The partying part is fun, but the real reason you’re having a wedding is to get married! Having shot tons and tons of ceremonies, I’ve seen all sorts: super short ones, super long ones, religious ones, non-religious ones, ones that included dogs, etc. You can really do whatever you want, but I aways give my couples the same tips no matter what:
THINK ABOUT LIGHT
The best time to have your ceremony (if you’re having it outdoors) is in the 2 hours or so before sunset. The sun will be a little lower in the sky, and less harsh. It also will give us enough time before sunset to do portraits afterward. Another thing to keep in mind: try to have your ceremony in a spot where the lighting will be even on both of you. If one of you is in shadow and one is in bright sun, it will be uneven in your photos.
If you’re getting married in the woods or under a big tree, have things set up so that the sun at your back and a little to one side (so sort of at a diagonal behind you), so that the leaves won’t create splotchy shadows, aka dappling, on your faces. If we’re not doing sunset portraits and already did your portraits earlier in the day, you can have your ceremony right at sunset. In that case it won’t matter quite as much where the sun is because it will be so low in the sky or even below the horizon.
PLAN AHEAD FOR PORTRAITS
Be sure to let your photographer know if you want to do a receiving line! This is basically when you greet all of your guests right after your ceremony. It can be really nice, but it can take a lot longer than you might think. And sometimes couples accidentally get one whether they want one or not, if they wait around at the end of the aisle. If we’re doing portraits after the ceremony, it’s super important to know this so we can build in time. I also always add in buffer time to your photo timeline throughout the day, just in case something runs behind.
DO THINGS YOUR WAY
There’s no wrong way to create a wedding ceremony (or eat a Reeses). There are lots of officiants who offer religious ceremonies as well as secular ceremonies, and tons of ideas out there for non-traditional couples. You should do you! If a tradition feels meaningless or uncomfortable to you, get rid of it. If you don’t want to have a wedding party or you want your best man to be a dog, go for it. If you want to walk down the aisle with your spouse-to-be instead of a parent/s, do it. I’ve seriously seen so many variations at this point and it’s great. All that matters is that you’re happy. Check out blogs like A Practical Wedding, Catalyst Wedding Co. and Offbeat Bride for some ideas.
MAKE SURE PEOPLE ARE COMFY
If you’re going to have a ceremony that lasts more than 15 minutes, I highly recommend making sure there’s enough seating for everyone. If there aren’t, people tend to get tired and occasionally they stand in the aisle which can make my path for photos a little tricky. Comfy people=happy people and happy people=nice ceremony. It’s math.
If you’re into it, having guests throw something or blow bubbles as you exit can make for some really nice photos. Just make sure there are instructions somewhere–at my own wedding, we put bubble jars in the aisles and everyone was afraid to touch them and mess anything up, so no bubbles were blown that day. Didn’t matter to me in the end, but if it does to you, make sure you leave a little sign or notecards asking people to participate. Also, be sure that whatever you’re throwing is eco-friendly. Biodegradable confetti, flower petals, and bubbles are all good choices).
Sometimes couples race to/from the altar and it can make it difficult to get those shots. Take your time!
HOLD THE KISS
Hold the kiss at the end of your ceremony for at least 3-4 seconds. I know some of you aren’t into PDA and that’s okay, but a super-quick peck is harder to capture.
HAVE A BACKUP
If you’re having an outdoor ceremony, make sure there’s an indoor location or tent just in case of rain.
LEAVE EXTRA TIME
This is an important one! Always leave extra time for getting ready–a lot of the time, things run behind. Which is okay, but it’s so much less stressful if you’ve planned for that. I also always add in at least a half-hour buffer for myself before the ceremony–that way I can get situated, get some shots of the setup, and photos of guests coming in.
Oh yeah and remember the unplugged wedding blog post I wrote a little while ago? The ceremony is the most important part of this. I can’t recommend it enough. It’ll make a huge difference in your photos, and in the overall feel of your ceremony.