Having photographed 100+ wedding ceremonies, here are 5 essential things to remember when planning your wedding ceremony for the best photos AND experience for you and your partner:
If you’re dreaming of an outdoor ceremony, pick a spot where you are in love the view! After all, that will be the main background in all your ceremony photos. In Virginia, there are endless options with so many vineyards, mountain views, beach, manors, gardens and more. Equally important, consider the weather during your wedding month and where the sun will be in relation to you and your guests. If possible, stay away from dappled, uneven light (for the sake of your photos!), and harsh direct sun that will be blazing down on everyone (for the sake of you and your guests!). Light shade or softly backlit ceremonies are two of the most beautiful and pleasant options! If it’s indoors, select a space that has as much bright, natural light as possible. Spaces that have plenty of sources of natural light are always great indoor ceremony spots that lend beautifully to many different wedding styles. It’s a bonus if the space has character that compliments your wedding style.
Might feel like common sense, but double check that the spot where you are planning to have your ceremony can accommodate the number of seated guests you plan on having. Talk through the layout you are envisioning with your planning and venue coordinator to ensure everyone will fit with some room to spare. Ceremony set ups with too many people for the space have a tendency to feel uncomfortable and cramped.
The timing of your ceremony is another big factor to consider. It can often depend on your specific wedding day schedule, however, if you are not doing a first look I generally suggest scheduling your ceremony at least 2-3 hours before sunset. This will ensure that we still have some gorgeous light while taking photos after the ceremony. If you are doing a first look and doing most of your photos before the ceremony, you can choose a ceremony time anywhere up till 1-2 hours before sunset.
Don’t do something in your wedding ceremony just because “everyone does”. Skip traditions that don’t have meaning to you. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and select ceremony elements that actually hold significance to your relationship.
I highly recommend that you consider having an unplugged ceremony! Often times, the first thing people do when a wedding begins is pull out their phones for pictures and videos of the ceremony. This creates a sea of phones in your photos instead of your beautiful guests smiling faces. Guests sometimes take it as far as to step out into the aisle to get a better angle, oftentimes getting in the way of my shots, and making your setup look unsymmetrical and awkward in your real wedding photos. If you know your guests and family will be disappointed by an unplugged ceremony, I’ve seen people have a “media moment”. This is where the officiant asks everyone to take out their phones and get a few photos at the beginning of the ceremony, then they are asked to refrain for the remainder. The ceremony above was “unplugged” and I love this photo because there’s not a phone in sight!
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