The venue and locations you choose for your wedding will make a huge impact on your photos. First and foremost, you’ll want to choose a venue that reflects your own style. Really think about what you’re drawn to- what excites you? The more creative you can get, the more personal your wedding will be. The best thing about weddings these days, is that the days of the traditional, cookie-cutter weddings are over! Anyone can plan a fantastic, memorable wedding day that showcases their own personal style. Get creative- have fun! It’s your day, do what makes you happy!
If you prefer a rustic style, you might want to consider a barn wedding. If you like a more industrial chic style (think delicate florals, antiques, and industrial elements), maybe a brewery or warehouse wedding would be perfect.
Other ideas include romantic vineyard weddings, bohemian style weddings on the beach, or vintage weddings in historical settings. There are so many fantastic wedding venues in Michigan, and if you’re leaning towards a natural setting, Michigan is abundant in woods, lakes, beaches, sand dunes, even mountains (in the UP)!
I thrive in settings that are more natural than man-made. I love being outside- no matter what the season or weather- surrounded by nature. So the venues I prefer are usually outdoor settings- in the woods, on a beach, etc. Michigan is home to many, many amazing venues that feature natural elements.
Here are just a few of my favorite Michigan venues:
Your own backyard (we had a backyard reception, and it was wonderful!)
For the most seamless and stress-free day, have your wedding and reception in the same location! If you have to have your ceremony and reception in different locations, try to keep the style of the settings cohesive so your images will flow nicely.
If you need any advice or recommendations for the wedding venues in Michigan, get in touch! I’d love to help you find the perfect location! If you’re planning a destination wedding or elopement, or you’re in another state or country, use these guidelines to find your perfect wedding spot. Your wedding should be a reflection of your unique personality and style as a couple.
The portion of the day before your ceremony, when everyone is preparing for the main event, is a great time for me to capture some beautiful images! The energy is full of anticipation, and everyone is fresh and excited!
Choose a great location to get ready in. Keeping with the overall style of your wedding day is an important thing that most people don’t even consider, but if you want your wedding photos to be consistent and flow together as a story, the locations you choose should have a similar look/feel. If you’re having an elegant vintage wedding at a gorgeous venue, and are getting ready at a generic, poorly lit room at the nearest hotel, it just doesn’t mesh well. Consider looking into renting a well-lit Airbnb. Oftentimes you can find a beautiful flat or house with decor that will match your style!
- CLUTTER: Try to keep all of your bags and random items picked up and put in an area out of the way. The cleaner the area, the more options I’ll have for different angles. It’s nearly impossible for me to get any wide shots when there’s purses, luggage, fast food bags, and heaps of other random stuff scattered throughout the room.
- LIGHTING: The best light for me (and makeup/hair stylists) is natural window light. Room lights all have different color temperatures than natural light, and when you mix the two it causes all kinds of weird chaos on skin tones. So if the room you’re getting ready in has a window, try to get ready in front of it- and don’t be surprised if I turn off all the lights in the room! :)
- GETTING DRESSED: Give yourself plenty of time to get dressed! Things usually start running behind, the closer to the ceremony start time. Give yourself at least 15 minutes just to get dressed, and then leave yourself extra time to take care of any last-minute things. It’s also a good idea to reserve a little bit of time to share with your parents, if they’ll be present before the ceremony. Another idea is to do a “First Look” with a parent or parents!
- DETAILS: Being present is important for me to be able to capture fleeting moments as they happen. In my mind, this is way more important than getting staged shots of your dress, shoes, rings, etc. If it’s important to you that I take photos of any of these items, I suggest having them laid out and ready so that I can grab some photos of them as quickly as possible.
Consider getting ready together. If you’re up for it, there just might be some really beautiful moments. My husband and I went this route, and I wouldn’t change it. He helped me get into my dress, I helped him with his tie, and we’ll always remember those moments together, sharing laughter, nerves, and anticipation for our ceremony.
*Just a note- one of the biggest reasons why weddings are delayed are because of hair and makeup taking longer than planned. This usually isn’t the makeup/hair artist’s fault, but because of lack of sufficient planning and communication. Here’s what one stylist had to say:
“As a hair and makeup artist, I agree with you that hair and makeup can cause things to run behind. Here are the most common reasons why:
#1 The wedding party members showed up late to their hair and makeup appointments to begin with.
#2 So and so never signed up for services but now that they see how gorgeous everyone else looks, they suddenly want to add themselves in.
#3 Bride never booked a trial, so on the day of we have to change things and make adjustments and it takes much longer than it should.
We tell our couples how important a trial is, how important showing up on time is, and how important it is to double check with everyone if they want services before booking.”
A First Look is when the couple opts to see each other before the ceremony. It’s becoming more and more popular, especially with couples who have a more non-traditional style. When you take a few moments to see each other for the first time, all dressed up in your wedding gear, it can be a truly magical thing (see photo above)!
I love it when couples decide to include a First Look because firstly, it takes all of the pressure off and helps calm your nerves before you walk down the aisle. You’re also looking fresh- your hair and/or makeup looks great, and you’re not all sweaty yet. Your clothes are dirt and wrinkle free.
It also makes your timeline a lot easier to work with. Many couples who do a First Look also decide to do wedding party and/or family portraits before the ceremony as well. I think this is a great idea, because it gets those out of the way early, and that way everyone can enjoy more of the cocktail hour. Plus, it’s much easier to round everyone up before the ceremony. ;)
*It’s best to keep this moment just between the two of you. No moms, no wedding party, no one but just the two of you. And me there to document it. This is such a beautiful moment, meant for the two of you to cherish alone, and I recommend keeping it as private as possible! It’s hard to be able to enjoy such an intimate moment when you have mom and dad watching from behind the bushes!
Of course, it’s up to you if you want to do a First Look! If you’d rather stick to tradition, I’m totally down with that as well!
If you choose not to see each other before the ceremony, there’s always the option to exchange letters or gifts. You could arrange to meet somewhere but not actually see each other (around a corner, door, etc.) and that’s always a memorable moment.
Even though they’re not as exciting as the when you say “I do”, or when cousin Jerry is gettin’ down on the dance floor, family and wedding party portraits are an important part of the day. What other time do all of these people get dressed up, gather together, and celebrate something awesome?
When it comes to group portraits, I like to do them as quickly and seamlessly as possible, so everyone can get back to the celebration. I help all of my clients plan out their group portraits ahead of time, so there are no surprises and everything flows seamlessly. When there are tricky situation like divorced parents, it’s good to have a game plan figured out to avoid stressful situations. When you work with me, you and I will fill out a worksheet designed to map out the family and group portraits so you don’t have to worry about it.
Wedding party photos are usually kept pretty simple- I take a few shots of each side of the wedding party, the entire wedding party together, and some individuals. Very easy, no stress, no being made to pose in front of a camera for long periods of time while everyone else is celebrating!
I tell couples to plan on around 20 minutes for family portraits, and around 15 minutes for wedding party portraits. If you decide to do group portraits after your ceremony, don’t forget to account for the time it takes to sign your marriage license, and get hugs from your wedding party and close family members, and the time it takes to get everyone to the portrait spot (usually 10-20 minutes total).
LIGHTING: You might have your heart set on a certain location or backdrop for your photos. However, sometimes the light doesn’t want to cooperate with your intentions, bringing harsh shadows streaming across your faces, spotty light coming from trees, or blinding light coming in your eyes causing you to squint constantly. If the quality of light isn’t good, then your photos won’t be good, and I will move you to a better spot.
Your wedding ceremony is going to be amazing, it will fly by in the blink of an eye, and I’ll be there to capture it so you can re-live those moments for the rest of your lives.
I absolutely love outdoor ceremonies! Sometimes the lighting can be tricky though- especially if there’s spotty light coming through trees. It’s important for the lighting to be as even as possible, and to avoid harsh light coming from directly above (like mid-day sun). If you’re having your ceremony midday outside, try to always have the light coming from behind you (the couple), so you are back-lit evenly.
If you can avoid that bright overhead sunlight by planning your ceremony later in the day when the sun is lower in the sky, that will also help. But be sure to check your timeline to see if there’s also enough daylight for any portraits.
For indoor ceremonies, you might not be able to do anything about the lighting, and that’s ok- I can still capture your ceremony and all the moments during it.
- RAIN PLAN: Weather can be a fickle thing, especially in Michigan. I don’t mind shooting in the rain at all- unless it’s a torrential downpour. :) I recommend having a plan in case it rains- whether that be an alternative, indoor spot, umbrellas, or a covered area or tent. Being prepared for the worst will always help your nerves, too!
- UNPLUGGED CEREMONY: A fairly common thing now (thankfully), an Unplugged Ceremony is when you kindly ask your guests to put away their devices and cameras, to be present and enjoy the wedding ceremony of the couple. I don’t think people are trying to be rude, or even realize what they’re doing- they’re just caught up in the excitement and their reflex is to whip out their phones to grab a snapshot or video. What they don’t realize is that they’re missing out on the beauty of just being present to enjoy this incredible moment in time. They probably aren’t thinking about how ridiculous your wedding photos will look when you’re about to land the first kiss and everyone is holding a device up in the air! It also helps me out, because it’s so stressful when I’m concentrating on capturing a split-second moment and all of a sudden Uncle Larry pops up in front of me trying to get a video with his iPad. I’ve seen some really cool and creative signs that couples put up around the guest seating,. Usually the officiant makes a short announcement before the ceremony begins, asking guests to please turn off their phones and put away their cameras and devices to minimize interruptions. I haven’t met an officiant who wasn’t more than happy to do this, so please ask :)
- RECEIVING LINES: The second most common reason for wedding day delays. These usually eat up a lot of time, and many of my couples opt instead to greet and mingle with guests during dinner. That being said, I do love the short time immediately after the ceremony, when everyone is so extremely happy and excited for you, and your close friends and family want to hug and congratulate you!
THE COUPLE’S PORTRAITS
This part of the day is one of my favorites- I love capturing just the two of you, on this once-in-a-lifetime day. It’s also usually one of the best parts of the day for the couple- the only time you’ll get to take a breather, relax, and just enjoy each other! It’s all about your love, your connection, your emotions, and your energy. These are the photos that you’ll share for the rest of your lives with your family and friends and each other.
Photographers all shoot differently and work at a very different pace, so this part might differ a lot for each photographer. Personally, I would love it if you’d plan on spending at least 30 minutes to an hour with me for these special photos.
I actually recommend doing two sets of couples portraits- one either right before or right after the ceremony, and one right before sunset. In my experience, this is just the best way to get the most out of your wedding day portraits. If it’s not possible to break them up into two 20-30 minute sets (sunset might be too early, or your timeline might just not work for it) then we can do them all in one set.
- LIGHTING: I’m all about capturing the mood and ambiance of your wedding in a natural way, without influencing things, as much as I can. When I have a choice, I prefer using the available light already in the space, and one or two small flashes (if needed). I don’t like lugging around a bunch of lighting equipment, and it also helps me to blend in better. Besides, guests act way more natural around me if I’m not carrying around a bunch of lighting equipment. :)
- For receptions that are outside, please make sure there is enough light. If you want that dark, moody, romantic ambiance string lights, candles, and lanterns are wonderful, and provide a soft, warm glow.
- DINNER: It’s so important that I drink enough water and eat on the day of a wedding. I burn a ton of calories! I always bring my own water and make sure I’m hydrated, but it’s usually not possible for me to bring my own food. I really appreciate being served the same meal as your guests! It’s ideal for me to be served as soon as dinner begins so that I can eat quickly while guests are eating and be done in time for any moments that might happen during mingling or at the end of dinner.
- Some caterers/venues insist on serving vendors at the end of the meal, and serve cold sandwich-type food to the vendors. You can get around this by adding me to your guest list! I love being able to sit and mingle with your guests, and it also puts me in a good spot in case anything important (impromptu speeches?) happen. It’s best if I can eat my meal while the wedding party eats, that way I’m ready when you’re done eating.
Typically, this is the amount of time you can plan on for the photography portion of your day:
Getting Ready: 60-90 minutes
First Look: 15 minutes
Family Portraits: 20 minutes
Wedding Party: 15 minutes
Couple Portraits: 30 minutes to an hour, preferably two sets of 20-30 minutes. The more time we have together, the more creative I can be, and the better your photos will be.
To give you a better idea of what this looks like, I’ve put together two sample timelines- with a First Look, and without. Of course, these are just an example, to give you an idea of how things could go, but are customize-able to your own wedding timeline.
With a First Look + Group Portraits Before Ceremony:
2:00 First look
2:30 Family Portraits
3:00 Wedding Party
4:45-5:15 Couple’s Portraits
5:30 Reception Begins
8:00 Sunset/Dance Floor Opens – Couple’s Portraits (20-30 min)
Without a First Look:
(5:00 Cocktail Hour)
4:45 Family Portraits
5:05 Wedding Party Portraits
5:20 Couple’s Portraits
6:00 Reception Begins
7:00 Sunset- Couple’s Portraits (20-30 min)
8:00 Dance Floor Opens
Keep in mind that sunset times vary by season. I recommend researching sunset times for your location and date before you plan out your timeline!
- A NOTE ABOUT PADDING: Like I mentioned, wedding timelines can be tricky and oftentimes things get delayed for one reason or another. It’s a good idea to “pad” your timeline so that if things run over or get delayed you won’t be crunched for time. It’s the worst feeling when you’ve spent all this effort getting your timeline perfected and something ends up taking longer than expected and then you’re stressed out the rest of the day or feel rushed. Some of the things that typically take longer than planned or are:
Hair and Makeup: make sure you communicate to your stylists what time you need to be ready at. Be on time, make sure the stylist has an accurate idea of how many people will need styling, and plan a little extra time just in case. I highly recommend doing a trial with your stylist, well before the wedding. That way you can decide on the look you want and try different ideas without being on a wedding day schedule.
The Ceremony: oftentimes the ceremony doesn’t start exactly when planned because of unexpected things happening just before (example: bride accidentally dumps her mineral powder makeup all over her dress 5 minutes before the ceremony- true story), or guests coming in late, etc.
After the Ceremony: Don’t forget to account for the time it takes to sign the marriage licenses, and the time for family and guests who will (guaranteed) be coming up to congratulate you!