Being organised for every event on your wedding day may seem like an obvious thing to do. But quite often in my pre-wedding meetings with couples we unearth several elements of their day which result in ’Oh….I hadn’t thought of that’. This is why I like to meet with couples a few weeks before their wedding; it gives them an opportunity to iron out any potential creases in the flow of the day rather than let them creep up on them unannounced!

As a reportage wedding photographer, I find that the pictures are more genuine and act as more faithful memories of the day if certain events are left to run their true course. That’s not to say that key events should be left to chance, but rather that the ushers should be aware of their roles and ready to help.

I once shot a wedding where the couple had hired a videographer as well, but instead of the ushers taking charge of the throwing of the confetti, the videographer muscled in and took over. What followed was a series of barked orders which had to be adhered to the second. By the end of which, there had been several ‘takes’ and a wedding party that looked (and probably felt) awkward and over-rehearsed!

Here are a quick few tips on how to prepare for certain parts of the day:

1. The preparations

It’s an unusual thing to have a photographer with you as you prepare to go out. But don’t worry, documentary photographers strive to be as invisible as possible. I quite often hear brides or a mother of the bride comment on how they barely knew I was there. That’s because my job is to make sure that people I’m photographing are comfortable. Of course I always pick moments that work on camera but do so in a way that captures those special emotive moments in a natural and relaxed manner. So really all you need to do is relax, enjoy the moment, and put your faith in your photographer!

2. Walk don’t run!

It’s no bad thing from a photographer’s point of view if you take your time at certain points of the day. For example, that short walk when you walk into a cheering crowd at the beginning of your wedding breakfast, or when you’re walking down the aisle together as man and wife. And you know what? It also gives you a chance to savour the occasion for a few seconds more so everybody wins.

3. The confetti – A lap of honour or save the best till last?

You need to plan when and where you’d like this to take place and, as I said before, keep the ushers on their toes and ready to organise the wedding party where necessary. Some couples envisage being covered in confetti the moment they step out of a church, but of course that’s impossible! Why? Because the couple are always the first ones to leave whilst the guests are still behind them inside the church. So a good time to do it is as you’re just about to take off in the car together after you’ve had a chance to catch up with friends and family. Alternatively, some people elect to leave the church first as usual, and then sneak in a side door, allowing the guests to leave and prepare for the bombardment of the newlyweds!

4. A very British queue!

I think about 30% of weddings that I shoot have a receiving line. It’s worth noting for those planning a wedding that a receiving line can take a long time…a very long time! It just takes one chatty member of one of the families to speak to each of 120 guests for 30 seconds and you suddenly realise that you’ve been meeting and greeting for an hour. It’s a good way to make sure you’ve met all of your guests, but worth making sure that enough time has been put aside.

5. Please don’t say cheese!

Some people relish being in front of the camera, others…not so much. The most important thing to remember is that the shots that don’t work won’t get used. You’re never going to see shots of yourselves where the look/light isn’t quite right. And there really is no need to smile too much! I often ask couples to ‘lose the smile’ and what results is one of two things; they either fall about laughing in which case I get a natural smile with some fun thrown in to boot, or I get a shot which is altogether less toothy (!) and more serious and reflective.

6. The family shots

A lot of couples start off by not necessarily wanting a huge number of formal shots but family politics can often creep in and that can result in a long list! Nothing wrong with that, just be aware that while you are doing this it is time you can’t spend with your guests. A typical series of family shots will take no more than 20-25 minutes. And again, the way to make things happen a little more smoothly is to involve the ushers – I always have a few copies of the list of posed shots that the couple are after so that they can gather people together.

7. There are no rules

You don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to. After all, it’s your wedding so the final decision always rests with you. So if you don’t fancy throwing the bouquet or cutting a cake or having a first dance and feel that you’d only be doing it because it’s expected of you, then don’t do it! The most important thing is that you have fun and embrace the day.

by Richard Galloway – Surrey Wedding Photographer