Congratulations! Not just on your engagement, but also on having more choices for your “getting ready” venue than did brides in your parents’ day. You’re no longer nailed down to your home, a hotel, or a dark and dusty room at your ceremony venue for your bridal preparations.
Peer-to-peer home rentals like Airbnb have loosened up your options for selecting the right dressing location for you, your groom, and your bridal party, whether you’re getting married in a big city or in a small resort town.
I’ve shot a lot of weddings, and when my brides think outside the box and choose somtheing unique to them, it really helps me create a better, more personalized photo story. More and more, I’ve been able to photograph my clients in getting ready venues that match their specific wedding style and offer the best opportunities for shooting in beautiful, natural light and open spaces.
If you’re not lucky enough to have scored a venue with the perfect dressing room, you’ll want to start looking for your getting ready location as soon as you can. Here are some features that really make a difference:
I had to put an exclamation mark there because this is really important. If you look at my portfolio, you’ll likely choose shots in which the bride (and everything else) is bathed in soft, bright light.
Many hotels and venue getting ready locations have big, open windows with minimal drapery. If not, be sure to ask if the location owner or manager will allow you to temporarily change out heavy, light-blocking window dressings with gauzy, translucent material or leave them open and unblocked. Windows and lighter drapings diffuse direct sunlight and allow us to shoot in the best condition!
Dark walls don’t reflect natural light as well as white or warm, pale interiors, though sometimes a little contrast to your gown can add drama. The darker the interior, the more natural (or artificial) lighting you’ll need.
Ideally, your getting ready location will have at least two bathrooms and enough space to set up your makeup and hair preparation in an area separate from where you’d like your photos taken.
When looking at spaces, try to visualize a separate area to stash snacks, everyday clothes, and even people you don’t want in your getting ready area. You’ll want to keep clutter out of the main space and keep things from getting too “crowdy”.
If you have a separate area for food and beverages, all the better – especially to avoid any spillage. You’ll want to have some easy-to-nibble food available for yourself and everyone there, since you have a long day ahead of you.
If you can’t select a getting ready place with separate rooms for the guys and the ladies in your wedding party, you’ll want to find rentals as close to one another as possible. As your photographer, I like to be able to ping back and forth to both, though the bride is my priority. If it’s not possible for me to be at both locations, the second photographer will cover the groom’s preparations while I stay with the girls.
Are you and your groom going to have a quiet moment before the ceremony? This is definitely a factor when you’re selecting both your preparation sites. (I’ll get to that later.)
It’s always a bonus to have a shady, nicely-landscaped yard available so you and your bridesmaids can get a few portraits out of the way. This is also a plus if you and your groom are planning that “first look” moment; he can come by on his way to the venue if he is not already there, which keeps you hidden from your guests until you’re ready to walk down the aisle.
You’ve put a lot of effort into creating a wedding day that reflects your and your groom’s personality and tastes. Try to find a venue that offers style continuity, and don’t be afraid to dress it up with a few of your favorite things. That stuffed unicorn that you’ve kept on your bed since third grade? Bring it! That painting your groom bought for you on that trip to Sausalito? Absolutely. A wedding day candle? Always. And if you’d like, add a few floral arrangements that match those adorning your ceremony and reception!
You won’t want anyone important to get caught in traffic on your wedding day, and since your family is likely to be getting ready at a hotel or location nearby, it’s important to find a place where you can coordinate your father’s “first look”. Your parents will need to get ready before you do, and since moms always want to be part of the action, and you might have “runners” going between your venues to coordinate last-minute details, you don’t want to be miles away.
If you think about it, your wedding reception and ceremony are about you and your groom… and the getting ready portion of your day is about each of you as individuals and your bond with your bridal party. Enjoy it! Choosing the right venue, decor, and amenities will help you stay in the moment, avoid stress, and create the perfect setting for gorgeous photographs.