51 Great ideas for a better wedding.

The following suggestions are based on my experience at hundreds of weddings. They are written chronologically to follow what could be the flow of events at your wedding. Some of them won’t apply to you but maybe you will find something useful. They might help you have a better wedding which in turn could lead to better photos.

Advice for better wedding day

  1. Choose a well lit location for your preparations, if possible with natural light as it will help you to see what your make up looks like and obviously the light is important for the photos.
  2. Get a room that is spacious. Chances are there will be quite a few people in the room so it helps if we all have space to be able to move and work, we don’t want to be struggling to move about and working in cramped conditions.
  3. If you’re getting married in a hot place you might want to get ready in a room with air conditioning so check if it is available.
  4. Keep the room tidy as whatever is in the room will be in the photos. Also a tidy room leads to a relaxed bride/groom.
  5. If you want photos of the groom getting ready it would help for him to be close by. This will make it easier for me to capture both sides of the story without losing too much time travelling between locations.
  6. If you would like to have items photographed such as the dress, shoes, jewelry, engagement ring, weddings bands, flowers, stationery, these are the first things I will photograph. You might need to see to it that the florist brings the flowers in advance so that at least the bouquet is available for the photos. You should remove the tissue paper and cardboard from your dress and hang it up so it is ready to be photographed. It’s also a good idea to hang it a few days before the wedding and check it to see if any creases need to be steamed out. If possible bring your dress on a nice hanger as they are usually sold on a cheap plastic one.
  7. A make-up artist leads to better make-up and a more relaxed bride. It is also much easier to photograph you when you are having your make up applied rather than self application. On your wedding day you want to look special, you want to look your best! Even top models no matter how beautiful they are need make-up done to achieve the photos that grace the pages of the glossy magazines. A professional make-up artist understands anatomy, structure, the colors, skin types, how to stop your face becoming shiny, how to make the make-up last all day, how to cover blemishes and more. Consider having make trials and take pictures to see how the make looks in pictures. The same goes for hair trials, this way on the day there are no surprises you just have to repeat the chosen look. Photographically speaking apart from the benefits of having beautiful make-up to help the photos a make-up artist makes the photos of the preparations much more interesting and easier to do. It is extremely hard to get decent photos of someone who is trying to apply their own make-up with their face close up against a mirror so they can see what they are doing, also there is a tendency to pull unflattering faces when you are applying your own make-up. It is also much more relaxing for the bride to sit back and let a professional take care of the make-up, that way you don’t have to worry about it. The same goes for your hair. They need to last all day in whatever style you choose, a professional hair stylist is much more capable of achieving this than you are. You really don’t want a bad hair day on your wedding day. If you are planning on wearing a veil a hairdresser will be able to insert this and pin it in place for you.
  8. Avoid getting mosquito bites before the wedding. Apart from the itching they then need to be retouched in Photoshop. Use a mosquito repellent if you think there are mosquitoes around.
  9. If you are getting married outside and it is windy then you might want to consider wearing your hair up or at least trying to secure/fix the look as you don’t want to have hair flapping around in the wind.
  10. Likewise if it is really windy then you might want to consider losing the veil if it is not essential to you.
  11. Most of the time the groom requires no make-up. Try to avoid dried and cracked lips as they can show in the photos and lip reconstruction in Photoshop is not easy!
  12. Brides – if you have long hair and decide to wear it gathered to one side please make sure that it doesn’t cover that side of your face. You should avoid hairstyles that hide one side of your face or partially or completely obscure an eye unless you have a very good reason for doing just that.
  13. (For fair skinned brides) – Does having a tan make for better photos? If you are going to get married in a sunny location then a light tan is helpful as you will generally look more radiant and healthy. Also if your skin is a bit darker it is less reflective which will help in the sunlight. If you are going to spend a few days in the sun before the wedding then having an existing tan will reduce the risk of sunburn or red skin as you already have some tan, of course wearing some sun block is essential. Some people have naturally pale complexions and do not easily tan, these people are better off not trying to get a tan. If you are going to get a fake tan get it done by a professional who sprays it on. Many of the cheaper creams have colours that aren’t natural, they leave you looking rather yellow or too orange and if it is self applied it is easy to miss a spot and achieve a rather unflattering streaky look. If you plan on coming abroad and getting a tan in the days before your wedding that’s fine but please be careful not to get sun burnt. A red face from the sun is not very flattering and if you’ve overdone it in the sun the skin has a tendency to sweat more. Worst of all avoid getting burnt and risking peeling skin! I also advise you to avoid having tan lines as these are not easy to remove in Photoshop and is not a part of my normal retouching service.
  14. Anyone who is helping you get dressed needs to be ready before you as there’s no point me photographing you putting on your wedding dress if your bridesmaids are still in their pajamas!
  15. Some people like to open a bottle of champagne/sparkling wine etc whilst they are getting ready, it can lead to nice photos and if necessary a drink might help to steady the nerves.
  16. When you put the dress on you get into it and when you are covered and decent (no nudity) I photograph the closing of the dress such as the zipping up or tying. You always put the dress on last to avoid getting it dirty or getting make up on it.
  17. When you put the dress on check that it is not bustled (where on some dresses the train can be fastened up to make it easier to move/dance etc), as on some dresses you can’t even tell when they are bustled and we don’t want to find out later in the day that you didn’t let the train down.
  18. After the dress is on you can put on your jewelry, it is nice to have someone else help with a necklace or bracelet, you can do your earrings if you prefer.
  19. A spray or two of perfume at this point if desired.
  20. After the dress is on you can put on the veil if you have one. (Remember that if you have a veil you might also want to remove it later on in the day for some photos without it.)
  21. Finally the shoes and you’re all set.
  22. If the groom is wearing a boutonnière then traditionally it is worn on the left lapel of the jacket, the same side as the pocket handkerchief. The boutonnière should have a small safety pin attached to the back for easy attachment that will not be visible once the boutonnière is on the jacket.
  23. The groom should have a tie that is the correct length. The tie should not stick out the bottom of the jacket or waistcoat and when the jacket is done up you should not be able to see a triangle of shirt between you trousers and where the jacket is buttoned.
  24. If you are being escorted down the aisle that person will be on your right. (May vary depending on your culture.)
  25. The groom stands on the right (when facing the celebrant/altar etc) and his family are on the right. Thus the bride and her family are on the left. (May vary depending on your culture.)
  26. Normally the groom either stands and faces ahead towards the altar and then turns around when the bride has reached the end of the aisle, or he can turn around and watch the entire processional arrive. It’s your choice.
  27. The order of the processional is most commonly, ring bearer/flower girl, bridesmaids,/maid of honor, bride. Each person or couple should enter one at a time as if you all enter at once it becomes impossible to photograph each person individually as the person in front will block the view of the person behind them.
  28. 99% of the time the person escorting the bride is on her right side, hence the bride is on their left.
  29. Whilst you are walking down the aisle PLEASE CARRY THE BOUQUET PROPERLY! I will show you how to do this if you have any doubt but basically you carry the bouquet in the center and low down around your belly button.
  30. When you arrive at the altar the person escorting you then shakes the grooms hand (as your escort is on your right his right hand is free to shake the grooms hand) and after doing this they
    pass the bride to the groom, they then step back and sit on the left side with the rest of the brides party.
  31. During the ceremony interact with each other, have fun, smile, laugh, hold hands etc. If the priest is boring look interested anyway! If you have two separate chairs at the ceremony you might want to consider their position before starting the ceremony as if they are further apart you will not be able to hold each other hands and you will look separated which is not the point of the day!
  32. If you have an order of service try not to follow the ceremony page by page as you will have photos where you are constantly looking at the order of service, it is better to keep your heads up and pay attention to what’s happening around you.
  33. Groom – carry a simple cotton handkerchief in your pocket so that if it is hot and you are sweating you can use it to wipe away any sweat.
  34. Ask the priest/celebrant to say “repeat after me” rather than having them show you a printed piece of paper and you read from it, there’s no need for a tacky clipboard with your vows on it ruining the photos. Or you can learn them so there’s no need to be led by the priest.
  35. Most times it is not necessary to have a microphone in your face as if you speak up you can be clearly heard. A microphone in your face is not very attractive and the hand/arm holding it can make getting good angles for photos difficult.
  36. After the wedding ceremony it is nice to walk back down to the aisle together whilst the guests are standing it makes for good photos. You can then pause at the entrance to the church and hug and greet people as they exit the church. Once everyone is outside you can then exit and be showered with petals etc.
  37. If you are getting married outside you could prepare cones with petals for the guests and hang them from the chairs so that when you walk out of the ceremony area they can shower you with petals. It looks great in the photos. Another idea is to have petals put into baskets and the ushers can help distribute them so that everyone can join in as it is a really fun moment. The more petals the better! You can also coordinate them with your color scheme.
  38. After the wedding ceremony most people then proceed to their reception venue (if they are not already there) and then the bride and groom can open the drinks reception/cocktails.
  39. During the aperitivi I generally have three things to do. Firstly I photograph the location, atmosphere and photograph you, your family and guests enjoying themselves. This is done in a documentary manner so just go ahead and spend time with friends and family and enjoy yourselves!
  40. Secondly, at some stage we will also need to do some family photos. You will have already given me your list and so you don’t need to do anything I will take care of it.
  41. Thirdly, after the group/family photos we will then do your photos. For this we will leave the guests to enjoy the food and drinks and go somewhere else. I prefer for it to be just the two of you as bringing other people along will cause distractions and generally make you feel more awkward in front of the camera. Plus this is your only chance to have some time together during the whole day.
  42. We may be going in some fields so you may want to bring another pair of shoes that you don’t care about, in most cases the shoes will not be visible in the photo. If there’s a height difference between you then choose shoes that will compensate for this, so if you are concerned about being taller than the groom get some flat shoes, if you need to make up a few inches then go with wedges.
  43. After we finish our photo session we then return to the reception and at some stage you will then go to sit down. From when you sit down I then continue with documentary photography for the rest of the day including general atmosphere, details, speeches, cake cutting, dancing and party.
  44. If you are eating outside and want to have candelabras on the tables you should consider having the candles inside some sort of glass vessel as otherwise you will find that the candles burn down really quickly and you will be left in the dark before the end of dinner.
  45. If you are eating outside remember that photography is the recording of light and so if you don’t have any lighting or candles once it is dark it will be very difficult to obtain good images.
  46. If you are having speeches make sure the waiters are informed to charge the guests glasses very quickly as it is not nice and a waste of time to have to be sitting waiting for waiters to go around and pour glasses for everyone.
  47. Those who are speaking may want to have their speeches written out so they can read them or refer to their notes. Please don’t write your speech on any old scrappy piece of paper or a napkin or worse yet some A4 sheets from your printer. It looks much better and is easier to read from a set of smaller note cards that you can shuffle through as you complete each part of your speech.
  48. If you are having any surprises like fireworks please let me know so they aren’t a surprise for me too!
  49. Second most important piece of advice: If you have planned your own wedding day and have been very involved in the whole process it can be difficult to step back and be a bride on the day. Remember you are the bride not the wedding planner. You can of course plan your own wedding but my advice is to get the whole thing planned well in advance and then just sit back and relax or better yet forget about the whole thing until shortly before the day. If you have planned things properly on the day the experts for each part of the day should do their jobs and the whole thing will run smoothly. I sometimes attend weddings where the bride spends her entire time worrying about if this is fine or if that person has done such and such, and it’s because of this they don’t enjoy themselves and it shows in the photos.
  50. Most important piece of advice: No matter what happens enjoy yourselves. I go to perfect weddings where they have spent the world and the weather is great and the couple are beautiful and the photos are dull as they don’t enjoy their day for some reason. I also go to humbler weddings and may be the weather is not great but people have a great time anyway as they are getting married surrounded by their closest family and friends and everyone is there to enjoy the celebration.
  51. PS. Don’t get drunk the night before. Hangovers are not the for the wedding day… maybe the day after!

A collection of useful wedding tips and advice compiled into an easy to read PDF download. These useful pointers will help your wedding run smoother and may even help you get better photos.

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All content copyright Italian Wedding Photographer Jules.

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Jules Bower

Italian and destination wedding photographer Jules Bower photographs weddings in Italy, Europe and worldwide. His unique approach and expertise arrive from not only an obsession with photography but also because he owned one of the first and most successful wedding planning agencies in Italy.

“Beauty exists everywhere. It’s my job to find it.”