Wedding Photography: A Guide to Morning Prep

October 4, 2023

A simple guide to calm your fears and get excited for one of the best parts of your wedding day

This is my favourite part of any wedding. The atmosphere is thick with anticipation and excitement as you get ready with your close friends & family. It's also the part of the day many couples feel most nervous about being photographed. So that's why this little post is flying in like Superman to rescue you from your doubts and worries about Morning Preparations.

What is Morning Prep?

This is the part of your wedding before there ceremony when you're both getting ready. For brides, you and your bridesmaids may be having your hair & make up done, giggling with excitement, picking away some lovely fresh fruit & pastries and maybe sipping some fizz to calm the nerves. For grooms, you are probably on YouTube figuring out how ties work, struggling with a buttonhole or kilt socks that keep falling down, then you'll laugh it off and go have a dram.

Where Should I Get Ready?

Many couples choose to get ready at their venue, if they have booked somewhere like Dundas Castle, Prestonfield House or Carberry Tower.  Other venues like Cornhill Castle or Harburn Barn have self-catering accommodation on site.

With everything and everyone in one place, it takes some of the stress away from your morning preparations and means you can relax into your day knowing that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

Getting ready at or near your venue is often a preference for couples and with your photographer arriving, it can maximise your photography coverage.

I'd definitely recommend getting ready at your venue or at least somewhere nearby that has a nice drive. Remember, you want your wedding day to be as stress-free as possible and adding in a trip round Edinburgh's City Bypass is asking for delays - plus there's nothing worse than staring at queues of traffic when you just want to be married and get the party started.  

What is Photographed During Morning Preparations?

Brides

When I arrive for morning preparations, the first thing I do after introducing myself is turn the camera away from people. Usually it's 11am and even the most confident people aren't quite ready for a stranger taking their portrait. So instead, I focus on the details of your day. Starting with your dress, I'll then get shots of the rings, shoes, bouquet, jewellery and other personal items that are an important part of your day.

It's not just personal preference that I capture the details first. This is part of a cunning plan to allow the wedding party to get used to my presence. As I'm busy photographing your dress, I'll be chatting away with your bridesmaids (I've probably grabbed one to help me position your beautiful gown in the best natural light) and bonding with your mum over bobby pins and Compeed.

With details caught and everyone more relaxed around me, I'll be taking some candid shots of the little emotional moments and milestones of the day. This could be the finishing touches to your hair & make up, or when your florist arrives with your bouquet. It might be when your bridesmaids gift you something special for the occasion to show how much they love you. And finally, we'll get those shots together when you are all dressed and ready for the day's celebration is always fantastic.

Never feel the need to perform for the camera. Be yourself. Act like I'm not even there.

What are the Key Images from Morning Prep?

One shot that is always perfection, is when your mum or maid of honour is helping you into your dress. Don't worry, this is done very discreetly - it's all about those final buttons, the finishing flourishes that make you the blushing bride.

It's such an intimate, tender moment between mums and best friends - and capturing that emotion is one of the key milestones of the entire morning preparation.

Another set of emotional rollercoasters are the first looks. This can be with mum or dad - and often both if your maid of honour helped you with your dress. Before we do the reveal, I'll set up the shot for the best effect - having your mum or dad face away from you as you tap them on the shoulder. I'll be behind you - catching that very second when they see you for the first time as a bride. At first there's shock, then some tears - then hugs - then I start crying too and it's all one big bubbly mess of joy.

Grooms

The groom side of things always a little bit more low-key, but just as brilliant to capture in the morning. Though both bridal and groom prep are very relaxed, generally there's less hair and make up routines going on (though that's not always the case!)

Drams & Boutonnieres

When I'm with the groom and his groomsmen, there can be just as many details to capture as there are with the bridal party, so I usually start with them before diving into candid shots. From cufflinks to shoes, boutonnieres to socks with tacos on them, there's so many details to capture. There's usually a little banter going on so I'm always prepared to catch those moments on camera at a second's notice.

There are still tender moments to record as well as the fun banter. Usually I'll grab the best man to attach the buttonhole to his groom, or maybe fix his cufflink or tie. It's a nice moment between two best friends or brothers - a way to share a minute together before the day takes flight.

With everyone suited and booted, I'll take the groom's party out around the venue or nearby their hotel or cottage. We'll get some fun shots of them bonding and bantering - sometimes I ask the groomsmen to lift the groom up after some group photos to get some excellent candids as he's hoisted into the air.

When Should the Photographer Arrive?

Many couples sometimes think that the photographer is there as soon as your hair & make up artist arrives. Typically, I arrive about 2-3hrs before the ceremony if my couples have booked me in for a full day and are getting ready at or nearby their venue.

This means that your morning photography is never rushed and you don't have a photographer dashing around your bridal suite and making you nervous.

I split time between couples as evenly as I can and I'll flit between parties as you're getting ready. Grooms tend to be ready first, so I always plan around when they are suited and booted so I can give the bride & her bridesmaids my full attention when their hair & make up is done.

I recommend that brides get into their dresses around 45 minutes before your ceremony. This will allow for plenty of time for First Looks with parents, bridesmaids, solo bridal shots as well as informal shots with your wedding party. It'll also give you a chance to enjoy some time as a bride before you walk straight down the aisle.

Should I Have My Photographer at Morning Prep?

There's no right or wrong answer for this. Many couples are very happy to skip this part entirely and have no regrets. As an experienced wedding photographer, I can only illustrate what a special time of the day it is to capture on camera. There are so many moments that can never be repeated. Just like your first kiss, we cannot do the first look with Dad again, and once the dress is on there's no taking it off to get a beautiful shot of it hanging up in your bridal suite.    

While I will always encourage bridal prep, if this part of the day just isn't for you and you'd rather concentrate your coverage on the party that's okay too. And that's exactly why I've created a 6hr package, so you can skip this part of the day and still have my until the first few dances.

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