Having been in the wedding business full time since 1984, we understand that it can be a bewildering time for those who have so many decisions to make concerning their special day. We at Nolan Conley Photography hope this guide will assist and guide you with your wedding. Let's begin with the selection of a photographer, then talk about a bridal and engagement sitting and finally the Wedding Day itself.
What do you look for in a photographer? You are going to be spending a lot of time with your photographer. The person you select must fit your personality and in general, be enjoyable for you to be around. Incidentally, make sure you are viewing the work of the photographer who will be doing your wedding. At Nolan Conley Photography, My wife Lucinda and I will be the only ones serving you. If we have another wedding and we assign another photographer to you... you will know it when you sign on with us.
The second and equally as important is the quality of work the photographer produces. If you don't like the pictures, the rest really doesn't matter. You should feel free to express yourself, telling the photographer about your special wishes. I like to be flexible, after all this is a "service" business and it is my business to truly serve the couple and family, helping make their day the best! Remember, this is YOUR special day, not the photographer's or anyone else's. A photographer must also be patient and experienced. There will be many times during the wedding day the photographer must wait on an event or person so the photographer needs to keep a cool head in the heat of "organized chaos". There really is no substitute for experience. A photographer should be able to show at least two albums of their work as well as wall prints.
Having worked for over a year with the former Director of Photography of the National Geographic Magazine, I accumulated technical and lighting skills needed and learned what to do when equipment goes awry. Speaking of equipment, I use the best commercial digital cameras and premium lenses. We do digital data backups onsite. With digital... backing up is everything! We also carry complete backup equipment as any competent photographer should. My wife and I both come in dress attire that is appropriate for the event. Let's talk about the relatives.
One bride came over to look at our booth at a recent show and I asked her if she had a photographer for her wedding. She quickly replied that she was going to use a friend of the family. Immediately a red flag went up in my mind and I began to explain to her the problems with this. By the very meaning of the word friend, this person wants to have a good time and not work. Photography done correctly, is work. A person needs to be detached from the family to serve the couple correctly. And we're not even mentioning the cameras that weren't set correctly, batteries not fully charged, the lesser quality images of amateur cameras or even a basic knowledge of light mechanics necessary to make great photos. Are your wedding memories (photographs) work the risk?
The bridal sitting usually takes place before the wedding, generally about a month before. After the dress has been altered, you need to call the photographer and make an appointment for your bridal sitting. With Nolan Conley Photography, you can have your sitting in our studio, on location at a park or in a home. In our studio we can provide close-ups as well as full length portraits. We also have two acres with a pond with an island, a waterfall and other amenities. My favorite is bridal portraiture in the home, the bride in her surroundings makes for an excellent subject. Incidentally, we have a silk loaner bouquet for your sitting as some brides may need this. If your reception is at one of the country clubs or other scenic areas, I'm sure they would be more than happy to have you visit for a bridal or engagement sitting. You would need to check with the location to make sure they can accommodate your sitting time.
The engagement sitting is where the bride and groom are photographed together. Again, this can be in the studio or on location. We encourage you to bring a change of clothing so you may have a formal and casual look.
The Wedding. After all you preparations, the big day finally arrives. One thing is for sure, the joy and emotions will overcome you and for this you need to be prepared. You will be in good hands though if you have made the right decisions concerning your support personnel. The different service organizations such as the church, reception place, florist, photographer, videographer and DJ or band will all help guide you through your day. The photographer is in a unique position as this person will be with you throughout your day. I take it as a privilege and responsibility to help you through the day and helping you stay on course without being inflexible to your special needs.
Be on time! We cannot advise you strongly enough to be on time for the photography prior to your wedding. This means the bride and groom and all of their attendants need to be ready when the photographer is ready to take pictures. Again, this means having bouquets and boutonnieres, socks and shoes, dresses and tux on and ready for action! Ok, I know it won't nuke your day if someone is "fashionably late", but the photos still have to be taken and trust me, you and yours will be much more relaxed knowing everything is going on schedule and you will be spending a minimum amount of time after the ceremony for the formal photos. Remember the law of physics that says "The faster you get the photos done the faster you can go to the reception". Most churches like the pre ceremony photos to be concluded at least 25 minutes before the service, if not sooner. If everyone is ready when the photographer is, this will not be a problem.
I wish to offer congratulations to the churches whose policy is to place the minister with his back to the congregation and the bride and groom (and all their attendants) facing the guests who have traveled to see them. However, if you use the traditional wedding format (bride and groom face minister, he faces the congregation), be sure to turn fully and face each other when you exchange rings so the audience (and the camera!) can see you. It's really hard to get great photographs when the bride, groom and minister are in a huddle!
Photographs will be taken directly after the ceremony. The church personnel will guide you, telling you where to go to wait until the church has cleared. I know this is a difficult one but it's really important for the bride and groom or wedding party not to visit with the guests. This causes a traffic jam for the guests, delaying the wedding party from getting back into the sanctuary for photographs. If the guests remain in the ceremony area, (or the wedding party remains in the church lobby where the guests exit) I guarantee you the photos will take from 10 to 20 minutes longer. People just like to visit, it's that simple. Remember that law of physics? For the formal photos you will need to have the wedding party, including ushers, flower girl(s), ring bearer(s) and parents. Be sure to bring the grandparents too as well as any other friends or relatives you want in the formal photos. Tell the people you want in the formal photos BEFORE the wedding that their presence is required.
It really is more efficient if friends are photographed at the reception. Remember, we want to keep the photo session after the ceremony to an absolute minimum. I can generally complete the formals after the ceremony in 30 minutes. If there are divorced parents, add about 10 minutes because of the regrouping of families so everyone will have a photo they like. Everyone needs to stay in the photo area as the post ceremony photos are taken.
Make a written list of the special people you want photographed. On your wedding day when your thoughts are "clouded", if you try to remember the special friends and relatives you want photographed you will forget someone. Then people will get feelings hurt, even mad... worse yet, they may repossess your new toaster! So keep those special loved ones happy by supplying the photographer with a list and someone in the family to point them out. Remember, we don't have a limit on the amount of photos taken. By the way please don't include photos on you list like "make a photo of the cake"... We already know that one needs to be done. However, we don't know about Jailbird Ricky who let you hang on to that quarter million before he went to the pen. I would definitely want a photo of him!
Leaving the church we do the limo photos and then proceed to the reception. Upon arriving at the reception, the bride and groom with their wedding party usually wait in the foyer or some other place. This is done so a formal introduction by the DJ or a receiving line can be formed. I think now is a great time to debate the pros and cons of a receiving line and formal introduction. The most important deciding factor is the number of guests and the amount of time you have set aside for your reception.
Formal introductions are the most efficient way to greet your guests, most of the time. A formal introduction is where the band or DJ formally introduces the wedding party, parents and finally the bride and groom. I will be taking photos of the couples as they are introduced. Remember to smile! This event takes about 15 minutes of time. To be most efficient, you might follow this event with either a toast from the best man (and / or Dad(s)) or the bride and groom beginning their first dance. Having the first dance after the toast also flows well. The bad thing about a formal introduction is you don't get to personally meet everyone. For the rest of the evening (or day) you will be constantly stopped by well wishers wanting to chat for a moment. I have a saying that it takes a bride 10 minutes to go 10 feet, at a reception, this is pretty accurate!
Receiving lines are not done as much now but there are times when they are preferred. If your guest count is 150 or less, you may want to consider it. Let's face it, you are probably going to personally greet most of the guests anyway and with smaller crowds, this is the option of choice. Be ready to hear several life stories, because you will, just smile and say "Thank you for coming". They will get the message! Seriously, most lines work very well. NEVER have a receiving line at the church directly after the ceremony! The exception to this is if all the formal photos have been taken BEFORE the ceremony. I know it's a lovely thought but it's a scheduling nightmare. This will slow your time to the reception from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Time to eat! I've worked so hard getting to here, I'm ready to enjoy a good meal! I would suggest the bride and groom open the buffet line or take their place at the head table for a formal sit down dinner. Most people will wait for the bride and groom to start the dining process and traditionally, the wedding party will be served first. Your may wish to provide and snack tray with punch or wine if the time is going to be lengthy for the bridal party to arrive at the reception. At this point I would have already taken photos of the food, cakes (you never know when some kid is going to nuke the cake) and other appointments such as the sign in book and other special decorations to make the reception more festive. A photo of the couples "first meal" would also be in order. After the bride and groom have had about 10 or 15 minutes to rest and eat, the couple would probably want to walk around, greeting their guests. We can do table photos if you would like. The time allotted for dining is usually from 45 minutes to 1 hour. During this time my wife and I usually get a quick bite to eat when the bride and groom are eating. We ask the hosting family to include my wife and myself a place to sit and eat with the wedding guests.
Dancing usually begins as the dining ends. Some couples will take advantage of the music after they have finished eating, finding their way to the dance floor. In a few minutes, the Bride/Groom and Father/Daughter dancing begins. Photos are taken of all the formal dances as well as candids during those "wild and crazy " dances that will come later! If the bride and groom dance did not occur at the beginning of the reception, then now will be the time for it. The dancing usually takes approximately 30 minutes as this includes the bride and groom dance, father daughter dance, the parent's dances, the wedding party dance and then the dance floor is opened to the guests. Speaking of dancing, one great way to make a little "traveling cash" is to have a "dollar dance." I recommend a "dollar dance" as it is a great way to have some quality time with individual guests and make a little honeymoon money. Usually the maid of honor and the best man collect money from the guests, allowing them to dance briefly with the bride and groom. We have seen as little as $200.00 and as much as $1700.00 raised this way. Gee, I need more energy... let's get some cake!
Cakes are a wonderful dessert and the guests are ready! The cake cutting event usually takes about 20 minutes to complete. First we will go to the bride's cake. After getting the couple to the cake, I will instruct the couple on how to feed the cake and tell them of the different shots involved. The bride and groom can feed each other separately or at the same time. I encourage the couple to be "nice" for the first photo of the cake cutting and afterwards be as messy as they desire. We cut and feed the bride's cake, the groom's cake and do an interlocking of arms with champagne or punch. Some groom's cakes have cherries or strawberries on top. I encourage the couple to feed each other one of these too.
Garter and Bouquet time is quickly approaching. I recommend the garter and bouquet be thrown directly after the cake cutting because you still have an audience and the dancing has not resumed yet. If it's thrown later... that's ok too. This also cuts down on the time you will need your photographer if you don't have plans for us to stay till the end. This event usually takes about 20 minutes. Most DJs will be happy to let the bride and groom use a portable microphone to call those who are "sluggish". Photos are taken throughout the garter and bouquet event as well as a photo of those who caught the items with the bride and groom.
Leaving the wedding is the last thing on most lists. Most couples prefer the photographer stay for this and others do not care. The leaving can be faked where the wedding party and parents throw their "whatever" on the fleeing couple, the photos made and everyone can return to the reception. It's a matter of personal taste. If the bride and groom are staying at their reception place, e.g. hotel, I think a nice touch would be getting photographs of the couple in their room.
It has been my intent to inform as well as entertain you. If you feel these suggestions are of value… give Nolan Conley Photography a try, you will be glad you did. If you have any questions, give us a call. My wife Lucinda or myself will assist you in any way we can. We also custom design packages… one package can't fit all people. Packages are just a starting point, we want you to have a wedding package that truly fits YOU! We do not strive to be the cheapest photographer but wish to offer superior quality and service. When you compare apples to apples… you will understand. It really does make a difference when someone cares about your satisfaction. I guess we have a selfish reason for treating our customers so well, we want them to tell their friends about us and use our services… that formula has been working for us for years! Thank you!