Category Archives: wedding planning
What do ushers and groomsmen do? – advice before the wedding day…
You don’t know what you need…until you need it.
When in life have you ever tied a cravat? Chances are, unless you’re either high society or a habitual wedding goer, you haven’t.
Weddings are like this, they will spring multiple new things directly into your face and you either sink or swim. The groom is relying on you to put out fires all day, and, without the bride and groom knowing about it. What, you didn’t know you had a job other than to look fresh? You bet, buster. Getting the groom to the ceremony on time isn’t really a responsibility, he’s a grown man, he could do that on his own. What value are you bringing? How are you going to support your boy on his big day?
Knowing the following tips is going to make the day a breeze. The double win for me is that if you as the groomsmen know who is in the group photographs and who the key players are in the wedding party, then you will make my job, or the job of the wedding photographer that you’re working with, infinitely easier.Your bride and groom will thank you forever.
I’ve photographed over 100 weddings, life as a wedding photographer is fascinating, you get to see all of what goes on behind the scenes.
Here’s a list of the what I see most often and what you need to know.
Know how to put on a button hole and which side it goes.
Gentlemen, the buttonhole/flower goes on your left side, the same side as the pocket square. Ignore everybody else who thinks they know better, THIS IS THE RIGHT ANSWER.
Pin it to your left lapel.
Anything else is a style choice, but you should definitely know that the left side is where it is supposed to be pinned.
Some jackets have a slit in the lapel. This is a hole for a button. Hence the name, buttonhole. But being a hole for a button, means it isn’t the hole for your flower, so don’t put it in there.
The flowers can be pinned to cover it, but you’ll have to make a judgement on the day based upon the size of the thing.
How do you pin it?
The most stable way to pin a buttonhole flower is from the top down. Insert the pin starting at the back of the lapel, through the front, down the length of the flower and then put the end of the pin back through the lapel so it’s hidden.
How to tie a cravat
If you’ve ever tied a regular neck tie before, then you will find this remarkably easy. The knot is exactly the same, only deliberately tied allowing the material to fold and ruffle as you tie it. Plenty of times i’ve seen gents crowded around a phone watching clips on youtube and ending up with wildly different results.
Top tip – tie the knot the day before, loosen it and pull it over your head so you know it’s done. Next day, put it back over your head, secure, do your hair (or if like me, you have no hair, simply admire your reflection)
This is considered a standard consideration for bridesmaids to prepare, I also know a lot of photographers who keep an emergency kit in their car just in case. So why not the boys? Even if you consider yourself to be super organised, others in your crew may not be. Put together an emergency kit of useful bits and pieces which I guarantee someone will need..even if it’s just the mints.
- pain killers
- chewing gum/mints
- sewing kit
- shoe polish
- hair products
- sugary sweets
- phone charger
- hip flask for a snifter
Who is in the group photographs
Get a copy of the group photographs and know who is in each picture and at what time the group pictures are happening. If you don’t know who individuals are, find another groomsmen or usher who does. Teamwork is key in making sure this part of the day flows beautifully and that no time is wasted.
The best trick to maximising efficiency when one group is having their picture taken, to round up the next group. Sounds so simple, but is often overlooked.
It often happens that groomsmen will wait until the picture has been taken before trying to gather the next group. This then creates a window of 2-3 minutes of wasted time. The couple are stood waiting unnecessarily.
Of course if everyone is in the same place and paying attention then group pictures becomes easy. However this isn’t always possible. Bad weather for example often means it’s impossible to have group pictures happening in the same location as where the majority of the guests are. Probably because they are at the bar and don’t want to step outside, even if it is undercover. Understandable of course, but the married couple still have requested certain photographs be taken, so it’s our job to deliver.
The timetable for the day
Your job as groomsmen/usher is to take any stress away from the couple. Knowing the agenda will certainly help with this. Guests will appear from nowhere asking what time events are going down, intercept them and make sure that everyone knows where to be and at what time.
Which decorations need moving
It’s not uncommon for flowers to be moved from the church to the reception venue. Make sure you’re in the know of what needs transporting. Make sure your car is clear of junk so delicates can be easily slotted into place.
Are your shirts ironed? Do you need cuff-links?
I’ve included this one because I was guilty of this when an usher for my best friend.
The conversation before the day went something like this: “I have your suit, shirt, tie and shoes all at my house, come over in the morning and we’ll all get ready together”
At no point did it cross my mind to ask if I needed cuff-links – turns out I did.
Secondly, he had opted for cravats which have a different collar to your usual necktie. The shirts which he had hired were folded rather than hung up along with the waistcoat and trousers. Thus, they needed ironing.
We had spent the morning milling about, cooking breakfast and drinking coffee. When it came to get dressed there was a rush as no one had realised we needed to iron the shirts. Cue panic as we all worried that the iron would behave as irons always seem to in these scenarios, and chuck out that horrible brown crap onto a fresh white shirt. Luckily we escaped that fate, don’t take a chance, be in the know.
“I’ve been in the game for years, it made me an animal, there’s rules to this bit, I made me a manual…”
Having photographed well over 100 weddings I’ve pretty much seen it all. Biblical storms, bad-ass dance moves, the vicar getting the sermon oh so horribly wrong. With this experience comes a great deal of opportunity for learning to make your wedding day as efficient as possible.
I’m a big believer that your day is exactly that, your day – not for me or anyone to interfere with. It is however incredibly useful when you’ve never planned a wedding or big event before to gather as much info as you can from suppliers in the know. There is exactly zero chance that you will be able to think of all possible scenarios, which is why it’s a great idea to tap into the collective knowledge of all of your suppliers. Each will have extensive knowledge of weddings and can each offer tips on how to make your day as smooth as possible. Here’s what I’ve seen over the years that can really help make the whole day a breeze, so hopefully it will help you out.
At Liam Smith Photography, I document moments, I photograph what is happening in front of me, it’s bottling the magic of pure chance. That being said, if I can apply my prior experience and my knowledge of photography in order to create a potentially better moment due to planning rather than interfering, that would be advantageous. I could argue against myself and say that any instruction I give would be a technical interference and go against the purist mantra, but we can take it too far can’t we.
This article is intended to give you practical tips to ultimately give you a superior product and a bloody awesome wedding day. If you came to the end of your wedding and found out that an element of it could have been improved but no-one told you, you’d have some choice words for those individuals. It is my job therefore, to aid you on your journey to fantastic photographs.
Here’s my top tips for getting the most out of your wedding photographs, streamlining your wedding and saving time on the day.
Top Tip One – speech photographs
Consider the height of your flowers and clear the tables
This is a zinger and there’s a good reason it’s my opener. This can aid the atmosphere in the room and will definitely improve the pictures and experience of the speeches.
Consider the height of your flowers.
If you sit down in front of them, what can you see, or more importantly what can’t you see? If your tables are round and you have a huge centre piece, you won’t be able to see and therefore interact with at least two of the people on the opposite side of the table. When the speeches start, will they be able to see past the flowers or are they blocking their view?
This is incredibly important across the top table, if your flowers are at an awkward height they will block your face. One, the guests can’t see you and two, the photographer (me :) ) can’t see you either.
Clear the tables of wine bottles.
This again is about height, wine bottles are at the perfect height to intersect the line of a persons face. Speeches are a great opportunity to capture fantastic pictures of multiple people at once. Everyone is sat in a line, shooting down that line allows me to use the speaker as a foreground reference and then focus on the reactions from the guests.
Here’s a real world example so you can see that I’m not being ridiculous.
I felt compelled to write this blog post based upon the experience at this wedding. I asked the head of the catering team to move the wine bottles to one side for the speeches and they said no. That’s up to them, I still think it’s poor form when we’re all on ‘team wedding’, but whaddayagonnado?
We can clearly see that the flowers and wine bottle are blocking parts of the face, these would be great moments if it wasn’t for those pesky blockers.
“Hey Liam, why don’t you just move?”
I do shoot multiple angles, but for this shot in particular to work, I need to be close. I also need to be low down so I’m not blocking the guests view.
“Hey Liam, isn’t it mean to show other peoples wedding pictures that didn’t turn out great in order to make a point”.
You would be right, but don’t forget that I’m bloody great, so here’s what I delivered.
Does it make my point redundant because a skilled practitioner can find a way to solve the problem? No, it doesn’t, because why wouldn’t you make recommendations that can make everyone’s life easier? My job is to get the best possible pictures for my clients, if I can put my knowledge to use to facilitate that then everybody wins.
Top Tip Two – Ceremony
Are pictures allowed in the ceremony – where to stand – why you should care.
I’ve met all kinds of wedding officiants. All faiths, creeds and methods. It’s been fascinating. It is however entirely up to the person conducting the ceremony how it’s going to go down. I think the first look down the aisle pictures are some of the best. Take this young man for example.
Emotions are charged, it’s electric.
To be told on the wedding day that you can’t take pictures during the ceremony is a real bust, missing the emotions and facial expressions of the ceremony is such a shame, but we as bystanders have no comeback and have to do as we are told.
I make this point because I have had officiants change their mind on the day. They simply decide – Non! I think that’s cruel because they are denying the couple memories. I appreciate that twenty years ago wedding photographers cameras sounded like a barn door and you needed the floodlights from a football ground to light the room, but things are very, very different. Modern cameras are near enough silent, the brand new series of mirrorless cameras have no moving parts so are in fact absolutely silent. No distractions, no annoying clicking, just happiness all round.
Dear wedding officiants, our cameras are silent and can shoot in the dark, please let us take pictures during the ceremony…
I don’t see why this can’t be resolved so everyone wins. What is important to remember is that (in the UK at least) getting married is not free. If you wish to marry, you have to pay for the paperwork, admin and legal proceedings. This might only be a few hundred quid, but it is still a fee for a service and this makes you clients. Technically being a paying client means that it’s not one way traffic. If silence is needed to preserve the sanctity of the moment, that’s a different choice and one that everyone should absolutely respect. I raise this point because officiants rarely cite this as being the reason, they do not say ‘please respect the sanctity of the moment’ they say ‘I don’t want you to be a distraction’. If you want pictures of the ceremony, I don’t see why you couldn’t then enter into a conversation as civilised adults as to how to create in a scenario which pleases both parties.
I don’t want to push an agenda, I simply hate the idea of missing out on quality photographs and treasured memories because of an outdated idea of how photographers work.
Top Tip Three – Confetti – exit the building – then hide!
The most efficient plan for confetti ever.
When you exit the church/venue the wedding party will typically be right behind you. You turn around upon exiting the building and then everyone will hug, kiss and congratulate. Beautiful.
Next there is a decision to be made.
If you stay in the same position, every guest will then congratulate you as they exit and it can turn into a sort of receiving line. Not a problem, just something to be aware of.
The single most efficient way to allow everyone to exit the building and to get everyone in two lines ready for confetti is if you hide. When you are out of sight, everyone pays attention. If they can see you, they will gravitate towards you.
Efficiency is key in wedding planning. If you are happy for everyone to come out and say hi straight away, that’s totally cool. It’s worth bearing in mind that a wedding of 150 guests can take twenty minutes for everyone to come out and congratulate you. Whilst one doesn’t wish to impact upon the natural expressions of happiness that guests want to display, there is a timeline to stick to.
Once you’re hidden, guests can be given confetti and manoeuvred into position free from distraction. You can then re-appear at the top of the line, ready to walk down it with a blast of colour. Bosh!
Confetti tip two – leave all the confetti by the door.
Having all of the confetti right by the exit means that as soon as the bridal party walk back up the aisle, they can grab is and be ready to hand it out as everyone else exits the church. Simple and effective.
Confetti tip three – hand out drinks after the confetti is done.
I’ve seen people throw champagne by mistake. Not like hurling the glass at the couple, but like a dramatic movie scene where someone throws water in the other persons face. It’s incredibly rare, but why risk it?
Top Tip Four Bridesmaids flowers – considerations
Do they make up part of the decorations?
Are they needed for photographs?
It’s not uncommon for the bridesmaids flowers to be used as either centre pieces, decorations along the top table or to be placed around the cake for added decoration.
What does sometimes happen is the bridesmaids will put them down and then forget about them. If you would like them in the group photographs then remind them to keep hold of them.
This is really useful for when the group photographs start. You would be amazed how often group pictures are held up because flowers have been left in a locked room, in the toilet or simply at the wedding breakfast table.
Top Tip Five – Group photographs – make a list, go big to small and assign an usher
Group photographs will run away from you time wise if you don’t have a plan. There’s no reason why you can’t shoot the entire list in twenty minutes. Granted this is also dictated by the number you have to get through (which is why I suggest no more than ten).
The easiest way to manage group photographs is to start with the biggest groups and reduce the numbers. By shooting the largest group first you have everyone’s ear and they will be paying attention. Thus, we can take the picture then immediate address the crowd and tell them who is needed next but also for the rest of the guests not to wonder too far in case they are needed.
Assign an usher – this can save buckets of time. If you have an usher or similar who knows both sides of the family and friends then they can round up the next photograph whilst the photographer is taking the current one. Ushers are told they are ushers, and are of course honoured to be a part of the bridal party, but beyond that they rarely seem to know what they jobs are. Tell the before they are in charge of rounding up.
A top tip for the gents – don’t have anything in your pockets – they can warp the shape of your suit so it doesn’t sit properly and can also look weird in your trousers.
Group pictures are easiest when no one else is around. With smaller groups of people comes less chatting, fewer distractions and increased efficiency! If group photographs are to be taken at the church it’s easiest to send all the guests on to the reception and keep those needed behind.
A question you will absolutely be asked is do you want drinks in the photos? Decide before the day, tell me and I’ll make sure everyone knows.
Top Tip Six – cutting of cake – middle of dance floor (if possible)
The DJ has a microphone – brilliant. He/She (2018) can address the entire room and tell everyone that the cutting of the cake is imminent. If the cake is in the middle of the dance floor, then everyone will be in the exact right place for the first dance. They can also gather around the couple to make it feel more intimate, and ultimately get better wedding photographs
This comment has to be tempered by the reality that the cake will have to be moved. It often sits in the corner of the room and when it’s cut, only a small number of people can get a good view. In the middle of the dance floor means everyone can see the event. Make sure the caterers are happy to move it, you don’t want groomsmen after a few beers having a crack at it. Get the pros in.
Weddings are a collaboration…
Weddings rely on a lot of people, each with their own unique experience of events.
Tap into the knowledge of every supplier you hire – use their experience and go through different scenarios of what they’ve seen play out to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Investing the time before the day can pay dividends and allow you to sail through, enjoying every moment.
Destination wedding photography is probably the easiest thing to write about because it is pure adventure. It is a buzz like no other. I have had so many funny moments happen to me whilst shooting destination weddings and I’m pleased to say that whilst on these adventures, I have made some amazing friends. Contact me at Liam Smith Photography for any questions about bookings!
When in a foreign land there is a warmth that can be felt by all guests and family. I’ve never been to a destination wedding and not felt it. Everyone welcomes you into their culture with the warmest of embraces and I immediately feel like one of the family. You eat together, drink together, sing together. It’s magical.
New people, new places, new culture. Most importantly, new food! I remember when I went to Croatia and the bridesmaids took me on a food journey through the local town. Being so close to Italy had penetrated the food culture and I had was eating two slices of pizza and gelato at the same time, I could not get it in my face fast enough.
These events pick you up and take you with them, typically the majority of guests have travelled to the location and there is an air of pulling the wedding together as a community. Everyone is chipping in to run to the shops for last minute ribbon – but wait, who’s got the rental car! I’ve seen it all, the singer lose her voice in the dry heat, the parents pane delayed, sudden downpour in the hottest part of the world. It’s a whirlind, and it’s so bloody exciting.
One of my favourite tales as a destination wedding photographer was when I landed at the airport with the groom and his two best men. We sauntered up to the rental car office, exchanging witticisms and discussing plans of the epic event about to unfold. Then we hear the words, ‘there’s been a mistake – I am so sorry’. Fast forward twenty minutes and I am laying on top of a crate of schleur in the back of a van with no windows…and no air conditioning. This turned into one of the best trips of my life. We had one day to get to the venue, when there’s no choice, you do whats needed. We had a five hour drive ahead of us, keep calm and carry on.
No one should ever lie on top of schleur (does that even still exist?) but why was it so good you ask? Well i’ll tell you. To break up the trip we decided we’d go on an epic food bender which would start in a local town known for it’s pastry. Cue the custard tarts. Holy Maholy (Nagy – photography gags) I’ve never eaten anything like it. We went all in on jams, pastries, pizzas, coffees and cakes. My food horizons widened and sufficiently satiated, I slept on that schleur with glee and woke up just as we arrived on a balmy summers evening.
So how does it work, who books what?
I do not charge additional fees for my services or for travel time. I ask that you book my flights and transfers and pay for sustinance for the duration of my stay. I arrive two days before the wedding to familiarise myself with the surroundings and get used to a new time zone if we are further afield. If you are planning a destination wedding in the US or Australia, arriving a day earlier than usual may be needed to factor in the extra travel time and associated fatigue. In all honesty, putting together a package that covers all eventualities is near enough impossible without specific details. Please do get in touch to arrange a call or meeting and we can get the ball rolling.
Before taking the decision on who to book as your destination wedding photographer, please take plenty of time to scroll through my wedding photography blog and portfolio page to get an idea of my style. If you are based in the UK, let’s meet up for a drink to discuss plans and see if you think I would be a good fit for your day. If you are based abroad, we can always arrange a skype call so you can see my face.
I often get asked about my kit and wether transporting it is safe. I keep that bag clutched to me like winnie the pooh with a jar of honey. I will never check my cameras in, even if super hard cases do exist, bags still get lost. Imagine if they went missing! Forget that, I would have a heart attack.
A few answers to frequently asked questions.
You will only need to fly me out to the destination, unless of course you hire a second photographer through me as well. I do not have a team or an assistant.
If you are having a wedding that also has pre-wedding festivities ceremonies, I’m more than happy to come even earlier than usual to photograph those too. Get in touch and I can put together a custom qoute for you.
Hey Liam, why don’t we simply hire a photographer who lives in the country that we are getting married?
Honestly, I hope you are on my site because you want me, Liam Smith, to photograph your wedding (My name is actually Liam Bailey-Smith these days, I changed it when I got married cos i’m a cool, modern man).
All photographers are different and see the world differently, which is why photography is such an exciting medium to work in. From a practical point of view language barrier could be an issue, if you’re unable to meet the photographer before booking or booking a package deal then you have no idea who will turn up on the day. Secondly if we are in the same country, it’s much easier for us to meet in the first instance (so you know if you like me), and then I can physically deliver your photographs.
What is documentary, photojournalism and candid wedding photography?
Let’s get the basics covered. You’ve read buzzwords on all of the blogs, glossy magazines and 100 different wedding photographers websites. But what the hell is documentary, reportage or photojournalism when it comes to wedding photography?
Like in any industry, buzzwords come and go. Rewind about five years and everyone was a fine art photographer. Jose Villa exploded onto the scene and took over the world. Using medium format cameras and film his soft dreamy colour palette and stunning craft of pictures dominated the industry.
Using film means no chance to check your exposure as you go. Images must be taken slowly, with a greater emphasis on staging a photograph to make it perfect. The grain coupled with shallow depth of field produced stunning images, and a trend was born.
In complete contrast to this, my work is much more heavily weighted to the documentary style, so let me explain what I mean by this.
Photojournalism, documentary, reportage…
…all fancy words to explain the same thing. We wait for the moments to happen, then bam, take the picture.
No asking you to pretend to put your makeup on again or to pretend laugh.
If it didn’t happen, then it’s not real.
Giving you something real to look back upon is the entire point. Another word that has slipped into the wedding lexicon is ‘candid’. Candids of guests might be the best way to explain the style. Heads thrown back in laughter, tears rolling down cheeks and trousers being split on the dance floor. If that’s what you call candid, then that’s what I do.
A definition of reportage photography in the context of weddings would be something along the lines of “taking ace pictures of guests being themselves without interfering, staging or manipulating a moment”. The term photojournalist derives from news photography, sending journalists out into the world to capture whats there and not to interfere in any way shape or form. The strict emphasis on pure documentation has been taken to new heights with the invention of Photoshop. All images that Reuters use for example are straight out of the camera, no adjustments for colour or cropping, the purest form of documentary. I am not quite so strict, a little bit of cropping here and there can be a good thing, whilst a purist at heart, there’s no harm in making a good shot, great.
A distinction needs to be made however as photojournalism can sound a bit like a soulless news style coverage of a wedding.
It is a means of telling the story of your wedding without interfering.
Everything that you see on my site actually happened, you should be able to look back on your wedding photographs and re-live the emotion that occurred at that time. It should ignite something within, it should take you away. I want you to look at photographs that tell the story of who you are, otherwise you will look back on the images and only remember ‘this is the shot where the photographer told us to do that’, and where’s the meaning in that?
Telling the story of your day
There are a few photographers who go all out documentary, just pure storytelling, no group photographs or couple portraits. However I have to confess that I like the couple photos too.
When I first meet clients, there will always be a discussion around ‘we don’t have any nice pictures together’.
This is an important part of the mixture between delivering what I believe captures the narrative of the day, but also listening to the client and delivering what you want.
Everyone deserves to look fabulous on their wedding day and having a selection of images that you can print and display in your home is an important part of the whole process. The time with just the couple enables you to relax and let it all sink in, its about 20 minutes and well worth it in my view.
What makes me different?
Here is a selection of images which redefine traditional wedding moments. I shoot for narrative, so my couples can look back on their images and relive the moments. I don’t shoot to win awards or to get featured on blogs, my passion is the story.
An important distinction to make between candid photography and just taking pictures and hoping that they make sense, is context. Without context a seemingly great image can fall apart. Piecing the story together, bit by bit to build the whole picture is what a great story. The best feedback is when clients tell me they laughed, cried and re-lived the moments upon seeing the pictures. This tells me that I have achieved everything I set out to do. Producing images of your nearest and dearest being themselves and tying together all of the beautiful emotions of a wedding day into a neat package.
Do you shoot details?
Yes absolutely. This is often what makes a second photographer really useful. Whilst I am shooting the in between moments the second can nip around and take stills of the subtle details which help pull the whole story together.
Being unobtrusive and shooting candids can be difficult. It takes some bravado and skill to get close to people and take their picture without them knowing. This is where my genuine love for what I do and love for people comes in. When shooting with a smile and affection, guests immediately warm to you and open up. Blending in with the guests and loving what you do is essential to capturing awesome pictures.
Do you take group pictures or is it all documentary?
Yes, I do take group pictures. I understand that whilst I want to deliver an artistic interpretation of your day, you also have certain photographs that you may really want. I recommend that you keep the number of group pictures between four and six. This can be coordinated with the groomsmen to ensure optimal efficiency. If you have a longer list of group photographs that you absolutely must have then I recommend hiring a second photographer. In order to deliver my best work I need to be in the crowd, in the mix capturing moments, the second photographer can undertake the majority of the group pictures leaving me to get in the mix!
If you would like to discuss your day in more detail then please do get in touch. Or alternatively head on to the documentary wedding photography homepage to navigate through the rest of the site or have a look through my wedding photography portfolio