The stage is set in a private area. Plans are set in motion to keep the bride and groom secluded from friends, family and the rest of the bridal party. The groom stands with his back turned, eyes closed, anticipating the soft touch, the gentle squeeze of his bride-to-be's hand, that tells him that she too is standing, eyes closed, turned away, waiting, . . .
'you can turn around now'
The eyes, the hair, the dress, the tux, the hugs, kisses and soft words all expressed in a private moment away from the rest of the world. Likely the last opportunity until the evening is over for a 'private' romantic embrace. This is the best opportunity for us as your photographers to capture the thrill of seeing each other for the first time.
As the various groups now move into the photographic session there is excitement and anticipation - but everyone is relaxed because they know that time is on their side. Everyone cooperates, it is their duty as family and friends, BUT, after walking down the aisle, standing in and sitting through the ceremony, they feel that they have done just about enough. They want to relax, take off the shoes / jacket / tie (again), get a drink and not pose for a darnn photographer!
'What about the Grand Entrance? won't it 'kill the thrill'?
Hardly, . . . but don't ask us, ask any bride and groom. When the music begins, the guests rise, the bride appears and walks down the aisle to meet her groom - the beautiful vision many brides dream of remains intact. In contrast, the few who have waited with raising anxiety don't clearly remember the experience. Stage fright is rampant, formality is the 'rule'. The groom is standing at the altar - how can he be himself? he can't kiss you, can't tell you how beautiful you are or how lovely you look in that dress, hugs aren't generally allowed. But with a private moment before the ceremony he can do all that and more. Perhaps the first time that the bride and groom see each other can be richer when it's for their eyes only rather than on a public stage.
It is up to you, . . .
If this decision is difficult, we encourage you to search out friends and family who have done it both ways. As professionals, and your photographers, we are working for you. It is YOUR wedding day. Our promise and obligation to you is to provide the very best service that is possible. We want to make sure that any decisions that you make concerning the circumstances and situations involved in your photography are 'informed' ones.
This is a FIRST NAME (last name where it is needed to prevent mix-ups) list of everyone you would like in your formal family group potraits. There is no limit (except time) to the number of individuals you can choose to include on your shot list. Figure 2-3 minutes per group. You do not need to list the wedding party shots (bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls etc) as we have already listed some the usual ones and will come up with others depending on your wedding party.
Start with the shots that are most important to you. If we run out of time some of the shots can be taken at the reception. IF YOU ARE USING A FORM THAT WE PROVIDED, YOU DO NOT NEED TO FILL IN ALL THE LINES
If possible, start with the largest groups, eliminating individuals from the group with each shot rather than adding to the group. For example, the 1st shot could include Bride & Groom, both sets of parents, siblings and grandparents. For the second shot excuse everyone except Bride & Groom and both sets of parents. For the third shot excuse one set of parents, and so on.
If your shot list includes individuals that may not be comfortable waiting a long time to be in a group shot such as older grandparents or small children, try to list those shots early so they can go off somewhere more comfortable. Or you might have them arrive towards the end of the time we set aside for formals to be in some of the last group shots.
All shots not involving the bride should be listed last if your list is long. That will allow the bride to leave if guests start arriving while we are still shooting formals.
Assign someone to be in charge of the list. This should be a friend or family member who knows all or most of the people listed. Not the venue wedding coordinator! Sometimes it might work best to assign two individuals, one from both sides of the family. Try to have it be someone other than the Go To person. That person is often off answering questions during the formals. This List Coordinator should be instructed to gather up the next group on the list while your photographers are posing the first group. The List Coordinator needs to be organized and have the demeanor of a drill sergeant. Make sure they have a pen or pencil in order to cross off each shot. They can make a real difference in how smooth or chaotic the formal shoot goes. The List Coordinator is primarily responsible for making sure that you get all the group shots you want.
Start your list weeks before the wedding so you can periodically check it to make sure you haven't forgotten anyone. EMAIL A COPY OF YOUR FORMALS LIST TO PATRICE. THIS IS A BACKUP COPY. YOU ARE STILL REPONSBLE FOR GETTING THE LIST TO THE WEDDING AND MAKING SURE IT IS IN THE HANDS OF YOUR FAMILY FORMALS LIST COORDINATOR.
At your rehearsal dinner, please make an announcement that you are paying a lot of money for your family formal portraiture and do not want them ruined, so it is your request (not your photographers) that everyone please keep their cameras out of sight during this time. We find that family members find it hard not to look at a familiar camera and this results in eyes looking every where instead of into our camera. The rest of the day is a free for all for picture taking. Let them know that you will be getting the digital negatives annd can send or email them a copy of the file.
Prepare your dress the night before. Take out all pins and cut off price tags.
Bring along a sewing kit with: thread that matches your dress, real scissors, Shout Wipes or some other stain remover recommended by your dress shop. Cut the straps off that keep the dress on the hanger. Do that for the bridesmaid’s dresses also. Those straps have a way of slipping out and showing up in the pictures. They can be pinned back on later if necessary. DON’T FORGET.
Arrange to have your flowers on location before your photographers are scheduled to start shooting. Your G0-TO person should make sure the boutonnieres go the guys and the bouquets get to the girls. If the bouquets are wrapped in ribbon make sure they don’t arrive in a jar full of water. Wet ribbons are a real bummer especially if they stain the dress. Only a little water at the bottom of the vase is necessary. Bring a towel to dry the flowers so they don’t leave wet marks on the dresses.
Schedule your hair and makeup hours before the dress goes on. Tell your hairdresser that their tip depends on getting you out on time. You want to arrive relaxed at least a half-hour before your photographers. Having the bride arrive late by up to an hour is not unheard of and it’s almost always because of hair & makeup.
Drink lots of water early in the day and taper off as you get closer to the ceremony. Bring snacks like cheese and crackers with grapes. You want small portions to nibble on. It’s not a good idea to eat a heavy meal close to the ceremony time.
Brides Maids should be dressed by the time your photographers show up. You are Queen for the day and they are there to help you. If they are not completely ready by the time we are ready to shoot remind them that they can complete their hair and makeup when we take you off for your first look and romantics.
Jewelry, garter, shoes and veil all go on after the dress.
Make sure your GO-TO person (a family member or friend – not the venue’s wedding coordinator) is there to take care of all the details. Ask them to be available for anyone with a problem.
If all goes well there will be time to include portrait session along with fun group shots of you and your bridesmaids.
I am both the perpetrator and the victim of my own lousy proposal. I had the ring, I got down on one knee, but to hear Patrice tell the story that's about all I got right. But, hey, we've been married for nearly thirteen years so, . . .
Many people, my wife included, consider the marriage proposal to be nearly as important as the wedding itself. Some men (me) may opt for a low-key semi-private proposal, while others may go for a more public or extravagant declaration of their affection. For many women, creativity and thoughtfulness are key in the wedding proposal. Luckily, Patrice chose to overlook that particular flaw in my stragegem.
One of the best ways to incorporate these aspects is to think about the other person's interests, favorite things or perhaps a significant place. One great way to plan an elaborate proposal is to ask others to help out in organizing it. For example, if one partner is crazy about theater, take them to a show and pre-arrange with the cast and crew to incorporate a proposal scene with the real person's names. Another idea is to plan a private dinner in a park, catered by friends, family or a favorite restaurant. Wine, moonlight, a musician that suddenly appears, . . .
As Wedding Photographers and de facto planners we have had the opportunity to hear some intricately planned, wildly creative stories. One of our grooms actually set everything in motion months prior to the deed. The couple had planned a diving vacation in the Florida Keys. He, on a prior trip had commissioned a sign, "Marry Me ___" to be attached to a rock under water that his bride would discover months later during a dive. Another groom proposed to his lady during a hot air balloon excursion and later did a photo shoot at a hot air balloon festival. They carried the theme through to include their invitations, guest favors, wedding decorations and even a hot air balloon cake topper! An important experience to consider is related to the aforementioned, 'ask others to help out' or at least let important key people in on the plan. One of our grooms planned to propose to his fiancee-to-be at the top of a substantial hike/stairclimb on Oahu in front of the entire family surrounded by incredible, pristene, scenery. Turned out it was foggy at the top, our groom stepped off to the side to get the ring out of his pocket with cold damp hands. He fumbled with the ring just a bit. Got it all set, turned around and viola! The entire family including his bride-to-be were already headed back down the stairs!
Traditionally it has always been the man who proposes to the woman, but in recent years some women have been turning that custom around. Scottish tradition has it that on February 29 a woman has the right to propose marriage to any man she likes. It was commonly believed that in 1288, Queen Margaret of Scotland had decreed that any woman could propose to any man she liked and he could not refuse unless he was already engaged. (Subsequent searches of the acts of the Scottish Parliment have failed to unearth evidence of this unusual decree). In 2004 AOL conducted a survey of 7000 people and found that 59 percent of women and 48 percent of men thought that women who proposed were modern and confident, rather than 'scary or intimidating'.
So there you are, a proposal for marriage. The beginning of the Plan.
And Guys, talking just to you now. WHAT EVER YOU DO, think about it first. Personally, I was overcome with the need to get the ring out of my pocket and on to her finger. I get kicked under the table every time Patrice hears about a romantic proposal scheme from one of our couples visiting the studio. If you want to hear the rest of the story, stop on by, . . . I haven't been kicked in a while.
Just sayin, think about it, . . .
sjones / 971-235-4440 / www.aaronstadt.com
There comes a point at most weddings when the ceremony is over, the food has been eaten, heartfelt toasts have been made and it's time to rock the party! At this point the bride and groom envision the dance floor suddenly filling with happy guest to dance the night away. How to make this actually happen and stay within your budget can get tricky and deserves careful thought. The music at the wedding can certainly make or break the mood. An ipod loaded with your favorite background music can be linked it up to the audio system to automatically play all night and for those on a tight budget this is a way to provide music for virtually no monetary cost though the 'quality' cost is at times rather high as the silly thing just doesn't know when to stop for an impromptu toast or that its time to switch gears as the playlist is failing to inspire the crowd. However it can be an excellent choice when you want to keep the mood low-key to encourage your guests to leave early so you can catch that flight to Jamaica. However, if are looking for the mood to take a leap into fast-forward at exactly the right moment, count on a dj / mc or bandleader to provide and direct the pulse of the party. This can be the key to a successful event. You can get away with skipping the party favors or choosing chicken over lobster but one thing you shouldn't skimp on is the music. You may not remember that the table linens were eggplant colored, that the prime rib was melt in your mouth delicious, that the cake was incredible or that the center pieces were bowls of water with some kind of weird fish swimming amongst the plant scraps. What you will remember will be that your party was beautiful, elegant, sophisticated and / or that it ROCKED!, . . . or not.
When planning what type of music to play, it's nice to keep in mind the various age groups of the guests. Many people prefer classical music or traditional hymns for the ceremony, and turn to rock, pop or jazz during the reception. We've even seen a child friendly wedding start the party off with the hokey pokey. Hiring a band or group of musicians can be a great way to offer live music, but hiring a DJ might be simpler and less expensive and offer other advantages.
So, lets talk about how to get the crowd out of their chairs and onto the dance floor and create a party to remember. How do you choose the right entertainer? How much should you spend? What questions do you need to ask? A live band or DJ are the most popular options. A band can make a fantastic visual impression on stage and make a unique statement about your wedding, such as when our niece marries her Irish sweetheart the Irish band will be familial and cultural statement as well as being very entertaining. But, while a band can add to the atmosphere it may lack the variety and diversity of a professional DJ. Hiring a variety or cover band can go towards overcoming this problem but still may fall short of the resources available to a pro DJ.
Once you have decided on the type of entertainment that you want at your wedding, it's time to find the 'perfect' band or DJ. It is important to know what you're looking for in order to support the mood of the event. Do you want the elegance and sophistication of a string quartet or maybe a 'big band' rat pack sound? Do you want a theme or cover band that plays a particular genre of music or would you prefer a DJ that can 'rock the house'. If you have some idea in mind it is good to discuss it with several potential entertainers so that they know your expectations as well. YOU need to like the music. It's your wedding so make sure that you are happy before you commit to anything. Its a good idea to keep your guests in mind also. Your own tastes are important but not everyone likes the same music. You may not want your guests heading for the door because the band or DJ is so loud that it is impossible to carry on a conversation. You may want to think twice about a band that plays only sophisticated jazz that is failing to appeal to your friends and family.
Here are some suggestions to keep in mind while shopping for your entertainment.
Look for diversity and variety in play lists. Is the music a mix of genres. Will it appeal to the age range of your guests.
Look on the Internet for reviews. There are many good vendor resource sites available. Ask the DJ /Band for testimonials. Do they have a list of clientele that you can actually call and talk to? Talk with friends who have recently gotten married. The importance of word-of-mouth references cannot be overstated.
Does the band or DJ provide any thing other than music as part of the service such as an MC / announcer, special lighting, audience motivation, participation games, etc.
Will they meet / consult with you prior to the event to help plan and get a feel for the day.
Ask for a demo CD or video or a date where you can see them perform.
Are backup personnel and equipment available in case of emergency or unforeseen circumstances.
Make sure that everything is documented in a reader friendly conntract. It is important to know what to expect and to have it in writing.
Know who is going to be your DJ. The single biggest complaint in the DJ business today is that the DJ you hire is not the one that turns up 'on the day of'.
As with most services, the easier it is to provide, the cheaper the price. And while not necessarily always true, generally it is cheaper to hire a DJ than a band. That being said, professional services come at a professional price. Locally, we know of several excellent DJ's that charge between $600. and $700 for a four hour commitment. The highest fee that I have heard of in this area is $1500. Are they any good? I can recommend several who are. That is where your personal taste and finances come into play. Bands start in the $1500 - $2000 range. Prices vary from place to place and from band to band, every city and area of the country has its 'norm'. If a band or DJ quotes you a price for services that are over your budget don't be afraid to speak up. Many musicians / DJs will adjust their fees slightly rather than loose a gig, it's always worth asking.
As a wedding photographer I have been to hundreds of weddings and quite literally have seen it all from iPods to guitar hero bands, from a six piece mariachi band playing the Hora to an eighteen piece 'rat pack' cover big band, excellent and not so excellent to down-right lousy DJs, and a kid spinning 45s on a portable turntable. One thing that I have learned is that music is a very personal experience; you've just got to do your homework. Find a band or DJ that appeals to you and fits the mood you want to emote at your reception. My very personal preference leans towards a few excellent DJs, but then, . . . the eighteen piece 'rat-pack' cover band at my daughters wedding (remember the castle?) was pretty hot.
- How many different cake flavors do you offer?
- What kind of fillings do you offer, and how many flavors do you have? Do you make your own?
- Can we mix and match cake and filling flavors by tier for more variety?
- What are our icing options?
- Do you use any organic or fair-trade ingredients?
- Do you offer any vegan, gluten-free or sugar-free options?
- Would you prepare a favorite family recipe for our affair?
- What decorating styles do you specialize in?
- Can you bake square or oval tiers?
- Do you make cupcakes or other cake alternatives? Pies, mini cakes or other desserts?
- Can you do a cake bar with a variety of smaller wedding cakes?
- Can you make the groom's cake in addition to our wedding cake?
- Can I see a portfolio of your work?
- Do you provide a free cake tasting or take-home samples?
- What are some of the new trends you are seeing for this year?
- How much do you charge per slice?
- Can we serve half-slices to cut the cost?
- Do you recommend ordering one slice per guest or can we order 10 - 15 fewer slices to account for those guests who won't eat dessert?
- Can you provide "artistic tiers" (made of foam, then decorated) to give us the look and feel of a tall cake?
- Can we order a small-tiered cake for display plus a sheet cake for serving in order to cut costs?
- What is your delivery charge?
- When do you need the deposit and final payment?
- Are you available for my wedding date?
- How long have you been baking wedding cakes?
- When do you need a final head count?
- Do you deliver?
- Will you coordinate with our caterer regarding the delivery of the cake?
- Will you decorate the cake with fresh flowers on-site or is this something you'd prefer my florist to handle?
- Will our cake be frozen? How much time does it need to thaw before serving?
- Does our cake need to be kept refrigerated or in a cool spot?
- Do you provide a cake stand? If not, where can I get one?
- Do you have a good source for creative cake toppers?
- What is your cancellation policy?
If there’s one point in the planning process that drives couples to thoughts of eloping, it’s the guest list. What starts as an intimate list of your close friends and family turns into a sprawling volume for which your budget will only allow a PBR kegger with a pot-luck, sub-way, cheese whiz and KFC buffet.
One of the largest expenses in any wedding is dependent on the guest list. The number of guests dictates the amount of invitations, furnishings, food, drinks and favors that need to be ordered and paid for. Before you start thinking about your guest list, decide what your budget is and what style and size of wedding you want to have. This will help you determine factors like the type of venue you can afford and how much food and beverage allowance you can squeeze in to your budget. Playing with your budget numbers will help you figure out how many guests you can afford to host in the style you have in mind.
When Planning your guest list If you are the organized dot-your-tee's and cross-your-eyes type of person you might want to play the percentages. For example: the bride and groom choose 50% of the invitees and then each set of parents choose another 25%. Another hyper-organized method is to create relationship categories; The first tier consists of essential family members (parents, siblings, grandparents, other more distant relatives with whom you have a close personal relationship); the second is close friends and other extended family members (second cousins); the third is colleagues and other friends. Invite work colleagues who you socialize with outside work. If it has potential to cause a stir at your workplace, set logical parameters, such as only inviting people from your department, and there is no rule that says you must invite your boss if you don't want to. When you know how many guests you can afford, start cutting the list from the bottom tier up. You’ll save potential hurt feelings by eliminating entire groups of people (say coworkers or your book club), rather than inviting just a few. That said, ultimately you should invite people you want to share your life with – not just your wedding moment, Invite people to your wedding who are part of your life now, and who will be part of your future.
It can be very easy to get carried away, especially if parents and relatives insist on adding long lost family members and distant friends or acquaintances to the list. If parents are likely to be 'enthusiastically' involved in creating the list, save later embarrassment by giving them specific guidelines as soon as possible―before they start making phone calls inviting friends and family.
One thing that often trips up brides is whether or not to have a ‘plus-one’ on the invitation,” The solution is to do so only when you have socialized with the 'couple'. On the invitations, make it very clear whether the person invited is allowed to bring their spouse or significant other, children or a guest. If someone asks if he or she can bring a guest, diplomatically tell them that this is how you made the difficult decision; that there will be a lot of people attending without partners; and that, for budget reasons, you had to eliminate a lot of family and colleagues, which should make them feel special that they themselves were invited.
One good way to get around this is by trimming the list to only include friends and family who are close to the bride and groom. In this instance, most people will understand that the wedding is a smaller affair. If you’re not sure whether to invite someone, “Ask yourself, ‘Have I even seen this person in the last year?’” If the answer is no, sounds like you won't miss them if they don't show up.
Remember that it’s your day. It’s really easy to start feeling guilty and inviting people just because the think you should, but that’s how you end up with the spray-on cheese-whiz, kentucky fried chicken, gastronomical adventure. Be strong, be honest, be sensible and remember, rich people give better presents.
sjones / 971-235-4442 / www.aaronstadt.com