Be sure to go ahead and bookmark this page now, because it's going to be your BEST friend as you plan and prepare for your big day!
Welcome and congratulations!! I am SO excited you're here! Being engaged is SUCH a special time in your lives and I'm so excited for what's to come.
This guide will be your BEST FRIEND as you plan and prepare for your big day, and will allow you to know exactly what to expect during your wedding photography experience!
I'm so EXCITED to pour into you and to help ease the stress of planning. As always, feel free to reach out at any time if you have any questions along the way!
Before we jump right in, here are three things you NEED to know about me:
I love photographing weddings because it gives me the opportunity to serve and love on all of my couples.
It’s such a joyful and EXCITING time in your life, but I totally understand how overwhelming the wedding process can be!
I’m here to walk you through every step of your photography experience from making you feel confident in front of my camera with constant direction to helping you craft the perfect wedding timeline.
At the end of the day, planning is so incredibly fun, but the really awesome part is that you’ll become husband and wife.
I’m here to encourage you as you make your journey towards marriage and prepare for your big day!
Willis J Entertainment - Based in NC
DJ Ones, Erick Berrones - Based in NC
Wild Flora Flowers - Based in Chapel Hill
TG Floristry - Based in Raleigh
FauxReal Flowers - Based in NC
Blush Bridal - Based in Fayetteville
Coastal Knot - Based in NC
Elmwood Paperie - Based in NC
Shine Wedding Invitations
Love Cake - Based in Raleigh
Cakes By Chloe - Based in NC
Lottie Railey Beauty - Based in NC
Mena Garcia Beauty - Based in NC
A Thousand Cranes Productions - Based in NC/SC
Charis Weddings - Based in NC
Debbie Bender Design - Based in Fayetteville
Click names to see vendors website or social media
Timeless Events Wedding Planning - Based in Raleigh
Harmony Weddings - Based in Raleigh
This is your FIRST step of your experience with me which also makes it SUPER exciting! There are two main goals of our time together (besides getting gorgeous photos, of course):
1. Spend more time together and get to know each other better!
2. For me to teach you my posing so you're PROS when your wedding day comes!
Our session will last 1.5 hours, includes two locations, and two outfits. You can do more locations and outfits.. However, that also means you will get more variety with fewer images in your final gallery! I guarantee 100 images in your gallery from your engagement session!
I recommend wearing two outfits: One dressy and one casual. Feel free to go all out for your dressy outfit, and think "date night" for your casual outfit! My biggest piece of advice is to wear outfits that COMPLIMENT each other, not match. Keep reading for more style tips and outfit ideas!
Because my Saturdays are dedicated to weddings (just like yours!), I only schedule engagement sessions on Fridays and Sunday evenings. Our start time is completely based on sunset time for the time of year you're considering! See below to view available session dates!
I'll be sending an email to help plan your engagement session! I recommend starting to think about when you'd like to do it as soon as possible! Think time of year and trying to match the date with your hair and makeup appointment.
WHAT TO EXPECT
If you're like every other couple, you're probably a little nervous thinking about being in front of the camera... I mean, you're not used to having a big black box pointed at you, am I right?! Even *I* get nervous when I'm having photos done!!
It's COMPLETELY normal to feel this way, but I want to encourage you to just relax and have a good time. I'm going to be giving you allllll the direction so you never feel like you know what your doing. We're going to capture those timeless photos that everyone loves, while getting a little goofy and having fun (don't be surprised if I pull out my speaker and turn on some music!!). Some prompts I give you both might seem a little silly at first, but TRUST ME, they create some legit magic.
All you two have to do is show up and be an adorable couple in love... easy, right?! I'll take care of the rest and we're going to have a lot of FUN!
TIPS & TRICKS FOR SUCCESS
BE ON TIME: We typically plan your start time based on sunset time. If you are late, it cuts into the sunlight we have available! No one wants dark photos, so arriving on time will ensure we have gorgeous light to work with for your whole shoot! :)
BRINGING THE DOG: I adore ALL the cute pups, so naturally, I LOVE it when you bring them along! The best way to include them is to have someone else bring your dog during the last 15 minutes of your session, or choose a session location that is less than 5 minutes away from your home. Contact me so we can work out the details!
CLEAN THE RING: Your ring will be a focal point of your photos, and I'd love to grab a few up close shots of just your ring while you change outfits! Cleaning it will ensure it's nice and sparkly for photos!
EMPTY YOUR POCKETS: Especially for guys, make sure you don't have anything in your pockets! I am more than happy to store phones and keys in my bag, or ladies, you can bring along a little purse to keep everything in.
RELAX! You don’t have to be a pro at this! I’m going to help you along the way and it’s going to be a blast! I don't expect anything from you. Enjoy this time together and make a date out of it! Plan dinner afterwards and celebrate!!
GET YOUR NAILS DONE: Make sure your nails are freshly painted, or spoil yourself with a trip to the salon! Chipped nails will be noticeable in your photos. Neutral colors and pastels photograph beautifully and will match any outfit!
BRING COMFY SHOES: If you're wearing heels, bring a pair of flip flops or comfortable shoes to walk from spot to spot. Your feet will thank me later!
HOW MANY OUTFITS? Most often, my couples like to have one casual, everyday outfit (think: date night) and then one outfit that is dressier! This will give your shoot two totally different “looks.” I recommend beginning with the dressy outfit first!
PROFESSIONAL HAIR & MAKEUP: Ladies, I highly recommend doing your hair and makeup trial right before your engagement session! This will not only ease the stress of you having to do it yourself, but you'll get to see how the hair and makeup you want for your big day will actually LOOK in photos. It also gives you a way to use the trial for your session! Win, win!
CHOOSING COLORS: When choosing colors for your outfits, I recommend selecting lighter tones and more muted shades. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and let the eye focus on the way you feel about each other. Soft pinks, muted blues, and light neutrals like heather gray, creams, leather brown and white all work wonderfully.
SKIP CASUAL CLOTHES: I know flip flops and graphics tees are *perfect* for everyday wear, but especially for the guys, long pants and closed toe shoes look most masculine and photograph wonderfully! Trust me, it's just for one hour... then you can go back to your most comfortable attire. Instead...
DRESS IT UP: Have you ever wanted to rock a sequin dress, or a long flowy maxi dress? Maybe you've dreamed of wearing a floral crown, or wearing a tulle skirt. THIS is your chance! Ladies, especially for your dressy outfit, I typically recommend a long, flowy A line dress that cinches at the waist. This is typically most flattering on most body types! For the guys, opt for a suit or nice pants and a suit jacket with a button down for your fancy outfit.
FLATTER YOUR FEATURES: Ladies, keep in mind which features you want to flatter and which features you want to hide when picking outfits! For example, if you want to hide your arms, choose a top with sleeves and skip the spaghetti straps. If you want to minimize your bust, choose a dress with a higher neckline and skip the strapless dress. If you opt for a low cut dress, it will minimize the amount of angles I can shoot!
SKIP THE SPRAY TAN: Even though it seems counter intuitive, I highly recommend skipping a spray tan altogether, even if it's a few days out from your session. Spray tans tend to photograph more orange than they appear and will make you appear more orange than tan!
I have had the opportunity to work with many incredible wedding planners, from day of coordinators to full service planners! They can provide help for your wedding day in a way that no one else can. They also give me the opportunity to solely focus on taking your beautiful photos while they keep the timeline going throughout the day! There are typically many different types of services planners offer, so here are a few to consider for different aspects of planning:
Some planners offer the option of helping you with "vendor match-making." They will sit down with you and ask you what you're looking for in your different vendors, and offer the best suggestions within your budget. From what I've heard, the amount of money you save doing this by knowing where to invest more (AND finding veNdors that are the perfect fit) saves you more than what you pay! Plus, you'll have a dream team that will be amazing for your wedding!
Many planners also offer day-of styling services in addition to planning. This means they will be in charge of setting up your spaces and the design. They'll add a beautiful, creative touch and since they've worked alongside you up to your wedding day, they can carry out your vision perfectly. This also means mom won't be running around trying to set everything up! They have you covered!
BENEFITS OF A DAY-OF COORDINATOR
If nothing else, this is the BEST thing you can do for your wedding in this area!! It
is so crucial to have a go-to person the day of that can take care of the logistics and answer questions. Otherwise, this burden typically falls on your mom, maid of honor, or photographer. They are there to run the day and make sure everything goes smoothly. This typically also includes planning the month before your wedding. Once that one month mark hits, they will take over and conquer the last minute planning details for you. What a stress reliever!
If you want wedding planning to be as stress-free as possible, this is the route to go! They will be there from your engagement all the way until the end of your wedding day. They are there to take care of all the planning for you, so you can relax and enjoy being engaged. They work alongside you to create the perfect vision for your wed- ding day, help you choose vendors, create your timeline, work out the logistics, and everything else that goes into planning. They basically become your best friend during the process, because just about everything is off your plate!
My biggest piece of advice in this area is to at the very least have a go-to person, Ideally a day-of coordinator.
If you don't have one appointed person, those responsibilities are going to fall on someone else (usually your mom, maid of honor, or photographer).
Whoever ends up taking over the logistical things that pop up the day-of, they won't be able to enjoy the day or focus solely on their job.
Sometimes your venue will provide a day-of coordinator, but make sure they will be there the whole day and are there to actively help! Sometimes they're there just to oversee things and not help with the things that need to happen the day-of.
If you're okay with this go-to person being a family member, then go for it! But realize that they aren't going to be able to enjoy your day, so you'll have to be okay with that.
Bringing someone else in isn't as much as you'd think, and it takes so much stress off everyone! They can also be a really good middle man when sticky situations come up throughout the wedding day.
Trust me, you won't regret it!
CHOOSE A SPACE WITH LOTS OF WINDOWS
If you're trying to decide where to get ready, this is HUGE! I always opt for spaces with lots of windows. When it's time to get into your dress, I will likely direct you to a clean area that has lots of window light coming in!
GATHER YOUR DETAILS
If you can, please have all of your details gathered before I arrive! My biggest recommendation is to put them all in one box or bag so they are all in one place. This includes:
All 3 rings | A copy of your invitation suite | Your jewelry | Shoes | Bridal dress
Veil | Hair pieces | Perfume | & anything else you want photographed!
HAVE YOUR BOUQUET ARRIVE BEFORE I START SHOOTING
If possible, have your florist deliver your bouquet and boutonnières BEFORE I am scheduled to arrive. This ensures they will be included with all of the other pretty details!
This is just a bonus tip here, but purchasing a velvet ring box in your wedding colors will help to personalize your details! My favorite places to buy them are from TheFamilyJoolz and The Mrs. Box!
GETTING IN YOUR DRESS
Make sure to have it in the timeline that your bridesmaids, mom, and anyone else you want to help you get into your dress be ready AT LEAST 15 minutes before your schedule time. This ensures they can be included in these special photos!
MAIL THE INVITATION
If you could mail me a copy of your wedding invitation with all of the others, that would be AMAZING! Please feel free to reach out if you need my mailing address!
My second shooter will photograph the guys getting ready if they are getting ready in the same location as the bride or within 10-15 mins. If you want this photographed, ensure it is on the timeline or you have communicated it directly to me!
HAIR & MAKEUP
I would encourage you to have hair and makeup scheduled to be done around 30 minutes before you're scheduled to get into your dress. This gives you some buffer time in case we run behind!
So you might be asking... what is a first look?! Well, let me tell you! A first look is when the bride and groom arrange a private time to see each other before the ceremony. The only people present will be the two of you and your photographers and videographers! First looks are very popular for so many reasons! There are so many incredible benefits of doing one!!
Although I love this so much on a wedding day, I also always encourage my couples to do whatever they want to do. Because at the end of the day, it’s their wedding, and what they prefer matters the absolute most! So although I love it so much, I do want their day to go however they envision. This is just meant to help you decide whether it’s right for you, and why I recommend it so much!
Throughout the chaos of a wedding day, it will very likely be your ONLY alone time! It allows you to have a chance to talk and enjoy hanging out with each other. Groom, you get to TELL your bride how beautiful she looks as soon as you see her! You get to extend your day TOGETHER by 2-3 hours.
My brides LOVE this because your hair and make up is totally fresh for all of your portraits. You don't have to worry about touching up before photos because you just had your hair and makeup done! Your bridesmaids will LOVE you for this as well!
With a first look, you can ENJOY taking all of your wedding portraits and not feel rushed. Plus, you'll receive MORE variety in your portraits because of the extra time! It makes taking photos a lot more enjoyable because you aren't trying to squeeze them all in!
You can finish the majority of your wedding photos before the ceremony begins. We will jump right into bride and groom + bridal party photos after the first look! This means no long cocktail hours with guests waiting on us to finish taking photos!
Once we do family formals directly after the ceremony, you can actually go enjoy cocktail hour or start the reception! If any of your bridal party aren't family members, they get to enjoy ALL of cocktail hour!
So many couples say their nerves went away after they saw each other! It helps you to feel more relaxed and make the ceremony more enjoyable. Plus, you’ll probably remember your ceremony better because you weren’t so nervous. The whole thing would probably be a blur otherwise!
If you’re not familiar with unplugged ceremonies, they are essentially when you request that your guests turn off all of their devices for the ceremony. This allows the photographer to work more freely with no worry of getting guests in their shots! As a photographer, there is nothing worse than trying to photograph the bride coming down the aisle and have someone stick their phone out in front of you (yes, it’s happened!).
I think these are a GREAT idea, and I’ve had many of my couples do them with amazing success! Guests are typically very respectful if you ask them to not be taking photos during the ceremony and it will reflect in your photos. This especially shows in the wider shots; you’ll either see a lot of guests holding their phones up for photos, or your guests sitting and enjoying the moment!
To make this happen at your ceremony, I recommend first having a sign at the entrance of the ceremony that encourages guests to put away their devices! You can also include a short and sweet line on your ceremony program that requests that no one has their devices out. You can also request your officiant to announce it a few minutes before the ceremony starts, to reenforce what they’ve already read!
Not only will your photographer love you, but a beautiful thing happens: your guests are sitting and enjoying the moment you two become husband and wife, instead of staring at their screens. What a beautiful way to encourage your guests to unplug for a short amount of time to enjoy such a special moment with the two of you.
Sunset portraits are literally the BEST ten minutes of portraits you'll get on your wedding day. Typically we'll sneak out for 10 minutes during your reception (in-between events, of course!) or right after family formals to grab a few of these! Trust me, they are WORTH IT and are those dreamy, swoon-worthy photos you see all over Pinterest with the glowy lighting.
They also give you another chance to slow down and connect with each other, away from the chaos of your big day!
Here are a few things to know:
- Bring the veil + bouquet! This looks DREAMY with sunset lighting!
- If it ends up being overcast, don't worry! I've had SO MANY overcast and rainy weddings end up having a beautiful sunset. If the sun isn't peaking out, we might still sneak out for some extra portraits for variety!
There are SO many options when it comes to exits. Sparklers, bubbles, glow sticks, rose petals... there's so many options!
If your coverage ends before your exit, you have the option of planning a "mock" exit with your bridal party. This is more common than you may think. Instead of saving your exit until the very end, you can plan a mock exit with just the members of your bridal party and your immediately family members. This allows us to have more control over these shots and the party never has to stop. In most cases, no one even notices that the bride and groom are missing for a few minutes. Also, it’s almost impossible to tell that the whole wedding isn’t there waving sparklers and sending off the happy couple. This idea allows my couples to save money and still have all of the shots that they dreamed of.
One of the most COMMON questions I get asked is, what happens if it RAINS on my wedding day? While this isn't always ideal and doesn't match the sunny day you imagine while planning, I want to encourage you that you can still have GORGEOUS photos, even if it's rainy! Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind:
1. Overcast skies = perfect lighting. Sunlight, especially mid-day, is actually very harsh. Rainy days give that perfect, soft, natural lighting, no matter where you take your photos! This gives you perfect lighting + the ability to use a lot more locations. It also tends to make colors look more vibrant. :) Don’t get me wrong, I love golden, sunlit photos… but overcast has its advantages as well.
2. Let me worry about the photos. On your wedding, the only thing you should have to worry about is being the bride! :)
3. Be willing to go outside! Most of the time when it’s raining, it’s a lot of light sprinkles and not long, huge downpours… going outside is still definitely doable! I typically will find areas that have large trees to cover my couple & bridal party, or overhangs on the side of buildings. I also bring along cute, clear umbrellas to a wedding day that keep you almost totally dry, even when you’re not under anything! :) And they look adorable! All photos I’ve ever taken outside in the rain hardly even LOOK like it’s raining.
4. Have a rain plan. Especially if you are having an outdoor wedding, this is very important! Be sure to communicate to your vendors what they should do if it rains on your wedding day. That way, if the situation arises, they will already know what to do and you won’t have to worry about a thing.
DOWNLOADING YOUR PHOTOS
When downloading your photos, I recommend downloading the ENTIRE gallery all at once, so you immediately have a copy of all your images! After downloading your gallery, be sure to save it to multiple places. You can also download individual images as you want them!
ACCESSING YOUR PHOTOS ON YOUR PHONE
The online gallery system that I use is extremely mobile friendly! To access, just go to your phone’s web browser and navigate to your gallery’s webpage link. It work seamlessly and just like it would on a computer! You can download individual photos onto your phone for crisp and clear Instagrams and having access to your memories at all times.
You can actually order professional and affordable prints from within your online gallery and have them shipped directly to your house! Prints are printed in a professional lab to ensure color and contrast accuracy. You are more than welcome to print images on your own. However, I would warn you to avoid Walmart, Target and Costco. I cannot promise that your colors will print true-to-life if you choose to print at those stores!
Your gallery is guaranteed to remain open for one year after your wedding date. Therefore, I highly recommend backing up your images in more than one place, on multiple devices, flash drives, hard drives, and even in online cloud storage systems like Dropbox or iCloud. You can't have enough copies!
SHARING YOUR IMAGES
You are completely free to share your images wherever you would like! Whether it's on social media, printing them for your home, or sending to your friends, share away! I want you to treat your images like they're yours. Just keep in mind not to add filters or re-edit them in any way (cropping is totally okay!) Watermarking is not necessary, but a photo credit is always appreciated! Feel free to share your gallery link with your friends and family! I will already be passing the gallery on to your vendors for you, so you don't have to worry about that!
Thank you for allowing me to photograph your big day! I don't take it lightly and am SO excited for you. I want you to know that I am HERE for you throughout wedding planning! If you have ANY questions at all along the way, feel free to reach out to me via email at any point. I hope this guide serves as an amazing resource for you as you plan and prepare for your big day! I'm not only here to help but I want to encourage you that marriage is WORTH IT. It is a blast and always keep that in mind! At the end of the day, no matter what happens, you'll be married and that's all that matters. Thank you again for choosing me as your photographer, and happy planning!
With love, Alyssa