Hillary Shedd Photography
engagement session tips, timeline guidance,
vendor recommendations & more!
A NOTE ABOUT THIS GUIDE
I am so excited to be working with you, and I cannot wait to get to know you better over the next several months! I know photography is one of the larger investments you’re making for your wedding day and I’m so honored you have chosen to work with me!
Even if you’re working with a wedding planner or you’re planning a simple wedding, there are likely still a lot of moving pieces left leading up to your big day.
Having photographed a range of gorgeous weddings over the past few years, I tend to get asked for my advice. So I thought it would be beneficial if I put together a guide that walks you through everything from timelines to engagement sessions and inclement weather. Enjoy!
Thank you again for choosing to work with me and please don’t hesitate to let me know if I can offer any additional guidance throughout the wedding planning process!
I’m a BIG fan of engagement sessions for a few reasons. Not only do they allow you to get comfortable in front of the camera, they also give you the opportunity to showcase your personalities in a more casual setting that is significant to the two of you. I’ve created an entire page dedicated to outfit tips, location ideas, timing considerations and more!
WHO WILL MAKE YOUR DAY INCREDIBLE
Over the years, I’ve learned the important role quality vendors play in creating a stress-free wedding day. I’ve worked with many of the vendors below and I cannot recommend them enough! This is not a paid list – I chose these vendors for both the quality of their work as well as their professionalism on the actual wedding day.
HAIR & MAKEUP
DJ & BANDS
ONE OF THE BIGGEST ADVANTAGES OF A BRIDAL PORTRAIT SESSION IS THAT THEY CAN SERVE AS A PRACTICE RUN FOR THE BIG DAY THAT YOU CAN SEE
There’s a big difference between looking at yourself in the mirror at a hair and makeup trial and actually seeing how that hair holds up in the elements and how that makeup photographs. When it comes to being confident in your choices on your wedding day, photos are invaluable!
If you’re considering a Bridal Portrait Session, I recommend a full trial run of hair, nails, makeup and your bouquet. I typically spend 1-2 hours shooting at bridal sessions and it’s nice to have something to hold to make your hands feel a little less awkward!
When it comes to choosing a location for your bridal portrait session, I recommend using locations that are well manicured, clean, and have great variety in indoor and outdoor locations.
BRIDAL PORTRAIT SESSION CHECKLIST
- Hair pieces and jewelry
Wedding venues are usually a wonderful place to start – especially historic homes and resorts that have well manicured areas. I want to keep your dress as clean as possible and still get a lot of amazing images inside and outside.
When it comes to selecting a date for your bridal portrait session, another great thing to keep in mind is the weather. In order to avoid being too hot during the summer months or too cold during the winter months, I highly recommend Spring and Fall. However, I’ll shoot anytime and anywhere there’s great light!
Many venues charge a fee for portrait sessions. The fee is often worth it in order to have use of their getting ready room and other venue services. I typically have to work with the venues on times, but I love to shoot bridal portraits in the afternoon as late as we can to get that softer afternoon light. However, if your venue has strict hours, I am happy to work with their allotted times.
Make sure to bring your jewelry, your veil and your shoes to your bridal portrait session! Let me know if you’re interested in adding a bridal portrait session before your big day!
building the perfect
Wedding Day Timeline
WHETHER YOU’RE PLANNING A FIRST LOOK OR STICKING WITH TRADITION AND NOT SEEING YOUR better half UNTIL YOU WALK DOWN THE AISLE, I HAVE TIPS TO HELP MAKE PLANNING YOUR TIMELINE AS EASY AS POSSIBLE!
Whether you choose to do a first look or the traditional “no see before the ceremony” I will work with you on making sure you have the best timeline and plan for images.
If you’re choosing to go traditional, you’ll need two different sets of photo times: images taken before the ceremony and images taken after the ceremony.
You’ll need to plan for about one hour of pre-ceremony bridal photos (bridesmaids and bride’s family) and about one hour of pre-ceremony groom photos (groomsmen and groom’s family). One of the biggest benefits of having a second photographer on your wedding day is that you can do these at the same time. You’ll also need 15 minutes of combined bridal party portraits, 30 minutes of combined family portraits and at least 45 minutes of couple’s portraits after the ceremony if you’re not doing any portraits together until after the ceremony.
If you’re doing a first look, photos can be done all at one time, taking an average total of 2 hours pre-ceremony (although I also LOVE grabbing just the two of you for a few additional couple photos at sunset!)
If you choose a traditional aisle reveal, all I ask is that you keep your ceremony time in mind when planning your wedding.
If you’re planning a sunset ceremony or an evening ceremony, it’s best to do all photos before the wedding, as daylight is crucial to getting amazing portraits for your families, bridal party and your couples portraits. Making sure we have enough time while the sun is up is a great way to make the traditional ceremony work.
View Example Timelines
WEDDING TIMELINE WITH A FIRST LOOK
WEDDING TIMELINE WITHout A FIRST LOOK
Is a First Look Right for You?
IF YOU’RE WONDERING WHETHER A FIRST LOOK IS RIGHT FOR YOU, STOP HERE.
That moment the couple sees each other for the first time on their wedding day is magical. And this is true whether the couple chooses to wait until the bride walks down the aisle or chooses to do a “first look’ prior to the ceremony.
First looks—a private moment couples choose to spend together prior to the wedding ceremony—have become more popular over the last few years. About half of my couples this year have chosen to do a first look.
While I consider myself someone who values tradition, there are definitely a few good reasons to consider a first look. Here are 3 reasons to consider a ‘first look’:
1. A FIRST LOOK CUTS THROUGH THE CHAOS OF THE DAY.
Once the ceremony begins, the day takes off quickly. A ‘first look’ is an opportunity to enjoy some quiet time alone, enjoy each other’s company, and reflect on all this day means before your day takes off.
Wedding days can be a whirlwind and they tend to fly by. There’s much to do, and a lot of people to see and to catch up with. I always encourage my couples to take a few minutes every so often during their wedding to stop and soak in everything that’s happening.
2. IT MAKES MORE TIME FOR PICTURES WITHOUT SACRIFICING COCKTAIL HOUR.
When there is no first look, the majority of the pictures have to be taken after the ceremony. Family pictures are generally done as soon as the ceremony ends because it’s the easiest time to round everyone up. Next up is full bridal party, and then bride and groom portraits. This generally runs into cocktail hour.
A first look opens up time prior to the ceremony for full bridal party pictures and, sometimes, for a few bride and groom portraits (although I prefer to do bride and groom portraits at sunset). This allows the couple to get the most out of cocktail hour, which makes the rest of the evening feel less rushed.
3. AVOID POSSIBLE BAD WEATHER AND/OR HAVE TIME TO FRESHEN-UP AFTER CRYING
If you’re expecting poor weather on your wedding day, it might be best to plan on a first look because it gives you more options for pictures. If it’s pouring rain after the ceremony, you’ll be thankful you had pictures done in advance.
If you know the tears are going to fly the first time you see your other half the day of your wedding, a first look will give you time to freshen up before the ceremony.
First look or not, the first time you see each other on your wedding day will be special.
Wedding Day Details
I love capturing all the little details you’ve carefully chosen to be a part of your wedding day! Once I arrive at your wedding, I need about 45 minutes to capture and style details. I recommend choosing a getting ready location filled with natural light and, if possible, please keep the space free from clutter.
It would be wonderful if you could put all of your rings, jewelry, shoes, veil purse, perfume, invitations and other keepsakes together in one spot for me. Keeping it all in a box that you can point me to when I arrive would be best. Please unwrap your dress but don’t worry about styling it – I’ll carefully hang it in a beautiful spot!
BRIDAL DETAILS CHECKLIST
- Dress (with hanger)
- Rings (both engagement and wedding bands)
- Hair pieces
- Vow Book
- Invitation Suite ( 2 full sets with envelopes + stamps)
- Any other paper stationary you may have like program cards
- Additional special details or family heirloom pieces. For example, I once had a bride bring her grandmother’s handmirror.
GROOM DETAILS CHECKLIST
- His shoes
- Socks (if they’re special)
- Cuff Links
- Tie or Bow Tie
- Pocket Square
- Anything else he’ll have that is special or sentimental.
- Bonus: A few cuts of florals! If your florist will supply me with a small bucket of extra pieces I can incorporate those into your detail shots.
When I can, I always try to take a photo of your rings while you’re getting ready. If possible, try to have your engagement ring cleaned or clean it yourself. To clean at home, soak your ring in warm water with dishwashing soap for 20 to 40 minutes. Then gently brush the stone with a soft toothbrush, rinse and repeat if needed.
YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY, DRESSED UP AND TOGETHER
For family portraits, I’ll place you in the center of a large group photo with all of your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, godparents, etc. And then we’ll remove the extended family so it’s just grandparents, parents and siblings.
I’ll keep removing family members and switch a few closer family members in and out so we get photos of you and your parents, you and your siblings, some with the groom and your family, etc. Then we’ll repeat the process with your spouse’s family. The whole thing will go quicker and smoother if you let family know how the portrait process will work ahead of time.
When I send out our pre-wedding questionnaires, I’ll ask you for a list of specific groupings, special situations (such as divorces or handicapped family members & more), but if you want to start brainstorming photos in the meantime, you’ll find our typical list below.
Family PORTRAIT CHECKLIST
- Bride + Groom + Bride’s Extended Family
- Bride + Groom + Bride’s Parents + Bride’s Siblings + Bride’s Grandparents
- Bride + Groom + Bride’s Parents + Bride’s Siblings
- Bride + Groom + Bride’s Parents
- Bride + Groom + Bride’s Siblings
- Bride + Mom
- Bride + Dad
- Bride + Groom + Groom’s Extended Family
- Bride + Groom + Groom’s Parents + Groom’s Siblings + Groom’s Grandparents
- Bride + Groom + Groom’s Parents + Groom’s Siblings
- Bride + Groom + Groom’s Parents
- Bride + Groom + Groom’s Siblings
- Groom + Mom
- Groom + Dad
Please note that this list is just a starting point and that I’m happy to take any requested family portraits as long as time allows! As for timing, plan to add ~2 minutes to your timeline for each additional set up.
What I’ve observed is that your wedding guests will have their phones out to capture your wedding no matter what you say.
However, there are definitely fewer phones blocking the aisle when you kindly ask for an unplugged ceremony. Asking guests to put their phones away will help everyone live in the moment and enjoy the true meaning of your ceremony. Trust me, I’ll document it fully to your hearts desire!
AFTEr SHOOTING a range of gorgeous weddings, i’m HAPPY TO SHARE A FEW ADDITIONAL TIPS
1. If you’re getting married in the summer months, a “not-so-heavy” snack or lunch time before portraits is always a good idea for you and your bridal party to avoid hungry bellies and passing out! Better yet, ask your caterer to bring you food!
2. If it’s going to be hot, a cooler of cold waters and frozen washcloths can help keep a wedding party cool – especially if your men are wearing lots of layers.
3. Make sure and have your bouquet delivered in time to make an appearance for the detail shots and for your first look. Often they are delivered in water and need to be dried off before use. Having towels handy can help.
4. If you’re planning on having a first look with your bridal party or a parent, they often feel more comfortable being fully dressed in their wedding attire.
5. If your reception is at a separate venue, add some extra time so that we can run over to the venue to capture it while it’s still “untouched” by guests.
6. I always recommend the bride go into hiding 30 minutes before the ceremony at the absolute latest. Guests typically arrive early to weddings.
7. To help make family portraits go smoother, I have found it extremely helpful to appoint a relative or close friend to gather and help find those needed in specific shots. This prevents me from just yelling peoples names, or someone being excluded from a photo.
8. During the cocktail hour and the reception, we’ll follow you around. Anytime you’d like a photo with someone, grab our attention. We love being your personal paparazzi!
9. I’d love to help you plan your timeline. If you’d like our input, don’t hesitate to email or call!
THE PERFECT WAY TO REMEMBER YOUR WEDDING DAY
One of the best ways to make your wedding memories last is by ordering an album. These high quality professionally designed albums come in a variety of linen & leather colors. These aren’t the same albums your parents’ wedding photos came in. They’re modern, lay perfectly flat and look incredible on a coffee table.
I can’t wait to start planning with you and getting to know you! If you haven’t scheduled your engagement session yet, let’s get that in the books. Feel free to email me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any questions or would just like to chat, I’m here for you! I hope this guide helps make the process of planning your wedding details much easier and less stressful. I can’t wait to see you soon! Thank you so much for taking the time to read through my guide!