My entire philosophy surrounding weddings is to capture intimate, emotional moments. Unfortunately, sometimes the stress of weddings really gets to people and they don’t feel that they can be themselves. So here’s a list I’ve compiled of a few things you can do on your wedding day that can help ground you, and make sure you can be present for those emotional moments you care so much about.
Before the Ceremony (Getting Ready)
It’s become commonplace to exchange a token with your spouse-to-be while you’re both getting ready, but not nearly enough couples do this. It could be a note, a small gift, a hilarious inside joke gift, anything really – but open the gift/letter in the presence of your photographer, and you can now share that part of the day with your significant other who couldn’t be there at that time. Or if you’d rather, open them together. Sit down with one another and go through the items you’ve gifted, and have the opportunity to laugh and cry together.
Wedding Party “first look”
I’ll be honest – wedding party first looks are often more emotional than couple first looks. Your closest friends are so damn excited to see you get fancied up and there are literally tears every. single. time. Take the few moments to send your party out while you get ready, and then take the moments to enjoy their presence before the nuptials begin.
Sometimes this emotional day is often overlooked for them. Remind them how important they are with a parent first look, followed up by some gifts/notes. They’ll thank you, hug you, and probably die a little inside. And it’ll all be on candid camera.
During the Ceremony
Have a friend/family/dog officiate
Okay, but if you can actually find a dog to officiate call me ASAP.
When you have a close family member/friend officiate for you, a whole new level of intimate is brought into the space. Now there’s jokes, and personal tales, and they understand you in a way that your guests do too. Just make sure you trust whoever you choose – and that they have no issue speaking to crowds.
Circular space for extra guest photos
The more loved ones visible in your photographs, the more meaningful they are – so skip the old fashioned rows and opt for a semi-circle instead. You’ll still get your gorgeous view/surroundings, but you’ll also find more guests in your photographs – both in the background, foreground, and laughing and crying with you. Plus then everyone can see you better.
Just a little element to the atmosphere that tends to get people off their phones (true story!) but also adds a little depth to the feels that everybody has. Plus, music has a way of emotionally grounding you – imagine walking down the aisle to that ballad you danced to in the kitchen once, played by a live band. Or the victory music as you’re coming back up the aisle together.
Ceremony exit toss (confetti, rice, etc)
This serves a few purposes – first, as you’re coming back up the aisle, it’s rad romantic to have so many excited people around you. But in addition, this little thing serves as a reminder to actually smile and enjoy yourself on that adventure out of your ceremony space – sometimes you can be so relieved the ceremony has passed that you forget to smile/celebrate on your way out. Let this be just a small victory dance you do to celebrate what is often the toughest part of the day.
Post Ceremony (Reception)
Same notes as above, except people are more willing to dance/socialize/enjoy themselves with live music. True story. Dancefloors that have live music are ALWAYS bopping, and having a set schedule for music will make it easier to end the night when you please, as opposed to having a DJ all the way until midnight.
This one seems counter-intuitive at first. You love your best man and maid of honor right? But do you want them in every single photo during toasts and clink kisses and emotional moments during your reception? Opt for the sweetheart table and let your bridal party sit with their significant others – plus, your guests may be more willing to approach you at that table, knowing it’s just you and not your friends as well. Plus you’ll have the added bonus of some sneaky images of just the two of you, in your own little bubble, amongst all your friends and family. Some of the cutest sweetheart tables I’ve ever seen were designed by Northland Special Events, so call and ask them about some recommendations and rentals!
Soft, layered lighting
This is probably a pretty standard request coming from a photographer, but I find that lighting plays a huge role in the atmosphere of your reception. Bleak, too-bright overhead lights never add to the atmosphere – so consider hanging cafe lights (like these) or industrial lights (like this!) to add a level of dimension to your reception lighting. Your photographer will know how to utilize them to make them standout and accurately represent your party with the lighting.
This one has so many facets and good reasons. By putting a finishing time on your reception, you can set a “last call” dance time. And that practically guarantees a full dance floor all night. Nobody will wait to dance because the floor will be open until 1am, AND people can pace themselves to never run out of energy. Having a full dance floor leads to pretty wild and emotional photographs (especially when Grandma Sue starts getting her groove thing on).
Additionally, have you ever been stuck at a party that you wanted to leave, but couldn’t find an excuse to justify it? Now imagine if you’re introverted enough to feel that way on your wedding day. You can’t exactly ditch your own party. So here’s where the last dance comes in – it’s your perfect escape route. You can go home and enjoy some introvert time before the day is completely over. After the hustle and bustle of everything, sometimes it’s nice to sit and relax in the worn out sweatpants on the couch eating leftover cake. Setting a finishing time gives you the opportunity to do that, before you completely run out of energy. You can also save a few hours on the DJ. AND you can set up those adorable sparkler exits for afterwards.
So which of these ideas would you consider above? Do you have any ideas about creating an emotionally grounding environment? Share them in the comments below!
Hey! I'm Makayla, a wedding photojournalist based in Duluth, MN and Saint Paul, MN.
I believe that stories are best told untouched, undirected, and with intentionality and meaning.
This blog is a space to share advice for couples about weddings, advice for photographers about witnessing events with intention, and steps to create decisions based on your values and what matters most to you.
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