Preparation is the key to success. I firmly believe this. If you’ve shot a wedding before then you know how important it is to be prepared. That means batteries charged, cards formatted, gear loaded up, etc. etc. etc. But something I don’t hear photographers speak about is all the other prep work. Timelines, questionnaires, photo lists etc. I have a very thorough process that has worked extremely well for me. I do the same exact thing for each wedding and I love it. It gives the couple the comfort of knowing I’m ready and we’re on the same page. It gives me all the tools I need to minimize the surprises. It also makes it so I’m not bothering the couple and asking them a bunch of questions throughout the day. I want to be as little of an impact or distraction as possible with the couple. Okay, enough babbling, here are are a few things I do.
First, and most important, the questionnaire. I send this 3-4 weeks before the wedding. This allows the couple to have all the details dialed but not be in that two week lead-up panic mode. I send it to them as a questionnaire through Honeybook. If you don’t use Honeybook, I would suggest that over buying any new gear. DM me with questions and for a 50% off code click here. Along with 50% off Honeybook I offer you a free 30 minute facetime mentor session. Win win.
First part in bold is the question. Second part are my notes why I include it. Don’t copy and paste that part. :) Also, I realize this says “bride” and “groom”, feel free to update for same-sex couples.
What is your primary or future address?
I am going to send a gift after the wedding and I love having their address without having to ask so it can be a bit of a surprise.
Where should we first meet up on the day of the wedding? Please provide an address and time. This is typically included in the timeline, but just covering my bases. Also, if applicable, where should the second shooter begin?
This is always on the timeline, but allows them to provide any notes or comments regarding this. Also, sometimes the location for the second shooter is left off the timeline.
Is there a certain place we are supposed to park for the ceremony/reception?
Valet? Certain spot for vendors? It’s nice to know these rules and spots before having to call someone day-of.
Do you have a coordinator? If yes, name and contact information.
Chances are I’ve been working with the coordinator over the last couple months. But some coordinators are specific to the venue and only reach out a month or so before the wedding. In this case, I’ll get their info when I need it here.
Do you have a videographer? If yes, name and contact information
I don’t always know since the couple books these typically after me. If it’s someone I haven’t worked with before I reach out to them prior to make sure we’re on the same page.
How many groomsmen will there be?
The more people, the more time I will give myself to shoot the bridal party. It just sets me up to not be surprised.
How many bridesmaids will there be?
Please provide a point of contact for the bride. Someone who will be with the bride most of the day that I can call or text if I need to. Usually the maid of honor, or someone responsible in the bride's party.
Pretty obvious. Haven’t needed this yet, but super nice to have.
Please provide a point of contact for the groom (besides the bride or groom). Someone who will be with the groom all day that we can call or text if I need to. Usually the best man, or someone responsible in the groom's party.
What is the suggested attire for your guests? (I want to make sure I dress appropriately.)
I always try and dress nice, but if it’s black tie, I may bring a nice blazer or something.
Are there any divorces, deaths or difficult relationships that you would like me to know about?
One of the most important questions on here. I get to find out about the drunk uncle, Dad’s new girlfriend no one in the family likes, the bitchy sister-in-law. So nice being ready for any potential problem guests.
Are there any sentimental details that are a part of the bride's or groom's attire (special cufflinks, grandmother's locket, etc.)?
I love knowing this ahead of time. I will add this to my personal shot list you’ll read about more below.
Are there any restrictions for photography at the ceremony site? (i.e., flash not allowed or photographers not allowed to move during ceremony.)
Catholic weddings especially. Allows me to prepare and potentially bring different gear I may not normally use.
Are there any special details at the ceremony site that we must get a picture of? Any special surprises?
Communion, doves, whatever. I’m ready.
Are there any sentimental details or special surprises at the reception that you want photographs of (Sparkler exit, a certain detail, surprise dance, etc.)?
Please list all the specific photos you may want of special guests, a certain relative, etc. Anything outside the ordinary. Please assume I will be documenting your wedding in full from end to end and have an extensive list of photos I will be getting throughout the day. I just want to add in any that I may be unaware of.
Sick relative, old grandpa, aunt and uncle from out of the country. Nice to know these ahead of time and be able to remind the couple they wanted this photo the day-of so they don’t forget.
Are there are any types of photos that are super important to you. For Example: A shot of your mom crying as you walk down the aisle. If there are a couple shots that really stand out when you imagine your photos, let me know so I can make sure we put those high up on the list.
Some people obsess on different parts of the day, his reaction and she walks down the aisle, the first kiss, the reactions to speeches. Whatever it is, it’s nice to overshoot those moments.
I would love to get a shot of your wedding invitation suite (invite, RSVP card, detail card, envelope, save the date, etc.). You can get it to me a couple ways. Mail a copy to me prior, bring it with you to the wedding, or give it to your coordinator to give to me. Please note that if something is two-sided, I'd love two copies to show it both in the same photo.
A new addition, I am so stoked to add. Cause flat lays are so fun!
Please provide a detailed list with each portrait you would like taken for your family. Please take the number of portraits into account when scheduling out time.
Below is my foundational family list. Please customize it to meet the needs of your family and include the first name of each family member alongside their relation to you.
For example: Mom (Betsy), Step-Dad (John), etc. — The list below takes approximately 30 minutes to complete (10 minutes to gather family members + 20 minutes to execute)!
Couple with Groom's Parents, Siblings, & Grandparents
Couple with Groom's Parents & Siblings
Couple with Groom's Parents
Couple with Bride's Parents, Siblings, & Grandparents
Couple with Bride's Parents & Siblings
Couple with Bride's Parents
Couple with Both Sets Of Parents
This is the most important part of this whole thing. Being ready for family photos with every single pairing with names will make your life so much better.
Please list out your vendors with names and social handles so I can tag them in my social posts.
I’ll make a cheat sheet for all the vendors and use this list on social while I cover behind the scenes.
Do you have a hashtag?
What did I miss? Leave any notes for me here:
A great open ended spot for people to leave notes.
Honestly, after I receive this back I know everything I need to know besides the timeline. I am more than ready for any surprises and the couple feels good knowing we are on the same page.
Okay next, is what I do with all this information.
On my notes app on my Mac, I create four new notes. I love the notes app cause it syncs from my comp to my phone, which I have with me all day. I can also share these notes with my second shooter and check things off simultaneously.
Every detail and moment they mentioned in the questionnaire above. I also make a couple notes for things I might want to try during this wedding like a double exposure, brenizer effect, reflection, night shot, etc.
Family Photo List
Every single grouping listed out so I can read them off and check them off as I shoot.
with their social handles so I can copy and paste.
I will get this from the coordinator and rewrite it in my notes app so that it makes sense for me and has all the necessary info I need.
That’s it. A questionnaire to the couple and 4 notes on my phone. That and all my gear makes it so I am freaking super buttoned up for each and every wedding. What do you do that I missed? I love learning new tips. Leave a comment below or shoot me a DM.
If you read this whole thing and enjoyed it, I would love to hear from you. Shoot me a DM and let me know. I feed off your feedback.
This is part one of a 4-part series of how I capture a wedding. You can see all the articles below:
YOU ARE HERE >> Wedding Day Preparation