10 Secrets to Gorgeous Getting Ready Wedding Photos - marysarahphotography.com

10 Secrets to Gorgeous Getting Ready Wedding Photos

10 Secrets to Gorgeous Getting Ready Wedding Photos

After months of planning, your wedding day is finally here and it’s time to get ready! If you’ve spent any time glancing through real wedding blogs, you may be under the assumption that the getting ready process is always smooth and relaxing.  Tell me if this sounds familiar; perfect images of bridesmaids in matching robes whose hair and makeup are flawless, pouring champagne in a spotless hotel room while shared laughter abounds. While this scene isn’t entirely unrealistic, the pictures never show the work it takes to get to that point.  As a wedding photographer, I typically arrive to find the getting ready room in shambles with hair and makeup running late and a bride who’s about to lose her mind!  I can even speak from experience, as my own wedding prep was extremely stressful. My hair appointment ran almost an hour late, which resulted in a mad dash to the church where I quickly threw on my dress, forgot my vows, and hurried to the aisle with only two minutes to spare (my amazing wedding photographer actually retrieved my vows from the car after we started the processional). I never even got a chance to look in a mirror and see myself in my dress with my hair and makeup done!  After years of photographing weddings and seeing the same thing happen to many of my brides, I’ve compiled a list of ten stress-free secrets to gorgeous getting ready wedding photos!

Number one: Time, time, time!  Allow significantly more time than you think is necessary to get ready. Nope, even more.  Waaaay more.  I realize that it only takes one minute for you to throw on a normal dress, but believe me, a wedding dress is another matter. On average, it takes my brides ten to fifteen minutes just to get their dress on! The type of dress plays a big factor here as well – if it’s just a zip-up, plan on five minutes but a lace-up or button-up will easily take ten to fifteen.

 Hair and makeup also take significantly longer than most brides allow. From my experience, at least three out of four brides end up running late enough that the timeline has to be changed. This is why it’s important to hire professional hair and makeup artists who have extensive experience in the wedding industry. I also recommend adding a buffer of at least 30 additional minutes beyond what the artist recommends. I mean absolutely no disrespect to hair and makeup specialists, but there are a multitude of variables that can cost valuable minutes; add the fact that typically only one or two artists are working on a large bridal party and you can see why it’s wise to plan conservatively.  If you allow extra time, the absolute worst thing that can happen is that you finish early.  A little time to relax and hang out with your ladies is never a bad thing!

  One last tip: do a hair and makeup trial run so on your wedding day you already know exactly what to expect.  A redo is time-consuming and will stress out both you and your artist!  Your engagement shoot is a great time to do that makeup trial run, with the added benefit of killer engagement photos!

Number two: Have your photographer start at least 45 minutes prior to your makeup being done. (Your hair should already be finished at this point.)  During these 45 minutes, your photographer will photograph the details – rings, invitations, shoes, wedding dress, etc. It sounds like this shouldn’t take 45 minutes but if you want gorgeous detail images you need to give your photographer time to get her creative juices moving. With proper planning,  your photographer will finish those detail shots right as you are finishing makeup.

Now here’s the secret: you only want to take “getting ready” images AFTER you are already ready! If you look through the myriad of beautiful getting ready images on the internet, you’ll start to notice that none of them feature brides with their makeup only half done and their hair up in curlers. Instead, their hair and makeup already look flawless and they’re just touching up their lips or perhaps adding a bit more blush. To capture gorgeous images, wait until you’re already looking gorgeous and then fake it! This also allows your artist to work in whatever lighting scenario works best for them, and then allows your photographer to move you if necessary to the best lighting for pictures. Which takes us to number three…

Number three: Window light is the best light. When searching for a venue, please take into account where the bridal party will be getting ready.  It could be a gorgeous room, but if there are no windows then photographers often have to resort to overhead lighting which is not flattering. The natural light from a window is absolutely beautiful and is pivotal to creating stunning getting ready and bridal portraits. If there is no window in your room then let your photographer know ahead of time and be prepared to be a little flexible!  I’ve been known to photograph all of the getting ready images in an entirely different location from where the bride was actually getting ready just so we could have beautiful light. Thankfully, my brides are awesome and they were all willing to go along with it and received amazing pictures as a result!

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Number four: Keep the getting ready room as clean as possible. Throw out all of your trash before the photographer arrives, and store all of your stuff in one specific area of the room (away from the window) or in another room altogether if possible. This will save your photographer so much time. Remember: more time = more pictures. It’s always stressful to walk into a getting ready room and discover makeup, dresses, shoes, fast food bags, and clothes strewn all over the place. Not only does this mean your photographer will have to spend time cleaning, but a messy environment also creates a more chaotic atmosphere which is something you want to avoid on your wedding day. I recommend putting your maid of honor and one additional bridesmaid in charge of making certain that the room remains clean so that once it’s time to take pictures there isn’t a mad dash to clean everything up.

 Tip: Plain, light colored bedspreads make for brighter, cleaner, more boutique images than bedspreads with a busy and bright pattern. If the bedspread in your getting ready room is distracting or dated, take it off to show the white sheets underneath.

Number five: Gather all your details ahead of time.  A couple weeks before the wedding, start thinking through what details you would like photographed and create a checklist. Important items to consider are the entire invitation suite (not just the actual invitation), your rings, jewelry, flowers, shoes, boutonnieres, and one or two personal items or family heirlooms. Once you create the list, have a designated box or bag where everything will be stored. That way, as soon as the photographer arrives you can just hand off the details without having to frantically search for all of them. It is almost impossible to get published in any wedding blog or magazine without great detail shots, so helping your photographer out is a win for everyone!

 Tip: Ask your florist to include a few additional floral snippings so your photographer can incorporate them into the detail shots. Most florists are happy to do this free of charge and it helps tie all of the details together nicely.

Frederick Maryland Wedding Photographer Mary Sarah Wedding Detail Photos

Number six: Mail your photographer a copy of the invitation suite in advance. This will give your photographer a great idea of the colors and overall feel of your wedding before they even arrive! I bring my own wedding details kit with me to each wedding I photograph. This includes spools of silk ribbon, LED rope lights, vintage stamps, Mrs. Boxes, and fabric swatches. If I know the colors ahead of time it will help me come better prepared with the best colored fabrics and Mrs. boxes which help produce cohesive detail shots.

Frederick Maryland Wedding Photographer Mary Sarah Wedding Detail Photos

Frederick Maryland Wedding Photographer Mary Sarah Wedding Detail Photos


Number seven: Schedule enough time for your photographer! It’s important that you are relaxed on your wedding day, but it’s just as important that your photographer is relaxed as well. When I’m rushing and trying to capture everything in just a few minutes it doesn’t give me the time I need to be creative and artistic. Forty five minutes for detail shots is a great amount of time, but then I recommend having at least thirty additional minutes for getting ready shots – putting on the dress, jewelry, shoes, and a few window portraits. From there you need to discuss with your photographer whether you will be doing a first glance with your fiance, father, bridesmaids, etc. and how many bridal portraits you want to do ahead of time. If you’re getting ready at the ceremony location and doing a first look, schedule for your photographer to arrive three hours prior to the ceremony.  Otherwise, two hours should give you enough time if you’re not doing a first look.

Frederick Maryland Wedding Photographer Mary Sarah Photography Bridesmaids


Number eight: Wait to put your jewelry, veil, and shoes on until AFTER you put on your dress. You only get to wear your dress once, it should be the backdrop for everything! Pictures of you putting your jewelry on while you’re already wearing your dress look more bridal and help better tell the story of your wedding day.


Number nine: Include your closest friends and family (and pets!) in your getting ready pictures. A picture of you putting on your necklace can be beautiful. But, a picture of your grandmother helping put on your necklace is an image you will treasure for the rest of your life. Your photographs are meant to tell the story of your wedding day, so think through who you would love to be in those getting ready pictures. I recommend considering grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and bridesmaids. You could have your grandmother help you with your necklace, your mother with your earrings, your sister with your bracelet, and your bridesmaids with your shoes. This takes longer than if you were to do it yourself but it results in images that are more meaningful and allows for more natural candids between you and your loved ones. When your mother puts your veil on and you both look in the mirror at your reflection, it’s hard not to hug and become emotional. These are always my favorite pictures of the day because they showcase the raw love and emotion of your wedding day.

Tip: Your bridesmaids and anyone else who will be in the pictures should be wearing their dresses to make the pictures look more cohesive. Sweatpants and old t-shirts just don’t mix with a wedding dress!

Frederick Maryland Wedding Photographer Mary Sarah Photography bride dog

Number ten: Get creative and clue your photographer in on any fun plans you have! If you purchase your bridesmaids matching robes and would like pictures in them, let your photographer know ahead of time so she can schedule that into your timeline. I’ve photographed bridal parties jumping on the bed, doing champagne toasts, having a pillow fight, and wearing a number of adorable matching outfits! These pictures are so fun, but can take time and a bit of orchestration so it’s always helpful to be made aware of your wishes in advance.  

BONUS! Number eleven: Relax and have fun! The most common sentiment all my brides express is that they can’t believe how fast their wedding day went. After months (okay, let’s be real; years) of planning, in just a few short hours the wedding is over. This should be the most memorable day of your life and it’s too short to get stressed out about the small details. I’ve had brides who were so stressed because things ran late and they didn’t give themselves enough time that they ended up crying on their wedding day. This makes me so sad and is the last thing you should have to deal with. If you allow plenty of time in your timeline you should be able to just sit back and enjoy the day. Your getting ready pictures will look better because you will be noticeably more relaxed and you’ll be able to just relish the moment!

There you have it! This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but if you take these secrets to heart I promise you will get beautiful getting ready images on your wedding day. Are you still looking for the perfect wedding photographer for your special day? If so, head here to learn more about my wedding experience. I would love to work with you and hear all about your love story!

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