Wedding preparation photos usually provide an insight into the real lives of the people getting married, and are very intimate in a way as these would the final moments of single life for the bride and groom. The vast majority of my wedding photography clients really enjoy having a memento from the chaos that occurs before the actual wedding ceremony. Often, wedding preparation photos are taken at houses where the bride and groom grew up, often their parent’s houses or their own where the couple have built a life together. The photos include personal effects such as heirloom furniture, childhood photos and possibly even pets that don’t often get a chance to visit their owner’s big day. Of course it’s also a time for photos of the parents and friends that are there to help out with all the odd jobs before the event before they get dressed up in their best.
These shots are usually not the types of thing you’d want to print and hang up on the wall, but they look fantastic in a wedding album and really frame the memories from the day nicely. Years from now you may fondly remember things like a flower girl’s dress not fitting properly, or the groom losing their left sock just before leaving. It’s often the only part of the day when the bride and groom can act themselves before being thrust into the family limelight all day. As a photographer this time of the day often feels like slow motion, once the wedding preparation photos are complete, the day feels like it’s over before you can blink.
Groomsmen wedding preparation photos
Usually I start a wedding day at the groomsmen preparation house, be it his parent’s house, a hotel room or even the couple’s own house. The first of the essential wedding preparation photos that I take here usually include scenes such as the rings, and gifts that the couple may have given one another while they were dating. This sets the tone for the entire final photo collection as an intimate occurrence between the bride and groom showcasing the fact that they are desperately in love with one another, making the entire wedding that much sweeter.
Other shots I like to include in the groomsmen wedding preparation photos are of course the groom getting ready, getting in his suit, perhaps adjusting parts of it in a mirror, or quietly reflecting on his life-altering decision of marriage. These can be serious or humorous in nature and I tend to try and capture both depending of course on the personalities of the groom’s party and entourage. The traditional photos include the exchanging of rings from the groom to the best man to look after, the straightening of the groom’s tie by his father or best man, the groom’s entourage all together in a mutual activity (often just sitting around, or perhaps even playing pool). Where as the more modern traditions include the entourage jumping together, or heckling the groom making fun of him, perhaps even making the groom look out of place in front of an apparently unfamiliar task of getting dressed in a suit.
Wedding preparation photos at the groom’s preparation location is also often more than just taking photos for prosperity’s sake. It allows for some nerves to be calmed on the groom’s behalf, being surrounded by supportive friends and family while participating in a laid-back photoshoot is an ideal way to start the day without having too much pressure. This allows for the groom to have a bit of a laugh, and realise that the decision he has made was the best of his life and allow himself to enjoy the day rather than worrying too much about everything thats going on around him. My role as the photographer is to facilitate this kind of nerve-easing with my fun personality and interesting ideas to get the groomsmen to join in with the wedding preparation photos. It’s also a great warm up for me too for the main even that will be occurring later in the day.
Bridal party wedding preparation photos
After I’ve spent around 30mins to an hour with the groomsmen, it’s time to head off to the bridal party for their wedding preparation photos. I usually allow up to 2 hours before the ceremony starts for the bridal party due to the fact that putting dresses on and getting makeup right is always a time intensive process and I want to get there before all that starts. My first goal when I arrive, much like the groomsmen is to take photos of the interesting inanimate objects. Perhaps the ‘Something blue, old, borrowed, new’ if they are doing that, or the garter, flowers, but most important of all is the bridal gown. I like to either drape the gown over a bed, or hang it up next to some antique furniture if available as it adds a timeless quality to the scene. The bridal gown shot really frames the entire wedding photo album stating that ‘this is it’ or, finally the marriage is happening. It’s one of my most important shots for a wedding.
While the bride is putting on the dress itself, its usually time to focus my attention on the bridal party girls, I like to take photos of them as a group without the bride to show their own personal connectedness and relationship they have with one another. Of course I will be capturing the bride with them later, but now is their time.
It’s not always the case, but I really think that children make some of the best subjects for wedding preparation photos, be it a flower girl or ring bearer, they often have little idea whats going on and rarely have an expression on their faces other than ‘look how cute I am’. They are just as part of a wedding as anyone else and I think they deserve their time in front of the camera also. It’s funny actually, when I show new clients my portfolio, the photos with children in them get the most discussion. Even though there is a famous saying of ‘never working with children or animals’ I feel they are worth the effort at a wedding and really enriches the experience for all involved.
Once the bridal gown in on, comes the big reveal! Really the entire wedding is a celebration of the brides beauty and her choosing a groom, so why not have some glamour shots of the bride by herself looking as pretty as she has ever been? Bonus points for incorporating photos that show the bridal party’s reaction when she first walks through the door with her gown on, but that can be tricky when you’re focusing all your energy on the bride herself.
Just before the bridal party heads off to the ceremony, it’s always nice to get a group photo of all the girls together looking pretty. Personally I always prefer capturing the most natural shots of them laughing, or talking together. Capturing the moment as it is what I consider to be the most important role of the photographer, and a good photographer should always do their best to capture that. There is however also a place for posed group shots, as I’ve pictured below, but I feel the more natural laughing photos are always nicer.
Finally, the last shots taken just before heading off to the ceremony is the bridal party with their ride, or motorcade. The bride getting into the car symbolises the final time she will be at her parents/own home as a woman, and can only return as a wife.